52 Movies: Week 53 - Tony Takitani
52 Albums: Week 2 - Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash

Sunday Night Journal, January 8, 2017

On Monday my wife and I watched the last episode of the second series of Man In the High Castle, the TV series (if that's the right term for a multi-segment drama released all at once for Internet streaming) based loosely on Philip K. Dick's alternate-history novel in which the Germans and Japanese win World War II. I can't say anything about the show's relationship to the book, which I haven't read, but I get the impression that there isn't a great deal of connection apart from the basic idea.

I thought Series 1 did an excellent job of portraying that might-have-been scenario, in which the Nazis rule the eastern half of the country, the Japanese rule roughly a third on the western side, and the rest, called the Neutral Zone, is independent and somewhat anarchic. The plot is complex and didn't seem entirely coherent, but that could be my fault. It revolves around a film or films that depict an alternate reality (alternate to the story's world, that is) in which the Allies win. For reasons that were never clear to me these films are very important, and they have some connection with the mysterious Man in the High Castle. Various people get involved with them and various things happen, many involving a resistance force that operates in both the German and Japanese sectors. There are a lot of subplots, and they make sense, but I was left unsure what the story as a whole was all about. The second series is better in that the bigger picture seems clearer and the whole thing more coherent (again, maybe that's just me).

In both, the portrayal of what life in the U.S. might be like under Nazi or Japanese rule is very convincing. One major character is Obergruppenführer John Smith, a former U.S. Army officer who has managed to do quite well for himself as a Nazi. The story takes place around 1960-'62, I think--and the everyday fabric of American society is not too dissimilar from what it actually was, which is to say that it's very 1950s-ish. (There is no rock-and-roll, however--"Negro" music is entirely forbidden.) Nazi evil is very domesticated: it's generally accepted, for instance, that racial hygiene requires that defective persons be eliminated, and the insertion of that sort of thing into a middle-American setting is disconcerting, to say the least. Smith is married with three children and has a nice home in a nice neighborhood and leads a life that looks in most ways normal for its time. But he goes off to work every day to help advance the Reich. And one supposes that such a world really could have come to seem normal.

Anyway: what I actually started out to mention is a little speech given by a very-high-up Nazi to a younger one who is having misgivings about the whole world-conquest thing. What he says is striking because he describes the goals of the Reich not in terms of the sort of grandiloquent and apocalyptic rage for domination that we associate with Hitler, but in a way that sounds more like John Lennon. "We are trying to build a better world. Don't you want to be a part of that? Imagine a world at peace, unified at last under one global government." It's easy if you try! 

In those sentences he sounds much like an ordinary progressive. And that brings me to a book I've been meaning to mention for some months now: Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism. You may have heard of it. It was published ten years or so ago. I read a few excerpts at the time, and they didn't seem especially good, so I didn't read the book. But a couple of years ago my friend Robert talked me into giving it another look. Also, in the intervening years I'd become more aware of and interested in the tendency in progressivism to want to exercise very tight control over many aspects of life as part of the march toward that better world, to compel participation in the vision. So I gave the book another try, and on the whole I found it impressive.

It's flawed in some ways, and the biggest flaws are visible here:

LiberalFascism

I mean the title and the cover. They give the impression that the purpose of the book is to call liberals fascists, and that its contents would be about as superficial as any book on contemporary politics with the word "fascism" in the title. And that's exactly the way it was treated by many. But the title actually comes from H.G. Wells, and it was a prescription. Here is the abstract of a paper discussing the concept in Wells. The use of the phrase is, therefore, justifiable intellectually. But as a matter of marketing it seems a bad choice for the title (not that I can think of a better one).

Aside from the bad impression given by the title and the cover, the book also seems somewhat unfocused to me. There is an awful lot of detail, but I was often unsure exactly what it all added up to, apart from demonstrating the historical connections between fascism and progressivism. That may have been my fault, but then the ten-year-anniversary edition, which is the one I read, has a new afterword in which Goldberg states his purposes explicitly, so apparently I wasn't the only one.

