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Book Review: Eichmann In Jerusalem

[Content warning: Holocaust. This is a complicated and emotional subject and I make no claims to know much more than what I read in the book, nor to be 100% certain I am representing Arendt’s views faithfully.]

I.

For Holocaust Remembrance Day last week I read Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann In Jerusalem (h/t Ben Hoffman).

Adolf Eichmann organized the logistics of the Holocaust – helped get Jews into trains, helped get the trains to the right concentration camps. When Germany lost the war, he escaped to Argentina and lived under a fake name. The newly-formed state of Israel hunted him down, and in 1960 they kidnapped him and put him on trial in Jerusalem.

The Nuremberg Trials were led by an Allied force that wanted to stress that the Nazis committed crimes against all humanity. Eichmann’s trial was the first time Jews themselves tried a high-ranking Nazi for his crimes against Jews in particular. Israeli PM David Ben-Gurion wanted (and got) a show trial. Not in the sense of justice not being done (everyone agreed Eichmann was guilty), but in the sense of highlighting the horrors of the Holocaust to the world.

Arendt recorded a lot of weird, surprising, and disturbing things in her study of Eichmann’s trial. I found five particularly interesting: Eichmann’s psychological profile, the Nazis’ early pre-war plans for the Jews, the ways German-occupied nations did or didn’t resist genocide demands, the politics surrounding claims that Jews didn’t resist the Nazis enough, and the discussion of why more Germans didn’t protest. I want to discuss all of these, then finish with whether this has any relevance for today’s political climate.

II.

Arendt’s psychological profile of Eichmann is most famous for coining the phrase “banality of evil”. Eichmann was neither a charming psychopath nor a blustering villain. As per Arendt:

Despite all the efforts of the prosecution, everybody could see that this man was not a “monster,” but it was difficult indeed not to suspect that he was a clown. And since this suspicion would have been fatal to the whole enterprise, and was also rather hard to sustain, in view of the sufferings he and his like had caused so many millions of people, his worst clowneries were hardly noticed. What could you do with a man who first declared, with great emphasis, that the one thing he had learned in an ill-spent life was that one should never take an oath (“Today no man, no judge could ever persuade me to make a sworn statement. I refuse it; I refuse it for moral reasons. Since my experience tells me that if one is loyal to his oath, one day he has to take the consequences, I have made up my mind once and for all that no judge in the world or other authority will ever be capable of making me swear an oath, to give sworn testimony. I won’t do it voluntarily and no one will be able to force me”), and then, after being told explicitly that if he wished to testify in his own defense he might “do so under oath or without an oath,” declared without further ado that he would prefer to testify under oath?

Eichmann’s attorney, a somewhat incompetent German named Dr. Servatius, instructed him to plead innocent. Eichmann could have taken this advice and tried to save his skin. Or he could have taken the high road and confessed his guilt. He chose to do neither:

To each count Eichmann pleaded: “Not guilty in the sense of the indictment.” In what sense then did he think he was guilty?…”With the killing of Jews I had nothing to do. I never killed a Jew, or a non-Jew for that matter – I never killed any human being…I never gave an order to kill either a Jew or a non-Jew”…or, as he was later to qualify this statement, “It so happened…that I had not once to do it” – for he left no doubt that he would have killed his own father if he had received an order to that effect. Hence he repeated over and over…that he could only be accused of “aiding and abetting” the annhilation of the Jews, which he declared in Jerusalem to have been “one of the greatest crimes in the history of Humanity” […]

Would he then have pleaded guilty if he had been indicted as an accessory to murder? Perhaps, but he would have made important qualifications…He did not want to be one of those who now pretended that “they had always been against it”, whereas in fact they had been very eager to do what they were told to do. However, times change, and he, like Professor Maunz, had “arived at different insights”. What he had done he had done, he did not want to deny it; rather, he proposed “to hang myself in public as a warning example for all anti-Semites on this earth”. By this he did not mean to say that he regretted anything: “Repentance is for little children.” (sic) […]

Throughout the trial, Eichmann tried to clarify, mostly without success, this second point in his plea of “not guilty in the sense of the indictment.” The indictment implied not only that he had acted on purpose, which he did not deny, but out of base motives and in full knowledge of the criminal nature of his deeds. As for the base motives, he was perfectly sure that he was not what he called an innerer Schweinehund, a dirty bastard in the depths of his heart; and as for his conscience, he remembered perfectly well that he would have had a bad conscience only if he had not done what he had been ordered to to – to ship millions of men, women, and children to their death with great zeal and the most meticulous care. This, admittedly, was hard to take. Half a dozen psychiatrists had certified him as “normal” – “More normal, at any rate, than I am after having examined him,” one of them was said to have exclaimed.

Go ahead and try to parse all of that into a coherent worldview. Was he regretful? Was he proud? Was he anti-Semitic? Was he just following orders? I don’t think anyone at the trial ever got a good feel for this. I certainly didn’t. Arendt isn’t sure there’s anything there to figure out:

The judges were right when they finally told the accused that all he had said was “empty talk” – except that they thought the emptiness was feigned, and that the accused wished to cover up other thoughts which, though hideous, were not empty. This supposition seems refuted by the striking consistency with which Eichmann, despite his rather bad memory, repeated word for word the same stock phrases and self-invented clichés (when he did succeed in constructing a sentence of his own, he repeated it until it became a cliché) each time he referred to an incident or event of importance to him. Whether writing his memoirs in Argentina or in Jerusalem, whether speaking to the police examiner or to the court, what he said was always the same, expressed in the same words. The longer one listened to him, the more obvious it became that his inability to speak was closely connected with an inability to think, namely, to think from the standpoint of somebody else. No communication was possible with him, not because he lied but because he was surrounded by the most reliable of all safeguards against the words and the presence of others, and hence against reality as such.

But if she has any thesis at all, it’s that Eichmann believed in something larger than himself. We usually encourage this sort of thing, but I think the prosocial version involves having a specific larger-than-yourself thing in mind. Eichmann (says Arendt) just liked larger-than-himself things in general, and the Nazi vision of eternal struggle for racial supremacy was the biggest thing he could find in the vicinity. We’ll later see that he had a strange respect for Zionists, and this was because they too believed in something larger than themselves. Eichmann’s infamous cliches were the cliches of pomp and circumstance and glory and high words, the ones which made him feel like he was engaged in a great enterprise whether or not there was anything behind them. The reason he admitted neither to “just following orders”, nor to a deep personal belief in anti-Semitism, was that his loyalty to Hitler came from neither. When Hitler said to kill all the Jews, he gladly complied; if Hitler had said to kill all the Christians, he would have done that too. Not because he was a drone following orders to save his skin, but because he believed. Not in any of the specifics of Nazi ideology. Not even in Hitler’s personal judgment. Just in whatever was going on at the time.

And so when Eichmann’s superior Himmler betrayed Hitler (more on this later) and ordered Eichmann to stop the exterminations, Eichmann – finally – refused an order. Himmler’s betrayal seemed petty; Hitler’s vision seemed grand. And so:

The sad and very uncomfortable truth of the matter probably was that it was not his fanaticism but his very conscience that prompted Eichmann to adopt his uncompromising attitude during the last year of the war…Eichmann’s position, therefore, showed a most unpleasant resemblance to that of the often-cited soldier who, acting in a normal legal framework, refuses to carry out orders that run counter to his
ordinary experience of lawfulness and hence can be recognized by him as criminal.

But with Hitler dead and the war lost, the grandest gesture Eichmann can think of is to try to become a public martyr to edify future generations. So he tries that too.

Even understanding this, there’s another set of mysteries. Eichmann would get so many facts wrong in his testimonies that everyone would figure he was lying; then, without even being asked, he would confess to much worse sins than any of the ones he had denied (a big part of the prosecution’s case rested on Eichmann volunteering the information that he went into concentration camps a few times and saw exactly what happened there, something which otherwise would have been hard to prove and might have left space for an “I didn’t know how bad it was” defense). And he would talk obsessively about his failure to get promoted quickly enough through the Nazi hierarchy, clearly expecting his Israeli audience to sympathize with him:

What makes these pages of the examination so funny is that all this was told in the tone of someone who was sure of finding “normal, human” sympathy for a hard-luck story. “Whatever I prepared and planned, everything went wrong, my personal affairs as well as my years-long efforts to obtain land and soil for the Jews. I don’t know, everything was as if under an evil spell; whatever I desired and wanted and planned to do, fate prevented it somehow. I was frustrated in everything, no matter what.” When Captain Less asked his opinion on some damning and possibly lying evidence given by a former colonel of the S.S., he exclaimed, suddenly stuttering with rage: “I am very much surprised that this man could ever have been an S.S. Standartenführer, that surprises me very much indeed. It is altogether, altogether unthinkable. I don’t know what to say.” He never said these things in a spirit of defiance, as though he wanted, even now, to defend the standards by which he had lived in the past. The very words “S.S.,” or “career,” or “Himmler” (whom he always called by his long official title: Reichsführer S.S. and Chief of the German Police, although he by no means admired him) triggered in him a mechanism that had become completely unalterable. The presence of Captain Less, a Jew from Germany and unlikely in any case to think that members of the S.S. advanced in their careers through the exercise of high moral qualities, did not for a moment throw this mechanism out of gear

What should we make of this? Arendt described Eichmann as having an “almost total inability ever to look at anything from the other fellow’s point of view”, and this seems right. For him, self-absorbed as he was, the story of World War II was the story of him doing a pretty competent job of Jew-killing but not getting the recognition he deserved from his superiors. He was unable to understand that other people might have a different perspective, or that Israeli Holocaust survivors wouldn’t find his story about unfairness in Himmler’s HR department as moving as he did.

This might explain his pattern of omissions and confessions. He was omitting things that seemed bad to him – tied into his obsessions or made him look like a worse bureaucrat. But he didn’t have enough ability to model his Israeli interlocutors to know that “knew what happened at concentration camps” would seem bad to them, or else he didn’t even realize that “seems bad to the Israelis” was a thing.

This reminds me of my theory that some people are just born without certain cogs in their brain, and especially without theory of mind. Eichmann’s theory of mind was just totally absent. He expected the Jews he deported to be thankful to him for all the hard work he was putting in! The only way I can imagine that working is if Eichmann found his 9-5 job tiring and was so fantastically self-centered that he expected the Jews to see it exactly the same way he did (“Oh, look at that poor Eichmann working so hard to deal with us”). There are interesting implications here – that some level of theory of mind is necessary for basic consistency (ie realizing that other people will stop liking you if you’re inconsistent) and possibly for basic humanity (in order to not want to send people to concentration camps, you have to realize that they have their own thoughts and feelings about it separate from yours).

I should emphasize that some more recent scholars have dissented from Arendt at this point, saying that Eichmann’s apparent dullness and inconsistency was a careful ruse put on to fool his jailers. I don’t know nearly enough history to comment on this one way or the other. But in his last moments on Earth, he died as he lived – saying some faux-profound stock phrases without realizing how weird he sounded:

Adolf Eichmann went to the gallows with great dignity…He was in complete command of himself, nay, he was more: he was completely himself. Nothing could have demonstrated this more convincingly than the grotesque silliness of his last words. He began by stating emphatically that he was a Gottgläubiger, to express in common Nazi fashion that he was no Christian and did not believe in life after death. He then proceeded: “After a short while, gentlemen, we shall all meet again. Such is the fate of all men. Long live Germany, long live Argentina, long live Austria. I shall not forget them.” In the face of death, he had found the cliché used in funeral oratory. Under the gallows, his memory played him the last trick; he was “elated” and he forgot that this was his own funeral. It was as though in those last minutes he was summing up the lesson that this long course in human wickedness had taught us-the lesson of the fearsome, word-and-thought-defying banality of evil.

III.

I had always interpreted “the Final Solution” to mean “the solution that will last forever”. Arendt (and I don’t know if she’s right about this) interprets it to mean “the last of many solutions to be tried”. She discusses the failed First Solution and Second Solution as preludes for the eventual genocide.

The First Solution was emigration. In the early days of the movement, the Nazis seemed to sincerely believe that they could deal with the Jews just by expelling them from Germany and letting other countries take care of them, no killing necessary. I don’t want to let this sound like the Nazis “started out okay” – Hitler had expressed support for killing the Jews as early as the publication of Mein Kampf in 1925. But for his first few years in power, he distanced himself from his previous positions and accepted emigration as a practical compromise.

When the Nazis first decided to expel the Jews, Eichmann was working as a low-level vacuum salesman in Vienna. He got his big break when he signed up for a job with the Party trying to get Jews to emigrate. This was tough work – many Jews didn’t want to emigrate, and the ones who did needed more paperwork than the German bureaucracy could easily provide. Eichmann displayed some early talent at cutting red tape and figuring out ways to connect Jews who wanted to leave with bureaucrats who wanted to let them, and he rose through the ranks until he was in charge of Jewish emigration from Vienna.

At this point a friend suggested he read Theodor Herzl’s book on Zionism, and Eichmann, bizarrely, fell in love. Arendt says, apparently in earnest, that it “seems to have been the first serious book he ever read” and that “it made a lasting impression on him”:

It may be worth mentioning that, as late as 1939, he seems to have protested against desecrators of Herzl’s grave in Vienna, and there are reports of his presence in civilian clothes at the commemoration of the thirty-fifth anniversary of Herzl’s death…he began spreading the gospel among his SS comrades, giving lectures and writing pamphlets. He acquired a smattering of Hebrew, which enabled him to read haltingly a Yiddish newspaper – not a very difficult accomplishment, since Yiddish, basically an old German dialect written in Hebrew letters, can be understood by any German-speaking person who has mastered a few dozen Hebrew words. He even read one more book, Adolf Bohm’s History of Zionism, and this was perhaps a considerable achievement for a man who by his own account had always been utterly reluctant to read anything except newspapers.

Eichmann seemed weirdly in earnest about all of this, but it was also good for his job – he met with Zionist Jews and even went to Palestine once to meet with the Zionist movement there. He loved to say during his trial that Austrian Jewish immigration to Israel was a win-win – it made the Jews happy because they were going to their homeland, and it made the Nazis happy because the Jews were leaving Austria. When he related his self-perception as a basically decent person, he always stressed that this was his idea, and he was a win-win sort of person who had been unfairly transferred to the sending-people-in-boxcars-to-concentration-camps department against his will.

The work was not nearly as win-win as Eichmann liked to think; for example, the Nazis confiscated all of the Jews’ property as the “price” of providing them with the necessary documents. When poor Jews without any property showed up to emigrate, Eichmann would shake down the rich Jews and making them pay extra to help their poorer co-religionists. Finally this turned into outright blackmail, demanding blood money from Jews in the Diaspora, or else. In any case, it worked – a hundred fifty thousand Jews left Austria during Eichmann’s eighteen months in the business.

What eventually happened we all know too well. Other countries started closing their doors and refusing to accept Jewish refugees. Despite hearing this story a hundred times, the version in Eichmann in Jerusalem was new to me. I had always thought of countries as closing their gates to a few prescient people trying to flee Nazi Germany on their own, or to a few stragglers who managed to escape. The truth is on a much greater scale: the Nazis were willing to let every single Jew in Europe leave, they even had entire bureaucracies trying to make it happen – and the rest of the world wouldn’t cooperate. The blood on the hands of the people who wouldn’t let them in is not just that of a few escapees, but the entire six million.

When emigration stopped working, the Nazis turned to the Second Solution – resettlement. Arendt doesn’t think the plan to move all the Jews to Madagascar was ever taken seriously at the highest level, but for a while it was something like official policy. The only problems were that the Nazis didn’t technically own Madagascar, that they didn’t have nearly enough ships to transport six million people, and that all the water in between was controlled by British warships intent on sinking any Germans they could find. The send-the-Jews-to-Madagascar plan seemed to be a loose alliance of high-level leadership looking for a cover story while they prepared for genocide, plus very stupid people who liked bad ideas. No guessing which group Eichmann was in.

(Actually, Eichmann got super-confused and apparently thought Madagascar was the same place as Uganda, which Herzl had mentioned as a possible Jewish homeland if Israel was unavailable. He announced the good news to some of his Jewish contacts, who gave him a remedial lesson in African geography.)

There was a slightly more serious proposal to create a Jewish homeland in Radom District, Poland (note that “Jewish homeland” here meant basically a country-sized prison, not a self-governing Jewish state.) This had the advantages of the Nazis actually controlling Poland and of rail networks up to the task of transporting people over. It failed because some overly enthusiastic Nazis just sent a trainload of thousands of Jews there without informing the Governor of Poland, and he got confused and angry, plus a lot of the Jews escaped.

Then some people briefly tried to turn the Czech city of Theresienstadt into a Jewish territory, but it was really small and eventually it just ended up as a slightly-less-murderous-than-usual concentration camp.

IV.

Arendt interrupts the story of Eichmann for a long and fascinating digression about which European nations did or didn’t protect their Jews.

Remember that most nations of Central and Eastern Europe were German puppet states during this period. The Nazis made it clear that deporting their Jews to the concentration camps in Nazi territory was a condition for continued good relations; a serious threat, when bad relations could turn a protectorate-type situation into an outright invasion and occupation.

Pride of place goes to Denmark and Bulgaria, both of which resisted all Nazi demands despite the Germans having almost complete power over them. Most people have heard the legend of how, when the Germans ordered that all Jews must wear gold stars, the King of Denmark said he would wear one too. These kinds of actions weren’t just symbolic; without cooperation from the Gentile population and common knowledge of who was or wasn’t Jewish, the Nazis had no good way to round people up for concentration camps. Nothing happened until 1943, when Himmler became so annoyed that he sent his personal agent Rolf Gunther to clean things up. Gunther tried hard but found the going impossible. Danish police refused to go door-to-door rounding up Jews, and when Gunther imported police from Germany, the Danes told them that they couldn’t break into apartments or else they would arrest them for breaking and entering. Then the Danish police tipped off Danish Jews not to open their doors to knocks since those might be German police. When it became clear that the Nazis weren’t going to accept any more delays, Danish fishermen offered to ferry Jews to neutral Sweden for free. In the end the Nazis only got a few hundred Danish Jews, and the Danish government made such a “fuss” (Arendt’s word) about them that the Nazis agreed to send them all to Theresienstadt, their less-murderous-than-usual camp, and let Red Cross observers in to make sure they were treated well. As a result, only 48 Danish Jews died in the entire Holocaust.

Bulgaria’s resistance was less immediately heroic, and looked less like the king proudly proclaiming his identity with oppressed people everywhere than like the whole government just dragging their feet so long that nothing got done. Eichmann sent an agent named Theodor Dannecker to get them moving, but as per Arendt:

Not until about six months later did they take the first step in the direction of “radical” measures – the introduction of the Jewish badge. For the Nazis, even this turned out to be a great disappointment. In the first place, as they dutifully reported, the badge was only a “very little star”; second, most Jews simply did not wear it; and, third, those who did wear it received “so many manifestations of sympathy from the misled population that they actually are proud of their sign” – as Walter Schellenberg, Chief of Counterintelligence in the R.S.H.A., wrote in an S.D. report transmitted to the Foreign Office in November, 1942. Whereupon the Bulgarian government revoked the decree. Under great German pressure, the Bulgarian government finally decided to expel all Jews from Sofia to rural areas, but this measure was definitely not what the Germans demanded, since it dispersed the Jews instead of concentrating them.

The Bulgarians continued their policy of vaguely agreeing in principle to Nazi demands and then doing nothing, all the way until the Russians invaded and the time of danger was over. Not a single Bulgarian Jew died in the Holocaust (edit: see here).

Surprisingly given the bad associations I have with the word “fascist”, Mussolini’s Italy also deserves high praise for protecting its Jews. Arendt describes Italy as “sabotaging” the Final Solution within its borders despite nominal alliance with Germany:

The gentlemen of the Foreign Office could not do much about it, because they always met the same subtly veiled resistance, the same promises and the same failures to fulfill them. The sabotage was all the more infuriating as it was carried out openly, in an almost mocking manner. The promises were given by Mussolini himself or other high-ranking officials, and if the generals simply failed to fulfill them, Mussolini would make excuses for them on the ground of their “different intellectual formation”. Only occasionally would the Nazis be met with a flat refusal, as when General Roatta declared that it was “incompatible with the honor of the Italian Army” to deliver the Jews from Italian-occupied territory in Yugoslavia to the appropriate German authorities.

An element of farce had never been lacking even in Italy’s most serious efforts to adjust to its powerful friend and ally. When Mussolini, under German pressure, introduced anti-Jewish legislation in the late thirties he stipulated the usual exemptions – war veterans, Jews with high decorations, and the like – but he added one more category, namely, former members of the Fascist Party, together with their parents and grandparents, their wives and children and grandchildren. I know of no statistics relating to this matter, but the result must have been that the great majority of Italian Jews were exempted. There can hardly have been a Jewish family without at least one member in the Fascist Party, for this happened at a time when Jews, like other Italians, had been flocking for almost twenty years into the Fascist movement, since positions in the Civil Service were open only to members. And the few Jews who had objected to Fascism on principle, Socialists and Communists chiefly, were no longer in the country. Even convinced Italian anti-Semites seemed unable to take the thing seriously, and Roberto Farinacci, head of the Italian anti-Semitic movement, had a Jewish secretary in his employ…

What in Denmark was the result of an authentically political sense, an inbred comprehension of the requirements and responsibilities of citizenship and independence – “for the Danes . . . the Jewish question was a political and not a humanitarian question” (Leni Yahil) – was in Italy the outcome of the almost automatic general humanity of an old and civilized people.

Less happy is the story of France. The Germans realized that the Vichy French were attached to assimilated French Jews, so they started by demanding only those foreign Jews who had come to France as refugees. There were a hundred thousand of these, and Marshal Petain of France said that they had “always been a problem” and he was glad to have “an opportunity to get rid of them” (in his defense, he was under the impression that Jews sent to Germany would be “resettled in the East”). After this had been going on for a while, Eichmann figured that the French were on his side, and asked for permission to take the native French Jews as well. The French, having sent tens of thousands of stateless Jews to the concentration camps, were suddenly outraged that the Nazis would dare lift a finger against French Jews, and shut down the entire deportation program. I am sure the French count this as a moral victory nowadays, though it’s a very selective sort of morality.

Last place goes to Romania, which had been anti-Semitic since the beginning of time and was genuinely excited to have Nazi orders as an excuse to carry out their own worse impulses:

In Rumania even the S.S. were taken aback, and occasionally frightened, by the horrors of oldfashioned, spontaneous pogroms on a gigantic scale; they often intervened to save Jews from sheer butchery, so that the killing could be done in what, according to them, was a civilized way.

The Romanians started their own concentration camps to supplement the Nazis’, “more elaborate and atrocious affairs than anything we know of in Germany”, but they didn’t always need them – “deportation Rumanian style consisted in herding five thousand people into freight cars and letting them die there of suffocation while the train traveled through the countryside without plan or aim for days on end; a favorite followup to these killing operations was to expose the corpses in Jewish butcher shops.” Things became so bad that the local Nazi representative, German noble Manfred von Killinger, intervened and asked them to stop and defer to the Third Reich’s own efforts. I feel like when a Nazi named “Baron von Killinger” is horrified by your brutality, it’s time to take a step back and evaluate whether you may have crossed a line.

Other interesting profiles include Greece (hopelessly depressing), Slovakia (very Catholic, in favor of killing Jews but got in a bunch of fights with the Nazis about ethnic Jews who had been baptized into Catholicism), Hungary (ruled by an admiral despite being landlocked; otherwise hopelessly depressing), Belgium (deliberately left the trains unlocked so the Jews could escape!), Holland (kind of like France; the local Gentiles tried to help, but the assimilated Jews sold out the refugee Jews in the hope of placating the Nazis; the Nazis were not placated; three-quarters of Jews died), and Poland (I don’t even want to talk about how hopelessly depressing this one is).

V.

The Israeli authorities conducting the trial had an uncomfortable tendency to return to the idea of the European Jews as complicit in their own destruction.

The Nazis ordered Jewish communities to organize into Judenrate (“Jewish councils”) which could tabulate the number of Jews in their community, help confiscate property, and choose who would go first to the camps. Cooperation was ensured by a combination of special treatment for community leaders and threats of collective punishment if they didn’t comply. The special treatment turned out to be a sham (if the leaders were lucky, they were killed last); the collective punishment was all too real.

The community leaders thought they were negotiating themselves into a position where they would be better organized and could help delay the Nazis and steer them away from the most vulnerable parts of their community, mitigating the damage. This almost never happened; in the rare cases where it did, it was almost never worth it. Thousands of people were subjected to the sorts of heart-wrenching ethical dilemmas usually found only in philosophy lectures involving trolleys:

The greatest “idealist” Eichmann ever encountered among the Jews was Dr. Rudolf Kastner, with whom he negotiated during the Jewish deportations from Hungary and with whom he came to an agreement that he, Eichmann, would permit the “illegal” departure of a few thousand Jews to Palestine (the trains were in fact guarded by German police) in exchange for “quiet and order” in the camps from which hundreds of thousands were shipped to Auschwitz….Dr. Kastner saved exactly 1,684 people with approximately 476,000 victims.

By Arendt’s telling, sometimes the councils went beyond merely doing what was necessary for survival:

In Amsterdam as in Warsaw, in Berlin as in Budapest, Jewish officials could be trusted to compile the lists of persons and of their property, to secure money from the deportees to defray the expenses of their deportation and extermination, to keep track of vacated apartments, to supply police forces to help seize Jews and get them on trains, until, as a last gesture, they handed over the assets of the Jewish community in good order for final confiscation. They distributed the Yellow Star badges, and sometimes, as in Warsaw, “the sale of the armbands became a regular business; there were ordinary armbands of cloth and fancy plastic armbands which were washable.” In the Nazi-inspired, but not Nazi-dictated, manifestoes they issued, we still can sense how they enjoyed their new power – “The Central Jewish Council has been granted the right of absolute disposal over all Jewish spiritual and material wealth and over all Jewish manpower,” as the first announcement of the Budapest Council phrased it. We know how the Jewish officials felt when they became instruments of murder – like captains “whose ships were about to sink and who succeeded in bringing them safe to port by casting overboard a great part of their precious cargo”; like saviors who “with a hundred victims save a thousand people, with a thousand ten thousand.

This turned out to be important. Arendt gives the case of Belgium, where most of the Jews were a hodgepodge of refugees and most of the elders fled early. The Belgian Jews’ lack of organization didn’t hurt them; it just made them impossible to organize for deportation and extermination, and so more of them survived than in other comparable areas. And:

Wherever Jews lived, there were recognized Jewish leaders, and this leadership, almost without exception, cooperated in one way or another, for one reason or another, with the Nazis. The
whole truth was that if the Jewish people had really been unorganized and leaderless, there would have been chaos and plenty of misery but the total number of victims would hardly have been between four and a half and six million people. According to Freudiger’s calculations about half of them could have saved themselves if they had not followed the instructions of the Jewish Councils.

As comfortable as it would be to forget about all of this, the Israeli government had the opposite incentive. Their goal wasn’t just to broadcast the horrors of the Holocaust. It was to send the message that Jews who believed they were safe among Gentiles were fools, and Jews who wanted to negotiate and concede points in their conflicts with Gentiles were collaborators.

I was struck by Arendt’s psychological profile of the Israeli leadership. The year is 1960. David ben Gurion is seventy-four, near the end of a long life of military struggle. The Israeli leadership is still very much of the generation that survived World War II, the Israeli War of Independence, and the Holocaust. But they’re starting to realize that this will not always be true. The younger generation just attaining voting age doesn’t remember the Holocaust at all. Everyone knows their history, but not everybody knows it. And the people, maybe new immigrants from America, who didn’t go through the Holocaust, they start asking – do we really need a purely Jewish nation? Do we really have to be so hostile and suspicious of Gentiles all the time? Does the country have to be quite so heavily militarized? Maybe we should just be a normal peaceful friendly member of the community of nations a bit more?

And as Arendt tells it, Ben-Gurion and his colleagues felt like they had this driving duty to communicate the incommunicable truth that this was not going to work. They felt like this was an endlessly seductive position, that maybe they had been seduced by it themselves when they were younger, but that bitter experience had taught them that had to be rejected utterly. If they dwelt on the failures of the Jewish Councils of Europe a little too long, if maybe they were a little unfair to people who had lost in lose-lose ethical dilemmas, it was because they didn’t know how else to tell younger Jews not to let themselves be those people. I guess the active construction of a cultural payload of reflexive resistance bordering on paranoia, capable of being handed down to younger generations, helps explain a lot about Israeli history.

VI.

Arendt dwells on the obvious question: why didn’t people say no?

She had already given part of the answer. Some people did say no. The entire populations of Denmark and Bulgaria. Most of Italy. France, eventually, with prodding. Shouldn’t Germany have been filled with some of the same people?

She says no. At every point, she stressed how little genuine opposition Hitler had. It wasn’t just the Nazis’ sky-high approval rating. It was that even the people who hated the Nazis, loathed the Nazis, generally didn’t mention the Jewish genocide. Even the conspirators in the von Stauffenberg plot to assassinate Hitler were mostly angry that he was a bad commander and was probably going to lose. This opinion was at least within the Nazi Overton Window. That they should resist the Holocaust seems to barely have occurred to them.

One of the creepiest passages in the book described the Wannsee Conference. Hitler and Himmler and a few other highers-up had decided on the Final Solution; a policy change from forced emigration to extermination. They wanted to inform the civil service of their decision, but they expected trouble:

The problem was much more acute, however, with respect to the higher career men in the Civil Service, directly under the Ministers, for these men, the backbone of every government administration, were not easily replaceable, and Hitler had tolerated them, just as Adenauer was to tolerate them, unless they were compromised beyond salvation. Hence the undersecretaries and the legal and other experts in the various Ministries were frequently not even Party members, and Heydrich’s apprehensions about whether he would be able to enlist the active help of these people in mass murder were quite comprehensible. As Eichmann put it, Heydrich “expected the greatest difficulties.” Well, he could not have been more wrong.

The aim of the conference was to coordinate all efforts toward the implementation of the Final Solution. The discussion turned first on “complicated legal questions,” such as the treatment of half- and quarter-Jews – should they be killed or only sterilized? This was followed by a frank discussion of the “various types of possible solutions to the problem,” which meant the various methods of killing, and here, too, there was more than “happy agreement on the part of the participants”; the Final Solution was greeted with “extraordinary enthusiasm” by all present, and particularly by Dr. Wilhelm Stuckart, Undersecretary in the Ministry of the Interior, who was known to be rather reticent and hesitant in the face of “radical” Party measures, and was, according to Dr. Hans Globke’s testimony at Nuremberg, a staunch supporter of the Law. There were certain difficulties, however. Undersecretary Josef Bühler, second in command in the General Government in Poland, was dismayed at the prospect that Jews would be evacuated from the West to the East, because this meant more Jews in Poland, and he proposed that these evacuations be postponed and that “the Final Solution be started in the General Government, where no problems of transport existed.” The gentlemen from the Foreign Office appeared with their own carefully elaborated memorandum, expressing “the desires and ideas of the Foreign Office with respect to the total solution of the Jewish question in Europe,” to which nobody paid much attention. The main point, as Eichmann rightly noted, was that the members of the various branches of the Civil Service did not merely express opinions but made concrete propositions. The meeting lasted no more than an hour or an hour and a half, after which drinks were served and everybody had lunch – “a cozy little social gathering.”

There were occasional protests about killing Jews because it would get Germany in big trouble if they lost the war. This was discussed seriously, always with the point being made that the Allies would view it as a dire crime, never with anybody stopping to ask whether maybe the Allies were right.

By far the most successful movement in this direction, one I had never heard about before, was Musy’s meeting with Himmler. A few months before the war ended, some Jews in Switzerland happened to meet Jean-Marie Musy, one of Himmler’s childhood friends; they asked him to use his influence with the Nazi second-in-command to get him to stop killing Jews. Musy went to Germany and told Himmler that they both knew the Allies were winning the war, that he’d heard the Allies were really mad about the Holocaust, and that maybe if Himmler stopped the Holocaust he could get better treatment after the war. Himmler thought about it for a little bit, and he agreed. He ordered the gas chambers destroyed, he countermanded Hitler’s directive to kill as many Jews as possible before the Allies liberated the camps, and started transporting Jews out of Nazi territory by trains. Hitler heard about this and got enraged and ordered everybody to stop listening to Himmler. There was a brief period of confusion as the two highest-ranking Nazis gave opposite orders, and then the Allies liberated the concentration camps anyway and the point became moot. It wasn’t much. Himmler’s order probably saved a few tens of thousands of people, out of millions. But it was something. And there were countless smaller incidents like this. And they all shared one thing in common: they succeeded by appealing to Nazis’ self-interest, not to their conscience.

And so:

As Eichmann told it, the most potent factor in the soothing of his own conscience was the simple fact that he could see no one, no one at all, who actually was against the Final Solution.

And where this wasn’t true, people started developing consciences again. Nazi commanders who had been in Denmark for long enough started to go native. When Himmler’s agents came to crack down on Danish resistance, they found the local German officials somewhere between hesitant and actively obstructionist:

Politically and psychologically, the most interesting aspect of this incident is perhaps the role
played by the German authorities in Denmark, their obvious sabotage of orders from Berlin. It is the only case we know of in which the Nazis met with open native resistance, and the result seems to have been that those exposed to it changed their minds. They themselves apparently no longer looked upon the extermination of a whole people as a matter of course. They had met resistance based on principle, and their “toughness” had melted like butter in the sun, they had even been able to show a few timid beginnings of genuine courage.

And:

The same thing happened in Bulgaria as was to happen in Denmark a few months later – the local German officials became unsure of themselves and were no longer reliable.

VII.

Are there any lessons to be learned from all of this horror?

First, the refugee aspect of all of this is even more important than I thought. I said it before, but I think it bears more emphasis. The Western nations’ failure to accept refugees from Nazi Germany didn’t just kill a couple of Jews who made it out before the killing started. Germany started off perfectly willing to let every single Jew in Europe emigrate to any country that would take them. Nowhere would. This obviously doesn’t absolve the Nazis of any blame, but it sure doesn’t make the rest of the world look very good either.

Second, it’s worth remembering that the Final Solution was the Nazis’ third or fourth plan, not their first. Eichmann argued that this ought to humanize him; sure, he wanted Germany Judenfrei, but at least he had the decency to try to do it humanely before moving on to genocide. But even if he’s right, humanizing Nazis is a two-way street. The more human and comprehensible the Nazis’ evil becomes, the closer it gets to the lesser evils of our own day. White separatists complain that they are misrepresented; that they have no intention of killing anybody, that they just want to help everybody get the right to live separately among their own people. I accept that they believe that and that it is unfair to misrepresent them. But having acknowledged their position, the next step is to acknowledge that the Nazis seem to have genuinely believed that too. For a while.

I’ve written before on how the current crop of demagogues, as bad as they are, aren’t Literally Hitler. But this should be understood in context of Mussolini not being Literally Hitler, or even of the Nazis themselves not being Literally Hitler at the beginning. The cause for concern isn’t that anyone you can see on TV today is plotting a Fourth Reich. It’s that some common factor causes people who start out as only moderately objectionable to predictably become something much worse. And modern populists share a suspicious number of characteristics and policies with their WWII-era fascist analogues (though “fascist” is the wrong word here; remember that Mussolini’s Italy did a better job saving Jews than a lot of the supposed ‘good guys’), and one can rightly be afraid that they’re drawing from the same underlying natural kind.

This is exactly the sort of thing I should resist the urge to put here (source)

Third, at least during World War II conscience was a collective phenomenon. Why did some countries’ citizens cooperate almost universally with the Final Solution, while others resisted it at every turn? “Culture” is inadequate; there’s not much light between Danish and German culture, but the two countries acted in opposite ways. I’m tempted to credit single individuals; Hitler setting the tone for Germany vs. King Christian setting the tone for Denmark – but do people really respect their leaders that thoroughly? Or is this backwards causation; a country like Denmark would end up with a King like Christian, a country like Germany would elect a Fuhrer like Hitler? I don’t know. The alternative is to posit one of those chaotic networks where tiny differences in initial conditions can compound and lead to very different end states. Arendt herself offers little, beyond saying that Italy saved its Jews out of “the automatic general humanity of an old and civilized people”. Yeah, well, Japan was an old and civilized people too, and we know how that turned out. But what other possibilities are there? All I can think of is maybe looking into the pre-existing anti-Semitism level, but I don’t know if that just passes the explanatory buck.

Did you know the Intro Psych explanation of Asch’s conformity experiments gets them backwards? Although it’s true that in each experiment a few people would conform with majority opinion, the majority of subjects didn’t conform and stuck with the evidence of their own eyes. This is encouraging, but makes the international variation in behavior even more perplexing. Whatever the cause, despite some heroic individuals everywhere, the between-country variance was more important than the within-country variance.

Fourth, resistance worked. Not for the Jews, who generally had no good options. But for the Gentile population of occupied countries, absolutely. It didn’t need heroic martyrs willing to stand in front of Panzers Tiananmen-style. It just took a general attitude of annoying obstructionism. The Germans said “Give us a list of all the Jews in your country by next week,” and the police said “Oh, yeah, sure”, and then the next week the Germans asked where their list was, and the police said, “Sorry, we must have forgot.” When the attitude was so universal that the Nazis didn’t know who to punish, or didn’t dare punish everyone for fear of rebellion, they generally gave up.

This isn’t to trivialize anything. There were thousands of individuals who died horribly resisting the Nazis, often to no avail. But when whole countries and cultures decided to resist, it made a big difference.

Even more – and I think Arendt’s frequent repetition of this fact is entirely justified – it started to change the Nazis’ minds. The Nazi officials in Denmark and Bulgaria became just a little bit obstructionist themselves. Nothing spectacular. No throwing off their jackboots and joining the resistance. Just a very slight tendency to question what was going on and ask “Are we the baddies?”

Just as humanizing the Nazis is a two-way street, so pointing out the bizarre lack of dissent in Nazi Germany is both distressing and encouraging. Distressing because – how could ordinary humans tolerate that? But encouraging because – well, it seems almost possible to imagine a world where something goes wrong and America ends up overtly fascist. Yet even in my worst nightmares I can’t imagine a world where America ends up overtly fascist and nobody is annoying and obstructionist about it. Arendt’s picture of Germany, where the ruling party has 90% approval and dissent is unthinkable – you can’t get there from here. We’re never unanimous about anything.

I thank G-d for the annoying obstructionists, for the nitpickers, for the devil’s advocates, for the people who hear something that’s obviously true and strain to come up with an absurd thought experiment where it might not be, for the reflexive contrarians, for the people who always vote third party, for the people who urge you to sign petitions on whitehouse.gov because “then the President has to respond”, for the people who have two hundred guns in their basement “just in case”, for the people who say “well, actually…” all the time, for the mayors of sanctuary cities and the clerks who refuse to perform gay weddings, for the people who think being banned on Twitter is a violation of their human rights, and for the people who swear eternal hostility to other people on the same side who agree with them on 99% of everything. On the spectrum from “totally ungovernable” to “vulnerable to Nazism”, I think that we’ve erred in the right direction.

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855 Responses to Book Review: Eichmann In Jerusalem

  1. Blue Tribe Dissident says:

    it’s worth remembering that the Final Solution was the Nazis’ third or fourth plan, not their first. … The cause for concern isn’t that anyone you can see on TV today is plotting a Fourth Reich. It’s that some common factor causes people who start out as only moderately objectionable to predictably become something much worse. And modern populists share a suspicious number of characteristics and policies with their WWII-era fascist analogues … and one can rightly be afraid that they’re drawing from the same underlying natural kind.

    This seems a little tendentious. Per this review article, the Nazis didn’t “start out as only moderately objectionable”, at least not if Mein Kampf counts as part of the starting out period (I have to admit that I don’t know much about pre-Beerhall Putsch NSDAP history). The Final Solution might not have been their first plan once they got in power but it sure looks like it’s in keeping with their formative, pre-power ideology. If the story is roughly,

    Hitler 1925: “Let’s maybe kill all Jews!”
    Hitler 1933: “You know, I’m feeling more presidential. Maybe we’ll just deport all Jews.”
    Hitler late 1930s: “Goddammit, this deporting Jews thing isn’t working. Maybe bantustans?”
    Hitler 1942: “Kill all Jews!”

    it doesn’t make sense to start from 1933 and argue that deportation ideas tend to lead to mass murder ideas. White nationalists in the U.S. today are nowhere near being in eyeshot of taking power, but their rhetoric is less radical than the Nazis’ was when they were in conciliatory resettlement mode.

  2. Blue Tribe Dissident says:

    Per Nicholas Stargardt, there was lots of dissent in Nazi Germany, see: http://newbooksnetwork.com/nicholas-stargardt-the-german-war-a-nation-under-arms-1939-1945-basic-books-2015/

    It mostly was not dissent the way we might imagine it. Mostly it was people who saw themselves as loyal to the regime but we critical of specifics. There was a great deal of angst among the public about the Holocaust, but, again, not the angst we might expect if we’re naïve: the focus was on the fear of terrible retribution if the war was lost. But, since I have very low expectations for the level of morality that groups of people are likely to be able handle, fear of punishment strikes me as a very healthy impulse in this case. Moreover, sometimes an expressed fear of punishment conceals a genuine feeling of guilt that the person won’t or can’t say out loud.

  3. Cerby says:

    “I am sure the French count this as a moral victory nowadays, though it’s a very selective sort of morality.”
    You presume too much, too quickly. As other French commentators have said, the Collaboration is seen by all but a few as one of the blackest marks on our national history, and Pétain as a coward and a murderer.

  4. nydwracu says:

    Some of this may be wrong, since it’s all from memory and parts of it I only know because a friend of mine drunkenly tried to explain it to me one time a few months ago, but you shouldn’t be surprised that Italy wasn’t enthusiastic about killing the Jews.

    So. Mussolini, right? Il Duce and all that. (First typed Il Dude, corrected it, realized I liked it better the first way.) Il Dude started out as a Socialist thinkpiece writer, rose within the Italian Socialist Party, became one of its chief ideologues (think Matt Yglesias, except with actual readers and influence), then WWI happened, the Socialists went “No capitalist war! Proletarian internationalism forever!”, Mussolini went “Well, actually, fuck the Habsburgs”, the Socialists expelled Mussolini, he started his own political faction (and, assuming you’ve seen Life of Brian, you now know why ‘fascist’ is the default term of political abuse — isn’t it just a little bit creepy that everyone speaks left-radical jargon?), and also proletarian internationalism died worldwide, never to return.

    Like, National Socialism, right? Wikipedia says the term originated with the Czech National Socialist Party, which was another group of socialists who went “well, actually, fuck the Habsburgs”, and then the Austrians got it from the Czechs and Rudolf Jung got it from the Austrians, but there were also National Socialists in WWI-era Britain, and they were just socialists who were pro-WWI.

    Anyway, Mussolini marches on Rome, the king goes “sure, dude, whatever” and makes him Il Duce, Il Duce jacks all his ritual–and the process of force-feeding particularly bothersome political opponents castor oil to give them a humiliating case of the shits–from a poet by the name of Gabriele D’Annunzio who got tired of the post-WWI international dispute over what to do with the city of Fiume (which had been in Austria-Hungary, is now in Croatia, but was mostly Italian in population at the time), conquered it himself, and gave it a constitution that declared music to be the fundamental principle of the state.

    Mussolini hears Hitler had a Theory of Races, goes “Gee, a Theory of Races! We ought to get ourselves one of those!”, and hits up Julius Evola, a former engineering student who did a lot of psychedelics, joined the Dada movement, then became an Indiaboo and wrote a few dozen unreadable books about sex magic and esoteric traditionalist kingdoms hidden at the North Pole or maybe the center of the earth. Evola goes “Ah, yes, a Theory of Race, I can produce a Theory of Race. My Theory of Race is that race is real and racism is cool and good. By ‘race’ I mean ‘becoming good’, and by ‘racism’ I mean ‘spiritual development’. Alfred Rosenberg is a materialist faggot who knows nothing of holiness or transcendence and the Nazis are just zoologists. Also Anglo-Saxons are an inferior race.” Later on he writes some books on sex magic, opposes Mussolini from the right, and, after WW2 comes to Italy, cultivates the habit of going for long walks during bombing raids.

    Then Mussolini dumps his Jewish mistress who’d been handling his foreign policy for him and someone convinces him that Hitler will win the war Real Soon Now and wouldn’t it be a good idea to get on Hitler’s good side? So D’Annunzio (who Mussolini had been bribing to stay out of politics ever since he took power) tries to talk Mussolini out of allying with Hitler, Mussolini goes “fuck off bro” and allies with Hitler, D’Annunzio tries to talk Mussolini into not being allied with Hitler anymore, Mussolini goes “fuck off bro” and stays allied with Hitler, then Hitler loses and Mussolini admits he should’ve listened to D’Annunzio and partisans kill Mussolini and hang his corpse from the roof of a gas station.

    • NRK says:

      The DNSAP weren’t Czechs who hated the Habsburgs, they were Sudeten Germans who ended up on the territory of Czechoslovakia after the fall of the Habsburgs and mainly hated Jews and Czechs.

    • Tibor says:

      Hail Dude! (well, that’s just,like, your opinion, man!)

