[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.]
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You (or Arendt) might be giving Bulgaria a bit too much credit putting them up alongside the Danes. At least according to Wikipedia (but it seems well footnoted), they were more similar to France in that they handed over the alien Jews and the Jews from the occupied areas of Greece, and only started dragging their feet after the Germans demanded the native Jews.
I also read that book recently and there are a few other takeaways I want to emphasize.
1. YOU ARE SAFER IF YOU RESIST. In a number of cases, Jews were much safer if they joined the Resistance than if they followed orders from the Jewish Councils. This is one of those cases where courage is actually safer than cowardice.
2. Being a literal high-ranking Nazi is totally compatible with being sensitive, not liking to see people in pain, liking animals and small children, all other “normal” kinds of human motivations. On the other hand, not everybody has to worry that they’re secretly a Nazi. It’s more like “are you willing to quit your job and look bad if you’re asked to do something dramatically terrible?”
3. Arendt’s obsession seems to be *law* — punishing people for the crimes, and only the crimes, they’re guilty of. Preserving the liberal order. She’s unsympathetic to ethnic grievance even when it’s the extremely understandable Jewish/Israeli grievance against anti-Semitism. She thinks that in the long run, ethnic grievance will fail at preventing genocide. Only law, and in particular international law, will work. I think what she’d say about our present moment is that liberal rather than identity-politics approaches are the best protection against Trumpist attacks. I’m not sure I agree with her faith in the rule of law — we don’t seem to have that much of it — but it’s something to keep in mind.
I think Arendt would say, not that liberal approaches are better than identity-politics approaches tactically – not that they’re better as approaches, or that the rule of law will necessarily be efficacious against Trump – but that whatever tactics you take, it is important to keep in mind the concept of a liberal order as an end, and not to construe the conflict as one that’s purely along the lines of identity.
I’d point to her discussion of the Dreyfus Affair in “Origins” and her account of the Dreyfusards for an interesting example on these lines. I’d also point to the stuff about minorities and the Treaties of Trianon in the same book as one thing that might account for why she’s skeptical about ethnic grievance and identity.
Yeah, Origins of Totalitarianism is probably the best bet for really understanding her opinions on that.
RE: 1. “YOU ARE SAFER IF YOU RESIST…courage is actually safer than cowardice.”
Can anybody guide me to books, papers, or academics that have thoroughly investigated the strength of this claim in history (modern or pre-modern), not just via narrative or a few interesting cases?
I don’t think this statement is generally, or even often true – it just makes for good anecdote.
That said, it is also somewhat true in martial arts. You’re often safer when you close in to grapple than when you try to hang back and defend. Especially when your opponent has a weapon that gives them reach.
It may sometimes also be true in military tactics, but that is a bit situational. Going on the offensive allows you to seize the initiative, which can be safer since you decide when and where the fighting happens*. Rommel seems to be a strong proponent of that idea (and his book “Infantry Attacks” is a classic, and generally a good read). He is often criticized for leaving his flanks unprotected, but as far as I remember it never comes back to bite him.
* It is obviously not safer if you’re stupid about that decision…
It seems obvious to me that this is not necessarily true if the oppressor ‘merely’ wants a certain level of compliance and is willing to let you live if you comply. Most dictators don’t commit genocide.
Is it better to cooperate with the hijackers or resist?
Well, nearly always, it’s better to cooperate.
I have no idea how to tell which scenario you are in.
Bayesian decision tree?
Which was the case for a few centuries of Jewish history prior to the Holocaust. Unfortunately, it was not immediately obvious that the circumstances had changed.
Especially since the Nazis intentionally turned up the heat slowly and intentionally deceived people.
The Nazis’ actions were incremental, yes, but their rhetoric was genocidal and dehumanizing right from the beginning.
There’s a reason why Austrian Jews had a much higher survival rate than German ones: all the laws hit them at once.
You have to make an educated guess about the end state of cooperation.
I was thinking martial arts too. The dominant current advice on American self-defense is (1) if someone has a weapon and robs you, give him your wallet, watch and phone, because it’s not worth the risk, but (2) if he demands that you leave the area with him (for example, he claims to want you to enter your ATM code at a series of ATMs), run, scream, and/or fight, because you are probably going to die.
But maybe he just wants you to withdraw money from ATMs – you can’t know. Airplane hijackings are similar. Fighting might crash the plane, but if you’re pretty sure that’s the goal, it’s still the way to go.
You are confusing “resist” and “attack”. The point is not the difference between “attack and defense”, but between “resistance and capitulation”
Militarily, I think it’s trivially true that you lose 100% of the wars where you surrender without a fight, whether that fight is defensively oriented or offensively oriented.
In self-defense, the one I always remember is a 1994 US Dept. of Justice survey that looked on victim outcomes for violent crime and broke it down by both attacker and defender weaponry. The statistical evidence was that your that your odds of being less injured are better (2:1) if you comply…IF you are unarmed and your attacked is armed. If you -ARE- armed, the odds flip around, and you are better off resisting. I -believe- the overall % of victims who were injured resisting was lower than the overall % of victims who were injuried complying (20-25% injured vs. 33% injured), but my old link to the text version of the survey on DOJ.gov is broken so I have to find it again.
I think that Aapje has a point, though, and that it comes back to that 2/3rds statistic in the crime statistics I mentioned above: What does your oppressor/aggressor really WANT? What are their intentions?
The problem being that if you pre-commit to compliance, it becomes very hard to change your mind later.
You can prepare to resist, and choose not to. If you make no preparations for resistance at all, your odds of resisting successfully if you decide it’s necessary go down.
Seems to be something like https://www.ncjrs.gov/txtfiles/fireviol.txt (search on “resistance” for the relevant paragraph):
where footnote 17 references http://www.jstor.org/stable/800663 which I don’t have access to atm.
The classic example of “courage is safer than cowardice” is pre-trench warfare, where two armies faced off against each other. You were much more likely to die in the process of turning around to flee than if you stayed with your unit.
The Civil Rights Movement is also a (slightly differently structured) example. The Klan had already been on the decline for decades. If your enemy is weakening and you *call their bluff* on threats — like, “Ok, I dare you to make me, by the way my side has the National Guard” — you’ll experience some violence and then it’ll be over and you’ll be in a much stronger position.
If the balance of power isn’t actually too unfavorable, then “standing your ground and fighting” is the scarier but more prudent option. If the balance of power is lousy, then it’s less prudent. But the thing is, it’s *always* scarier, so it’s important to separate the questions of “what’s scariest” and “what’s safest”.
It’s not quite true to say that the Klan had been on the decline for decades — or rather, it’s so true that it gives the wrong impression. The “original” Klan (actually the second version, but the first to have most of the trappings we associate with it: cross burnings, elaborate titles, etc.) was effectively extinct by WWII. The people that used its name and iconography in the Fifties, Sixties, and later generally belonged to new groups, founded in opposition to the Civil Rights movement, not continuations of the earlier group.
I think you’re misinterpreting things. Let’s stipulate that most people were killed when their side routed. That can be true, and it can also be true that routing almost always makes YOU, individually, safer (at least from being killed by the enemy.)
First of all if nobody routs and no retreat is sounded then the armies fight until one of them is completely annihilated. This doesn’t happen, because one side routs first – but just because the casualties pile up post-rout doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have happened in a longer battle. If that side would indeed have lost (without retreating) those casualties were inevitable.
Second, being the first to rout has definite advantages. You get the others to cover your ass while you leave, even if they are just getting slaughtered. The later you rout compared to your fellows the worse your deal is. It is a tragedy of the commons situation. But also, the more of your side having routed the worse staying becomes.
What I think IS true is that ordered retreat is much better than rout for everyone. Well ordered retreats are very difficult to stop or effectively ravage. Of course, ordering a retreat can trigger a rout. But some of the most spectacular victories have arisen from pre-planned retreats. Giving ground intentionally and in good order is a move that is very difficult to punish.
On the broader point I don’t think ‘courage is safer than cowardice’ is the practical lesson here. You’re better served by fleeing those regions where you are despised than by trying to fight within them. Pre-plan your retreat – in this case have plans and funding prepared for exit if things look dicey.
A planned, orderly withdrawal is safer than an unplanned, chaotic withdrawal, and the former requires more courage than the latter.
Thanks, I liked this.
As is well known, Eichmann’s trial was the basis for the Stanley Milgram experiments. What Milgram ended up thinking was that we rationalise our evil actions by viewing ourselves as a tools or implements controlled by some outside agency – Hitler, in this case.
Eichmann likely would have thought “I pick up a phone and receive an order from Berlin. I dial a second phone and pass the order through to Treblinka. I’m not a human being, I’m just part of a phone connection.” And you don’t normally impute morality upon a phone connection.
A strain of feminist thought discusses men “objectifying” women – using them as body parts, or as props in advertisement. The truth is that under the right conditions people love being objectified. When you’re an object, you can claim it wasn’t your fault.
The Milgram experiments are also often misinterpreted, much like the Asch conformity experiments. They do not show a willingness to follow orders in general so much as they show a willingness to follow orders when those orders are perceived to be for the purpose of a good cause, like scientific knowledge, when authority figures are trusted.
As far as I can tell, Eichmann was quite likely as smart, if not smarter, than I am, and played a role during the trials, had suffered significant damage to his brain or psyche by that time, or both. It is difficult for me to understand what fundamental capacity of reason he was missing based on his job performance (why is he able to cajole, control, and manipulate so many Jewish leaders if he is mentally dysfunctional in key relevant ways?) and the Argentinian tapes later discovered.
[Then, while reading through the voluminous memoirs and other testimony Eichmann produced while in hiding in Argentina after the war, Ms. Stangneth came across a long note he wrote, dismissing the moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant, that flew in the face of Arendt’s notion of Eichmann’s “inability to think.”
Ms. Stangneth’s book cites that document and a mountain of others to offer what some scholars say is the most definitive case yet that Eichmann, who was hanged in 1962, wasn’t the order-following functionary he claimed to be at his trial, but a fanatically dedicated National Socialist.”
“She had the right type but the wrong guy,” said the historian Christopher R. Browning, the author of “Ordinary Men,” an influential 1992 study of a German police battalion that killed tens of thousands of Jews in Poland. “There were all sorts of people like Eichmann was pretending to be, which is why his strategy worked.”]
I can understand the idea that he was following an ideology, a person, a zeitgeist and was somewhat incapable of thinking outside it, though I don’t fully agree as the extent. But I read Arendt as portraying a far more serious dysfunction in terms of his intellectual capability, and I can’t see that supported in his doings or his sayings outside the trial.
“Worked” in what sense? He was hanged. The outcome wasn’t really in doubt. Even if he thought it was there were much better straws he could have grasped at if he’d wanted.
In order for the charade to make sense, he would have had to be very interested in the opinion of posterity. Is it really that much better to be remembered as a clownish spineless bureaucrat than as a villainous mastermind?
I’m not sure his successful negotiations with Jews necessarily disproves Arendt. At the risk of Godwinning myself, Trump seems to be another figure who combines weird theory-of-mind deficits and thoughtlessness with an apparent skill at negotiation.
“Worked” in the sense of being believed and accepted, regardless of whether it saved his life. The sum total of his statements during trial paint a man deficit in most every sort of intellectual capacity, belied by his words and behavior outside of it.
Trump has no reason to be thoughtful. Maybe I am misunderstanding Arendt here, but I see her as speaking to something more deeper and more lacking than mere affluenza, than just someone who has significant smarts and the physical capability to understand but chooses not to bother. (I’m fascinated because you are taking the same position as others on this matter who I respect greatly, I’ve talked on this in some detail before and I cannot really begin to grasp that way of viewing a mind.)
“Worked” in what sense? He was hanged. The outcome wasn’t really in doubt.
One man, largely responsible for the deaths of 20 million(ish)? We make heroes of people who killed two people, or twenty, if it was the right sort of people they finished off.
At 20 million-to-one, you don’t *have* to live to see the brave new world, to die easy and content.
(Note: I am NOT speaking of any of the Reich with approval, I’m pointing out that dying in the (arguably extremely successful, even today) eradication of a hostile force from your homeland is quite often seen as quite the accomplishment.)
Your point about successful but non sympathetic negotiators I think is more important than you realise. I often say about computers that you don’t need to know how the machine works, you just have to know how to work the machine. I can easily imagine Trump as someone who has learned from experience the kind of tactics that work in a negotiation without ever stopping to think about how they feel from the other end.
I think most of us have felt bullied and pressured at some point and most likely we might have given in to that pressure when we weren’t sure what else we should do. It feels like crap. But objectively, it often works. So an unempathetic bully is likely to be better at bullying because it never occurs to him to think hey maybe I’m making this other person feel uncomfortable and maybe I should feel guilty about that.
Stories about Trump walking into the Miss Universe changing room because he was the boss and could get away with it or refusing to pay subcontractors when he could get away with it seem to me to fit with that model. He’s someone who has learned to work people without knowing how people work.
Anecdotal, but my experience working with and around people in marketing and sales is that there are certainly people who fit that description. I will say that they also tend to not do as well if it is an ongoing relationship (account executive, casino host) type of job vs. a one-off relationship (car dealership, door-to-door salesman). The people I’ve known who worked in sales and fit this description often were high performers who met their targets, but also alienated a lot of people and pissed off coworkers in the process.
Small children and domestic pets can be good at getting their own way as well. I don’t think we should be adopting a model where negotiation is this very difficult thing that only a few people can do, we should be noticing that most adults are hamstrung in negotiation by needing to appear generally fair, reasonable and so on. Abandoning all that and going for broke reputation-wise is low hanging fruit.
I worked for over a year, on-and-off between acting jobs, doing telephone fundraising. It’s not something I have a natural affinity for, but I learned to be good at it, and the relatively simple principles involved apply to persuading people to do what you want in every day life too. Using this kind of approach makes me feel dirty and manipulative, so I very rarely do it, but I imagine someone to whom such an approach came more naturally, who acquired the skills by instinct at an earlier age, would probably feel no such qualms.
“Trump seems to be another figure who combines weird theory-of-mind deficits and thoughtlessness with an apparent skill at negotiation.”
Normal rules of negotiation/diplomacy rely on assuming rationality of the counterparts.
What if Trump’s style is “simply” an attempt at making “credible commitments to irrationality” as a winning strategy, as used for example in some versions of the “Game of Chicken”? What could be done to prevent such an actor from winning?
PS: From the first moments I saw Trump as having some chance of winning the GOP primaries, I considered him to be the closest the world has been to having a US President similar to the one depicted in the “Harrison Bergeron” movie: scary as hell, and effective at getting things done his way, precisely because of its rational irrationality.
In his book “How to Get Rich” Trump suggests reading Carl Jung?
https://books.google.com/books?id=pDD1LABH1dYC&printsec=frontcover&dq=how+to+get+rich+Trump&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj93_X97ezRAhWp34MKHVfTAqAQ6AEIMzAD#v=onepage&q=psychology&f=false the relevant chapter starts on pg 93
I would love to get your take on whether you think that provides any insight into Trump the person, and if so, what sort of insight you think it provides
Based on the (so far as I know, never seriously challenged) story from the Art of the Deal ghostwriter that made the rounds a while back, I sincerely doubt Trump wrote that any of that, even in a “dictated but not read” sense.
Best guess: some poor, put-upon ghostie was mining their liberal arts degree to fill out the page quota.
