Table of Contents:
The Code and the Key: David Mamet, National Review, May 14, 2020
The Old Liberal Order Is Under Siege: Gerald Baker, WSJ, June 5, 2020
Violent Protest and the Intelligentsia: Barton Swaim, WSJ, June 5, 2020
An American ‘Intifada’?: A.J. Caschetta, JTA, June 7, 2020_
Lessons from human nature about writing, politics, and Donald Trump
I worked one summer as a kitchen boy in a Wisconsin summer camp. It was one of those jobs from which you fall down at night near too tired to sleep. A previous occupant of my bunk had left behind a copy of Atlas Shrugged. So I spent the summer, between work and sleep, reading the perfect companion for my teenage summer.
I don’t care for short stories. I prefer the heft of the doorstop book, reassuring me that I can immerse myself in the fantasy for a good long time. “Yes, yes,” I think. “Thank you. Take me. Anywhere but here . . . ”
My companion for the lockdown is The Codebreakers: The Comprehensive History of Secret Communication from Ancient Times to the Internet, written by David Kahn in 1967 and updated by him in 1996. One thousand pages so interesting that my mind will not reject them even though they are informative.
My new novel, not yet released, is Forty Years at Anstett, a fictional account of one man’s life at a New England prep school. In it, a young man returns from imprisonment in Japan during the Russo–Japanese War. The fellow applies for the job of instructor of languages. He has no academic credentials, but a very practical one: He was forced, in prison, to learn Japanese, Russian, Chinese, and, more important, how to learn languages. He challenges the Head (my protagonist) to point out the dullest lad in the school, to name a language, to leave the applicant alone with the boy for an afternoon, and then to assess his progress in the new tongue.
“Well,” the Head says, “Latin or Greek. I’d say Latin; it’s simpler as it shares our alphabet.” “No,” the applicant says, “it’s simpler to teach Greek. A new alphabet is a code. What twelve-year-old boy has ever been able to resist a code?”
Not I, certainly. It seems I’ve spent my professional life fashioning them and solving them, and have found the process commutative, which is to say, the study of one is the study of the other—it works in both directions.
Here’s what I mean. Raymond Chandler wrote, in his essay “The Simple Art of Murder” (1939), that it is near impossible to craft a good murder mystery, as it requires two otherwise unconnected skills: the ability to write beautifully and the ability to fashion a code.
He is near right in his observation. The two skills—while not mutually exclusive per se—are unlikely to be found fully developed in any practitioner, because to achieve excellence, he or she would have to devote all energy to one or the other. I know of no great contemporary instrumentalist who is also a great composer.
The intersection of cryptography and literary merit is discoverable, though, in one very particular craft, and it is my own: writing drama. . … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
History mocks us all eventually. It’s the rare pundit or politician who doesn’t find that once passionately held verities are eventually undone by the steady march of inconvenient events.
This week I listened to prominent Republican Never Trumpers—who took the U.S. into perhaps the worst foreign policy adventure in its history, promising to impose democracy in Iraq through the deployment of the U.S. military—as they denounced a president for destroying democracy by threatening to deploy the U.S. military. It brought a bitter smile to my lips.
The main lesson—one that those of us who supported the Iraq war have learned with humility and regret—is that the U.S. military isn’t perhaps the best tool for imposing democracy, in Firdos Square or Lafayette Square.
The U.S. military isn’t perhaps the best tool for imposing democracy, in Firdos Square or Lafayette Square.
But an even larger historical lesson is being taught now in the tumult of current events. It resonates across the years to those innocent days when Americans believed in a world that could be united under the banner of a patented liberal democracy that seemed to have triumphed over all other systems and ideologies.
The battle being waged in the country is about many things—race, justice, inequality—but it is at root about the rapidly accelerating unraveling of the liberal consensus. This isn’t a partisan phenomenon, as some people would have us believe; it’s not all the fault of a would-be dictator issuing threats of violent domestic repression from the White House. It’s a broad-based collapse of confidence in the system that America has pioneered, propagated and led for the last half-century.
It’s only by recognizing this deeper crisis that we can understand a particular curiosity in the fight being waged in the wake of the killing of George Floyd last month. On what appears to be the principal point of contention, the nation isn’t really that divided at all.
The vast majority of people in the U.S. seem to agree not only that there was a specific injustice done to Mr. Floyd, captured in the video of that depraved act by a police officer in Minneapolis, but that there is a larger injustice that African-Americans face. A Pew Research poll conducted in late May found that almost two thirds of white Americans thought black Americans were not treated fairly by the criminal justice system.
The remedies the protesters propose are revolutionary.
But the struggle clearly concerns a much more radical disagreement over what this country is and what it ought to be. The protesters proclaim that the injustices are a reflection of “systemic racism,” derived from the original sin of America, and the remedies they propose are revolutionary. The Black Lives Matter movement wants to “defund the police,” redistributing those funds to programs for social injustice. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
The similarities between this week’s riots and the Los Angeles riots of 1992 are obvious. Both were occasioned by appalling video images, and both divided the nation along partisan and ideological lines. The differences between the two events, however, are more revealing. The violence in 1992 came after a court verdict; the beating and arrest of Rodney King had happened more than a year before. This year’s riots came within days of George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis officers. The riots of 1992 were mostly confined to poor and working-class areas of Los Angeles. This week saw mayhem all over America, and in Los Angeles, New York and elsewhere the rioters targeted wealthy streets and neighborhoods.
