Is National Review Losing Its Senses?

In one of the weirder moments of neocon contrarianism, NRO chooses to forge ahead with asserting two of its basic tenets–1) that violence is great and cool and creatively destructive and 2) that Obama is always to be contradicted no matter what–by condemning him for calling the Holocaust an act of senseless violence.  No.  Really:

President Obama issued a statement yesterday to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day. He noted that survivors who bore witness to “the horrors of the cattle cars, ghettos, and concentration camps have witnessed humanity at its very worst and know too well the pain of losing loved ones to senseless violence.” (We noted below how some in Europe chose to mark the day, which takes place each year on January 27, the day Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz.)

The idea that all violence is “senseless” violence is one that has taken deep root on the left; it’s also, unfortunately, one that poses a major impediment to understanding the world.

Nazism may have been an ideology to which the United States was — and to which the president is — implacably opposed, but it is hardly “senseless.” By the early 1930s, the Nazi party had hundreds of thousands of devoted members and repeatedly attracted a third of the votes in German elections; its political leaders campaigned on a platform comprising 25 non-senseless points, including the “unification of all Germans,” a demand for “land and territory for the sustenance of our people,” and an assertion that “no Jew can be a member of the race.” Suffice it to say, many sensible Germans were persuaded.

Wow.  I never thought of it that way.  So… the Holocaust made sense. (Backing away slowly for the door.)  No.  Keep talking.  I’m just going to get a notepad and paper.  Your ideas intrigue me and I really want to subscribe to your newsletter.

In the Catholic tradition, violence is, at the very best, an absolute last ditch option and represents, at its very best, a profound failure of our humanity, as JPII pointed out.  For neocon nuts like the person who wrote this, violence is a positive good.  Give that crazy and dangerous idea its head and you wind up with, well, defenses of the Holocaust as “sensible” violence.

Reason #3298743 I want very little to do with the Thing That Used to Be Conservatism.  Give me the Faith.  It’s not freakin’ nuts.  On the bright side, the commenters on the piece ain’t drinkin’ the Koolaid.  But what in hell is this person doing writing for NRO?

  • David Norris

    Shorter NRO:

    “Say what you will about National Socialism, dude, but at least it’s an ethos”.

    • Bryan

      There are ways, David. You don’t wanna know about ‘em, trust me. You want a reason to bash Obama? I’ll get you a reason to bash Obama. I can get you a reason to bash Obama by four o’clock. With polish. Amateurs.

    • Bryan

      I have nothing but respect for William Buckley and his memory. It is a genuine and serious shame what has happened to his main legacy, National Review.

      My local library once discarded a huge collection of old National Reviews (surprise surprise) from about 2002-2006. I took them for free and so was able to sit and read through them linearly; not every single month but a generous representative sampling. It was disturbing how profoundly wrong–and not just morally wrong, but factually inaccurate–their current events reporting and assessment of “the Bush years” had actually been, with the benefit of hindsight. Their motto seems to have gone from “Immanentize the Eschaton” to “Imminentize the Errata.”

      Their cultural and historical articles were frequently great, exquisite even. But the modern foreign policy stuff? Utter and obvious balderdash, and plenty of it.

      I still have Ramesh Ponnuru’s 2005 cover story seriously predicting and analyzing the imminent (obviously not immanent) demise of modern American liberalism to follow the re-election of Bush. Oh, brother. National review indeed.

    • http://backoftheworld.com Ryan M.

      Nihilism, huh? That sounds exhausting…

  • Blog Goliard

    Of course the Holocaust made sense…according to the objectives of the Nazi ideology.

    Which were evil, diabolical, infinitely hateful objectives. I don’t see where Ms. Johnson denies that in the least. Rather, she’s reading the words “senseless violence” as meaning, in this context, the same thing as “random violence” or “pointless violence”…and then pointing out that this would be an incorrect way of trying to understand and describe the evil of Naziism.

    This may be a wrong reading of Obama’s turn of phrase. (I don’t think so, but it would be a defensible position to take.) It may be straining at gnats. (I’d tend to agree.) It may be not only a pointless argument but a dangerously pointless one to make, given the entirely predictable emotionalism and lack of reading comprehension that have greeted the post.

    But it is in no way, shape, or form an argument that “violence is a positive good”, and to claim otherwise is to slander both the writer and her employer.

    • ivan_the_mad

      I suspect that violence seemed rather senseless to the victims, who were quite obviously the intended audience of the president’s address.