      Anyway, what NRK says is basically true. My interpretation of the DNSAP, or rather their roots is that they were Sudedendeutsche who didn’t like either Habsburgs or the Czechs – for the same reason. What they wanted was to join the Deutsches Reich. But the Habsburgs did not fancy giving that away to Bismarck (I wonder if that also did not have something to do with them still thinking more in feudal terms – after all those lands were an “indivisible” part of the lands of the Bohemian Crown and the Austrian Emperor until Franz Josef II were also always crowned as Czech kings) and the Czech(oslovak)s didn’t either.

      I think they were not significantly more anti-jewish than other people were at the time – until they got inspired by the NSDAP and Hitler and adopted their ideology completely. And indeed, then they founded the DNSAP.

  5. Muad'Dib says:

    My knowledge of the matter is very superficial.

    It should be mentioned that Eichmann in Jerusalem was based in large part on Raul Hilberg’s main study, The Destruction of the European Jews. Arendt “borrowed” a large part of Hilberg’s research (she mentions Hilberg here and there, but doesn’t credit him properly). In particular the analysis of the Jewish Councils is largely taken from Hilberg, though her analysis differs a bit from Hilberg’s. Hilberg never forgave her for this; he also didn’t consider Arendt’s work to be particularly insightful. From what I understand, Hilberg’s work is still regarded highly, so it might be good to check out the original source.

    Coming back to the post, I do not really agree with the conclusion. In what exact sense was there “a bizarre lack of dissent in Nazi Germany”? What’s the standard of comparison? From my superficial understanding, the Nazis faced plenty of dissent both before the election of 1932 and afterwards – after all, they did not get a majority in the elections, the Social Democrats and the communists together got more support than the Nazis. Hitler, of course, used totalitarian methods to crush dissent after he got power, but then the lack of (effective) dissent is not so bizarre – the explanation was that it was simply crushed.

    Among the general population, there was lots of prejudice against Jews in Germany, but the bulk of the population did not condone violence against Jews. At the height of his popularity, Hitler was careful about avoiding explicit association with anti-Semitic pogroms – the most popular themes in his speeches were his attacks on Marxism and social democracy. Ian Kershaw writes that as Hitler gained popularity, in the 1930s, he “was extremely careful to avoid public association with the generally unpopular pogrom-type anti-Semitic outrages”, because the Germans disapproved. Kershaw also says that the massive Nazi propaganda poisoned German minds. There was general popular support for separation of Jews from the populace, to be sure. See Ian Kershaw Popular Opinion and Political Dissent in the Third Reich and David Bankier, The Germans and the Final Solution: Public Opinion under Nazism.

    Hitler was also popular because he got Germany out of dire economic straits. Of course Hitler’s popularity soared as dissent was crushed, the economy bounced back and then his popularity reached great heights during WW2. But isn’t this to be expected with wartime propaganda and general rally-round-the-flag phenomenon? It’s not to be excused, but I don’t find it particularly bizarre.

    That said, I agree that Trump isn’t Hitler and 2017 US is not 1930s Germany. A better comparison is to Berlusconi.

    • Aapje says:

      I agree and want to point out that to suppress dissent, one doesn’t need to eliminate all individuals who oppose something. Eliminating the ability for dissenters to effectively work together and providing strong disincentives for individualist expressions of dissent can do ‘wonders.’

  6. Jan_Rzymkowski says:

    “Arendt’s picture of Germany, where the ruling party has 90% approval and dissent is unthinkable – you can’t get there from here. We’re never unanimous about anything.”

    You do realise this is exactly what everyone always says about their country?
    And I understand the purpose of the paragraph following the above sentence was to humor things up. But first you make me gnash my teeth in Unsong, describing how totally American is it to not like bowing to people (speaking on behalf of whole European population – it’s just as American as drinking coffee), and now that…

    Scott, for the love of G-d, you’re way to good for all that soft patriotism. It leads nowhere good. Not to mention it makes you vulnerable to all the same sorts of bias as the belief in personal exeptionalism.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      We had close to 90% support for the Afghanistan War. (Before it turned out to be a difficult thing to rebuild a country.)

      • Protagoras says:

        Yeah, I supported the war in Afghanistan. Getting bin Laden seemed important, and while I expected U.S. invasion and occupation to produce a mess, the Taliban seemed bad enough that I doubted the U.S. would make things worse. Of course, the invasion doesn’t seem to have contributed to getting bin Laden, and my thoughts about the effects of U.S. involvement compared to the status quo seem to have been over-optimistic, so I would now say I got this one wrong.

  7. howardtreesong says:

    As far as I can tell, the American left is closer to behaving like Nazis than the administration. How is shouting down a speaker, breaking windows, and physically intimidating political opponents not right out of the national socialist playbook?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwuOHHYIHJA

    • stillnotking says:

      Can we just… not? Antifa may be thugs, but they are not Nazis. Trump may be pursuing bad policies, but he isn’t a Nazi either. Nazism is a tiny fringe presence in the US, it’s questionable whether even the people who call themselves Nazis really mean it or are just out to shock, and such comparisons do nothing but generate pointless partisan rancor. Heat without light.

      • howardtreesong says:

        That’s fair. At the same time, it’s probably worth pointing out that a fair chunk of the rioters — including one guy that was interviewed at some length — accuse Yiannopolous of being a racist, Nazi, fascist, etc. — none of which he is. Calling this crowd “antifa” is also clearly inaccurate, given that the guy they’re protesting is in no way fascist, and is in fact in open conflict with American fascists.

        As a matter of practical impact, it’s not clear to me that keeping the high ground is particularly effective.

        I don’t understand why a stack of these rioters weren’t arrested and charged.

      • The Nybbler says:

        The antifa aren’t Nazis, but they are basically Blackshirts

    • Urstoff says:

      These kids don’t have state power. That’s a pretty big difference. A mild authoritarian with state power is much, much worse than a committed Stalinist/Nazi that works at Kroger.

      • Thegnskald says:

        A gang is a state, albeit a very small one.

        But yes, a larger state is more dangerous than a small one, particularly if it is widely regarded as legitimate.

        The issue arises in that there are a disturbing number of people willing to permit legitimacy to thugs.

      • howardtreesong says:

        Of course that’s correct, although it looks to me as though agents of the state let this protest get out of control and let the protestors shut down a speech. Why were rioters not arrested? One would imagine that a competent police force could prevent rioters from storming the building, turning over a generator, busting building windows with baseball bats, pepper-spraying a Yiannopolous supporter, and vandalizing a Starbucks and a bank.

        I’m not at all suggesting the police were encouraging the behavior. But there seemed to be at least some degree of tacit approval.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Were they campus cops or ordinary cops? Were they set up for a riot? They probably didn’t expect what happened.

          • stillnotking says:

            The black bloc types show up at every protest in the Oakland/Berkeley area. Berkeley made the College Republicans (who invited Milo) shell out an extra $6500 for security. They expected it, all right, although it may serve their purposes to pretend they didn’t.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The College Republicans are owed their $6500 (actually, all their security costs) back, as with DePaul University which demanded extra security costs for Milo, then ordered their security people to stand by as he was attacked.

          • Randy M says:

            In general I am in favor of point of use fines as revenue sources, as this encourages those who use services to fund them. For example a gas tax for roads makes sense, assuming that’s where the money actually goes.

            So I guess fining those most likely to commit thoughtcrimes to pay the thought police makes sense.

          • howardtreesong says:

            Yiannopolous says that he knew from social media that there was going to be a significant protest, which suggests that the police did know about it. I don’t know whether this was campus police or local police; I guess my reaction is that even if it was just campus police, local police should have been called once things looked like they might get out of hand.

            Perhaps the idea is that the police don’t want video of them billy-clubbing protestors into submission, and that is a reasonable point of view on its face. But I likewise don’t like the alternative of permitting thugs to shut down speech they don’t like. I would imagine there are crowd control methods that actually could have gotten this under control, but my imagination on that point is nothing but that.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The official line is that there was a student protest and the black bloc rioters were outside. Maybe the police expected a mostly-peaceful protest, geared up for that, and were not prepared for what happened.

          • nydwracu says:

            Perhaps the idea is that the police don’t want video of them billy-clubbing protestors into submission

            pffff

            THE SCORE IS FOUR
            AND NEXT TIME MORE

        • Randy M says:

          Were the ’60s rioters on universities arrested? Honest question.

      • reasoned argumentation says:

        These kids don’t have state power.

        Of course they do.

        They don’t get arrested and yet there’s a massive police presence. What does that mean the police are there for? To protect the rioters in case anyone tries to stop them because they’re acting as agents of whomever is giving the orders to the police to stand down. That’s exactly state power.

      • John Schilling says:

        These kids don’t have state power. That’s a pretty big difference.

        If you have state privilege, of the sort where the police don’t arrest you when they see you engaged in organized violence against your enemies but not vice versa, that’s actually not much difference from having state power. See, e.g., the second incarnation of the KKK.

    • Creutzer says:

      Thuggishness was not exactly unique to the Nazis on the 1920s and 1930s European political scene.

  8. the verbiage ecstatic says:

    Arendt’s portrait of Eichmann reminds me a lot of Ribbonfarm’s brilliant analysis of Michael Scott from The Office.

    Both middle-managers a step down from the execs, both oblivious, play-acting out morality scripts that they don’t really understand, with great enthusiasm. Could totally see Michael Scott being offended by the Jews’s failure appreciating his hard work in exterminating them.

    Ribbonfarm’s essay has a great explanation of why people like that rise through the ranks: they’re useful idiots to their bosses, who can use them as front men for high-risk moves; if it works, great, and if not, they take the fall instead of the boss. They’re also generally hardworking and can be counted on to enthusiastically embrace whatever the ideology of the day is.

    I found the parallels pretty striking, especially given how different the contexts are (comedy show about corporate america vs infamous war criminal)

    • stillnotking says:

      I got as far as the fourth paragraph, when the author implied that sociopathy, Darwinian selection, and Weber’s Protestant Ethic were one and the same.

      I can see David Brent (or season one Michael Scott) as an Eichmann, though. I’m reminded of the brilliant Brent scene in which he explains why Nelson Mandela is his hero.

  9. Ohm says:

    An interesting analysis, as I would expect from Scott, but it falls short in one key respect.

    He claims that he can not see something like the holocaust happening in America, when in fact the United States (and Great Britain, Canada, and Australia) are currently doing things that are in some ways much worse. The Nazis were at least willing to let the Jews go to settle outside the country – were even willing to assist them on their way for a price, but the aforementioned English-speaking countries not only persecute their scapegoat class, but using their power they have persuaded most other nations around the world to join in the persecution and in making conditions of life impossible for them, and they have established laws to destroy them if they stay and laws to prevent them from fleeing. The only defense for the persecuted is to stay invisible.

    True, there is not yet a policy of widespread and direct murder, though there is widespread public support for such – fired up by a dishonest media – but long prison sentences (providing cheap prison labor!) and treatment bordering on torture (frequently crossing the line) is the standard treatment for those who can be discovered.

    But one lesson is good: it is safer to resist than to comply.

  10. Eli says:

    I thank G-d for the annoying obstructionists, for the nitpickers, for the devil’s advocates, for the people who hear something that’s obviously true and strain to come up with an absurd thought experiment where it might not be, for the reflexive contrarians, for the people who always vote third party, for the people who urge you to sign petitions on whitehouse.gov because “then the President has to respond”, for the people who have two hundred guns in their basement “just in case”, for the people who say “well, actually…” all the time, for the mayors of sanctuary cities and the clerks who refuse to perform gay weddings, for the people who think being banned on Twitter is a violation of their human rights, and for the people who swear eternal hostility to other people on the same side who agree with them on 99% of everything. On the spectrum from “totally ungovernable” to “vulnerable to Nazism”, I think that we’ve erred in the right direction.

    MAKE AMERICA UNGOVERNABLE AGAIN! ANARCHO-SYNDICALISM NOW.

    (hahahaha God I’m so afraid)

  11. sovietKaleEatYou says:

    Thanks – this is a great post. I think Scott has a gift for unbiased in-depth historical analysis (as apparently does Arendt), and I’d be interested in more like this, especially now.

  12. deciusbrutus says:

    >”I thank G-d for the annoying obstructionists, for the nitpickers, for the devil’s advocates, for the people who hear something that’s obviously true and strain to come up with an absurd thought experiment where it might not be, for the reflexive contrarians, for the people who always vote third party, for the people who urge you to sign petitions on whitehouse.gov because “then the President has to respond”, for the people who have two hundred guns in their basement “just in case”, for the people who say “well, actually…” all the time, for the mayors of sanctuary cities and the clerks who refuse to perform gay weddings, for the people who think being banned on Twitter is a violation of their human rights, and for the people who swear eternal hostility to other people on the same side who agree with them on 99% of everything.”

    You’re welcome, but I will quote you on that when we aren’t arguing about how literally the chief executive is Hitler.

    The people who oppose culture that is different from their own aren’t often on the right side of history. It is only when the new culture is objectively worse than the old culture that they are.

    Imagine that the obstructionists that drug their feet on implementing the Nazi extermination plan did exactly the same thing, but were vetting Syrian refugees. Suppose that the clerk who declined to accept applications that she didn’t think were for marriages was in charge of deciding whether to admit or deport someone that he thought was a foreign threat to his stable Christian way of life.

    People who stand up for what they think is right are good only so far as their beliefs about what is right are good. And passive obstructionism is a very effective way to prevent something that requires your assistance to implement, but a very bad way of opposing something that doesn’t require your active assistance.

  13. spottedtoad says:

    This is funny, from Bernard Henri Levy’s article in the New York Times last week, “Jews, Be Wary of Trump“:

    There is a law that governs the relations between the Jews and the rest of the world. That law was articulated in one form at the time of the trial of Adolf Eichmann, when the great Jewish thinker Gershom Scholem faulted Hannah Arendt for falling short of “ahavat Israel” — for showing insufficient “love of the Jewish people.”

    This love is precisely what is required of an American president in dealings affecting Israel.

    The rest of the article is just silly- as Scott has previously noted, of all the many plausible attacks on Trump, the charge of anti-Semitism is one of the ones that makes least sense- but attacking Trump for being too much like Arendt in Jerusalem makes you wonder if they are lowering the standards for becoming a world-famous globe-trotting philosopher these days.

    • Machine Interface says:

      Bernard Henri Levy is no philosopher, he’s a not-so-clever scam artist who has been caught red handed dozens of times, but is friend with influential politicians and media person and so has a perpetual free pass.

      • dndnrsn says:

        There is a certain variety of French public intellectual who is basically “person born into considerable wealth who pronounces on everything”. They’re quite loathsome. BHL is tied, in my book, with Badinter (who wrote about how breastfeeding oppressed women, without noting that she makes vast amounts of money from Nestle sales).

    • howardtreesong says:

      That Levy article is as ridiculous as it is pretentious. Boiled down, it suggests ignoring objective evidence in favor of a subjective narrative about Trump. It assumes “Trumpian nihilism” and based on that assumption suggests that Jews debase themselves by giving him any respect.

      Levy may be right; he may be wrong. But his argument proceeds from an unprovable, question-begging assumption.

    • Ilya Shpitser says:

      Trump moves from one conversation to the next with no state. He’s not anti-anything, because there’s nothing really there. Probably the only longer term state he maintains pertains to his image.

      Bannon, and the rest of the inner circle, are the ones to worry about. As for Bannon’s feelings re: Jews and other matters, who can say for sure. But we can look at what his outfit published, and what he himself said in the past. That’s all open record.

      • Cypren says:

        The allegations of anti-semitism are pretty weak tea. They boil down to unsubstantiated accusations made by his ex-wife during a contentious divorce and custody battle, and citing as circumstantial evidence two pieces published on Breitbart: one by Jewish arch-conservative David Horowitz attacking fellow Jewish conservative Bill Kristol for undermining Trump, and one attacking Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum for being a globalist in league with George Soros. (Which some people apparently inferred was a dog whistle of a Jewish global takeover conspiracy; clearly those people have never actually met a right-winger, few of whom probably actually know that George Soros is Jewish, but all of whom know that he’s their Emmanuel Goldstein as a sinister figure funding Left-wing causes. See: Koch Brothers, The.)

        As I’ve said elsewhere, Bannon is a person who hates the Cathedral, the nexus of academic, professional and government personnel forged in the cauldron of the elite university system. Once you view his actions through that lens, it becomes readily apparent that race and religion have nothing to do with his positions; he sorts the entire world into people who either oppose or serve the Cathedral’s interests and makes alliances and enemies accordingly.

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          Which wife, the wife he beat, or the other one?

          I did not realize you were a right-wing expert. Is there a standard taxonomy text I should consult when trying to figure out which right-winger knows whether Soros is a Jew or not?

          Now, I am not a student of the right-wing, myself, but it occurs to me there might be some “mindspace” overlap between the type of person who capitalizes “Cathedral”, and the type of person who uses the phrase “bizarre kike” to refer to our host (full disclosure, I am Jewish).

          I don’t have exact facts on Bannon, quite yet, but a picture is starting to emerge of this person. Virtue-ethically speaking, he might be the opposite of Achilles, his heel might be his only strong point.

          • suntzuanime says:

            You’re not a student of the right-wing, so I don’t know why it doesn’t occur to you to shut the fuck up before you embarrass yourself.

            Here’s a little help for you. The guy who you’re referencing when you capitalize “Cathedral”? He’s also Jewish.

            Like, holy shit, this is a really convenient way to slander. Did you know that people who talk about “human rights” have mindspace overlap with pedophile rapists? Neither do I, but apparently that’s no reason not to say it.

          • Cypren says:

            I don’t claim to be an expert on the right-wing. I do claim to have had far more interaction with them than the typical left-winger, given that I grew up in an evangelical Christian household, was homeschooled, attended a private Christian university and have spent a decent chunk of my life in the Deep South and the Midwest.

            For most of the past two decades, I’ve lived in urban coastal cities (Washington DC, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles) and been surrounded predominantly by left-wingers. So I do tend to think that while I may not be an expert, having never really personally identified with either tribe in my adult life, I at least have a great deal of social exposure to and maintain friendships with people in both camps, far more than they do with each other. Those friends range from the vanilla partisan I-always-vote-Republican/Democrat types to at least one Leninist and a couple anarcho-capitalists.

            I capitalize “Cathedral” because I think the concept is a useful one. I do not endorse the policies of the reactionary movement that created it, but that doesn’t stop me from borrowing what I think is a handy shorthand term for describing a very particular culture that is the product of a globalist but inward-looking worldview incubated in Western higher education. It has many of the markers of a religion in having sacred texts and revered figures, heretical thoughts and ideas that will immediately cause one to be outcast with great moral fury, and many unquestioned (and unquestionable, on pain of heresies) unfalsifiable priors that amount to moral assertions about the way life and reality should be.

            I also severely resent the implication that I’m a racist or antisemite for using the term, or for defending Bannon (whose views I do not endorse or particularly like) from charges of personal antisemitism when the Anti-Defamation League also did the same. Like them, I have strong concerns about the allies he has surrounded himself with, some of whom are genuinely antisemites.

            But I am, like our host, rigidly opposed to attacking people with false accusations and “crying wolf”. Explicitly or implicitly accusing people of antisemitism without evidence cheapens the term and reduces its power against real antisemites. This is how we got Trump. Accusations of racism and sexism have lost their power to persuade huge swaths of the American public precisely because they have been thrown around carelessly and turned into a synonym for “opposes Democrats” by many Democrats, such that non-Democrats no longer give them much credit at all.

            I’m not in favor of continuing that trend. Call a spade a spade. Call Bannon a radical conservative who wants to overthrow the current neoliberal political order: that’s absolutely and completely true. But don’t make up or repeat incredibly weak charges of antisemitism, especially when you’re doing it against a guy who runs a site that was founded by a Jew explicitly to be “unapologetically pro-Israel“.

            Note also that Stormfront posters (content warning: Stormfront, so exactly what you should expect) dislike Bannon for being, as they put it, “a chosenite”. This is not the Nazi you’re looking for.

          • Anatoly says:

            Well, the alt-right certainly has antisemitic tendencies. The ((())) notation is the easiest example – its popularity speaks for itself. And Bannon, while not explicitly alt-right, was willing to welcome and nurture the movement, before he leveled up to lead Trump’s campaign. I don’t think [it is known that] Bannon himself is an antisemite, but his personal views may matter less ultimately than where the ideology leads him.

            Populist nationalist movements tend to converge on anti-semitism even when they don’t start there. It’s a common attractor. The record has played itself over many times. This time around, we have some limited evidence in the ((())) thing, and it may be useful to look at the fringe. Stormfront is not a useful predictor of anything, because they are as they always were, but Jim is an influential ideologue of the edgier alt-right, and his readership has no apriori reason to be antisemitic. Take a look at the recent poll about the Jewish problem. I was surprised by the results – didn’t think it was that bad already.

            Oh, and for Christ’s sake Cypren, right-wingers who actually rant about Soros know that he’s a Jew. Doesn’t mean they’re all antisemites, but they know. Please don’t be ridiculous.

          • Cypren says:

            @Anatoly: The parenthesis notation is something you will never see in anything even approaching a mainstream right-wing source (even Breitbart, which sits right on the border of what can be called “mainstream” on the Right). I had never even heard of it (or the jim.com guy) before you mentioned it, and I consider myself reasonably well-read when it comes to right-wing media sources. (I read Fox News, Instapundit, Red State, Breitbart on occasion, and so forth. I also read Slate, Vox, Salon and MSNBC; I consider it very important to know what both tribes are up to in their own words. But I don’t read Tumblr or Twitter, so I avoid a lot of the crazy stuff from both sides.) Looking around, it appears to be something a subgroup of alt-right antisemites on Twitter do, and every reference I could find to it was in left-wing sources going, “hey, look at how obviously antisemitic this is!” Most of these sources seem to be from the first week of June last year, so this thing seems to have been more of a flash in the pan than anything else.

            One thing I consistently see in these discussions is that the Right is supposed to be defined by the “alt-right” (who, as Scott has pointed out, are a tiny minority of people, mostly online trolls trying to bait reactions), but the Left gets to wave off Tumblr and Twitter as totally non-representative and just the wild extremists.

            Bannon has definitely made a choice to reach out to the alt-right. Given what I know of the movement, I think that’s questionable at best, but given that the alt-right doesn’t have a hundred million deaths laid at the door of their philosophy in the last century, I’d call it significantly less questionable than, say, the Left’s embrace of ANSWER and the Workers’ World Party. Neither one thrills me, but I don’t think it’s acceptable to tar Bannon with antisemitism and Bernie Sanders with genocide just because their fringe allies have closely associated with both.

            But it is absolutely appropriate to question their judgment.

          • Aapje says:

            Interestingly, after becoming aware fairly recently of the ((())) notation, I’ve been noticing it on twitter…but merely saw it used by Jewish people who apply it to themselves.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            suntzuanime, look I am very sorry I hit a sore note, but it so happens anti-semitism is kind of a right-wing thing. Left-wing have their own skeletons, but more or less anti-semitism isn’t it, historically.

            Cypren, I was not calling you an anti-semite. Apologies if you felt that way.

            I am much more interested in what Bannon is thinking, not you, and I am trying to reverse engineer him based on what I know. There is a scarcity of reliable info on this guy, regarding anti-semitism, and lots of other things (but honestly his feelings about Jews are the least of my worries at the moment).

            So to be perfectly clear:

            (a) The pressing issue of the day, as I see it, is to understand exactly what the game plan of Trump’s circle is. Currently, I am going with Bannon being a “tactical player”, who tries to muddy the waters and reach an unclear position, and outplay you there. His endgame is unclear, he said in the past he wants to “bring the system crashing down” (and presumably replace it with something) but it is unclear exactly what. Apparently there are moves to start stuff with Iran and/or China. If this is true, this will be incredibly bad for essentially everyone, regardless of political affiliation.

            (b) It’s very important to reach a coalition agreement with moderate conservatives, put a stop to Trump’s gang, and morph what we have into a regular old GOP government. To the extent that alt-right/Moldbug’s people/whoever else support Trump, I think can be revisited later. The most important thing is to not explode the Republic, as is looking increasingly likely based on what is happening.

            ((())) is “echoes,” some Jews are using it to reclaim the slur, as the LGBT community has done with the word “queer.” (((John McCarthy))) has two reasons to use this notation, which I find hilarious.

          • stillnotking says:

            Bannon is a political operative, not a policy wonk. I very much doubt he has any strategies in mind involving Iran or China. His dream is to remake the Republican Party in a populist-nativist mold, so I expect him to try to convert or marginalize the GOP establishment in Congress by wielding conservative media. I’ve been surprised, in fact, that Trump hasn’t made a more concerted effort to spark a Tea Party-type ongoing activist movement to that end, especially in light of the opposition from McCain, Graham, Murkowski etc. He seems inclined to appeal to a vaguely nonpartisan “silent majority” instead, perhaps out of vanity — he sees himself, almost touchingly, as a unifying figure after the divisive Obama administration. (This won’t last, and is already cracking, e.g. the Schumer tweet.)

            Whether Bannon, or any of the inner circle, are closet anti-Semites I won’t venture to guess, but I will be shocked if anything they do or say in public ever reflects such a bias. Their fidelity to Israel is a given, of course.

          • Well, the alt-right certainly has antisemitic tendencies.

            Does that mean “there are anti-semites included in what is labeled the alt-right” or “almost all of the alt-right is at least mildly antisemitic?”

            The difference matters if you are going to make arguments of the form “X has published things by people in the alt-right, which suggests he is anti-semitic.”

            If the point isn’t obvious, consider that some humans are anti-semitic and the NYT has published articles by humans, from which it does not follow that the NYT is friendly to anti-semites.

          • suntzuanime says:

            It’s very important to reach a coalition agreement with moderate conservatives, put a stop to Trump’s gang, and morph what we have into a regular old GOP government.

            And you think randomly slandering the right is going to get you that coalition?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Ilya Shpitser – “It’s very important to reach a coalition agreement with moderate conservatives…”

            If they are your hope, you are in dire straights indeed. Feckless, faithless, mindless, hopeless. They are a splintered reed.

            “put a stop to Trump’s gang, and morph what we have into a regular old GOP government. ”

            Never. Better the death of the Republican party and the permanent ascendancy of the Democrats for all time. Better eight years of Clinton.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Better a hairy reed than a splintered one?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            just so, cartoon general.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            stillnotking, you should peruse what Bannon has written and said, in the past.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies

            Argues that there’s a memeplex of hating Jews, women’s rights, sexual minorities, cities, trade, and possibly some other good things I don’t remember. This is actually a fairly modern thing, but it claims to be recreating a superior past of virtuous leaders and virtuous unambitous common people.

    • nydwracu says:

      Clearly, Bernard Henri Levy wants us to become antisemites.

  14. dwietzsche says:

    I still think it’s incredibly strange that it hadn’t occurred to the Nazis (or even non-Nazi affiliated bureaucrats) that systematically killing all the Jews might be immoral on its own terms in some way, even if they ultimately regarded it as necessary. They knew it would piss off the Allies. Why could they easily wrap their heads around that, but then simply not register the implications of genocide in more general terms? A lot of Arendt’s observation here about the banality of evil really rests on a cultural artifact of moral blindness that itself requires some substantial explanation (perhaps she does explain it, I have not read enough to say).

    The only thing I can think of that this is akin to is the case where formerly cannibalistic societies become ashamed of that behavior when they encounter cultures with the taboo against it. Here I think the case is somewhat weaker that cannibalism (as long as it doesn’t entail hunting and killing people first) is obviously immoral, and yet you see the transfer of the moral norm almost immediately without any sense of the underlying logic or psychology animating the norm. People who engaged in certain ritual forms of cannibalism just stopped doing it.

    I think there’s an epistemological problem here that is totally intractable. Because these reviews of the history of the Holocaust are intended in some way to be a safeguard against future atrocities. We engage in them with the idea that if we’re sufficiently vigilant, we can prevent something on this scale from happening in our own societies. But if the Nazis could simply not know that the Jewish genocide they conducted was wrong, it’s not clear how we’re supposed to prevent the next event that historians will regard as its equivalent. Like, we definitely know we shouldn’t try to systematically exterminate whole peoples. That’s it. Not a worthless lesson, but not a talisman guarding against some other kinds of large scale atrocities we could be engaged in right now and not even think about because it’s so commonplace.

    • Aapje says:

      @dwietzsche

      In the past there was a collective belief in (parts of) the US that it was not immoral to keep slaves. Why? Because this is a basic necessity; black people are inherently more suited for hard work and being controlled by white people; etc.

      So why did the Nazis perform the holocaust? There was a collective believe that this was right and just and as it had to be. Why? Because this is a basic necessity; Jews are inherently undermining; etc.

      In a modern context, we also have strong biases where we are much more accepting of harm happening to one gender. Of course, the impact of this is far less severe than slavery or the holocaust, but it is still the same mechanism; where we rationalize different treatment in a way that is dehumanizing and irrational if you look at the actual facts.

      On the more extreme end of feminism, the views on men are not even that different from how Nazis viewed the Jews: men collectively seek out to harm women for their own benefit. It’s merely due to the fact that men are too big a segment of society that we are pretty much safe from a purity spiral leading to genocide. However, the beliefs to back such a purity spiral are embedded into most of society as ‘common sense.’ So it is merely by pure chance that men are safe, not because we are somehow immune to another purity spiral, because we learned from history.

      Not a worthless lesson, but not a talisman guarding against some other kinds of large scale atrocities we could be engaged in right now and not even think about because it’s so commonplace.

      Some people argue that eating meat is an atrocity that we consider normal. If one believes that animals have the same right to life as humans, then humans are clearly engaging in a large scale atrocity.

      • dwietzsche says:

        Sure. One can select examples of hypothetical equivalents in advance. Like, tomorrow we might all finally agree that Tyson’s chicken farms were an atrocity (I’ll definitely be last in line for that). Pro-life activists very much understand legal abortions to be a modern version of the Holocaust. But this somewhat undercuts Alexander’s idea that we’re really somehow beneficiaries of an in-born resistance to Nazi-equivalent immorality because there’s so much disagreement. If we entertain this kind of moral realism frame that we generally do talking about the Holocaust, and hypothetically assert that abortions really are murders, the inability to come to an agreement about that simply perpetuates the continuation of the crime (I’m pro-choice, by the way, not trying to convince anybody here that this view is or should be regarded as the correct one now or in the future).

        Again, the problem is epistemological. How do you know that you are doing the right thing and not some very very bad wrong thing? The case of the Holocaust is almost useless as an object lesson just because of its peculiar simplicity, which, again, I think requires more of an explanation than anything I’ve ever read, and which probably doesn’t obtain in modern politics anywhere. It’s one thing to assert that mores change over time, another to be able to say with confidence that the future mores are definitely ethically superior to the past mores in some definite way. And it’s really not clear how one is supposed to know for sure that one truly sees the good and the bad for what they are in some reliably objective sense in the first place.

        • alwhite says:

          It seems like you’re asking the question about whether or not atrocities are objectively atrocities or if they are only subjectively atrocities. A more fine-tuned thought might be:
          “Tomorrow I could change my beliefs that my actions today were bad”
          1) How do I predict what my beliefs will be tomorrow so I can be consistent with them today?
          2) If I don’t change my beliefs, are my actions still bad?
          3) How do I know my changed beliefs won’t lead to bad actions?

          It seems like this is a black hole in which there is no escape. I wonder if this means it’s the wrong line of questioning.

        • Machine Interface says:

          “How do you know that you are doing the right thing and not some very very bad wrong thing?”

          Since nobody has figured a way to objectively ground moral, there is no way to know that. Apart from moral antirealism, it is not currenctly possible to have a grounded moral foundation.

          • dwietzsche says:

            One can simply invent grounds, but the trouble is getting people to agree on the grounds you’ve invented. I think, as a rule of thumb, at least, “how many corpses will this public policy create” is not so bad, even if it is not actually a reliably universal rule.

        • Aapje says:

          @dwietzsche

          But this somewhat undercuts Alexander’s idea that we’re really somehow beneficiaries of an in-born resistance to Nazi-equivalent immorality because there’s so much disagreement.

          IMHO, Scott is a hopeless optimist here. The collective dumb response after 9/11 should put paid to the idea that the US is somehow immune to a mass response directed at the wrong target.

          For the rest, I agree with Machine Interface. There is no objective good. The idea that there is, is just a fantasy. When are fetuses human? Do animals have the right to live? Why did the chicken cross the road? Those questions that are unanswerable in an objective way.

          • dwietzsche says:

            People decide what’s right and wrong first, and then establish the metaphysics later. I think arguing that fetuses are people because they have souls is incredibly stupid, but I also find the argument that we should be able to dispose of them at will because they don’t have consciousness yet equally stupid. These are post facto assertions about the nature of things purely in support of preexisting commitments. But if people are arriving at their beliefs prior to their rationalizations for them, it starts looking a lot like moral commitments are in a large number of controversial cases completely random, subject to historical contingency and that’s it. You were raised by strict Catholics, therefore pro-life is just not a table with a seat for reason. In that way of reckoning, the Nazis look bad to us now only because they lost the war, not because they were actually evil (and so were completely right to only be concerned about self-preservation). If that situation obtains, there are no permanent historic lessons to learn about morality. That might be true but it’s not an idea most people would be willing to accept.

          • Aapje says:

            @dwietzsche

            In that way of reckoning, the Nazis look bad to us now only because they lost the war, not because they were actually evil

            It’s perfectly feasible that later Nazi generations would have changed their minds on this issue. The British initially traded many slaves and later opposed the slave trade. No one forced them into this. There are many examples of changes in morals that were not forced by people losing a war.

            It might be true that over time, humans have a tendency to develop better morality, with the caveat that there is surely not a linear progression.

            But this cannot be objectively proven; nor can we prove that our current moral rules are better. In fact, we cannot even objectively answer the question of what terminal values make for better morals. Is it when the moral rules better matches our intuition? Is it when we maximize happiness? What is happiness? Should we wirehead people or is that fake happiness? Does it matter? Or do we want to maximize diversity? What is diversity? More types of animals? More human diversity? How do we define human diversity? More types of skin colors? More diversity of ideas? Doesn’t that imply different moralities by different groups and thus undermine our attempt to improve morality? Should we then minimize diversity?

            You just get into a never-ending chain of questions that make you crazy if you take them too seriously. So I chose not to, to preserve my sanity.

          • Mark says:

            It’s similar to a story – it doesn’t make sense to talk of a story being objectively good outside of any person’s actual appreciation for it – but that doesn’t mean that there is nothing to be said about stories, or that some stories can’t be better than others (given certain assumptions about people).

            I think with morality, what we’re asking ourselves is, “is there a story we can tell ourselves about our actions that both makes us happy, and makes sense given what is going on around us”.

        • IrishDude says:

          Aside from abortion and meat-eating as two plausible things that our descendants will look back in horror at, I think government itself is another likely candidate. The idea that some people have special moral status, those with political authority, who are given approval by the masses to engage in activities that would be considered morally wrong if done by any other person, is a good candidate for things people will shake their head at in the future.

          • Mark says:

            I don’t think we have such a system, do we? Or, at least, that isn’t how it is supposed to be.

            I mean, unless you mean something along the lines of “a doctor operating on a patient is immoral, because we are not normally allowed to cut into sleeping people”.

          • Aapje says:

            @IrishDude

            Those people don’t have inherent special moral status, they operate in a framework where they are granted extra rights, but only because they are obligated to accept extra burdens that offset this.

            Police officers have special rights to use violence, but they are required to have certain training and work within a hierarchy whose rules are created by the voters. Doctors have special rights to give potentially dangerous drugs and cut into people, but they are required to have certain training and have to be registered (and can be ‘fired’ from their profession if they fuck up too much).

            It seems more reasonable to assume that future generations with have issue with the balance of rights vs burdens; than that they dismiss the entire model.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Mark

            I think all governments operate under such a system, including ours (assuming you’re in the U.S.). Here’s Mike Huemer providing one example:

            “Sam has a problem. He has a number of very poor nephews and nieces. He has been working with a charity organization to help them, but the organization needs more funding. So Sam goes out and starts demanding money from his neighbors to give to the charity group. If anyone refuses to contribute, Sam kidnaps that person and locks them in a cage.

            Though charitable giving is laudable, as is the effort to care for one’s nephews and nieces, almost everyone who hears this story finds Sam’s extortion program impermissible. This includes both Democrats and Republicans, people who believe in a personal moral obligation to donate to charity, and even people who have a theory of “distributive justice” that says the current distribution of wealth in our society is unjust because the poor have too little.

            Interestingly, however, many of the people who agree on the impermissibility of Sam’s behavior nevertheless support seemingly analogous behavior on the part of a certain other Uncle Sam. Some think it not only permissible but obligatory for the state to coercively seize funds to aid the poor.

            This is just one of many activities of government that are generally accepted despite the fact that seemingly analogous behavior would be widely condemned if carried out by anyone else.”

            @Aapje

            they operate in a framework where they are granted extra rights

            If it’s wrong for me to engage in a behavior, I don’t see how I can give someone else the right to justly engage in that same behavior. I can’t grant someone a right I don’t have.

            You appeal to voters in your response, but if it’s wrong for me to lock my neighbor in a cage if he smokes pot, and to physically harm him if he resists, then it doesn’t suddenly become okay if 51% of my neighbors give me the thumbs up. You appeal to training in your response, but no matter what training I take I don’t see how locking my neighbor in a cage for smoking pot becomes okay.

            Doctors have special rights to give potentially dangerous drugs and cut into people, but they are required to have certain training and have to be registered (and can be ‘fired’ from their profession if they fuck up too much).

            I don’t think doctors have special moral status, because the key is that the people getting operated on consent to being given drugs or being cut. If I consent to my neighbor giving me dangerous drugs then I think he has the same right to give them to me as a doctor does, so neither has special moral status.

          • stillnotking says:

            @IrishDude: Government coercion appears obviously stupid and immoral if you ignore the alternative, which is Hobbesian bellum omnium contra omnes. Like Odysseus telling his crew to tie him to the mast, we submit to this coercion, not because we’re masochists or sheep, but because we are realists about our own nature.

            Governments having license to coerce in ways that private citizens do not is the entire point of having governments.

          • IrishDude says:

            @stillnotking

            Government coercion appears obviously stupid and immoral if you ignore the alternative, which is Hobbesian bellum omnium contra omnes.

            If the alternative to government provided security is everybody killing each other (which I think unlikely, particularly in first world countries), then that at most justifies government performing this one function, and no more. From Huemer’s book, on a life-boat scenario:

            “Your entitlement to coerce is highly specific and content-dependent: it depends upon your having a correct (or at least well-justified) plan for saving the boat, and you may coerce others only to induce cooperation with that plan. More precisely, you must at least be justified in believing that the expected benefits of coercively imposing your plan on the others are very large and much larger than the expected harms. You may not coerce others to induce harmful or useless behaviors or behaviors designed to serve ulterior purposes unrelated to the emergency. For instance, if you display your firearm and order everyone to start scooping water into the boat, you are acting wrongly – and similarly if you use the weapon to force others to pray to Poseidon, lash themselves with belts, or hand over $50 to your friend Sally.”

            Like Odysseus telling his crew to tie him to the mast, we submit to this coercion, not because we’re masochists or sheep, but because we are realists about our own nature.

            I wish the people that consent to the government coercion (granted, probably a substantial majority) could hang out in their own place, and leave the rest of the peaceful people that disagree alone.

            EDIT: It’s also justified for any non-government agent to use coercion to prevent chaos, so even in the proposed Hobbesian scenario, the government wouldn’t have special moral status.

          • Aapje says:

            @IrishDude

            Now apply the consent that you are willing to give to the doctor to the voters, who give consent to the government to do this.

            Frankly, you appear to be an extreme individualist, who cannot accept the notion of collective decision making, which can go further than individualist decision making by virtue of filtering out the extremes and by giving everyone a (theoretically) equal opportunity to influence the decisions.

            All I can say is that I do accept this notion and most people also appear to do so.

            [edit] we crossposted, this was in response to your earlier comment.

          • Aapje says:

            @IrishDude

            I wish the people that consent to the government coercion (granted, probably a substantial majority) could hang out in their own place, and leave the rest of the peaceful people that disagree alone.

            Have you considered the possibility that we are hanging out in our own place and that it is up to you to find your own condo if you disagree?

            I hear that Somalia is nice this time of year.

          • stillnotking says:

            @IrishDude: You have the causation backward. First-world countries are first-world because they have long traditions of relatively stable governance. The importance of that cannot be overstated.

            The idea that we’re so civilized that we’ve outgrown human nature is one I find deeply implausible. Case in point.

            I wish the people that consent to the government coercion (granted, probably a substantial majority) could hang out in their own place, and leave the rest of the peaceful people that disagree alone.

            Unfortunately, this is an everyone-or-no-one deal. The potential free-rider problems should be apparent to someone as libertarian as yourself. Governments are usually happy to leave people alone as long as they follow the law and pay their taxes, i.e. consent to be governed. For the cases when they aren’t, we have devised some ingenious technologies such as democracy, legal rights, and separation of powers, which work reasonably well.

          • Mark says:

            @IrishDude

            I think that is a question of how we’re going to manage commonly held goods, with the most important commonly held good being the community itself.

            We might say that the definition of what a community/ communal good is, the rules that apply to private/communal goods might be wrong, but I don’t think that the existence of communal goods can be avoided, at least not at this stage of technology.

            In fact, I think it would probably be fair to say that private property is a specific type of communal good (requires the recognition of the community to exist.)

            Do you think the same moral question would arise with respect to Warren Buffet’s right to take lots and lots of money out of his bank account, which most of us are prevented from doing? Is that a special moral status?

          • Mark says:

            This now counts as an authoritarian dog-pile.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Aapje

            Now apply the consent that you are willing to give to the doctor to the voters, who give consent to the government to do this.

            I think you can consent to give others authority over you. I don’t think you can consent to give others authority over me. I can’t consent to have a doctor cut into my neighbor if my neighbor doesn’t give me that authority.

            Frankly, you appear to be an extreme individualist, who cannot accept the notion of collective decision making, which can go further than individualist decision making by virtue of filtering out the extremes and by giving everyone a (theoretically) equal opportunity to influence the decisions.

            From my above link: “If you’re in a group of friends, and five of them decide they want to rob you, while only three oppose robbing you, this does not make it ethically permissible to rob you.”

            Do you think the collective decision-making in the scenario is just?

            I think collective decision-making can be just, if for example I consent to be part of a particular collective, like willingly moving to a commune where it’s understood the group votes on every decision and the vote is binding. Or like my family, where my wife and I make decisions together.

            @stillnotking

            You have the causation backward. First-world countries are first-world because they have long traditions of relatively stable governance. The importance of that cannot be overstated.

            Why do you think the governance is relatively stable in first-world countries and not elsewhere?

            Unfortunately, this is an everyone-or-no-one deal. The potential free-rider problems should be apparent to someone as libertarian as yourself.

            Canada free-rides off of having the U.S., with it’s large military, as a neighbor. That doesn’t justify the U.S. using physical coercion against Canada for payment.

            To my main point in my above response though, do you agree that Hobbesian scenarios at most justify government provided security, and no more?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Governments are usually happy to leave people alone as long as they follow the law and pay their taxes

            Sure, a good government will leave people alone as long as those people do _exactly what the government says_ (follow the law) and _gives the government anything of value the government wants_ (pays their taxes). And that’s the _good_ ones.

          • stillnotking says:

            @IrishDude:

            Why do you think the governance is relatively stable in first-world countries and not elsewhere?

            That’s a complicated question; too complicated, I suspect, for a definitive answer. I tend to favor materialist explanations.

            To my main point in my above response though, do you agree that Hobbesian scenarios at most justify government provided security, and no more?

            No. There are problems other than security that are amenable to solution through enforced social contract, and extremely hard to solve otherwise. But now we’ve moved past the meta point; as the joke says, we’ve established what kind of people we are, and we’re just haggling over the particulars. This is commonly known as “politics”.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Mark

            There is some extensive discussion of your point that property rights require special moral status here. Huemer’s response is here.

            I’ll just note that I think the right to control our own bodies, as one example of a property right, does not grant special moral status in the way that, say, one person having the right to lock another person in a cage for ingesting a disapproved substance does.

          • IrishDude says:

            @stillnotking

            That’s a complicated question; too complicated, I suspect, for a definitive answer.

            I’d suggest that the people 1st world governments preside over have strong social norms of cooperation and tolerance, and that stable 1st world governments are primarily a reflection of these norms, not the other way around (though there could be some slight reinforcement of the norms through government). In the absence of government, my prior is that these norms would persist, with only a minority of rogues emerging.

            Is the only reason you’re kind and decent to your neighbor (I’m assuming this is the case, but correct me if I’m wrong), because government dictates such?

            There are problems other than security that are amenable to solution through enforced social contract, and extremely hard to solve otherwise.

            Being amenable to solution through government doesn’t alone justify coercive political authority. It might be hard to solve the free-rider problem of me enjoying my neighbor’s newly installed landscaping, but that doesn’t justify coercive government to tax me to pay for the landscaping.

            How much of what the U.S. government does do you think it is justified in using coercion to achieve? 100%? 50%? 25%?

          • Government coercion appears obviously stupid and immoral if you ignore the alternative, which is Hobbesian bellum omnium contra omnes.

            You might want to read Huemer’s book. The first half is a rebuttal of all the other conventional philosophical arguments to justify government having special rights. The second half is a rebuttal of that one, which he views as the only plausible defense.

