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26-03-2016, 05:04 PM
I always love finding a writer online who I enjoy so much that I am compelled to read dozens of articles by them.

As shit as my attention span is these days, it's no surprise that I read a lot more long form journalism and critical writing than I do novels/books. I read a lot of stuff in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The Atlantic, the LRB, etc. Also I really like reading well-written articles about sports, despite never watching sport IRL. (Grantland is good for this.)

My most recent discovery is the author John Lancaster, who seems to write about popular fiction, for the most part, in the LRB. I'm in transit at the moment so I'll have to post some links to his writing later.

30-03-2016, 02:45 PM
me too on most counts,

longreads, longform, thebrowser,
medium, quartz, nautilus
a bunch of similar sites on Middle East

generally i let twitter guide me

30-03-2016, 03:18 PM
more into watching my favorite journalists interact with trolls and make terrible puns on twitter

01-04-2016, 12:17 PM
I spent a large part of yesterday binge-reading David Thomson's film reviews for New Republic: https://newrepublic.com/authors/david-thomson

I've got his book 'Have you seen...', and have found it infuriating and badly written, so I was surprised to find myself enjoying his reviews so much. Not that I always agree with his opinions, but I appreciate that he HAS opinions, and he's about as 'poetic' a film critic as I've ever encountered.

A middle-aged New Yorker writer, writing about the challenges of playing squash - what could be less appealing? But I loved this: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/01/18/holding-the-t

01-04-2016, 12:22 PM
Also highly enjoyable, this Vanity Fair piece on the London jewel-heist carried out by pensioners:


01-04-2016, 12:33 PM
That sushi one is kind of the alpha longform innit?

08-04-2016, 12:51 PM

08-04-2016, 12:56 PM
Ah, Gay Talese! Wrote that famous profile of Sinatra which I've never gotten around to reading. Looking forward to reading this.

Droid's thread-bump has reminded me to post this piece from Rolling Stone on Trump, which I thought was equal parts hilarious and terrifying when I read it: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/how-america-made-donald-trump-unstoppable-20160224

20-04-2016, 09:43 AM
Here's a list (with links) of this years Pulitzer Prize winners: https://blog.longreads.com/2016/04/18/the-2016-pulitzer-prize-winners/

20-05-2016, 05:14 PM
A Gruniad blog slagging off Shakespeare led me to reread Orwell's essay (http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/lear/english/e_ltf) on the attack Tolstoy made on the Bard and 'King Lear'. Good stuff.

A sort of doubt has always hung around the character of Tolstoy, as round the character of Gandhi. He was not a vulgar hypocrite, as some people declared him to be, and he would probably have imposed even greater sacrifices on himself than he did, if he had not been interfered with at every step by the people surrounding him, especially his wife. But on the other hand it is dangerous to take such men as Tolstoy at their disciples’ valuation. There is always the possibility — the probability, indeed — that they have done no more than exchange one form of egoism for another. Tolstoy renounced wealth, fame and privilege; he abjured violence in all its forms and was ready to suffer for doing so; but it is not easy to believe that he abjured the principle of coercion, or at least the desire to coerce others. There are families in which the father will say to his child, ‘You'll get a thick car if you do that again’, while the mother, her eyes brimming over with tears, will take the child in her arms and murmur lovingly, ‘Now, darling, is it kind to Mummy to do that?’ And who would maintain that the second method is less tyrannous than the first? The distinction that really matters is not between violence and non-violence, but between having and not having the appetite for power. There are people who are convinced of the wickedness both of armies and of police forces, but who are nevertheless much more intolerant and inquisitorial in outlook than the normal person who believes that it is necessary to use violence in certain circumstances. They will not say to somebody else, ‘Do this, that and the other or you will go to prison’, but they will, if they can, get inside his brain and dictate his thoughts for him in the minutest particulars. Creeds like pacifism and anarchism, which seem on the surface to imply a complete renunciation of power, rather encourage this habit of mind. For if you have embraced a creed which appears to be free from the ordinary dirtiness of politics — a creed from which you yourself cannot expect to draw any material advantage — surely that proves that you are in the right? And the more you are in the right, the more natural that everyone else should be bullied into thinking likewise.