      • Blog Goliard

        Oh really? You don’t think any of the victims managed to detect that the Holocaust was being deliberately carried out in pursuit of a specific objective?

        • Mark Shea

          A man shooting up a bank because the Voices tell him to is pursuing a specific objective deliberately. So what?

          • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

            Whatever you paid to get an education on the reasons for the Holocaust, demand your money back. You were robbed.

            The German government had USD 19B of debt on its books. As a state secret, it had another USD 16B of debt off its books that it had used to rearm in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. This is the conspiracy that was coming apart at the wheels (right before the war, Hitler fired his chief economic conspirator because of that fellow’s demands to end the conspiracy and end rearmament) that demanded scapegoats, of which jews were the principal, but not only choice of the NSDAP, the nazis.

            Before the camps, before the race laws and their badges, before the mass murder, nazi economics never made much sense and without this economic conspiracy, Hitler would have collapsed the German state and been replaced by others long before he became such a butcher.

            Now go look at the economic conspiracy in Greece to defraud the world about its financial state prior to its exposure by a new government who took a fresh look at the books and the rise of Golden Dawn and tell me that the parallels don’t creep you out. Go take a look at how much debt the US is keeping off books and don’t tell me the parallels aren’t creeping you out.

            Ultimately, the moral difference between Hitler and us is in our superior, continuing, never ending willingness to face up to our own venality and idiocy as reality periodically points them out choose reality over blaming scapegoats. That’s the essential metric that keeps us from a very deep pit. You see when the foul up is big enough, you can’t just shame scapegoats, or burn their houses, or drive them out of town. If the foul up you are trying to evade responsibility for is big enough you have to kill them.

            When Obama calls the Holocaust senseless violence, he is eroding a very vital lesson that helps keep the US from becoming a moral monster. I suspect he is doing it without intention. That does not mean he should get away with doing it without criticism.

        • Paul

          Not pursuit of any specific objective that made any kind of sense. To say “It did make sense, just not good sense” is to quibble foolishly.

    • The Deuce

      Of course the Holocaust made sense…according to the objectives of the Nazi ideology.

      Which were evil, diabolical, infinitely hateful objectives. I don’t see where Ms. Johnson denies that in the least

      But I don’t think that Obama denied that in the least either, even though she stupidly decided to interpret him as doing so. You can say that people are interpreting her meaning uncharitably and failing to get her context, which I think is true, but it’s in response to her doing the same thing herself.

      Obama’s Presidency has been one neverending, stinking stream of awfulness, almost all of which can be rightly condemned for its moral and economic insanity. Why pick a stupid fight over something he didn’t even say, and in the process write an article that’s going to look like a Nazi defense to a lot of people?

      • SpasticHedgehog

        Winner winner chicken dinner. There’s plenty to criticize about the administration without going here.

    • Dale Price

      Straining at gnats is a good observation.

      “Nothing happened to me, Officer Starling. I happened. You can’t reduce me to a set of influences. You’ve given up good and evil for behaviorism… nothing is ever anybody’s fault. Look at me, Officer Starling. Can you stand to say I’m evil?”

  • ivan_the_mad

    Yes, it is, and it has been for quite some time (apologies, Mr. Hanson, but it’s true).

    This is, as the commenters happily indicate, another example of tribal partisanship making you stupid. Really, really, frigging stupid.

  • Dale Price

    I didn’t read it that way. At all.

    The way I read it is that, by calling it senseless, what happened in the Holocaust had no greater meaning than a roadrage argument that escalates into a shooting. Instead, what Nazism did was persuade–horrifically–otherwise sensible, civilized, Western people to engage in horror. Calling it senseless distances us from it, and instills a “Can’t happen here” mindset. It suggests it was an unrepeatable set of circumstances which need not concern us. To the contrary, it must be studied and understood so it can be avoided.

    Likewise, the assault at Benghazi was masterminded by people motivated by an understandable
    (as in: can be studied and profitably analyzed) and coherent religious ideology–one that is persuasive to the affluent and well-off of the Arab Muslim world. It was plotted and carried off accordingly. It wasn’t some liquor store-ish heist which went wrong.

    “Senseless” waves away the pre-meditation which usually motivates such horrors, and makes them harder to address.

    • ivan_the_mad

      There is of course a time and a place for such a conversation. An address to Holocaust survivors is not it, ever. I think “senseless” is the word that best describes it for them. Surely common sense and decency might have prevailed over at NRO.