I suspect he wasn’t sitting at the type Twitter, but there are enough details as to how he came to read Jung that I suspect it’s not ghostwritten out of whole cloth
Do you have a source for this (beyond the book itself)? Honestly asking, that would be fascinating if true, but all Google is turning up are “Jungian analyses” of Trump’s power tie or the like…
ETA: Oh, I see, the details in HtGR about how he came across Jung through a friend… interesting, although the AotD ghostwriter did basically admit that he had to invent themes and details like that from scratch. I suppose we’ll never know, unless Trump starts freestyling about archetypes and masks at a rally or something.
Wow there were some typos in that post
Worked in what sense? The outcome of the trial was never in doubt. Maybe he was trying to make a point for posterity. Maybe he saw no benefit to not being a troll.
That we talk about it decades later suggests that his manner of trolling was effective, and thus the intentional design of an intelligent mind capable of realizing that being identified as a troll makes one less effective, and thus that a troll should be anti-inductive.
Maybe he had an aneurysm somewhere along the way.
“Ordinary Men” is a fascinating and extremely well-researched and -written book. I think anyone who was interested in this post should check it out — it gives a look at the “normal” people involved in the Final Solution, a sort of ground-level view. Like this post, it simultaneously explains and confuses — you see how people lived with themselves in ways that make some sense (alcohol, Hiwis, careerism)… and also ways that don’t (one fellow’s comment about why killing children was okay has stayed with me).
Another recommendation for Ordinary Men. It is a very good, and very haunting, book.
Nitpick: the event was the Wannsee conference, Wahnsee is a misspelling
“the wide German-occupied nations did or didn’t resist genocide demands”
I might be sleepy, but should “wide” be “way”?
“Eichmann would shake down the rich Jews and making them pay extra to help their poorer co-religionists.”
“making” should be “make”
A very funny one. “Wahnsee” in German is “Lake of delusion”.
In regards to V.
– The Eichman trial was the first time Israel as a nation truly grasped with the horror of Shoah, which went largely unspoken about before it.
– Arendt had some identity issues relating to her Jewishness and the State of Israel. I recommend reading about her correspondence with Gershom Scholem, who famously said that Arendt lacked Ahavat Israel – or just anything else about Gershom Scholem, as he was brilliant.
Dumb question time, what is Ahavat Israel?
Love of other Jews.
She had some great lines in response to that, for anyone’s who’s interested.
btw, I had no idea how Zionist I was until I read Hannah Arendt and was like “You said WHAT about Ben-Gurion?!?”
There’s a line of attack on Arendt popular in Commentary Magazine that her German chauvinism means that she wasn’t a real Jew.
I thank G-d for
…them what say, you ain’t th’ boss a’ me, and make it stick.
(This is not to say that America can’t “go Nazi” in its own way, but that we won’t do it in *that* fashion.)
(The ‘genocide’ that Americans (people of the USA) can be legit tagged with is that of the American Indians, but that was more an inevitable biological tragedy than anything purposeful. However, you look at the idealization and quasi-fetishization of Indian culture across American society today – this is not what I would expect Germany to have been like, two hundred years after successfully establishing the 3rd Reich. There is something else going on here.)
Scott, thank you. I would not have expected to feel so much better about the world today after reading a post on such a somber topic.
Ahem. There was, in fact, some very deliberate killing and forced relocation involved.
That there was some killing – overwhelmingly of the “we are fighting you and you are fighting us and you are stronger so we loose” variety – does not change the accuracy of my statement – the native people of the Americas died because of biology, while the Jews and the Roms died because of targeted extermination, not because they took up arms against the Germans and were defeated.
Mmmm, a lot of those fights were of the form “we sign a treaty dividing the land into yours and ours. But our population is growing, and we can’t/won’t stop people from pushing on into your land, so looks like we’re fighting again.”
Keep that up for a few centuries and I don’t know how many points you score for never officially sitting down and saying “now let’s wipe ’em out” (thought that attitude was around too).
To kerinah’s point though, look at the ethnic makeup of populations from Mexico south.
I’ve seen it argued that this is down to the Spanish wanting to exploit the local population, but in the land that became the US, there wasn’t a population large enough left to exploit.
Settlers in the New World thought that God had tilled their fields for them, when it was Native Americans populations who had succumbed to disease before the settlers arrived. IIRC a super-majority of the native US population died without ever even seeing a European.
I do kind of wonder what Native American culture would look like even given a maximally benevolent US government. Frankly I think it was mostly doomed either way given the disease induced population loss.
Even if the US had just ceded the entire American West to an Indian nation or group of nations, the tribes lacked the cohesion and organization to reasonably keep out white settlement, and I doubt the US Army could have been convinced to keep white farmers on the right side of the border.
Ultimately nomadic (ironically due to the Old World horse), dispersed (and often warring) tribes were not going to maintain that way of life for long butted up against a modern state in the midst of industrial revolution. Maybe some of the eastern tribes could have, but now you’re changing history back to the early colonial era.
Which doesn’t excuse the actions of the US – they were legitimately nasty on many occasions over a long period.
Interesting current examples: You’ve got modern Mexico, where the natives have mostly absorbed into a Mestizo culture. There’s New Zealand, where the Maori maintain tribal affiliation and play a bigger role than Native Americans do in government, but once again are almost all absorbed into the modern culture. Or the Aboriginal Australians, many of whom do maintain traditional lifestyles (or something close to it) – but the Outback makes the American Southwest look downright crowded.
>I doubt the US Army could have been convinced to keep white farmers on the right side of the border.
efforts were occasionally made in that direction, they failed utterly.
>Interesting current examples: You’ve got modern Mexico, where the natives have mostly absorbed into a Mestizo culture. There’s New Zealand, where the Maori maintain tribal affiliation and play a bigger role than Native Americans do in government, but once again are almost all absorbed into the modern culture. Or the Aboriginal Australians, many of whom do maintain traditional lifestyles (or something close to it) – but the Outback makes the American Southwest look downright crowded.
There’s an interesting point here in the difference between Spanish and English efforts at colonization. The Spanish explicitly sought to conquer and rule over the natives, the anglos sought to drive them out of the areas they wanted to settle.
Depends on the area; the pre-contact Americas were incredibly diverse in terms of culture and organization. You could call some cultures empires without blushing; others lived in city-states or in agricultural or pastoral chiefdoms; others in hunter-gatherer bands.
For example, although native populations in e.g. California were fairly high, they lived in small, fragmented groups and generally lacked organization above the band level. They would not have effectively been able to resist encroachment by white settlers, even if those settlers hadn’t been inclined to convert them to Christianity or to corpses. I think the more settled societies in the inner Southwest could have managed it, though, if they had even tacit support from the Feds.
Note that I gave an explanation for that above.
The Spanish were in contact with a very large, dense population. Despite losses to European disease, I believe it stayed fairly large and dense. That means a population that you can actually exploit. Compare that to the lands that became the US, where the native population is now scattered and nomadic.
Although, the Guns, Germs and Steel point about suitability of crops based on latitude probably is worth considering as well.
That’s kinda true*, but a lot of it is true because of contact, albeit in a roundabout way. The Mississippian culture was huge, rivaling the Aztecs, and nearly as well developed — but it fell apart before white people saw it in substantial numbers, largely because disease spread faster than colonization did. Hermando de Soto‘s expedition and a handful of others are the only exceptions.
It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that the English settlers landed in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, at least in the southern parts of the future US.
* “Scattered”, at least. Most of the North American cultures weren’t nomadic or only partly so — it’s just that some of the most famous ones, the Great Plains tribes encountered during the frontier era, were.
Yes, agreed, that was the point I was trying to make. Perhaps not clearly enough. That’s why I was pointing out that much of the east coast was plowed fields before the Indians died, and thereby stopped plowing them.
I don’t believe that Mexico and Central America were left barren in that way.
Acemoglu’s Introduction to Modern Economic Growth (sorry, I can’t remember the specific papers he cites) has a discussion of why Canada and the USA got better institutions than the rest of the Americas. He argues that it was due to differential settlement: the places where Europeans were the bulk of the population got good institutions, the places where a small ruling class exploited a large native population got bad ones. (This is a general rule, apparently: more advanced nations did worse when colonised because they had large populations and existing systems to exploit them.)
One of the factors he claims was relevant was disease burden on Europeans: people were a lot more willing to settle in North America because they dropped like flies further south.
The Commanche did a pretty impressive job of fighting the Americans, Mexicans, and other Plains tribes. Without the aid of the army I think it would have taken a fair while for settlers to defeat them, and they might simply have settled elsewhere.
At one point the Comanche pushed the frontier back over 100 miles. The main problem for them was a very low level of reproduction. They couldn’t endure a long struggle and their population slowly dwindled.
You’re ignoring some really high profile events. Many of those relocated/killed in the Trail of Tears had already tried to assimilate into American society and were treated essentially identically to the Jews during the Holocaust — all their property was confiscated and they were forcibly resettled.
A peculiarity I’ve noticed in Hitler’s attitude to the subject. He was critical of British and French colonisation, or rather accused them of hypocrisy for having colonies themselves but denying Germany Lebensraum.
But as far as I remember he didn’t criticise American westward colonisation, which on the face of it seems more relevant: expansion from the national territory aimed mainly at settling its own nationals. (Where the typical British colony wasn’t mostly for settling Britons but for ruling, exploiting and trading with the existing populations.)
Was Hitler unaware of the history of the expansion of the USA? Or was the USA just not (at that time) the opponent he was focussing on?
Also, the Trail of Tears was only the most high-profile removal–there were many, many more.
Also-also, when it comes to “genocide,” the most direct and incontestable violation of the principles that would eventually be set forth in the Geneva Convention didn’t involve killing OR territory, but rather the very open and straightforward attempts to eliminate native culture and religious in the early 20th century (via boarding schools and things like The Code of Indian Offenses .
By some accounts, Hitler saw the expansion of the US as a model for the push for lebensraum in the east. Expanding the homeland instead of building an overseas empire.
I think there are a lot of Parellels between Drang Nach Osten and Manifest Destiny.
The German plan for the Soviet Union, Generalplan Ost, was to occupy the Svoiet Union up to the Urals, leave a rump state on the other side. And then to deliberately starve at least half the population to death, and let the rest live as slaves for new Aryan settlers.
@wysinwygymmv: I don’t think that contradicts keranih’s point, which seems to match the scholarly consensus. You can have high-profile mistreatment without it being a material cause of the near-total collapse of the native population. The Trail of Tears seems to have involved about 60,000 people. That numbers seems to be about two orders of magnitude smaller than the pre-Columbian population of North America.
@herbert herberson: keranih’s point was about corpses. I feel that it’s very important to distinguish between attacking people’s culture and leaving mountains of bodies. This is partly because mass killings are worse and partly because people forget if they aren’t reminded. Humans don’t naturally understand things like really big numbers and the importance of the impartial rule of law – our brains aren’t set up for it. It’s very hard to condemn something truly dangerous when every policy is an atrocity and you accuse your enemies of being monsters on a daily basis.
Wikipedia says 16,000 for the Trail of Tears? 60,000 seems too high
@Cliff: 16500 Cherokee in 1838, which was the Trail of Tears proper; but they were preceded by ~46000 Choctaw, Seminole, Creek and Chickasaw from 1831 to 1837. Historians argue about what exactly “The Trail of Tears” should refer to and using it for the removals of the Five Nations is a common definition.
I imagine that many of the people who pushed for the elimination of the Indians’ culture at the end of the era believed they were doing it for the Indians’ own good — helping people to cast off a backward and dying culture for the way of the future. An impulse we can still see in the present day (a teachable moment, perhaps).
There were certainly many instances of the Feds showing unnecessary brutality, but the settlement of the continent by Europeans probably had more to do with an intensively agricultural civilization, still living in a Malthusian state for most of the relevant period, moving into a depopulated land inhabited by an alien culture. Under those circumstances, a conquest and massive demographic shift was mostly inevitable, of the same sort that seems to have been happening ever since agriculture was invented and its practitioners bumped into less intensive users of the land.
Some people did work to humanize the process, but they were fighting against powerful impulses. Some others worked to accelerate the process, and with Moloch’s backing, they prevailed easily.
Nature has selected for men who, given a choice between being landless, sexless, and half-starving or seizing a large new farm and raising 8 children, will choose the latter, if the means are available to them.
The Holocaust was post-Malthusian. There was no real economic benefit. Moloch was mostly indifferent to it. It was caused by the specific evil decisions of certain specific people (or person).
Yes, a lot of really harmful policies of around the beginning of the 20th century–boarding schools and allotment, particularly–were implemented by well-meaning people. When Pratt said “kill the Indian, save the man” he probably genuinely meant both parts.
I don’t entirely agree with your take on the Holocaust, though. While Nazi antisemitism wasn’t quite as nakedly economic as Indian Removal and probably ultimately hurt Germany’s war efforts, there were short term benefits to confiscating the property of millions of undesirables and utilizing them as slave labor. The plans for Eastern Europe and its inhabitants also echoed, albiet in a darker and more deliberate way, American westward expansion.
This is very tricky to state with any accuracy. The westward expansion of Europeans was well after the westward expansion of European disease which were responsible for the majority of deaths. Population density of Natives was extremely low after first contact with disease and the culture’s that Europeans encountered would have been derivatives of what was originally there.
To me the distinction was that the Nazis Othered a harmless subculture that was basically just like them apart from religion. Whereas the Native Americans were an external Other – legitimately alien culturally and ethnically, as well as often hostile.
Which in no way excuses brutality, but I do think they are distinct categories of cultural clash.
I don’t entirely agree with your take on the Holocaust, though. While Nazi antisemitism wasn’t quite as nakedly economic as Indian Removal and probably ultimately hurt Germany’s war efforts
Well, though you disagree with me, this aligns with my point.
There is a categorical difference between:
(A) A young man living in a Malthusian state deciding to escape the Malthusian norm of borderline-starvation with a chance at a better life in a frontier farmstead,
(B) A government policy motivated primarily by non-economic, ideological considerations, but justified partly in economic terms, that has some nonzero but possibly negative effect on GDP (or industrial production).
The Nazis were concerned that Jews had polluted their blood, culture, and society. They thought they would be great without the Jews, but since they had the Jews, they might as well try to make use of them and their resources.
Settlement of the American West was driven by individuals, given solid but varying levels of government support because it was popular. But it still happened even when the (British) government tried to forbid it, 1763-1776, partly to maintain peace with the Indians. Of course, this policy was unpopular (Grievance #7 on the Declaration of Independence).
Unlike the Nazis, those individuals didn’t say, “How can we dispose of the Indians while also making a living?” They said, “I want to make a good living, but those Indians are causing trouble. What can be done about this?”
Yeah, that seems roughly accurate to me.
A good exception that proves the rule for US-Native relations is the Sandy Lake Tragedy. Several hundred people die because of a poorly implemented scheme to lure some Ojibwa bands from Wisconsin to Minnesota, not because Wisconsin residents wanted them out (they lived in the northern part of the state, which isn’t great for agriculture but is good for logging, which meant there was a mutually beneficial relationship, since logging increased available game and loggers found it helpful to have locals for trade/labor/marriage prospects and weren’t otherwise competing for resources) but because the local Minnesotan officials wanted to secure more of the lucrative-for-patronage Indian Agent jobs. The plan was to make them come to Minnesota to pick up payments and goods owed to them under treaties, but to do it so late in the year they wouldn’t have time to make it back to Wisconsin before the winter set in. Unfortunately for everyone, some gridlock in Congress meant the goods and payments never came. The people who had traveled to Sandy Lake to get them had to return empty-handed, and hundreds died during the harsh and unplanned-for winter travel.