But perhaps the most striking difference is the rationalization, and sometimes full-throated defense, of violence from left-wing elites: the glorification of havoc, the vilification of cops and their middle-class admirers, highfalutin defenses of vandalism. The sense of revolution and class warfare was everywhere this week: the cognoscenti and underclass arrayed against the petty bourgeois shop owners; the elite and those they claim to represent against everybody else.
Gary Saul Morson says he has no special insight regarding police actions and the death of George Floyd. But he does have a provocative thesis about America’s current political moment: “To me it’s astonishingly like late 19th-, early 20th-century Russia, when basically the entire educated class felt you simply had to be against the regime or some sort of revolutionary.”
Mr. Morson, 72, is a professor of Russian literature at Northwestern University and an accomplished interpreter of Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anton Chekhov and Leo Tolstoy. Obviously we haven’t arrived at anything like what Lenin called a “revolutionary situation,” Mr. Morson says, but we have arrived at a situation in which well-intentioned liberal people often can’t bring themselves to say that lawless violence is wrong.
In late czarist Russia, some political parties and other groups—the Social Democrats, the anarchists, the Marxists—explicitly endorsed terrorism. “The liberal party—the Constitutional Democrats, they called themselves—did not condone terrorism,” Mr. Morson says. “But they refused to condemn it. And indeed they called for the release from prison of all terrorists, who were pledged to continue terrorism right away. . . . A famous line from one of the liberal leaders put it this way: ‘Condemn terrorism? That would be the moral death of the party.’ ”
The lesson seems highly relevant today. “When you’re dragged along into something you don’t really believe yourself—because otherwise you are identified with those evil people, and your primary identity is being a ‘good guy,’ not like those people—you will wind up supporting things you know to be wrong. And unless there is some moral force that will stop it, the slide will accelerate.” … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
Watching as a variety of actors, known and unknown, attempt to tear the United States apart at the seams has me thinking about the intifada, the Palestinian “uprising” against or “shaking off” of Israel. The “protests” (riots?) in America have taken on some peculiarly Palestinian qualities. While most Americans recoil in horror from the images they have been seeing, others are looking for ways to capitalize on the situation and win adherents to their side.
Chief among the latter is Hatem Bazian, a lecturer in the departments of Near Eastern and ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also the founder of Berkeley’s Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project at the Center for Race and Gender, and a founder of Students for Justice in Palestine. At an anti-America rally in San Francisco in 2014, he called for an uprising that “changes fundamentally the political dynamics,” and asked, “How come we don’t have an intifada in this country?”
The First Intifada was launched in 1987, the year that Hamas was established. Under the cover of protests and strikes, Palestinian leaders used children to confront Israeli soldiers with rocks. That uprising largely ended in 1993 with the Oslo Accords, but a second one was launched in 2000, and this time the weapon of choice was the suicide bomber. The Second Intifada ended in 2005. A third one, dubbed the “knife intifada,” began in 2015.
There are symbolic, tactical and rhetorical elements of the above uprisings evident in the current demonstrations in the United States. In addition to protesters carrying inverted American flags, there have also been pan-Arab flags, Black Liberation Army flags and Palestinian flags on display.
In addition, synagogues have been vandalized. Eyal Dahan, an Israeli living in Los Angeles, recently recounted seeing rioters with a “PLO flag … shouting ‘free Palestine,’ ” and said that he didn’t believe black protesters were behind the damage.
The late PLO chief Yasser Arafat appealed to Western audiences by focusing on Palestinian victimhood at the hands of the Jewish state. What he didn’t mention was that the PLO and the Black Panthers forged an alliance in the 1960s. Former Black Panther and Black Liberation Army member Dhoruba bin Wahad discussed that alliance in a 2014 interview.
Years later, a new idea called “intersectionality” was used to link the two movements. A quasi-Marxist ideology, replete with the binary division of “oppressed people” and their “oppressors,” intersectionality seeks to link all suffering and oppressed people, and therefore also all of their oppressors, to each other. As Jonathan Tobin explains, the idea makes “all Jews in Israel … the moral equivalent of white European settlers in Africa,” and equates “blacks who oppose systemic racism in America [with] Palestinians resisting Zionism.”
This parallel was first articulated in 2014, when Ferguson, Missouri became “ground zero” for anti-police demonstrations. The riots erupted after Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot African American Michael Brown. Following Brown’s death, the official website of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) issued a statement expressing “deep solidarity with the African American community in Ferguson, Missouri.” … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
For Further Reference:
De Blasio Says He’ll Defund NYPD to Add Money for Youth, Social Services: Hana Levi Julian, Jewish Press, June 7, 2020 — New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday he’ll partially defund New York’s Finest to support youth and social services instead. He also said he was immediately ending the city’s 8 pm curfew, its first in 77 years. The nearly week-long curfew was set to expire Monday morning.
A Reluctant but Unhesitating Vote for Donald Trump: Daniel Pipes, Newsweek, June 4, 2020 — If I don’t say so myself, my #NeverTrump bona fides are pretty impressive.
The New York Times Staff Revolt over Tom Cotton’s Op-ed, Explained: Jack Bauchamp, Vox, June 7, 2020 — On Sunday, New York Times opinion editor James Bennet resigned from his post. “Last week, we saw a significant breakdown in our editing processes, not the first we’ve experienced in recent years,” publisher A.G. Sulzberger wrote in an email to the Times’s employees. “James and I agreed that it would take a new team to lead the department through a period of considerable change.”
Minneapolis Mayor Asks Trump for Aid After Riots Cause at Least $55 Million In Damage: Tim Pearce, Daily Wire, June 5, 2020 — The Minneapolis mayor is asking for federal help cleaning up and rebuilding his city after rioters caused at least $55 million worth of damage through looting, burning, and defacing public and private property.