      • Blog Goliard

        Ms. Johnson was not addressing Holocaust survivors.

        • ivan_the_mad

          The address I was referencing was that of the president.

      • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

        You are wrong that Holocaust survivors are not the audience to address this to. They are the perfect audience to address this to because addressing it demonstrates how we, today, take action to breathe life into their pleas, “never again”.

        Senseless violence does not demand that we look into our hearts and identify the crucial moment when a moral decision to cover up a really bad screw up can start snowballing into the Holocaust. Making sense of the Holocaust makes us look into our hearts and realize that we are not all that different in impulse to the Nazis and that we must ever guard that we do not make their erroneous decision and turn our back on reality and eventually humanity.

    • Mark Shea

      I’m not buying that one. Sure, acts of senseless violence can have their own internal logic to the lunatic undertaking them. So the guy who executes the bank full of people because the Voice told him to has a “sensible” reason: the Voices told him to and since when have the Voices been wrong? Likewise, according to the first principles of Nazism, everything the Nazis did was logical. But the first principle was insane and the Holocaust was a carefully and meticulously planned act of fundamentally senseless evil. A thing can be internally coherent and yet fundamentally senseless. Reagan preserrved the sound moral instinct here:

      “Those who perished as a result of Nazi terror, millions of individual men and women and children whose lives were taken so senselessly, must never be forgotten.” —Ronald Reagan, February 2, 1983

      • Blog Goliard

        That’s a sensible argument with much to recommend it.

        If only one could say the same for the post above. (For which, you still owe Eliana Johnson and NRO an apology. Unless you’re standing behind your claim that she’s “nuts” and believes that “violence is a positive good”.)

      • Dale Price

        But wasn’t lunacy–it was *evil.* Evil seduces. Evil comes dressed up in logic, pride, what have you. Lunacy–as in genuine incapacitating nuttiness–exculpates. At least to a certain degree. Not everyone is susceptible to insanity. But we’re all capable of evil.

        Now, I will agree that there’s no point picking a fight with everything that comes out of the President’s mouth. But I’ll also say there’s no point in pointing at a random blog post at NR and extrapolating into a condemnation of the entire magazine. I never heard of this person until you linked to her today. I also don’t have much use for NR as an institution these days, but keeping this blog post in its proper perspective would help. It’s not an editorial, for example.

        • Mark Shea

          I seldom read NRO these days. However, just as I would question their judgment if they allowed even *one* post from David Irving or the head of the Klan, so I have to question their judgment in allowing this. It was a deeply dumb thing for them to publish. The redeeming thing, for me, is the healthy reaction of their readers in the combox.

          • Blog Goliard

            Seriously, Mark? David Irving?

            I believe we’ve just witnessed some weird inversion of Godwin’s Law.

            • Mark Shea

              So denying the Holocaust happened is beyond the pale but denying it was senseless is not? *Shakes head*.

              • Blog Goliard

                Just two days ago you professed your enduring love for Dale Price…and now he’s beyond the pale, in the same category as David Irving.

                What a sudden, tragic reversal of fortunes.

                • Dale Price

                  Continuing my pattern of not reading things the same way…

                  I didn’t read the Irving comparison as directed at me.

                  • Blog Goliard

                    Maybe I’m the one misreading then. I read you as supporting Ms. Johnson’s argument…and so both of you are thereby “denying [the Holocaust] was senseless”, according to Mark…and so both of you are thereby equivalent to David Irving and beyond the pale.

                    I’d be glad to be assured I’m wrong on at least some of the above counts.

                  • Mark Shea

                    ?! No. Of course it wasn’t.

                    • Blog Goliard

                      Yes, of course it was. Unless Dale was not agreeing with Ms. Johnson’s main point.

                    • Mark Shea

                      No. It wasn’t.

                    • Blog Goliard

                      Do you deny that Dale was agreeing with Ms. Johnson’s main point?

                      Or are you walking back the assertion that the point she was making placed her “beyond the pale” with David Irving?

                      Or were you, as I suggested, renouncing your friend Dale as beyond the pale?

                      Those are the only three available logical options.

                    • Mark Shea

                      I think Dale was misunderstanding her position. That’s why I’m arguing with him.

                • Mark Shea

                  Huh? What are you talking about?