I’ve read a lot about American/Native relations, and this one really sums it all up–the obscurely legalistic motives and means, the petty corruption, low-level government officials making promises that high-level gov’t officials didn’t keep, deaths caused less by grand acts of malice than by the individual selfishness of people driven to the frontier by ambition or desperation. It really is, in a way, the reverse-mirror image of the Nazi genocide of the Jews (although I still think the intended genocide of the Slavs would have had a lot more in common with it).
It, objectively, hurt the German war effort. However, Hitler, and the Nazi leadership in general, saw it as a key part of why they went to war. They were, obviously, incorrect. But Hitler was also incorrect in thinking that technological improvements in agriculture improving crop yields was a pipe dream: Germans didn’t really need lebensraum. National socialism was not an ideology in consistent touch with reality.
Your argument greatly benefits from 20/20 hindsight though. There have been many very intelligent people who tried to predict history and failed to account for things that we now know that happened, but which were far from clear at the time. In fact, all ideologies and all politicians engage in making predictions about the future and to plan based on those predictions, which invariably turn out imperfect. As Moltke said: “no plan survives contact with the enemy.”
However, it is usually far preferable to have a plan than to not have one.
Anyway, my point is that it’s better to blame the Nazis for having far too much confidence in their predictions and for seeking revolutionary solutions instead of evolutionary, than of being wrong. Blaming them for the latter doesn’t actually give us any guidance to avoid making the same mistakes.
Having 20/20 hindsight is the benefit of history – my point was merely to point out that to the Nazis, or at least to Hitler, getting rid of the Jews (ultimately by extermination) was a key war aim.
I read part of Black Earth. It said that Hitler was a Maluthusian– he was living before the Green Revolution was a clear success. He wanted to make sure there would be enough food for his preferred Germans, and that meant conquering and depopulating surrounding lands.
However, it was mentioned as plausible that Hitler liked fighting, and was a Malthusian because it supplied an excuse for fighting.
It was. Just like Stalin he blamed most of the failures on sabotage and he really wanted to end that. Hitler and Stalin had very different theories about why people sabotaged though, where Hitler’s was racial and Stalin’s was cultural.
But both went to rather extreme ends to get rid of the ‘saboteurs.’
I really suggest you read Hitler’s four year plan. Hitler spells it out extremely clearly in that document. He believes that war with the Soviets is inevitable and also believes that Germany cannot feed it’s people. And who are sabotaging? You know who.
One can argue that Hitler saw Stalin as a major threat because he shared a very similar paranoia and totalitarian mindset, which made Stalin his neargroup, whom he knew he was incompatible with. In contrast, Britain or the US were his fargroup, whom he didn’t understand. This is why he had these delusions about making peace with Britain and the US and to jointly fight against the Soviets.
Also, Hitler he did not come to power by telling Germans that they are conformist and obedient. He spoke about their excellent national character, superior to that of other nations, which made the German people worthy of every good German’s love and devotion, and worthy of protecting by any means necessary.
I’m not very worried about the US, because your economic and political situation is quite comfortable (especially compared to inter-war Germany). But I’m afraid “this couldn’t happen here because our national character is superior” is not the best thing to say in this case.
But I’m afraid “this couldn’t happen here because our national character is superior” is not the best thing to say in this case.
Well, no, which is why I’m not saying that.
I said, our national character is different. We will make our errors in a different way.
Which is part of the point of resisting the urge to label Trump as Hitler – he’s clearly *not*, and that doesn’t mean he can’t do awful things. Labeling him Hitler doesn’t serve accuracy, and it doesn’t even serve to stop him from doing awful things.
I lost the link, but I saw a blog post arguing that conquered and exterminated people are often “resurrected” in the folklore of the conquerors. Fairies are given as one primary example, and apparently some of the South African colonists had similar stories about the natives they wiped out. So this fetishization (I don’t think there’s anything “quasi” about it) is actually a pretty common pattern in human affairs.
I’m fairly certain I saw this on the LSAT, in one of the articles for reading comprehension or something. I’ll see if I can find it, I think they list all their sources.
Can’t find it, maybe it was the GRE. I distinctly remember thinking “this is a weird thing to be on a test.”
Although you’re right that outright exterminations were only sporadic and were vastly overshadowed by the post-contact plagues in terms of numbers, U.S. Indian policy of the late 19th and early 20 centuries undeniably violated the principle that would later be set forth in Article 2(e) of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Active suppression of native religion and language on the reservations, and, particularly, forcing native children to attend boarding schools where that suppression was total, all done with purposeful intent to end the religiously/culturally/politically distinct nature of native peoples. For reference, the provision I cited reads “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such …(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
Note that, by that definition, Canada was also guilty of attempted genocide.
As were the Texas child protection people who took three hundred children away from their parents during the FLDS mess.
I don’t think ‘genocide’ is a good term for something that took several hundred years, involved countless different nations, and still left a huge number of the victim population around today.
Thanks for this extremely timely review.
I read Eichmann in Jerusalem fifteen years ago, and it had a huge effect on my thinking, but I didn’t know when I could trust it. My problem is that Hannah Arendt, like Plato writing about Socrates, is too interesting and intelligent and sophisticated herself to be a very reliable narrator. When she relays facts, they’re filtered through layers of the psychological and social theories current in her time. She might make the simple complicated, because the simple doesn’t interest her. So it didn’t greatly surprise me when I later read that many modern historians think she got things wrong, and that Adolf Eichmann was a lot closer to the monstrous antisemite you’d imagine than to the formula-repeating buffoon that she presents him as.
Anyway, I’m extremely glad to see you state explicitly here what I’ve long taken to be the central point: no, Trump is not literally Hitler. But the Nazis also weren’t literally Hitler at the beginning. I feel like, right now, the people who value science or art or literature or rationality or liberty or anything else worthwhile need all their intellectual firepower—and the proprietor and readers of this blog have a pretty good stockpile—focused on the common threat to civilization and what to do about it. We don’t have time to waste debating whether Trump is Hitler-level bad or “merely” extremely catastrophically bad, and who’s to blame for falsely construing someone else as having claimed that he was one and not the other.
science or art or literature or rationality or liberty
Can we come to an agreement on what art, science, liberty and civilization are, first? And what the most significant threats to their existence are? And agree that we don’t have to value all of them, that we can pick and choose?
Because WE MUST DO SOMETHING! HERE IS SOMETHING! WE MUST DO THIS! is a rather…illiberal and irrational approach, doncha think?
Couldn’t agree more.
What’s your plan for defeating the left?
One of the things that enabled the Nazis was that people on right closer to the center who would ordinarily argue with them felt like they had to focus their intellectual firepower on the common threat to civilization, Bolshevism. So, this is not as humorous a rebuttal as it might have seemed.
Ha! True enough.
My joke was more along the lines of the left already having destroyed art and literature and in the process of making a damned fine attempt at science* and liberty (“bake the cake, bigot!”).
Then again, “if you don’t want a Reich, don’t make a Weirmar” is also good advice. As is “don’t be less of a threat to civilization than the Nazis”.
* https://youtu.be/cP4CBpLNEyE?t=2711 “They’re the bad guys because they disagree with my pre-arrived-at conclusions – which I know are wrong but don’t care because you’re evil if you disagree.” This guy is a “scientist”.
Given what happened to the intellectuals who were caught in the middle, it becomes at least darkly ironic.
I’d feel more comfortable sticking up for one side or the other if any of them were handing out assurances of future conduct based on principle, rather than identity.
Nobody wants to be the guy who spoke up when they came for the socialists, and then wondered why the socialists came for him anyway.
Or Wil Wheaton. But nobody wants to be Wil Wheaton.
Wait, what happened to Wil Wheaton?
To be fair to the center right Germans, they probably erred on the side with the lower fatality rate overall…
And the side less likely to kill them specifically…
And the side less explicitly keen to implement a national terror…
And the side that hadn’t just “liquidated” the property owners of one great nation…
And this seems less like an error now that i think about it.
Do you really think it was an “either/or” kind of thing?
There’s positions on the left that aren’t full on totalitarian communism.
I can imagine in the midst of the 1930s when the world seems like it’s falling apart and there’s nothing but weak governments and the revolution is still fresh in everyone mind, and liberal democracies are failing left right and centre, it would certainly seem like an either or decision.
And both Naxism and Communism eventually took over Germany so if you gave high propablility to either being the logical end state of what was happening, you’d deserve points for accuracy.
When it is the case that both forms of totalitarian did eventually come to germany, I’m not going to fault the German Centre for siding with the one that didn’t explicitly want to kill them and destroy their entire society
Right, but the “we must support the fascists or the communists will take over!” could be a self-fulfilling prophecy if the center left decides “we must support the communists or the fascists will take over!”
Like maybe “leftism” wasn’t the mistake as much as extremism was.
Because that side lost. Generalplan Ost would easily have killed more people than Stalin ever did if the Nazis had been in a position to carry it out.
Sure, there were the “mainstream” Weimar Republic’s parties that had caused the Mark to became literally less worthy than the paper it was printed on, a 10% unemployment ratio, continuous riots, intimidation and outright murder from various paramilitary groups, and so on.
Back to Arendt again. Both were screaming that it was either/or, and the “middle” had no better argument to offer than “A vote for Thälmann is a vote for Hitler!” (and, when talking to the right: “A vote for Hitler is a vote for Thälmann!)
>Because that side lost. Generalplan Ost would easily have killed more people than Stalin ever did if the Nazis had been in a position to carry it out.
This is not exactly right. First of all, Generalplan Ost changed repeatedly over the course of its life, in direct response to the conditions of the war. You can’t really call any version definitive, and had the war gone differently, so would the plan. Second, Stalin spread immense death and destruction wherever he went, as did his ideological immitators. If you want to take generalplan Ost as a worse case scenario for german crimes, then you have to take the worst case for stalinist as well, which is stalin does to the whole world what he did to lavtia.
If what Stalin did to Latvia plays a role in your beliefs, then what Hitler did to Poland should do as well.
>If what Stalin did to Latvia plays a role in your beliefs, then what Hitler did to Poland should do as well.
It does, but not every country has as many jews as poland did. Kulaks, bourgeoisie, and wreckers, however, are thick on the ground just about everywhere.
The thing that really stuck out to me from Days of Rage wasn’t even the “here’s more history that was hidden from you” stuff, it was this bit:
One of the more disturbing parts of growing up is the realization that you probably wouldn’t have opposed the Nazis. What do we do with the possibility that the Nazis may have been the less bad choice, or at least the more personally rational one?
but it is a relevant one, because Bolshevism wasn’t that great either
so you need a answer to Nazism that isn’t Bolshevism, and an answer to Bolshevism that isn’t Nazism
I’ve wondered whether a Communist Germany would have ended up being worse than Nazi Germany.
Given how every other communist state turned out, probably worse.
Probably a lot like East Germany during the Cold War. Terrible for civil liberties, okay on standard of living, no genocides, militaristic but not particularly aggressive.
We live in the darker timeline, for sure.
Why do you say that? They probably would have been worse than East Germany. The KPD was friendly to the USSR. Had they taken power in the early 30s, there likely would have been purges. They would have sent political opponents to camps – just as the Nazis did.
There would not have been genocides. Poland, however, would still have been screwed – after all, the Nazis and Soviets were cool about splitting Poland down the middle. The KPD dictatorship would not have sought to destroy/neuter Poles as a ethnic group as the Nazis wanted to, but would probably have sought to exterminate politically inconvenient Poles, just as the Soviets did at Katyn.
Obviously, would not have invaded the USSR, so fewer deaths there. A war between the Communist world on the one hand – USSR + KPD Germany + whatever bits of Eastern Europe got swallowed – and the capitalist world on the other – France + England + US would probably have gotten involved, etc – might have been in the cards.
The only thing I would say for sure is that there would not have been genocide. But there’s no reason to think that the situation would be as relatively benign (by the standards of communist dictatorships) as the DDR was.
Worse for whom, is the question, and in what way. Worse in the sense that it might have tipped the Communists over the edge into winning the 3-way war instead of allowing Modern Liberal Democracy to defeat Fascism and Communism in turn, maybe. Worse for the specific Jews killed in concentration camps, probably not.
About the only scenario I can imagine Germany going Communist is the one that actually happened – Germany was massively defeated in a war. The Weimar Republic was never in any real danger of being taken over by Thälmann. No country has ever voted a totalitarian Communist government into power (with the possible exception of the Czechs). If the Nazis never come to power, could the Communists have provoked a civil war in Germany in the 1930s? Possibly, but even in that scenario I suspect Germany would have just fallen apart into various pre-1871 states. So we might have ended up with the People’s Republic of Prussia, Saxony and Silesia, the Catholic fascist state of Bavaria-Austria and some kind of Rhineland confederation protected by France.
@Josef: I think there are two caveats:
1) All right-wing and center-right Czechoslovakian parties were banned after WW2 on the flimsy ground that “right wing”=”nazi like”. Hence many people who had previously voted for the center-right agrarian party (most people in the countryside did) voted for the communists instead. That might make little sense now, but the communists promised there would be no nationalization and that they would support the “farmers” (for the lack of a better word in English). Most Czech people did not know what communists are really like back then. At best they had no information, at worst they had the same extremely biased information about the Soviets which was spread by the left-wing intelligentsia in Europe (and which for example Orwell criticized).
2) The communists gained the most votes in 1946 but they did not have an absolute majority. However, they got the hold of most important ministries – defence and interiour and started systematically replacing the people in the army and in the police force by their own. They also assassinated some of their opponents, most notably Jan Masaryk (they threw him out of the window), of course it was all undercover and masked as accidents. Then the non-communist ministers gave up their functions as a sign of protest. The president was supposed to reject their abdications but for some reason he didn’t, which allowed the communists to organize a coup, fill the other government posts with their people and effectively turn the country into a dictatorship.
You are guilty of not using the word defenestration whenever possible. The punishment is defenestration.
@Aapje: Where I’m from, we don’t take kindly to people who do defenestrations. We steal their camels (100 points to anyone who can use that information to determine my hometown 🙂 ).
Btw, I’m wondering – have there been any defenestrations in history that did NOT happen in Prague?
At the risk of revealing ignorance of some nuance of the definition, don’t many saloon fights in Western movies culminate in a defenstration?
I think the usual implication of “defenestration” is from a window high enough to make falling out of it likely to do serious damage.
The governors victimized in the second defenstration of Prague were unharmed although suffered a Biff-Tannen like humiliation.
Wikipedia has a list that includes fiction, rumor and fact.
OK, I appreciate that if you live in a city that has to number its defenestrations, it is a sensible precaution to station piles of something soft right beneath the windows of your taller buildings, but isn’t hay a better choice than manure?
Scott posts an article about the horrors of Nazism. Other Scott posts a comment in agreement, fearing the rise of right-wing nationalism. The bulk of the comments under it follow an edgy joke, about how, really, isn’t the left the real villain here, ha ha only serious.
Well, I notice that you also are commenting following said edgy joke. Be the change, friend.
It’s too late; I’m already involved downthread where, in a thread about the Holocaust, someone is earnestly arguing against accepting refugees today by appealing to a fear of dysgenics.
I nominate that one for slatestarcodex.jpg.
Well, now that we have the classic “the commenters here are too rightwing and/or evil” drive by snark, it certainly seems like slatestarcodex.png (seriously, it’s 2017) to me!
Close; this is about how the true outgroup here is SJWs, so any discussion of anything bad will gravitate to be about how the real enemy.