20-05-2016, 08:00 PM
That's a fantastic essay, one of my favorites.

01-06-2016, 03:32 PM

David Runciman reviews Alex Ferguson's autobiography. I was unaware that Ferguson is a JFK assassination nut, and in this case ignorance wasn't bliss.

Here's a review of a biography of Hitler from the LRB which I thought was fascinating:

Hopping in His Matchbox
Neal Ascherson

Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939 by Volker Ullrich, translated by Jefferson Chase
Bodley Head, 758 pp, £25.00, March, ISBN 978 1 84792 285 4

Werner Willikens was quite a senior Nazi civil servant. In the crushed and castrated government of Prussia, he had become the state secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture. It was in February 1934, just over a year after Adolf Hitler had become chancellor, that Willikens made a speech to agriculture officials from all over the Reich, using words that have come in our own time to fascinate historians. ‘The Führer,’ he said, ‘finds it very difficult to bring about by order from above things which he intends to realise sooner or later.’ It was, therefore, ‘the duty of each one of us to try to work towards him in the spirit of the Führer’. The German, not easy to translate precisely, is ‘im Sinne des Führers ihm entgegenzuarbeiten’.

Willikens was not revealing some unknown fact. But he was offering posterity (as well as the party comrades in front of him) a really useful way of understanding how decisions were made in the Third Reich. ‘Working towards the Führer’ explains how many initiatives, including some of the worst, originated in the wider Nazi bureaucracy rather than with Hitler himself. And it can be argued that this commandment to second-guess and anticipate Hitler helped him to surf into ever more radical and terrible policies which are usually attributed to his invention alone.

As Volker Ullrich points out, there is an apparent contradiction here. On the one hand, the Leader’s will was supposed to be absolute and monocratic, and anyone who could claim convincingly that he was carrying out ‘the Führer’s will’ would get his way. On the other, a chaotic, ‘Darwinian’ struggle of overlapping Nazi institutions raged as each competed to make up Hitler’s mind for him. Behind all this was the weird, slovenly manner in which Hitler formed policies. Sometimes he made rapid and fateful choices and stuck to them (the Night of the Long Knives in 1934). But often he watched a policy emerge from some underling who thought he was ‘working towards the Führer’, and then adopted it as his own ‘irrevocable decision’. Occasionally, especially when someone close to him misbehaved, he would retire into a dither that could last for days, unable to make his mind up until prompted by his worried inner circle.

The first historian to seize on the ‘working towards the Führer’ interpretation seems to have been Ian Kershaw. Each in the procession of immense tomes of Adolf biography claims to be ‘definitive’, but Kershaw’s two volumes, ‘Hubris’ and ‘Nemesis’, still dominate more than 15 years after their publication. Commenting on Willikens, Kershaw said that ‘Hitler’s personalised form of rule invited radical alternatives from below and offered such initiatives backing, so long as they were in line with his broadly defined goals.’ Everyone who ‘worked towards’ him in this way, not only in the bureaucracy but throughout society, was ‘helping drive on an unstoppable radicalisation’.

Ullrich handsomely compliments Kershaw for seeing the significance of the phrase. He expounds it even more clearly when he writes that

those who wanted to get ahead in this system … had to anticipate the Führer’s will and take action to prepare and promote what they thought to be Hitler’s intentions. This not only explains why the regime was so dynamic but also why it became more and more radical. In competing for the dictator’s favour, his paladins tried to trump one another with ever more extreme demands and measures.

It could be said that the ‘Willikens Insight’ cuts Hitler’s personality down to a more manageable size. It shifts responsibility, if not away from him, then onto a much wider circle of German officialdom working in this curious machine of government-by-anticipation. And we know a lot now about Hitler as an individual. Published studies of the dictator are already said to number something like 120,000. The major biographies start with Konrad Heiden’s, written in Hitler’s lifetime, and go on through the works of Alan Bullock, Eberhard Jäckel and Joachim Fest to reach Ian Kershaw and now Ullrich’s large, steady book – again, the first of two projected volumes. So is it really Hitler’s personality and private life that we still need to know about? Who he was, and why he did what he did, must surely give precedence to how he managed to do it.