          • Now apply the consent that you are willing to give to the doctor to the voters, who give consent to the government to do this.

            That assumes that A can give consent to B to violate C’s rights. Are you really willing to take that position?

            If so, will you carry it to its logical conclusion? If a majority of the citizens of Germany consent to the murder of the Jews, “apply the consent that you are willing to give to the doctor to the voters, who give consent to the government to do this.”

            I am pretty sure you are not, so you might want to figure out why. My guess is that at some point your response comes down to “individuals have rights,” and you then have to figure out why you believe that the rights you propose are not subject so waiver by majority vote but the rights IrishDude is discussing are.

          • Aapje says:

            @IrishDude

            We have had this discussion before and we are not going to get anywhere else this time. The short answer is that it doesn’t even matter if you are right; no sane majority is going to give up the stability and prosperity that we have for a revolution that just hopes that individual people behave.

            There is ample evidence that plenty of people do in fact, not behave, unless coerced by implicit threats, but again: it doesn’t matter if I’m correct or not in my assertion.

            You need to prove these theories first by setting up a nice revolutionary country somewhere else or you need to seek a gradual elimination of the state (which seems politically hopeless in all Western nations). In the absence of these things, the best conclusion is probably that you are more optimistic about human nature than me. That is the most reasonably objective conclusion that we can draw.

            That assumes that A can give consent to B to violate C’s rights. Are you really willing to take that position?

            Yes. Because if C gets to decide his own rights, he or she can choose to rape, molest a child, kill or otherwise do great evil. So we cannot grant every individual freedom from interference in his/her desires.

            If you agree, we are merely negotiating the level of interference we deem valid. There are ways to apply limits and checks on the government’s power to interfere (like a constitution ad/or a high court).

            What is not useful, is to set up a narrative that assumes some objective clear morality that makes it obvious what desires by C we must accommodate and what desires we must suppress.

            This question of what morality/law is valid is the core question that humanity has grappled with forever and (IMHO) democracy is the best solution we have found to produce a shared morality/law that is least bad. Your example completely ignores this.

            The question is not (just) what prevents the citizens of Germany to consent to the murder of the Jews, but also: how do we enable the citizens of Germany to consent to violence against a gang of Jew murderers? These are two sides of the same coin: humanity must both be able to cooperate to do good, but also seek to prevent cooperation for evil.

            We cannot respond to such a question with a simplistic call for individualism, which does not work in a world where humans do need to cooperate.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Aapje

            The short answer is that it doesn’t even matter if you are right;

            Well, I think it’s important to discuss what’s just or not, to help set a course (even if it’s challenging) in that direction. It’s the Is/Ought debate, and I think it was good that there were abolitionists in the U.S. and elsewhere arguing against the immorality of slavery, even when it was at a point that abolition seemed unlikely to succeed. The debate about the right to own other humans helped set a course, and an institution that had existed throughout human history and might have seemed inevitable to many, became no more.

            So, in the interest of engaging in debate of what is just to help determine a course, would you like to respond to:
            From my above link: “If you’re in a group of friends, and five of them decide they want to rob you, while only three oppose robbing you, this does not make it ethically permissible to rob you.”

            Do you think the collective decision-making in the scenario is just?

            If you’re willing to respond to that, I’d like to know more generally, do you believe in any individual rights that you don’t think a collective should be able to override?

          • for a revolution that just hopes that individual people behave.

            I cannot speak for IrishDude, but that isn’t the assumption in the usual versions of anarcho-capitalism. You are, at least from my standpoint, attacking a straw man of your own invention.

            I wrote:

            That assumes that A can give consent to B to violate C’s rights. Are you really willing to take that position?

            Aapje replied:

            Yes. Because if C gets to decide his own rights, he or she can choose to rape, molest a child, kill or otherwise do great evil. So we cannot grant every individual freedom from interference in his/her desires.

            You are again attacking a straw man, and this time I can say that with confidence because you are responding to me. Nothing I said implied that everyone gets to decide what his rights are and act on them without interference. Nobody I know believes that, and if the best argument you have assumes that’s the position you are attacking then it is not surprising that your side of the conversation has not gotten very far.

            Your argument about consent implicitly assumed that some rights existed, hence that violating them needed to be justified by consent. The question is, if rights exist, can A consent to B violating the rights of C. If your answer is yes via majority rule, then I don’t think you have any grounds for objecting to genocide as a violation of rights.

            This argument is orthogonal to the (also interesting) argument about what rights exist and why. The question is whether your justification for violating rights–consent by someone other than the person whose rights are being violated, was valid. Defend it or concede that it wasn’t.

          • IrishDude says:

            For the record, I don’t assume every person is cooperative and tolerant, i.e. well-behaved. I do think most people are, particularly in first world countries. I’ve come across ‘defectors’ before, which I’ve handled through disengagement, and on a couple occasions, through self-defense.

            My view of ancap doesn’t assume universal angels, but instead posits that rogues are better handled through competing private security/law services, social norms, and civil society rather than coercive monopolies (where the rogues might even be in charge!).

          • Aapje says:

            @IrishDude

            I don’t think that any collective decision is automatically just, but I never argued that democratic government is perfect or safe from corruption. However, ‘perfect is the enemy of good.’ One can try to improve through radical means and actually end up much worse than the good that one echews.

            do you believe in any individual rights that you don’t think a collective should be able to override?

            There are individual rights that I hold very highly, but I am sufficiently imperfect to not be arrogant enough to think that I can be 100% certain about any rights, especially as many have edge cases that ethical philosophers seem to delight to make examples out of.

            However, one can fight for certain rights independent of the question whether they are universal in all situations and for all of eternity.

          • Aapje says:

            @Friedman

            The question is, if rights exist, can A consent to B violating the rights of C. If your answer is yes via majority rule, then I don’t think you have any grounds for objecting to genocide as a violation of rights.

            I don’t see how this follows. I don’t disbelieve in unjust actions by a majority against a minority. I merely believe that these violations are less likely if one makes more people responsible for the decisions (obviously with diminishing returns and some other reasons which make me favor keeping the size of the state below all of humanity).

            The question is whether your justification for violating rights–consent by someone other than the person whose rights are being violated, was valid.

            If there is no objective set of rights, then the question whether there is absolute consent to a violation of rights becomes meaningless. When person B does something that person C believes is a violation of his rights, it is very likely that person B disagrees that C has the right that he believes he has and vice versa. So if you let C stop B from doing what he wants, he will believe that his rights are violated by C. So at that point, B and C don’t agree on what rights they believe should exist. So the actual question in a society where people cannot help but be in each others way, is: what set of rights do we collectively obey (and how do we make rogue elements obey).

            There has to be such a set, which automatically means that all people must submit to such a set of rights/rules/laws (whatever you want to call it). This submission needs no justification in itself because it is impossible for there not to be any submission (there are simply many situations where desires clash). The true question is by which process do we establish these rules so they are least likely to be bad, not which rules are best, because rules don’t automatically get adopted by the universe if you come up with better ones; nor is there an objective benchmark by which you can call one rule better than another. There needs to be a subjective process by which the rules are established.

            One such process is the dictator, another is democracy, another is anarchy. None of these prevent clashes between desires of people, they merely give us a process on how to deal with them.

            Anyway, perhaps our inferential distance is too large for this discussion, or I am bad at explaining myself.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Aapje

            I don’t think that any collective decision is automatically just

            This implies you have some way you decide what is just outside of what the majority thinks. Well, I agree. Just because the collective decides something, doesn’t mean it’s just.

            One can try to improve through radical means and actually end up much worse than the good that one echews.

            I don’t believe in violent revolution. I think technology such as bitcoin, cryptography, Uber, Airbnb, seasteads, 3d printing, etc. are likely to incrementally increase decentralized governance. I think the debt of nations around the world will slowly erode their ability to be effective, with the private sector picking up the slack. And I think trying to discuss in friendly debate what is just can slowly change minds as to what direction we should go in. Though the end point of where I think we should go is radical, I don’t support ‘radical means’.

            There are individual rights that I hold very highly, but I am sufficiently imperfect to not be arrogant enough to think that I can be 100% certain about any rights, especially as many have edge cases that ethical philosophers seem to delight to make examples out of.

            Some ethical issues seem obvious to me and many other people, some less so. The big ones, such as theft, murder, rape, slavery, and physical coercion in general, seem to have widely shared beliefs that it’s impermissible in most situations. I think about what I, and I believe most other people, teach our kids: don’t hit, don’t steal, and treat others how you want to be treated. I plan to teach my kids exceptions as they grow, such as self-defense and other extreme circumstances, but I think teaching them the heuristic that it’s almost always wrong to physically harm and coerce others is a pretty universally shared belief.

            Mike Huemer uses common sense ethical intuitions that are widely shared, such as a strong presumption against initiating physical coercion against others, to derive the radical belief that there is no political authority. This conclusion doesn’t require everyone sharing moral beliefs about strange edge cases, but more that things like 5 out of 8 of your friends deciding to rob you doesn’t make their act of robbing you just, even if it’s for schooling for their kids or for charity.

            Just to see if we share any common ethical intuitions, I’ll ask again: If you’re in a group of friends, and five of them decide they want to rob you, while only three oppose robbing you, is it just for them to rob you?

            My assumption is if we went through a wide variety of ethical situations, we’d likely agree a lot. I know we might disagree on edge cases, such as euthanasia or organ selling, but I bet you’re a pretty peaceful person like I am in general, with a strong distaste for using violence against others.

          • I wrote:

            The question is, if rights exist, can A consent to B violating the rights of C. If your answer is yes via majority rule, then I don’t think you have any grounds for objecting to genocide as a violation of rights.

            Aapje responded.

            I don’t see how this follows. I don’t disbelieve in unjust actions by a majority against a minority.

            I didn’t say you believed in them, I said that you have no ground for objecting to such actions as a violation of rights.

            If there is no objective set of rights, then the question whether there is absolute consent to a violation of rights becomes meaningless.

            Yes. But in that case, your statement that

            Now apply the consent that you are willing to give to the doctor to the voters, who give consent to the government to do this.

            Makes no sense. If there were no rights there was no need for consent. And, of course, if you believe that there are no rights, then you have no grounds for objecting to genocide as a violation of rights.

            That’s what I just said to which you responded that you did not see how it followed.

            I’m not, at this point, objecting to the claim that there are no rights. I am objecting to an argument that assumes there are rights and that valid consent to violate them can be given by someone else.

            I hear that Somalia is nice this time of year.

            It would be nicer if the U.S. and the U.N. had not spent the past many years trying to impose a centralized government on a traditionally stateless society, and done it mostly by using the army of that society’s traditional enemy.

            If curious about the actual background to the current Somali troubles, you might want to look at an account by a British anthropologist who started studying Somalia in the 1950’s.

          • Aapje says:

            @IrishDude

            This implies you have some way you decide what is just outside of what the majority thinks. Well, I agree. Just because the collective decides something, doesn’t mean it’s just.

            I do, but this is subjective. As such, I have no inherent right to force either people to obey me, if they disagree with me. Again, we don’t have democracy because it is always just. We have it because it is more likely to be just, as each person (theoretically) gets an equal say in deciding what is just. They may still be wrong (and almost certainly are), but when assuming an infinite number of alternative universes with democratic government vs an infinite number of universes run by dictators or anarchists; I believe that the democratic ones have better average outcomes.

            Again, this is purely pragmatic; not a claim that democracy is perfect.

            PS. When I said revolution, I was not accusing you of being a proponent of violence. Revolution merely means drastic change, it doesn’t necessarily require violence.

            The big ones, such as theft, murder, rape, slavery, and physical coercion in general, seem to have widely shared beliefs that it’s impermissible in most situations.

            As long as you don’t zoom in, yes. Now look at abortion or euthanasia or self-defense or capital punishment or war, suddenly ‘thou shalt not kill’ isn’t a clear guideline anymore. We need a process to deal with all this gray.

            Furthermore, even if you have certain laws carved in stone, like: ‘thou shalt not kill people for their race’; this is rather meaningless if the next Hitler comes along with a bunch of brown shirts and you have no system in place to get people to cooperate to fight back against these people. If you need war to stop these people, is it justified to force citizens who would rather be free riders into being soldiers? Even if this removes large parts of their agency and greatly risks their lives? Do you prefer this as the lesser evil or do you want to preserve moral purity by saying ‘tut tut’ while many people get murdered?

            Just to see if we share any common ethical intuitions, I’ll ask again: If you’re in a group of friends, and five of them decide they want to rob you, while only three oppose robbing you, is it just for them to rob you?

            That you ask this question shows that you approach the issue from an optimistic angle: we have some common ground, so why can’t we just build on that? The issue is that there are a ton of moral choices where it’s not realistic that we will just come to agree, no matter how much we discuss it. I favor a relatively low Gini coefficient. Many people here don’t. This is based on fundamentally different world views that can’t just be solved by talking it over more. At some point a decision has to be made, despite people still disagreeing. The question is what process you use for this and the consequences of this process.

            For example, you can choose a process/system that is inherently stacked towards libertarian values and this would surely look very just to many of the libertarians here. But the biases built into such a system are a form of suppression of alternatives and thereby empower one world view over others. It is not neutral. Pretending that there can be a neutral system is inherently a very dangerous idea.

            I know we might disagree on edge cases

            The edge cases are what politics is about. They are not marginal, they are central.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            I didn’t say you believed in them, I said that you have no ground for objecting to such actions as a violation of rights.

            As long as we are talking about objecting to the basic mechanism, divorced from other moral concerns, then it is correct that I do not object.

            Yes. But in that case, your statement that

            Now apply the consent that you are willing to give to the doctor to the voters, who give consent to the government to do this.

            Makes no sense. If there were no rights there was no need for consent.

            It does make sense, if you see the one as individual consent and the other as collective consent. Collective consent doesn’t require consent by each individual in the collective: this is the basis for democracy. Democracy gives rights to the collective and thus requires consent by the collective.

            Of course, one can object that collective consent is a weaker form of consent than individual consent, which is absolutely true. However, we need collective consent for pragmatic reasons despite it’s moral drawbacks (and individual consent has moral drawbacks too, so I would argue that we need a pragmatic mix of both).

            To (imperfectly) deal with those moral drawbacks, we have added more individualist elements to our respective democratic systems, like a constitution. Changes to the constitution can be blocked by smaller groups of citizens than changes to normal laws, which selectively increases the political power of people who object to changes on key issues. I support these mechanisms, which answers your question whether I object to genocide as a violation of rights: I strongly support having a constitution (or other limitation on majority rule) that forbids genocide and a mechanism to make it hard to change such a provision.

            Of course, you could ask: why should any majority be able to legalize genocide? Why not set this rule in stone? The answer is that there is no value in law that doesn’t have the backing of a substantial minority, because any law is just a peace of paper; completely dependent on the willingness for people to follow it. So if a large majority wants genocide, no law is going to save you. As such, there is zero value in setting any law in stone, merely downsides.

            A major factor for political systems is how one preserves popular support and thus ensures the willingness by people to actually follow it.

          • I do, but this is subjective. As such, I have no inherent right to force either people to obey me, if they disagree with me.

            I think this is a confused way of putting it. You have an inherent right to force other people to obey you if what they are doing is violating your (or someone else’s) rights and you are telling them not to.

            You keeping wanting to convert that claim into “You have an inherent right to … if you think what they are doing … .” But that’s a different claim. Whether you have a right to stop them depends on whether they are violating rights, not on whether you think they are.

            Consider the equivalent distinction in a different context. Do you have a difficulty distinguishing between “If this glass contains cyanide, drinking it will kill you” and “If I think this glass contains cyanide, drinking it will kill you”?

            Once you accept the idea that rights exist, more generally that some acts are good and some bad, you shouldn’t confuse the claim that X follows from normative proposition Y being true with the claim that X follows from my thinking Y is true.

            If I stop you from doing something because I mistakenly believe it is a rights violation, then I am violating your rights. If my belief is correct, I’m not.

            Suppose what the other person is doing is trying to kill you. Do you really want to say that you have no inherent right to stop him if he disagrees with you–i.e. believes he is entitled to kill you? That’s what your statement quoted at the top of the comment implies.

            If you want to argue that all normative statements are false, that our belief that some acts are good and bad is an illusion, that’s a defensible position. But once you accept that some normative claims are true and some false, which you have been doing, you shouldn’t confuse “I might be wrong about X” with “there is no truth about X.”

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            You have an inherent right to force other people to obey you if what they are doing is violating your (or someone else’s) rights and you are telling them not to.

            This is insufficient as a rule if there is no objective set of rights. If I get to force you to stop doing anything that has an effect on me and that I perceive as negative, we end up with an absurdly illiberal society where the oversensitive rule.

            For example: Mary believes that she has the right to enjoy nature everywhere. So if you build a house, that violates her rights to enjoy nature. So she reserves the right to tear down your house. After all, she told you not to build one. Fair, right?

            Fact is that pretty much anything that humans do has externalities. Even breathing has (minimal) externalities (less oxygen for others). Human coexistence is inherently about figuring out which externalities we make people accept and which we try to prevent (using force if necessary).

            If I stop you from doing something because I mistakenly believe it is a rights violation, then I am violating your rights. If my belief is correct, I’m not.

            You just moved the interesting part of the argument to the definition of ‘right.’ We should prevent bad things from happening, but not non-bad things! Of course…why didn’t I think of that!

            Wait…what is bad? What is a rights violation? What happens if both an action and preventing that action is a rights violation? You want the right to live in a house. Mary wants the right to enjoy nature everywhere. Is your desire a right and hers isn’t? Or vice versa? Are they both rights? Neither?

            There is no objective answer to these questions in a reality where we don’t get to make optimal choices due to natural limitations (a lack of resources). We must violate rights due to our environment! We can only seek to do it in the least damaging way.

            Do you really want to say that you have no inherent right to stop him if he disagrees with you–i.e. believes he is entitled to kill you? That’s what your statement quoted at the top of the comment implies.

            I claim that right. I think I have good arguments for it. I am glad to live in a society where most people feel the same way. But is it an inherent right? If I am a very unpleasant person who makes lots of other people unhappy, then a utilitarian argument can be made that killing me creates more overall happiness. So a person with the goal of maximizing human happiness may favor killing me. I don’t share that goal, but is it a wrong goal to have? Is my goal better?

            I’m not sure. Do I favor a society where people can take their own goal, declare it sacrosanct and if they have the power to do so, force everyone else to adopt a system that seeks to maximize that goal? No! We are all imperfect. I prefer that society chooses it’s moral system through a process that is relatively close to the average opinion of humans, under the assumption that the average is less likely to catastrophically wrong than the outliers.

            But once you accept that some normative claims are true and some false, which you have been doing, you shouldn’t confuse “I might be wrong about X” with “there is no truth about X.”

            I can’t recall making any statement that a normative claim is true or false. Fundamentally, the universe has no desires. Humans have desires. One can argue that (most, non-mentally deviant) humans have an inbuilt morality that is shared about certain fundamentals (such as murder of innocents). But even then ‘murder of innocents is wrong’ is not objectively true in a cosmic sense, but can merely be described as a human truth, predicated on the acceptance of the evolved morality of the human organism, coupled with nurture factors (culture). I am biased to humans, although I see them as fundamentally broken, so I more or less choose to adopt the human subjectiveness.

            Once you accept subjective predicates, the result of further reasoning necessarily becomes subjective as well.

          • Tibor says:

            @Aapje: From your last comment it seems that you are actually defending the position that nothing is objectively right and wrong. Either that or you are proposing democracy as the best approximation we have to figure out those objective normative truths. But then you have to deal with the variation in law among countries.

            In any case, I enjoyed reading your discussion.

            Personally I am hovering between “there is no objective moral truth” and “there is something vaguely utilitarian which can be considered moral truth and when it does not seem utilitarian, it is caused by lack of information…and since we cannot achieve complete information a good heuristic is not to be entirely utilitarian in the messy cases, but still consequentialist (and if even that gets messy then you might want to consider a few extremely basic ontological rules of thumb)”.

          • If I get to force you to stop doing anything that has an effect on me and that I perceive as negative

            Written after I said, over and over again, that you were confusing “I have the right to stop you doing something that violates rights” with “I have the right to stop you doing something that I think violates rights.”

            Your position, as best I can tell, is that there is no such thing as right and wrong, which is what you mean by describing things as subjective. That’s a defensible position, but once you take it you have no basis for either supporting or opposing any claim about what it is right to do. You were supporting such claims, hence I assumed that the context was the assumption that some things were right and some wrong, even if people had imperfect information on the subject (as on most subjects).

            This is a waste of time. I’m done.

          • Aapje says:

            @Tibor

            Perhaps it is possible that one could determine a set of laws that maximize human happiness. In that case, those laws are objectively right for people who accept that as a goal. However, choosing a goal is never objective, so then you can still have other people with a different goal, who also have a different, but objectively right set of laws to achieve their goals. So once you step out of the frame of a certain goal, I don’t see how you can declare anything to be objectively right.

            Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems even suggests that it may not in fact be possible to determine that a set of laws is objectively capable of achieving a goal.

            As for classifying my moral system, I have not found a system that I am willing to follow in all of it’s implications. Again, Gödel’s incompleteness theorem suggests that no consistent moral system can exist that is capable of dealing with the complexity of reality in a complete and consistent manner. As such, I choose to let the various types of moral systems influence my thinking, but resist choosing one, as such risks turning me into a person who puts a theoretical system over reality.

            PS. As an aside, I think that part of why we nowadays make laws & norms that we consider more moral, is because technology and wealth has given us options that we didn’t have before. Many of our laws were simply not viable in the past and it is likely that in the future, we will remove unjust elements due to new options. However, there is also a risk that we lose options, for example because of overpopulation.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          It might be relevant that the Holocaust was committed in some degree of secrecy– there was a world consensus against doing that sort of thing.

          While we’re doing what might be viewed as atrocities in the future, I vote for the default of keeping people out of countries. I’m horrified that people die because their paperwork isn’t adequate.

    • cassander says:

      The phrase that went around the Wehrmacht was “who remembers the Carthaginians.” If you win, it doesn’t matter what crimes you committed, and if you lose you’re probably doomed anyway.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I don’t think we can guard against everything the future might think is an atrocity. We can work to prevent repetition of various past atrocities.

  15. Tibor says:

    Wow. This actually made me cry. And laugh at points. The Italian or Bulgarian ways of stopping or at least drastically slowing down the extermination are just so delightfully southern European. When you go to Italy, you’re frustrated with how things don’t work, with all the chaos and an apparent lack of any sense of time. But sometimes the best thing you can do is to behave exactly that way 🙂

    I should definitely read the book, I wonder what it says about Bohemia and how the Czech gentiles cooperated with the Nazis or showed some resistance. Now, of course after 1939 the republic (which already lacked about at third of its territory after Munich) was basically annexed by the Reich and became the Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren. It still had a local government but it was largely subordinate to the Reichsprotektor (especially after Heydrich came to power…he was assasinated relatively soon after that but the iron grip lasted until at least the time when the US army entered Western Bohemia and when the Soviets were also closing in from the East). I know that Eliáš, who was the Czech prime minister in the Protektorat, secretly supported the resistance and tried to destroy any information that would lead the Gestapo to them. They found out eventually and hanged him. I am not sure if he was helping the Jews or how the gentile Czechs in general treated them. I am also not entirely sure how much power the Czech police had and how much policing was done by the Gestapo.

    All my Jewish relatives that I know and who did not manage to avoid the concentration camp completely were sent to Terezín (Theresienstadt in German), about half of them died there and the others survived. My great grandfather (or perhaps his brother, I’d have to ask my mum again) was saved by his wife – she was German and she refused to divorce him, which meant that he was send to Terezín much later than he would have been otherwise, in 1945 I think and since Terezín was a bit less murderous than Auschwitz (it was technically not an extermination camp, which meant you would die of hunger, disease and exhaustion from hard labour rather than by being gassed). I know that she was also threatened with a concentration camp and as basically a “race traitor” (they called it something slightly different, but this was the gist of it) she was already scheduled to be sent there in the last few weeks of the war.

    By the way, I just love the last paragraph of the review. While Americans often boast about their freedom and think all other countries are less free than them (which is not true) and it is sometimes even kitschy, there definitely seems to be this anti-authoritarian knee-jerk reaction (sort of “Who the fuck are you to tell me what to do?!!” or indeed the famous “don’t thread on me”) which is stronger than in most other countries. A fascist dictator might get a hold of the US but he will never be able to control it the way he could control other countries.

    • onyomi says:

      just so delightfully southern European. When you go to Italy, you’re frustrated with how things don’t work, with all the chaos and an apparent lack of any sense of time.

      The same is sometimes true in the southern United States… in particular, the whole “heartily agree that you are going to take immediate action and then, in fact, do nothing” thing struck me because people annoyingly do this all the time in certain places I have lived. But what is annoying when you need your plumbing fixed apparently can become a huge blessing when the appointed task is organized murder.

      • The same is sometimes true in the southern United States… in particular, the whole “heartily agree that you are going to take immediate action and then, in fact, do nothing”

        Not limited to the south. One of my hobbies is the SCA, medieval reenactment. A line popular in the West Kingdom, which is mostly northern California:

        “The King’s word is law. If he tells us to dig a pit in the middle of the list field, we will say “Yes, Your Majesty.” But it may take four months to find a shovel.”

        Reigns in the West last for four months.

        • Tibor says:

          I wonder how difficult it would be for a hostile state to actually annex a hypothetical anarcho-capitalist territory. As long as the culture of that area is strongly independence minded I think it would be extremely difficult save for keeping an enormous amount of military present and literally forcing people to do things under a threat of immediate violence. And as long as that hypothetical state is not an outright totalitarian regime, something like that would be politically unbearable for its own population (assuming that they get to learn about that, but nowadays censorship is much harder than it used to be before the internet…I am assuming that the state does not outright ban the internet).

          The real-word examples of people trying to rule over Somalia (and maybe Afghanistan) might give an idea of what that would look like.

          And of course, the place does not have to be anarchic in particular. But if it is, it will be a lot more decentralized and therefore harder to control than a different independent-minded country. But if the population is overwhelmingly uncooperative (in the sort of way described by David), the aggressor can really only cause problems but the country won’t be of any use to it (maybe that’s one more reason for why the Nazis didn’t invade Switzerland?).

  16. fahertym says:

    I would love to read Scott’s take on “Inside the Third Reich,” Albert Speer’s autobiography. It’s perhaps the best insight into Nazi Germany’s bizarre government, bureaucracy, culture, and psychology ever written.

    • dndnrsn says:

      It’s important to remember that Albert Speer was less than truthful. Gitta Sereny’s Albert Speer: His Battle With Truth is an excellent, and fairly sympathetic, biography, but she points out a lot of the ways that his memory was “faulty” (eg, the version of his memoirs he wrote while in prison was quite different from the published version), and comes to the conclusion that if he had been truthful at Nuremberg he would have been hanged.

  17. Shion Arita says:

    I think a lot of this can be explained by the following concept:

    Most people feel a very strong compulsion to believe what everyone else around them believes. Eichmann committed the most common, and in some ways most grave, human blunder: he wasn’t thinking very much about why he was doing what he was doing. I think he was particularly and pathologically susceptible to this; he seems like the kind of guy who would join a death cult like Heaven’s Gate or something.

    The same makes sense for the resistance vs nonresistance in various countries. Either the resistance meme spreads, or the compiance one does. I think your idea of it being a chaotic network where small changes in initial conditions lead to big changes in final state: if you have a situation of Follow the Follower, that’s exactly what you will see.

  18. xq says:

    I thank G-d for the annoying obstructionists, for the nitpickers, for the devil’s advocates, for the people who hear something that’s obviously true and strain to come up with an absurd thought experiment where it might not be, for the reflexive contrarians, for the people who always vote third party, for the people who urge you to sign petitions on whitehouse.gov because “then the President has to respond”, for the people who have two hundred guns in their basement “just in case”, for the people who say “well, actually…”

    I don’t really see how this follows from the rest of your post. It wasn’t contrarians who saved the Jews of Denmark, it was the Danish authorities and broad social consensus. Why is the right conclusion to thank contrarians rather than that we should strive to build a society with the values of Denmark?

    • dwietzsche says:

      I also think it’s easy to imagine a country full of people with many arguments is a country that’s truly ideologically diverse, but really America isn’t more diverse in this way than any other country.

  19. pseudon says:

    “Boeselager’s opinion turned against the Nazi government in June 1942, after he received news that five Roma people had been shot in cold blood, solely because of their ethnicity.”, from https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philipp_von_Boeselager

    I’m not totally neutral on this, but I don’t believe Scott’s characterisation of the Stauffenberg group is entirely fair. It certainly is in line with common believes about that group, though.

  20. Unsledgehammer says:

    Ah, I see you are trying to distance yourself from Trump supporters. I agree, you should try to prevent evaporative cooling. I disagree with your practical lesson from holocaust – accepting more modern refugees – at least for the Northwestern Europe. Migration might make America stronger because it has poor safety net and lowish taxes, selecting other kinds of migrants than countries with good welfare and high taxes.

    Most asylum seekers here are young men from families wealthy enough to pay for their travel to Europe, easily costing thousands of dollars. They tend to pass through several safe countries to arrive at countries with generous welfare for the unemployed. I remember going through statistics, and people from Africa and the Middle Eastern countries have pretty poor employment rates. So taking in asylum seekers (who are mostly not the ones in the most dire need) is not a free lunch utilitarism-wise.

    But fine, let’s say we want to spend money on them – I actually support high development aid and perhaps become an effective altruist once I get a stable income. Taking in and giving benefits for people from less fortunate backgrounds may sound really nice until you visit a French immigrant suburb (note: don’t). They are basically ethnicly cleansed off from the native population by violence specifically targeted on European-looking people. And obviously violent crime is generally and non-trivially increasing. The levels in trust are measured low in multiethnic areas, even while controlling for every relevant factor.

    I respect the honesty of some open-borders folks who admit that it would be incombatible with a welfare state and could leave the native population as a minority. This at least would actually treat all people the same, perhaps being defensible on utilitarian grounds – though rich countries’ development aid might still be more effective than unemployment aid to often unemployed asulym seekers and their descendants. Of course, no mainstream politician is doing this. The practice of treating a small visible subset of the Africans and Middle Easterners with maximal benevolence while mostly ignoring over a billion of their distant kinsmen is best described by the term “virtue signaling”.

    In short: I’m so selfish that while I have no reservations about development aid, I don’t want my country to spend for an extremely uneffective type of humanitarian aid for those seldomly in the most dire need, who passed several safe countries to travel to mine with great expense, resulting to a fractured community, rising violence and some suburbs being ethnicly cleansed from their native populations. Am I literally Hitler?

    • dwietzsche says:

      If your reasons for rejecting refugees are “I don’t want my country to spend for an extremely uneffective type of humanitarian aid for those seldomly in the most dire need, who passed several safe countries to travel to mine with great expense, resulting to a fractured community, rising violence and some suburbs being ethnicly cleansed from their native populations,” then the problem isn’t that you’re Hitler. You’re just plain wrong about a bunch of stuff.

      • John Schilling says:

        You’re just plain wrong about a bunch of stuff.

        And likely to not only remain so but persuade others, if this is the quality of the counterargument.

      • Unsledgehammer says:

        May you specify what parts am I getting totally wrong? All of them? Note that I am talking about Northwestern Europe, not the US.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      But fine, let’s say we want to spend money on them – I actually support high development aid and perhaps become an effective altruist once I get a stable income.

      There are some pretty good arguments that development aid to the poorest countries actually retard those poor countries’ development. Whereas letting in refugees from poor countries is definitely a benefit to those refugees. And I think there is also a pretty good case that the remittances back to the poor countries from those refugees now making First World wages to their relatives back in the old country is a large benefit to those poor countries. Better than governmental aid, because it bypasses the poor country governments, because aid to the governments tend to increase corruption and decrease accountability to its people.

      Letting in refugees or simply some of the poor from around the world is certainly not a cure-all, but it does help some of the people in those countries.

      • Unsledgehammer says:

        So would you say that for most middle income people, it would be better cost-benefit wise (including non-monetary costs) to invite a randomly selected third-worlder to live in their basement and feed him than use 10 % of their income for effective altruism charities?

        My opposition to large-scale refugee immigration is not only based on its relative ineffectiveness as global help, but also on its social consequences in the host country. If it was a major global benefit for a minor local inconvenience I would not be against it.

  21. spottedtoad says:

    Hmm, these country-level trends line up with my family’s little stories: my great-grandmother was okay for a while as an assimilated Jew in Holland until she got in an argument with the Nazi soldiers staying in her house (I think it was something along the line of ‘chopping up the piano for firewood’) and off to Auschwitz. Then my great-uncle was caught in 43 as a refugee in France, and off to Auschwitz, and then my grandmother survived pretty much the whole war in hiding with Gentile friends in large part because she didn’t listen when they told all the Jews to go to the Amsterdam ghetto; she said it was more anti-Semitism on her part than anything else. She felt quite guilty about it right before she died- “I thought I was better than those people, and that’s why I didn’t go.” But of course that’s why she survived. Then she ran out of Gentile friends, was caught in the last months of the war, was imprisoned briefly and then escaped from a transport disabled by an Allied bombing run. Lucky for me.

    It’s worth reading Arendt’s essay “Reflections on Little Rock” as a reminder that her views really don’t line up perfectly with our contemporary liberal norms, even as she remains an intellectual hero. I wrote a little about that essay the other day: https://spottedtoad.wordpress.com/2017/01/27/constitutional-calvinball-in-private-in-the-public/

  22. 1soru1 says:

    The argument that diversity implies robustness probably applies to simple hierarchies and bureaucracies.

    Is it itself robust against an actor with information-processing capability massively in excess of anything available to Hitler or Stalin?

    It’s one thing to get everyone marching in lock-step, wearing the same uniform, chanting the same slogans at the same time. What if everyone had their own personal Fuhrer feeding them a tailored worldview that caused them to coordinate like a market, not an army? What if owners and workers, pacifists and belligerents, terrorists and terrorized, could be reached by a single political movement? What if no-one was in control of that; rulers and their aides had to follow the dynamics the machine revealed, or lose a power struggle with someone who did?

    One thing the first glimmerings of a hostile AI could look like is:

    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/cambridge-analytica-the-psychographic-data-firm-behind-donald-trump-eyes-australian-move-20161212-gt926e.html

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Yeah, it uses phrases like “nuance your messaging”. Usually I’m a descriptivist about languge, but there are limits!

  23. greghb says:

    Regarding the hopeful note at the end: When judging if the US is vulnerable to Nazism, I always have to remind myself that, during WWII anyway, we were vulnerable to the impulse behind the Japanese internment camps. We even went so far as to justify it legally. In terms of humanitarian impact, the US comes out looking ok when compared to Germany — but maybe that’s missing the point? In some sense, is it just luck that there wasn’t an anti-Asian genocidal ideology floating around the US at the time?

    • Autolykos says:

      I’d say “looking ok compared to [Nazi] Germany” isn’t missing the point as much as it is setting the bar pretty low.

  24. Anon256 says:

    Did reading about the Judenrate (and how well-meaning attempts to mitigate the damage via collaboration made things much worse on net) lower your opinion of Thiel at all?

    • Nornagest says:

      The lesson of the Judenrate isn’t “having absolutely anything to do with evil is also evil”, it’s “organizing to mitigate evil can be counterproductive, when evil depends on organization to do its work”.

      Whatever you think of Thiel, I don’t think you can say he’s trying to organize to mitigate evil: he’s either trying to build orthogonal but generally good dimensions into Trump’s policy (if you agree with his politics), or willfully perpetrating new and different evils himself (if you don’t).

      • Anon256 says:

        Thiel’s presence increases the level of competence, knowledge and organisation in the Trump administration; Scott hopes that in exchange he will achieve some beneficial policies. But the administration would be much less effective at achieving its evil ends if competent, knowledgeable, organised people boycotted it entirely, and while this means giving up on some potentially-beneficial policies, the example of the Judenrate suggests that people often vastly overestimate the net value of such tradeoffs.

        • Nornagest says:

          Competence, knowledge, and organization do not cast a very broad penumbra; an idiot on the same team as a genius is still an idiot. Until we see some evidence that Thiel is giving time or resources to projects he would consider evil in hopes of blunting their impact, I don’t think this logic works.

  25. gemmaem says:

    I’ve been mulling over your thesis that America’s lack of conformity will make it really hard for Trumpism to morph into Nazism, and then I read this, from an article which argues that the former generals in Trump’s administration may unexpectedly be the best people for reining him in:

    “Unlike the president, who has suggested a lack of specific knowledge about the Constitution in the past, military officers are well-versed in the law and their own obligations—a knowledge that manifested itself in Mattis’s comments arguing against torture. They also care deeply about following rules and procedures, and for instilling a sense of order. The last week has shown that Trump’s advisers, by contrast, and in particular Stephen Bannon, are perfectly content with chaos, and perhaps even welcome it.”

    Although both that article and the final paragraph of this post are looking for signs of hope, I think the observation that Trumpism thrives on chaos rather than on military order is actually one of the more powerful arguments against your point that I’ve seen. Indeed, Nazism would have a hard time in America, but Trumpism is not Nazism. All those articles from experts on fascism saying things like “no, look, this is technically not fascism that Trump is pushing, here, not at all” are actually making a really important point.

    That’s actually really scary. If all we had to worry about was a return of Nazism, we’d know exactly what the warning signs were. Instead, the question we’re really worried about is “Will Trumpism morph into something terrible that is its own, completely new terrible thing?”

    It’s possible to come up with a more general set of questions that can keep our eyes open to terrible-things-that-are-probably-not-Nazism. We can ask “Is this administration deliberately doing bad things to innocent people for no credible reason?” We can ask “Is this administration ignoring court orders? Are they failing to allow congress proper oversight?” We can ask “Is this escalating?” and “Are ordinary people starting to get sucked into defending actions that are truly cruel and unnecessary?”

    I’m not proposing that any of those questions is any sort of litmus test. Several of them could arguably be answered with “yes” when considering aspects of previous administrations, even though the administration as a whole was certainly not bad on a Nazi-like level. But asking those sorts of questions will make us more likely to recognise badness when it appears, and not get sucked into defending it ourselves.

    • The Nybbler says:

      This is a strange and fallacious argument

      Claim: Trumpism is akin to Nazism, therefore horrible.

      Counterclaim: No, it’s not, look at all these differences…

      Response: You’re right. It’s not Nazism. Oh no, it must be something just as bad as Nazism that we don’t know how to stop!

      • gemmaem says:

        That’s a mischaracterisation of what I’m saying.

        I don’t know to what evil the Trump administration will or will not stoop; my fear is that things will be very bad, but my standard response to those who think otherwise is that I hope you are right.

        The point I was making is that those of us who fear that the Trump administration will commit cruelties of one sort or another ought to be wary of using “How close is this to Nazism?” as the measure of how bad things are. I don’t think evil needs to be compared to Nazism in order to be seen as such, and I think we need other measures in order to be appropriately watchful.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        @The Nybbler:
        My claim is that Trump ran a campaign as a mercurial vindictive xenophobic nativist populist demagogue with strong appeals to authoritarianism as a one size fits all solution to every perceived problem, and now he appears to be set to govern in the same manner.

        Is that specific enough?

        • cassander says:

          Funny, I think you can say the same thing about the Clinton campaign, minus the nativism.

          • grendelkhan says:

            What the hell campaign were you watching? She ran as a boring milquetoast middle-of-the-road Third Way Democrat. To the extent that she interacted with left-populism, she opposed it in favor of bloodless technocratic policy stuff.

          • Nornagest says:

            Sanders was by far the more populist Democratic candidate, but Clinton was the more identitarian. And I think the Right’s more worried about Left identitarianism right now than it is about Left populism, so it might be fair to say that Clinton was the scarier of the two — even without the decades-old Clinton baggage.

          • cassander says:

            @grendelkhan

            That’s what it looks like to you, because you’re not one of the deplorables. They interpret it rather differently.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Vindictive and authoritarian make sense as descriptors to apply to Clinton. Populist and especially demagogue are just ridiculous. Nobody showed up to her rallies!

          • grendelkhan says:

            Deplorables? You mean snowflakes? To hear “that candidate is heavily favored by literal Nazis” and make “who are you calling Nazis?!” into the center of your campaign takes an impressive level of brittleness.

            Like the way the candidate who had a development plan for Appalachia lost out to the one who “dug” coal, despite having nothing even resembling an idea of how to bring it back. Feels Over Reals all the way.

          • Nornagest says:

            Guys, this is Reddit-level stuff. Can we at least try to do something more productive than seeing which label sticks the best?

          • grendelkhan says:

            Nornagest, you’re right. cassander, I’m sorry. That was uncharitable and unnecessary of me.

          • cassander says:

            @grendelkhan

            No offense taken. But you have to realize that what sounds like bland left of centerism to you does not sound like that to others. “We’re going to shut down your job, but don’t worry, I have a 20 page development plan for you” isn’t just patronizing, it’s a literal assault on your way of life. and that the left can’t see it is why they’ve lost so many elections lately. And while it’s not demogery aimed at the trump voters, it IS demagoguery aimed at the people who cheered when the keystone pipeline got blocked.

    • stillnotking says:

      I agree; if some totalitarian ideology arises in America, it definitely won’t be Nazism. (I’m a little confused how anyone believes it could, given that Nazism has been confined to maximally uncool, underclass dead-enders for the last 70 years. It’s like worrying that fart-lighting is going to become the national sport.) Or Marxism-Leninism, for that matter. It’ll be entirely new. But that should be comforting — it discounts the similarities of Trumpism to Nazism, and leaves us with the extremely low prior probability of the US turning into any kind of dystopia.

      • Zombielicious says:

        Kinda fail to see how atrocities committed by a society, but rebranded with a new name and with some minor details added or subtracted to make it “not technically the Nazis,” is any different.

        As for never being a dystopia, dystopia has constantly been with us for some portion of the population. Like the future, it’s just not very evenly distributed.

        A guy’s mom just died on the way to get medical treatment in the U.S. because of CBP ignoring judicial rulings in favor of obeying unconstitutional orders from a compulsively lying reality TV show host just elected commander of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal. Try telling that guy he’s not already living in an absurdist dystopia more ridiculous than Animal Farm.

        Imo, the whole attitude of “it can’t happen here” is the most dangerous thing, and pretty much guarantees it eventually will. Just look at the current situation.

        • Autolykos says:

          Very good point. I’s easy to forget that not every dystopia has to be like 1984. There is also a distinct possibility it will be like Brazil.

        • AnonEEmous says:

          You mean, the woman dying of cancer?

          Flights to the U.S. from the Middle East are long anyhow, so it seems to be mostly a case of “oh, she gave up”. He’s allowed to think that, but it’s much more likely that she would’ve died anyhow. It’s not even like our cancer treatments are any good.

        • stillnotking says:

          I’m not arguing technicalities. I’m saying that any American totalitarianism would be nothing like Nazism, except insofar as it is totalitarian. Hence the reference to Marxism-Leninism, another no-hoper as the future of America, and equally bad in a very different way.

          Americans died at Waco as a much more direct consequence of government bungling and overreach. I’m guessing you didn’t class that as evidence of incipient dystopia. I’m no fan of Trump, but come on.

          • Zombielicious says:

            History has a way of repeating its stupidest moments exactly, word-for-word, despite having already repeated them a thousand times before, and even though people really should have noticed the trend and known better. We’re already seeing that now, even if it’s not Nazism or Soviet/Mao-style communism we’re repeating.

            I guess my point is that if we’ve already gotten this far along, with all that is happening right now, and are even debating just how much worse it can get, without knowing explicitly what checks on power will prevent it from happening, then our antibodies against such things (Nazis, Stalinists, anything else) have already failed. This should be the wake-up call, not the chance to develop further excuses of how “it’s different this time.” My main hope right now is for any intended evil to be bungled by a combination of sheer incompetence and the goodwill of people like Sally Yates. But that doesn’t leave much hope for the future so long as people continue saying “it can’t happen here” until a truly talented malevolent power comes along.

            In the end, we might just be saved for another century by the fact that Donald J. Trump decided to stress test the system, rather than someone more effective and less obviously odious.

            Or, you know, we’ll look back on these posts in a few years and laugh at how we reacted to a false alarm. But it should be treated as that then – false alarm – not proof that it’ll never happen and the people worrying are just crying wolf.

          • stillnotking says:

            I don’t like being accused of “developing excuses”. I don’t agree with you that the nation is on its way to becoming a fascist dictatorship, I’m almost positive Trump wouldn’t want to be a dictator even if that were on offer, and I’m completely positive that his supporters don’t want him to be. I disagree with him politically about nearly everything. I voted for his opponent. I find his recent actions in particular deeply objectionable and un-American. (A feeling I’ve had about the last three presidents, truth be told.) However, I will not participate in a smear campaign designed to paint half my countrymen as fascists or dupes. That is self-serving partisan nonsense without the smallest basis in fact, and the liberals promoting it should feel ashamed of themselves. That it’s also alarmist is a minor problem by comparison.

      • gemmaem says:

        I think what I’m actually getting towards, as I think more about what I’m writing here, is the idea that governments can do great evil without being totalitarian. Scott’s final paragraph is basically saying, look, America is less vulnerable to Nazism because it’s pretty chaotic, and hey, that might just be a really good thing that protects us.