          • Dale Price

            Given that Ms. Johnson criticized an Egyptian government official’s Holocaust denial just two days ago on January 29, it’s not fair to compare her to Irving.

            http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/339176/morsi-aide-holocaust-industry-america-invented-eliana-johnson

        • Mark Shea

          I think huge acts of evil illustrate what is always true of evil: that it is a kind of madness since it is a denial of the Logos and therefore fundamentally opposed to reality. Being opposed to reality is reasonable definition of “insane”.

          Bottom line: Deuce is right. This was a deeply stupid fight for NRO to pick. I have to wonder who is minding the store over there.

      • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

        Hjalmar Schacht’s dispute with Hitler must seem quite incomprehensible to you, if you’ve ever even heard of it. It saved him from the hangman’s noose at Nuremberg though. The Nazi error that distinguished them was not necessarily one of first principles and the difference between Schacht and Hitler exposes that. But for those whom the whole thing was senseless, there is no need to trouble yourself with thought and examination of conscience over the whole thing.

    • The Deuce

      Dale has the correct meaning of what she said. However, she misinterpreted Obama’s meaning as badly as people interpreted her meaning. Furthermore, to somebody who doesn’t have a close understanding of conservative principles and liberal ideology, it’s going to be a lot easier to read her article as a Nazi defense than to read Obama’s comments as a denial that Nazism was fueled by a cohesive but evil ideology.

      Btw, as an aside, it’s pretty obvious that somebody linked that article at Kos or Reddit or something. There’s a number of conservatives telling her how stupid her article is, but also a lot more left-wingers than usual who I very much doubt visit The Corner on a regular basis.

    • Peggy R

      I may be thinking what you’re thinking Price. I did read that NRO entry and didn’t get it frankly. So I am with you to an extent Mark.

      I did think, however, that calling the Holocaust “senseless violence” was putting it in the category of a street fight gone wrong and an innocent person accidentally killed. I think more of the dramatic ending to “West Side Story” played out still in gang violence today. I saw the “senseless violence” as minimizing the extent of the evil and the number of deaths of the Holocaust.

      There was something more evil at work in this concerted effort to kill deliberately people of the Jewish faith. It was not mere “senseless violence.” It was something very sick and deeply evil at work.

  • Will

    Been to Dachau. It seemed senseless to me.

    • Will

      I should add that I went on a tour. I cannot imagine the hell on earth it was. The motto on the gate is “Work will set you free”.

  • http://www.somewhither.net Darrell

    President Reagan in a speech mentioning “lives taken s senselessly” by the Nazis: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=40661

    I had rather hoped that politicians from both major US parties could decry the senselessness of Nazism without being criticized by the other party.

    • Paul

      The writer may be trying to make the point that if future genocides are to be avoided (and hard realities faced without dangerous confusion) the Holocaust has to be understood as well as remembered, and that to call it “senseless” impedes getting to grips with the foul logic of it. But something like that needs to be said carefully and clearly, not in the manner of this piece. It probably never crossed the writer’s mind that by drawing attention to the internal logic and deceptive “common sense” of Nazism she might actually be thought herself to be defending it. Many of the partisan critics are clearly reading this in bad faith as “a defence of Nazism”, but it’s a hostage that was willingly given by the writer.

      • Blog Goliard

        Yup. NRO and its writer should be embarrassed for giving such hostages to their enemies.

        Their enemies should be embarrassed for gleefully shooting the hostages.

    • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

      The difference between Reagan and Obama is that Obama is pursuing a financial policy where the Nazi choice of using scapegoats is going to start looking attractive while Reagan wasn’t. We have about 25 years, maybe, before we hit the crisis point. It is bipartisan accepted fact that we’re going to have our economy seize up around 2037 on our present fiscal path. Rep. Paul Ryan asserted it and Treasury Secretary Geithner did not disagree. That’s the sort of disaster where scapegoats get used and used hard.

  • http://www.lightbankmedia.com Rob MacMillan

    I’m with Dale on this one. I didn’t think the NRO was saying that the Holocaust was was somehow “sensible” as in “making good sense.” A child killed by a stray bullet is more appropriately termed as “senseless violence.” “Senseless” seems to miss some of the important things to remember about the Holocaust, and to know about genocide — it’s intentionality and complexity, the requisite social and political efforts. “Senseless” does not really acknowledge the evil. Maybe the speechwriter was searching for “incomprehensible.”