The obvious problem with this is that Trump is not only not literally Hitler, but he’s not going to become him either.
Maybe he’s a threat in the sense that he will do bad things. But he will also do good things, or at least things a lot of people want to happen and so finding a way around that is at this juncture a bad idea. Sorry to say it, but I’d prefer to use my intellectual stockpile to stop people like you from freaking out over basically nothing. I personally think the more reasonable target of this post is, say, Richard Spencer, who currently argues for peaceful ethnostatism – basically, in the same way that the German Nazis eventually moved away from that, the American Nazis likely would as well. I mean, no offense, but which country wants to take African-Americans which reside in ghettos? So genocide it is then.
Anyhow, in that spirit I respect this piece. It’s a good point to make and comes at a good time. Though if people would stop going on about punching Nazis it might be a better time.
As far as “Wasn’t Hitler, and then became Hitler” goes, my concern is less about The Beast than about President Bannon, who seems to be exerting a significant amount of influence and is too close to Christian Dominionism for my comfort.
“The Beast”, Is that a Transmetropolitan reference?
Because I’ve wanted to bring that up in reference to Trump before, but I thought it was to obscure. We totally have to make this a meme, we need to have people on twitter calling Trump “The beast” by the end of the week.
Now where did I put my bowel disruptor?
Beats the hell out of “cheeto smallhands” and variants. But the question is, who’s the Smiler in this analogy?
Whoever the Smiler is hasn’t popped up yet.
Trump’s real Transmet equivalent would be the far-right rabblerouser the Smiler defeats in the primaries, of course.
Does that make Jeb Bush the Smiler, and Transmetropolitan not a 100% accurate guidebook to the future after all?
There’s no ‘at least’ here. A lot of people can want bad things to happen, as per the example of Romanian pogrom.
I feel like, right now, the people who value science or art or literature or rationality or liberty or anything else worthwhile need all their intellectual firepower—and the proprietor and readers of this blog have a pretty good stockpile—focused on the common threat to civilization and what to do about it.
What is the common threat to civilization? Elections? Because seriously, we’ve been hearing this from the tribe that lost for several presidencies now. Leftists said George W. Bush was Hitler, fundamentalist Christians worried that Obama was the Antichrist who’d put them in concentration camps, and now Trump is not yet Literally Hitler but will become Hitler by ineptly groping at solutions to our immigration problem.
I know this goes against the conventional wisdom here, but while there certainly were people who were willing to call Bush Hitler, I seem to recall substantially fewer of them, especially before the run-up to Iraq. I certainly don’t think there was nearly the same number of protesters out. Maybe it’s just the progression of intensity in the political culture generally. I don’t know. But I’m not sure how constant this stuff really is.
Yes, there wasn’t this much outrage when Bush was planning to go to war and kill hundreds of thousands/millions of people. The rage factories are working overtime these days.
There were huge protests against the Iraq invasion; they just weren’t nearly as well/sympathetically covered by the media as the anti-Trump ones.
No social media back then. There were massive protests, but there weren’t the constant memes in your face. Things look bigger now.
“According to BBC News, between six and eleven million people took part in protests in up to sixty countries over the weekend of February 15 and 16; other estimates range from eight million to thirty million.”
I really do think it put the kibosh on mass demonstrations, at least in America, for a while. If “the largest protest event in human history” didn’t sway the course of action, and hell, you don’t even remember it, then what’s the point?
And as much as Obama gets the blame for leaving Iraq and allowing the Islamic State to rise in its wake, the ultimate blame has to go to the architects of the 2003 invasion.
I agree. There was a lot of unhappiness on the left when Bush was elected, but not on the scale of what is happening this time.
But is that outrage because Trump is really that much worse or because the tribalism has gotten worse?
Oh the tribalism has indeed ramped up, but no doubt an important contributor is because Trump is neither a member of the Inner nor Outer Party, and therefore threatens the gravy train of everyone. DTW was not just an empty promise and it suits the purpose of those whose livelihoods are threatened to gin up outrage even beyond the usual.
I guess, people are fatalistic about wars happening in foreign countries (which is awful but keeps happening), but want to stop people in the country they’re *in* becoming victims.
As I recall there was a big rally-round-the-flag effect after 9/11, which would have muted criticism of the President somewhat. By the last couple of years of Bush’s Presidency, though, this had worn off sufficiently for Hitler comparisons to become more common.
There were also a lot of people who were against going to war in Iraq and considered it a war of aggression, and so likened Bush to Hitler in the invading Poland sense.
The media wasn’t particularly kind to such people (there are evidently limits to its liberalism), but there were a lot of them.
There were also a good nine months between Bush’s inauguration and 9/11, which I think is the most significant period for comparison.
SCOTT A CONFIRMED ROYALIST
RESTORE A QUANTUM EMULATION OF THE STUARTS 2020
>What is the common threat to civilization? Elections?
This is the core of Moldbug’s argument, no?
Ohhh yeah. I’d be interested to see Scott Aaronson’s response to that.
I’m not a Moldbugger, but if we accept these premises:
A) Democracies are one rightist electoral victory from Nazism.
B) The set “leftist one-party states” is heavily overlapping if not identical with “megacidal Communist states”.
… how do you complete the syllogism “ergo, for security against mass murder, we need” other than “monarchy”?
Leftist states with token half-hearted rightist opposition?
Independent judiciaries with monarch-like powers mostly limited to hewing to tradition?
Institutions that record history and teach it to people?
Robust independent sources of emotional centeredness, such as religious communities?
Why monarchy would be a defensive move against mass-murdering? I can’t recall any historical evidence in favor of such a thesis.
Is North Korea a megacidal Communist state or a megacidal absolute monarchy?
George W. Bush started a war of aggression that killed between a half-million and a million people. Obama failed to bring about the apocalypse or take all the guns or fill up those FEMA concentration camps. One of these things is not like the other; one of these things doesn’t belong.
(Remember “to initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole”?)
>George W. Bush started a war of aggression
How on earth is kicking out a genocidal dictatorship then leaving “aggression?”
>that killed between a half-million and a million people.
that led to around 100k deaths over about 10 years, and since well over 10k were getting killed by saddam every year, you can make a fair case that the net result saved lives.
>Obama failed to bring about the apocalypse or take all the guns or fill up those FEMA concentration camps.
No, but he get get tens of thousands of Libyans killed, and had a strong hand in getting half a million (and counting) Syrians killed? Or do those deaths not count when it’s a democrat that’s causing them?
It’s kind of funny to see Iraq raised as an evil in a thread about how Hitler should have been stopped sooner. Maybe Saddam was no Hitler, but he was on the continuum, and if we couldn’t effectively* stop a Saddam, can we effectively stop a Hitler (from the outside)?
*For required levels of effectiveness
edit: Someone is likely to say we did stop Saddam with sanctions or by opposing actual aggression; fair enough except in the context of abusing dissidents and minorities in his own country. Is there evidence sanctions would have limited this?
I think this thread is about stopping Hitler from the inside. I don’t think Scott Aaronson is calling for the nations of the world to launch an invasion of the US, or at least I hope not.
“The invasion of Iraq was neither in self-defense against armed attack nor sanctioned by UN Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force by member states and thus constituted the crime of war of aggression, according to the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in Geneva.” Some people disagree, of course, but it’s hardly a fringe opinion.
Please follow the links; Iraq Body Count counts people directly killed in the conflict; the studies that find higher numbers count the people who died because of less-direct effects of the war. Those are still consequences, and given that, I don’t think you can make a fair case here that the invasion saved lives.
Le Maistre Chat made a facile “both sides!” argument, which is what I’m responding to. The left complained about things that really did happen, and the right complained about pants-on-head black-helicopter made-up fever dreams.
>“The invasion of Iraq was neither in self-defense against armed attack nor sanctioned by UN Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force by member states and thus constituted the crime of war of aggression, according to the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in Geneva.” Some people disagree, of course, but it’s hardly a fringe opinion.
that an idea is popular does not mean it’s correct. By the standard you just posed, WW2 was a war of aggression by the western allies.
>Please follow the links; Iraq Body Count counts people directly killed in the conflict; the studies that find higher numbers count the people who died because of less-direct effects of the war.
Yes, because other “other deaths” is a decidedly squirrelly and unreliable business..
> I don’t think you can make a fair case here that the invasion saved lives.
Again, look at violent deaths under Saddam, then do the math. It’s close.
>The left complained about things that really did happen,
except for hundreds of thousands of claimed deaths that didn’t happen.
>and the right complained about pants-on-head black-helicopter made-up fever dreams.
Sure, if only look at the worst of the right wing complaints.
I think you mean to dispute the cause of the deaths, because it’d be pretty weird if a bunch of different public health studies were all wrong in the same way, or, in general, if the only people who died from the invasion and chaos were the people involved in recorded skirmishes and battles.
I’m quoting here. The left was afraid of Hitlery things; the right was afraid of black-helicopter FEMA camp antichrist nonsense. The former happened at least a little in the sense of an aggressive, unnecessary war. The latter is about as real as Pizzagate.
It was a terrible false equivalence. At this point, it looks like the American left says mean things and gets people fired, and the American right starts Land Wars in Asia.
The left knocks over middle-eastern countries by fomenting revolution, the right sends in the troops. The left’s plan is better for plausible deniability and also for not getting Americans killed, so rah the left.
Not to excuse those parts of the Right that fell for it, but I first saw the FEMA camp conspiracy theory during the Bush years, in email forwards from some very leftist acquaintances. It appears to be less of a rightist thing and more of a general anti-authoritarian paranoia thing, it carries strong Hitlerian connotations of its own (what do you think of when you hear “secret internment camps being built along railway lines”?), and I fully expect it to pop up again inside the next four years.
Pizzagate, yeah, that’s a right-wing fantasy.
The FEMA Camp black helicopter UN takeover stuff goes back to at least the Clinton years, when it was circulated in newsletters that were popular with certain segments on the right. But of course you have, say, the John Birch Society, and there are bound to be much earlier examples of this kind of thinking, left and right.
Technically, the allies actually entered the war in self-defense, if one includes declaring war if an ally is attacked as self-defense. Even if one doesn’t, the two biggest allies did so:
Russia: Germany declared war on Russia
US: The US declared war on Japan after Pearl Harbor. Germany and Italy then declared war on the US.
>The left knocks over middle-eastern countries by fomenting revolution, the right sends in the troops. The left’s plan is better for plausible deniability and also for not getting Americans killed, so rah the left.
Yeah, but it’s definitely worse for the people of the region. Syria is currently what people feared iraq would become in the darkest days of 2006-7, and there’s no end in sight.
>I’m quoting here. The left was afraid of Hitlery things; the right was afraid of black-helicopter FEMA camp antichrist nonsense.
To repeat, there is nothing hiltery about invading a country, hanging its genocidal dictator, then leaving.
>Technically, the allies actually entered the war in self-defense, if one includes declaring war if an ally is attacked as self-defense. Even if one doesn’t, the two biggest allies did so:
Let’s review the original claim
“The invasion of Iraq was neither in self-defense against armed attack nor sanctioned by UN Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force by member states and thus constituted the crime of war of aggression, according to the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in Geneva.” Some people disagree, of course, but it’s hardly a fringe opinion.
The french and brits were not defending against an armed attack against them. it’s true they issued an ultimatum against germany vis a vis poland, but they were not authorized to do that by the league of nations, so I see little difference between that and the ultimatum that the US gave to iraq in 2003, at least by the elucidated criteria.
>US: The US declared war on Japan after Pearl Harbor. Germany and Italy then declared war on the US
The US, in August of 1941, signed an agreement with the UK that, among other things, called for the “final destruction of nazi tyranny” and ordered the US navy to sink german warships on sight. Those are pretty clear acts of aggression, I’d say.
I believe that there is a huge difference between declaring war if an alliance member is attacked vs making demands on a sovereign nation and then declaring war if they do not comply. AFAIK the former is rather normal practice (see WW 1 or NATO), while the latter is considered an act of aggression.
The reason for the order to attack German warships was the Greer incident, where a submarine fired torpedo’s at the USS Greer. Later the Germans attacked the USS Kearny and sunk the USS Reuben James, before war was declared by either side.
I can cherry pick incidents too, that the involved parties considered insufficient to declare war for 😉
@grendelkhan: Do you think the principles invented at the IMT Nuremberg were meant to be taken literally, when the judges included Stalinists?
Besides, if the 2003 invasion of Iraq makes George W. Bush Hitler, we already lived through one Nazi America with zero domestic atrocities, speech bans or suspended elections, so why be terrified of President Trump?
If the Nuremberg principles weren’t meant to be taken seriously, more fool me for thinking so. People seemed to take them seriously at the time.
Bush wasn’t Hitler. He was just more Hitler than Obama was the Antichrist, which is, admittedly, a low bar. Left-wing fears about Bush were less wacky than right-wing fears about Obama.
Per Google, “Bush antichrist” returns about 468,000 results while “Obama antichrist” returns only about 416,000. Hmmm…
Google hit counts are not particularly reliable, sadly. You might have more luck with ngrams via Google Trends; they’re actually designed for this sort of thing.
“obama suspends election 2016” gets about 5,860,000 hits. A lot of it apparently fear mongering from Zero Hedge.
Nornagest: of course, ngrams would have been my first choice, but the data only go up to 2008. Having said that, grendelkhan’s personal impression as the the relative legitimacy of the modal Bush/Obama criticism doesn’t match own impression, nor does it match naive attempts at empiricism like looking at using Google hit counts, so I don’t see much reason to take them it as given.
I feel like this contradicts one of the major theses of the piece: wasting time and arguing is a good thing. The Nazis weren’t wasting time, they were focusing on what they perceived to be the common threat to civilization and trying to find Solutions for it.
Yeah, it seems like Aaronson is not considering the possibility that he may be the one who is pointing his weapons at the wrong target, becoming misguided due to groupthink. Or that you have two targets that both need to be opposed.
It’s good to remember that she did her graduate thesis on Saint Augustine, and very little of it was actually about Augustine rather than “things Arendt thinks about human society, with early christian philosophy as a springboard”.
That’s pretty much how she treated the trial, too. I’ve always wondered how the New Yorker felt about her coverage.
Yes, we’ve noticed that it’s increasingly pointless. All we can do is minimize the harm of the resulting hysterical thrashing.
Don’t let all the carping in reply to your post get to you.
This “oh, you’re just a tribalist partisan like we are, don’t pretend your shit doesn’t stink too” is a false equivalence.
Trump is busily bypassing critical checks and balances and centralizing decision making while simultaneously establishing the irrelevance of the courts to his decision making process.
But of course, anyone who’s saying Trump is a qualitatively different type of leader, presenting a different kind of threat is just a braying partisan.
I never thought I’d see a leader who made me think George W was a tolerable sort of status quo. And never during those years did I ever say W was another Hitler or Mussolini in the making. I had a lot of axes to grind but I couldn’t claim he was trying to break the system itself.
(Much less doing it mainly to rob whatever public coffers are unguarded or solicit any bribes he feels inclined to accept.)
It’s worth noting that the “I am a candidate now” also has the option to play havoc on what non profit organizations can say about Trump. Which if it happens is just another source of friction into any efforts to slow him down.