        I think it may actually be true that lawful evil has a more difficult time of it in the USA, but I am not sure that we should be reassured by this, given what the Trump administration has so far been able to do by means of chaos in word and deed. Like, indeed, no-one rounds up all the Muslims, but maybe instead the administration just makes it clear to majority-Muslim populations that the government could visit disaster upon them at any time. Similarly, instead of sending the National Guard in to all the cities to restore order and keep down poor people and ethnic minorities, the government sends the National Guard into one city to cause chaos and frighten poor people and ethnic minorities. Et cetera.

        One of the things that made some people not resist Nazism was the very idea of lawful evil. You got people saying, look, this can’t be evil, this is all orderly and legal, what is your problem? It is possible that the USA might over-learn this lesson and start saying, look, this isn’t Nazism, it’s too chaotic, how bad can it really be?

        Of course, it may also be true that chaotic evil just really isn’t as good at being an evil government as lawful evil. I’m not ruling that possibility out. But I think we should not be too sure of this, given our current situation.

        • cassander says:

          >I think what I’m actually getting towards, as I think more about what I’m writing here, is the idea that governments can do great evil without being totalitarian.

          The right has been making that argument for decades. Kind of hard for the left to try to seize that mantle now.

          > Similarly, instead of sending the National Guard in to all the cities to restore order and keep down poor people and ethnic minorities,

          those two things are NOT equivalent, and that you seem to think they are does not speak well of your understanding of right wing thought.

          • gemmaem says:

            In writing “restore order and keep down poor people and ethnic minorities” I was in no way implying that the two are equivalent, merely that it is possible to do both at the same time.

            And hey, if you think that an argument that is now being made by the left will end up inadvertently strengthening an argument that the right has been making for a while, why are you complaining about that?

    • Sanchez says:

      I think a better comparison to Trumpism than Nazism might be Putinism. Creating chaos is a pillar of Putin’s strategies, domestic and foreign. The Kremlin is behind much of its own political opposition. It acts to sow distrust in the Russian media, the same media it controls. It uses funny internet memes to derail discussion. I don’t think American quirkiness or obstinacy would help to slow a descent into Putinism. Russian society is chock full of the characters Scott praises in his last paragraph.

  26. Halvor says:

    First, the refugee aspect of all of this is even more important than I thought. I said it before, but I think it bears more emphasis. The Western nations’ failure to accept refugees from Nazi Germany didn’t just kill a couple of Jews who made it out before the killing started. Germany started off perfectly willing to let every single Jew in Europe emigrate to any country that would take them. Nowhere would. This obviously doesn’t absolve the Nazis of any blame, but it sure doesn’t make the rest of the world look very good either.

    This is false and an undeserved slander which is repeated everywhere in an attempt to bully white people into giving in to whatever the liberal demand of the moment is. There were about 650,000 Jews living in Germany and Austria in 1933. 400,000 of these were able to get out before the start of the war. Of those who remained a very large number were elderly or were simply unwilling to make the move for economic reasons. Americans living through the Great Depression allowed in 95,000 Jews at a a time when they were suffering not nearly so much as the Chinese living under Japanese occupation. That is, given the times, a remarkably nice thing to do.

    • Nornagest says:

      That may well be true, but German and Austrian Jews would have been a relatively small fraction of the Holocaust even if none of them had gotten out alive — a large majority of the Jews killed during the Holocaust came from Poland and the USSR, and as such only came under Nazi control in 1939 or later.

      It is not clear to me how many of those Jews could have gotten out of Nazi-controlled territory in the two to five years where they would have been subject to it, even in an alternate history where everyone involved was doing their best to accommodate them — the Holocaust itself was perpetrated about as quickly as it could have been, and moving six million people would only have been harder if the Nazis cared about keeping them alive and relatively comfortable. But in our universe, finding host countries was a bottleneck, and that’s at least partly on us.

      • Halvor says:

        Jews who came under German control in Poland and the Soviet Union were never given the chance to leave. The wartime situation was obviously different.

    • Erebus says:

      There’s another layer here which I find interesting:

      Today’s refugees — from Syria, Pakistan, and other such locales — are, without question, the most ardent Jew-haters on the planet right now. On the whole, the attitude of your average Syrian refugee is surely, “the Holocaust didn’t happen; it was a scam that gave the Jew a pretext to steal Arab land; inshallah, we shall soon have an opportunity to kill them and reclaim that land for ourselves.”

      Furthermore, where Muslim Arab refugees go, en masse, violence against the Jewish community will inevitably follow. So will policies that are utterly opposed to those Scott Alexander seems to favor: Secular democracy, enlightenment ideals, support for Israel, etc. The refugees that have just recently flooded Europe certainly appear to be wholly incompatible with the aforementioned secular, liberal values. (To say nothing of the fact that they pose other risks.)

      Also worth mentioning is the fact that the Muslim Arab refugee population is not, as Scott Aaronson recently put it, a “tiny population that had produced Einstein, Bohr, Born, von Neumann, Bethe, Ehrenfest, Cantor, Jacobi, Noether, Hadamard, Minkowski, Hausdorff, Tarski, Erdös, and Ulam” — instead, precisely to the contrary, it has virtually no intellectual accomplishment to its credit. Indeed, these refugees appear to be constitutionally incapable of meaningful intellectual accomplishment.
      …Accepting them will not enrich our communities, but is sure to impoverish them. Dysgenics is not only a real thing, but is among the gravest dangers facing humanity today.

      If one wants to prevent another Holocaust, the last thing one should want to do is import millions of refugees who hate Jews & have always hated Jews. That’s the way I see it — but I’m not Jewish, so there might be some convoluted rationalization that I’m missing. And, in any case, I suppose “there is no reward in supporting a people who so enjoy being kicked in the teeth”.

      • grendelkhan says:

        You could have just posted a link; you’re hardly the first person to notice.

        Nerdery is part of the Jewish cultural character, and nerds enjoy going meta. The principle isn’t “when Jews suffer, it’s bad”; it’s “when people suffer, it’s bad”.

        And on a meta level, being told that foreigners with strange gods and awful politics and loyalty to foreign potentates will never assimilate seems awful familiar. The Irish and the Italians and the Chinese and, ironically, the Jews, went through the same nonsense. Especially the bit about how they’re genetic defectives who need to be filtered out of the gene pool for the greater good.

        You’re certain that the Jews just aren’t thinking about any of this, that if they realized how anti-Semitic the Syrians are, they’d leave them to die, or at least pretend someone else would handle that problem. But that’s not it at all. It’s a genuine belief in the power of liberalism, of the power and rightness and might of our culture, of the idea that jihad will fall to the shopping mall. “Liberalism does not conquer by fire and sword. Liberalism conquers by communities of people who agree to play by the rules, slowly growing until eventually an equilibrium is disturbed. Its battle cry is not “Death to the unbelievers!” but “If you’re nice, you can join our cuddle pile!”

        I think you underestimate the power of assimilation, which I am all in favor of cranking up to its highest levels. We’ll tear the beating heart–the patriarchy, the honor, the piety–from the cultures that make it over here, import a few colorful words into English, and sell their traditional foods in food courts, drenched in cheese and ranch dressing. And a generation from now, they’ll be as American as the rest of us; their Islam will be roughly as political as Reform Judaism; we’ll disbelievingly quote people like you the same way we disbelievingly quote those who hated and feared the Irish.

        (Can you link to that Scott Aaronson bit? I can’t seem to find it.)

        • Jiro says:

          Define “assimilation”. Does it mean “come to have, on the average, beliefs matching that of the average American”?

          • grendelkhan says:

            Beliefs compatible with modern liberal democracy, I’d say. We’re a wide-ranging and inherently fractious nation; I think we have a pretty reasonable bar for being part of it.

        • The Nybbler says:

          And you might have a point, if liberalism hadn’t fallen to progressivism, if “assimilation” wasn’t a dirty word, if the accepted practice nowadays is to respect the immigrant’s culture (even when it’s brutal)

          And if Islam hadn’t shown itself to be quite resistant to liberalism in the first place.

          • grendelkhan says:

            And you might have a point […] if “assimilation” wasn’t a dirty word, if the accepted practice nowadays is to respect the immigrant’s culture (even when it’s brutal)

            Don’t I know it. Check out this godawful mess. Sample quote: “She asked the parents she met whether they planned to read to their children in Arabic to ensure they maintain their native language. “But,” she says, “they all said they wanted their children to speak Dutch as quickly as possible, and that they would be only speaking Dutch with them at home.””

            All you have to do is stop digging, and liberalism will win. I’m advocating for not digging. I wish there was more advocacy for this position; it’s all “don’t touch their culture!” on one side and “keep them away from me!” on the other. Stop Digging 2018!

            And if Islam hadn’t shown itself to be quite resistant to liberalism in the first place.

            I have my doubts about this. More resilient traditional societies have fallen to liberalism, even without the added bonus of being dropped into the middle of a pre-built liberal democracy. I’m under the impression that Islam only got more conservative because the Saudis gave a ton of money to people who’d make that happen.

          • wintermute92 says:

            I remember learning about the “American melting pot” in middle school. I also remember when that changed to the “American salad bowl” because assimilation was becoming an offensive concept. Yes, really, salad bowl.

            The new metaphor is gibberish, of course. The entire point of the melting pot discussion was that it eroded group distinctions without erasing specific contributions. The salad bowl was indistinguishable from any other fractured and violent multi-ethnic state like Russia, but the curriculum had a blank spot that used to read “Eurasia”, and so someone had to pencil in “Oceania” real quick to save the trouble of rewriting the whole thing.

            I know a lot of people who are quick to remind everyone that Christianity has a history every bit as blood-soaked as Islam, and we shouldn’t be too quick to judge. I’ve watched some of the same people defend FGM and mandatory face coverings because destroying cultures and promoting assimilation is wrong. I’m not entirely clear on how they think Christianity got from the Crusades to its present state.

            Stop Digging 2018, I suppose.

          • Cypren says:

            Do you think we can organize enough people to make the Broken Shovel Party for 2018?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @grendelkhan

            Not just the Saudis and their clients, but the Iranians and the Turks.

          • grendelkhan says:

            I’ll take Broken Shovels over Bloody Shovel, please.

            I shouldn’t try to reinvent the wheel. Here’s a report from the Migration Policy Institute; see Section IV. It must be possible to do better with respect to teaching new arrivals English, but they seem to do okay in terms of getting jobs and prospering regardless.

            I think I’m slightly older than wintermute92; the first I heard of the “salad bowl” was in this essay, I think.

            Where I grew up, there had been a series of immigrant groups over the years. It was a relatively small town, so the stratigraphy was quite visible. Irish, Polish, French Canadian–who had all melted into just being ‘white people’, some of whom were named Hagerty and some Leclaire and so on–and eventually a particular Hispanic group. I remember there being “bilingual”, i.e., Spanish-language, education which was like the English-language education, except none of the classes went up to college-prep level, and even at the time, this struck me as considerably less than optimal, like we were putting a ceiling on how well they could do no matter how smart they might have been.

          • stillnotking says:

            And you might have a point, if liberalism hadn’t fallen to progressivism, if “assimilation” wasn’t a dirty word, if the accepted practice nowadays is to respect the immigrant’s culture (even when it’s brutal)

            The basic problem is that the tenets of liberalism themselves have been tossed on the pomo compost heap — just another example of “culture”, axiomatically no better than any other, and thinking otherwise merely reveals one’s narrow-mindedness or self-interest. The single exception is the liberal virtue of tolerance, which has been exalted out of all human proportion by those foolish enough to believe it can carry the weight of civilization by itself.

          • Randy M says:

            Technology changes things also. Earlier generations of immigrants (who were culturally much closer to the majority) didn’t have internet and cheap international calling to keep their culture fresh in their minds. They weren’t able to pop back home for a visit if they suffered from homesickness.
            Many immigrants in earlier times went back home forever if they suffered from homesickness; the great changes in technology ameliorate this ill, but make it much easier for newcomers to keep the home culture alive, to have a culture even if they refuse to interact with the native. Steve Sailor has made this point recently; there are reasons to assume past trends are not entirely reliable in addition to our own cultural changes and the differences in the newcomers.

        • Erebus says:

          I’ve got a flight to catch, so I’ll need to be brief.

          Europe hasn’t assimilated its Gypsies in 1000 years. I am uncertain as to whether or not the USA has ever assimilated its African American population — in a meaningful sense, I mean. And are you sure the Chinese have assimilated? Even if so, which is arguable, it took a very long time.

          When it comes to Muslims, assimilation has been worst of all — just dismal. Look at Malmo, at Frankfurt, at the Manchester suburbs. It’s a disaster. The Europeans are, quite obviously, not successfully integrating these populations… and there’s no indication that we’re doing any better.

          What worked for the Jews, Irish, and Italians won’t necessarily work for other populations. And the negative consequences of trying to force integration and assimilation could be utterly disastrous. Are you willing to bet your civilization on it?

          What’s funny is that the Jews have most to lose, and would be the most immediate and most obvious losers, and yet are pushing the hardest for more refugee resettlement. Frankly, I find this simply astounding.

          In any case, Scott Aaronson’s comment is from here.

          • Tekhno says:

            And are you sure the Chinese have assimilated?

            I’m not sure this matters. Didn’t the Chinese not assimilate by having China Town and being peaceful and productive in their own separate communities and so on? The only real problem is when you don’t assimilate by hating your host populace and engaging in terrorism.

          • Machine Interface says:

            Equating “there are X that are not assimilated” with “X can’t assimilate” is a fallacy. France has a small percentage of ultra-catholic royalists who advocate a return to pre-1792 society and values, send their children to private catholic schools, marry exclusively with each other, have their own media, etc. They are as unassimilated to modern French society as they can be without speaking a foreign language on top of it.

            On the other side of the coin, there are plenty of assimilated Roma people — who people often do not even identify as Roma, because there’s still this idea that a Roma necessarily lives in a trailer; this was already true during WWII, where the Roma targeted for WWII were mostly those who style had a nomadic lifestyle — Romas having adopted a sedentary lifestyle and living in cities were most of the time not worried.

            Likewise large segments of the muslim migrant populations have perfectly assimilated, France has a growing arab middle class with an increasing number of visible representants in journalism, art, and even politics, who all speak French natively, generally don’t talk about religion unless interrogated on the subject, and have the highest rate of exogammy among all communities in France. But of course, it’s easier to focus on the higher youth unemployment of this community and on the small percentage of them that turns to radicalism. Chinese robbers everywhere.

            Speaking of the Chinese, they are much, much less assimilated than Arabs, at least in France; they are an extremely endogenic community with few if any prominent representants in the French public sphere and yet no one ever complains about them. It’s almost as if the whole “assimilation” talking point is just a way to rationalize arbitrarily hostile views toward specific communities, regardless of how assimilated they really are.

          • BBA says:

            Assimilation is a slow process. There were lots of German-speaking communities in America that persisted for decades after the main wave of German immigration, then vanished overnight in 1917.

            In America, at least, I feel like the central issue is language. My great-grandparents were foreign-born and grew up speaking Yiddish; I was very young when the ones I met died but I remember their English was broken and heavily accented. My grandparents were born in America and spoke fluent English with American accents, peppered with a few Yiddish words. My parents and I never even learned Yiddish and we consider ourselves 100% American.

            But we don’t put up Christmas lights or a tree, and never joined a church. Does that make us “unassimilated”? I don’t think so, but some may differ.

          • Aapje says:

            @Machine Interface

            Assimilation is not a terminal value, things like less violence and less irritating behavior are what people want and assimilation is how they expect to achieve this.

            In the West, Chinese people are generally not perceived as causing excessive violence or excessive irritating behavior, so people are not demanding a solution, like assimilation.

          • onyomi says:

            In the West, Chinese people are generally not perceived as causing excessive violence or excessive irritating behavior, so people are not demanding a solution, like assimilation.

            This seems an important, if often overlooked, point. If you’re living peacefully and self-sufficient, the native population usually (unless they happen to be looking for a scapegoat to blame for say, hyperinflation) doesn’t seem to care whether or not you “assimilate.”

            That said, democracy, ironically (because the most pro-diversity people also tend to be the most pro-democracy), makes this kind of live-and-let-live approach much harder because it makes anything which falls within the scope of politics (i. e. almost everything, increasingly) into everybody’s problem.

          • Aapje says:

            @onyomi

            I’m not sure whether it’s a problem with democracy, rather than that in the West, we are generally improving and as a result, get upset over increasingly trivial things.

            For example, 107 years ago, a law was enacted in my country that regulated dog carts, to slightly improve the lives of dogs that were used to pull (heavy) loads. We are talking about dogs that suffered from abuse, day in, day out. Nowadays, the politicians debate very marginal increases in animal welfare, like whether it is acceptable to slaughter animals in kosher/halal fashion (cutting their throats with a sharp knife). So they are talking about reducing less than a minute of suffering.

            The more minor the gains are that people seek to achieve, the greater the chance that it conflicts with subcultures that do things in ways that are perhaps not optimal according to the mainstream culture, but that are also not really that bad.

          • Erebus says:

            @Machine Interface

            You’re missing the forest for the trees. So a fraction of your Muslim immigrants assimilate. This is almost wholly irrelevant. What I had originally tried to convey was:

            These Muslim migrants/refugees, on the whole, sincerely hold values that are not only distinct from, but utterly opposed to, the liberal democratic values held in high esteem by most of the commentators here. One sees this in France just as easily as anywhere else. And besides, is there a single example of a liberal democracy in the Islamic world? All indications are that the migrants streaming into Europe would vote a theocracy into power in France and Germany, too, at the earliest opportunity afforded them. (As in the Arab world, one might need to find a secular General or Colonel to stop them!)

            These refugees, on the whole, are overwhelmingly hostile to the Jews and the Jewish state, which is darkly ironic given the tone and subject matter of Scott’s original post. It bears repeating that “the Holocaust didn’t happen, but it should have,” is a mainstream attitude among them. Take that for what it’s worth.

            These refugees will surely have a negative effect on the nations that foolishly choose to harbour them. You will see more violence, street crime, obnoxious behavior, political agitation, etc. This, combined with severe strains on social services, and a potentially profound dysgenic effect. There’s no escaping this; even the best-case scenarios must make allowances for all of the above.

            Whether or not some of them assimilate, it’s madness to support the large-scale emigration of Arab Muslims into our Western nations, and it’s liberals and Jews who stand to see their values and communities destroyed first. Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind. The best-case scenario is bad enough, and our children and grandchildren will pay dearly for our mistakes. The worst-case scenario will bring us all right back to the dark days of the early 20th century.

            And for what? For a misguided belief that all men and all nations are perfectly equal and interchangeable? For the political establishment’s complete and utter faith in the ability of liberal democracy to turn even the most obstinately recalcitrant foreigners into true believers, in the face of evidence to the contrary that is plainly visible in every major European city? For foolish virtue-signallers, who think nothing of the future, and just want to feel good about themselves for a little while? To risk our civilization for this?
            …One has to laugh, I suppose, at how little you think it’s all worth…

            Nobody should be surprised by the coming tide of right wing populism. If it’s not utterly inevitable, it’s a damn close thing.

          • Machine Interface says:

            Yeah I know the alt-right talking points. But sweeping generalizations, dellusions of being a persecuted minority, appeal to irrational values and emotions, and apocalyptic doomsaying do not sway me — especially when they’re adressed to an imaginary liberal progressive who is not me.

            I don’t care one way or another if immigrants come into “my” country, if only because it’s not literally my country — I don’t own the place, I just happen to live there, and the idea that I (or any other single individual) could have a say in who or who doesn’t come in (no matter the form or political tendency of the system of government) seems quite presposterous.

            I just notice that arguments against are mostly lies and slander with a thin veneer of truth, along with a generous dose of moving the goalpost – like how “assimilation” magically ceases to be a terminal value the minute it’s shown that a majority of muslims in western countries are perfectly assimilated.

          • Europe hasn’t assimilated its Gypsies in 1000 years.

            The U.S., in contrast, is assimilating them quite rapidly.

            Anne Sutherland wrote two books on American gypsies, specifically the Vlach Rom, who are the largest group. The first, based on her observations around 1970, described a totally unassimilated group, with their own language and institutions, a tiny foreign nation within modern day America. The second, which came out last year, describes the collapse of that system, although she doesn’t quite admit it.

            A fascinating story.

          • Tatu Ahponen says:

            “Europe hasn’t assimilated its Gypsies in 1000 years.”

            This is a fallacy, you know. Europe has assimilated a vast number of Roma over the course of its history; it has assimilated them so well they only come up in people in some village telling their children that “you know that family whose kids are occasionally a bit darker than the others in the village? It’s because they have some Roma blood.” Or people saying “my great-grandmother was a Roma soothsayer” or so on.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            @Tatu Ahponen

            “Europe hasn’t assimilated its Gypsies in 1000 years.”

            This is a fallacy, you know. Europe has assimilated a vast number of Roma over the course of its history; it has assimilated them so well they only come up in people in some village telling their children that “you know that family whose kids are occasionally a bit darker than the others in the village? It’s because they have some Roma blood.” Or people saying “my great-grandmother was a Roma soothsayer” or so on.

            I agree. Moreover, Europe is not a monolithic place. When I was a kid, I knew people who would repeat the old stereotypes (“bunch of thieves” and so on) about Roma/Gypsies in a Scandinavian country. Sure, the local Roma who maintained the Roma identity wear distinctive dress and have tendency to gravitate certain ‘traditional Roma’ jobs (and some used to not get jobs and live in the poor area of the town on unemployment benefits, council housing and such, but then again, so do quite many us Whiteys). Of course, I mostly tried to discount the stereotypes as bigotry, but some of the prejudice ringed a bit true on the system 1 level.

            But then Romania and bunch of other countries joined the EU and the new normal was seeing the Roma from Eastern Europe begging on the streets during the summer and the police wondering what to do with surge of aggressive panhandling and petty crimes. Suddenly a lot of those old stereotypes of the local Roma started to look even more totally exaggerated and untrue in comparison, at least in my eyes. They had stopped traveling decades ago: the new ones from old Europe actually built a camp in an unused area they found, like an anachronism from 19th century! Looking at the new data point, it was clear that our Roma had been certainly quite assimilated since WW2, if not at the stage where a minority group is so assimilated it’s becoming totally indistinguishable from the majority, then quite near at least.

          • Erebus says:

            @Machine Interface

            I didn’t even mention assimilation in my first post, but I don’t mind writing a few more words on the subject. (Despite the fact that my heterodox views might just get me banned. I make no apologies for my opinions, but, for courtesy’s sake, beg the forbearance of all readers in advance.)

            First, I am not certain that assimilation is possible, for various reasons discussed ad nauseam here and elsewhere. (The inflows are too quick, insular migrant enclaves have already been established, modern communications technology is too good, the values they espouse are too different from our own, “multiculturalism,” etc.)

            But second, and more importantly, I don’t believe that assimilation is desirable. I hold this belief because, on the whole, the average migrant is brutish, impulsive (high time preference), and stupid (IQ ~80-85).

            Assimilating them, in their millions, will have a lasting, and profoundly detrimental, dysgenic effect upon the host societies that accept them — most particularly in a reduced genetic potential for IQ. A few generations of migrant inflows like we’ve seen recently and we’ll have to import Chinese engineers just to keep the lights on. We can forget all about the future we were promised in our youths: Great feats of technology and engineering, conquering the stars, and so forth. Our descendants named “Mohammad” will not be any part of a space-faring civilization. If you have any doubt, just take a trip to Egypt or Pakistan and report back.

            There are other tremendously negative effects. Most notably: Our societies will experience a drop in social cohesion, and will go from high-trust to low-trust. This process, which has already begun, will bring about the end of liberalism as you know it. Projects like the welfare state will prove untenable.

            …And, if history is any guide, and if the well-known attitudes of the migrants are any indication, well-educated Jews like S. Alexander and S. Aaronson are going to be the very first scapegoats.

            Simply put, I believe that Arab Muslim migrants must be repatriated. Or… something else. But under no circumstances should they be accepted and assimilated.

            As for all of you discussing the gypsies: They still exist as a largely insular and endogamous population after how many centuries spent in Europe? They’re still genetically distinct from their host populations? Come on, if that’s what you call “assimilation”, then I’d hate to see what an unassimilated population might look like. But, again, I really don’t care about assimilation — I think that it would be a terrible thing for Europe to assimilate its recent migrants.

            From a logical perspective, what you call a “fallacy” is anything but. “Assimilation” here means absorption into a host population through exogamy and the adoption of the host’s customs. X still exist as an endogamous society with distinct customs, after countless generations spent in numerous different host socieities. Therefore, X have never fully assimilated.

          • John Colanduoni says:

            A few generations of migrant inflows like we’ve seen recently and we’ll have to import Chinese engineers just to keep the lights on.

            If you look at the demographics of STEM higher education in the US (especially when you drift further towards physics and math or go to higher levels like PhDs and professorships) you would quickly realize (1) we already are doing that (physics and math in particular would look very empty if you kicked out everyone who is Chinese) and (2) white people (with Arabs included!) are already a minority in many of these programs, as are U.S. citizens. It’s been that way for quite some time.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            From a distance, it can be hard to distinguish between the minority wouldn’t assimilate vs. the majority wouldn’t let the minority assimilate.

          • Tatu Ahponen says:

            “As for all of you discussing the gypsies: They still exist as a largely insular and endogamous population after how many centuries spent in Europe? They’re still genetically distinct from their host populations? Come on, if that’s what you call “assimilation”, then I’d hate to see what an unassimilated population might look like. But, again, I really don’t care about assimilation — I think that it would be a terrible thing for Europe to assimilate its recent migrants.

            From a logical perspective, what you call a “fallacy” is anything but. “Assimilation” here means absorption into a host population through exogamy and the adoption of the host’s customs. X still exist as an endogamous society with distinct customs, after countless generations spent in numerous different host socieities. Therefore, X have never fully assimilated.”

            You don’t seem to get what is being said here. Yes, there continue to be distinctive Roma populations; they are, by and large, the descendants of the ones whose descendants didn’t disappear to the general population. Others assimilated and married those of the general population, their descendants did likewise, and so on until the only thing that remains is general local knowledge that some families have Roma ancestry among other ancestries, if that. You are only paying attention to a part of the population history – the one that has caused the existence of a visible, distinctive group – and ignoring the other parts of the history.

          • Erebus says:

            @Tatu Ahponen

            Do you have statistics on Roma assimilation in Europe that I can pursue, or can you recommend any books or studies worth looking at? Because this…

            >Others assimilated and married those of the general population, their descendants did likewise, and so on until the only thing that remains is general local knowledge that some families have Roma ancestry among other ancestries, if that.

            …Frankly, does not seem terribly reliable to me.

            Modern Gypsies are, in any case, an endogamous, genetically distinct, culturally distinct, and ancient sub-population. As millions of them still exist, one cannot really say that they have “assimilated” — for, even if so, even if you’re entirely correct, the process of assimilation has been partial at best. So I don’t think that anything I’ve stated was either factually or logically incorrect.

            To sum up: I know of the fraction that hasn’t assimilated; they’re plainly obvious. Anecdotes aside, I don’t know anything of the fraction that has assimilated.

            Not that it matters. Europe’s Muslims are a poison pill, the “assimilation” of which poses extremely great dangers.

        • Tekhno says:

          @grendelkhan

          And on a meta level, being told that foreigners with strange gods and awful politics and loyalty to foreign potentates will never assimilate

          I think they can assimilate, but it takes time, and might never happen if they all immigrate rapidly in huge numbers and are lumped together in self-segregating communities. That’s why it’s important to control the rate of inflows. Border control isn’t just banning everyone you don’t like forever.

          • grendelkhan says:

            I’m all for that. Let’s do some math, because I’m tired of all the non-quantitative handwringing going on here.

            Here’s a chart; during some of the country’s greatest expansion, immigrants made up about 15% of the population. So okay, set that as an upper bound, because we can be reasonably sure that the nation won’t fall apart at that level.

            It looks like the illegal migration flows have been net-negative over the last decade. (Surprising!) Legal inflows are about a million a year; total US population is about 320M.

            To turn this into an acceptable annual rate, we need to find the turnover rate of the population as a whole. The median age of an immigrant is 43.5; life expectancy 78, so they’ll spend 34.5 years in the US.

            (There’s gotta be a good mathematical tool for this, but I don’t know what it is. Anyone want to help out here?) Imagine a weird steady-state thing where the US has 320M people no matter what, and 1/34.5 of the immigrants turn over each year, let’s say replaced with their first-generation offspring.

            We want to target at most 15% * 320M = 48M immigrants. We can then take 48M / 34.5 = 1.4M a year, which is about one and a half times what we’re doing.

            Feel free to adjust your targets by culture (for example, maybe extra points for literacy, English proficiency, country of origin with secular-democratic traditions), but it really looks like absorbing an extra hundred thousand or two hundred thousand refugees for a couple of years as a response to a crisis isn’t going to make an appreciable difference. And those numbers are way outside of the Overton window right now.

          • @ grendelkhan:

            For a simple comparison, during the period just before and after WWI the U.S. was receiving about a million immigrants a year into a population of about a hundred million, so one percent. The equivalent modern figure would be three million a year.

          • cassander says:

            @grendelkhan

            If we were having the debate you’re talking about, I’d be delighted. Unfortunately, the debate we’re having is some parts of the country saying “maybe we have too many immigrants” and the other part saying “Say the racists.” There’s no interest or attempt on the left to even think about the sorts of calculations you’re making, just vague platitudes and trying to shut down the opposition.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Canada and the US could easily take more refugees; we are better able to vet them for security purposes, ensure that they are actually from conflict zones, etc, than Europe is able to do. Bungling by politicians of the situation in Europe has, unfortunately, combined with ignorance about the differences between the situation here versus the situation there to make taking in more refugees politically difficult, if not impossible. This is horrible, because we could be helping people at relatively little cost to ourselves.

          • grendelkhan says:

            cassander: There’s no interest or attempt on the left to even think about the sorts of calculations you’re making, just vague platitudes and trying to shut down the opposition.

            Dude, I’m right here. I’m pretty sure I qualify as being on the left–I’m full of bleeding-heart empathy toward refugees, for example–and I not only want to live in a pluralist liberal democracy, I want other people to be able to live in it too! And I want it to still be a pluralist liberal democracy after they get here!

            DavidFriedman, whoa, that is a lot. Okay, so it looks like there’s plenty of wiggle room above where I put the bar. Good!

          • cassander says:

            @grendelkhan says:

            >Dude, I’m right here. I’m pretty sure I qualify as being on the left–I’m full of bleeding-heart empathy toward refugees, for example–and I not only want to live in a pluralist liberal democracy, I want other people to be able to live in it too! And I want it to still be a pluralist liberal democracy after they get here!

            My apologies, I didn’t mean to denigrate you. You’re obviously willing to do that sort of math. by “the left” I was referring to the broader political movement, not every individual member of it, but I admit that wasn’t clear.

            And, for what it’s worth, no one on the right is much interested in that discussion either, it’s mostly just knee jerk reactions from people who aren’t informed but do exist in sufficient numbers to scare enough politicians into voting against their natural inclinations. And that’s why I find the public “debate” so frustrating, because it’s not a debate, it’s just shouting. There is even less policy content in it than is usual for public debate. And no one is talking about fixing how horrifyingly inefficient the whole process is.

            @david

            IIRC, though, the foreign born population % was rising at a pretty decent clip prior to ww1, so that number probably wasn’t an equilibrium figure.

          • Jiro says:

            If you’re discussing the effect that unassimilated immigrants have on culture, you need to count the portion of the descendants of the previous generation’s unassimilated immigrants who remain unassimilated. The total that includes this can go up even if the number of immigrants per year goes down.

          • Cypren says:

            @DavidFriedman, @grendelkhan: One strong concern that immigration opponents have is that in the past, there was a very strong expectation that new immigrants would conform to the laws and norms of the host society. With the advent of multiculturalism-as-religion in the modern left, there’s a strong fear that this expectation has been significantly weakened or suppressed; examples would be the initial, tepid “don’t be a racist” police response in Germany to increasing levels of sexual assault, or the Rotherham scandal in England, which was ignored by the police for years out of a fear of appearing racist or religiously intolerant.

            There’s an argument to be made that by itself immigration is not an existential threat to liberal society, but the combination of immigrants who do not respect liberal ideals and a government which has either intentional or Moloch-created policies that avoid holding the immigrants to those ideals is a recipe for disaster.

            My personal concern is that we may invite Muslims in only to create enclaves which largely replicate the worst of the Deep South during the Jim Crow days: places where local government and law enforcement are entirely aligned with local religious/cultural leaders and will work as an arm of the religion to enforce its edicts against outsiders and non-conformers alike. These enclaves then breed more people to conform to a culture which (as David has said repeatedly in the process of defending Islam as a religion) is barbaric and un-modernized.

            I have a lot of faith in liberal society to be able to modernize and acculturate immigrants as long as it treats them like any other citizens rather than according them special privileges and exemptions for being a minority. I’m not sure I trust our current society to do so, though.

          • berk says:

            FWIW, current stats/projections on immigrant population are here:
            http://www.census.gov/population/projections/data/national/2014/summarytables.html
            summary from PEW:
            http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/03/09/u-s-immigrant-population-projected-to-rise-even-as-share-falls-among-hispanics-asians/

            We’re at a over 13% in immigrant population (1st gen > 43M) and approaching 12% in children of that immigrant population. So about 25% 1st + 2nd gen immigrant population; Does anyone have an idea how this (25%) compares historically (in post-1800 US)? Projections show surpassing the 15% previously attained max any year now (or soon anyway)…

  27. grendelkhan says:

    So, if I have this right, we’re not Germany in the 1930s; we’re the United States in the 1930s, and that’s still really bad, yes?

    I’ve been seeing a lot of “if you think to yourself ‘what would I have done if I’d been there in history’, well, now’s your chance” going around. They have a weird religion; they should stay in their own countries and fight the threats there; they’re anarchists; we have our own problems and someone else should take them; they won’t assimilate. I know this song; I recognize the lyrics.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Yeah, I’m surprised it’s taken this long for someone to make this point.

      Although, I don’t think there is any dominant nation that is currently in the process of sweeping across the ME and targeting a long suffering minority living a broad diaspora. The parallels aren’t so neat as that.

    • Jaskologist says:

      I believe I made precisely that analogy steelmanning Trump’s EO. But Muslims, writ large, aren’t the Jews in this analogy. The Jews are Christians, Yezidi, and probably some obscure Muslim sects. Muslims are Germans, the vast majority of whom never voted for Hitler and were not Nazi party members.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        The Obama Administration took in something like 58 Syrian Christians to 10,000 Syrian Muslims as refugees.

    • onyomi says:

      Well, as I’ve said, it’s highly ironic to me that most of the worst fears Democrats, who typically idolize FDR, have about Trump are that he will be a lot like FDR:

      Get us into a nuclear war?
      Imprison and humiliate immigrants?
      Protectionism?
      Bullying the SCOTUS?
      Basically a fascist?

      I saw a photo of an old Japanese lady protesting with the women’s march recently, holding a sign saying “US Pres imprisoned me.” Everyone cheered her, and rightfully so. Conveniently omitted from people posting about how brave and tough she was: any mention of which president she was talking about.

      Not that being like FDR, who I think was a terrible president, in any way excuses Trump, but I’d like a little more perspective from the protesters and maybe I’ll believe they’re not just against fascism when it’s not their guy.

      • wintermute92 says:

        I’ve gotten into this argument more than once recently.

        People keep suggesting that Trump’s immigration ban makes him “like Hitler”, and I keep responding that Hitler didn’t block religious emigration, but Western anti-Semites did en masse. If I were going to advance the case for Trump-as-Hitler, that wouldn’t be my example. Even citing his rhetoric on Mexico would be better, since that seems to be more focusing on removing those already here.

        But I’m not going to advance that case. I don’t think Trump is Hitler. I think he’s a protectionist, nationalist, immigrant-fearing demagogue with no respect for tradition, balance of power, or the basic decency of his opponents. There’s no need to look abroad to find that sort of record.

      • grendelkhan says:

        Well, as I’ve said, it’s highly ironic to me that most of the worst fears Democrats, who typically idolize FDR, have about Trump are that he will be a lot like FDR:

        I’ve been seeing this a lot, and I can’t for the life of me grok it. FDR is a hero because he saved capitalism and democracy here. He also did some very bad things, which we don’t want done again, and we don’t admire him for.

        Aren’t conservatives always going on about how just because Jefferson owned slaves it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t respect him? How is this different?

        • Cypren says:

          I can offer two suggestions as to why it feels different:

          1.) Non-Democrats don’t see the internal criticism of his policies; by the time sentiments get outside of the ideological sphere, the criticism has been damped down and only the praise remains.

          2.) Jefferson owning slaves was very much in step with the morals and culture of his time. In contrast, FDR’s policies represented an unprecedented, sweeping authoritarian power-grab, and are unquestionably the closest this country has ever gotten to dictatorship. It’s easier (for me, at least) to excuse historical figures for doing immoral things (like owning slaves) which were commonplace at the time than it is things which were unprecedented and of their own making (like imprisoning Japanese-Americans for their ethnicity).

          Put another way, it’s sort of a case of mens rea. Slavery wasn’t seen as a great evil in Jefferson’s time by anything approaching a majority of the populace (yet). But racist imprisonment was very much seen as evil in FDR’s time and yet he did it anyway. That he convinced a large portion of the populace to go along without complaint only makes it worse, in my mind.

          Note that absolutely none of this would excuse Trump for pursuing similar policies, and the “tu quoque” argument isn’t especially persuasive in my mind. The hypocrisy should push Democrats to vilify FDR more, not fear Trump less.

          • onyomi says:

            The hypocrisy should push Democrats to vilify FDR more, not fear Trump less.

            I agree. But the reason I think it’s worth pointing out 70 years after FDR’s death is because so long as FDR can be a hero in liberals’ minds for doing the same things they now revile in Trump, I have little confidence they won’t go back to loving abuse of centralized authority, executive orders, etc. the minute they get a Democrat back in the White House.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The hypocrisy should push Democrats to vilify FDR more, not fear Trump less.

            OTOH, if America was able to survive the FDR administration without turning into a hellish fascist dystopia, that gives us reason to think that it will be able to survive the FDR-junior administration without turning into a hellish fascist dystopia.

          • cassander says:

            @The original Mr. X

            That the US as able to take the first FDR doesn’t mean it will survive the second. But then again, there is much ruin in a nation, something we seem determined to prove.

        • onyomi says:

          he saved capitalism and democracy here.

          Only in the sense George W Bush supposedly saved the free market by doing the most un-free market things possible.

        • cassander says:

          >FDR is a hero because he saved capitalism and democracy here. He also did some very bad things, which we don’t want done again, and we don’t admire him for.

          those only needed saving because his disastrous policies put them in peril in the first place.

          • herbert herberson says:

            those only needed saving because his disastrous policies put them in peril in the first place.

            Yes, FDR was responsible for the global depression that began while he was governor of New York.

          • cassander says:

            >Yes, FDR was responsible for the global depression that began while he was governor of New York.

            no, but he was responsible for the NIRA that torpedoed the nascent economic recovery and doomed the US, and thus much of the developed world, to another half decade of depression.

          • herbert herberson says:

            http://origins.osu.edu/sites/origins.osu.edu/files/4-3-chart1487_0.jpg
            https://myweb.rollins.edu/wseyfried/econ/notes/gdur.jpg

            So, according to you, the rapidly increasing unemployment rate from 1930 to the summer of 1932 was just something to be ignored and endured and not a big deal, while the drop in unemployment that occurred after the disastrous passage of NIRA in the summer of 1933 was a happy coincidence, or maybe in spite of FDR’s awful meddling? Maybe the secondary peak in that occurred almost five years after NIRA was passed was the problem? I guess that makes sense, since there certainly wasn’t anything else going wrong in the world in 1938.

          • cassander says:

            @herbert

            >So, according to you, the rapidly increasing unemployment rate from 1930 to the summer of 1932 was just something to be ignored and endured and not a big deal, while the drop in unemployment that occurred after the disastrous passage of NIRA in the summer of 1933 was a happy coincidence, or maybe in spite of FDR’s awful meddling? Maybe the secondary peak in that occurred almost five years after NIRA was passed was the problem? I guess that makes sense, since there certainly wasn’t anything else going wrong in the world in 1938.

            No, according to me, the bottom hits in 1932, the recovery begins, and it’s abruptly terminated in 33 by the NIRA. Things stay bad until the NIRA is struck down by the court, when things begin recovering again. Then the wagner act is passed in 1935, but since it’s basically just the labor half of the NIRA, it’s immediately challenged and largely ignored. When it’s upheld by the supremes in 1937, it kills the recovery. things stay lousy until the the war spending re-inflates the economy a few years later.

          • herbert herberson says:

            I guess all I would say is that people should look at the graphs and other data rather than take your word for it, because that reading is pretty strained under any perspective save the one that assumes that state action in the economy is axiomatically bad.

            Plus, if nothing else, if you have a system that requires people to endure more than three years of rapidly escalating economic devastation, then I think there are more problems with the system itself than with the popular and duly elected official who (in concert with a duly elected legislature) looked at that devastation and determined that something different should be tried.

          • cassander says:

            @herbert herberson says:
            February 1, 2017 at 1:49 pm ~new~

            >I guess all I would say is that people should look at the graphs and other data rather than take your word for it, because that reading is pretty strained under any perspective save the one that assumes that state action in the economy is axiomatically bad.

            No, it assumes that the NIRA was bad, an assertion that is almost universally agreed to by economists, and that the Wagner act led to a wave of union action that had economic consequences, which is also universally agreed to.

            >Plus, if nothing else, if you have a system that requires people to endure more than three years of rapidly escalating economic devastation, then I think there are more problems with the system itself than with a popular and duly elected official who looks at that devastation and determines that something different should be tried.

            Why do you assume that “different” means “better”?

          • Let me suggest a different approach to the question of whether FDR was the hero or the villain of the Great Depression.

            Hoover responded to the beginning of the Great Depression by sharply increasing government spending. FDR continued and expanded Hoover’s policies along similar lines. The Great Depression lasted almost ten years, until the beginning of WWII.

            In 1920, a decade earlier, there was what looked like the beginning of a similar depression. From 1920 to 1921, the unemployment rate increased by six and a half percentage points; prices fell by more than ten percent. Comparing the increase in unemployment and decrease in prices from 1920 to 1921 to the almost identical figures for 1930 to 1931, it was going to be a Great Depression.

            President Harding followed the opposite of the Hoover/FDR policy. By 1923, federal expenditure had been reduced to about half its 1920 level. The unemployment rate that peaked at 11.7% in 1921 had fallen, by 1923, to 2.4%. One year of high unemployment instead of, under Hoover and then Roosevelt, eleven.

            Any two episodes are different, and one can always offer other explanations for the results of the two policies. But I find it striking that FDR is credited with ending the depression when, under his policies, it was much longer and worse than the most obviously comparable earlier episode, treated with the opposite policies.

          • cassander says:

            @david friedman

            Let us not forget the massive post ww2 spending cuts and dismantling of price controls, and the subsequent economic boom. And let us especially not forget that that disaster was predicted if we did that. And if we really wanted to be cheeky, we’d compare the US’ post ww2 results to those of the UK, given that they did retain much of the war’s central planning.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Why do you assume that “different” means “better”?

            I don’t. I’m saying that if your ideology and/or economic system expects a democracy to endure an unreasonable amount of pain to function properly, the real problem is with that ideology/system, not with the leaders elected with a mandate to solve that pain–even if those leaders end up making mistakes.

          • cassander says:

            @herbert herberson says:

            >I don’t. I’m saying that if your ideology and/or economic system expects a democracy to endure an unreasonable amount of pain to function properly, the real problem is with that ideology/system, not with the leaders elected with a mandate to solve that pain–even if those leaders end up making mistakes.

            I’d say that if democracy throws away good things in favor of worse ones, the problem is with democracy, not the thing it’s throwing away. Despite the depression, american standards of living during the 30s were much higher than they were in the 1920s. Capitalism was doing its part, it was democracy that failed. though to be fair, FDR ran against almost everything he ended up actually doing, so maybe it’s less that democracy failed, people didn’t vote for the new deal, then that FDR corrupted it.

          • herbert herberson says:

            You’re welcome to trade your civil rights away for a purported statistical increase in the standard of living flying in the face of most peoples’ subjective experience. Me, I’ll keep my self governance, even if it occasionally dings the GDP.

          • cassander says:

            @herbert herberson says:

            >You’re welcome to trade your civil rights away for a purported statistical increase in the standard of living flying in the face of most peoples’ subjective experience. Me, I’ll keep my self governance, even if it occasionally dings the GDP.

            there is nothing “self governing” about the progressive welfare state FDR built.

          • bean says:

            And if we really wanted to be cheeky, we’d compare the US’ post ww2 results to those of the UK, given that they did retain much of the war’s central planning.

            That’s unfair, because the two countries were not in the same situation. The UK was in really serious economic trouble. They’d been surviving on US aid since about 1941, and when it went away, they were facing ruin. For instance, the RN got in trouble for accidentally blowing an ex-German destroyer in half during a weapons trial, because it made it harder to scrap the ship.
            (I’m not defending how the British handled the crisis. I’m not qualified to do that. But the situation was not the same.)

          • cassander says:

            @bean says:

            >That’s unfair, because the two countries were not in the same situation. The UK was in really serious economic trouble. They’d been surviving on US aid since about 1941, and when it went away, they were facing ruin. For instance, the RN got in trouble for accidentally blowing an ex-German destroyer in half during a weapons trial, because it made it harder to scrap the ship.