Kershaw clearly was troubled by these questions. ‘What has continued … to interest me more than the strange character of the man who held Germany’s fate in his hands between 1933 and 1945 is the question of how Hitler was possible,’ he wrote in his preface. He considered that Hitler had no ‘private life’, but instead ‘privatised’ the public sphere: his entire career was devoted to acting the Führer. Kershaw considered him ‘an empty vessel outside his political life’, unapproachable and incapable of friendship.

Ullrich doesn’t agree. He worries that depicting Hitler as lacking any private life perpetuates the view that his crimes were committed by a monster – not by a German or Austrian human being – and that this caricature unintentionally preserves the old Führermythos in a negative form. He tries to show that Hitler did in fact have a private life, although a pretty boring one, and did have friends, most of them married couples where the wife would mother Adolf, feed him cream cakes and be rewarded with displays of ‘Austrian charm’.

When the book was published in Germany three years ago, some people objected that in ‘demythologising’ Hitler, Ullrich was presenting him as a mere ‘man without qualities’. This seems spiteful. Ullrich shows that this ‘strange character of a man’ possessed all kinds of qualities, not all of them bad in themselves and none of them unfamiliar to science or fiction. Admittedly, the most striking parts of his book are studies of Hitler among women or with his flaky nouveau-riche guests up at the Berghof, over Berchtesgaden. But these sections are embedded in a highly detailed and always interesting critical narrative of his political life, from youth in Linz, Vienna and Munich to his installation as chancellor in 1933 and on to the outbreak of the Second World War.

Ullrich has strong feelings about the way Hitler came to power in January 1933, enthroned by a ‘sinister plot’ of stupid elite politicians just at the moment when the Nazis were at last losing strength. It didn’t have to happen. He constantly reminds his readers that Hitler didn’t reach the chancellorship by his own efforts, but was put there by supercilious idiots who assumed they could manage this vulgarian. ‘We engaged him for our ends,’ said the despicable Franz von Papen. A year later, in the Night of the Long Knives, von Papen was grovelling to save his own neck.

01-06-2016, 03:34 PM
part 2

Like all biographers, Ullrich takes his readers through the Austrian childhood, the harsh father and loving mother, the teenage fantasies at Linz and the rejection by the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. But he and his recent predecessors have slashed away some of the nonsense nettles that have grown over the period: Hitler didn’t have a Jewish grandfather, he didn’t spend his childhood in poverty, his father didn’t beat him more than most European fathers of the day belted their sons, he wasn’t bipolar, he didn’t have only one ball or syphilis, he wasn’t exceptionally anti-Semitic before he settled in Munich. In the trenches a few years later, he was dutiful rather than valiant and he didn’t father a baby on a French girl called Charlotte. True, however, by the accounts of all historians is the shattering blow to his self-esteem delivered when the Vienna Academy turned down his application to study art.

‘Too few heads. Sample drawing unsatisfactory.’ He had been fanatically certain that he would get in, and the wound of that rejection, perhaps his only solid grievance, never ceased to hurt. A whole human generation was punished for it, so that it is natural – if unscholarly – to ask what would have happened if the Academy had said yes. The best answer I know is Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt’s novel La Part de l’autre (2001), in which he chronicles the diverging lives of the Hitler who was rejected and the Adolf who was accepted. (Adolf is taken to see Dr Freud, who sorts out his complexes. Then he becomes a wonderful lover, a famous painter, the husband of a Jewish wife and the father of a family.)

