to control society first control the culture

A commenter at Oz Conservative recently stated, “Liberals can only mount their progressive tyranny on non-liberals through the power of the state.” I’m not sure I agree with this, not completely anyway.
The current dominant ideology, a combination of globalism and liberalism, has gained its ascendancy mostly through gaining control of the culture. This process began early in the 20th century. By the 1960s liberal leftists were firmly in control of the worlds of art and literature. They controlled Hollywood, and most of the world of entertainment. They controlled most of the news media. They controlled the universities. They had thoroughly infiltrated most of the churches. They were well on the way to controlling the culture. Their cultural control is now total.
In most cases they did not advance their agenda through direct political means. They did not control the power of the state. They have certainly been able to force the state to enforce their agenda but this has been a fairly recent thing. In every case the coercive power of the state has only been used to compel obedience to cultural changes that have already taken place.
Homosexuality had already been culturally normalised before legislation was passed to make homosexual acts legal. Marriage had already been undermined before divorce laws were relaxed to the point of making marriage nothing more than a temporary sexual arrangement. Feminists had already gained acceptance of most of their program before feminism started to be legally enforced by the state.
The use of the judiciary to accelerate the rate of social change is a recent phenomenon and it has only been made possible by liberal domination of the culture (both high culture and popular culture). 
Liberals haven’t actually needed the power of the state to push their agenda. Nor have they needed to win election victories. As long as their control of the culture remains total they can rest assured that the power of the state can and will be used to reinforce their victories. Those victories are however always won by cultural battles, not political battles. Politics is downstream of culture.
It logically follows that liberalism cannot be defeated by conventional political means. Liberalism can only be defeated by wresting control of the culture away from them. That can only be achieved by a more powerful, more attractive, more dynamic, cultural force. At this point in time such a cultural force does not exist. Until it does liberalism will remain in the driver’s seat.

the Dutch election and the Trump Factor

An interesting sidelight on the Dutch election is the Trump Factor. I’ve seen reports that support for Wilders’ PVV party started to plummet after he came out as a Trump supporter.
European intellectuals have for decades had an absolutely visceral hatred for Americans, and particularly for Americans like Trump who glory in their Americanness. That hatred has now permeated most of European society. Europeans like to imagine they are morally and intellectually superior to Americans. Which is pretty amusing when you consider the catastrophic course of European history in the past century.
It’s partly a matter of style. Trump’s style plays very well in the US. It antagonises European.
It’s also a matter of class. Trump obviously likes ordinary people, including working-class people. European intellectuals loathe and despise the working class, and intellectuals have real influence in Europe. 
The style and the class elements combined have caused a complete psychological meltdown among European intellectuals and the European media. The anti-Trump hysteria in the European media even surpasses that in the US media. The end result of this may be that moderates have been frightened off. Even people who agree with Wilders on immigration are afraid of being associated with someone who admires Trump. 
Europeans don’t seem to like outspoken charismatic leaders. They like bland managerial types, the more boring the better. They seem to think that strong charismatic leaders are automatically fascists. As a result they have had seventy years of weak treacherous leadership.
Never underestimate the European terror of being labeled fascist. Americans can pass such things off as jokes but Europeans (at least western Europeans) can’t. Western Europeans would rather die than be thought of as racists or fascists. The way things are going that’s probably the fate in store for them.
It might be advisable for Marine le Pen to do everything possible to distance herself from Trump.