            A fair point, but part of the reason they were in such trouble was precisely because post-war economic policy was so bad. Rationing didn’t end until the 50s! But if you want a closer comparison, take Germany. Despite the country being divided, far more war damage, and far less US aid, Germany had much better economic growth than the UK, so much better that by the late 70s, Germany was richer than the UK for the first time in hundreds of years.

          • bean says:

            A fair point, but part of the reason they were in such trouble was precisely because post-war economic policy was so bad.

            I don’t think you’re reading me quite right. The economic problems in Britain c. September 1st, 1945 could not have been the result of post-war economic policy because the policy hadn’t been implemented yet. I’ll agree that the policies probably made things worse, maybe even much worse, but the situation was very different from that the US faced, so it’s not a very strong example of your point.
            (For instance, while the RN was being told to be careful not to sink ships it was experimenting on, the US was contaminating them on a grand scale.)

          • cassander says:

            @bean

            >I don’t think you’re reading me quite right. The economic problems in Britain c. September 1st, 1945 could not have been the result of post-war economic policy because the policy hadn’t been implemented yet. I’ll agree that the policies probably made things worse, maybe even much worse, but the situation was very different from that the US faced, so it’s not a very strong example of your point.
            (For instance, while the RN was being told to be careful not to sink ships it was experimenting on, the US was contaminating them on a grand scale.)

            the problems the UK faced in 1945 were not the result of post-war policy, but the results they got from 1946-1980 most definitely were affected by the choices made after the war. And the results they got were very bad. Like I said, Germany, which had problems at least as great in 45, did far better.

          • Despite the depression, american standards of living during the 30s were much higher than they were in the 1920s.

            That might be true, but the fact that new technologies were coming into use doesn’t prove it. Real per capita GNP fell in the early part of the depression and by the end was only back to a little above where it had started.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        This feels like you are weakmanning FDR’s presidency.

        I really don’t feel like expending the effort to make the steelman argument for all his actions, but, honestly, do you really want to try and advance the argument that we blundered our way into war with Japan and Germany merely by way of incompetence or malice?

        You don’t think they had a wee bit do with it?

        • onyomi says:

          Well, assuming the only way Trump would get us into a war is by blundering incompetence and malice, I don’t think FDR shares the blundering incompetence part. I do think he probably had warning about and/or secretly wanted Pearl Harbor to happen, though.

          What if Trump has warning of a terror attack on the US but lets it happen because it will galvanize the support he needs to crush ISIS or whatever? I think that would rightly be judged as… pretty unforgivable. No, ISIS aren’t the Nazis, but seemingly not for lack of trying.

        • cassander says:

          FDR literally set gold prices based on what he thought were lucky numbers. Can you imagine the apoplectic reaction we’d get if Trump did something like that?

  28. jdwill07 says:

    Thank you for a fascinating read. Your questions about the variance between the resistance in the countries involved brought a piece by Malcolm Gladwell to mind:

    Thresholds of Violence

    But Granovetter thought it was a mistake to focus on the decision-making processes of each rioter in isolation. In his view, a riot was not a collection of individuals, each of whom arrived independently at the decision to break windows. A riot was a social process, in which people did things in
    reaction to and in combination with those around them.

    Throughout your post there are hints of social interaction being a critical factor.

  29. Forge the Sky says:

    The last paragraph has great synchronicity with a book I’m reading now: ‘American Nations’ by Colin Woodard. He proposes that the USA is best understood not as a confederation of states, or as a single state, but as a collection of (depending on how you count) about 11 major ‘nations’ which have fundamentally different ideas about how society should operate and what values one should hold.

    It has similarities with Albion’s Seed but seems more up-to-date and relevant, and is also shorter and more engaging IMHO.

    One of the critical political questions of our age is how to arrange the uneasy relationship between nations and states, where the two of them don’t necessarily correspond with one another; and what to do in any case when you have ‘nations’ with conflicting identities and ideologies but need to work together regardless.

    It’s important stuff to think about. Some of my thinking is coming back around to Scott’s old utopian musings about having nations with very different ideologies, local supremacy, and the ability for people to move between them and so on. It also makes me move even more towards wanting to largely dismantle the fed in exchange for more local governance, to allow for more competition of political ideas in a sort of ‘confederation marketplace,’ and to adapt to local environmental pressures better.

    Anyways, recommended reading.

  30. Riothamus says:

    The United States Army has three special operations outfits that are relevant to this sort of problem: Green Berets, who specialize in training foreign resistance; Psyops, who specialize in propaganda; and Civil Affairs, who specialize in standing up basic civil infrastructure like post offices and police stations.

    Green Berets frequently get deployed in regions where some sort of ethnic cleansing is occurring, but now I wonder if Psyops and Civil Affairs would also have value by switching from their usual tactics into aiding empathy and obstruction of government functions. It is possible such a thing is occurring already, but if so I am unaware of it.

  31. haljohnsonbooks says:

    Indeed it’s said that the banality
    Of evil is its greatest shock.
    It jokes, it punches its time clock,
    Plays with its kids. The triviality
    Of slaughtering millions can’t impinge
    Upon its peace, or make it cringe.

    -Vikram Seth, Golden Gate.

  32. dsotm says:

    Just as humanizing the Nazis is a two-way street, so pointing out the bizarre lack of dissent in Nazi Germany is both distressing and encouraging. Distressing because – how could ordinary humans tolerate that? But encouraging because – well, it seems almost possible to imagine a world where something goes wrong and America ends up overtly fascist. Yet even in my worst nightmares I can’t imagine a world where America ends up overtly fascist and nobody is annoying and obstructionist about it. Arendt’s picture of Germany, where the ruling party has 90% approval and dissent is unthinkable – you can’t get there from here. We’re never unanimous about anything.

    This is rather naive – there is very little bizarre about the lack of dissent in Nazi Germany during the holocaust just like there is about the lack of dissent in Soviet Russia during the red terror, the purges etc. – dissent happened and was dealt with in ways that maximized discouragement of further dissent – dissenters are who the first concentration camps were set up for. Until the Nazis took control of Germany and even somewhat afterwards violent confrontations between them and other movements were quite common and it took them about 13 years to get from Munich beer halls to the Reichschancelery.

    In any dissent-quashing regime 90% approval rating for the ruling party is meaningless (in 2014 Bashar al-Assad won the Syrian presidential election with 88.7%).

    A society does not need to be unanimous about anything to fall into dictatorship, nor do the bad guys need a majority before becoming a credible threat or even before seizing full control (in the 1933 elections the Nazis got 44% of the overall vote but by then they were already in the government, had their own paramilitary police force and used violence and intimidation against both voters and competing parties). Likewise the term ‘bolshevik’ comes from the Russian word for ‘majority’ but it was a majority faction within a nascent revolutionary movement which, *surprise* – favored an authoritarian rather than egalitarian structure for the revolution.

    You’re right in that it’s probably safe to say that US is not facing the exact same failure mode of Nazi Germany, but that’s easy – events on that scale never happen twice in the same way anyway – a ‘mere’ Russia/Turkey failure mode should be deemed bad enough, even UK with its overtly Orwellian legislation is creepy as hell. And I’m not even talking about some of the processes currently going on in Israel itself, because well… one mustn’t compare.

    • Chrysophylax says:

      I think the Bolsheviks were actually the minority faction and stole a march on the more numerous Mensheviks.

      “even UK with its overtly Orwellian legislation is creepy as hell”

      Please expand on this. I can think of some things that might be called Orwellian, but I’m always a bit puzzled when people talk about the UK as a dystopia. The UK seems to be doing pretty well compared to most of its peers – for example, the right-wing populist party won a referendum and then fell apart, whereas elsewhere populists have a good shot at taking power (France, Italy, near miss in Austria) or have already done so (the USA).

      • suntzuanime says:

        It turns out the elitists are quite capable of making a dystopia on their own, without needing populists to take power.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        The UK seems to be doing pretty well compared to most of its peers – for example, the right-wing populist party won a referendum and then fell apart,

        I mean, wouldn’t it be a similarly valid interpretation that said party that was formed with a specific purpose fell apart when they achieved said purpose? I mean, I guess it speaks well of populists UK parties in comparison to others.

        As for the “orwellian” stuff, it’s probably the stringent speech laws and the whole mass surveillance thing, but the US already has the latter, so I dunno.

      • dsotm says:

        Re the bolsheviks – they asserted themselves to be the majority faction within the newly established revolutionary party which split over disagreements over internal governance (both of the party and the desired revolutionary state) whether that was true at the time of the split is probably indeterminable and also not very important, what is interesting is that in the first post revolutionary elections they got far more votes than the menshiviks but far less than the more moderate socialist party causing them to promptly dissolve the assembly for which the elections were held.

      • Autolykos says:

        The most salient example (to me) for the UK’s erosion of civil liberties is that you can be thrown in prison if you refuse to (or are unable to) decrypt any data you own – which is a pretty blatant violation of the right not to incriminate yourself (with the widespread surveillance, that one didn’t kill privacy; it was already buried long ago).
        And there were many horrible laws before and after that. Any one of them might be survivable, but the sum of it (and the lack of resistance from courts) makes the UK the place in Western Europe I’m least inclined to ever visit again.

        • dsotm says:

          There is lack of privacy when gchq has access to all your internet connection data and then there’s lack of privacy when the guy in charge of issuing parking permits in the city hall has access all your internet connection data.
          I actually didn’t know that in the UK you can be forced to decrypt your data under prison sanctions (source?) but I do remember a case when a US court issued such an order for someone accused of having child porn based on hearsay, and the UK doesn’t even have a constitutional protection against self incrimination afaik as a side effect of not actually having a constitution.

  33. akarlin says:

    First, the refugee aspect of all of this is even more important than I thought. I said it before, but I think it bears more emphasis. The Western nations’ failure to accept refugees from Nazi Germany didn’t just kill a couple of Jews who made it out before the killing started. Germany started off perfectly willing to let every single Jew in Europe emigrate to any country that would take them. Nowhere would.

    Surely this is largely a moot point. Most of the German Jews – 400,000 out of 500,000 – did get out. The vast majority of the Jews who died in the Holocaust – 3 million in Poland, 2 million in the USSR – were living in territories that were conquered after wartime conditions would have made large-scale emigration to the West impossible anyway.

    Re-Mussolini’s Italy. It wasn’t half bad by the first half of the 20th century’s standards. A few months ago I was surprised to learn that only nine people were executed during 1926-40 for political reasons, and five of those were for engaging in outright violent terrorism (the US too had a couple of famous politically motivated executions during that period: Sacco and Vanzetti). Note that this was in the context of semi-regular attempts on Mussolini’s life. There were a few thousand internal exiles, but they lived in comfort, and Gramsci even wrote his books from there. There’s a case to be made that even Franco’s Spain was substantially worse, and that the bad rap Italy gets is due to Mussolini’s disastrous decision to ally with Hitler.

  34. jbeshir says:

    I’ve written before on how the current crop of demagogues, as bad as they are, aren’t Literally Hitler. But this should be understood in context of Mussolini not being Literally Hitler, or even of the Nazis themselves not being Literally Hitler at the beginning. The cause for concern isn’t that anyone you can see on TV today is plotting a Fourth Reich. It’s that some common factor causes people who start out as only moderately objectionable to predictably become something much worse.

    One fairly obvious and inevitable common factor is that a plane ticket costs ~$500 and a bullet through the head costs maybe $0.20 (plus common costs in local transport and time). I don’t think deporting people is anywhere near as economical as simply killing people.

    So I’d expect that ethnic separatists don’t need to actively want people dead; they just have to want them gone enough to act to make them gone, and assign a value to their life of less than ~$500.

    I see people seeming to assign a lot lower than that to outsiders quite often.

    • Mark says:

      A very modest explanation.

    • baconbacon says:

      This isn’t really true because no one wants to rule a country littered with corpses. If you want to get rid of a village worth of undesirables this equation is instructive, but if you want to get rid of a group of people that are partially assimilated into larger cities then it is far more complicated.

  35. bean says:

    I think you’ve underestimated the extent of German resistance to Hitler. There were several serious coup plans in the late 30s, and Hitler was very lucky to avoid them. His luck was cemented by the fall of France, when he managed to be right and the General Staff wrong. The rest of the war was him cementing his power against such attempts.
    And then there were people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hans von Dohnányi, who fought from the civilian side. The Catholic Church was also heavily involved. I’m not sure why they didn’t trigger resistance in the same way that the Danes and Belgians did, but it’s not quite as cut and dried as “the Germans did no resisting”.

  36. Edward Scizorhands says:

    What if the lesson Trump takes from this is to listen to Israel’s warnings that you cannot count on other tribes? That you need to make sure you never become a minority in your own country?

    • grendelkhan says:

      A possible way around that is to make your country “America”, and turn people who come here into Americans. It worked for the Italians and the Irish and the Germans and the Catholics. All you need is assimilation. Hell, all you need to do is not stand in its way. Maybe Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a good spokesperson for that?

      • Cypren says:

        Ultimately what most people are actually arguing about in the current immigration debate is whether and how quickly we can assimilate incoming Muslim immigrants so that we gain more tolerant Western citizens and not third-world Middle Eastern ghettos inside of our borders. Very few people are actually proposing “permanently ban all Muslims” or “open borders, let’s import the whole Middle East”, but we behave as if those are the two positions on offer because it’s easier to straw man opponents than legitimately engage with them.

        Immigrants bring their own values and culture with them. If they’re sufficiently outnumbered and not ghettoized by the majority, they conform to the majority culture over time. If they have enough close peer-group reinforcement, they don’t. Where do we draw that line, and how do we make sure that we’re doing it correctly? These are the questions we need to answer, and they’re the questions few people really want to engage with, because they’re boring and involve setting metrics and adjusting policy and ideology based on the outcomes. It’s a lot easier to just yell “Hitler!” or “traitor!” at the other side and not think about it.

        • grendelkhan says:

          I am super interested in those questions. It looks like it’s all about soft power and subtle cues and things you can’t exactly enforce directly. The ideas that come to mind are things like prosecuting honor violence as hate crime–that is, making an example of people. I don’t even know where one would begin.

          Maybe ghettoization is a result of concentration rather than raw numbers? Don’t put too many refugees from the same places together; group them with refugees from other places to encourage them to identify as new Americans rather than ex-Whatevers?

          I suppose one could start by identifying the ways in which we’re digging, and stop doing those. That makes sense to me.

          I really should watch “Moscow on the Hudson” again. (A bit here; see also.)

          • cassander says:

            This is exactly right. If you look at the way Europe processes immigrants, in general, they try a LOT harder than US officials do to get people to assimilate. I know one friend who emigrated to the Netherlands, and they sent an official around once a month to check up on how her dutch language and culture lessons were going. Despite this, they do a demonstrably worse job of assimilating people than the US does.

            Assimilation is a tricky thing, and the impossibility of setting up a ministry of integration to make sure it happens is an important, and, especially on the left, totally unappreciated part of the debate.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I think we have some starting points:

            1) Rate matters. Immigrants assimilate at varying speeds depending on varying home cultures, and rate of immigration needs to be calibrated to rate of assimilation. Someone please correct me if I’m in error, but are ANY politicians, or even any academics, trying to make specific arguments as to how to make that calibration?

            2) Concentration matters. This is something I think we have to agree that we cannot control directly, however, as freedom of movement matters. We can maybe look at ways of incentivizing dispersal of immigrants throughout the US to avoid insular communities.

            3) Accommodations matter. Again, there’s a line between sending the message “We don’t like you go away” and “assimilation/acculturation bad”. Unfortunately, we have already set the precedent for toleration of and accommodation of insular cultural/religious enclaves that are often run with their own laws that may conflict with broader US laws and values (Amish, Hasidic Jews, and there are probably other examples that don’t spring to mind off the top of my head). Our very strong religious freedom protections work right up to the point that they don’t. I’m not sure what the answer is here, because I for one do not want to adopt the French style of “laicite” where we start doing things like banning public displays of religious symbols and the.

            My one idea comes back to civics/social studies standards at the local, state, and national levels in K-12 schools, but I’m going to save it for the next Open Thread so as not to hijack this one.

          • Cypren says:

            It looks like it’s all about soft power and subtle cues and things you can’t exactly enforce directly. The ideas that come to mind are things like prosecuting honor violence as hate crime–that is, making an example of people.

            I think this is exactly right. As I said in another sub-thread, one of the biggest areas of breakdown in trust between the Left and Right is that the Right no longer believes the Left is willing to hold minority groups to the same legal standards that apply to the general populace, but instead makes excuses and blames racism/oppression/patriarchy/white people/etc whenever a minority member does something reprehensible. As such, it makes Rightists extremely hostile towards minorities, because why would they want to invite in people who have special privileges and immunities for breaking laws? Especially when some of those people come from cultures where things like rape, assault and murder are socially tolerated as long as they’re done to the outgroup?

            Part of restoring the trust and coming to a sensible immigration policy must be the Left tamping down its inclinations to cry “racism!” whenever a non-white person is implicated in a crime and dispassionately holding minority groups to the standards of the majority. I think if this happened, you’d see a whole lot less hostility to minority groups on the part of the Right. While “they’re not like us” was the primary cause underlying hostility to minorities in the past, it feels (at least from the interactions I’ve had with the modern Right) like “they’re Leftists’ favored clients, providing votes for special treatment” is the main objection now.

          • My one idea comes back to civics/social studies standards at the local, state, and national levels in K-12 schools

            And what if the response of the immigrant group is that you are trying to destroy our culture by indoctrinating our kids with ideas inconsistent with it? That was more or less the attitude of both the Amish and the Gypsies. The Amish succeeded in winning the argument in the political/legal system, eventually with a 9/0 Supreme Court decision permitting them to take their kids out of school after eighth grade. The Romani succeeded for a while in simply evading the compulsory schooling rules, but I don’t think they are still doing so successfully.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            “Well, yes”, basically.

            At the end of the day, I think that multiculturalism is unstable and untenable as a long-term policy for a large state with high rates of immigration.

            My preferred solution would be for there to be lots of culturally, religiously, and politically diverse small states with relatively easy movement between most of them to allow people to free associate into stable groups (including varying degrees of mono- and multi-culturalism), something along the lines of the ‘archipelago’ concept Scott wrote about in an old post, but I don’t think that’s even on the table here on Earth.

          • Aapje says:

            @Cypren

            That is my interpretation of these 538 survey results, which IMO shows less personal animosity against black people, but greater anger at special treatment.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “Don’t put too many refugees from the same places together”

            How about not “putting” refugees anywhere, just let them have the same freedom to locate themselves that anyone else does?

          • Joseftstadter says:

            The culture the immigrants are being asked to assimilate to also matters. American culture dominates the world. The financial benefits of learning English are rather obvious, the social benefit of joining a “winning culture” are probably a strong inducement as well. US culture is generally optimistic, and promises a brighter future. On the other hand, what does your average Syrian or Moroccan perceive as the benefit of being “Dutch”, “Swedish” or “Austrian”? I suspect most immigrants to Netherlands couldn’t name one famous Dutch person other than maybe Arjen Robben. Even literate intellectual Syrians probably haven’t read Dutch writers or seen Dutch films. And what promises does Dutch culture make about the future? The Soviet Union was also very good at assimilating national minorities when the USSR was a world power with an optimistic vision of its own future and Russian culture seemed like a good bet. Modern Russia has notably more difficulty. Maybe part of the problem France and the UK have is the national sense of decline that lingers in their culture, and who wants to assimilate into that?

        • reasoned argumentation says:

          Immigrants bring their own values and culture with them. If they’re sufficiently outnumbered and not ghettoized by the majority, they conform to the majority culture over time. If they have enough close peer-group reinforcement, they don’t. Where do we draw that line, and how do we make sure that we’re doing it correctly?

          People who are violent and criminally inclined are bad neighbors. They don’t “get ghettoized” by the majority – the majority (plurality, minority, whatever) move away from them because they don’t like it when their daughters are raped and sons beaten up in schools. The result is isolated neighborhoods where they enforce the “no outsiders” rule though state ignored violence. It’s called a ghetto because the resulting ethnically homogeneous neighborhood is a terrible place to live due to being filled with people who are bad neighbors.

          Ethnically homogeneous neighborhoods made up of people who make good neighbors are called something else.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          America is pretty good about assimilation. Surely way better than Europe. Possibly because we expect them all to get jobs, which forces you into contact with people outside your family.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Perhaps part of why American is good at assimilation is because mainstream American culture is attractive– for commercial reasons, there’s optimization for offering things people like.

        • Mark says:

          I don’t think people care all that much about integration – no one is particularly concerned about the Hasidic Jews in London, and they are very insular – they have their own ambulances and everything.

          Perhaps it’s because they just get on with it and don’t seem to make much of a nuisance of themselves.

          • Wency says:

            As Reasoned Argumentation noted above, people mostly care about bad neighbors.

            There are perhaps other negative effects of ethnic diversity in the form of lower levels of societal trust (cf. Robert Putnam), but that’s a bit more abstract and we’re propagandized/conditioned to not notice it. Hence, Somali immigration is more controversial than Korean.

            I once lived in an apartment building where nearly all my neighbors were Koreans who spoke, at best, broken English. Quietest, cleanest neighbors I’ve ever had. Would easily prefer them over any set of native-born white American neighbors I’ve experienced. But of course, I’d have a much easier time befriending the latter group or exchanging favors with them (e.g. give my car a jump).

          • caethan says:

            Right. The Hasidim never cause any trouble.

  37. AlphaGamma says:

    On Italy and Greece- I know one Greek Jew who survived the war by escaping from Salonika to an island (IIRC Skopelos) which was occupied by the Italians rather than the Germans.

    Greece was divided into German, Italian and Bulgarian occupation areas. In general (not just in terms of what happened to the Jews) the Bulgarian occupation was the harshest and the Italian the least bad.

  38. cassander says:

    Timothy Snyder’s Black earth make a very convincing case that the key variable in the survival of European Jewery was whether or no the state they were members of survived. Modern states are bureaucratic, and bureaucrats, in their pedantic way, insist that forms be filled out and the rules followed. these protection were by no means ironclad, but in western europe, they created space that people could use to protect the jews. the Danish government, for example, would never have tolerated Einsatzgruppen wandering around copenhagen shooting people with big noses. And because that government existed, and could bargain with the nazi government, it could protect its citizens if it chose to do so. But even where there was no particular desire to protect jews, sheer bureaucratic fiction made the process of finding them, rounding them up, and killing them more costly, more time consuming, and less efficacious for the Germans.

    In the east, where states were abolished, there was no such bureaucratic friction. You talk of puppet states in the east, but puppet state goes to far. There was no polish state, there was simply a polish area under German military occupation. You could send Einsatzgruppen out to wander around and shoot Jews. Places like Romania, that were puppet states, actually kept their Jews far more alive.

    His book is a nice counterpart to Arendt’s . while it never uses the phrase, I think it creates a sort of “banality of good” which is interesting to contrast with her banality of evil. The vast majority of the bureaucrats who “resisted” the nazis did not care about jews as such, they just felt it was their job to make sure the proper forms were filled out, and that saved many lives.

    And on a less interesting, but important note, when speaking of pre-war german plans, it’s entirely inappropriate to speak of millions of jews. There were only a few hundred thousand jews in pre-war germany, and probably less than a million in the whole riech prior to the invasio of the USSR. Despite hitler’s plans for the east, the vast majority of thinking of the pre-war germans was about dealing with those jews, not the millions they would soon conqer

    • baconbacon says:

      To what extent did states survive because the German’s selected them for survival?

    • TenMinute says:

      That last part is a very important point. Looking at the previous Aliyah waves from the east, it would have been obvious that entire Jewish communities could just up and leave to better pastures, quite peacefully. (For values of “peaceful” that include “the usual eastern european treatment of jews”, admittedly)

      Of course, the British shutting down Jewish immigration to the holy land in the 30s probably didn’t help.

    • dwietzsche says:

      This gets at one of the problems that seems much more substantial in modern times, which is just that a nascent fascist (or whateverist) order looking to kill a certain subset of the population during WWII required the cooperation of bureaucrats because they needed information. They didn’t automatically know where to go and who to kill. I’m not sure this hurdle would even exist in the United States. An aspiring tyrant could organize lists of political targets based on facebook posts, and we’ve got the most precise political demographic maps ever devised. People could just start targeting red districts or blue districts if it ever came down to that kind of thing.

      • AnonEEmous says:

        AntiFa already doxes people constantly, and so does /pol/. So almost any target who speaks out online is in danger, and obviously so are physical speakers. That makes it pretty easy to at least neutralise your opponent’s speech, and really only political partisans who totally hide it in terms of online speech can get away with it.

        god bless america folks

      • cassander says:

        The US has the virtue of state governments, at least. I’ve often said that you can’t have a military coup in the US, because if you had a coup against republicans, the Texans would seceded, and if it was against democrats, California would. This overstates the case, but a strong tradition of federalism makes getting out of a polity going wrong a hell of a lot more viable because you have pre-established political identities and structures, a political get out bag.

        • BBA says:

          The Weimar constitution had a federal structure, with many of the states maintaining their identities from previous regimes dating back centuries. It didn’t impede Hitler in the slightest.

          • cassander says:

            Germans, as far as I know, have never talked openly of secession at any point since unification. Americans did it once, and talk about it often, if unseriously. And there are quite a few american states that would make viable independent entities on their own, the same can’t be said of Württemberg.

  39. stillnotking says:

    I first heard the “fewer” joke as a dig at Reagan about thirty years ago. (REAGAN: We need to convince the South Africans to mine less diamonds. BUSH: Mine fewer. REAGAN: Not in public, George!) A lot of people were seriously convinced that he was either a closet Nazi, or a machismo-obsessed cowboy who would start WWIII. I can’t help noticing the parallels with Trump. There are few times I agree with Mencius Moldbug, but his assessment of the left’s fascism neurosis seems pretty accurate. I also think the left has a tendency to underrate the importance of a leader projecting strength and decisiveness, even (especially!) in ways that seem crazy or counter-productive to national interest. One of the subtler ironies in Dr. Strangelove was the disastrous anti-machismo of its wonderfully named President Merkin Muffley. I assume we don’t need to talk about the fundamentals of game theory on this blog.

    I agree with your last paragraph, though: it really couldn’t happen here. It’s not just that America is too contrarian and skeptical in our national character, it’s that there’s no counterpart in the 21st-century US to the anti-Semitism of early 20th-century Germany. Every Gentile in Germany at that time thought of Jews as some kind of “problem”, even the liberal ones who didn’t wholly believe in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, or regarded Judaism as a misguided religion and not a tainted race. If you read the literature of the period, it’s striking how openly and casually this is discussed, even long before the rise of the Nazis. I’m thinking here of authors like Weininger. That level of society-wide, taken-for-granted prejudice does not exist today. It’s completely different from even the most intolerant modern right-winger’s attitude toward Muslims. Dearborn has not been burned to the ground by a Christian mob, nor will it be.

    • Autolykos says:

      On the game theory point: Blustering, machismo and feigning insanity (aka the North Korean Combination) only work as long as you’re the only one who does it. When two people using this approach meet, that’s how bar fights happen (or, between nations, wars).
      Drawing a clear line and being ready to defend it is different. But you should be careful not to draw that line around things you don’t want to fight for, or around things the other guy will fight for.

      • stillnotking says:

        Naturally, bluster has its problems too, but everyone knows that — hence the iconic image from Dr. Strangelove being Slim Pickens’ manly redneck Major Kong whooping it up as he rides the bomb, rather than the hapless Muffley. Its advantages are a little harder to see for those steeped in the ethos of modern civilization (but become apparent when looking at the animal kingdom).

        I think Trump is a shrewd enough negotiator to know when to push which button. Time will tell.

    • Murphy says:

      Think of the least popular ethnic groups in europe and america now.

      Personally I think a strong candidate is the Romani/travelers/gypsies.

      There’s a quite remarkable level of hatred directed at them and they’re very typically viewed as con-men, thieves etc.

      They were one of the groups rounded up and put in the camps during WW2. I could easily imagine the same thing happening again. Jews are not really the ones at risk from modern genocide.

      The Milgram Experiment was basically to address the belief that “it really couldn’t happen here”. Because a lot of people post WW2 genuinely seemed to believe that there was something uniquely evil about germans or german culture.

      There’s a weird recent bout of sort of hipster-objectors to that experiment who love to nitpick about experimental protocol or try to claim that since it wouldn’t make it past a modern ethics board we should ignore it as improper but the milgram experiment was replicated many times with many many variations with pretty much the same results. Some even argued that people must have seen through the experiment and realized they weren’t really hurting anyone so they repeated with a live puppy. Turns out most normal american college students will shock a puppy to death on command.

      Keep in mind that prior to WW2 the USA was already conducting mass sterilization programs (that the nazi’s also copied) and all the vaunted american obstructionism and cultural differences didn’t stop that.

      During WW2 the liberal supply of people with basements full of guns didn’t prevent the USA from rounding up US citizens for being ethnic Japanese.

      The only thing the US appeared to be lacking was leaders willing to issues decrees to actually murder the ethnic group in the camps. Americans were perfectly willing to accept the part about rounding up citizens into camps bit.

      It is not safe to rest too firmly on the belief that it just can’t happen in [insert country here] because they’re soooo special.

      • Aapje says:

        AFAIK the puppy was not given lethal shocks.

        • Murphy says:

          Yes, I think the top was marked as “Warning potentially lethal” or something but the puppy wasn’t actually given lethal shocks. Because that’s pretty much the end of the experiment, will people actually turn the dial all the way to 11 into the red and shock at maximum.

          When Stanley Milgram published the results of his obedience experiment in 1963, it sent shockwaves through the scientific community. Other researchers found it hard to believe that people could be so easily manipulated, and they searched for any mistakes Milgram might have made. Charles Sheridan and Richard King theorized that perhaps Milgram’s subjects had merely played along with the experiment because they realized the victim was faking his cries of pain. To test this possibility, Sheridan and King decided to repeat Milgram’s experiment, introducing one significant difference. Instead of using an actor, they would use an actual victim who would really get shocked. Obviously they couldn’t use a human for this purpose, so they used the next best thing — a cute, fluffy puppy.

          Sheridan and King told their subjects — volunteers from an undergraduate psychology course — that the puppy was being trained to distinguish between a flickering and a steady light. It had to stand either to the right or the left depending on the cue from the light. If the animal failed to stand in the correct place, the subjects had to press a switch to shock it. As in the Milgram experiment, the shock level increased 15 volts for every wrong answer. But unlike the Milgram experiment, the puppy really was getting zapped.

          As the voltage increased, the puppy first barked, then jumped up and down, and finally started howling with pain. The volunteers were horrified. They paced back and forth, hyperventilated, and gestured with their hands to show the puppy where to stand. Many openly wept. Yet the majority of them, twenty out of twenty-six, kept pushing the shock button right up to the maximum voltage.

          Intriguingly, the six students who refused to go on were all men. All thirteen women who participated in the experiment obeyed right up until the end.

          http://www.madsciencemuseum.com/msm/pl/shock_puppy

          • eyeballfrog says:

            “twenty out of twenty-six”

            Psychology once again amazes us with a sample size with *two* digits.

          • Autolykos says:

            If you have a strong effect, few parameters and little variance, that is a perfectly adequate sample size. With that kind of experiment, ethics boards will usually axe your proposal if your sample is too small as well as if it is too large, so I assume the (expected) power and significance was good enough, but not quite up to the standards of particle physics.

          • Murphy says:

            @eyeballfrog

            There’s a reason some jounals banned reviewers from simply saying the sample size was too small unless they could back it up with actual stats.

            Lets imagine a disease which kills almost 100% of people within a month of some stage.

            You’re trialing a treatment and you try it on 3 individuals.

            2 of them recover completely.

            That can be statistically significant, extremely so.

            In fact I’m describing a trial from a few years ago for treating extremely late stage cancer which was revolutionary.

      • stillnotking says:

        I’m not conversant enough with European attitudes toward the Roma to know if you’re right or not, but in America that definitely isn’t the case. Most Americans probably don’t even know who the Roma are.

        • Murphy says:

          Fair enough, I’m talking from a european POV. I think it struck home for me when a somethingawful thread came up about travelers and the most positive thing anyone said was something along the lines of “I worked with a couple for a while, they seemed ok” with almost everything else being accounts of being robbed, conned, attacked etc

        • JonathanD says:

          Seconded. In fact, here, Roma, who most folks would call gypsies, have a happy hippie sort of connotation. Connected in a vague way to new age-ness and Stevie Nicks.

          I only learned relatively recently that gypsy is a slur. I think in the broad American public this is altogether unknown.

          • Mediocrates says:

            Seconding this. In America, the cultural profile of the Roma seems similar to, well, the profile that Muslims had prior to the mid-20th century (and maybe post-Barbary Wars, don’t really know much about that period): a vaguely benign sense of “Arabian Nights” exoticism.

      • Think of the least popular ethnic groups in europe and america now.

        Personally I think a strong candidate is the Romani/travelers/gypsies.

        The Romani and Travelers are different ethnic groups with similar lifestyles. Romani in America are largely invisible–deliberately–and in the process of acculturating.

      • bean says:

        During WW2 the liberal supply of people with basements full of guns didn’t prevent the USA from rounding up US citizens for being ethnic Japanese.

        The only thing the US appeared to be lacking was leaders willing to issues decrees to actually murder the ethnic group in the camps. Americans were perfectly willing to accept the part about rounding up citizens into camps bit.

        Not even remotely the same thing. I’ve read a fair bit on this, and the picture painted by popular history is very one-dimensional. The Army (who had ended up in charge of internal security) basically was forced to remove the Japanese from the west coast by Congressional and popular pressure. They didn’t want to put them in camps. The original proposal was to restrict all aliens from areas of military importance (the Niihau incident makes it obvious why this was attempted), but those multiplied so quickly that it rapidly became easier to kick them out of the cities entirely, which quickly spread to the entire west coast. Before the camps, the Army tried to resettle them further East, but that failed because every state west of the Mississippi told them no. Lack of transport (and enlightened policies on the part of the local commanders) kept the Japanese from being removed from Hawaii until after Midway, when everyone calmed down a bit, but it was already too late for those on the mainland.
        Conflating what happened there with the Holocaust is nonsense.

        • Murphy says:

          My point wasn’t that it was almost the holocaust. My point was that when people say “it couldn’t happen here” they ignore that every step that would be necessary was pretty enthusiastically carried out by willing Americans.

          It’s like saying “nobody could rob my bank, no way. money being stolen from the vault? that could never ever happen at my bank because we fundamentally aren’t possible to rob” ….. when last week someone was able to waltz into the vault, spraypaint “I coulda robbed this place if I felt like it” across the walls then waltzed out.

          And when someone points this out then saying “you don’t get the point, that wasn’t a robbery, that was just graffiti, it’s nonsense to compare the 2”

          if you make a list of everything the government would need to do if it wanted to genocide an unpopular minority people will tend to go down the list going, “well, it would be stopped here by the people with basements full of guns, it would be stopped here by the anti-authoritarians and libertarians, it would be stopped here by the…” etc etc but they’re ignoring that the US actually did run through that checklist and non of those things worked.

          The security guard in your bank was asleep, the alarms were unplugged and the doors were left unlocked. The only item left unchecked on the list being [the person who gets into the vault actually wants to rob you]

          The only 2 items at the very end of the checklist for after you have your target group rounded up are

          [have soldiers willing to pull the triggers]

          and

          [have political leaders who actually want to issue the order to pull the triggers]

          The Milgram experiment shows that the first is simply not going to be a problem.( though many soldiers love to convince themselves that it doesn’t apply to them)

          So there was one single item on that checklist.

          One single item. Wanting to.

          • bean says:

            if you make a list of everything the government would need to do if it wanted to genocide an unpopular minority people will tend to go down the list going, “well, it would be stopped here by the people with basements full of guns, it would be stopped here by the anti-authoritarians and libertarians, it would be stopped here by the…” etc etc but they’re ignoring that the US actually did run through that checklist and non of those things worked.

            You’re attributing way too much agency to the government here. There was no nefarious and racist plan to lock up all the Japanese. There was a combination of quite reasonable internal security pressures (seriously, read a bit on the Niihau incident and racism and terror on the part of the public forcing the government to remove them at least in part as a public order measure. Yes, I’m serious about that. A large part of the motive was keeping them safe from pogroms, or, if we’re being really cynical, keeping pogroms from disrupting war work.
            (This also ignores things like the fact that quite a few Japanese students were allowed to attend college in the east during the war. There were lots of choices made during the interment that would have looked very different for an extermination program.)

          • Murphy says:

            I have the feeling that you’ve still 100% missed the point. Or just utterly ignored it in favor of attacking a position I’m not taking.

            Lets go back to the hypothetical bank:

            “but but but, the guy who spraypainted the inside of the bank vault didn’t rob the place! he’d have carried sacks for the loot, he didn’t even rob the bank clerks at the front like a real bank robber probably would have

            Let me spell this out because you seem to be intentionally ignoring this point. I am not claiming that the US was trying to genocide ethnic Japanese.

            I’m saying that almost every ironclad security measure that is supposed to stop such an event failed soundly, the only protection that actually worked was the goodwill and lack of genocidal desires on behalf of the American leaders.

            This isn’t about agency. This isn’t about “nefarious and racist plan”s.
            This isn’t claiming there was any such plan.

            It’s saying that actual events illustrate a fundamental process failure.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I don’t believe there was any genocidal intent in the internment of Japanese-Americans.

            I do believe that if the war had gone badly for the US and there was a food shortage there might well have been genocide.

            Interning people puts them at risk.

          • Cliff says:

            Your argument seems to be that 70 years ago it was possible to round up a large number of a minority, therefore they could have been genocided if the president had wanted to. I do not think that is logically or actually true. Going from the Milgram experiment to “it would be no problem ordering soldiers to massacre civilians” is quite a reach.

          • bean says:

            I do believe that if the war had gone badly for the US and there was a food shortage there might well have been genocide.

            Interning people puts them at risk.

            If the war had gone badly enough that there was a food shortage (really, really unlikely), then I expect there would have been a genocide either way. Not interning people puts them at risk of lynch mobs, and I believe that was a very real risk on the West Coast in the spring of 42. In an alt-hist where food shortages develop in the US and the Japanese are somehow not interned (the first is borderline impossible, the second fantastically unlikely conditional on the first), the lynch mobs will turn into full-out pogroms.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        In America, people are occasionally killed for being Jews or associating with Jews.

        So far as I know, this isn’t happening to Roma in the US or people who associated with them.

        It wouldn’t surprise me if prejudce against Roma in the US is more widespread but less intense.

        • cassander says:

          >In America, people are occasionally killed for being Jews or associating with Jews.

          Are they? I would expect something like that to be pretty big news.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I think the most recent one was in 2014.

            2009.

            These stories were big news when they happened.

            In these cases, the people killed weren’t Jews, but Jews were the intended targets. I don’t know when the most recent murder in the US of a Jew for being Jewish was.

        • John Schilling says:

          I think the median American view of the Roma is:

          A: Romans? Yeah, great civilization way back when but what’s that got to do with us?

          B: Oh, Gypsies. Traveling grifters and petty thieves, not up to doing any real harm and good for some local color.

          C: Wait, people used to kill those guys, or put them in concentration camps? That’s way out of line.

          With Jews, the three-sigma intolerance extends to conspiracy theories where they control the banks and the media and can cause real and substantial harm to the rest of us so we’d better do it to them first. There’s no corresponding theory where the Roma can cause any harm that requires more than just not associating with them to prevent. Maybe you want to run them out of your shop, or your town, but that’s about it. And even that is increasingly rare, when we’ve got Mexicans and Muslims we haven’t run out of town yet.

    • 1soru1 says:

      > it’s that there’s no counterpart in the 21st-century US to the anti-Semitism of early 20th-century Germany.

      Correction; there is no comparison with Germany in the mid 1930s onward. In, say, 1910, most Germans thought that the 1880 proposal to limit Jewish immigration was a historical outrage, and nothing comparable could ever happen again in a civilized country.

      It wasn’t an ancient ethnic hatred spontaneously bubbling up. The political organisation with a need for that narrative preceded the people who seriously believed and acted on that narrative.

      • Murphy says:

        I’m reminded on one of scotts old posts

        http://squid314.livejournal.com/329171.html

        “Suppose you were a Jew in old-timey Eastern Europe. The big news story is about a Jewish man who killed a Christian child. As far as you can tell the story is true. It’s just disappointing that everyone who tells it is describing it as “A Jew killed a Christian kid today”. You don’t want to make a big deal over this, because no one is saying anything objectionable like “And so all Jews are evil”. Besides you’d hate to inject identity politics into this obvious tragedy. It just sort of makes you uncomfortable.

        The next day you hear that the local priest is giving a sermon on how the Jews killed Christ. This statement seems historically plausible, and it’s part of the Christian religion, and no one is implying it says anything about the Jews today. You’d hate to be the guy who barges in and tries to tell the Christians what Biblical facts they can and can’t include in their sermons just because they offend you. It would make you an annoying busybody. So again you just get uncomfortable.

        The next day you hear people complain about the greedy Jewish bankers who are ruining the world economy. And really a disproportionate number of bankers are Jewish, and bankers really do seem to be the source of a lot of economic problems. It seems kind of pedantic to interrupt every conversation with “But also some bankers are Christian, or Muslim, and even though a disproportionate number of bankers are Jewish that doesn’t mean the Jewish bankers are disproportionately active in ruining the world economy compared to their numbers.” So again you stay uncomfortable.

        Then the next day you hear people complain about Israeli atrocities in Palestine, which is of course terribly anachronistic if you’re in old-timey Eastern Europe but let’s roll with it. You understand that the Israelis really do commit some terrible acts. On the other hand, when people start talking about “Jewish atrocities” and “the need to protect Gentiles from Jewish rapacity” and “laws to stop all this horrible stuff the Jews are doing”, you just feel worried, even though you personally are not doing any horrible stuff and maybe they even have good reasons for phrasing it that way.

        Then the next day you get in a business dispute with your neighbor. If it’s typical of the sort of thing that happened in this era, you loaned him some money and he doesn’t feel like paying you back. He tells you you’d better just give up, admit he is in the right, and apologize to him – because if the conflict escalated everyone would take his side because he is a Christian and you are a Jew. And everyone knows that Jews victimize Christians and are basically child-murdering Christ-killing economy-ruining atrocity-committing scum.

        He has a point – not about the scum, but about that everyone would take his side. Like the Russians in the missile defense example above, you have allowed your opponents to build a superweapon.”

        These things grow slowly but eventually the gain momentum.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I might as well re-recommend “Mr. Costello, Hero” by Theodore Sturgeon– a science fiction story about a man with a compulsion to take the tiniest divisions between people and increase suspicion until he’s in charge.

        Riraghnyyl, gur nhgubevgvrf pngpu hc jvgu uvz naq ur’f rkvyrq gb na vfynaq jurer ur fcraqf uvf gvzr frggvat naguvyyf ntnvafg rnpu bgure.

        If possible, get a copy of the text version: the X Minus One podcast is significantly different.

        It can be found in A Saucer of Loneliness, quite a good collection.

  40. JayMan says:

    “Culture” is inadequate; there’s not much light between Danish and German culture

    Scott, you should know better than that. There are significant differences between Germans and Danes, indeed, differences between different Germans.

    Two groups can be highly similar overall but differ in a way that makes a huge impact depending on the context.

  41. Subb4k says:

    Interesting. Would you recommend buying the book after having read the review? I was thinking of reading it recently, so I’d like to know if I’m likely to get much more than what you touched on already.

    I also want to point out one thing:

    I am sure the French count this as a moral victory nowadays, though it’s a very selective sort of morality.

    Nope, we don’t. I’m French and I didn’t even know the Vichy government dragged its feet when it came to French Jews. It does make sense, come to think of it, as I knew Léon Blum (socialist, jewish, former head of government… not exactly things the nazis are fans of) was only arrested and tortured (but not killed or deported) in 1944.

    But nevertheless, no one makes a point about Vichy resisting hading over any Jews. The majority political discourse on this is that the Vichy régime is equally responsible for the Holocaust as the Nazi régime. And then you have the not-quite-Holocaust-denialist-but-really-it-wasn’t-so-bad crowd, but they don’t really make a difference between foreign and French Jews either, AFAIK (for my own sanity I try to listen to them as little as possible). Also, they’re way in the minority, but sadly not as much as we’d like (not all of the FN voters fall into this, but a sizeable portion does). It’s also common knowledge that it was waaaaay safer for Jews to live in the areas under Italian occupation (three départements in the South-East) than in either the “free zone” (i.e. free of Axis troops, only under Pétain’s authority) or the area under German occupation.

    I won’t deny that France tends to pride itself a little too much on some aspects of its past, including the Résistance (if you listen to some people, 95% of French or so must have been in the Résistance and one wonders how Pétain ever got anything done). However, this national delusion emphasises the role of the people working against the government, no one is absolving the government of any crimes. At least not since I remember, it’s true the official recognition of the culpability of the state (as opposed to select individuals) only came in 1995.