Reading this familiar ‘early years’ tale again, Hitler as a personality no longer seems so outlandish. What does mark him out is his conscious abandonment of conventional morality: the monstrous, shameless ease with which he lied, betrayed and murdered. The traits of his character, on the other hand, are not remarkable in themselves. Thousands of people around us daydream about world conquest, fondle hate fantasies about what they might do to immigrants or jihadists, lap up conspiracy theories or impress their mates – after a pint or six – with bellowing rants about politicians or bankers. Most of them, fortunately, stay below the political radar. They lack a soil in which their urges can swell until they overshadow the earth. They lack the licence of Alasdair Gray’s Law of Inverse Exclusion (outlined in his novel Lanark), which ‘enables a flea in a matchbox to declare itself jailer of the universe’. And they lack a weapon.

But Hitler, hopping mad in his own matchbox, had all three. Fermenting Munich after a lost war and a failed revolution provided the soil, while his weapon was oratory: Hitler’s one tremendous gift and his only natural talent. One day in Munich, as a lecture to demobilised soldiers ended, the speaker noticed a knot of men in the emptying hall. They were listening ‘transfixed by a man who was speaking to them with growing passion and an unusual guttural voice’. The lecturer saw ‘a pale, drawn face underneath a decidedly unmilitary shock of hair, with a trimmed moustache and remarkably large, light-blue, fanatically cold, gleaming eyes’.

Hitler had an excellent voice, and his harsh ‘Austrian’ (actually Lower Bavarian) accent seems to have given North Germans an impression of sincerity rather than provincial uncouthness. But to read or listen to his speeches today is disconcerting: how could anyone have taken seriously such stagy bellowing and preposterous ideas? What we are missing now is not only the desperation and paranoia which his early audiences brought with them into the beer cellar or the stadium, but the tricks of Hitler’s trade. He required a strong warm-up before, deliberately late, he strode into the hall. He insisted where possible on seating that was spread horizontally before him rather than a narrow corridor reaching far back: this gave him as much close impact as possible. Cleverly, he channelled his own tendency to throw tantrums into a speech-style: beginning with long, droning and ostensibly sober recitals of fact and analysis, he would suddenly shift his voice upwards almost an octave, double its pace and explode into yelling demagogy. (I once saw Oswald Mosley do exactly this in the 1950s, and in spite of my contempt for all that he was saying, that sudden gearshift raised all the hairs on my neck.) His old trench comrade Max Amann saw him in 1919: ‘He yelled and indulged in histrionics. I’d never seen the like of it. But everyone said: “This fellow means what he says.” He was drenched in sweat, completely wet. It was unbelievable.’

The discovery of this gift of rhetoric, and the techniques to intensify its impact, set Hitler on his way. Although Ullrich doesn’t go into this, Hitler was the supreme practicant and product of the ‘self-magnifying’ craze, the genre of little-man literature which culminated in Mr Atlas’s bodybuilding and in Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936). Germans had been reading Briefsteller guides on how to write persuasive letters and studying manuals on charm, table manners and impressive conversation for at least a century before a more ambitious, chest-expander literature on how to ‘bend others to your will’ became popular in Europe and America around the end of the 19th century. Even the mild Carnegie trained speakers to be angry about something, and his bestseller (five million copies in his lifetime) includes a whole section on how to be a leader. A brimming box of tricks was available to overcome the ‘little man’s’ sense of powerlessness in times of slump, hyperinflation and political chaos.

Hitler exploited all those tricks. He used his large, beautiful eyes (inherited from his mother) to burn loyalty into followers. ‘Finally, he came to my column,’ Albert Speer remembered. ‘His eyes were locked on the men standing at attention, as though he were trying to bind them with his gaze. When he got to me, I had the feeling that a pair of staring eyes had taken possession of me for the foreseeable future.’ Otto Wagener, another adviser, said that ‘his gaze did not come from his eyeballs. On the contrary, I felt it came from somewhere far deeper, from infinity.’