(And it would be totally in keeping with Trump’s general approach to facts of gaslighting and careless seeming inconsistency that is possibly quite calculated…an approach first pioneered by Putin’s administration in Russia in fact. [url=https://thinkprogress.org/when-everything-is-a-lie-power-is-the-only-truth-1e641751d150#—0-781.aetnugajl]this[/url]
Obama declared his candidacy relatively earlier, but this turns that up to eleven. And as far as I know, Obama never used his candidacy as a way to make it harder to protest him…but I’d be shocked if Trump doesn’t use it that way.
(And btw, I hated Obama almost as badly as W. I’m not a braying partisan. I’m a burned out fatalist who’s a bit annoyed to find the end of my world coming a few years earlier than I had expected. And finding to my surprise I care a little. Not enough to anticipate doing anything significant. But at least to try and remind the rest of you that yes, this is a crucial turning point we’re at here. And trying to sound all glib and know it all is an exercise in self aggrandizement that comes at the expense of the facts.)
To all you guys scoffing at Scott Aaronson:
Trump is in the middle of some really scary stuff. I just had a comment eaten by something in the site interface (banned word?) (so if the comment reappears, sorry, I’ll delete it, was having problems getting the links to work)
Just two links taken together.
One about Trump and his inner circle doing things like probably accepting a 19% stake in the Russian state oil company as a bribe for dropping sanctions (it’s not airtight but who else would Putin be abruptly transferring that sort of equity to?) and structuring their executive order on refugees (and their response to it) as to emphasize they do not recognize the power of the American court system to have any input into what they’re doing.
It’s not a case of “he might do something unprecedentedly bad”. He’s in the process of doing it as we watch. Find me a case where parallel charges were made against previous presidential administrations of either party.
Two, Trump’s whole fact-indifferent approach or blatant contradiction of facts isn’t just an idiosyncrasy. There’s a very real prospect he’s straight up copying Putin’s exact style of rule in Russia.
You’re adorable <3
Like you read those links in 4 minutes (at most)
Mockery in the place of discussion about the facts is exactly the sort of problem the second link talked about. And how Trump is attempting to change the Overton Window so that people regard talking about the facts as futile.
Banned for contentless snark
That first link seems to me very important and I would have posted it here if you had not.
It’s the sort of “huge if true, tiny if false” thing that needs something actually behind it to be “very important”. That it uncritically cites the bullshit story about a purge of the State Department does not speak well of its trustworthiness.
Isn’t this why we Made Jimmy Carter Give Up His Peanut Farm? (Yes, Onion, but the story is real.)
We’re all stuck reading tea leaves because the President has a grotesquely opaque web of conflicts of interest. Remember how everyone shied away from Clinton because she felt corrupt? Can we apply a little of that principle here?
“Appearance of impropriety” is putting is awfully mildly. It shouldn’t be possible for things like this to be happening; the fact that there’s a question about it shows how badly messed up things are.
I, too, thought this was a great example. Except when I looked it up, I found that Carter gave up control of the farm by handing it off to family members. Oh. That sounds familiar.
Don’t use The Onion as your initial source of information. You will check it out just enough to be satisfied with your priors.
(I don’t want to defend Trump’s insane conflicts of interest, but we can do it truthfully.)
Can you amplify why the Guardian story is bullshit? There’s 27 assistant secretaries of state. 15 of them left office in the first week of the Trump administration. Two left just after the new year. of these seventeen, one (for the bureau of administration) hasn’t even had a nominal acting head appointed five days afterward. The chart linked has a couple of errors but it is largely correct. The ones crossed out in red don’t sound like they left at this precise time (rather than a few months later like normal) because they were forced to leave.
2/3 turnover in one month is a lot of new people on the job (Would someone would make clear what the limits on an “acting” undersecretary are as appointed to the full undersecretaries? This may not be a trivial distinction.) Even though some of the associated stories say “we’re sure this won’t have any major impact on the operation of the department” that seems a dubious claim given how complex the bureaucracy is? Particularly when several of the people leaving are saying “like hell it won’t”.
The telling thing seems to be that while normally these positions submit their resignations with each change in administration, normally don’t have the majority of them leave immediately after taking office.
Now, if the administration were taking the position “we’re getting rid of corrupt senior diplomats as soon as possible” that would be one thing. But to just quietly throw a major organ of government into disorder and have no explanation why it has to be this way sound sketchy.
So Trump was supposed to keep around a bunch of appointees that would do everything in their considerable power to undermine his policies? That he didn’t do that is some kind of outrageous threat?
Trump seems to intend to actually rule – the permanent USG would prefer he didn’t. Sure, from one perspective it’s a “coup” if the president acts like he’s the head of the executive branch but that perspective is supposed to be a fringe perspective described by Moldbug – the mainstream isn’t supposed to say that the president doesn’t control the State Department.
One person’s “permanent shadow government ruling from behind the scenes avatar of the swamp that needs draining” is another’s “loyalty to the office and the institution, not to the man”.
Institutional inertia to the point where the nation can survive a bad leader or two is a feature, not a bug.
@grendelkhan: The fact that multiple left-leaning news outlets are describing Trump’s actions as a “coup” is pretty striking, is it not? A sitting chief executive cannot instigate a coup. When I mentioned this to a friend, she said, “Well, you know what they mean.” But I’m not actually sure I do, or at least, I’m not sure they don’t mean it in the sense that bears out Moldbug’s theory of USG.
Sure they can.
Imagine Trump declared martial law, used the military to imprison Congress, seized control of the media and declared the Democratic party illegal.
I’m not saying it’s a fair description of what has happened so far, but using the power of some parts of the executive to seize complete control of all of the branches of government can be a coup.
@HBC: That’s a very loose and misleading use of the word “coup”. Trump is already the head of government and the head of state. If he attempts to seize powers denied him by the Constitution, it would be an autocratic act, but not a coup. It’s hard to imagine how anyone could confuse the Reichstag fire with the Beer Hall Putsch (since Hitler metaphors seem inescapable), unless they’re deliberately trying to muddy the issue… or they think executive power is actually vested elsewhere.
@stillnotking: That only holds true if you believe that a “coup” is exclusively limited to seizing executive power. The dictionary definition of the word is “a sudden, violent and illegal seizure of power from a government”. The United States government is deliberately partitioned such that power is apportioned among three branches; any one of the three violently seizing power from the others is, by definition, a coup.
The scenario of a chief executive staging a coup against other branches of government has been common enough in Latin American countries to have a distinctive name, “autogolpe“, or self-coup.
@hyperboloid: Interesting, thanks. I didn’t know there was a word for it.
If US papers wanted to characterize Trump’s actions as an “autocoup”, I’d have no objection besides the obvious factual one.
Then why did the author of the medium piece bring up the State Department – which is part of the executive branch?
On the separate question of a coup against the judicial branch think of the question in reverse -8 USC §1182:
So the judge in Brooklyn is the one who attempted a coup – against both the executive and legislative branches. Fortunately the judicial branch controls insignificant military power and can easily be ignored.
Russia has been talking about selling 19 percent of Rosneft for a long time — at least as early as 2013. It’s not sudden, and it was public knowledge long before the Steele document.
This is basically like if McDonalds has been planning to open a restaurant in town for years, and I go around saying, “There will be a McDonalds built soon, and it will be haunted by ghosts.” Then when they build the McDonalds, I say, “My prediction was right! There are clearly ghosts at that McDonalds!”
Frankly, the number of people I’ve seen spreading this conspiracy theory without spending 5 minutes searching Google News is disturbing.
Which would make the public promise of selling Trump 19% of Rosneft now a … rather interesting move.
By now, I’d say whenever Putin overtly does something, it’s a good heuristic not to ask “What is he doing there?”, but “What is he distracting from?”
Public promise? No, a conspiracy theory (the Steele document) claims it was promised to Trump.
In that case I retract my comment and claim the opposite.
(Sorry for the mistake, I deemed it good for my sanity not to follow the stories around Trump too closely.)
With regards to the 19% thing, while we’re going down the conspiracy theorist rabbit hole, it’s entirely possible that Putin managed to transfer the shares to himself in an effort to further destabilise the US. It’s also entirely possible that [bogeyman] bought them as part of a plot to [conspiracy]. Lastly, it’s entirely possible that it was a real sale to a real buyer.
I appreciate that this sounds like FUD. That’s because the whole area of discussion is inherently FUDdy until a journalist or investigative agency manages to find out where the money came from. It’s not clear that Trump and his bros “probably” took the money because we have almost zero information to go on.
Have you actually read it? Alexander Mercouris has: http://theduran.com/donald-trumps-executive-order-entry-full-text-analysis/
It is a pretty standard legal document.
The Bush administration’s Iraqi WMD rhetoric was an order of magnitude or two more egregious than anything we have heard from Trump thus far. (Not to mention far bigger consequences).
Both of those links are laughably implausible, and include what seem to be mandatory left-wing tropes with no basis in fact. Breitbart, for example, is not a white nationalist site. It is very definitely biased to the right and pro-Trump, but I’d say it’s about as far right as Slate is left. And I don’t believe for one moment that anyone just sold 19% of Rosneft to Donald Trump.
Breitbart is more akin to Salon than Slate – I’d rank Slate higher on “this is worth reading” than Breitbart or Salon.
Scott A, I think you take this too far.
It’s fine to take caution in the form of “very bad things can have small beginnings”, but ultimately you can’t serve the cause of truth and rationality with hyperbole, dishonesty, and hysteria. Crying wolf is still counter productive. The slippery slope is still a fallacy.
If Trump’s policies are bad, they can be opposed on their own terms without resorting to conspiracy theories about the worst possible thing they might someday become. Convincing yourself you’re a player in an epic war against tyranny, with any tactic justified against the great evil, is exactly how we end up with people bullying socially awkward nerds in the name of gender equality.
If that doesn’t convince you, consider that you are playing directly into Trump’s hands. He has constructed a convincing narrative that his opponents are dishonest and untrustworthy, willing to say anything to defeat him, so all their complaining should be ignored. Being hysterical about him just proves the point. If you accuse him of being literally Hitler, and he is anything less than literally Hitler, he can point to your dishonesty and hyperbole and (rightly) claim to have exceeded expectations.
If this site had the HTML for giant flashing text surrounded by marching ants and fireworks animations, you’d be seeing it right now.
There are two interpretations of it, and one of them is worse than Stockholm syndrome.
But are those marching ants reproductively viable? *ducks*
Just to point out, it’s also how you wind up with a country herding six million Jews into the gas chambers while claiming that they’re defending the world from an evil Jewish conspiracy to control the globe. Or starving 60 million peasants to death in the name of a revolution to benefit the poor and oppressed.
“The ends justify the means” is the oldest, deepest, most destructive lie in the history of humanity.
Well, yes. Everyone is the hero of their own story. Point is don’t become what you’re trying to fight.
“It wasn’t just the Nazis’ 90+% approval rating.”
Although there are of course no reliable polls, I find this implausible, especially in 1942 and afterwards when the Holocaust was in full swing. Kershaw’s “The Hitler Myth” tries to analyze this, and although Hitler and the Nazis enjoyed periods of popularity, this waxed and waned (and varied by region, demographic, etc.) as in democratic countries.
“The Wehrmacht was an institution in which most members did not serve completely voluntary. Rather they were drafted and of course within the army itself there was a considerable degree of social pressure to do as your fellow soldiers did. It is a fair estimate that the vast majority of Wehrmacht members, especially those who at one point served in the Soviet Union and the Balkans were aware that crimes were being committed. It is also a fair estimate that a considerable number of those who at one point served in the Soviet Union or the Balkans (especially the later) were involved in some form of crime, i.e. were present during its committal, pulled the trigger, guarded victims etc. However, in a strictly legal sense not all of these were complicit in these crimes. In a historical sense, one can say that they were though and also in a certain moral sense.
That doesn’t mean that every member of the Wehrmacht, especially those serving as rank and file soldiers were “evil” but it does mean that they were – with different degrees of voluntariness – members of an organization that was fully complicit in crimes as well as murderous on its own.
As a little aside towards the end: In his study of Police Battalion 101, a Police unit serving in Poland made up of older members of the Hamburg police, Christopher Browning found that when it came to participation on executions of Jews, about 20% did so willingly and with conviction, 20% refused to participate and 60% did so because of being subjected to social pressure of some sort. While this is only one unit and one set of people, given that their social make-up was similar to many a unit in the Wehrmacht, it could be said that this is the closest we can come to an estimate of participation in crimes in individual Wehrmacht units.” (https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/3xc03h/just_how_much_of_the_wehrmacht_was_dirty/)
Possibly a reference to the Austrian election where the Nazis got a very high vote after banning other parties, etc.
“but do people really respect their leaders that thoroughly”
based on my cursory knowledge of Brits’ relationship with their sovereign, maybe Europeans do?
I think that this differs by country and by time period. Individualism has certainly increased a lot since WW 2.
How about the Brits’ relationship with their PMs?
I mean, it’s not Literally Hitler rhetoric in the vein that I am used to, despite the massive opening you left for it, so I give you more points than the majority of reddit. It is well and good that more people are interested in Orwell, he was a smart man, but the sudden resurgence in Orwell’s popularity annoys me just as much as the recent Randian revival. It is way too easy to point to something a rhetorician said twenty or fifty years ago, and say, come on, it’s 2017, even when they may be wrong for the same reasons you are wrong now. I especially dislike the constant references to Nazi Germany, which are invariably delivered with an implied wink and nudge – this, you avoided handily.
EDIT: One second, I’m wondering if WordPress comments allow finer HTML than just italics…
Nevermind. Also, “wordpress” all lowercase corrected to “WordPress” for some reason.
Thanks for the interesting article! One funny bit – I remember your other interesting book review on Albion’s Seed, which comes off almost as a hit piece on the “borderers”. Yet in your last paragraph here, the people and spirit whose existence in America you’re praising sound an awful lot like the borderer spirit from that article.
Even if you don’t particularly agree with some of the attitudes, maybe America has about the right proportion of cultural spirits after all? Just enough goodness and conformity to sometimes do great things well at huge organizational scales, and enough slightly ridiculous stubbornness and individuality that we’ll probably never do anything really objectively terrible at that scale. At least aside from the really objectively terrible things that we’ve already done long ago. I hope.
And it’s the best argument I’ve heard for why Calexit is a terrible idea.
I always thought that Milgram’s experiment was less about social conformity per se and more about social trust. People who trust that authority is legitimate, will follow its orders more willingly. That’s because they automatically assume that the orders are also legitimate.
In this respect I agree with you, Scott – the US is probably going to be fine, eventually, under Trump, although he can do a lot of damage, especially in foreign relations.
The ones at most grave danger of abuse of authority that is being followed by the people, are the highly organized East Asian countries where confucianism has instilled a high degree of trust in authority.
I was talking about Asch’s experiment, not Milgram’s. I agree with your interpretation of Milgram.
I think the refugee issue is a thornier one than you seem to be treating it as. When you say “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”, what you’re essentially saying is, the Allies are culpable for not helping Nazi Germany with its ethnic cleansing, that they could have prevented the Final Solution by enabling the First Solution and so it’s their fault. I tend to place the blame for crimes on those who commit them. Harm reduction is a good thing, but if you’re looking for people to blame for the Holocaust, I think Nazi Germany is a solid place to start.
Great, Scott blames them too, as you might be able to read in the post:
suntzu is saying that it places blame additionally on the allies
whereas he places it solely on the nazis
If you’re going to write “if you’re looking for people to blame for the Holocaust, I think Nazi Germany is a solid place to start,” maybe you should ensure that the person you’re responding to does not already agree.
But I don’t agree with your interpretation, otherwise the issue wouldn’t be “thorny” at all, would it?