  42. NIP says:

    I’ve been sitting on something I’ve wanted to share with Scott and the commenters here for quite some time, but didn’t quite have the courage to. This seems as good a thread to do this as any. So here goes:

    I stumbled upon a video a year or two ago which is critical of (a specfic part of) the Holocaust narrative. Now, prior to this I had had little interest in the Holocaust as a historical subject. The only direct exposure I had to it growing up, other than the usual tales in school and on the History channel, was when I picked up Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus in my highschool library. I thoroughly enjoyed it, though of course the tale it told and the implications of it disturbed me. I read the novel once, registered the Holocaust as a depressing fact, and then basically put it out of my mind.

    Then, a year or two ago as I mentioned, I found a link to a youtube video. It was very different from anything I had ever seen. Though the creator of it remains anonymous (very prudent of him), from several obvious clues one can tell that he is (or was; it seems to have been produced sometime during Bush’s presidency) a progressive university student in the Bay Area – not very different from the background of our host, or of the commentariat here. Also not very different from Scott and the commenters here, he makes extensive use of critical thinking and primary sources in his arguments. There is no soundtrack, except in places where the video clips themselves have. There is no clever editing. There are no emotional appeals or rhetoric. This is not a “documentary” in the modern popular mold. The first time I saw it, I watched all four hours and fifteen minutes of it. I was stunned. Then I watched it again.

    I’d like, if I may, to share this video with you all to see what you make of it. To avoid turning this thread into a shitstorm of epic rather than normal proportions, I will refrain from discussing the exact details of this video with anyone who hasn’t sat down and watched the thing in its entirety. It’s over four hours long, so if most of you choose to decline, I entirely understand, but politely request that if you don’t watch the whole thing then please do not comment. Just ignore this thread entirely. I hope you’ll agree that this is a necessary measure, and not a case of me running away giggling after baiting a flame war. That is not my intention. The controversial nature of the material being discussed means that limiting participation to those who know the exact particulars is absolutely necessary to prevent this thread from turning into a disaster. I tentatively trust that you’re all mature enough to agree to these terms, and not to comment unless you’ve watched the whole thing. I will ignore any comments which do not adhere to these terms.

    Some final clarifications, since as you may have noticed I’m being slightly circumspect (there is a reason for this):

    -I am not a “Holocaust denier” or an anti-semite, nor have I ever been. The contents of the video I’m about to share with you have not caused me to become either of these things. What they have done is cause me to become interested in critically re-examining the conventional narrative of the Holocaust. I hope the same will be true for you.
    -My purpose in sharing this is partly to provoke critical thought on an area of history on which I now believe there has been some myopia, and also to get a second opinion from a group of people who are probably the closest thing to “fair and objective” on the internet. So, not very, but better than most. The implications of this video, if true, are extremely disturbing to me, and it’d be nice to hear someone else’s perspective. Please don’t presume that I’ve made up my mind on anything or that I’m coming at this topic with an axe to grind or with prejudice.
    -If you care at all about the truth, about giving all perspectives a fair shake, and about understanding how there can be obstinacy from certain parties on matters of apparently settled fact, please watch this video. Don’t just virtue signal in the comments. For God’s sake.

    Without further ado, here is a link to the video on YouTube. If you don’t want it in your history, I’ve also made a Mega download so you can watch it at your leisure.

    • Nita says:

      [meta]

      I realize that I risk losing my generously granted maturity badge by posting this comment, but you still might want to answer if you want more people to invest the significant amount of time required.

      Do you want to talk about this because the different versions of history have major practical implications, or because you find the possibility of inaccurate historical narratives disturbing in itself?

      If I spend 4 hours of my life just to learn that the casualty count might be off by an order of magnitude, or that more victims were shot than gassed, or that many of them were communists, I’m going to want that time back. (Obviously, others may have other preferences.)

      ETA: Forgot to include “it was the result of gross incompetence / strained resources during the war, instead of a flawlessly executed plan” in the list of examples.

      • NIP says:

        I’ll grant this one exception, since I knew it’d be very difficult for everyone to abide strictly to the rules in my OP due to sheer curiosity. But just this one. I’m going to ignore anyone else who hasn’t actually watched it. (Yes, I realize this means probably only a handful of people will. I don’t care.)

        Do you want to talk about this because the different versions of history have major practical implications, or because you find the possibility of inaccurate historical narratives disturbing in itself?

        Both.

        If I spend 4 hours of my life just to learn that the casualty count might be off by an order of magnitude, or that more victims were shot than gassed, or that many of them were communists, I’m going to want that time back.

        If you take away what I did from the experience, you will learn something far more revelatory than that. Again, I’m going to refrain from discussing specific details, so that no one has any grounds to start an argument over anything other than the video itself.

        • Nita says:

          If you take away what I did from the experience, you will learn something far more revelatory than that.

          Why would you mislead me like this? He’s not claiming even an order of magnitude. That is strictly less revelatory than what I explicitly specified 🙁

    • Said Achmiz says:

      Look, man, it’s four hours. I’m willing to grant a presumption of honesty on your part, but it’s four hours. Give us a tl;dw. Point us in a direction, at least! Heck, how about this: at what point in the video does the narrator state his central claim / thesis / point?

      I’m perfectly willing to consider whatever the argument is, but watching four-hour videos isn’t something I do, ever, under any circumstances. You have to realize that this is a uniquely terrible way of conveying information. (Putting everything on a single unadorned web page, for instance, would be a tremendous improvement.)

      Edit: Ok, found it. Here it is, in rot13 in case anyone genuinely wants to sit through 4 hours of monotone droning (sorry, NIP, but the “uninflected emotionless voice” thing is a painfully common feature of conspiracy-nut youtube videos):

      Ur fnlf gung gur Ubybpnhfg qvqa’g unccra, naq gur nyyrtrq Wrjvfu ivpgvzf va snpg nyy fheivirq, naq whfg rzvtengrq gb Vfenry nsgre gur jne.

      Edit2: Nyfb, Fgrcura Fcvryoret jnf qryvorengryl gelvat gb vafgvyy frys-ungerq, qrzbenyvmngvba, naq thvyg va gur Trezna crbcyr (jvgu _Fpuvaqyre’f Yvfg_, gur Fubnu Cebwrpg, rgp.)

      In short: this is hackneyed Holocaust denialism. I am disappoint.

      • Anon. says:

        >this is hackneyed Holocaust denialism

        I’d say this was already obvious from the video description.

        • Said Achmiz says:

          Sure, the signs were all there, but this is SSC, so when someone posts an impassioned plea for consideration like NIP did, I think it’s useful—and epistemically virtuous—for someone to take the effort to verify. Today, I did my tiny part by being that someone 🙂

      • NIP says:

        Alright, fuck it. Breaking my own rules here. I guess I’m not sure what I expected; for people to simply ignore the thread as I asked if they weren’t willing to commit? To not blithely dismiss the source with a wall of fnords and tell others not to read it?

        uniquely terrible way of conveying information monotone droning painfully common feature of conspiracy-nut youtube videos hackneyed Holocaust denialism I am disappoint

        Exactly what useful information did you convey here? Note that I’m incapable of reading whatever code gobbledygook it was that you wrote.

        watching four-hour videos isn’t something I do, ever, under any circumstances

        Which frankly isn’t my concern. You did exactly what I didn’t want anyone to do: not watch it, not discuss it, and then still go on to cherry-pick what I presume is some straw-point that your prejudice leans you to think he’s making instead of the point he actually made with 4 hours of carefully gathered evidence. Boo on you, sir. Boo.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        >watching four-hour videos isn’t something I do, ever, under any circumstances.

        >He didn’t watch the extended edition of the LotR movies

        • Said Achmiz says:

          Right you are. I tried marathoning that with some friends once.

          The upside of that experience is that it got us some much-needed sleep.

    • Said Achmiz says:

      Meta comment:

      If you avoid putting your claim/thesis/point in the post, and act evasive and coy like this, you are showing that you distrust your readers.

      Here on SSC, people entertain all sorts of extremely controversial claims, so such evasive behavior isn’t just insulting to the reader, it’s also just unnecessary. That makes it a fairly reliable signal of poor content quality.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Additional meta-comment:

        By attempting to apply conditions that would forestall the people who have a great deal of knowledge of the subject area from commenting without watching the four hour video, he signals an unwillingness to accept that their is already a large amount of high quality scholarship around the question.

        • Randy M says:

          These are on point; NIP, if commenters here are likely to freak out that you are an evil denialist, they’ll do so even in the face of your careful admonitions to consider the evidence, and the rest are going to be unlikely to watch the whole thing in time for you to get an even shake even if you beg them, so it’s better to just sum up the strongest bit of evidence you can’t seem to contradict, and ask for help resolving it.

          • NIP says:

            if commenters here are likely to freak out that you are an evil denialist, they’ll do so even in the face of your careful admonitions to consider the evidence, and the rest are going to be unlikely to watch the whole thing in time for you to get an even shake even if you beg them

            I was hoping against hope that in SSC of all places, that wouldn’t be true. But I guess every day’s a school day. I don’t think it’s hard to understand my reluctance in being totally forthright, is it? Considering what happens irl to people who critically approach this subject even with a ten foot pole…

      • NIP says:

        Meta-meta-comment:

        I made no thesis, claim or point. My post was literally “hey, anyone who’s willing to watch this in its entirety, I’d appreciate your feedback.” I made clear multiple times that this would limit the pool of potential commenters and that most people should simply ignore the thread. Your passive-agressive virtue signalling shows me exactly why I should apparently distrust SSC readers.

        • suntzuanime says:

          You can ask for things, but that doesn’t obligate people to give them to you. In particular, demanding commentors jump through onerous hurdles before they can comment is not a right that you automatically have. You can’t trust SSC readers not to make fun of you for trying to get them to watch a 4-hour video of holocaust heterodoxy without even telling them why you think it might be worthwhile. That is an amount that you should distrust SSC readers, and hopefully now that you’ve learned you won’t make posts like that in the future.

          • NIP says:

            For your sake fampai, I will try to take that into consideration. The responses I got were still #rude and uncalled-for, tbh.

        • Said Achmiz says:

          It seems unlikely to me that you posted, and are discussing, in good faith. (Insert comment about ducks walking and quacking, etc.) But, it is possible. So here is a question:

          Do you really think that four straight hours of video is the best way to convey the content of that link? What’s more: is it the only way to convey that content? (Do text versions not exist? If not: why might that be?)

          You’re asking for a lot of investment of time and effort, from would-be interlocutors. You yourself have not put in a commensurate amount of effort to engage us. Here is something you might do, which would, I think, benefit you (still assuming good faith), and it would certainly benefit anyone who wants to engage with you on this topic:

          Write out the arguments in the video. If you’re feeling ambitious, write a transcript; if not, a summary of key points (ideally, with time codes, for anyone who wants to go directly to the video for the full version) will do. Are there key pieces of evidence shown visually? Screenshot or frame-capture them as image files. Put it all on a simple web page (no fancy formatting needed).

          Then, link us to the resulting text version, and you will find no shortage of people here who will be quite willing to comment.

          • NIP says:

            Do you really think that four straight hours of video is the best way to convey the content of that link?

            Dude, I was essentially asking for a film review from any fellow commenters who happened to be 1) curious and 2) drowning in free time, so…yes? But whatever, apparently this is too much to ask. So – with the understanding that the views and arguments put forth will not be my own, but merely a steelman for the sake of discussion – I’ll do as you ask. It’ll take me a few days, probably. I’ll put it in one of the open threads.

            EDIT: Given everyone’s comments I think this might be a case of culture shock. I’m coming here from an imageboard culture full of NEETs with a hunger for heterodox opinions, and I seemed to have forgotten that the makeup of commenters here leans more towards “books, charts, and graphs” rather than what are (to me) easily-digestible videos, of any length.

          • Nornagest says:

            I have way, way less patience for video than I do for just about any other medium. Unless it’s a Kurosawa movie or something, you would literally have to pay me to sit through four hours of it — and even then I’d probably complain a lot.

            Get me a transcript, though, and I’ll read it.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            I second Nornagest: video is a uniquely terrible medium. I watch films and TV shows, but I have to be entertained by them, and not just plot-wise—also stylistically, etc. Informational videos are absolutely the worst.

            I think you’ll find that many people here are curious, but relatively few are drowning in free time. Consider this, also: some people (such as folks on the autism spectrum or similar in mental make-up, and/or those with deficits in attention span, focus, etc.) have much more difficulty processing “live” input streams than async sources like text or data graphics. Some people have auditory processing difficulties specifically (myself included). Having to pay attention (that is: sufficient attention to understand and consider, rather than just passively being entertained) to a continuous stream of visual data, and a continuous stream of audio data, is challenging. Doing it for four hours is essentially impossible.

            In short: a video is not “easily-digestible”, and a four-hour video is the equivalent of a meal made entirely of solid granite.

            Anyway. Yeah, culture shock is real. Thanks for being understanding about it.

          • NIP says:

            @Said Amiz

            I think you’ll find that many people here are curious, but relatively few are drowning in free time

            Yeah, that’s my bad. I really should have known better what with the ads for mealsquares and time-managing software on the sidebar.

            Consider this, also: some people (such as folks on the autism spectrum or similar in mental make-up, and/or those with deficits in attention span, focus, etc.) have much more difficulty processing “live” input streams than async sources like text or data graphics. Some people have auditory processing difficulties specifically (myself included). Having to pay attention (that is: sufficient attention to understand and consider, rather than just passively being entertained) to a continuous stream of visual data, and a continuous stream of audio data, is challenging. Doing it for four hours is essentially impossible.

            I was unaware of this and I apologize if that made it seem like my request was made in bad faith. Where I’m from, “Hey, watch this 4-hour video” isn’t necessarily a ridiculous request (especially in the case of captured livestreams and so forth). As long as it’s not made in the course of an argument (something which I tried to make clear in my OP) it’s seen simply as an invitation to possibly interesting content. I’ll try to be more sensitive to people’s cognitive and lifestyle differences around here in future, fam.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @NIP:
            The other thing you are missing is that a) you say you don’t know much about the history of the Holocaust, and b) there are people here who are quite familiar with all the relevant history around WW2 and are familiar with various attempts at revisionist history around it.

            They won’t need to view the entirety of the four hours to be able to provide cogent feedback on how plausible the thesis or its main points of support are.

            The fact that you reject the possibility of this makes it look like you are trying to put a thumb on the scales, so to speak.

          • eyeballfrog says:

            “I’m coming here from an imageboard culture full of NEETs with a hunger for heterodox opinions”

            You came here from /pol/?

          • Deiseach says:

            I think the problem definitely is “video versus text”. I won’t even watch a five-minute training video (I can’t absorb information that way, I need to read it) so the chances of me voluntarily watching somebody yammering away for four hours are nil.

            Give me honking great wodges of text to read, however – now you’re talking!

        • beleester says:

          This sounds an awful lot like “Just asking questions” trickery. The Pizzagate guys aren’t making a claim, they’re just saying that this pizza place is suspicious and deserves investigation. The 9/11 truthers aren’t making a claim, they’re just discussing some interesting facts about the collapse. And so on. It’s a very common way of presenting this sort of thing.

          It’s possible you really are just trying to get a review of this video without endorsing it, but you’ll forgive me for not believing you.

          • Cypren says:

            I will confess to having had the same immediate suspicion. “I don’t endorse this, but isn’t it interesting that…” is one of the oldest and lamest tricks in the propaganda book.

    • Mark says:

      I’ve watched it at double speed with some skipping – here are my thoughts:

      1) Many of the arguments take the form “This seems a bit unlikely. This man is therefore a liar” – “hey, look I can think of a more efficient design for a gas chamber, why would anyone build it like this?”, “a guy with a pointy beard, with a clock around his neck – please!”, “the bullet passed through his clothing but didn’t penetrate his skin? Obvious liar!”, “why would they need to cut their hair?”
      I think those are pretty weak arguments, and it makes the video more off-putting than it needs to be. He doesn’t do enough to justify the strength of some of his conclusions.

      2) Some of the arguments seem to be nit-picking or bizarre – “The Germans were the only nation with jet airplanes and advanced rocket science, what method did they use to transport the bodies to the pit – dragging?” “look at how the graves are supposedly oriented, the German army would never have done it like that”

      3) There do seem to be some legitimate discrepancies, which I have no way of evaluating – burial space, well water and decomposing bodies, building fires, swampy lands, physical evidence, Soviet propaganda – I’d be interested to hear the counter-arguments.
      It seems mad that people can be arrested for making these statements.

      There do seem to be question marks over some of the witness statements.

      So, I’m kind of interested in this, but I really can’t recommend this video for general viewership. Because of the style and length it’s really one for connoisseurs of holocaust denial only.
      Are there any other videos where the key arguments are more succinctly presented?

      All in all, I think I’d rather he had presented the strongest arguments first, and left the colour commentary for the end, and left off the weak arguments.

      • Izaak says:

        I’m part of the way through the video; not 100% done, so my apology if this misses something.

        The problem with history is that it is 50% witness testimony, 40% testimony of those who are removed from the witnesses, and 10% very noisy data. Couple that with the fact that there is so much data in the universe on this stuff, it’s easy to find flaws in any historical argument, no matter how well accepted.

    • NIP says:

      @Everyone

      Site keeps eating my comments…fiddlesticks.

      I’d be happy to discuss this topic with you all next week. Let’s say next Wednesday’s open thread. I’ll be writing up a transcript of the video into a .txt file with image links and timestamps and so forth, and it will take me a while. Also, I’m frankly mortified at how badly I handled introducing this topic. I have severe social anxiety and it’ll take some time for me to recuperate from this faux pas. Until then, feel free to pretend this thread never happened.

    • Deiseach says:

      Okay, I decided to give that video a try. I wish I hadn’t. Just to pull out one plum from the rich pie:

      A modern-day German spa glass marked in millilitres, so you know how much of the mineral water you have drunk, shows the efficiency and precision of German culture. This demonstrates that the claimed “diesel engine of a train failed to work and it took more than two hours to fix it” in a book about a particular incident set during the war cannot, therefore, have happened (because it would be highly inefficient and blundering) and must therefore be false and a complete lie.

      That’s the level of logic this four hour video is working on, folks. If those are the kind of amazing revelatory takeaways NIP was getting from this, I genuinely don’t know what to say in response. The narrator has a trick of taking a passage from the disputed book, often an anecdote, and going “I wouldn’t have done this/done it this way” and then concluding “and so it can’t have happened”, instead of considering that he simply does not understand the point of petty cruelties (why hang a clock around a man’s neck and make him time three-minute permissible periods to use the privy? well, why did an American sheriff dress prisoners in pink underwear?), does not get it at all, and does not allow for the snarls and inefficiencies of real life (see the breakdown of the diesel engine anecdote).

      • dndnrsn says:

        That is … profoundly ignorant of WWII. Everyone who knows anything about the German war machine knows that it was not a particularly well-functioning machine as far as logistics and so forth, and that the German reputation for hypercompetence and efficiency is, in reality, uneven. Of course, most Holocaust deniers are hardly characterized by their accurate knowledge of that period of history, so…

      • bean says:

        This is also the country that built an aircraft carrier with a symmetrical hull. They had plans of other people’s carriers, and noticed that all of them had asymmetrical hulls. They weren’t going to be so stupid. Of course, after Graf Zeppelin was launched, they discovered that the off-center weight of the island made her list, so that she had to be refitted with asymmetrical bulges.
        Overall, the Germans were very good at some aspects of technology, and mediocre at others. Their project management was generally terrible, and they lacked the discipline to shut down weird and generally pointless diversions of their resources on things that didn’t help the war effort. For instance, they produced as many weird one-off airplanes as the US did, but from a much smaller industrial base. (The only exception to this rule I’m aware of is their atomic bomb project, but that’s probably selection bias talking.)
        For that matter, a lot of their vaunted”advanced technology” was a combination of rushing things into service well before they were really ready and the fact that the war ended before the allied equivalents (which had been properly debugged, at least partly because they weren’t seen as absolutely necessary for victory) were in service. Jet fighters are perhaps the best example of this.
        The other big factor was that the areas where the allies had a big lead were a combination of less interesting to the general public (radar) and less well-documented for security reasons (proximity fuses).
        For that matter, why don’t the allies generally get credit for the Atomic Bomb in the tech race? Before that, everything else pales into insignificance.

        • cassander says:

          to be fair, the Kriegsmarine seems to have been especially inept, even by the standards of german long range planning. How can you possibly convince yourself that “high seas fleet 2, this time with less time and less money” was a good plan?

          • dndnrsn says:

            Presumably they figured it would bring them more prestige within the Wehrmacht as a whole.

          • bean says:

            to be fair, the Kriegsmarine seems to have been especially inept, even by the standards of german long range planning. How can you possibly convince yourself that “high seas fleet 2, this time with less time and less money” was a good plan?

            The same logic that they used to convince themselves that the first one was a good idea, namely none. German strategic thinking before WWI was somewhere between ‘lacking’ and ‘completely absent’. I’m currently reading Norman Friedman’s Fighting the Great War at Sea, and Tirpitz seems to have basically built the High Seas Fleet because he could. There was no strategic role, no deep thought. Just empire-building. There were also weird things like the Navy Laws specifying number of battleships years in advance, which was why the Germans stuck with 11″ and 12″ guns for so long, because it kept the size of the ships down.
            I’m not particularly familiar with the philosophy behind the KM (waiting until he comes out with a book on that) but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it was exactly the same. They did make noises in the direction of commerce raiding vs fleet actions, but I think the surface fleet had a lot more to do with the power of the surface warfare community than anything else.

          • cassander says:

            @bean

            I wouldn’t say there was no strategic thought but I would agree completely that Tirpitz wanted to build ships, and set about concotcting a half assed excuse for doing so. That said, Tirpitz at least had a couple of decades to try to build up his fleet, and unprecedented amounts of money. Raeder thought he had 5 years and had vastly less money, and tried to run the same damned planned that failed the first time.

          • bean says:

            I wouldn’t say there was no strategic thought but I would agree completely that Tirpitz wanted to build ships, and set about concotcting a half assed excuse for doing so. That said, Tirpitz at least had a couple of decades to try to build up his fleet, and unprecedented amounts of money.

            Friedman is a very careful scholar, and functionally a God of Naval History. The “Risk Theory” was essentially ex post facto, according to him. There was very little coordinated strategic thought among the Germans, to the point where the Army High Command actually arranged for the Kaiser to be on a diplomatic trip during the runup to the war.
            (Also, note that the Germans were relying on the British attempting a close blockade. That didn’t happen, and was stupid to think would definitely happen.)

            Raeder thought he had 5 years and had vastly less money, and tried to run the same damned planned that failed the first time.

            I’ll get back to you when Friedman comes out with a book on that. Or when I can find a good one on the subject from other sources. Dulin & Garzke may have some information, and I’ll take a look at it. But I tend to think it was a case of “It is the best, and German must have the best!” What I know of their strategic and economic policies (Wages of Destruction is still on my to-read list, sadly) suggests that this was quite common.
            Edit:
            Dulin & Garzke suggests that Hitler was a serious battleship advocate, and largely responsible for the growth of the H class designs later in the war. (So he had some taste, just a complete lack of sense in applying it.) The German naval program was apparently initially directed against France, which makes a warped degree of sense. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were counters to Dunkirk and Strasbourg, while Bismarck and Tirpitz were aimed at Richelieu and Jean Bart. My knowledge of interwar diplomacy is too limited (outside of the naval treaties) to know if a separate war was feasible, but when the British got involved, the whole thing fell apart.

          • Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were counters to Dunkirk and Strasbourg, while Bismarck and Tirpitz were aimed at Richelieu and Jean Bart. My knowledge of interwar diplomacy is too limited (outside of the naval treaties) to know if a separate war was feasible,

            My memory of something I read long ago on naval diplomacy between the wars is that the British were pushing for a maximum size of battleships, which gave them an advantage, since there was a tradeoff between cruising range and fighting power. Britain had bases all over the world, so with such a limit could build more powerful ships with shorter range than competitors.

            Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were deliberately built small so as to please the British.

          • bean says:

            My memory of something I read long ago on naval diplomacy between the wars is that the British were pushing for a maximum size of battleships, which gave them an advantage, since there was a tradeoff between cruising range and fighting power. Britain had bases all over the world, so with such a limit could build more powerful ships with shorter range than competitors.

            Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were deliberately built small so as to please the British.

            This is plausible, but not necessarily true. The British did spend the late 20s and early 30s pushing for a reduction in the Treaty Battleship limit from 35,000 tons to 25,000 tons, although it wasn’t really an attempt to gain a relative advantage over others so much as an attempt to hold down the cost of battleships. (They pushed even harder for limits on cruisers, because there they really needed numbers, and didn’t want to underbuild in terms of quality too badly.) The Scharnhorst design began as an evolved panzerschiffe and eventually specialized as a counter to the Dunkerque-class. I suspect their size had more to do with role than with appeasing the British, and what appeasement there was probably had more to do with them looking less threatening and less to do with (claimed) adherence to proposed treaty limits.
            I’ve skimmed my copy of Friedman’s book on British battleships, and it doesn’t mention anything of this sort. That’s not proof, however, and I intend to go over it more carefully when I get the time.

          • @Bean:

            You sound knowledgeable on the subject. Can you offer a guess about the author of the book I was describing? I remembered it as by Fletcher Pratt, but so far as I can tell he did not write any such book.

            As best I recall it was written shortly before WWII, and so had the advantage of lacking hindsight bias. It gave a fairly cynical picture of the post WWI arms control negotiations, starting with the objective of holding down armaments in general, morphing into naval limitations, and ending in the first round with an agreement to eliminate a huge tonnage of warships, consisting of obsolete ships that were no longer useful (predreadnaughts) and ships that had been started during the war and that the countries in question didn’t want to pay the cost of finishing.

            The only losers were the Japanese who, for various reasons, wanted to keep what everyone else wanted so scrap.

            Any guess on what I’m remembering?

          • bean says:

            You sound knowledgeable on the subject. Can you offer a guess about the author of the book I was describing? I remembered it as by Fletcher Pratt, but so far as I can tell he did not write any such book.

            Actually, I think it was by Fletcher Pratt, Sea Power and Today’s War. I have a library copy of that book at home. It was published in the fall of ’39, just after war broke out, but written pre-war. I read the first few pages, and am not sure if I’m going to get back to it. (I got 15 books on that trip.)

            It gave a fairly cynical picture of the post WWI arms control negotiations, starting with the objective of holding down armaments in general, morphing into naval limitations,

            This is indeed what it said, but I honestly can’t say that I’ve heard it from anywhere else, and it made me very suspect of the reliability of the rest (which is why I stopped reading it).
            If that’s the source for your comment on the Scharnhorsts (and I’ll check when I get home), then I’m definitely going to come down on the side of ‘plausible but not true’. Trying to assess enemy naval policy in real time is a very imperfect art, and later works will do a much better job.

            and ending in the first round with an agreement to eliminate a huge tonnage of warships, consisting of obsolete ships that were no longer useful (predreadnaughts) and ships that had been started during the war and that the countries in question didn’t want to pay the cost of finishing.

            More or less. A lot of the early dreadnoughts got eliminated, too.

            The only losers were the Japanese who, for various reasons, wanted to keep what everyone else wanted so scrap.

            That was the Japanese perception. They were angry that they’d been given the 3 in 5-5-3. They thought they needed 7 in 10-10-7 to win in the western Pacific, and were the only people even remotely eager to have another naval race. The British were nearly broke and the US just didn’t feel like it. In reality, it gave them a stronger fleet relative to ours than they could actually have afforded in a race.

          • @bean:

            Many thanks. I don’t know why I concluded that it couldn’t be by Pratt.

            I have now ordered a copy.

          • bean says:

            @David Friedman

            Many thanks. I don’t know why I concluded that it couldn’t be by Pratt.

            You’re very welcome, although I’m slightly staggered by the coincidence that lead to me knowing that.

            I have now ordered a copy.

            Why, if I might ask? What I’ve seen of it indicates that it’s not a particularly good source for what was actually going on, and you don’t seem to be into the minutiae of interwar naval diplomacy enough to care about perception at the time vs reality. If you’ve decided to go there, at least get something more recent to help with the reality side. Books published before the end of the war tend to be riddled with errors. I recently ran across a 1942 National Geographic article on airpower which said that the rumors of 60,000 ton Japanese superbattleships were probably disinformation to keep the US and Britain building battleships while the Japanese focused on aircraft carriers, which were the future. In fact, the opposite was true, and the Japanese were more battleship-focused than we were.
            Unfortunately, I don’t know of any particularly good books on what was actually going on (at least specifically on the diplomatic side) offhand. I can check the reference lists of my various books if you’re interested. (I know this stuff because of the effect the treaties had on the technical development of the ships. I have lots of books on that, and a recommendation list much longer still.)

          • cassander says:

            @bean

            >Friedman is a very careful scholar, and functionally a God of Naval History.

            It’s possible that Norman Polmar could dispute this claim, but I certainly can’t.

            >The “Risk Theory” was essentially ex post facto, according to him. There was very little coordinated strategic thought among the Germans, to the point where the Army High Command actually arranged for the Kaiser to be on a diplomatic trip during the runup to the war.
            (Also, note that the Germans were relying on the British attempting a close blockade. That didn’t happen, and was stupid to think would definitely happen.)

            Again, I agree with all this. Though, IIRC, as stupid as a close blockade sounds, I do believe there were plans for it prior to the war.

            >I’ll get back to you when Friedman comes out with a book on that. Or when I can find a good one on the subject from other sources. Dulin & Garzke may have some information, and I’ll take a look at it. But I tend to think it was a case of “It is the best, and German must have the best!” What I know of their strategic and economic policies (Wages of Destruction is still on my to-read list, sadly) suggests that this was quite common.

            One of the few criticisms one can make of Wages of Destruction is that it has relatively little information about German naval efforts.

            >Hitler was a serious battleship advocate, and largely responsible for the growth of the H class designs later in the war. (So he had some taste, just a complete lack of sense in applying it.)

            Hitler had a schizophrenic attitude towards naval policy. He liked big impressive things like battleships, but I’ve read numerous sources that attest to him disdaining the sea in general and the navy in particular. As to why the admiralty built it, because that’s what Admiralties do. All the admirals in the 30s grew up at the peak of german navalism in the aughts. They were midshipmen on the castles of steel and dreamed of riding around in them again. Take that natural bias, add in the fact that Versailles suppressed the fleet air arm and the submarine service (not entirely, of course, but heavily) and you have a recipe for a a navy full of battleship admirals.

            @david friedman

            >. It gave a fairly cynical picture of the post WWI arms control negotiations, starting with the objective of holding down armaments in general, morphing into naval limitations, and ending in the first round with an agreement to eliminate a huge tonnage of warships, consisting of obsolete ships that were no longer useful (predreadnaughts) and ships that had been started during the war and that the countries in question didn’t want to pay the cost of finishing.

            >The only losers were the Japanese who, for various reasons, wanted to keep what everyone else wanted so scrap.

            Not sure who wrote the book, but I’d definitely disagree with its conclusions. All three parties won at the treaty, which has to be a rarity among international agreements. The US got what it cared about, nominal parity with the Brits. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but parity with the UK wasn’t even something the US navy dared to dream of in 1914, and while parity was articulated as a goal in 1916, the Navy knew full well that it was quite possible that congress would decide not to pay for it.

            The Brits won because they avoided an expensive naval race that they would have had serious difficulties in paying for, got to scrap older ships they’d had to have expensively modernized, and while they had to agree to nominal parity with the US, they had more ships with heavier guns, and they managed to play some games with the retirement schedule to give them a couple extra ships for most of the treaty period.

            The Japanese, though, did the best of anyone. Japanese military and industrial potential was VASTLY inferior to that of the brits and americans. Paul Kennedy puts Japanese industrial capacity in 1939 at about 1/4th that of the Empire, and the Empire at about 1/4 that of the US. Japanese industrial potential was on a similar level to Italy. I lack similar figures for 1920, but while raw GDP is closer then, japan is still way behind. In sum, a 5:3 ratio was extremely generous to japan, and membership in the big 3 club elevated their international status.

          • bean says:

            @Cassander:

            It’s possible that Norman Polmar could dispute this claim, but I certainly can’t.

            Polmar is decent, but I have one or two books of his, and a whole shelf of Friedman. And I’m planning on getting more.

            Again, I agree with all this. Though, IIRC, as stupid as a close blockade sounds, I do believe there were plans for it prior to the war.

            There were, but keep in mind how fast naval warfare was changing in the decade prior to 1914. A perfectly good strategy in 1904 is suicide in 1914, and the lifetime of a naval officer is longer than that. I don’t think it was likely, and the Germans were still stupid to base their plans on it happening that way.

            Not sure who wrote the book, but I’d definitely disagree with its conclusions.

            Fletcher Pratt, in 1939. The first couple chapters (all I’ve read) suffer very heavily from being based on incomplete information.

            The US got what it cared about, nominal parity with the Brits. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but parity with the UK wasn’t even something the US navy dared to dream of in 1914, and while parity was articulated as a goal in 1916, the Navy knew full well that it was quite possible that congress would decide not to pay for it.

            Sort of. The big win for the US Navy came during the depression, when they managed to convince Congress to build up to the treaty limits. This also helped the RN.

            The Brits won because they avoided an expensive naval race that they would have had serious difficulties in paying for, got to scrap older ships they’d had to have expensively modernized, and while they had to agree to nominal parity with the US, they had more ships with heavier guns, and they managed to play some games with the retirement schedule to give them a couple extra ships for most of the treaty period.

            I have to disagree. If not for the treaty, the British would have been a clean second by the mid-20s.

            The Japanese, though, did the best of anyone.

            This is very true, although I’m not sure it was apparent to anyone at the time. The Japanese military was not known for its careful attention to economics, and I suspect that outsiders overestimated the size of their economy.

          • cassander says:

            @bean

            >Sort of. The big win for the US Navy came during the depression, when they managed to convince Congress to build up to the treaty limits. This also helped the RN.

            I said the US got what it wanted, not the USN. For US policy makers, it was enough to have formal parity, even if they didn’t build up to the limits.

            >I have to disagree. If not for the treaty, the British would have been a clean second by the mid-20s.

            There’s a chance for that, probably a good chance. But there was also a chance that, if the UK escalated construction to stay ahead, that congress throws in the towel. A worse chance, probably, and one american policy makers were probably more aware of than british, but not zero chance.

            >This is very true, although I’m not sure it was apparent to anyone at the time. The Japanese military was not known for its careful attention to economics, and I suspect that outsiders overestimated the size of their economy.

            The japanese might have understood how far they were behind in 1920. Or at least some of them, like yamamoto, had some idea. By 1940, they really had no idea. Frankly, I don’t think anyone really did. The figure I like to point out is that in 1914, there are about 300k cars in france and the UK combined. in 1915, ford would make 320k Model Ts, 10 times what they built in 1911. Now, at the time of ww1, those techniques were new and really hadn’t spread yet. The US’ contribution to ww1 was money and manpower, not industry. That said, the US would spend the 20 post war years inventing and spreading modern industrial methods, no one else, even the UK, was even close by 1940.

          • bean says:

            I said the US got what it wanted, not the USN. For US policy makers, it was enough to have formal parity, even if they didn’t build up to the limits.

            I will admit that this does bring into focus my tendency to confuse the USN with the US. That said, the US did largely build up to the treaty limit, as did the RN. This left both services well-off during the depression, as the other services didn’t have treaty limits to point to as things they should be building to.

            There’s a chance for that, probably a good chance. But there was also a chance that, if the UK escalated construction to stay ahead, that congress throws in the towel. A worse chance, probably, and one american policy makers were probably more aware of than british, but not zero chance.

            Obviously the chance was not zero, but it did probably maintain Britain in the first rank of naval powers for longer than they otherwise would have had.

            I’ve looked through the Pratt book, and found the part David Friedman was talking about. Overall, I was not impressed. It’s interesting, but only as a view on thoughts at the time. Breyer and Dulin and Garzke both confirm that the design started as an enlargement of the Panzerschiffe, and Breyer states that the 11″ guns were a political decision to avoid annoying the British. Really, David, please get a better book on the subject if you’re seriously interested. Anything by (Norman) Friedman is a good start. Or if that’s not available, looking for relevant books from the Naval Institute Press, Conway, or Seaford.

          • Really, David, please get a better book on the subject if you’re seriously interested.

            I may–although I have other reasons to be interested in Fletcher Pratt.

            But part of what I liked about the book was that it was written before the war started, and so didn’t have problems due to hindsight bias. Reading modern histories (not naval in particular), it isn’t always obvious that we didn’t know in advance who was going to be in which alliance when and if war came.

            Also part of what is interesting about Orwell’s early writing.

        • Joseftstadter says:

          German organizational and technical excellence was greatly mythologized during and after the war, probably partly to wave away the incredible incompetence and bad morale of the Soviet Army, the poor performance of the French and British Armies, and the reluctance of the US to land troops until we had overwhelming odds. The German Army in WWII mostly travelled on foot. On average there were over 1 million horses in service at any given time during the Russia campaign. The US had jeeps and trucks, the Germans (and Russians) had horse drawn wagons and horse drawn artillery. Especially on the Eastern Front it was a fairly primitive, nasty and badly fought war.

          • dndnrsn says:

            My crazy hypothesis for this is that wargames are to blame for the “Germans are better soldiers, Germans had the best tanks” type stuff.

            The ability of the Germans to fight very well, considering their generally poor logistics, problems with their war economy, and in general going up against unfavourable odds, was largely due to superior tactical leadership, which was largely due to superior training of NCOs and officers. Germans were not markedly better soldiers, and on the whole their equipment was not better (if anything, it was on average somewhat worse), but tactically they were superior.

            However, wargames cannot simulate this, because “leadership” is up to the player. Game designers can’t demand that only players who pass a fairly demanding selection and training process be allowed to play as the Germans. So either they give the Germans ahistorically good war economy (eg grand strategy games where Germany gets the same production points every turn as the Allies, more or less), or they make their individual soldiers better at the lower level/units better at the higher level (the latter is more reasonable, since if you make a German division or whatever better stat-wise than its Allied equivalents, you can explain that as better command up to the division level – but you still have to give an ahistorical advantage to account for the fact that the player is not going to be as good a corps, army, etc, leader as the relevant-ranked German general would have been, on average), or you make German equipment (mainly tanks, but also AT guns, MGs, etc) better than its Allied equivalent.

            Add to this the fact that people want the cool stuff like Tigers and Panthers instead of lame normie stuff like Panzer IIIs and IVs, and that the Germans had designs that were excellent in combat but ran into serious problems with breakdowns, spare parts, fuel efficiency, getting bogged due to being too heavy, etc. Everybody wants to field a platoon of Tigers in every company-level game, nobody wants to be told “hey one Tiger got bogged, one got knocked out from the air, and the other two ran out of fuel”.

            Then throw on the ultimately very successful PR attempts by German generals post-war, the fact that German first-hand accounts are more available (especially in English) than Soviet, etc.

            You end up with a very distorted picture.

          • howardtreesong says:

            If you’ve not read them, try the three-volume Rick Atkinson series on the American campaigns in western Europe.

            I think it’s pretty clear that some German technology was superior — the Tiger and the 88 are examples, despite the Tiger’s weight and mechanical problems — but for context, there were only about 1800 Tigers built during the war, as opposed to about 40,000 US Shermans.

          • Aapje says:

            Despite the small numbers of these tanks, the American troops who encountered one had great trouble with them and thus were generally highly impressed.

            And in the N-African campaign, the greater killing range of the 88’s and top German tanks was an immense advantage, given the relative lack of cover.

          • bean says:

            Despite the small numbers of these tanks, the American troops who encountered one had great trouble with them and thus were generally highly impressed.

            This isn’t the whole story. The first few encountered, in both Tunisia and Italy, were dealt with without too much trouble. I’m not sure why they suddenly became so terrifying in Western Europe, but I suspect it’s a combination of green troops and post-war mythmaking, with a side order of better terrain for tanks. I’d bet that a lot of times when ‘Tigers’ shot up American tanks, they were actually fighting a house with an 88 in it. They killed the 88, but the ‘Tiger’ got away.

            And in the N-African campaign, the greater killing range of the 88’s and top German tanks was an immense advantage, given the relative lack of cover.

            Not so much. The Tiger didn’t make it into action in North Africa until the fighting was already in the mountains of Tunisia. The Panther never made it there at all.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Some German technology was superior, but some was inferior. Overall, it probably averages out.

            In the early campaigns in the East, the Soviets had some markedly superior tanks. Sure, in 1941 most were light tanks that the Pz III and IV outmatched, but the T-34s were superior to anything the Germans had, and the KV-1 was serious business. The Soviets had significantly greater numbers of them in 1942. The Pz III and IV still had favourable kill ratios, even against superior tanks – indicating that it was German crews, but more significantly, German tactical leadership that made a difference.

          • Protagoras says:

            @dndnrsn, As I understand it, the T34 was not really superior in practice. It had heavier armor and a more powerful gun than the opposing German tanks, but considerably inferior fire control and communications. The inferior communications made the Soviets unable to shift their tactics in response to circumstances, and the inferior fire control meant that even though the T34 could take a lot of hits, and hit very hard, the fact that the Germans hit sooner and much more often was sufficient to more than offset those factors.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Protagoras:

            You are right. This is something I have mentioned in the past but neglected to mention here. The Germans had, especially early on (and throughout the war compared to the Soviets, I’m pretty sure) was more radios, at least in armoured units. This let them leverage their superior leadership better. Soviet fire control and optics were generally inferior to German.

            However, the major effect of superior leadership, enabled by superior command and control, was that the Germans didn’t have to get into slugging matches with Soviet armour – superior optics and fire control wouldn’t make up for superior numbers and the better gun (in 1941-42) and armour (throughout the war) of a T-34 vs a Pz III or IV.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t think you can separate the two – putting radios in your tanks, in an era when radios are bulky and expensive, is something you do only if you expect your commanders to be giving tactical orders better than what an observant tank commander could figure out for himself. And first-rate fire control isn’t much good if you have second-rate gunners.

          • TenMinute says:

            Not really.
            “Wait, does the platoon commander want us to go over that ridge, or just behind it? Someone wave some hand signals and fin–

            Oh, shit, well, Sergi went over anyway, and I don’t want to die like that

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            If everyone was that incompetent, maybe we should just lower our standards.

          • John Schilling says:

            “Wait, does the platoon commander want us to go over that ridge, or just behind it? Someone wave some hand signals and fin–”

            Did the platoon commandeer just go over that ridge himself? If so, he wants you to follow him. If not, then he doesn’t. Russian doctrine basically doesn’t do single tanks as independent maneuver elements.

            Well, maybe it does now; that’s something I haven’t looked at since the Cold War and now I’m curious if their latest adventures would reveal any changes. But in the 1930s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, or 80s, the platoon went where the platoon leader’s tank went and shot at what the platoon leader’s tank was shooting at.

            And it’s questionable whether even the platoon leader needed a radio. Company CO, yes.

    • pseudon says:

      Was expecting a rickroll. A wasted opportunity.

    • Cypren says:

      Make sure you’ve read the comment policy, especially the part on banned words and topics. There are some people and concepts you might mention related to discussions that we have here that will cause your post to vanish into Cthulhu’s maw.

    • NIP says:

      @Everyone

      Site kept eating my comments ALL DAY, so apologies for the lack of responses since this morning.

      I’d be happy to discuss this topic with you all next week. Let’s say next Wednesday’s open thread. I’ll be writing up a transcript of the video into a .txt file with image links and timestamps and so forth, and it will take me a while. That way we can all of us have a crack at it, and I can try to steelman it and play devil’s advocate. Also, I’m frankly mortified at how badly I handled introducing this topic. I have severe social anxiety and it’ll take some time for me to recuperate from this faux pas. Until then, feel free to pretend this thread never happened.

      • Said Achmiz says:

        @NIP:

        So, please don’t take this as dogpiling — you seem as chagrined as anyone can reasonably expect, and your response has moved the needle backwards on my bad-faith-o-meter — but as a continuation of meta-discussion. That said:

        Why do you want to steelman and devil’s-advocate this topic?

        Now, don’t get me wrong: I am not in favor of suppressing Holocaust denialism (nor any other heterodox view), and indeed am of the opinion that doing so can only backfire (viz. the effects of such policies in Europe, which I do not view favorably at all).

        But, attempting to steelman a heterodox view merely because it is a heterodox view — merely because you can, because it’s there — strikes me as a rather pernicious form of privileging the hypothesis.

        On a related note, you might be interested in some things our host once wrote on the subject of heterodox views (and arguments for them).

    • Manya says:

      I’m going to try posting this comment one more time, and hope it doesn’t get eaten by the filter this time.

      I haven’t watched the movie, and I wouldn’t know where to start rebutting it if I did. However, as you might imagine, we’re hardly the first people to come across it, and it looks like there’s a detailed rebuttal on this blog.

      NIP, I hope that helps a little.

  43. jddt says:

    You (or the author of the book) seem to be saying that the Germans simply wanted a Jew-free Germany?