He left these eyeballed victims with a sense that he had seen deep into their souls, understood them as individuals. In fact he didn’t give a stuff about them; his contempt for ordinary party members was shocking. All was manipulation, aspects of his enormous repertoire as an actor of parts. He could be charming, shy and funny. He could talk quietly and civilly; he could be a skilled, quick-witted diplomat with a remarkable memory (as he presented himself to Anthony Eden). He could lapse into screaming tantrums of threat and abuse, most of them, it seems, calculated rather than spontaneous. To cite a few instances out of many in this book, he squalled at full volume into the faces of General von Brauchitsch and of Pfeffer von Salomon (‘A thick blue vein swelled on his forehead, and his eyes bugged out’). But he could also break opponents with calmly stated threats of lethal violence if they went on resisting him. That was what he did to the Austrian chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg: ‘Surely you don’t think you could put up even half an hour’s resistance? … Maybe I’ll be in Vienna tomorrow morning like a spring storm.’ And to poor old Emil Hácha, the Czechoslovak president in 1939, who had a heart attack when he was told that Prague would be bombed if he didn’t give in.

Ullrich’s chapters on ‘Hitler as Human Being’, ‘Hitler and Women’ and ‘The Berghof Society and the Führer’s Mistress’ are sometimes intriguing but don’t reveal very much of significance. It’s certainly an aspect of his acting talent that he was famous among intimates for comic imitations, especially of party colleagues who had some physical defect. His guests at the Berghof laughed heartily – what else could they do? Interesting, too, is Ullrich’s point that Hitler’s pose of asceticism and indifference to luxury was deceptive. He never carried a wallet and may not even have used a bank account, but he enjoyed a fat private income, mostly from Mein Kampf royalties and later as a percentage from sales of postage stamps with the Führer’s head on them. Although he couldn’t drive – or swim or dance – he adored buying expensive cars.

As time passed and Hitler grew accustomed to the swooning adoration of millions, he grew more confident in ‘society’. And yet he never quite knew what to do about women. The displays of ‘Austrian charm’ and hand-kissing he put on for female guests at the Berghof seem to have covered panicky prudishness about sex, and lurking suspicion that women were out to make him look silly. (He never forgave the Italians for letting their queen, at a state ball, lead him out in a polonaise. Hitler went scarlet with fury and embarrassment: ‘The way he looked,’ one of his staff said, ‘we thought he was going to have a stroke.’) Eva Braun, cheerful and not too glamorous, reassured him. But, Ullrich adds:

Braun was by no means the dumb blonde observers long mistook her for. She was a modern young woman who knew quite well what she was getting into with Hitler and who herself helped to bolster the mythic aura of the Führer … Like the others who were part of the Berghof circle, she shared Hitler’s racist political beliefs and knew all too well about the exclusion and persecution of the Jews.

01-06-2016, 03:35 PM
part 3

Ullrich’s narrative of Hitler’s rise to power, though it doesn’t quite have the bite of Kershaw’s version, is full, intelligent and lucidly written. (The translation is mostly smooth, but occasionally lame: when will translators stop giving ‘faction’ for the German word Fraktion, which means ‘a parliamentary party’?) Like his predecessors, Ullrich notes that Jew-hatred and territorial expansion (Lebensraum) were Hitler’s only two consistent principles, and his account of how the alternation between semi-spontaneous anti-Jewish outbreaks and ‘legal’ discrimination (the Nuremburg Laws) led up to the great pogrom of Kristallnacht, on 9 November 1938, is horribly detailed and significant. Here, as elsewhere, he returns to the questions which matter so much more than Hitler’s dingy character: what did the Germans think, and ‘how could Hitler have got away with it?’


Part of the answer lies in the ‘working towards the Führer’ idea. The cult of Hitler’s personality set up a fake opposition between leader and party. After Kristallnacht, as after other outrages, many Germans (probably shocked more by the street vandalism than by the suffering of Jews) commented that ‘the Führer surely did not intend this.’ At elections and plebiscites, sulky subjects of the Reich might scribble on posters or voting slips: ‘Yes to Adolf Hitler – but a thousandfold No to the Brown Bigwigs!’ The effect of this false distinction was to maintain loyalty to the regime even through years when the public was coming to regard the Nazi Party apparatus as institutionally corrupt and self-serving.