In spite of any reservations, though, I found it fascinating and instructive in part because for a long time I've thought that the political taxonomy which has fascism on the extreme "right" and communism on the extreme "left" is wrong, that those two things are much more alike than they are different. My pat one-sentence summary is that fascism is national socialism and communism is international socialism. Those on the left seem to think that the word "socialism" in "National Socialism" is some kind of accident, but it is not.

From my point of view then, the most important aspect of the book is that it shows historically that the two ideologies are members of the same family, siblings or first cousins, and that what we now call liberalism or progressivism has roots in both. All are responses to the decline of religion in Western culture, and involve a quasi-religious attempt to find meaning and hope in secular politics, which inevitably means in the state, to some degree. 

It also--and this is one of the theses stated in the new edition--refutes--refudiates, to use Sarah Palin's wonderful accident--the association of American conservatism with fascism, detailing the left-progressive roots of characters and movements now ignorantly spoken of as conservative: for instance, Fr. Coughlin. American conservatism may be a good thing or a bad thing, it may be fundamentally confused in its attempt to mate classical liberalism and traditionalism, but it is not fascist, or generally sympathetic to fascism and linked to it in the way that progressivism is sympathetic to totalitarianism, whether described as "left" or "right."

*

I can't remember the context, but I'm pretty sure that somewhere along the line here we've discussed the interesting quasi-English accent of upper-class Americans in movies prior to 1950 or so. A few days ago I ran across a page at Vintage News that claims to explain it: that it was not exactly a natural phenomenon, but something deliberately cultivated. Having read that, I resorted to Wikipedia, which gives considerably more detail. 

*

I'm afraid I've become one of those people who tends to get a little depressed during the "holiday season." This has been growing little by little for some time. It's not the sort of misery that apparently afflicts some people, and that seems to drive them to therapists and such--just a certain degree of melancholy. My medication for this, which I providentially discovered around the time the syndrome began to manifest itself, is to read P. G. Wodehouse, whose writing tends to make me feel for a little while the way champagne looks. This year it was Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit. I read a chapter or two most evenings over a couple of weeks, and the effect was salutary, as usual. 

One evening, along about page 83, Bertie described his Aunt Dahlia (she's the one he likes, if you recall) as speaking with "the explosive heat which had once made fellow-members of the Quorn and Pytchley leap convulsively in their saddles." Usually when reading Wodehouse and coming across some obscure reference like Q and P, I just move along. The name is amusing, and it apparently has something to do with hunting, and I figured that was enough to know. And besides, how would one ever track it down? But my iPhone was handy, and I decided to ask Google about it. Not surprisingly, it turns out that they--two different things--are the most well-known hunts in England (see Pytchley Hunt and Quorn Hunt in Wikipedia). 

So what? So I found the meaning of those at a very wonderful web site, Madame Eulalie's Rare Plums. If you've read The Code of the Woosters, you know the reason for "Eulalie" (to explain it would spoil the plot), and "Plum" was Wodehouse's nickname, derived from a childish pronunciation of "Pelham" (the "P" in "P.G."). At Madame Eulalie's you can find annotations for several Wodehouse novels, including The Code of the Woosters, which also contains a reference to Quorn and Pytchley. This is a great service. For instance, perhaps in reading Code you wonder what exactly Anatole, Aunt Dahlia's treasured chef, has done when he prepares nonettes de poulet Agnès Sorel. Well, now you can consult Madame Eulalie's plums and learn that

Nonettes are small honey cakes, filled with marmelade or another preserve. They are not made from chicken (poulet).

Agnès Sorel (1421-50), was the mistress of King Charles VII of France. She also has no connection with chickens.

If Anatole's dishes are as creative as the names he bestows on them, it's easy to see why Aunt Dahlia is reluctant to lose his services.

Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit also takes place partly at Aunt Dahlia's, and half a dozen or so of Anatole's dishes are mentioned. It had never occurred to me that the names are meant to be funny.