    This doesn’t meet my standards of common sense.
    1. Wikipedia tells me that in 1933 there were half a million Jews in Germany. Half a million is a tiny fraction of six million — sounds like Germany could have easily created a Jew-free Germany if that’s what it wanted: just like most of the Arab world has done in recent years?
    2. Related to (1), but more explicitly: Germany was literally importing Jews from other countries to kill them.
    3. Hitler, and Nazis to this day, are quite explicit why they hate Jews: because they think the Jews control the world, the banks, the markets, start the wars, etc. How would simply creating a Jew-free Germany solve that?
    4. Hitler of Jewish emigration to Palestine (if I recall correctly) said that he would like Jews to concentrate there as a single concentrated target, surrounded by sympathetic people who would help the Nazis kill them (see famous Nazi Amin al-Husseini, once Mufti of Jerusalem). In this frame the ideas of moving Jews to Palestine, or to tiny islands, should be seen as analogous to moving them on to a big red target, rather than the ancient policy of removing Jews into a ghetto where they are simply out of your hair.
    5. For context for (4), remember Birobidzhan — Stalin’s planned region for the Jews — an autonomous zone for Jews where they were told they could live within the Socialist umbrella, within a Jewish community. People actually sold up and emigrated their from the US! In his book “Israel and the European Left” Schindler said that long after Stalin’s death, researchers have come across some records in the Soviet archives someone forgot to shred, that say the plan was to gather enough Jews to that place with bait and then build walls around it and kill them.

    On guilt for not accepting refugees, I believe special mention should be made for the British: who had long held a territory called Mandatory Palestine Eretz Yisrael expressly for the purpose of providing a home for the world’s Jews — and then did everything they could to stop Jews emigrating there, even as refugees. This topic is best covered by the pre-WW2 book Ziff’s “The Rape of Palestine” (available free on archive.org) which is a solid fascinating window into the period.

    On the topic of Germans thinking they are taking part in a wider purpose and being slightly unthinking about it — this is a national trait explored in the fascinating book “I Sleep in Hitler’s Room” which comes up again and again. This may also be revealing when thinking about why Germany has such a strong (and unique?) anarchist movement (that smashes up a German city or two every year) — which is something that simply doesn’t exist here in the UK. I think this is worth thinking about when you wonder why Germany and Denmark reacted differently.

    I think a glaring omission here when looking at how occupied countries responded to Germany’s demand for Jewish blood, is how they were /before/ that demand. There seems to be a tacit assumption here that there was zero wanton Jew hatred and murder before the Nazis, and therefore anything we see must be because of the Nazi occupation. Even for Romania, you mention a long history of anti-Semitism, but make out that it was all trapped behind floodgates which the Germans simply opened.

    Again, Ziff’s “The Rape of Palestine” is an excellent resource for looking at treatment of Jews before the concentration camps had opened. Most strikingly he has much more to say about the disgusting material treatment of Jews in Poland than in Germany; in Germany he emphasises the psychological effects of having anti-Jewish hatred and contempt sprinkled into the school curriculum (aside: I home educate because my son was having a horrible time and was having nightmares, sleepwalking, and spontaneous fits of emotion because of how he was treated by his school; I note home education is illegal in Germany today) and in the street — he gives figures for suicides among young Jews in Germany as horrifyingly high. Also worth a read regarding this is “Anti-Semitism in Britain” by George Orwell, on how anti-Semitism became shameful with Germany’s rise without really being addressed (indeed, in the UK today, the number of highly intelligent educated people I meet who tell me that “the Jews are worse than Nazis” and “the Jews control the US” and, the other day, “so Judaism is all about getting as much money as possible, right”?). Also interesting is an episode mentioned in “A History of Modern Israel” by Schindler, where he relates the story that Jewish refugees from Germany that were settled working in a British factory were attacked for being German and Jewish — because Britain was at war with the Germans in Europe, and the Jews in Palestine, and didn’t want to erode support for its war against the Jews by letting what was already then known about the death camps be known to the public — while taking a few refugees in to be attacked by British people kept intentionally ignorant as to their hardships. Similarly, Ziff writes that the proud and important history of Britain’s Jewish legion in WW1 has been, if not covered up then wilfully neglected.

    Finally I think there is something important missing from your “helps explain a lot about Israeli history” bit. Without getting to much into Zionism, and the history of Israel, I think I can explain:

    Friends who’ve been abused, and academics writing books about such people, say that a response to intense abuse can be to fly off into a fantasy land internally, while outwardly being compliant and sometimes complicit in your own abuse. Some people think this is what happened to the Jewish people as a whole and this opinion is aptly described in Ziffs aforementioned book. Figure this, a nation at the forefront of science, literacy, numeracy, and technology in the ancient world, the proud victor over the Synthians, Assyrians, Babylonians, and (for many many years) the Romans — then had probably 95% of their population slaughtered by merciless European, the rest sold into horrible slavery, and no sooner gained freedom than were herded into ghettos, shtetls, or as dhimmis.

    (Whether or not this is true, I’m going somewhere with it.)

    Many people point to sustained abuse as the reason why, against all reason, this people would do things like, as you say, form groups to collaborate with the Nazis in their own destruction.

    George Orwell expressed horror that most Jews he met in Britain bent over backwards to express Hitler’s favourable qualities, out of shame of being Jewish and looking to cover it up. One member of Congress said in the thirties, of trying to help Jewish refugees but struggling because very often they would not fight or speak up for themselves when required, that he was ready to give up “there is no reward in supporting a people who so enjoy being kicked in the teeth”.

    There was a joke in those days, that an SS guard told two Jews to stand against a wall so he could shoot them. He then gave them blindfolds and told them to put them on. One of the Jews says “no”; the other whispers “don’t start a fight!”.

    It is in this frame that the Zionists resettling Palestine, where looking to transform themselves as a people, not just the land from desert into garden.

    And it is for this reason that, though Zionists were mainly Azkenazi, that the language of the new state would be Shafardic Hebrew — because Azkenazi Hebrew, or even Yiddish was the language of the downtrodden and they wanted to consign being downtrodden to the past.

    There was a joke at the time, that in the playground, if a child was hit, he would either run to his mother and cry in Yiddish, or he would fight back and scream in Hebrew.

    Also, two more things to give Ben Gurion and his fellowship some credit:
    1. Once British MP once said (if I remember correctly), “The Jews are the only people who have ever trusted the British, and they paid for it in Palestine” — I don’t want to get into murky waters, but British Palestine was run as a Colonial Apartheid State where Jews (who were not allowed to carry weapons) were below Arabs (who were allowed to carry weapons) who were below Europeans. This was a state Britain had promised would be the Jewish homeland.
    2. Comments like this make me think people have forgotten that France in the Six Day War refused to give weapons to Israel it had already paid for; in support of the Arabs trying to destroy it. Where’s the “community of nations” Israel is excluding itself from?
    3. Comments like this make me think people have forgotten that UK in the Yom Kippur War refused to sell spare parts of Israel for British vehicles. Where’s the “community of nations” Israel is excluding itself from?
    4. To ask why 1960s Israel couldn’t be less militarised and to answer it with by saying it was being irrational, is very strange to me. There were so many wars surrounding this period and Israel had no friends like it has in the US today, (mostly) looking out for it, and was under constant terrorist attack — so I don’t understand the way you’ve framed this period at all. Israel was in serious existential danger throughout this period.
    5. Let’s not forget that Ben Gurion pursued a policy for refugees that people thought was insane and unsustainable (listen to interviews with him from the period): poor Jews from all the slums everywhere, could come their, their assets having been stripped from them, and be looked after in Israel. I think framing Ben Gurion as an old militaristic irrational is unfair — I think he was supportive of internationalism and international efforts until it became VERY clear that they were not what they were meant to be.

    Sorry if any mistakes or typos — hurridly written — emotional topic — the Holocaust and all that.

    • Aapje says:

      a Jew-free Germany?

      They wanted a Jew-free empire (aka the Third Reich). This fully explains why they wanted to ethnically cleanse other conquered countries.

      In his book “Israel and the European Left” Schindler said that long after Stalin’s death, researchers have come across some records in the Soviet archives someone forgot to shred, that say the plan was to gather enough Jews to [Birobidzhan] with bait and then build walls around it and kill them.

      This seems very unlikely. Stalin objected to identities that didn’t match his ideals. This was one of the major reasons why he forced mass migration, so weaken nationalist identities. He also didn’t like that the Jews had their own culture, rather than Soviet culture.

      Early on, Stalin pushed Jews into migrating to Ukraine, Belarus and Crimea. However, the people there resisted, so came up with Birobidzhan as a solution. This place was selected to provide a buffer against Chinese expansion and to develop this remote region. It was also a PR move to establish the first Jewish homeland in Soviet Russia.

      The Soviets did give lectures in Birobidzhan to push atheism, however, the Jews were allowed to have Jewish culture. This changed in 1936 with the Great Purge, where there was huge oppression (although that happened elsewhere too, so wasn’t anti-Jew as much as anti-outgroups in general). Then WW 2 happened and caused a revival of Birobidzhan and the Soviet state again allowed Jewish culture to flourish. Then Israel was established and Stalin reacted by violently oppressing the Jews, probably out of fear that they would seek to secede from the Soviet Union.

      Given this narrative, it is not logical to think that Stalin intended Birobidzhan to concentrate the Jews and kill them. IMHO, you have succumbed to a conspiracy theory here.

      I think a glaring omission here when looking at how occupied countries responded to Germany’s demand for Jewish blood, is how they were /before/ that demand. There seems to be a tacit assumption here that there was zero wanton Jew hatred and murder before the Nazis, and therefore anything we see must be because of the Nazi occupation.

      IMHO, you are making a mistake of linking compliance directly to anti-semitism. The Netherlands was the only country with a general strike against the persecution of Jews and had far less anti-semitism than France (for example); yet had a considerably higher percentage of the Jews killed. The reason is IMO that there are many factors which determined the ‘efficacy’ of the holocaust, where many of those factors have little to do with hatred (or lack of it).

      • jddt says:

        “They wanted a Jew-free empire (aka the Third Reich). This fully explains why they wanted to ethnically cleanse other conquered countries.”

        A few issues with this, firstly, Italy was intended to be an independent ally, with ultimately its own Soverign Empire, alongside Germany’s (until Italy became too weak to stand alone and became a puppet of Germany) — so why does Germany make a condition of this arrangement the murder of Italy’s Jews — who presumably aren’t going to be part of a German Empire?

        The Germany’s weren’t crazy about most nationalities. Poles, Serbs, Bozniaks — you name it. Sure Germany wanted a racially pure and supreme empire; but your theory doesn’t explain for me why killing Jews was such a high priority — the effort was huge, expensive, and caused strain with puppet states.

        I think Germans targeted Jews for the same reason they targeted Freemasons — inside or outside the Empire, they thought they controlled the world and were evil.

        It also doesn’t explain why allies such as Amin al-Husseini in far of lands, were so sure Hitler would assist creation of an independent Jew-free state elsewhere — outside the German empire.

        For that matter — why was Germany intent on killing Jamaican Jews? Jamaica was going to be part of the Third Reich?

        In short, in contrast with Poland, who wanted the Jews “anywhere but here” my claim is that the Germans wanted the Jews “nowhere”.

        “Given this narrative, it is not logical to think that Stalin intended Birobidzhan to concentrate the Jews and kill them. IMHO, you have succumbed to a conspiracy theory here.”

        Stalin and the Soviets were around for a long time; and his policies and level of sanity varied, and his thinking regarding Jews changed over the years too.

        Apologies if I said or implied that Stalin /always/ intended Birobidzhan to be liquidated; I should have referenced the book as saying that near the time of Stalin’s death, there is some evidence he drew up plans for this, but died before any implementation.

        I don’t think this is unexpected — toward the end of his live Birobidzhan became increasingly locked down: it’s public spaces, leaders, etc. locked up or closed; and a tightning of restrictions on Jewish culture. Somewhere there’s a quote of Stalin saying “all Jews are agents of the US”.

        I mean, Israel paid Stalin for Jews who wanted to come to Israel — who were desparate because of his policies toward them — I don’t think it’s clever to suppose Stalin’s Russia was a philojewish paradise.

        “IMHO, you are making a mistake of linking compliance directly to anti-semitism.”

        Again, sorry if I implied any such thing. To clarify, Scott was talking about pogroms in Romania as if they were driven by Nazi policies upon occupation — and I thought it would have been worthwhile to compare them with levels of anti-Jewish violence beforehand; because to take such Romanian brutality as compliance with policy seems odd to me.

        I’m talking about picking a correct baseline for comparison — the baseline chosen seems to be “zero anti-Jewish violence” and that seems wrong from what I’ve read.

        • Aapje says:

          Obviously the Nazis saw Jews as a corrupting force, so they also wanted their allies to be uncorrupted. The idea was to be isolationist, where it was acceptable if the Jews or other impure people were living elsewhere, where they wouldn’t bother the ingroup.

          Jews were prioritized because the Nazis thought in racial hierarchies, where Jews were at the bottom.

          I think Germans targeted Jews for the same reason they targeted Freemasons — inside or outside the Empire, they thought they controlled the world and were evil.

          Yes, but that also meant that they were fine with Jews ‘controlling’ their enemies as they thought it would just weaken/corrupt them.

          For that matter — why was Germany intent on killing Jamaican Jews?

          Link??? Googling this gives me no results.

          In short, in contrast with Poland, who wanted the Jews “anywhere but here” my claim is that the Germans wanted the Jews “nowhere”.

          I think that the issue is that two different things are being conflated here:
          – What was acceptable to the Nazis
          – What was optimal to the Nazis

          Obviously, the logical conclusion of their racial theories is that the disappearance of the Jews would be best. However, it is also true that they were seemingly content with deportations at first. This is why Scott argued that deporting the Jews from their territory was acceptable to them.

          Most/all humans make these distinctions between their ideals and the compromise that they accept.

          • jddt says:

            “Link??? Googling this gives me no results.”

            The story is that Jews from the Caribbean studying in Germany were not allowed to return home, and were killed.

            http://www.timesofisrael.com/70-years-after-the-holocaust-a-surinamese-memorial-for-caribbean-victims/

            “Yes, but that also meant that they were fine with Jews ‘controlling’ their enemies as they thought it would just weaken/corrupt them.”

            Jews were blamed for Capitalism embodied in the US, and Communism embodied in Russia.

            My impression was that the Hitlerites saw themselves as the plucky underdogs speaking truth to power and fighting against a vast world controlled by Jews.

            The idea was that Jews were a corrupting force — but to make Germany’s enemy’s weaker? Surely not.

            “Most/all humans make these distinctions between their ideals and the compromise that they accept.”

            This isn’t where we disagree — we disagree in the nature of the problem the Nazis had with Jews. See below.

            “Obviously the Nazis saw Jews as a corrupting force, so they also wanted their allies to be uncorrupted. The idea was to be isolationist, where it was acceptable if the Jews or other impure people were living elsewhere, where they wouldn’t bother the ingroup.”

            I disagree with you about the nature of the Nazi problem with Jews.

            Think about today. Take Nazis, People who visit Club 88 in Germany, Neo-Nazis, or people across the world who read Mein Kampf today as a work of fact…

            … these people hate the Jews, right?…

            … why do these people hate the Jews today?

            Well, yes, Neo-Nazis do talk about racial purity, etc. but not more so than they do any other non-white group.

            The reason the Jews stick out again and again TODAY among these groups (cf. “Them” by John Ronson) is that they think Jews control the world, start all the wars, control business, the banks, etc.

            Hitler rose to power in an era when there were widespread protests about Germany being beholden to loans from the US, in an era of artistic and literary freedom, and a rise of socialism — all of which was blamed on the Jews.

            Sure, they thought the Jews were inferior… but that’s contempt. What made the Jews and the Freemasons the enemy was how they were controlling the world against them.

            So here’s the point, I totally agree with you about the different between what is acceptable and optimal; but disagree with what you think these are.

            In my view, optimal was “no Jews anywhere, their name and culture a mere memory”; worth noting that YIVO, the centre for study of Yiddish, was raided by the Nazis, who kept its records to use as exhibits in a planned museum about Jews once they were extinct.

            Because for any Jews to exist, the idea is that they will be drip-feeding posion into humanity for ever more. (Cf. the Qu’ran’s thoughts on this.)

            And correspondingly, what was possible for them at the time was “killing all the Jews we can get our hands on”.

            I mean, getting back to reality, there were a lot of Germans, a lot of Poles, and they likely had totally different reasons to hate Jews, created from a stew of propaganda they were consuming. Compare with Christianity — I’ve never met two Christians with identical views who had the same view on how the Holy Trinity works, or is well-versed in the currently accepted doctrine of their nominal branch of the faith. In Poland it was probably more Christian-based hatred of Jews, in Germany it was probably more Conspiracy-theory-based hatred of Jews.

            Finally finally finally…

            … please let’s not forget that the Nazis grew from the hatred of Jews… and Nazi racial policy grew from the Nazis.

            Nazi paganism, for example, clearly isn’t something the populace at large was interested in, and not a selling point; but something the Nazis could push from a position of strength.

            Similarly, the Nazi’s produced their racial hierarchy, and taught in schools about it, and funded research into it, etc. etc. etc. — but this is propaganda from a position of strength using the instruments of the state…

            However, Nazi propaganda about freedom from a world controlled by Jews — that resonated with people.

            So I’ve rambled a bit there, sorry. The short version is:

            Saying the Nazi’s hated the Jews because their racial theory propaganda said so is putting the cart before the horse.

            The Nazi’s hated the Jews because they were conspiracy theorists, and like conspiracy theories then and now, thought the Jews controlled everything and were evil, and once in power used all arguments they could read for to prove, in every way, that the Jews were horrible — including with racial arguments.

            … the Nazi’s didn’t “discover” their hierarchy of races and then “discover” gosh — Jews are at the bottom (if they did, why ally with Arabs?); they invented their hierarchy of races because they hated Jews.

          • Aapje says:

            The story is that Jews from the Caribbean studying in Germany were not allowed to return home, and were killed.

            I know a bit about the Dutch and German bureaucracy at the time, which was extremely strict and inflexible, so it’s likely that they were merely treated according to the rules which were applied to other Jews who lived in The Netherlands. I really doubt that any high-level decision was made for a few dozen people.

            The Nazis were only interested in big scale solutions, anyway.

            The reason the Jews stick out again and again TODAY among these groups (cf. “Them” by John Ronson) is that they think Jews control the world, start all the wars, control business, the banks, etc.

            Yes, but logically, that is only a threat if you are dealing with banks, businesses, etc for which Jews work and if you are weak compared to other countries. I suggest that you read the 4 year plan memo, which outlines Hitlers goal of strengthening Germany to be ready for war with the Soviets. He already indicates the need for more territory to have the resources they need and how he blames Jewish saboteurs and wants to fight them.

            From this perspective, it makes perfect sense to want to eliminate Jews from the Axis alliance, as Hitler would obviously want his allies to be as strong as possible. The scapegoating of the Jews as the main source of weakness, made this a high priority.

            I think that you are underestimating to what extent the Nazis believed that they were under immense time pressure against an existential threat to humankind, which made a compromise to deport Jews acceptable to them.

            Of course, it is possible that they would have started killing Jews anyway, after victory. However, it is also possible that they would have been content with isolating the Jews on Madagascar or something like that.

            … the Nazi’s didn’t “discover” their hierarchy of races and then “discover” gosh — Jews are at the bottom (if they did, why ally with Arabs?); they invented their hierarchy of races because they hated Jews.

            I would suggest that they things go both ways. Having a ‘scientific’ theory deepened the dislike that already existed, just like the dislike that already existed made them more open to such ‘science.’

        • akarlin says:

          I mean, Israel paid Stalin for Jews who wanted to come to Israel — who were desparate because of his policies toward them — I don’t think it’s clever to suppose Stalin’s Russia was a philojewish paradise.

          The USSR from founding to c.1938 actually was a paradise for Jews. They were massively overrepresented in the upper ranks of the Communist Party and in the NKVD (where there were as many Jews as ethnic Russians), for instance. This period also happened to be the USSR’s most repressive phase.

          After 1938, this overrepresentation faded, declining from a factor of 20 or so to a factor or two or three. You could call it discrimination, but you could also call it affirmative action.

          Still, Israeli Jews remained favorably disposed to Stalin; here is a photo from Israel in 1949 – the first “Stalinbus,” so to speak.

          https://news2.ru/user_images/7338/1453467243.jpg

          • With the thoughts says:

            Communist parties generally had Jews highly overrepresented, the failed Communist attempt to overthrow the Weimar government senior leadership was 80% Jewish.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Revolution_of_1918–19

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            …and that ignores the concrete, blatantly antisemite stuff going on behind that “fading overrepresentation” post-1938, such as the (in)famous cases of Doctors’ plot or Night of the Murdered Poets. Or the less blatant and more bureaucratic antisemitism of the post-Stalin era, characterized with the popular story of university entrances examiners discriminating against Jews by handing out extra difficult questions to undesirables like them. As often argued on this board as an evidence of heritability of IQ, over-representation of persons of Jewish heritage in intellect-requiring professions seems to be what happens in meritocratic systems.

            (Addendum. Though meritocracy might be the wrong word here. Or for some other reason, bolshevistist theorizing attracted Jews. Or maybe certain sources might have tiny bit exaggerated Jewishness of Bolshesvism, wonder why that would happen or who would do that — I have no ability to check all those. And anyway, isn’t set of “Jews in Russia” going to vastly larger and different body than set of “Jews in Russia who are also members of the Party”? Basic exercise in logic and statistical thinking would indicate that situation of the latter group should not be an argument re: how paradise-like was the life of the all Jews … and the whole argument is a strangely familiar form of outgroup othering when the topic is Jews.)

            Soviet Union, like all the other large countries, is very complex place, especially when you’re examining the said country’s history over several decades. And especially so when you’re looking at a topic such as antisemitism.

          • Joseftstadter says:

            The USSR from founding to c.1938 actually was a paradise for Jews.

            That would have been news to Lev Kamenev, Karl Radek or Yevgenia Ginzburg.

            The US was a paradise for Jews. The USSR wasn’t a paradise for anyone, certainly not after 1934.

          • akarlin says:

            That would have been news to Lev Kamenev, Karl Radek or Yevgenia Ginzburg.

            Yes, the Old Bolsheviks started getting a taste of their own medicine around about then.

            Smallest violin in the world playing just for them.

            However, the critical part is that their persecution had nothing to do with many of them being Jewish.

          • akarlin says:

            Or the less blatant and more bureaucratic antisemitism of the post-Stalin era, characterized with the popular story of university entrances examiners discriminating against Jews by handing out extra difficult questions to undesirables like them.

            So yes, as I said, the USSR up until 1938 was a paradise for Jews. They were overrepresented in the elites, considerably well above what you’d get even after adjustment for the IQ differential (ultimately, it’s not like joining the CPSU or the NKVD is an especially g loaded activity, especially as compared to, say, winning Nobel Prizes).

            After 1938, they became underrepresented in the elites after adjustment for IQ, though still 2x-3x more prevalent. You could call it discrimination, but you could also call it affirmative action.

    • akarlin says:

      Schindler said that long after Stalin’s death, researchers have come across some records in the Soviet archives someone forgot to shred, that say the plan was to gather enough Jews to that place with bait and then build walls around it and kill them.

      Yes, and the USSR planned to attack Germany which forced Hitler to attack first, and it faked its own collapse to better subvert the West. All true!

  44. bbeck310 says:

    Re: Refugees – As you’re focusing on this topic and are one of the only people out there willing to steelman the dark right, I’d like to see your thoughts on the infamous “The Current Refugee Crisis” piece that split Popehat: https://www.popehat.com/2015/11/18/the-current-refugee-crisis/. Or about the novel “The Camp of the Saints,” which hits the same themes. It’s very easy to look at the Holocaust and conclude “Must always protect refugees!” But there seem to be other failure modes.

    • Murphy says:

      I’ll post the same reply I posted there, in the style of the post there:

      May I draw the Emergent’s attention to some of the earlier cases in history, indeed in the earliest days of the Hitlerite’s when citizens of the Hitlerite nation tried to flee as refugees but were turned away by the other [factions/phyles/nations] existent at that time.

      [Mind-Data file attached https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MS_St._Louis%5D

      In the esteemed Emergent’s opinion did many of the other [factions/phyles/nations] make the right moral choice by turning away the people fleeing the Hitlerite’s in that case?

      Considering that the refugee ships nearing Jovian space are filled with citizens of the Hitlerite [phyles] who have been branded as [near jew] by the dominant [mindshare] of the Hitlerites might the esteemed Emergent admit any similarity between this situation and the historical example?

      [Additional Mind-Data file attached https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=wihxNTh1_agC&q=Wagner-Rogers+Bill&hl=en#v=snippet&q=Wagner-Rogers%20Bill&f=false ]

      Noting also that many of the refugee ships now nearing Jovian space are transporting primarily [juvenile mind-seeds] of individuals deemed [near jew].

      • Zaxlebax says:

        This would be important to note, the Emergent admits, if the above were true, and it were not the case that the ships nearing Jovian space are in actuality bearing primarily mature minds of individuals classifiable as Aryan adherents of moderate-to-radical Hitlerite ideologies, fleeing civil-war-borne economic crises and the suppression of their Hitlerite rebel movement. Their movement, to which the Speaker’s faction in the Oort government had unwisely provided material support, is nevertheless being suppressed by the legitimate inner system government, headed by a comparatively moderate mind from a minority Hitlerite phyle, which itself is the party tolerant toward minority phyles, including those deemed near-jew.

        The ones fleeing toward the Oort, consequently, appear to be almost entirely mature minds that have been wrongly classified as juvenile mindseeds by misguided agents stationed at asteroid belt waypoints, who, finding the Hitlerite refugees without [Innensystemreichsreisepassen] or any other valid identification, unqualifiedly accept their claims to be improbably recent spawn; and to comprise primarily those Aryan phyles disanalagous to the refugees invoked above. Furthermore, the Emergent added, the Speaker’s faction has spoken out against the Oort government order which specifically allows exceptions and preferential refugee status for members of the near-jew and jew phyles; the Emergent suggested that the Speaker’s conflation of such disanalagous situations borders on the disingenuous.

  45. Ruben says:

    What do you think of this re this jogging our thinking about refugees: http://www.politicalbeauty.com/kindertransport.html
    tldr: the Centre for Political Beauty in Germany (artists) tried to bring back memories of the Kindertransport (Britain took in German Jewish kids at a time where jews had a hard time getting visas) to change people’s and the government’s perception of what a response to mayhem in foreign countries should look like (ie. get Germany to accept more refugees).

    • TenMinute says:

      You have to hand it to them, coming right out and saying “I’m cynically manipulating you by playing on your base instincts, which proves I’m your moral superior” is a really bold play.
      Let’s see if it pays off for them.

      • Ruben says:

        The holier-than-thou is indeed strong in them and they’re very direct about their intention. Though they of course don’t say what you attribute to them, unless you mean “moral intuitions” by “base instincts”.
        Since I don’t see many people successfully changing minds, I was interested to see what this method does.
        This specific campaign is long over. They got a lot of media, were invited to the chancellery. The program was not implemented in any shape or form (as expected). It’s hard to say whether they affected refugee policies and public opinion in the intended way, but I tend to think so.

    • Nornagest says:

      “Center for Political Beauty”, huh? That’s quite a name. I’m not sure whether I like it or not.

  46. chaosmage says:

    As a German history nut, I find this one of the best things I’ve ever read about the Holocaust.

    Since we’re also talking about resistance, let me make a point that I think is underappreciated in historical accounts of resistance to the Nazis. There were dozens of assassination attempts on Hitler. Several of them Hitler survived only through blind luck. Had any one of them succeeded, it would have triggered a succession crisis that would have severely weakened the Nazi state, hastened its demise and probably saved many, many lives.

    And still the Stauffenberg Plot is the only one that most people have even heard about. History doesn’t emphasize the assassination attempts because all of these attempts were incompetent or unlucky and because it leads deontologists and virtue ethicists to the difficulty of whether to treat the assassins as heroes even though they are, well, assassins.

    But if you think as a consequentialist and you think in probabilities, I think you have to agree those were shots worth taking. I’d go as far as to say that given reasonable prior probabilities that one of them would work, they were the most effective form of resistance.

    • Murphy says:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Foxley

      “controversy remained over whether it was actually a good idea to kill Hitler: he was by then considered to be such a poor strategist that it was believed whoever replaced him would probably do a better job of fighting the Allies.”

    • baconbacon says:

      and because it leads deontologists and virtue ethicists to the difficulty of whether to treat the assassins as heroes even though they are, well, assassins Nazis.

      • Spookykou says:

        Nazi assassins, being too ambiguous, it is better to tar them with the worse of the two?

        • baconbacon says:

          I jut think Nazi is the operative word, not one has any trouble painting Bin Laden’s killers as heroes, and a fair number celebrate Gaddafi’s killers.

  47. Vadim Kosoy says:

    And the people, maybe new immigrants from America, who didn’t go through the Holocaust, they start asking – do we really need a purely Jewish nation? Do we really have to be so hostile and suspicious of Gentiles all the time? Does the country have to be quite so heavily militarized? Maybe we should just be a normal peaceful friendly member of the community of nations a bit more? …I guess the active construction of a cultural payload of reflexive resistance bordering on paranoia, capable of being handed down to younger generations, helps explain a lot about Israeli history.

    As an Israeli that supports the two state solution (including dismantling the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and handing over East Jerusalem) and abolishing conscription, I don’t understand your position. Why do you think Israel is “hostile and suspicious of Gentiles all the time” and doesn’t want to be a “normal peaceful friendly member of the community of nations?” And, where in your equation are the many attempts by Arab Nations to destroy Israel from 1948 to 1973?

    (btw, I think that there were relatively very few immigrants from America to Israel, most Jewish immigrants came from Europe and the Middle East)

    • Wrong Species says:

      It’s always amusing when people complain about paranoid Israel without mentioning the entire period where Arab countries tried to annihilate them. The only reason they don’t do so now is because they know Israel would crush them.

      • Aapje says:

        It’s paranoid if you keep being fearful when in reality, you are much stronger than any threats.

        • ashlael says:

          Even if your enemies can’t defeat you, they can still hurt you.

          • Aapje says:

            Yes, but paranoia can also result in a situation where you keep hurting someone else, which in turn makes them hurt you. Peace in N-Ireland was achieved because the (pro-)British empowered the pro-unification people.

            From a paranoid perspective this was madness (why give power to those that bomb you?). Yet it worked.

      • Anonymous Bosch says:

        The only reason they don’t do so now is because they know Israel would crush them.

        Egypt actively cooperates with Israel these days because the Egyptian army is understandably paranoid about the Muslim Brotherhood and is far more concerned with keeping them (and Hamas in Gaza) clamped down. Nasser-era sentiment for Palestine isn’t really a thing anymore.

  48. Nita says:

    the undersecretaries and the legal and other experts in the various Ministries were frequently not even Party members

    the Final Solution was greeted with “extraordinary enthusiasm” by all present, and particularly by Dr. Wilhelm Stuckart, Undersecretary in the Ministry of the Interior, who was known to be rather reticent and hesitant in the face of “radical” Party measures, and was, according to Dr. Hans Globke’s testimony at Nuremberg, a staunch supporter of the Law

    This combination of statements is a little misleading. Stuckart did, in fact, join the Nazi Party in 1922, the SS in 1933, and was a co-author of the Nuremberg Laws and the legal commentary which explained why Jews and other non-Germans should have no rights at all in the German state.

    So, he might have been a staunch supporter of the Law, but it’s not the kind of law you might have in mind.

  49. promotoriustitiae says:

    Had a debate elsewhere about whether violent or non-violent resistance was more effective. Naturally with the example here of non-resistance of the councils etc to contrast with.

    The examples I could find all indicated that things like the actions of Denmark etc. were both safer and more effective than bombings, resistance and the like, which seems counter-intuitive for advocates of violence who normally state that those methods are necessary precisely due to their effectiveness. The thing which worried me was that I couldn’t find much evidence against my on point, to the effect that some violent resistances, protests and the like must have been more effective than contemporaneous non-violent alternatives.

    Does anyone know of any examples offhand of situations where there’s been pairs like MLK and Malcolm X, but where the latter got better results?

    • Jiro says:

      The problem is that the one that gets poor results can get results so poor that they don’t leave marks in history and you’ll never hear of them.

    • Autolykos says:

      There’s probably a time for both. Non-violent protest generally only works when the oppressors can’t or don’t want to shoot you (which gave the Italians and Danes a bit of an advantage on the Poles).
      OTOH, violent protest is also often overestimated. Sabotage by the French Resistance maybe added a bit of friction here and there but was mostly considered ineffectual. The British were constantly miffed that the equipment they sent there was mostly used for infighting between the few dozen Socialist, Bolshevik, Anarchist, etc splinter groups instead of being used against the Germans. I imagine the situation in Life of Brian to be only a slight exaggeration.

      • promotoriustitiae says:

        The review above does suggest the most effective avenue for violence would be to take out the Councils who were cooperating with the Nazis. Hindsight is 20/20 and all that but I think that there was a group which did foresee that this would be effective.

        I remember reading somewhere that in the UK as part of the ministry of ungentlemanly warfare, something which biases me strongly towards it, had standing instructions. On a successful invasion they had a list of potential stooges for the Nazis who they would…. just kill in advance. The idea being to create a lack of authority for them to piggyback off.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_Operations_Executive

        I strongly like the idea that the Nazis in Denmark got, well, humanised by the contact because it plays to me preconceptions of how non-violence is meant to work.

  50. quarint says:

    I am sure the French count this as a moral victory nowadays, though it’s a very selective sort of morality.

    Yeah, no. Only whatever Pétain supporters are left would “count this as a moral victory”. And even among the extreme right those are a minority nowadays. The French are deeply ashamed of the collaboration between Pétain’s regime and Nazi Germany and the credit of saving the Jews, French or otherwise, goes to La Résistance, not to the State.

    • Subb4k says:

      Oops, sorry I did not see your comment before posting mine saying essentially the same thing. I Ctrl+F’d for “France” but since it didn’t appear in the quote, I missed your rebuttal.

  51. Jack V says:

    I already know that people’s view of which humans “count” for empathy is quite malleable. Right now, many of the same nations are rejecting refuges from Syria and other countries embroiled in turmoil, where there may not be as systematic a genocide, but it’s too easy for us to just accept that as a status quo.

  52. Ketil says:

    Politically and psychologically, the most interesting aspect of this incident is perhaps the role
    played by the German authorities in Denmark, their obvious sabotage of orders from Berlin.

    My grandfather told me about how the local German commander would come on an inspection. He would drive up to the house, exit his car, and start by inspecting the yard. He’d check out the trees and the fence and such for a good while, so that when entering the house, anything of dubious nature (an illegal radio receiver, for instance) would be well out of sight.

    This was in northern Norway, but I think the sentiment was similar in Denmark; it was a generally peaceful and quiet corner of a world in turmoil, and the Germans stationed there were just very happy not to be on the eastern front, and they certainly didn’t want any unnecessary trouble with a population that caused them few provocations. I think this as much as compassion for the victims of the Holocaust (and in any case, by then there weren’t any jews around anymore) was the reason for obstructionism and unwillingness to comply with more belligerent envoys from Berlin.

    • szopeno says:

      Hearing stories like this, I just can’t imagine how anyone can dare to do any comparisons between Danmark and Poland.

      • Markus Ramikin says:

        How many comments saying the same thing are you going to make on this page? Relax and give Scott time to clarify what he even meant.

        • szopeno says:

          You are right – it’s just a coincidence of few things amassing during last few days (e.g. “polish death camps” in German TV) and Scott’s post was just a final straw.

          No more comments from me, unless someone will request information or reply from me, until Scott clarifies his enigmatic sentence.

          • Aapje says:

            @szopeno

            My impression is that there is a permanent ressentiment among many Polish people about this issue, which causes knee-jerk reactions that are not a very good look. For example: “polish death camps” is technically correct. They were in Poland, although operated by the Nazi’s. I’m sure that 99% of the people who use that term are perfectly aware of this and merely wanted to refer to the geographic location.

            So the objections I see to these discussions appear to me as little more than take downs of straw men, where insufficient charity is extended to the people using terms like these.

          • wkumiho says:

            @ Aapje

            Sure, just like it is absolutely technically correct to call Guantanamo Bay Prison a Cuban detention center. It is not like several high-profile people have suggested a clear link between the location of Auschwitz camp and murderous instincts of local populace. It is obviously a non-issue, since American Jewish Congress has never clearly condemned this expression.

            The Poles are just being uncharitable.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Aapje:

            For example: “polish death camps” is technically correct.

            I’d say, rather, that it’s ambiguous between two meanings, one of which is technically correct, the other of which is clearly wrong.

          • Aapje says:

            @The original Mr. X

            Sure, but from my perspective a small fraction of people who talk about the holocaust are deniers and pretty much everyone who is not a denier seems to know that the Nazis were German and perpetuated the holocaust, so the likelihood that someone meant the correct meaning is much higher than the incorrect one.

            It is a sloppy statement, but people frequently make sloppy statements. Aren’t we supposed to steelman those?

            @wkumiho

            That seems like a fair topic to discuss. If we are willing to discuss to what extent the Germans supported the holocaust, to what extent the Western Europeans were to blame (like Vichy), then why not allow the same for Poland?

            Most ressentiment is based on an actual issue that is true to some extent, but it tends to result in non-nuanced, knee-jerk responses.

          • wkumiho says:

            @ Aapje

            Yes, we can discuss it – and belive me, I am under no illusion when it comes to either Polish participation in Holocaust or prevalence of antisemitic attitudes among Poles – it was, is and almost certainly will continue to be quite widespread (and I happen to know this from my own, personal experience, at least when it comes to the near past and present).

            But that being said, I do strongly believe, that we should stick to facts. Polish people have their own history of shameful acts to deal with – I see no reason to add to it by use of questionable wording. You seem to strongly belive that use of expression “polish death camps” does not muddle the issue of who was actually responsible for said camps. And what I am trying to tell you is that both I and the majority of Poles belive that it does. Moreso, I have given you an example of person who does wrognly conflate the issue of location of death camps and moral responsibility for those without being a Holocaust denier (Steven Fry) and an example of an expression that is not in use beacuse it would wrongly imply responsibility when there is none (Guantanamo Bay, a Cuban detention center).

            I find your position on this issue rather unclear. First you claim, that the use of this term is not meant to imply responsibility. Then, you swiftly come to suggest, that the question of responsibility is something that we can “discuss”. Which one is it?

            And again, final disclaimer in the name of total clarity – I DO belive that a significant part of Polish people as individuals participated in Holocaust. I DO NOT believe that Polish instututions (whatever those might have been) participated in Holocaust. I DO NOT believe that nazi death camps are something that people should even offhandedly suggest that Poles are responsbile for.

            EDIT: Ok, after I have posted this and reread it twice, I have decided that it may come off as a little bit too emotional and aggressive – sorry. It seems that we essentialy agree about the historical facts and disagree only when it comes to use of this expression. And you are of course right to say, that in the light of “rationalist discussion rules” we should try to view it as charitably as possible and that the most charitable explanation is simply sloppiness. I just happen to feel very strongly that people really should pay more attention when it comes to wording in case of this issue and I disagree that use of this exression doesn’t cause conffusion – it does (at least in case of Steven Fry). I have shown you that not only Poles believe this expressions to be problematic.

          • Aapje says:

            @wkumiho

            You seem to strongly believe that use of expression “polish death camps” does not muddle the issue of who was actually responsible for said camps. […] Moreso, I have given you an example of person who does wrongly conflate the issue of location of death camps and moral responsibility for those without being a Holocaust denier (Steven Fry)

            Steven Fry didn’t actually use the expression “polish death camps.” He also never claimed that the Polish ran the camps and his statement can quite reasonable be interpreted as a claim that the Nazis placed the camps in Poland because they perceived the Polish as less likely to resist the holocaust. This isn’t even an indictment of all Polish people, as it can most reasonably be seen as an indictment of a subset of the Polish people (more specifically, the supporters of right wing Catholicism who he explicitly called out). It seems to me that Fry was illustrating his claim of a long history of bigotry due to right wing Catholicism in Poland and how this enables abuses of certain groups of people (in his case, he is probably most worried about treatment of LGBT people).

            This is a perfectly fair claim to make (regardless of whether it is true or not, I am merely talking about allowing the discussion to take place and debating it with actual arguments, rather than ‘you blame Poland for the holocaust’).

            The Guardian is actually the party that eliminated the criticism of right wing Catholicism from their rephrasing/straw manning of Fry’s statement, making it seem like he blamed Poland as a whole. This is basic tribalist outgrouping. You draw battle lines to your own liking and ignore the hedging by the person you want to place in the outgroup. So it’s now Stephen Fry vs Poland, rather than the clearly more accurate Stephen Fry vs right wing Catholic Poland, because the former is more convenient to the narrative. So now the tribes rally behind their identities and the actual issue is not debated, but instead, people debate simplistic stereotypes.

            Of course, people don’t do this about everything, just some things that are outside of their Overton window. However, this selective rephrasing of the positions of others effectively makes people immune to discussing certain claims, which become distorted into other claims that are then debated instead. What makes me a little unhappy is that you seem to be defending this/engaging in it.

            First you claim, that the use of this term is not meant to imply responsibility. Then, you swiftly come to suggest, that the question of responsibility is something that we can “discuss”. Which one is it?

            I never even used the word ‘responsibility’ and certainly not twice as you claim. There are two issues here: one is the question who planned and executed the holocaust, which was mostly the Nazis/Germans, but with support by individuals from other nations, as you said as well. The other question is how big the group was that collaborated and how small the group that resisted. The answers to these questions involve different types of blame, as the Nazis were free to choose, while the Polish operated in an oppressive environment, so the latter had less agency. However, they still had agency, so their choices can still be discussed in moral terms.

            But again, by trying to pull me into this one-dimensional frame of ‘responsibility,’ you are trying to pull me into a tribal stand off. I don’t want to participate in that.

            And again, final disclaimer in the name of total clarity – I DO believe that a significant part of Polish people as individuals participated in Holocaust. I DO NOT believe that Polish institutions (whatever those might have been) participated in Holocaust. I DO NOT believe that Nazi death camps are something that people should even offhandedly suggest that Poles are responsible for.

            The issue is that if people knee-jerk too hard at anything that doesn’t explicitly deny claiming the latter, then effectively it becomes almost impossible to have a discussion about the former. There is a fine line between ‘don’t blame us for everything’ and revisionist ‘don’t blame us for anything.’ Over-sensitivity to certain claims distorts perception, after all, so people stop reading/listening to what is said and start pattern matching based on their stereotypes. Realistically, it is almost impossible to avoid triggering extreme levels of over-sensitivity, even if you lawyer the shit out of things you claim (which many people are not even capable of doing).

            You have identified one type of failure mode: sloppy expressions that are prone to be misinterpreted; but you ignore a related failure mode: sloppy reading that misinterprets. My argument is that one needs to be aware of and call out both failure modes, rather than just one of them; because otherwise you will end up with huge bias.

          • Joseftstadter says:

            I also think Poles are too sensitive about “Polish death camps”. It is a statement of ignorance that many Americans make, but it is almost never malicious and almost never meant to insinuate that Poles actively participated in the Holocaust. Part of the confusion is that Americans are generally unaware that there were no “death camps” on German soil. Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, Matthausen, etc. were concentration camps, and mainly for political prisoners. But in the popular mind Dachau and Auschwitz are the same thing, and maybe hence the false need to distinguish between “German” death camps and “Polish” death camps. “Polish death camp” is wrong, and understandably offensive, but I find the way PiS and its supporters jump down the throats of any ignorant foreigner who makes that mistake even more distasteful.

          • loki says:

            (in his case, he is probably most worried about treatment of LGBT people).

            What are you basing this on? Given that Fry is one of those intellectual semitophiles, I don’t see why this is necessarily the case.

            Plus, while we’re talking about inaccurate use of language, Stephen Fry has shown zero signs of giving a crap about L, B or T people, so ‘LGBT people’ would be an unusual thing for him to care about.

          • Aapje says:

            @Loki

            It’s a combination of knowing that he has spoken out for gay rights, with knowing that the Polish Law and Justice party has spoken out against gay people; while I was not aware that Fry has Jewish ancestors (a lack of knowledge that is now remedied) and I am not aware of Law and Justice speaking out against Jews.

            Then again, Fry may have been critical of this.

  53. athator says:

    Insightful post with a great summary of Eichmann’s profile and the paths the human mind takes in moral catastrophes, though your final conclusions in VII made my eyebrows furrow, mostly in your Third conclusion and final paragraph.
    With the assumption:

    “Culture” is inadequate; there’s not much light between Danish and German culture, but the two countries acted in opposite ways.

    leading to

    But when whole countries and cultures decided to resist, it made a big difference.
    Even more – and I think Arendt’s frequent repetition of this fact is entirely justified – it started to change the Nazis’ minds. The Nazi officials in Denmark and Bulgaria became just a little bit obstructionist themselves.

    which leads on to a conclusion that obstructionism in general among a population will almost have a contagious effect on the oppressing / atrocity-committing rank-and-file.

    But would the conclusion still remain if the Danes and German Nazis were extremely similar in most respects except their views on the Final Solution? Does in-group obstructionism lead to more changes in mindset than out-group obstructionism?
    The Nazi occupation of Denmark was very peaceful by many standards, and there have been debates in Denmark following the Second World War on “How much part of the Allied Forces were we really?
    There was significant pro-fascist sentiment and the Danes were also complicit in sending Communists and Social Democrats to Nazi concentration camps. Cuisine, appearances, language and historical ties are also all very similar between Denmark and Germany.
    If Bulgaria was vehemently anti-fascism as an ideology around this period in history, this obviously undermines my line of questioning, but if not, I feel the conclusion that population-level obstructionism is a protective factor against a vulnerability to Nazism isn’t so strong.