living in a two-movie reality

Scott Adams’ blog has become a real must-read over the past year or so. I think his idea that we live in a two-movie reality is probably the best explanation of the world as it is today.
It’s not that different people have different political views. It’s not even that different people have different world-views. The two sides of the political debate literally inhabit different realities. There are two alternative realties running side-by-side. Those who live in one reality quite simply and quite genuinely are incapable of perceiving the other reality. It’s like two people watching entirely different movies, and the two movies have nothing in common.
This is profound implications for the future of our society. Our society is built on the assumption that political differences can be settled amicably through the ballot box. It’s based on the assumption that we can agree to disagree. If however we live in a two-movie reality that’s not going to happen. Each half of the population, being utterly incapable of perceiving what the other perceives, believes the other half is not merely stupid and deluded but willfully evil. They must be evil, since they refuse to see what we can see so clearly. You can only agree to disagree if you believe the other person holds his beliefs in good faith.
There’s little doubt that Adams’ two-movie theory holds true for the vast majority of the rank-and-file supporters of our competing ideologies? But does it hold true for those who pull the strings behind the scenes? Does it explain the motivations of the very rich very powerful men who direct international finance and control the political system? Are they deluded themselves because they are honestly believe in the version of reality in their movie, or are they actively and consciously manipulating their followers?
If the latter is the case, how far up the totem pole of power do the delusions reach? Is everyone subject to the two-movie problem except for the top one percent, or is it the top .01 percent? Are journalists and academics mere deluded foot-soldiers or are they active manipulators?
As far as the top levels of the elites go, I’m not sure which is the more depressing scenario – that they sincere but misguided believers in a delusion or that they are cynical con artists.

why our elites don’t know what they’re doing

I’ve spoken before about the perplexing problem we have of elites who are not only destroying our civilisation – they will inevitably end by destroying themselves. How on earth can this have happened?
Nassim Taleb has some ideas on this subject in his essay on the “Intellectual-Yet-Idiot” Class
It does seem increasingly obvious that our so-called intellectual elites are quite unable to foresee the consequences of their actions. When their decisions turn out badly they are unable to understand why and, more worryingly, being essentially mediocrities  with no deep understanding their instinct is to deny reality rather than question their own beliefs.
There’s a lively discussion on the topic at Vox Popoli. This discussion raises another fascinating possibility – that high IQ individuals are in fact to a considerable degree excluded from positions of power and influence.
Even a cursory glance at the history of the West over the past century makes it pretty clear  that during this period most western countries have largely been ruled by people who are, to put it mildly, not very bright. Back in the 70s British historian Corelli Barnett pointed out the disastrous consequences of the ineptitude of the British ruling class in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (in his superb book The Collapse of British Power) so the problem is certainly not new.
What is new is that a reasonably large number of ordinary people seem to be slowly realising that they are being ruled by elites who don’t have a clue what they’re doing.

explaining the intelligentsia

I’m still reading Richard Pipes’ huge book on the Russian Revolution (The Russian Revolution 1899-1919). He talks a good deal about the beliefs and motivations of the radical intelligentsia at the dawn of the 20th century, not just in Russia but in Europe as a whole.
The most noteworthy thing about left-wing intellectuals is of course the amazing extent to which they are out of touch with reality and out of touch with ordinary people in the real world. Pipes offers a salutary reminder that this is not a recent phenomenon – intellectuals have always been entirely disconnected from reality and from real people.

“For intellectuals of this kind, the criterion of truth was not life: they created their own reality, or rather, sur-reality, subject to verification only with reference to opinions of which they approved. Contradictory evidence was ignored: anyone inclined to heed such evidence was ruthlessly cast out.”

Marx of course was a case in point. Marx’s claim to have created a scientific explanation of the evolution of human society was pure fantasy.
Socialism, of both the revolutionary and non-revolutionary varieties, in Russia was entirely dominated by intellectuals. These intellectuals regarded actual workers and peasants with a mixture of mystification, scorn and loathing. If you’re going to achieve democratic socialism the last thing you want is actual workers and peasants having a say in the process. They might not vote the right way. And if you hope to bring about the dictatorship of the proletariat it is essential at all costs to prevent the proletariat from becoming involved.
Lenin was a fine example of the type. His theorising ignored reality altogether. He was prepared to check his theories against the works of other theorists such as Marx but the idea of checking his theories against real-world facts never occurred to him.
In Pipes’ view the Russian Revolution was entirely driven by a very small number of radical intellectuals. The vast majority of the Russian population had no interest in a revolution. It was the intellectuals who wanted revolution. 

“But many of those who want to change the world regard human discontent as something not to be remedied but exploited. Exploitation of resentment, not its satisfaction, has been at the centre of socialist politics since the 1840s.”