*

I guess many of us have had the experience of becoming estranged from friends and family over differences of religion and politics. The traditional counsel says not to discuss them on social occasions, and I've always resisted that, because those things are among the most interesting topics available, and I don't like small talk and am not good at it. It is, unfortunately, wise counsel if you want to continue to have good relations with the people involved.

I've never intentionally and directly cut someone off because of those differences, and it's hard to imagine something that would make me do so. (Since the election I've seen a number of Facebook posts and other online statements from liberals saying they want nothing further to do with Trump supporters, on the grounds that support for Trump is not just a political disagreement but an embrace of real evil. I can imagine applying the same logic though I can't think of any present issue that would provoke me to do so.) But in many instances there has been a slow drifting apart, for which I accept at least half the responsibility. Both parties cease making the effort to maintain contact, because it's just awkward. Or at least that's how it's looked from my side. This post from Neo-neocon describes the process very well. Social encounters that exist for enjoyment become strained, and not enjoyable, and so lose their reason for existing, and dwindle away. It's unfortunate and it only increases the polarization. But one tires of being in the position she was in at that party, and begins to avoid it.

Comments

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I've not read Goldberg, but I know you've read Kalb, and based on what you've written here I'll mention again Ryszard Legutko's recent The Demon in Democracy for a contemporary European take on the same issue.

Being a liberal of course my point of view is different than most who contribute to this blog. I like to think of myself as fair though. I do have a hard time speaking about politics with Trump supporters, but it is mainly with the ones who become emotionally upset that I am not one of them. I have similar problems with the Hillary supporters, who also become emotionally upset when I want to give Trump the benefit of the doubt and let's see what happens.

So you see the similarity - being emotionally involved with the subject. You can't have a discussion with people about subjects when they are like that. You can only remove emotion from the subject and talk issues.

I am addressing your final paragraph, Mac.

I think that's fear driven, Stu.

AMDG

Try to have a rational discussion with ANYONE about homosexuality some time.

I did actually have a wonderful, rational conversation with my sister about that. Really amazing because both her daughter and her Steve's daughter are "married" to other women.

I say her Steve because I'm not such how to refer to their relationship.

AMDG

That is amazing.

What are you referring to as fear-driven, Janet?

The Trump/Clinton supporters who can't bear it that you don't support them too.

AMDG

I see. Yes, I think that's part of it. There's also rage that you're contributing to the defeat of everything good.

Legutko's book does look interesting, Rob. Goldberg's emphasis is different, although I doubt he would disagree with Legutko's view (on the basis of that blurb): not so much that democracy has the potential for totalitarianism as that progressivism includes a very strong anti-democratic element, and has done all along. He gives a *lot* of examples, e.g. Woodrow Wilson.

I took the one-month free trial subscription to Amazon Prime last summer specifically and solely to watch the first series of The Man in the High Castle, which I enjoyed on its own terms but thought failed to do justice to the book. As I mentioned on Facebook at the time, one thing irritated me a great deal: the ludicrous notion that the Japanese would adopt Nazi race laws.

Yes, that was pretty nonsensical. It's made somewhat less so in the second series, and the difference between the two powers on that score becomes a significant plot element.

Im going to watch the second series of Man in the High Castle

I'll be interested in hearing what you think. I've considered watching the whole thing again to see if I could make sense of certain things that I didn't understand, but I don't think I want to invest that much time in it. I want to watch Twin Peaks again in conjunction with reading this book that I got for Christmas:

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29102955-the-secret-history-of-twin-peaks

Also there's the new one coming out sometime this year.

Just watched the first series of 'The Missing,' a UK series set in France. Not quite up there overall with Broadchurch or The Killing but very good nonetheless -- quite gripping and extremely well-acted.

I thought the first half of the first season of Man in the High Castle was good, but the second half was a bit disappointing. I was talking to some colleagues on Friday and they said the second season is better. When I read what you wrote, that decided me to try it.

I'm watching that Irish detective one which someone on here recommended, and it is GOTH!

