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First Principles

History Both Repeats and Rhymes

When the opposition doesn’t care whether the scurrilous things he’s spreading about you are true, the odds are good that they just want you to have to deny them.


- October 13th, 2019
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“Encore, c’est la meme chose” means “Again, it’s the same thing.”

Or as the American meme puts it, “same stuff, different day.” Actually, that’s the cleaned-up version. You can guess which word to substitute for “stuff.”

The point is that similar social problems occur again and again across time and space.

First-World Drugs

The U.S. government is justifiably outraged that China engages in the illicit exporting of the narcotic fentanyl to America. Fentanyl abuse causes misery, social degradation, and death. All true.

And yet, I’m sure that many Chinese see it as payback. In the 19th century, Britain exported vast quantities of opium to China, where it caused widespread misery, social degradation, and death. It led to what are called “the Opium Wars.”

Of course, the United States is not Britain, but payback is not very discriminating. Some Chinese probably reason “British, American—what’s the difference?”

It would be better if everyone took the Bible’s advice and left vengeance to God. Or the Chinese might heed the warning of their own sage, Confucius: “If you seek revenge, dig two graves.”

First World Universities

What used to be American higher education has become an insane asylum. Professors live in fear of complaints by enrollees or junior faculty who don’t belong there. Some students are still admitted by academic merit, but the universities’ de facto quotas of the less-qualified seem to get larger every year. High-achieving Asian students have filed lawsuits to challenge the quotas. Plain-vanilla American students are so privileged that they dare not say anything.

On the other hand, misery loves company. It’s a small comfort to know that similar problems have afflicted other countries.

In the 20th-century Soviet Union, there was Lysenkoism. It de-platformed scientific genetics in favor of politically-correct dogma, just as gender and racial ideologies now rule with an iron fist in the West.

And in China, the Cultural Revolution forced universities to admit students for academically irrelevant reasons. John Bryan Starr, who taught China studies at Yale, observed:

Admission was based almost exclusively on a kind of affirmative action program for the politically correct. Class background and political attitude alone counted in making admissions decisions. Schools became populated by students who, in the words of one college instructor, ‘would have been happier somewhere else.’”

The Chinese government strictly policed what was taught. The unqualified students:

were considered fitting for monitors of the academic faculty, to ensure that the faculty presented ideologically correct material.

On the bright side, China did something else that can happen here:

Schools at all levels were closed down. University enrollment peaked at close to a million students in 1960, but ten years later only forty-eight thousand students were enrolled …

It would be better to close many Western universities than to leave them in business doing nothing but political indoctrination and money laundering.

First World Propaganda

The New York Times has launched a “1619 Project” to argue that America’s past involvement in slavery defines it as a country.

The United States, The Times maintains, is incorrigibly evil because some Americans’ ancestors owned slaves. It cannot be redeemed. It can only be destroyed, along with the accursed posterity of its accursed Founders.

Oh, sure, slavery existed for thousands of years all over the world. It still exists in Africa. America abolished slavery over 150 years ago. But what has America done about slavery lately?

Of course, nothing has changed except that there’s a presidential election coming up. As The Times sees it, the base must be mobilized. The black vote must be secured. Otherwise, we are promised another four years of Orange Man Bad, pussy-hatters, deep-state saboteurs, Antifa terrorists, jihadists posing as feminists, and unhappy people screaming hysterically about their pronouns.

The 1619 Project reminded me of a passage from Murray Friedman’s book What Went Wrong? The Creation and Collapse of the Black-Jewish Alliance.

Since the early 20th century, Jewish Americans have fought for black civil rights. But some African-Americans argue that instead of helping them, Jews have only exploited them for our own benefit.

In the following passage from Friedman’s book, just replace “Jews” with “ordinary Americans:”

Such efforts to rewrite the history of blacks and Jews from the standpoint of racial extremists and liberal activists could be dismissed as either bigoted nonsense or moralistic propaganda were it not for the fact that the tension and conflict between the two groups is being deliberately exploited for blatant political ends.

Friedman reports that Henry Louis Gates, professor of African and African-American Studies at Harvard:

… pinned the blame on ‘pseudo-scholars’ and other activists who promote wild misconceptions about the historical relationship between blacks and Jews. Gates accused these self-styled scholars and community activists of deliberately seeking to deepen the cultural and social isolation of blacks from the mainstream of American life for political purposes, and he warned, ‘We must not allow … demagogues to turn the wellspring of memory into a renewable resource of enmity everlasting.’

Then it sounds almost like a mission statement for The 1619 Project: Turn the wellspring of memory into a renewable resource of enmity everlasting.

First World Political Hardball

The risible lie that America was built on slavery reminds me of an urban legend about President Lyndon Johnson, who was known for political hardball.

Earlier in his career, Johnson had run for the U.S. Senate. According to the story, he told his campaign manager to spread a rumor that his electoral opponent liked to have sex with animals.

“But we know that isn’t true,” protested his campaign manager.

“Sure,” Johnson replied. “But let’s make him deny it.”

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