I’m still looking for a name for the “responsibility is a pie chart” analogy. The crime is clearly, 100%, the fault of the germans who committed it. But it’s considerably more than 0% the fault of the people who could have prevented it, and didn’t.
How about “the buck stops here”. In a chain of causation or command, different people seem to want to draw a line of responsibility in the sand somewhere, so people cannot “pass the buck”. They can then splendidly disagree on where to draw that line and whether it is a line.
And then it seems to lead to annoying discussions when some people are trying to debate causation and counterfactuals and some people are trying to ascertain ultimate responsibility.
Plus, it’s not as if many people in other countries expected that the Nazis would eventually turn to the Holocaust if they couldn’t get rid of Jews in other ways. I don’t think you can really blame somebody for an outcome which they could not reasonably foresee.
You don’t have to foresee the outcome to prevent it though, you just need to make a basic decision about the refugees humanity. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free . .. ” Doesn’t need “because it would have prevented the holocaust” to work either morally or practically.
If there is a moral position that would have accidentally prevented the worst of the holocaust, then that is a powerful consideration.
To amplify this, the question I would ask is, when the Nazis were engaging in purging their Jewish population, did anyone think that the Nazis were going to engage in genocide if they didn’t get to purge their Jewish population?
But, I think, to Scott’s point, isn’t the reason other countries stopped accepting Jews that the base level of anti-Semitism was generally high?
That doesn’t make much sense, since the immigration restrictions were globally instituted in response to The Great Depression. For example, the US greatly restricted immigration with the Johnson-Reed act and Canada did the same around that time. In Europe there were also a lot of restrictions. AFAIK, these were generally not specific to Jews.
As the policy was targeting economic migrants, they could have made an exception for refugees. But that would be a politically unpopular move for several reasons, including anti-Semitism.
Just after reading this, I came across this post at Lawfare by Jack Goldsmith (written shortly after Trump was elected) – I was interested to see how much his section on “The Virtues of Libertarian Panic” seemed to have in common with Scott’s last paragraph here.
Yeah, having a republican in office is excellent for civil liberties, because the people in a position to make a fuss suddenly start caring.
Don’t get me wrong, as a liberal who cares about civil liberties and (the limits on) executive power, I spent eight years being frustrated by other liberals shrugging at complaints about Obama’s policies on some such issues, and/or failing to look beyond his administration when considering what could possibly go wrong.
But I think Goldsmith’s point is less about party and more about governing style – that institutions such as courts, the press, and to some extent even intelligence/national security officials pushed back against Bush because he was open about his intent to expand executive power, while Obama avoided those reactions by seeming (and I think often really being) somewhat reluctant to do the same even as he did so. It certainly looks like Trump is going to follow Bush’s path and everyone will react accordingly, but I can imagine someone like Kasich or Romney being more circumspect and taking less criticism, while winding up as least as powerful as Trump at the end of four years.
I agree with you to some extent, but also wonder how much of avoiding those reactions was simply a result of using executive power in a way those institutions favored.
A point of evidence for this is that many of Bush’s executive power expansions were not institutionally opposed (but only by principled fringe radicals).
I’m trying to remember what Bush executive actions/legal opinions caused the most fuss. John Yoo at the OLC is the obvious one all my professors were screaming about, and it’s telling which of the executive orders based on his opinions ended up getting repealed.
Certainly all the wiretapping/mass surveillance EOs from that period remained in place, and were even expanded on.
This reminds me of a scene from Athur Miller’s autobiography Timebends (I read this book ~8 years ago, so I may get some details mixed up): he’s living in Nevada (to get residency so he can divorce his wife and not pay alimony) at a lawyer’s office (getting his divorce papers finished up) when the Feds show up to arrest him/give him a subpoena and get him to Washington for his McCarthy name-some-commies trial. He realizes the lawyer is a staunch Republican, and the only other guy there is another client, some very wealthy rancher fellow (also an anti-commie Republican). The lawyer tells Miller about a way to leave his office through the back, and the rich rancher guy offers Miller a ride in his private plane to his huge ranch in Texas/wherever where he can hide until further notice. (Miller goes to Washington anyway out of principle or something.)
You also should check out the paper “Bowling for Fascism”: http://www.nber.org/papers/w19201.pdf. Perhaps there’s a benefit to the supposedly declining level of social capital in the US…
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.
Google’s not turning it up, but this reminds me of a news article from years back about right-wing Israeli youth, in which a left-wing Israeli teacher lamented their inability to impart the right lesson about the Holocaust, about Othering and man’s inhumanity to man in general and so on. The twelfth graders on their trip to Auschwitz told their teacher, paraphrasing:
“The Nazis tried to kill lots of people, and Jews died because we were weak. Now we’re strong and no one will ever do this to us again.”
I just wonder, was there a separate functionary tasked with killing all the Roma, and we don’t know about him because they as an ethnicity don’t have anyone like David Ben-Gurion and his troops?
It seems that this view of being safe through power, while ‘othering’ those who are perceived as a threat, is unfortunately becoming (or is already) the dominant view in Israel.
It is interesting to note that Israelis have an excellent relationship with Germans, French etc. Israelis also have an excellent relationship with Russia (who has given a lot of aid to Israel’s enemies since the fifties) and have a pretty positive attitude towards Egypt and Jordan (with whom they have signed a peace agreement after numerous wars).
It’s almost as if Israelis are only hostile towards people who are actively trying to harm them *right now*, and see military strength as a way to defend against those people. Truly, an unfortunate and illogical stance.
None of the Arab nations but Iran is trying to harm Israel and even then in non-existential ways. Then you have the Palestinians who are not an existential threat, although they resist. Oppressing people and stealing their land tend to lead to resistance. Then portraying yourself as the victim of their resistance is nice rhetoric, but quite flawed.
The rhetoric against Iran is also not helping Israel be any safer, as it just leads Iran to feel unsafe and wanting to achieve military parity with Israel.
Iran is not an Arab nation.
True, I was sloppy in my argument.
Replace ‘Arab nations’ with ‘surrounding nations.’
What are the Palestinians “resisting” by murdering civilians? Do you also consider Al Qaeda to be “resisting” the U.S. and believe it is “quite flawed” to portray ourselves as a victim of Al Qaeda’s “resistance” on 9/11?
Israel displaced a bunch of now-dead people 70 years ago in a war. They are not currently stealing anyone’s land. Palestinians largely govern themselves and were offered 97% of the occupied territories for their own country but they decided they would rather blow up children on buses and in cafes instead, I guess to “resist” statehood according to you.
Obviously making them citizens is not an option since most Palestinians support genocide of the Jewish people.
There is extensive documentation of crimes committed by Israel against the Palestinian population, both by commission (such as mistreatment of Palestinian civilians by IDF soldiers) as well as omission (as an occupying force, Israel is obliged to protect the Palestinian civilians from attacks by colonists, which they often fail to do).
So now that we’ve established that Israel is guilty of harming and letting harm come to Palestinian civilians; we indeed see that there are indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas, as well as non-organised knife attacks (but again, there are also non-organised attacks by colonists against Palestinian civilians). I am not excusing the attacks on civilians, but I do want to point out that the rocket attacks actually kill very few people. So they are closer to harassment than heavy terrorism.
Of course, you merely cherry pick the violence by Palestinians, which in my experience is typical of Americans who wish to discuss this issue, strongly suggesting a strong bias in your media which greatly sympathizes with one side, to wit:
You can only draw this conclusion if you base that on polls which don’t in fact ask about whether they support a genocide, but ‘infer’ that. That is propaganda and you fell for it hard.
If you do have an actual survey which actually asked whether they wanted actual genocide and actually got an actual majority to actually say yes, please show it. I strongly suspect that you won’t be able to do this.
Just look at historic maps. You see consistent expansion of Israeli territory.
Also, the independent Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions has found that many Israeli property laws are used to confiscate land.
Rule I sometimes wish we had: anyone who tries to backup a statement by claiming the statement was made by a third party should give a reason why we should trust the third party more than if he had just said “my neighbor Joe has found that many….”
It’s an independent NGO that seems focused on a specific human right, rather than advocate for an ethnic group as part of its mission.
You also have the opportunity to go to their site and read their report(s).
I’m trying to remember where I read this but account of an SS officer comparing killing Jews to killing Roma. The Jews were generally orderly and resigned enough to go (relatively) quietly while the Roma would run, jump around, and basically be a huge pain in the dick to kill efficiently.
Anyway, maybe one reason there isn’t (that I know of) a Roma Ben-Gurion is because they didn’t have the same sense of internalized shame and complicity that Scott described? Or that Israel became Israel as a reaction to the holocaust while the Roma didn’t feel the need to change that much? Honestly I have no idea what point I’m trying to grasp at here.
There might have been, but I don’t think there was a Roma specialist where Eichmann worked. Eichmann was in the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Security Main Office) suboffice IV (Geheime Staatspolizei/Gestapo – Secret State Police) B (Sects and churches) 4 (Jews). He was originally IV-B-3, I think, the guy responsible for monitoring the Freemasons (which were treated like a sect), but quickly transferred. I can’t find a Gestapo office here for Roma or “antisocials” in general, with whom the Roma were grouped, but can find offices for various political opponents under IV A.
I think that as “antisocial” elements (originally rounded up to make Berlin look better for the ’36 Olympics), their persecution would have taken place under the purview of the SS Wirtschafts- und Verwaltungshauptamt (Economic and Administration Main Office) through the concentration camp authority, Amt D (die Totenkopfverbände – Death’s Head Units). Roma who were considered criminals might fall under the purview of the Kripo, the criminal police of the SS.
But a major point to understand about the KZ, the concentration camps, is that their role was explicitly extrajudicial. The party went to great pains to make sure people understood concentration was not a judicial punishment. Even criminals sent to the KZ would only be sent there after their jail sentence was finished. And at least at first, they were put in charge, so everyone knew that there was no role for justice in the logic of the camp, only power. Arendt talks a lot about this in her earlier book Origins of Totalitarianism. So Roma were rounded up and sent there essentially because they were seen as the purest manifestation of the undesirable, but not because they were organized enemies of the Reich (or competing enters of power like the churches, or competing ideologies like Communism).
Eichmann was part of the administration created for opposition research on those latter groups; only later did his position as an “expert” on the Jews give him that responsibility in the Holocaust that was carried out in situ by the Totenkopfverbände and KZ inspectorate, by militarized police units as shown by Browning, and by eastern European confederates etc. The Communists had an expert too, but not most of the other victim classes. Most of the people bearing responsibility for the other groups would have overlapped.
Eichmann’s interrogation was the subject of my thesis, and it’s good to see our host learning about the topic, though I think now may actually not be the time to most enthusiastically gobble up old scholarship on the topic for insight and generalized lessons, but rather a time to be exceedingly cautious about how we process historical information about that period.
It’s great to hear from a subject matter expert. If you’re around to reply, do you still consider Arendt’s insights valuable in light of everything you’ve learned?
She’s one of the only people I’ve read on the subject, and I’ve always been worried about taking OoT at face value given its age and… well, her habit of making everything about her personal theories.
Does she mention Albania? IIRC, Albania was also famous for its resistance to the Holocaust.
ETA: This was an interesting one because it wasn’t just that the Albanians were more ethical than others, but that the particular code of ethics they had was uniquely well-suited to this particular moral test.
Albania had a tiny pre-war Jewish population (about 300 in a country of just over a million). It did take in a large number of German and Austrian Jewish refugees, so the Jewish population of Albania after the war was over 2,000- about 600 Jews had been killed.
For most of the war Albania was under Italian occupation. Jews were prohibited from joining the Fascist Party which was the only legal political party. However, IIRC relatively few were killed until the Germans took over in 1943 after Italy surrendered.
You know, there’s a reason you should have resisted the urge to put that there other than the fact that people would get mad at you for it. I wonder if you’d accept that as an excuse from someone else: “Yeah, I know I shouldn’t have posted that gif of Obama as a monkey, but I told you I knew I shouldn’t have posted it, and since I told you that that makes it all okay.”
Also, didn’t you once ban someone for saying “I know this will get me banned, but…”? “I know it’s a bad idea to post this but I’ll post this” is the blog-owner equivalent; you’re not going to ban yourself, but really.
It’s a silly meme to break up an article that covers some seriously grim content. The disclaimer makes it clear that he doesn’t totally endorse the claim.
Portraying a black person as a monkey touches on issues of racism, which has its own idiosyncratic etiquette. A closer analogy might be the gif where Obama’s face morphs into Osama bin Laden’s face and the caption at the bottom morphs from “Obama” to “Osama”. This captures the same sort of “comparing a president to a world-historical villain” aspect without moving it into territory that’s racist per se.
The Trump is Hitler joke appears in a context where lots of people seriously think Trump is comparable to Hitler, and invokes a Trump policy that lots of people seriously compare to Hitler’s policies. Joking about it inherently has non-joking implications about how close your Overton window is to such people. Perhaps a better comparison would be a joke where people are complaining about Obama letting in illegal aliens and he’s frantically trying to erase the word “Kenya” from his birth certificate.
Also, it’s common in modern political discourse (and has been for some time) to make a “joke” which used to provide plausible deniability for a claim the writer would like to make but knows he can’t support.
The context is SlateStarCodex. Have you read the comments here lately?
Scott has written an entire post arguing against that claim, and defended it just recently. So, that would be an unlikely possibility.
Scott (and pretty much every person here) self-identifies with a political movement that contains people outside Slate Star Codex. It’s not as if his ingroup is just SSC.
Which proves he knows it’s false, so he wouldn’t make the claim seriously. But it’s plausible that he’d make it “jokingly”-but-serious since he doesn’t need to believe it’s true in order to do that.
I’ll just chime in and say Scott’s UR-style darkly hinting was doing a much better job convincing me before he stuck a silly meme in there. If that was an intentional bucket of cold water to make people less susceptible to unconscious persuasion, credit to him for including it.
It’s certainly a refreshing break from the non-stop overwrought cliches being pushed elsewhere.
The picture was funny and clever (in my opinion), while your example isn’t.
Why should the comment section rules apply to the posts themselves?
I’ve seen that meme before. It’s implications I think are nonsense, but I still laughed each time.
I suspect it’s a weakness to puns, on both my account and Scott’s.
OK, but the big big difference is that the horribly racist example is itself really racist. Whereas the trump-is-hitler meme is offensive only by being a joke in the middle of a serious post. That might or might not be a bad idea, and probably does hurt some people, but is not obviously a big ban-worthy thing.
 Uh, I mean, offensive to holocaust victims. I don’t care if it’s offensive to trump or neonazis.
People not of your tribe don’t care about your tribal shibboleths.
“Saying things that offend me is really bad. Saying things that offend you is perfectly fine and I don’t care if you’re offended.”
Monkeys are not considered people and are not seen as having human rights (or, by many people, any moral significance at all). Dictators, even terrible ones, are considered morally blameworthy, but not inherently subhuman.
Can you clarify whether you are offended as a Trump supporter, or as a Nazi?
If we want to avoid giving any future offence, it will be necessary to know which.
Funny but your premise is off – I don’t find the image offensive – it’s amusing.
Your joke doesn’t quite work, btw. A Nazi wouldn’t be offended and a Trump supporter can read it as a joke on hysterical leftists so it’s not really a dichotomy.
I lol’d at the image, and then felt bad at cracking up during an essay on the holocaust.
I don’t think taking offense is a good idea.
That joke is really clever, which is why I assume Scott couldn’t resist including it. He’s a sucker for clever wordplay.