    I think back on Scott’s essay on Tolerating the Out-group: here he somewhat states that the left-right divide in politics is a stronger out-group predictor than most other measures we can think of in the United States.
    You don’t need 90% approval from the population to commit atrocities. You just need high approval ratings within your in-group, I would think, as we don’t need our imagination to tell us what humans are capable of doing to other members of their species who fall into the “out-group” category.

  54. szopeno says:

    What do you mean by “Poland (I don’t even want to talk about how hopelessly depressing this one is)”? There is a black legend being constructed in the West, at the same time forgetting about Zhegota, sometimes exxagerating true awful facts, but sometimes involving outright lies…

    • TenMinute says:

      I think and hope he means that the entire history of Poland from 1938-1945/89 is extremely depressing in general terms.

    • szopeno says:

      I hope that too. I mean I know about szmalcownicy, about granatowa plicja, about Jedwabne; but OTOH people who often talk about that tend to forget that Poland was occupied, government-in-exile created Żegota (was there any other government who financed an organisation like that?), AK was sentencing szmalcownicy do deaths (yeah, much too few death sentences were executed, I know) and Polish spies were risking their lives (Karski!) to get into the concentration camps and then smuggle the information to the west. People also tend to forget that when Polish government in exile let other governments know about Holocaust, the answer was total disbelief and silence. When g-i-e proposed bombing Germany, the answer was silence too.

      Moreover, any comparison involving Danmark and Poland is laughable. In Denmark they wento into strike, I heard. Oh, and how many Danes were shot in retaliation? None? Because, you know, in Poland people were shot for playing football in the streets. People were shot for giving glass of water to Jews. Whole families were shot for helping Jews. Whole villages were razed to the ground. The penalty for any kind of assistance was death for you and the whole family, sometimes including also neighbours.

      Not to mention that in Poland (in contrast to Denmark or France) vast majority of Jews need not to be identified by populace. They lived in their own shetls, have their own clothes, way of shaving, even their own language and have poor command of Polish.

      SO yeah, there was a lot of bad, awful things, but to compare Poland and say France is just revealing the historical ignorance.

    • Markus Ramikin says:

      I’m kinda curious too. Last I checked Poland had the highest number of Righteous among the Nations, so you’d think the story wasn’t completely depressing…

      • szopeno says:

        A reasonable estimation is that 50.000 Poles were executed for helping Jews, so maybe this is what Scott means by “depressing”.

        I don’t know how many Danes were shot or burned alive for helping Jews.

        • Aapje says:

          On the other hand, there was a lot of anti-semitism in Poland already before the war and many professional organisations excluded Jews. So the narrative that the Polish people were merely forced is not true. Reality is a lot more complicated than that, with both Polish people who helped, but also plenty who clearly were anti-semite.

          • Randy M says:

            hmm, what is a stronger testament, to dislike someone but fight for their right to life out of principle, or to do the same out of live?

            (Not saying either was the situation in Poland necessarily)

          • Aapje says:

            Randy,

            I don’t understand your comment.

          • Randy M says:

            Probably because I stupidly said “live” instead of “love”.

            Anyway, you said there was a lot of anti-semitism, and szopeno was saying there was a lot of resistance to killing Jews even in the face of punishment for doing so. I know the most parsimonious explanation is that these are disparate groups, but riffing off of that, I was wondering if it isn’t more noble to save people you don’t actually like, than to just happen to like everyone.

            Difference between virtue ethics and consequentialism, I guess. Well, that and what you meant by anti-semitism was probably not isolated to beliefs. (It’s a tangent to a tangent, but I though that forgivable as the 250th or so comment.)

          • Nita says:

            I was wondering if it isn’t more noble to save people you don’t actually like, than to just happen to like everyone.

            Who do you think you are? Kant?

          • Aapje says:

            @Randy

            I know the most parsimonious explanation is that these are disparate groups

            That is my point really. It is wrong to portray any country as if it was merely good or merely evil, rather than a mix. Of course, one can still condemn a culture for the level of evil that exists within it or praise it for the level of good, but that requires a proper weighing IMO, not pointing to a cherry picked fact.

            I was wondering if it isn’t more noble to save people you don’t actually like, than to just happen to like everyone.

            I still don’t see how this question is meaningful. Who saved people that they ‘didn’t actually like?’ Who ‘liked everyone’? What does the latter even mean? Are you referring to people who automatically become enamored by anyone they meet or more to a generic love of mankind which is non-personal (like the Christian: love thy neighbor)? Are all non-personal ideologies of love equal? If someone saves a Jewish child to raise them Christian and ‘save’ them is that equally noble to someone who respects Jewish faith/culture?

            What about the people who helped the Jews because they hated the Nazis and wanted to help their outgroup, despite having no special love for the Jews? Is that anti-Nazi tribalism more noble than philo-semitic tribalism?

            But most importantly, is this in any way meaningful? After all, most people have a complex set of beliefs and emotions. Can you describe anyone as being purely motivated by one specific ideal? Even yourself? Probably not. So isn’t trying to answer this question a form of self-delusion? A rationalization of ones biases and stereotypes about others?

            Well, that and what you meant by anti-semitism was probably not isolated to beliefs

            I think it is, probably. When Stalin persecuted all groups with high cohesion that didn’t assimilate sufficiently to his socialist cultural mores, I don’t really see it as anti-semitism as he didn’t single out the Jews specifically or had a problem with ethnic Jews that behaved as he wanted them to.

            Whatever you want to call that seems definitely to belong to a very different category than Nazi anti-semitism.

          • Nita says:

            I don’t really see it as anti-semitism as he didn’t single out the Jews specifically or had a problem with ethnic Jews that behaved as he wanted them to

            The problem is that if Stalin decided that you and your colleagues are secretly disloyal because you’re Jewish (which is something he did decide about several groups of people, at different times), you’d still be tortured and/or killed, no matter how you actually behaved.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nita

            Yeah, he was a horrible human being. My point was more that people can be horrible in different ways.

            There is often the tendency to use the wrong term for behavior due to simplistic pattern matching. I don’t think that Stalin is better understood if you ascribe to him the kind of anti-semitism that one normally thinks of when using the term (Hitler).

          • Nita says:

            @ Aapje

            To me, the central example of anti-Semitism has always been the sentiment along the lines of “gee, Jews sure are different from normal folks — so weird and cunning and greedy! no wonder they always make things work out in their favor!”. Hitler was unusual, and not really a good example of a relatively common phenomenon. The Germans who followed him were under the influence of the boring, usual anti-Semitism + theories of racial quality + feeling that drastic action is necessary to save their homeland and their people (which Hitler worked hard to inflame).

            Stalin moved the Soviet Union in a nationalist direction, and the propaganda started talking about “the Russian people” and other ethnic groups as important entities. Many Jewish intellectuals did not fit into this new picture and were accused of insufficient patriotism — see “rootless cosmopolitan“. Note how the charge of “rootlessness” sticks very easily to people without an official “homeland” inside the USSR. This is very similar to the German fears that all Jews are natural vectors of cosmopolitan communism in the 1930s.

            (Later, the Jewish people who did care about their ethnic group were persecuted for supporting “Zionism”.)

            (The Roma, who also have no “homeland” in Europe, are similarly targets of significant prejudice, only without being considered suspiciously successful.)

          • Aapje says:

            @Nita

            Many Jewish intellectuals did not fit into this new picture

            Surely, it is also true if you change this to “many Jewish intellectuals did not fit into this new picture.”

            Almost none of Stalin’s objections to Jews appear to be consistent with traditional anti-semite stereotypes. He didn’t blame them for rejecting Christ or killing Jesus, he blamed them for being religious at all (which he also blamed Christians for). He didn’t blame them for valuing money too much. He didn’t blame them for being particularly criminal. Even the accusation of ‘rootless cosmopolitan’ isn’t actually very consistent with conspiracy theories about Jewish world domination, as it doesn’t blame the Jews for being the source of the worldwide ‘bourgeois.’

            He explicitly spoke out against anti-semitism early in his rule. When he purged Jews from the foreign ministry in 1939, this seems pure appeasement (why would he limit the purge to the foreign ministry, otherwise?).

            During the war, he relocated Jews out of regions vulnerable to being conquered by the Nazis. That seems the opposite of what an anti-semite would do.

            After the war, he seemed purely driven by anger at the unwillingness of Israel to be a Soviet satellite state and fear that the Jewish people would be disloyal to the Soviet state (see the quote by Orlando Figes). Stalin was notoriously paranoid, so his subsequent actions can easily be explained by general fear of a ‘5th column,’ which would probably be no different if instead of Jewish nationalism, a different ethnic group would set up a country with strong ties to capitalist countries and to the ethnic group still living in the USSR. However, at this point he did start to target Jews specifically for being Jews, so you could call it anti-semitism of sorts, but if so, it still seems that the ethnicity of this group was incidental to Stalin’s reason to oppress them.

            PS. I also consider it relevant that AFAIK, Trotsky was never denounced for being of Jewish origin. If anti-semitism had been a terminal value of Stalin, one would expect something different.

            PS2. A lot of blame that Stalin gets for harming the Jews seems to denounce him for not treating the Jews better than he did others, which is not actually evidence for anti-semitism, but at most for a lack of philo-semitism.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            In re your argument that Stalin wasn’t exactly anti-Semitic:

            You’ve got some interesting points there. However, if the interesting topic is not “what sort of person Stalin was” but rather “was the Soviet Union a bad place for Jews”, then it’s kind of a mute point.

            I will grant freely that Stalin was better for Jews than Hitler, but it’s rather a low bar. It’s also interesting that Stalin’s anti-Semitism doesn’t map well to traditional anti-Semitism.

            I’ve heard about Jews not being allowed into top Soviet universities (specifically, math). Do you know whether that was in place during Stalin’s era?

            Do you know much about the Soviet Union and non-Russian ethnicities? I’ve heard that some were supported and others (well, Jews, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there were more on the shit list) weren’t.

          • szopeno says:

            Well, here is a point in discussion about whether Stalin persecuted Jews because he was anti-semite, or because he persecuted all cohesive groups:

            in 1930s Stalin persecuted Poles. ALL Poles in USSR were automatically suspected and practically all members of Polish minority were affected: total number of victims, which includes also friends of Poles or Russians with Polish sounding names, is about 100.000.

            Was he anti-Polish? Would be his action of shooting Poles worse if he was genuinely anti-Polish? What about, if that would be Jews: could shooting Poles or Jews be compared on basis “hey, he shot Poles, because he was anti-Polish, but he shot Jews only because he suspected they are dangerous to his regime, so anti-Polish persecution was worse?”

            IMO this is all moot point. Stalin was one of the most evil person on the earth, and the soviet regime under him was one of the most evil regimes of the XXth century.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            The phrase is “moot point”, not “mute point”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            It’s “moo“.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nancy

            I am not arguing that Stalinist Russia was good for Jews. However, I know of no group who were truly safe under Stalin. Stalin was extremely authoritarian, paranoid and collectivist, which is a horrible combination, because it means that he was extremely prone to see threats, extremely prone to generalize that perception to entire classes of people and extremely prone to act to suppress perceived threats with extreme measures.

            Note that I was not debating whether Hitler or Stalin was worse, but merely that the reasoning that Stalin used during the periods when he oppressed the Jews doesn’t seem consistent with classic anti-semitism, but seemed almost exclusively derived from Stalinist-communist ideology. In contrast, I see extremely strong consistency between Nazi hatred of Jews and earlier anti-semitism. None of this detracts from the fact that (at least later in his reign), Stalin certainly targeted Jews based on their ethnicity. This also doesn’t detract from anti-semitism existing in Soviet Russia independent of Stalins ideology (this was so virulent that Lenin and Stalin spoke out against it earlier in Soviet history and had campaigns against it).

            As for Jews being kept out of mathematics, Shen argues that these practices increased greatly after 1967 and increased again in 1974. This suggests that it became way more prevalent after the death of Stalin. Interestingly, according to Shen, the number of Jewish applicants exceeded their share of the population by such an extreme amount, that even after this filtering, Jewish math students were more common than their share of the population (about 1% at the time). To play devil’s advocate for a moment: this policy can be regarded as affirmative action for the under-represented non-Jewish applicants. In actual effect, modern race-based affirmative action certainly also tends to result in fewer Jews being accepted. So if one calls the Soviet discrimination anti-semitism, is Western affirmative action also anti-semite? Or doesn’t it count because the goals of the latter are more noble? Who gets to decide that?

            Anyway, as for your final question, estimates are that roughly 6 million people were forced to migrate, where 1-1.5 million of these perished. The deportations were often based on nationality. For example, 1.5 million people who lived in Poland were forced to migrate (63% of whom were Polish); of this total, 350,000 people perished. Then you have the Baltics, Romanians, Crimean Tatars, Chechens, etc, etc.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Kevin C.

            Damn, damn, damn. I actually “corrected” moot in the wrong direction.

    • One Name May Hide Another says:

      I wouldn’t want to speak for Scott, but this is a review of Arendt’s book and there are passages in the book that make me interpret Scott’s “depressing” assessment not as an unfair condemnation of Poles but as a general comment on the hopelessness of the situation in which both Jewish and many non-Jewish Poles found themselves during the war. Arendt mentions, for example, that the question of what is to happen to the Polish Jews was decided by Hitler in 1939: much earlier than that of Jews living in the West. This actually means that the “final solution” didn’t really apply to Polish Jews because their massacre had already been decided way in advance. Arendt also mentions that in addition to the “Jewish problem”, Nazis were preoccupied with implementing a “solution” to the “Polish problem” targeting the Polish intelligentsia and members of the professional class: they were to be rounded up and ultimately massacred as well. Finally, Arendt relates witness testimonies describing many Poles who did help Jews, including a mention of those who were brutally murdered for it by the Nazis. Bottom line for me is that while the book doesn’t whitewash the role some (non-Jewish as well as Jewish) Poles did play in aiding to carry out the genocide, her treatment of the situation is fair.

    • JL says:

      +1 somewhat unhappy person about the picture of Poland in this post.

      Which is unfair to Scott, as the blog isn’t really about it. But in particular the suggestion that ‘obstructionism’ works, without caveats, is offensive. Yeah, it works if you’re Denmark and Germany has no particular strategic or ideological interest in the country. Left to basicaly administer yourself, you can ‘forget to make a list’.

      But if your country is invaded with the intent to eradicate, to make living space for Germany, I trust you can imagine why someone saying that all it takes is for the entire country to choose to resist offends.

      • Aapje says:

        But in particular the suggestion that ‘obstructionism’ works, without caveats, is offensive.

        Especially as the Nazis allowed for different levels of obstructionism in various countries and some types of obstructionism worked out much better than others (but that is only clear to us now with 20/20 hindsight). It is easy for us to simply discount the less or non-effective forms of resistance, but that is observational bias.

  55. onyomi says:

    This seems like a good argument in favor of real diversity of thought, culture, and maybe ethnicity. It’s hard to get unanimity of anything with a diverse group. What makes relatively homogeneous cultures like Germany and Japan unusually peaceful, harmonious, and efficient in peacetime may also make them unusually vulnerable to evil memes, almost like an agricultural monoculture where, if you only have one strain of corn, you have the convenience of it all ripening at the same time but the inconvenience that, if a blight comes along, it takes out the whole crop.

    The bad thing I’m seeing now is it feels like the base level glue of niceness, community, etc. is being pulled apart right now with the result of everyone drawing battle lines in every aspect of life: many of my liberal friends tweeting about how they deleted Uber, but also one of my few ardent Trump supporting Facebook friends saying he’ll never shop at Amazon again. I don’t know if this ends up with America actually balkanizing (which, I’ve said before, I’m actually in favor of), or just de facto becoming more and more ungovernable, but it’s certainly a scary prospect in the short term, if potentially good in the long term (ironically Trump may be the best president for “States’ rights” in a long time, not because the GOP nominally supports the idea, but because so many Blueish state residents are suddenly not such big fans of centralized authority anymore).

    On the other hand, if the result of the de jure or de facto balkanization is more “monocultures,” well, while I’m in principle in favor of people getting the government they want rather than having to form huge coalitions, one also worries those monocultures will be more capable of really nasty things precisely because they won’t be full of dissenters to just about everything.

    • TenMinute says:

      Ohh, finally an excuse to stop having anything to do with Amazon.

    • suntzuanime says:

      What’s the problem with Amazon? Just common ownership with the fey canoes of WaPo or did they themselves do something?

    • watsonbladd says:

      Homogenous? Germans don’t speak the same language: Frisians and Bavarians speak dialects that are hard to understand. A significant section is Catholic.

      It’s important to note that from 1933 until 1939, the Nazis had significant control over public life and were executing their opponents. Even so they had to back down on euthanasia because of Catholic opposition.

      • onyomi says:

        Homogeneity is relative.

        Though perhaps it’s not relative homogeneity of culture, language, or ethnicity per se that’s to blame, but some kind of notion of extremely broad political consensus, or the idea that dissent from consensus is prima facie bad. It seems to be impossible to imagine 90% of Americans agreeing on anything, much less support of an historically extreme political party. Part of what seems to make that unimaginable is our diversity of thought, culture, etc. (and yes, I consider the US to be more diverse than Germany, though that is obviously, in part, a function of geographic and population size).

        But part of what makes it unimaginable may be a relatively strong historical notion, in America, that political dissent is normal, healthy, and even patriotic. I don’t know about Germany, but Japanese culture puts a lot of emphasis on building consensus, a corollary of which is that, once reached, consensus shouldn’t be dissented from–nail that sticks out and all that. What’s really scary about the “drawing battle lines” issue may be that both Red and Blue tribes in the US are seemingly abandoning the longstanding US custom of viewing dissent as okay, thereby becoming, in effect, two entirely separate groups who don’t identify with one another hardly at all, as opposed to two competing factions within one group, each keeping the other in check?

        • Autolykos says:

          As an “insider”, I agree with the notion that Germany is not (and never was) culturally homogeneous. Most people identify a lot more strongly with their region or town than with the country (which is not the same as the official divisions; never make the mistake of calling Franks Bavarians – that’s almost as bad as calling Scots English). The newborn German state tried very hard to change this and create a unified German culture, but that never was successful.
          But that is not the important point.
          France is a lot more culturally homogeneous (except for Brittany and parts of the South), but I highly doubt a dictatorship in France could be nearly as effective as the Nazis. It has a lot more to do with what the national/cultural values are, than with how widely they are shared. The French take pride in individualism and improvising their way through the day, Germans generally* take pride in a job done efficiently and by the book. I’d say Eichmann (or the figure he wanted to paint himself as) is a fine example for that, and the dangers inherent in that attitude. Asking “Why are we doing this?” does reduce efficiency, after all.

          *Except for Cologne, which is arguably more chaotic and corrupt than some parts of Greece. And with long tradition; it is said that Napoleon was so appalled by how dirty it was there that he promptly made a law forcing its citizens to regularly clean the streets…

          • willbradshaw says:

            Except for Cologne, which is arguably more chaotic and corrupt than some parts of Greece.

            Oh, come on. Karneval aside it’s not significantly more chaotic (and is definitely cleaner) than large swathes of Berlin. Unless you’re a Kölner I think you’re working too much from stereotypes here.

          • onyomi says:

            Germany is, of course, less historically unified, politically, than France, which does make it seem like maybe a culture of accepting/not accepting dissent is more important than homogeneity per se. Though, if true, that also means diversity, per se, is not a good defense for the US if we lose our notion of patriotic dissent.

          • Autolykos says:

            Well, I have to admit that the streets in Cologne today are now than they have allegedly been in Napoleon’s time. (And I was exaggerating a bit to highlight regional differences…).

          • Autolykos says:

            s/now/cleaner/
            (I miss the edit function)

          • willbradshaw says:

            To be fair, it definitely seems to be representative of what people from elsewhere in Germany think about Cologne. Which, come to think of it, should make me suspicious about all the horrible things they keep saying about Bavaria…

          • Joseftstadter says:

            Except for Cologne

            Are you from Düsseldorf?

    • callmebrotherg says:

      I’m not sure how I feel about it but I could at least potentially be sold on the idea of balkanization if it were done in an Unsong Untied States-style manner, where we’re going our separate ways in many respects but are still unified enough that there isn’t a risk of These States going to war against Those States.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      (ironically Trump may be the best president for “States’ rights” in a long time, not because the GOP nominally supports the idea, but because so many Blueish state residents are suddenly not such big fans of centralized authority anymore).

      I want you to be right, but unfortunately the attitude of most blueish people I know is closer to “Next time we get power we’d better ruthlessly crush these bigots to make sure they can never get one of their own into the White House again.”

      • TenMinute says:

        In case anyone was wondering why our sympathy is rapidly approaching “zero”, completely ignoring the mobs screaming that it’s time to start murdering us already.

        Congrats, it’s crush or be crushed, and we don’t even get to choose the side.

        • herbert herberson says:

          In case anyone was wondering why our sympathy is rapidly approaching “zero”, completely ignoring the mobs screaming that it’s time to start murdering us already.

          The only mobs screaming that are the ones inside your head. Tumblr is not the world

          • suntzuanime says:

            Well, there are actually mobs screaming, let’s not gaslight anyone. But yes, it’s not time to start the civil war yet. I suspect you’re saying “it’s crush or be crushed” without sitting down and thinking for five minutes about possible alternatives. If it’s, say, crush or be crushed or promote civic virtue, I know what side I’m on.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Mobs screaming for murder? Outside of the one or two times a BLM march did the pigs in a blanket chant, that strikes me as more than an exaggeration.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I suspect this is a reference to things like this:

            https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/04/us/politics/hillary-clinton-campaign.html

            David Plouffe, President Obama’s former campaign manager, proposed the idea in June. “It is not enough to simply beat Trump,” he wrote on Twitter. “He must be destroyed thoroughly. His kind must not rise again.”

            As I recall at least one leftist blog had an article along the same lines which came out right before the election… oops.

          • TenMinute says:

            The nicest and most polite version was “Abandoning Defensive Crouch Liberalism”

            “The culture wars are over; they lost, we won. For liberals, the question now is how to deal with the losers in the culture wars. That’s mostly a question of tactics. My own judgment is that taking a hard line (“You lost, live with it”) is better than trying to accommodate the losers, who – remember – defended, and are defending, positions that liberals regard as having no normative pull at all. Trying to be nice to the losers didn’t work well after the Civil War, nor after Brown. (And taking a hard line seemed to work reasonably well in Germany and Japan after 1945.) I should note that LGBT activists in particular seem to have settled on the hard-line approach, while some liberal academics defend more accommodating approaches. When specific battles in the culture wars were being fought, it might have made sense to try to be accommodating after a local victory, because other related fights were going on, and a hard line might have stiffened the opposition in those fights. But the war’s over, and we won.

            So, “do to them what you did to the nazis, because soon you’ll have the power to do whatever you want to them”.
            And at the street level, we’re seeing that put into practice, in the form of good old fashioned “Beat people with bats for their violent hate-votes!!”

            I suspect your kind invented the term “gaslighting” mostly because it’s your favorite strategy.
            The cries of “PEACEFUL PROTEST!” keep going as the knives come out, just to rub in the fact that the perpetrators have the political power to frame themselves as the victims.

            One last quote from “Abandoning”:

            Of course all bets are off if Donald Trump becomes President. But if he does, constitutional doctrine is going to be the least of our worries.

            He guaranteed it.

          • herbert herberson says:

            You guys can’t honestly believe those are calls for murder. Get real.

          • herbert herberson says:

            And lest you accuse me of special pleading, I don’t think anyone on the right (outside of the absolute fringes like Dylan Roof and Eliot Rogers) is calling for the death of anyone in this country. I support BLM, but I don’t think any cops are purposely targeting minorities for murder. I hate and fear Trump, but think the chances of him doing anything more violent than mass deportations in the domestic sphere is very, very low.

          • Jaskologist says:

            They’re not calls for murder, they’re calls to hound them out of their jobs and find other ways to financially and socially ruin them.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Yeah, that’s bad. As far as I’m concerned, not fucking with people’s livelihoods should be a bedrock principle of anyone of the left (possible exception for state employees authorized to use violence). But we’re on a blog where the author wrote 8000 words correctly pointing out that the president he didn’t vote for, like, or respect, who probably is at least a little racist, is not openly racist. You’ll forgive me if find it worthwhile to write a couple paragraphs pushing back against someone stating that his political opponents are calling for his murder.

          • lemmycaution415 says:

            TenMinute- I went to check out your quote and it has a different title and a big section that you deleted. Nothing about murder you dumb-ass.

            https://balkin.blogspot.com/2016/05/abandoning-defensive-crouch-liberal.html

            Abandoning Defensive Crouch Liberal Constitutionalism

            The culture wars are over; they lost, we won. Remember, they were the ones who characterized constitutional disputes as culture wars (see Justice Scalia in Romer v. Evans, and the Wikipedia entry for culture wars, which describes conservative activists, not liberals, using the term.) And they had opportunities to reach a cease fire, but rejected them in favor of a scorched earth policy. The earth that was scorched, though, was their own. (No conservatives demonstrated any interest in trading off recognition of LGBT rights for “religious liberty” protections. Only now that they’ve lost the battle over LGBT rights, have they made those protections central – seeing them, I suppose, as a new front in the culture wars. But, again, they’ve already lost the war.). For liberals, the question now is how to deal with the losers in the culture wars. That’s mostly a question of tactics. My own judgment is that taking a hard line (“You lost, live with it”) is better than trying to accommodate the losers, who – remember – defended, and are defending, positions that liberals regard as having no normative pull at all. Trying to be nice to the losers didn’t work well after the Civil War, nor after Brown. (And taking a hard line seemed to work reasonably well in Germany and Japan after 1945.) I should note that LGBT activists in particular seem to have settled on the hard-line approach, while some liberal academics defend more accommodating approaches. When specific battles in the culture wars were being fought, it might have made sense to try to be accommodating after a local victory, because other related fights were going on, and a hard line might have stiffened the opposition in those fights. But the war’s over, and we won.

          • James Miller says:

            lemmycaution415

            “The culture wars are over; they lost, we won. ”

            I assume the we here is liberals. I don’t think you understand how weak the position of liberals currently is. Conservatives control the federal government and most state governments. In two years conservatives might have enough power in state governments to get a constitutional amendment passed. Conservatives are lead by a man who truly doesn’t care what nasty names liberals call him. If conservatives wish to re-fight cultural wars they will easily win. What might save liberals here is conservatives not caring enough about cultural issues to bother.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @James

            lemmy is quoting (use the Quote button next time), and he’s quoting something from before the election.

          • herbert herberson says:

            James, that article wasn’t posted because anyone here agrees with it, particularly outside of the pre-election context where it was written, but as purported evidence of eliminationist rhetoric on the left.

          • They’re not calls for murder, they’re calls to hound them out of their jobs and find other ways to financially and socially ruin them.

            I don’t think it’s even that. It looks to me like a call to pass whatever laws liberals think right without any consideration to whether they offend conservatives.

          • TenMinute says:

            That essay was calling for “Bake The Cake, Bigot!” to be applied to every aspect of the culture war, just to rub his enemy’s noses in the fact they were beaten, and his side was now in charge.

            Meanwhile, the mayor of Berkeley responds to a violent riot against a speaker by celebrating.
            Ah, but then it went a little too far for him.

            herbert herberson, you are telling a lie, and you’re doing it so blatantly that I can’t believe you don’t know it.
            An “antifa” mob is beating people and burning shit this very second, and you have the nerve to pretend it’s not happening?

          • Cypren says:

            TenMinute, you are being truly uncharitable here. These are not left-wing protesters trying to silence a political opponent through violence and intimidation. They are anarchists, opposed to government in any form! Just ask them!

            It’s entirely coincidental that they appear only to disrupt events disfavored by left-wing groups and causes and wear masks so no one can tell their identities. They are most definitely not left-wing activists hiding their beliefs and identities in order to insulate their political movements from association with brutal third-world thuggery. We know this because any left-winger will tell you that the Left are Pacifist and violence is the domain of those evil right-wing fascists. And the news will always remind us that left-wing protests are Mostly Peaceful(tm).

            So stop casting aspersions and admit to your blameworthiness, you fascist.

          • herbert herberson says:

            An “antifa” mob is beating people and burning shit this very second, and you have the nerve to pretend it’s not happening?

            Okay, you’ve got me there. Antifa (which is unquestionably a movement of the left, sorry to make your snarkful efforts redundant Cypren) will sometimes cross the line into eliminationist rhetoric.

            They’re pretty damn fringe, though, and haven’t actually eliminated anyone…. and I find it interesting that the sort of people who read Moldbug approvingly are so troubled when the far left forcefully objects to alt-right celebrities interjecting themselves into the most leftist spaces in America.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Cypren:

            I know you’re being sarcastic here, but it is worth pointing out that a lot of the left make arguments like “I know most right-wingers don’t actually support [shooting up gay nightclubs], but their extremist rhetoric about [gay marriage] contributed to the climate of fear which caused the [nightclub shooting]!” Holding the left to the same standards, it would seem that people talking about Trump being literally Hitler, malevolent, a fascist dictatorship waiting to happen, etc., also share some of the responsibility if their more excitable confreres take their rhetoric seriously enough to justify violence.

          • stillnotking says:

            One can only imagine the CNN coverage if a white supremacist group had started fires and beaten people in the streets to prevent Ta-Nehisi Coates from speaking. (Well, one has to imagine it.) This is the main difference: the institutional left feels no pressure to disavow violent groups like Antifa, much less the violent rhetoric of BLM. It’s unfortunate that they don’t, because right-wingers, not actually being idiot troglodytes, tend to notice and resent it. Hence Trump.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Antifa is a movement which finds it fine to attack people for the way they look. It’s not that bad in most of the US, but in some parts of Europe, they’re basically just thugs, and have spawned left-wing opposition groups which fancy themselves anti-anti-fa. Then those groups started attacking antifa people (and people who look like antifa people) and now we have antiantiantifa.

            At this point we have a bunch of people attacking one another over fascism, pretty.much none of whom are fascists (although the antifa and antiantiantifa people claim the antiantifa people are fascists).

            I don’t particularly care to replicate this insane nonsense in the US, so – how about we agree attacking other people is bullshit regardless of who is doing it, and stop pretending it isn’t happening because of tribal nonsense.

          • herbert herberson says:

            stillnotking–

            So the left has to take responsibility for antifa street fights, and the right has to take responsibility for Brevik/Roof/Bissonnette/Rogers. That seems fair enough.

          • stillnotking says:

            @herbert herberson: Yes it does sound fair, but since none of us are in charge of CNN (as far as I know), our analysis is better served by confining itself to the descriptive. The left isn’t subject to the same kind of insinuating coverage and op-eds that followed Brevik and Rogers, nor is it likely to be, given the institutional incentives.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Until the radical left starts actually murdering people again, I don’t think you have enough basis for comparison to blame the distinction on the liberal media.

            And, of course, while we argued about a trivial number of assaults on one hand and a trivial number of murders on the other, the new President made it more clear than ever that he wants military action against Iran.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @herbert herbertson:

            At this point in time, and for a while now, the far right in the west is worse than the far left; far-right terrorists murdering people are clearly worse than far-left rioters smashing windows and burning stuff and beating people.

            However, I do not see anyone I would consider mainstream right defending murderous right-wing terrorists. I do see people on the mainstream left – including people who think of themselves as leftists but if you actually consider their opinions are basically liberals or neoliberals – defending the rioters in ways that range from cheering them on to sort of shrugging and saying “well, violently denying free speech is sorta bad, but…”

          • howardtreesong says:

            After spending an hour or so watching tape of last night’s Berkeley event, it’s clear to me that many of the rioters don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. In an interview, one said “we’re here to protest fascism.” He apparently doesn’t know the first thing about Yiannopolous, who is in no respect a fascist, and who has been in a lengthy fight with the Storm Front people. Sure, Yiannopolous is deliberately controversial, but if you actually listen to him, his views are much more anti-PC than anything else. There’s not one single view of his that can be characterized as either racist or fascist in any respect.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Longterm KKK presence in the US police

            I expect there’s some deliberate murder.

          • herbert herberson says:

            However, I do not see anyone I would consider mainstream right defending murderous right-wing terrorists. I do see people on the mainstream left – including people who think of themselves as leftists but if you actually consider their opinions are basically liberals or neoliberals – defending the rioters in ways that range from cheering them on to sort of shrugging and saying “well, violently denying free speech is sorta bad, but…”

            I recently became 100% convinced by Freddie DeBoer’s argument on this question: who cares if it’s okay or not when it’s obviously pointless?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @herbert herberson – “The only mobs screaming that are the ones inside your head. Tumblr is not the world”

            That’s right! That’s Right!
            You got knocked out, bitch!
            Your boy got knocked out!
            come on then!
            That’s right, nazi boy!
            Where’s your fucking Furher now, Bitch!

          • stillnotking says:

            Freddie’s post about this disappointed me more than anything he’s ever written. Refusing to condemn violence on the grounds that it’s irrelevant isn’t an honest attempt to refocus the discussion. It’s just being coy. (In the comments, he went even farther, and explicitly said it’s not wrong to punch people like Richard Spencer. So we know what the coyness is hiding, too.)

            Why is it so hard for people to say “Yes, violence committed by anyone, even people who are nominally affiliated with me, is deplorable. I condemn it and I don’t want their support.” Then we can move on to other topics, secure in the knowledge that our interlocutors uphold the basic principle of civilization that makes discussion possible.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @herbert herberson:

            Liberals who say “hey, punching people is wrong if not done in immediate self-defence, and setting fire to shit and hitting people and smashing up a Starbucks to stop a guy from speaking is also wrong” get called weaklings, concern trolls, and Nazi apologists, by some leftists and by some crypto-liberals.

            Freddie deBoer, a leftist, certainly not a liberal, who says “hey, this violence and all the resultant posturing might make you feel hard, but it’s going to accomplish nothing” gets called … a weakling, a concern troll, and a Nazi apologist, by those same people.

            I don’t even know if I’m a defender of the unrestricted right to free speech – this was hashed and rehashed a few OTs back, and to summarize my opinions on the matter, I don’t think there are any good choices right now – but I’m alarmed at the number of people I know who have fairly mainstream left-wing views, who all of a sudden think that indiscriminate political violence against anyone they can quasi-plausibly call a fascist (forget punching Richard Spencer, proponent of an awful ideology that would bring ruin to the US; that’s pretty discriminate by the standards of this riot at Berkeley) is cool. The people I know who are of the “yeah, punching Nazis, that’s great” variety are actually less excited about this sort of thing than the people I thought were ordinary lukewarm liberal types.

          • TenMinute says:

            I knew they’d keep excusing this.
            I expected nothing, and I’m still disappointed.

            dndnrsn, that was my point in this whole thread: their attitude going into this election was “we win, anything we do to you is justified”.

            That they lost electorally doesn’t matter to them—it just means they have to rub their power in people’s faces more.
            Like, you know, being able to attack people in the streets with zero consequences, so that everyone knows who’s in charge here.

          • Cypren says:

            I don’t agree that the mainstream right has to “take responsibility for” Brevik, Roof and similar far-right extremists. There’s a significant and quantifiable difference, as dndnrsn pointed out, between how the two sides associate with and accommodate their extremists. Stormfront and similar explicitly racist groups are loudly condemned, socially distanced and not even lukewarmedly endorsed by the Right. You don’t see National Review going, “okay, violence is terrible, but the white nationalist movement at Stormfront does make some good points…”

            On the other hand, you do see this kind of embrace of violent radicals and deliberate downplaying of their actions by the mainstream Left. This can be simple things, like the San Francisco Chronicle story that I linked above calling the antifa thugs “anarchists” and acting as if they were a separate, unrelated group to the main protest who simply coincidentally showed up to cause trouble. The Berkeley mayor’s official statement on the matter does the same, acting as if the violence was an unforseeable, spontaneous riot rather than the planned, well-organized efforts that it clearly was. You have mainstream left media types advocating riots as an appropriate and moral response to Trump. You have the absolute undisguised glee over the Richard Spencer assault. You have a mainstream British lefty journalist lamenting that “the assassination is taking such a long time.” And I’ve just covered mainstream white leftists so far. We haven’t even talked about the Ferguson riots (widely cheered by both white and minority leftists as they destroyed a huge swath of minority-owned businesses and homes), Black Lives Matter riots and the Dallas shooting… the list goes on.

            Find me anyone — anyone at all — who writes for a mainstream right-wing news organization (hell, I’ll even consider Breitbart as mainstream!) who promoted, excused or attempted to minimize the evil of the Roof/Brevik/Bissionette shootings. Or someone who openly advocated that Americans riot and assault Obama supporters at his rallies or appearances. Or advocated assassinating him.

            The two sides are not comparable. Violence is mainstream on the Left.

          • stillnotking says:

            Not to mention celebrities openly calling for a military coup to oust Trump. I think we’ve passed the point of no return when we need to argue about whether the violent end of the Republic is a good idea. It only gets worse from here.

            Where are the voices of sanity on the left? Seriously. Is any prominent liberal or Democrat condemning the Berkeley violence, or just generally telling people to calm the fuck down?

            ETA: It looks like the Berkeley admin did condemn it, albeit in rather weak terms blaming outside agitators, with not a peep about the students who stood by filming (and cheering) while people were being assaulted. I guess it’s something.

          • Anatoly says:

            @stillnotking, there was a celebrity openly calling to march on Washington and oust Obama through a revolution, when they thought, four years ago, mistakenly, that Obama lost the popular vote but still won the presidency. Is that the sort of thing you’re talking about?

          • Jaskologist says:

            Berkeley campus was invaded by more than 100 armed individuals clad all in black who utilized paramilitary tactics to engage in violent, destructive behavior

            That is a lot of “outside agitators.” I find it hard to believe that happens without somebody coordinating and organizing it. I’ll believe that Berkeley and the city condemn it when I see them track those people down and make arrests.

          • stillnotking says:

            @Anatoly: Calling for a “march on Washington” is hardly sedition, unless you think all the various marches on Washington over the years have been seditious, including MLK’s, and the one that happened just last week. Liberals are welcome to march on Washington as much as they want; hell, I encourage it. Advocating a coup is another matter entirely.

          • Anatoly says:

            @stillnotking, did you miss the word “revolution” in my comment or its repeated use in the tweets linked?

            Oh well, I shouldn’t have bothered. *Of course* a tweet by a stand-up comedian calling for a coup is evidence that the left lost its sanity, while a tweet by someone who’s now President calling for a revolution is something to be excused, and not at all any kind of evidence about the right whatsoever. Of course.

          • stillnotking says:

            @Anatoly: “Revolution” is a word so loosely used that I associate it more with cosmetic ads than political violence. Silverman went way past the point Trump did; his tweets can at least be charitably read as encouraging nonviolent dissent. She explicitly called for the military to remove him from power.

            Not to mention that said political violence is, y’know, actually happening.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Cypren:

            I don’t think it’s the case that violence is mainstream “on the left” (whatever “the left” -s – you did want me to call you out on that, ha).

            There’s a lot of “apolitical” low-level (beatings instead of killings, single killings instead of mass shootings, etc) violence and property damage. As opposed to organized (or, at least, planned) black bloc type stuff, the riots like you got in Ferguson were mostly bored young men smashing stuff and stealing things – it’s not a secret that the people who turn out for the riot are a different subset of the population than the people who turn out for the protest beforehand. Young men with time on their hands are pretty dangerous, and don’t need politics as an excuse – what % of them do you suppose vote, anyway? (Then again, a decent chunk of the go-out-and-break-windows-and-punch-cops people are young men who are probably more about the breaking and punching than the political rationale)

            Meanwhile, (today, in the West) actual deadly violence and mass deadly violence is either apolitical (most murders are for profit or are ), right wing (Breivik, Roof, Bissonette, etc), or hard to classify (there was a long and pointless debate over whether terrorism by Islamist radicals was “right wing” or “left wing” a while back). Also falling into “hard to classify” is violence by government authority – people on the left see it as “right wing” violence, but this misses a big part of the picture – for example, Baltimore has zero real Republican political presence (their delegates and state senators are straight D, their national house reps are straight D, their mayor is D) but that hardly makes the Baltimore police more gentle towards poor black men. But mass murder in the west tends to be apolitical, hard to classify, or far right: Far leftists rarely go on shooting sprees (probably because they are far less likely to have guns).

            What I think there is is a tendency by some on the left to think of violence as a “right-wing” thing and thus ignore, play down, minimize, reframe, etc violence on the left, or apolitical/hard-to-classify violence that is seen as playing into the right’s narrative.

            This is separate from the cheering on of violence/property damage like in Berkeley. That’s posturing. I think it’s relevant that the person I know who was most into Facebook posting about how swell burning limos and punching Nazis is is the sort of person who is far too fragile to actually do anything like that and would probably have a full-on panic attack if they were at a protest where actual violence broke out. Andrew Cord or whatever we calling him has tweeted approvingly about the woman at Berkeley getting pepper-sprayed, right? I may be wrong – there are some pudgy bespectacled nerds who will kick your ass – but he doesn’t seem like the sort of person who is into violence, personally.

            I think it’s compensation. A lot of people on the left are actually really scared because they know full well that if it came down to it the right would win – the right has more support from the police and the military, and is far more likely to own guns and know how to use them.

            EDIT: Likewise, calls to revolution by university student Marxists who want a “people’s army” because they are crap at violence themselves and don’t realize that “the people” are mostly not fans of college student Marxists… Not a threat really.

          • Anatoly says:

            @stillnotking, when someone says that the election was a sham and a travesty, and we should march on Washington and stop the injustice through a revolution, they’re not talking about cosmetics ads, and to pretend that this use of the word “revolution” is somehow vague good-feelingy is depressingly dishonest of you.

          • TenMinute says:

            but he doesn’t seem like the sort of person who is into violence, personally.

            So? All the left needs to do is say “we endorse this violence, and anyone participating in the looting will suffer no consequences. Also, in 40 years we will make movies where you’re the downtrodden heroes fighting against evil fascist dictators

            The Fish & Game department doesn’t need to shoot a deer to declare that it’s open season.

          • stillnotking says:

            @Anatoly: I know the difference between hyperbole and sedition, and so, I think, do you. I would not be reacting like this if Silverman had written exactly what Trump did in 2012. Believe that, or don’t.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @TenMinute:

            But they can’t guarantee that there will be no consequences. That pro-black bloc article Deiseach posted elsewhere admits that the charging of 200 or whatever people with felony rioting or whatever the charge was was unexpected. I predict there will be a law and order clampdown.

          • Cypren says:

            @dndnrsn: I think that’s a pretty good explanation overall. (Also, I felt comfortable generalizing “the left” in this case because the examples I quoted span a range of both mainstream liberals and leftists; “punch a Nazi” is a meme that seems to be largely okay with the vast majority of all ideologies left of center. Apologies if that was still too general, though.)

            Your explanation about fear and compensation is probably accurate. I also think it’s the single most damaging thing people can be doing right now. Justifying, excusing and openly advocating political violence is only encouraging the mainstream Right to arm up and prepare for civil war. When you have normally reasonable people like Glenn Reynolds saying the appropriate response to being surrounded by Leftist protestors is “run them down“, something has changed. Reynolds isn’t the kind of hot-headed guy who advocates murdering the political opposition and is chomping at the bit for an excuse to go to war; he’s someone who has lost his tolerance for “mostly peaceful” protests where their targets come out bleeding and bruised and is advocating treating a left-wing mob as an implicit threat to life and limb and acting accordingly in self-defense.

            This needs to be de-escalated. And the first and most important step in de-escalation is for non-violent liberals and leftists to stop pretending this is okay or admirable.

          • Cypren says:

            @dndnrsn: Thinking about it some more, it’s probably somewhat pointless and pedantic to argue over whether actors are “right” or “left” in global or philosophical terms. For contemporary American political discourse, what we’re really interested in is, are they trying to positively or negatively influence the prospects of the Republican or Democratic parties, or change the character of those parties?

            Islamic terrorism, for example, is definitely right-wing on a global or philosophical axis, but for American political purposes, it’s essentially neutral. It isn’t designed to force shifts in our party politics, and it isn’t even really designed to convince the US to get out of Middle Eastern affairs. It’s mostly a symbolic blow against the Great Satan to gain prestige and status within the Islamic extremist community to better effect political change at home.

            Shifting gears a little, I think one reason why I see Dylan Roof as essentially an apolitical madman, while I see Antifa as explicitly political violence, is that Roof didn’t really have a coherent plan about how to benefit from his murder spree. He had vague notions that somehow killing random people would “start a race war”, but that was about it, and seems more ignorant and delusional than anything else.

            Antifa, on the other hand, has very explicit and organized plans of how to benefit from political violence: disrupt speakers saying things they don’t like and destroy property in venues in order to intimidate the speakers into silence and prevent disinterested third parties from hosting them due to liability risk. They’ve done this very successfully in many cases, and their pattern of violent destruction has considerably raised the cost for controversial speakers like Milo; organizations hosting him are forced to pay significant amounts of money for extra security if the venue is even willing to host them at all.

            I generally see this same dichotomy between Islamic terrorism in the form of Omar Mateen versus Al Qaeda. They’re both problems that need to be dealt with, but individual self-radicalized shooters are both considerably less predictable and addressable by society, as well as ultimately much less dangerous than calculating, organized and well-planned terrorism.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Cypren:

            (Also, I felt comfortable generalizing “the left” in this case because the exam