  • Mike Petrik

    I thin that Blog G and Dale have pretty much nailed it.
    Myself, I don’t care that much *about* the phrase “senseless violence,” but admit I don’t care much *for* it either. It seems to somehow dilute the idea intentional evil — kind of like “senseless deaths.” I think NRO can be criticized for straining at nats — but Mark’s accusations are very unfair.

  • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

    Ditto Dale. I don’t think it was a stirring defense for the sensibleness of the Holocaust as much as picking a fight with Obama. At best, we can say being too sensitive or nitpicking. But going beyond and trying to make it about ‘bad NR, shame on NR’ seems to be about the same thing.

  • Harry Piper

    Well everyone, we should thank the National Review for pointing out how the seemingly-innocent words “senseless violence” are actually indicative of a deep strain of poisonous leftist thinking, and not at all think that some people are so desperate to attack their enemies that they sacrifice common sense, logic and basic human decency in order to do so.
    This is nearly as bad as that National Review woman complaining about the feminisation of society after Sandy Hook (“if only a couple of husky twelve year-olds had tackled the insane gunman”).
    (And that piece got a defense in First Thoughts – WTF?)

  • Bryan

    If you find yourself at any point, ever, for any reason, needing to explain (or have others explain) that you “weren’t really defending Nazis or the holocaust,” then you might want to examine your skills as a political writer and consider other lines of work.

    It must have taken her at least twenty minutes to bang out that little piece of tripe. If, in those twenty minutes, it did not occur to her to stop and think “What on earth am I doing?! What exactly is my point here?!” then she is a poor thinker and a poor writer.

    • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

      When did we start punishing those who act senselessly more than those who do their crimes deliberately for evil reasons? I must have missed that.

      • RFlaum

        That is not what “senselessly” means in this context. Of course it is true that the Nazis were acting deliberately for evil reasons. It is also true that the Holocaust was senseless. These are not contradictory statements. “Senseless” does not mean “illogical”.

        • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

          Thank you for telling me that I’ve got the wrong definition of senseless here. Which one is more appropos? I’m not sure I know that one.

          • RFlaum

            “Lacking a sense of decency”.

            • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

              I’d never heard of that definition. But the 20 online dictionaries I just consulted hadn’t heard of it either so I don’t feel too bad. I’m just curious where you got this because right now it looks like a neologism convenient to your argument. Even if you pull a definition out of somewhere, the aggregate weight is that it is at best a very rare usage, almost Buckleyesque.

              I wouldn’t have thought Obama had it in him to be that deliberately obscure.

              • RFlaum

                Now you’re just being deliberately obtuse.

              • RFlaum

                To humor you, I checked the OED, and it lists a mention of “the horrid and senseless custom of duels.”

                • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

                  Duels lacked decency? Or are you saying that the Holocaust was senseless in the meaning that duels were senseless? The latter actually fits. It’s obscure to me and due to personal reasons I’m a bit sensitive on the subject.

                  • RFlaum

                    The author of that quote was saying that duels lacked decency, yes. I don’t have a strong opinion on the morality of dueling myself.

                    In any case, we’ve spent too much time arguing over a definition. Let’s just agree to disagree here.

  • Dale Price

    Here’s Ms. Johnson’s explanation, which seems to be clearer–and better–than the original:

    http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/339583/senseless-violence-eliana-johnson

    Also, remember she dumped on Holocaust denial two days ago:

    http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/339176/morsi-aide-holocaust-industry-america-invented-eliana-johnson

    • The Deuce

      Yeah, I think the accusations against her for picking nits are correct and warranted.

      I think the accusations that she’s an anti-Semite and Nazi apologist are pretty nutty, and probably mainly the result of that Daily Kos post sending traffic her way.

  • Peggy R

    I posted something else above in this thread. Let me try this, however. I may be repeating myself.

    Yes, the Holocaust was “senseless” and downright evil, deliberately planned and carried out intentionally.

    But, “senseless violence” as a phrase has a particular meaning in our culture that, at least in my mind, is not appropriately used in discussing the Holocaust. It minimizes the evil and extent of the Holocaust. “Senseless violence” is too limited an expression to encapsulate the deliberate, extensive evil of the Holocaust.

    Whether that was what the NRO writer was getting at, I could not tell. So, yeah, it seems like an odd post to me, nonetheless.

  • http://www.logosandmuse.com Scott Alt

    I think the writer’s trying to equate the word “senseless” with the word “motiveless” or “purposeless,” whereas Nazism was driven by a definite ideology and was attempting to achieve an objective by its acts–that it wasn’t just simply “random,” along the lines of killing whoever happens to be there at the time.