Counter-examples of politically opposing – but less clever – jokes will miss the mark for this reason.
By now we just have to accept that Scott is hopelessly addicted to puns. Just because he’s the rightful caliph it doesn’t mean he possesses (?) Ismah (or does it? I’m honestly not that knowledgeable about Islam).
Compare to a clever wordplay joke where Obama admits he really does think he is Christ returned.
Topical humor is topical.
Link to this? I don’t think I’ve seen it.
Well, an actual play on words I am not aware of, but the whole “Obama thinks he is God’s gift mankind” meme was prevalent enough that Obama himself joked about it at the Al Smith dinner in 2008:
“Contrary to the rumors you have heard, I was not born in a manger. I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father, Jorel, to save the planet Earth.”
If there were a clever play on words meme, and it were applicable to something Scott was writing, I don’t think he would have hesitated to include it.
Oh man, that’s actually pretty good. I miss that guy.
Oh for crying out loud. “No you can’t make a funny joke because it offends me” is exactly the sort of thing I thought Trump supporters were trying to get rid of.
Scott, please increase the rate of hilarious politically incorrect puns.
>”Oh for crying out loud. ‘No you can’t make a funny joke because it offends me’ is exactly the sort of thing I thought Trump supporters were trying to get rid of.”
All sides are in agreement that all other sides are too politically correct.
Nothing to do with political correctness. The issue is that attacking your opponent in a funny way doesn’t keep it from being an attack or from being tribal signalling, and in fact being a joke and being an attack are by no means mutually exclusive.
The joke is only offensive to the extent that the underlying attack is offensive.
Ah, coordinated meanness.
In school we were shown a movie that was supposedly based mostly off of transcripts from the Wannsee Conference. In the movie, there were at least two guys that I can remember who opposed extermination, and only buckled when it was made clear that a unanimous vote was required. It was this one: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conspiracy_(2001_film). Further study is needed.
Isn’t this worse then?
I don’t think he means that they could have stopped it, he means that they were forced to vote for it
I’ll do my broken-record thing and mention that this strongly reminds me of Weston’s character in C.S. Lewis’s sci-fi novels (Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra).
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.
Ohh, finally an excuse to stop having anything to do with Amazon.
What’s the problem with Amazon? Just common ownership with the fey canoes of WaPo or did they themselves do something?
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.
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?
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…
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.
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.
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…).
(I miss the edit function)
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…
Except for Cologne
Are you from Düsseldorf?
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.
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.”
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.
The only mobs screaming that are the ones inside your head. Tumblr is not the world
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.
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.
I suspect this is a reference to things like this:
As I recall at least one leftist blog had an article along the same lines which came out right before the election… oops.
The nicest and most polite version was “Abandoning Defensive Crouch Liberalism”
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”:
He guaranteed it.
You guys can’t honestly believe those are calls for murder. Get real.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
lemmy is quoting (use the Quote button next time), and he’s quoting something from before the election.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
@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.
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.
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…”
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.
Longterm KKK presence in the US police
I expect there’s some deliberate murder.
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?
@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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
@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?
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.
@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.
@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.
@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.
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.
@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.
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.
@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.
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.
@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.
@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.
I don’t know if it’s a majority of people. I haven’t seen any polls. I do know that you find people cheering it on among leftists, liberals, and liberals-who-think-they’re-leftists. My feelings on the matter are complicated/unresolved – I don’t know whether I stand with “defend freedom of speech at all costs” or “don’t extent the protections of the social contract to those who would destroy it” regarding actual Nazis, actual fascists, WNs like Spencer, etc.
What I worry about is the obvious mission creep: I’m not gonna pretend that Spencer getting decked isn’t amusing, completely besides from the issue I just mentioned. A woman getting pepper-sprayed for wearing a MAGA hat? That’s fucked. The people who like punching (or worse) are generally good at justifying the punching they do or want to do. Historically, leftist authoritarians and totalitarians have an extremely broad definition of “fascism”, and it usually overlaps with “political enemies”.
I think that you are right that the escalation is bad. I think a lot of people (on both sides of the political spectrum) are in this headspace where on the one hand they think that everything is fucked but on the other hand they are acting like it can’t get more fucked. The smashing of things and calling for violence and punching people and this that and the other thing will all somehow still happen within an orderly framework – everybody can get their jollies then go home and return to ordinary life. The people calling for revolution or the day of the rope or whatever, deep down, don’t seem like they actually think it will happen. That’s the feeling I get. Like people are on the brink but nobody seriously thinks they’re going to fall.
I think you’re wrong on part of this this. Terrorism by Islamic radicals – or, at least, by Sunni radicals – against American targets is, at least in part, intended to create a crackdown, which will hit innocent civilians, which will create a backlash, etc. It’s a variant on classic urban guerrilla warfare: provoke a disproportionate response from the state, and this will goad the people into joining the revolutionaries. Doesn’t always work that way in practice.
What you’re describing is basic “no platform”. I think it ties into what I was saying above – it’s basically designed to work within an orderly society. Milo goes away because the cost to the College Republicans or whoever would be too great (security, costs of stuff getting broken, etc). But this only exists within an orderly system – the less orderly a society is, the less third parties are worried about liability risk. If there were 1500 protestors, of whom 150 were outside black bloc (this is the official story), but instead of saying “fuck I don’t want to get sued when shit goes south, call it off” Milo showed up with 300 paramilitaries, and there were fewer or no cops…
Southern whites in the 1960s said exactly the same thing about Malcolm X, and indeed Martin Luther King. The reason to have a principle of freedom of speech is that our impartiality on such questions cannot be trusted.
If nothing else, the pragmatic drawbacks should be obvious: neither you, nor the black blocs, nor anyone is capable of preventing Richard Spencer from having his say somewhere, short of murdering him. Denying him one platform merely raises his profile on another. Getting sucker-punched was surely an asset to his career.
Because it’s not that simple to us. Freddie and I believe we live in a country that completely obliterates another country every ten years for nefarious reasons, that neglects anyone who isn’t economically useful and locks them in rapecages to the tune of millions if they get unruly, that is leading the way in a more-or-less irrevocable destruction of the climate. It’s a whorling vortex of mindless consumption and destruction built on bones by slaves committing crimes measured in scientific notation and it’s just hard, with that backdrop, to get very worked up about a couple hundred people gathering for what was obviously going to be an ugly scene and trading some punches (especially if the people getting punched support all that)
Which is why Freddie’s argument is so important and needs to be amplified. Sidestep the ethical conversations, all the emotion that is clearly important to you but falling flat to me, and focus on your mostly correct substantive concerns and on the fact that, at the end of the day, mixing together antifa and rightist celebrity trolls only serves to create a toxic and otherwise pointless set-piece.
Pretty sure it wasn’t just southern whites, either. I agree. I can’t trust my own impartiality. The people who seem the most confident in their ability to spot a [Nazi/Commie] are the ones I would least like deciding who gets punched.
No platforming doesn’t work any more, thanks to the internet. I don’t know if getting punched was good for him, though. It makes him look weak and dumb. Supposedly he’s gotten punched a couple times since then. When is he going to wise up and get some bodyguards?
@herbert herberson – “It’s a whorling vortex of mindless consumption and destruction built on bones by slaves committing crimes measured in scientific notation…”
The things you describe are the result of complicated, abstract impersonal forces. There is no single person, or even a single party, or even a coalition of parties that mandates the rape cages and the ecological blight and the foreign wars, at least for the most part. Here and there you may find an unusually egregious example of someone directly and actively making the problem worse in a serious way, but the problems themselves are massively distributed and highly intractable.
On the other hand, uniformed gangs of thugs beating their political opponents in the street is not complicated, abstract or impersonal. It is a brand-new problem; this was not happening even a year and a half ago. It is a problem being created by your peer group, and people like you and Freddie can have an immediate, positive impact against it just by being willing to say loudly and publicly that it is wrong. They are doing this now because their peers are cheering them on. If the left can’t summon the courage to confront the evil that exists entirely within their own power, how can they ever hope to conquer the evil existing beyond anyone’s power?
I neither agree with this nor think it is relevant. The people making these things happen may be embedded in systems and responding to incentives, but they’re still there, still making choices. More importantly, it wouldn’t matter to what I’m saying if they weren’t. I’m telling you that I can’t get upset about someone tracking mud across the carpet when the house is on fire, and the triviality of the mud isn’t dependent on whether or not the fire started because of arson or a short circuit.
Your framing is all off here. It’s not that there are barriers we’re unwilling to surmount to confront the evil, its that from our perspective it’s absolutely absurd to suggest that this is an evil in the first place. Ergo, it’ll be much more productive for everyone if we’d spend a little more time on the fact that it’s not good for anything, either, regardless of perspective.
@Herbert Herberson – …Society is already fucked, so better to take our chances with a re-roll? I’ll admit that is a much more understandable argument, if I’m understanding you right.
Just to make it clear, Herbert doesn’t represent leftism, and his utterly un-leftist attitude towards violence that targets our ideological enemies is not shared by all of us.
Particularly when I know for a fact it would be treated as a serious problem by most of the left if right-wing extremists started beating up left-wing radicals for speaking out.
Leftism doesn’t get to exclude it’s enemies from its benefits, and words aren’t violence, and I have absolutely zero interest in a world in which the right wing behaves the way too many leftists seem to think is acceptable.
You don’t get to the moral high ground by walking downhill because it is easier, and arguing that all the ground around you is underwater anyways doesn’t change the fact that the water is rising around you, because of your actions. This “instant utopia or nothing” nonsense is just that.
Unfortunately, I don’t think you are. I’m not sure I even want a re-roll, and I’m definely sure that antifa and college anarchists are nowhere close to having their hands on the dice.
It’s that we’re viewing these things on different scales, as part of different spheres, I think. Many posters here seem deeply upset, offended, and/or afraid, at antifa turning politics into a violent enterprise. But politics is already full of violence and always has been, and I’m too aware of the people getting murdered in the thousands to not roll my eyes a little at people trying to tell me how very, very terrible it is for other people to get punched in the dozens.
Also, to be clear, at the end of the day, we’re not disagreeing about what should be done! The Berkeley riot actually accomplished nothing good, I see no path to anything like it accomplishing anything good in the foreseeable future, and therefore I don’t think it should have happened or that replicating it should be on anyone’s agenda. I’m just not able to get mad about it, outside of the pointlessness and counterproductivity.
@herbert herberson – “Unfortunately, I don’t think you are.”
…Perhaps not. If violence in the streets isn’t meaningfully worse than the violence of the system itself, aren’t you arguing for more or less complete revolution? Tear the whole thing down and start over? From reading a bit of Freddie this morning, that seems to be the logical conclusion of his arguments. hence “re-roll”.
I would disagree, as I see the current system as a lot less horrifying than you do, given human history. I see a world where most people are able to get by, versus a world where a whole lot less people are able to get by in the hope that this time, the eschaton is immanentized. That seems like a bad deal to me.
Although to redirect this argument somewhat, or at least to attempt to:
Every movement has assholes. Sufficiently large movements will have violent assholes.
It is not a productive conversation when somebody demands that you rebuke the assholes in your movement.
But – and this is a critical but – it is a serious issue when the non-assholes are supporting the asshole behaviors. That does demand to be addressed.
I regard Herbert’s statements minimizing the importance as implicit support. He’s denying violence done to somebody matters. Oppression always matters.
I doubt he’d find it nearly as irrelevant if people starting beating up black men in some southern hellhole while the cops looked the other way – imagine they were agitating for some offensive-to-some-people political goal, like reparations or something, to help comparability.
On the one hand, I consider the status quo to be monstrous; on the other hand, thinking remotely seriously about what an actual revolution would actually look like leads one to conclude that it, too, would be monstrous. The way I’m squaring that circle right now is by deciding that I wouldn’t stand in the way of a revolution but that I’m only putting my own efforts into pacifism, but it’s a work in progress and I remain genuinely ambivalent.
Although, again, the point bears repeating: antifa and Black Blocs are not members of a revolutionary vanguard or anything remotely close to it. They’re basically cosplaying for their own emotional satisfaction, and while I’m not shedding any tears for their victims, it remains a pointless and frankly narcissistic thing to do.
Of course I wouldn’t. I’m not a liberal or a Rawlsian on these issues. I believe there are oppressed groups and oppressor groups (and I mean genuinely oppressed, not “oppressed because I had to listen to Milo on YouTube instead of in person”), and I make no apologies about picking one of those sides.
Oppressors are those who oppress, not those who belong to the right (wrong) race and also oppress.
As far as I am concerned you are in favor of oppression, and like all oppression-minded individuals, you think it is justified.
Ponder the thread you are in, and what the individuals responsible thought they were fighting against.
Welcome to the far right, Thegnskald. You’re certainly not on the left any more.
If you guys want to test it empirically, go to a left-moderated board with this discussion, and see which one of you gets banned for “white-supremacist what-about-the-MENNNZ concern-trolling”.
It won’t be Herbert.
And if you put up any fuss about it, the March of Progress will roll right over you, just like it did everyone else who woke up one morning horrified by the actions of their own side.
I refuse to cede my movement to tools of the political establishment who think justice only requires standing up for people who have the right skin color and beliefs.
I believe the American public had a word about this with the Democratic Party once before. Looks like they need a refresher course.
Thegnskald, before you get too self-righteous, look up the definition of “liberal.” Your Rawlsian, classless ahistoricality puts you in that camp–and there’s nothing wrong with that! Except that typically, “leftism” is understood to mean the movements to the left of liberalism, and for that you have no more right to set definitions than I, and considerably less than a longtime activist like DeBoer.
@Thegnskald – For what it’s worth, I used to be a leftist. :/
Good luck, sir.
Keep fighting the good fight, man.
Classless? No, I just reject the attempt to turn class analysis into identity analysis, cheered on by upper middle class children who want to pretend they are oppressed by inventing endless streams of new categories for themselves and claiming that the fact that nobody recognizes their special status is oppressing them. I reject the attempt to turn class analysis into race analysis to perpetuate a century of racial animosity and keep us distracted from the significant social issues. I reject the rejection of the proletariat by modern “leftists” who have “progressed” beyond caring for the working classes, to caring about whatever squirrel they can distract the public with.
I reject the theft of the left by corporate interests who treat feminism as a marketing ploy, who sell us blatant corporate welfare as a leftist health care system, who try to convince us the real villains are the homophobic racist proletariat while they rob everyone blind, and I reject the “leftists” who defend them for doing so.
I am a liberal, yes, but I am a leftist first. And the “left” today is largely a prostitute to the interests of the upper classes and corporations.
Thegnskald – I am genuinely perplexed as to how you move from that level of class consciousness (I don’t agree with every part of your last post, but I definitely agree with most of it) to demanding that equal concern be paid to the perpetuation of white supremacy vs. no-platforming a pro-imperialist right-wing celebrity. Takes all kinds I guess.
Check out readsettlers.org if you ever find yourself with a surplus of free time.
@Herbert herberson – for what it’s worth, thank you for replying in detail as well.
While I think Thegnskald is fighting a mostly lost fight, if he and others like him on the left don’t successfully prosecute that fight, we’re pretty much stuck with a race by both ends to authoritarianism, where the winner gets to wipe out the other.
So to be clear: what you’re arguing is, in essence, that you believe violence is ethically acceptable when it serves a quantifiable, strategic purpose of forwarding your political agenda. Is that correct? Your objection to this violence is that it is strategically worthless and therefore the ethical issues aren’t relevant.