Pipes also has this rather good quote on what makes left-wing intellectuals tick:

“…Ludwig von Mises thought that intellectuals gravitate to anti-capitalist philosophies ‘in order to render inaudible the inner voice that tells them that their failure is entirely their own fault.’ ”

intellectuals behaving badly

Paul Johnson’s book Intellectuals is a fascinating examination of the reasons we should distrust intellectuals, especially of the left-wing variety.

He looks at a selection of intellectuals from Rousseau to Noam Chomsky and sees some disturbing common patterns. They achieve a certain eminence in a particular field (Bertrand Russell in mathematics, Chomsky in linguistics, Shelley, Tolstoy and James Baldwin in literature) and then decide they are uniquely qualified to refashion civilisation. They turn to politics but their knowledge of the real world is dangerously shallow and naïve, and they are led into a complex web of deception and self-deception.

Since their understanding of the world of politics and of the behaviours and motivations of real people are fatally inadequate they succumb to the temptation to ignore real people and the real world and to put ideas before people. When people fail to react in the desired manner the intellectuals become embittered and increasingly extreme.

Believing that they have all the answers they convince themselves that they do not need to bother with troublesome distractions like facts, and that they are justified in lying in the service of the higher truths that they have glimpsed.

Lying becomes second nature to them. An almost total disregard for truthfulness can be observed in all the intellectuals under discussion. Rousseau, Marx, the left-wing publisher Victor Gollancz, Lillian Hellman and Bertolt Brecht are merely the most egregious examples.

Hypocrisy, selfishness and vicious behaviour towards other people is another common thread, most spectacular in the cases of Shelley, Hemingway and Norman Mailer but present in all to some extent. The intellectual seems to be a person unable to progress beyond adolescence, which explains not only their childish behaviours but also their willingness to embrace remarkable silly ideas (Marx and Tolstoy being classic examples)

Some (Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir) are so sad and pathetic one almost feels sorry for them while others (Shelley, Lillian Hellman and Brecht) are truly repellant.

Johnson also notes the increasing tendency of intellectuals to embrace violence, most notable in the cases of Mailer and James Baldwin, and associated with that a frightening willingness to make excuses for barbarism (Lillian Hellman’s enthusiasm for Stalinism being a particularly shameful example).

There really is nothing more dangerous than an intellectual with a plan to remake the world.

Rousseau and the road to totalitarianism

It’s impossible to understand the 19th century without taking the Romantic Movement into account, and it’s difficult to imagine the Romantic Movement without the influence of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

I’ve recently been reading Paul Johnson’s book Intellectuals. The idea behind the book is that over the past couple of centuries a succession of intellectuals have set themselves up as being uniquely qualified to tell us how to live our lives, usurping the role once played by religious teachers, priests and prophets. Johnson argues that if these people are going to tell the rest of us how to live then we’re entitled to ask how well they managed their own lives and how successfully they put into practice the ideals they would enjoin upon others. Which seem reasonable enough – after all if a politician or a religious leader made similar claims we’d certainly feel justified in asking if they lived up to their own principles.

Which brings us back to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the first of the intellectual instructors in the art of living.

As Johnson points out, Rousseau was an habitual liar who exploited those around him shamelessly. He was also a paranoiac and among other hobbies he enjoyed exposing himself to women and also enjoyed masochist sexual adventures. His ingratitude and his boorish behaviour were of epic proportions. He quarreled with everyone with whom he came into contact. He was described by Diderot as “deceitful, vain as Satan, ungrateful, cruel, hypocritical, and full of malice.”

He also saw himself as a expert on the upbringing and education of children although he abandoned all his own children.

Apart from his stunning hypocrisy Johnson sees Rousseau as having set western civilisation on the path that would lead inexorably to the modern totalitarian state, particularly in his enthusiasm for giving the state complete control of education. He is in a way the grandfather of political correctness.

In both the chapter on Rousseau and in the other chapters dealing with other intellectuals Johnson raises some pertinent points about the motivations and psychologies of such individuals. They are essentially people trapped in a kind of permanent adolescence, with all the monstrous self-centred egotism of youth, worshipping ideas but in an embarrassingly naïve manner and entirely incapable of dealing with either the real world or real people.