From my point of view then, the most important aspect of the book is that it shows historically that the two ideologies are members of the same family, siblings or first cousins, and that what we now call liberalism or progressivism has roots in both. All are responses to the decline of religion in Western culture, and involve a quasi-religious attempt to find meaning and hope in secular politics, which inevitably means in the state, to some degree.

I'll register a dissent. The signature of fascism is mobilization for revanchist ends. It's soil is a collective sense of being aggrieved. Communism is a function of an internal dynamic of social class competition, namely the word-merchant sector (conjoined to labor bosses) contra a number of other sectors (business, the military, the conventional civil service, the nobility & gentry, the peasantry, &c). Both prosper when the political order is undergoing severe stress. There is almost no history of a fascist movement which has constructed and maintained a large base in the context of mundane political life. Communist and post-communist movements have done much better, but in their undomesticated state, you've only a single-digit set of examples of abiding communist movements of much significance as popular options rather than party vanguards or establishment machines (France, Italy, Cyprus, Finland, Chile, El Salvador, Portugal, Greece, Japan).

"I'm watching that Irish detective one which someone on here recommended, and it is GOTH!"

Which one? And what does GOTH mean in context?

Since people seem to have time to watch television programmes, I'd like to request that someone watch the new HBO series "The Young Pope" and report back. Please?

I plan on watching the first episode, Craig. But I tend to watch one show and then become uninterested in seeing a second...

I don't have cable or any streaming services -- everything I watch I watch on DVD. Sorry!

Grump--the one about Jack somebody? Can't remember the last name...

That's more or less the way I remember the first MITHC series, too, and I think part or maybe all of the problem with the second half was that the whole deal about the films wasn't making much sense to me. It seemed like they were just a Maguffin to give people a reason to run around.

The Missing is on Netflix. Not sure I'm up to watching that long a story about a kidnapped (?) child.

I just started watching The Travelers. It was better than I expected.

AMDG

Art, I don't think your view necessarily contradicts what I said. I'm looking at it from a more macro point of view. Certainly the two ideologies flowered in different soils and for different reasons. The commonality is that they are both systematic ideologies that invest most power and significance in the state.

Rob G, by 'Goth' I mean straight out of a 19th century melodrama. I know you hate spoilers, but imagine every feature of a 19th century 'Gothic' novella, bar the ghost, and it's there in spades!

And in other news, I discovered that what I thought for the past twenty five years was 'Common One' bears very little relation to it. I feel like one of these aristocratic ladies who thought someone was Ernest and the fellow is actually Lavinia. In the early 90s a student made me a tape which had 'Summertime in England' and an annoying cheeky chappy song called 'Cleaning Windows' and some others. I always thought that was 'Common One'. In the wake of the recent discussion, I bought 'Common One' for the car. It has the same version of 'Summer time in England' as the one on my cassette, but otherwise its a different set of songs. Great to listen to that in freezing rain in Indiana! As a collection, it is slightly over my holy grail threshold, but I'm enduring it as best as I can under the circumstances

'Cleaning Windows' is on one of the early 80's records -- Either Into the Music or Beautiful Vision.

the Irish detective -- Jack Driscoll, Single Handed?

The Missing is quite interesting narratively, in that it goes back and forth between the present and the past at the time the boy went missing, a gap of eight years. So it moves differently than if it were one chronological eight-hour story.

I thought you meant Goth as in Siouxie and the Banshees.

And Grumpy your Common One tape sounds like that artifact of an older time, a mixtape. Often much better than the albums from which they were assembled.

And there was me thinking it could only be this.

Now that's goth.

Yes Rob G, I mean Single Handed. When someone unwittingly falls in love with their long lost sister, that's Goth, in my bk

I was given that tape in about 1990. I don't know how the students arrived at it. They were all hippy students, at a teaching training college in Plymouth (actually fairly near Bristol, mentioned in 'Summer time'). They all used to go off to the Glastonbury festival, long before it was fashionable

I watched the first series of The Missing and thought it very well done and the characters engrossing, but then felt guilty having watched yet another show that focuses on child molestation and child pornography.