The fundamental problem with this argument can be summed up in another thread we had a couple of days ago, talking about who wins in a close combat fight: “…the winner will be the person who knows two seconds before the other guy that this is going from shouting to violence.” By endorsing the idea that strategic violence is acceptable and desirable, or at least by refusing to condemn it as ethically unacceptable, you are unambiguously communicating to your potential opponents that you will use violence against them as soon as you deem it in your best interests. This makes it in their best interests to use violence against you first before you get to that point.
If I actually believed this sort of attitude of “play at pacifism until we think we can win, then purge our enemies” was the norm among liberals/leftists/Democrats, I would be wholeheartedly endorsing the idea of Trump taking the military and simply forcibly deporting or executing everyone left of center, because it’s the only rational response. You don’t let a population that is actively planning to wipe you out simmer and arm up until they’re ready to strike; you eliminate the threat before it becomes capable of doing more damage, either by restraining it so that it’s incapable of harm or by killing it.
Once you explicitly acknowledge “we are no longer disagreeing, we are fighting; I’m just waiting until your back is turned to shove in the knife”, you should not be surprised if your opponent decides to stab you first.
I sincerely hope this isn’t a common attitude on either the right or the left, or we’re in for a very bloody time in the years to come. I’d like to think that there are still enough people who believe that we can negotiate as Americans and don’t need to pull out the guns to settle our arguments. But every person who gets on board with this idea that violence is okay so long as they get to pick the targets is making that less and less likely. Domestic politics are not a war. But once they become one, the human cost is catastrophic beyond imagining.
@Jaskologist: As each side perceives the stakes to be getting higher, the stakes actually are getting higher. Classic death spiral.
The fundamental point of disagreement between liberals and lefties has always been “How bad are things, really?” The lefties are winning that argument, for now, but times change. Their paradox is that they can only win by “losing”, i.e. as soon as they are perceived to be in power, they lose credibility.
@Cypren: Unfortunately, it is impossible to reason people out of a Hobbesian trap. The only two things that can defuse it are massive state authority, and what Scott calls divine grace. At this point, I would not bet against a Bleeding Kansas scenario within the next few years.
Just to be clear, this is exactly Moldberg’s description of how political violence really works, from “Right Wing Terrorism As Folk Activism”. It’s rather gratifying to see the left waking up and owning it.
One way of accomplishing that which avoids some of the moral problems involved in punishing them for pre-crime is to troll them into attacking a hardened or expendable target, and then punish them for their violence.
To be clear, I’m talking about an analogous situation to someone telling you, “I’m going to open this case, load this pistol and shoot you with it” and then proceeding to open the gun case. If someone announces their violent intentions and then takes visible steps towards enacting them, it may be “pre-crime” in the sense that they haven’t actually shot you yet, but it’s not unreasonable to take them at their word. I wouldn’t really have a problem shooting someone in that situation with a clean conscience, and I doubt most other people would as well.
Announcing that you are prepared to do violence is literally a declaration of war, “politics by other means”. And you should be neither surprised nor dismayed if you declare war and your opponent fires the first shot.
For anyone reading, please keep in mind that I prefaced my comments above with the very important disclaimer, “if I really believed most people were prepared to do violence…”. I do not believe this is the case yet and I am definitely not advocating pre-emptive genocide. But should things get to the point where we had two camps preparing to go to war with one another, it would also be pretty hard to blame one for striking first and wiping out the other as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Don’t draw your sword if you aren’t prepared to use it.
@Cypren: Yikes… be careful. Here are the words of Charles Robinson, the first governor of Kansas, about the Pottawatomie Massacre (in which John Brown and his sons assassinated five pro-slavery settlers for allegedly making threats against him):
Your analogy involves a specific and immediate threat, which, yes, is self-defense by anyone’s definition. But a social media post is not that. (Governor Robinson had no idea just how idle the wind could get.) It is, in fact, exactly the kind of thing law enforcement must be trusted to handle. I won’t discourage anyone from arming themselves if they attend a protest, but unless a black blocker is literally charging at you with a pipe, please don’t fire the first shot — however justified your belief that he is psychologically prepared to aggress.
@stillnotking: The argument I’m trying to make isn’t that it’s reasonable to respond to social media ranting with targeted assassinations. It’s that low level violence by a group of people, combined with normalization and rationalization of violence by their supporters and allies, will eventually convince the opposition that they should act decisively to head off more intense violence before it can happen. We’re not at that point yet, thank goodness.
But we’re on a road that’s leading to it faster than anyone should be comfortable with. And the people who are actively contributing to that atmosphere should be thinking long and hard about the world they’re building and the ultimate consequences it’s leading to.
In many ways, what we have brewing in the US reminds me an awful lot of the Jewish-Palestinian conflict, but with a more complex ethnic/class angle defining the groups. Studying how that conflict escalated from peaceful coexistence to murderous bloodbaths is very instructive and should encourage everyone to stop treating violence as acceptable.
Two important caveats. One, I’m not troubled by non-lethal violence in domestic politics, because I instinctively and automatically contrast it to the lethal violence that is commonplace in international politics (now as much as ever, you can already hear the drums beating re: Iran if you listen). This logically and truly wouldn’t extend to lethal violence in domestic politics. If antifa ever start bringing guns to protests, I will condemn that without reservation. See also the above post about a hypothetical revolution being just as monstrous as any other war.
Two, it’s not just that I don’t currently see much of a use for non-lethal violence, it’s that I don’t ever really see a use for it in the future. Note that this wouldn’t go both directions. For example, the current antifa line, which I have no reason to doubt, is that Milo was planning to dox illegal immigrant students at his speech. Under the right circumstances in 1970, shutting down that speech could be a true victory that I might applaud . But in 2017, it’s pointless. He can release those names on his website, do the speech in front of a webcam and post it on YouTube, have a surrogate put it on Twitter, etc, etc. No platforming isn’t just pointless under the current conditions, it’s pointless as long as the internet exists.
And I’d add–this is obvious. It’s so obvious that I used it as a reason to defend no platforming in the recent past (“because even if you’re worried about free speech, come on, it’s not like these people have any actual trouble getting their message out, right? shit’s all online!”). I missed this obvious fact for way too long because every single time the topic comes up it instantly orients on the morality question, and no one has ever been able to come close to convincing me that punching Nazis is an actual moral problem, despite it being a pretty common topic in some of the spaces I’ve been in over the last couple years. Most likely, no one ever will. But Freddie made me an instant convert on the practical question with one blog post.
Of course, that begs a question: “Herbert, if it’s obviously pointless and obviously corrosive to civil society, why not just condemn it in the complete terms we want you to?”
One, because it would be a lie. There are enough insincere crocodile tears in our society without me adding any of mine.
Two, because bloodless politics itself is a lie. I think that peoples’ moral outrage at a chick in a MAGA hat getting sucker-pepper-sprayed is predicated on a consistent and systematic failure to grok the reality of the violence our country inflicts abroad and in the penal system. People tolerate it, support it even, because it’s abstracted, intellectualized, and kept away from the cameras, but it remains infinitely more horrific. If I refuse to play along with the first part, there’s a chance y’all will find it harder to play along with the second part, and that’s a chance I think is worth taking.
How do you draw a line between lethal and non-lethal violence? It’s not like nobody has ever been punched or kicked to death. Sure, a gun or a knife is generally more lethal than beating the shit out of somebody with a club, but again, people have been clubbed to death.
And, do you think that people are going to see some random person get attacked without warning, and then a light bulb is going to go off and they’re going to say “huh, invading other countries is bad, and too many people are in prison”? How does that work, for society in general?
Plus, you’ll find plenty of people here who think US foreign policy is an amoral, counterproductive mess, and plenty of people who think US police/court/prison policies are terrible. Again, I don’t really see what seeing some woman get maced because she voted a way the guy with the mace doesn’t like brings to the discussion.
We’re just talking about personal moral judgments here–I’m not trying to say that Nazi-punching should be legal. Given that, the answer is “I’ll know it when I see it”
It doesn’t. So people shouldn’t do it. That’s what I and Freddie’s post have been saying all along. The question at hand, apparently, is whether that’s good enough without being matched with a moral condemnation.
@herbert henderson: Thanks for the detailed response.
I would suggest two things: first, for many people, the impersonal violence of the system is an effect of Moloch. It’s deplorable, and I think you would probably find that you and I agree pretty closely on a lot of problems and injustices that need remedying with both our foreign policy and criminal justice systems. But it’s not deliberate and planned in most cases. No one sat down somewhere and said, “you know what would be awesome? If we locked up 5% of the African-American men in this country and had a quarter of them get raped!” Or “hey, wouldn’t it be awesome if we invaded another country, killed a bunch of civilians by destroying their infrastructure, and then pulled out and left it in the hands of a bunch of 12th-century religious fanatics who would kill a lot more?”
The terrible consequences of current society are a result of lots of people making decisions that seem sensible and right when they only look at the surface: “harsh sentences for criminals”, “fighting terrorism”, etc. But those people can be reasoned with and dissuaded through calm discussion. It doesn’t require punching, and in fact punching only hardens their opposition to you, everyone associated with you, and every policy proposal associated with you as well. So your moral outrage should be directed at Antifa for being destructive and corrosive to politics, if nothing else: what they’re doing is not just pointless, but actively counterproductive, entrenching and reinforcing support for the system they claim to hate.
I’m not asking you to feel sympathy for punched Nazis. I sure as hell don’t, and I’ll admit that there’s a part of me that smirks at it as well. But I don’t think it’s either justifiable or a moral gray area not worth arguing about because it’s largely harmless. It’s causing a tremendous amount of harm, but the impacts aren’t going to be felt immediately, so it’s easy to wave it off as generally harmless.
That ties into the second thing I would mention: for a lot of people on the Right, you will find that there is a general attitude of “total war” when violence is necessary. This is a strong philosophical difference that has roots in the American tradition of war as existential conflict, in stark contrast to the European view of war as a great game between the nobility. (Yes, I realize that neither of these generalizations apply to all wars fought by either party, but that’s where the attitudes are rooted.)
In short, the “total war” attitude says, “don’t fight unless you have to. But as soon as you have to, bring your entire power to bear as quickly and brutally as possible in order to stop the conflict immediately.” This doctrine completely eschews the concept of proportional response. A lot of people think this is essentially the famous quote from The Untouchables: “He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue!” But the truth is that is still advocating an attitude of proportionate and measured responses. The total war attitude is “he sends one of yours to the hospital, you shoot everyone in his organization dead in the street and burn everything he owns to the ground as a lesson to the next would-be mob boss”.
This is the same attitude that led to right-wing disgust with the Vietnam War, not because we were fighting a war in a foreign country or that hundreds of thousands of civilians were dying, but because we were doing it ineffectively and wastefully with half-measures and arbitrary constraints on our troops, prolonging the conflict and suffering without a prospect of decisively defeating the enemy. But when applied to violence in the context of US politics, it generally means that the Red Tribe, as a whole, is likely to sit and suffer low intensity violence quietly for some time without retaliating, but if it eventually does retaliate, it will be brutal, swift, decisive and completely out of proportion to the violence that initiated it.
In short, this can lead to the appearance that “things aren’t that bad” while the pressure is cooking to the point where it gets very bad. That’s primarily what I’m concerned about.
That, functionally, means deciding whether hitting someone with a wrench is non-lethal or lethal after the fact, based on whether they die or not… This isn’t D&D, you can’t declare “I’m doing subdual damage.”
The implication, though, being that it would be OK if it did accomplish something, correct?
Because I have paid attention to the “left” over the past few decades and have noticed the way it is used by those who wish to engage in violence to cloak themselves in social approval while being horrible people.
And I am tired of my movement being a safe harbor for psychopathic assholes who just want to watch the world burn. It is an alliance that destroys everything good we try to do.
“Diversity is our strength–it keeps us from getting stuff done.”
Put that way, a rather compelling argument at last.
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…
I think and hope he means that the entire history of Poland from 1938-1945/89 is extremely depressing in general terms.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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)
I don’t understand your comment.
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.)
Who do you think you are? Kant?
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 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?
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.
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.
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).
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.)
Surely, it is also true if you change this to “many
Jewishintellectuals 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.
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.
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.
The phrase is “moot point”, not “mute point”.
I think Joey is deeper than we give him credit for.
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.
Damn, damn, damn. I actually “corrected” moot in the wrong direction.
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.
+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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Hearing stories like this, I just can’t imagine how anyone can dare to do any comparisons between Danmark and Poland.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’d say, rather, that it’s ambiguous between two meanings, one of which is technically correct, the other of which is clearly wrong.
@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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
It’s paranoid if you keep being fearful when in reality, you are much stronger than any threats.
Even if your enemies can’t defeat you, they can still hurt you.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
Nazi assassins, being too ambiguous, it is better to tar them with the worse of the two?
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.
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).
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.
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.
“Center for Political Beauty”, huh? That’s quite a name. I’m not sure whether I like it or not.
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.
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].
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.
You’d think that convincing people to even allow children to flee the holocaust would be a reasonably easy sell.
The Daily Mail then:
Daily Mail now:
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.
They wanted a Jew-free empire (aka the Third Reich). This fully explains why they wanted to ethnically cleanse other conquered countries.
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.
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).
“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.
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.
Yes, but that also meant that they were fine with Jews ‘controlling’ their enemies as they thought it would just weaken/corrupt them.
Link??? Googling this gives me no results.
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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.
Communist parties generally had Jews highly overrepresented, the failed Communist attempt to overthrow the Weimar government senior leadership was 80% Jewish.
…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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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 🙁
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.
>this is hackneyed Holocaust denialism
I’d say this was already obvious from the video description.
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 🙂
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?
Exactly what useful information did you convey here? Note that I’m incapable of reading whatever code gobbledygook it was that you wrote.
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.
If you don’t know what rot13 is, and are incapable of taking five seconds to google it, that is your problem.
>watching four-hour videos isn’t something I do, ever, under any circumstances.
>He didn’t watch the extended edition of the LotR movies
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
For your sake fampai, I will try to take that into consideration. The responses I got were still #rude and uncalled-for, tbh.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yeah, that’s my bad. I really should have known better what with the ads for mealsquares and time-managing software on the sidebar.
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.
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.
“I’m coming here from an imageboard culture full of NEETs with a hunger for heterodox opinions”
You came here from /pol/?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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…
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.
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?
Presumably they figured it would bring them more prestige within the Wehrmacht as a whole.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.)
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.
More or less. A lot of the early dreadnoughts got eliminated, too.
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.
Many thanks. I don’t know why I concluded that it couldn’t be by Pratt.
I have now ordered a copy.
You’re very welcome, although I’m slightly staggered by the coincidence that lead to me knowing that.
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.)
>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.
>. 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.
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.
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.
Fletcher Pratt, in 1939. The first couple chapters (all I’ve read) suffer very heavily from being based on incomplete information.
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 have to disagree. If not for the treaty, the British would have been a clean second by the mid-20s.
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.
>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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
@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.
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.
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.
“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“
If everyone was that incompetent, maybe we should just lower our standards.
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.
Was expecting a rickroll. A wasted opportunity.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
AFAIK the puppy was not given lethal shocks.
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.
“twenty out of twenty-six”
Psychology once again amazes us with a sample size with *two* digits.
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.
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.
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.
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
Most americans have extremely negative reactions when europeans talk about roma in a prejudiced way.
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.
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.
The Romani and Travelers are different ethnic groups with similar lifestyles. Romani in America are largely invisible–deliberately–and in the process of acculturating.
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.
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]
[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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.