    Having said that, for the NRO author to quibble over such things and demand that the president’s words meet some prissy standard of linguistic or academic precision that she herself holds — that’s perverse, particularly in this context. That’s when it’s time for the pencilhead to start being a human being. And for the knee-jerk conservative to stop finding an excuse to criticize every word that comes out of the mouth of Obama.

  • http://martinkelly.blogspot.com/ Martin

    The answer to the question that you posed in the title of your post, Mark, is ‘Yes’ (and as usual you’re right, Obama’s use of the word ‘senseless’ in that context does not in any way demean either the horror of the Holocaust or minimise the evil that motivated it, and I am amazed that anyone could think otherwise; T. S. Eliot was never parsed so harshly).

    I used to read NRO four times a day, and I think today might have been the first time I’ve looked at it in I’d say four years at least. I left because it was suffering a rather sad decline into ideological dementia of a type that’s usually caused by only reading things you expect to agree with for pleasure. In that state of mind, if you do read anything that you wouldn’t usually read for pleasure it’s usually only for the purpose either of picking holes in it or in order to enable you to shout pejoratives at the author.

    They are Bubblemen, the creatures that all ideologues eventually turn into, only capable of picking up self-reinforcing messages which emanate from inside their own intellectual bubble, its smallness magnifying the value they attach to such ancient and well-studied documents as press releases and blog comments far beyond whatever their actual worth might merit. They were the ringtones crying out in the wilderness, prophets of Twitter before Twitter ever was; creatures solely, only and ever living in the moment, pastless, futureless, their only reality a virtual one virulently opposed to any view other than those deemed acceptable to hold. It would not surprise me at all if Johnson was physically shocked, actually upset, by the reactions to her comments; the shock of finding out that people disagree with you which is the mark of the true Bubbleman.

    Sad to see that Johnson write,

    “The idea that all violence is “senseless” violence is one that has taken deep root on the left; it’s also, unfortunately, one that poses a major impediment to understanding the world.”

    Although her conceit that she and her group are the ones who know how the world works, and presumably therefore also the real nature of what’s going on, suggests that her preferences in millinery might extend to lightweight aluminium, to my mind in this passage she comes dangerously close to endorsing ‘therapeutic violence’; a feature of all fascisms noted by the American scholar Stanley Payne in his (thoroughly mainstream and utterly fascinating) book, ‘A History of Fascism’.

    • Blog Goliard

      So why is it okay for Stanley Payne to decline to simply write off fascist violence as “senseless”, an insane phenomenon involving no logic and calling for no explanation–instead, in his work, dissecting the phenomenon of “therapeutic violence”, thereby explaining why a fascist regime would consciously choose violent means to attain certain specified goals–but not for Eliana Johnson to do the exact same thing?

      Sure, she didn’t do so especially well here. But that’s not Mark’s real complaint. It’s really more a matter of ritual impurity: she writes for NRO, which also publishes that devil Ledeen and other “neocons”*. Therefore, any possible construction of her words that renders her post as an endorsement of violence must be the correct one.

      (* “Neocon”, as it is commonly used, is little more than an incoherent term of abuse…but that’s a tangential issue.)

  • Kate

    Why couldn’t the violence be senseless to Obama? When I ask my 6yo old why he’s running around naked in winter and he tells me he’s pretending he’s an Indian, it makes sense to him; but it doesn’t make sense to me given the larger context of things (as in there are goose pimples all over his body). When my 16yo daughter leaves her clothes all over the floor because she thinks it takes to long to hang and fold them(and she’s a busy girl), her habit makes sense to her; it doesn’t to me since she’s always loosing things in the chaos. I won’t get into my husband’s senseless habits. So, perhaps the President doesn’t actually see the sense in racial purity and the means taken to achieve it and hence he thinks it is “senseless”. Entirely possible, I’d say. Isn’t sin always kind of senseless anyway since you are picking a lesser good over a greater good? Does it really make sense to know an act is wrong (sometimes mortally) and then go ahead and do it anyway?

    • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

      The violence could very well be senseless to Obama. That’s what is scaring me to death. I think he might very well have been telling the truth, honestly.