Yes, I'm not at all sure I want to put myself in that position. There was another series with that basic kind of plot that we watched a while back...can't remember the name of it or whether I mentioned it here, but it was also British. Not The Missing I'm sure because it took place in one English neighborhood.

It's incredibly lazy, sensationalist writing. Why are they never after someone for embezzling pension funds?

Not hard to figure that out. :-) If you want to grab the viewer's emotions right off, there are few better ways.

I wouldn't have thought it was too hard to get some emotional leverage out of embezzled pension funds!

Interesting fact I heard today: in the past 5 years 85 percent of U.S. parishes have experienced some embezzlement.

!! That's hard to believe.

That does seem a remarkably high statistic.

A 2006 study done at Villanova University came up with that 85% figure -- from an article about it:

[Chuck] Zech [director of the Center for the Study of Church Management at Villanova University] and Robert West, an accountancy professor at Villanova, wrote the report “Internal Financial Controls in the Catholic Church” that sounded an alarm in late 2006, creating concern and heated discussion in the church. The report concerned a survey questionnaire they had sent to the chief financial officers of all 174 U.S. dioceses.

Only 78 dioceses (45 percent) responded, but 85 percent of the respondents acknowledged serious problems in the five previous years. While 27 percent of respondents reported less than $50,000 in embezzlements, 11 percent claimed embezzlements totaling more than $500,000, and the rest were somewhere in between.

On the basis of these limited returns, one cannot conclude that 85 percent of all 174 dioceses had similar experiences. Still, Zech says, he wonders about the situation in the 55 percent of dioceses that didn’t bother to take part in the survey. Among the responding dioceses, only 3 percent conducted annual audits of their parishes, 14 percent reported occasional audits, and 21 percent said they seldom or never audit parishes.

Sorry, not buying the implicit notion that there's all this embezzlement going on and none of it touches the Catholic hospitals or the Catholic schools. Given what we've learned of our clergy in the last 15 years, it does not surprise one that they steal along with all the other transgressions they commit. That having been said, the notion that U.S. Catholic would make use of scandals to reduce the social unassailability of clergy (while leaving other cadres untouched) is quite unremarkable.

What I heard was parishes, but it was second-hand, so maybe they got it wrong.

culprits:
priests
ladies counting the collection
ushers
Financial officers
secretaries
etc.

I didn't do it.

AMDG

You could have some window stickers made that just say "15%". Like those 26.1 stickers bragging about running marathons. "I'm one of the 15% who did not steal from the church."

You don't know what that number might mean to some people, though. I read that Ann Coulter sent out a tweet saying '14' and that was taken as advocacy of white supremacy. Be sure what '15' means before you put it on your bumper

Don't worry. I don't put anything at all on my cars.

AMDG

I have a "What Would Jeeves Do?" sticker on my car.

Never heard of that 14 thing.

I had never heard of it. Its something like the number of letters in 'up the whites' or something idiotic like that

I googled "14" and got nothing that seemed remotely connected to white supremacy--just random stuff that had the number 14 in it ("14 day free trial"). Then I started to google "14 white" and when I typed the "w" one of the offered completions was "white supremacy." This appears to be the reference:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourteen_Words

Now you're on a list somewhere.

Did you see the picture on that article of the guy with the tatooed face. It looks rather amusingly like blackface.

AMDG

Yeah it's like he was working toward that.

In Man in the High Castle Lemuel Washington is a Muslim. There weren't black Muslims in the late 40s were there?

AMDG

Members of the Nation of Islam were jailed for refusing to serve in the Second World War.

I had no idea.

AMDG

Founded July 4, 1930.

Did you know they were around that long, Maclin?

AMDG

I knew they were around in the forties but didn't know when they started.

Yes, years ago after 9/11 I read some book about The Muslim Brotherhood / Nation of Islam that Rod Dreher recommended. They started in the 1940s, I think. Or anyhow, longer ago than you might imagine.

I got the 1930 date above from Wikipedia. I was pretty sure that Malcolm X had been involved with them in the '40s, and since he was not the/a founder they must have been in existence for at least a short while before he joined up.

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