  • http://martinkelly.blogspot.com/ Martin

    Blog Goliard,

    Huh? Come again? That’s not my understanding of what Professor Payne wrote. ‘Therapeutic violence’, ie violence to make you feel better, is a feature of fascism. He was criticisng it. To my eyes, she’s very close to endorsing it.

    And ‘neocon’ is not an incoherent term of abuse, anti-Semitic (as those who criticise its use have been known to shamefully claim) or otherwise. For a very precise recounting of neoconservatism’s precise point of origin, I would recommend two essays, which should be read in this order – firstly, ‘Unpatriotic Conservatives’ by David Frum, all hype and marching bands, and then ‘Art and the Therapeutic Fallacy’ by Robert Hughes, published in his collection ‘Culture of Complaint’ and giving the rather grittier backstory. I would recommend that you read both during the daytime, with your rosary in your hand.

    And her post does read like an endorsement of violence. She wrote,

    “The idea that all violence is “senseless” violence is one that has taken deep root on the left; it’s also, unfortunately, one that poses a major impediment to understanding the world.”

    To me, that reads like a Nietzschean love-in. She is saying that you cannot understand the world without violence; I read that as meaning that one cannot understand any world without violence. Sorry, but that’s terrifying.

    • Blog Goliard

      Frum’s piece barely mentions Irving Kristol in passing; the name Podhoretz appears only once, in a quotation; and the name Jeane Kirkpatrick appears nowhere in it. This is meant to be an illustration of neoconservatism’s “precise point of origin”?

      As to the difference between Payne and Johnson, the only one I see is that you trust Payne to not endorse what he describes, while you don’t similarly trust Johnson. Which is why you feel free to praise him for explaining how an evil regime can deliberately choose violent means to accomplish a defined goal, yet condemn her for insisting that if we are to understand how the world really works, we should seek understand how an evil regime can deliberately choose violent means to accomplish a defined goal.

    • Paul

      If you assume the writer uses “senseless” and “sense-making” in a morally neutral way (neither of them good or evil per se), she is merely saying that many uses of violence are purposeful and calculated, making sense within the framework of the perpetrators’ stated end, and that to deny this blinds us to the strategies of those who would use violence against us. She nowhere (in this piece) suggests that violence is deisrable or creative, only that it is often purposeful and that an understanding of those purposes is necessary to understand not only the Holocaust but also what is going on in the world around us today. I may be misreading the piece, but this seems to me a perfectly reasonable reading of it. I think it is a stupid piece of writing because it remains open to other readings (such as your own and Mark Shea’s), but I do not think it demands those readings.

  • http://pavelspoetry.com Pavel Chichikov

    Anybody here ever met a Nazi? I did, my uncle’s half-sister, who was in the Nazi youth movement for girls.

    This was a very strange person, someone whose personality seemed somehow warped, distorted.

    You have no idea.

    • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

      Yes, I have observed this as well. People who were participants in the nastier communist regimes give off the exact same vibes.

      The fun you can have, hanging out with older europeans as a kid. I never needed monster stories to get my creepy fix.

  • Ivan K.

    It really does sound like the author is trying desperately to find something to complain about in Obama’s words. The irony is that, no matter how hard these commentators try, and no matter how many pilgrimages GOP politicians make to Israel, most Jews (including Jews who care about Israel) will never vote GOP. It’s the opposite of what the Democrats have done to blacks. Democrats get all the black votes without ever doing anything for them; the GOP puts the Israel issue at the top of its list of priorities, but it gets no votes in return.

    • RFlaum

      Speaking here as a Jewish Democrat, I have to say that this is not how most American Jews tend to see the situation. The thing is, Israel is just one issue for most, and on just about every other issue the Republican platform is very unappealing to Jewish voters — Jews are probably the single most liberal demographic group in the country. The focus on Israel is clearly more to appeal to Evangelical Christians than it is to appeal to Jews. And that’s always going to be, at best, an uneasy alliance. Evangelical Christian support for Israel is heavily tied up in the idea that she will be destroyed in the End Times. “I’m supporting you because I hope you’ll all be destroyed in a few years” is not a basis for a firm friendship.

      • The Deuce

        I see you’re ignorant about what most Evangelicals believe, which I suppose is pretty typical for a left-winger.

        • RFlaum

          Ah? Enlighten me, then. Or point me to a more in-depth source, if you prefer.

  • http://intellectualoid.com Reader John

    There was a time when NR purged people who were falsely accused of harboring antisemitic thoughts. But now it’s apparently okay since Obama said something philosemitic?


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