Paradoxically, it emerges from Ullrich’s book that fear of war also helped to bind the German masses to Hitler – and all the more so as his foreign policy grew more aggressive and risky. As in France and to a lesser extent in Britain, the colossal loss of life in the First World War still haunted the German public. But Hitler knew how to manipulate that fear. Each time Germany seemed to be steering towards the brink of war – the reoccupation of the Rhineland, the Anschluss with Austria, the seizure of Memel, the Sudeten and then the 1939 Czech crisis – Hitler got his way at the last moment without a shot being fired and an enormous surge of relief and gratitude would sweep across the nation. Adolf had saved the peace yet again! Most Germans assumed – against all the evidence – that the bloodthirsty propaganda campaign against Poland would end in the same way, with the Poles caving in and abandoning Danzig. They couldn’t believe that this time Hitler didn’t want his adversary to give way: he wanted a full-scale war which would end as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union between them wiped Poland off the map. All observers registered the intense gloom that fell on the German public when European war involving France and Britain as well as Poland finally broke out in September 1939.

Between achieving the chancellorship on 30 January 1933 and the late summer of that year, the Nazis rapidly smashed what was left of parliamentary democracy, drove their opponents into exile, concentration camps or terrified silence, brought national and regional institutions of all kinds under central control – Gleichschaltung – and imposed a quite new governmental system with quite different aims and methods. They called it a ‘national revolution’. Does it deserve the name?

Ullrich thinks not. For him, it was a change brought about by the alliance of traditional elites with the Nazi mass movement; it led to no replacement of elites or fundamental remaking of society. He proposes the rather unconvincing term ‘totalitarian revolution’. Eric Hobsbawm, in The Age of Extremes, put it more sharply. He dismissed the idea of ‘fascist revolution’ and wrote: ‘Fascist movements had the elements of revolutionary movements, inasmuch as they contained people who wanted a fundamental transformation of society … However, the horse of revolutionary fascism failed either to start or to run. Hitler rapidly eliminated those who took the “socialist” component in the name of the National Socialist Workers’ Party seriously.’

With the challenge from the left destroyed, Hitler went on to crush two of the conservative social groups that had brought him to power: the titled landowners and the officer class. By eventually destroying these old governing elites with all their institutions, Hobsbawm writes, the Nazis unwittingly helped to lay foundations for the future ‘bourgeois democracy’ of West Germany.

It’s not a point Ullrich makes. But Hitler was a moderniser as well as a genocidal tyrant. His perceived legacy is a burden of unbearable horror and humiliation. It’s a difficult thought that the Third Reich also contributed to postwar Germany’s success in unacknowledged ways: a robust sense of social equality, a stronger sense of common German identity co-existing with the restored federal structure, an imaginative provision for working-class welfare and leisure. Ullrich’s second volume, on the war years from 1939 to 1945, will inevitably be centred on human and national catastrophe. It will be good if he can also discuss how the Hitlerian past influenced the new Europe that rose out of the ruins.

01-06-2016, 07:06 PM
cliff notes?

02-06-2016, 09:20 AM
Hitler was a bastard, but he helped (inadvertently) to build the prosperous, modern, post-war Germany.

02-06-2016, 01:50 PM
And also, he was a bastard, but the people around him were also bastards who made him more bastardly.

Good review - looks like an interesting book.

02-06-2016, 01:56 PM
Also backs up Raul Hilberg and the functionalist theory wrt the holocaust, given the lack of any direct orders from Hitler.

02-06-2016, 09:42 PM
Good review, I agree, although I would pull him up on his approving quote of Hobsbawm's dismissal of 'The Fascist Revolution'. The main theorists of this were not bemoaning the lack of socialism in the various fascist experiments but were making very valid points about fascist ideas, which were a revolution of the Right and were not conservative for that reason, particularly in the Southern variants taking their cue from the Italian inspiration (which was itself messy and confused, but certainly revolutionary and theoretical). Michael Ledeen, in his study 'Universal Fascism', details the severe differences between the Southern and Northern versions of fascism which derailed any attempt at a Fascist International. The main sources of his book were George Mosse and Renzo de Felice*, who did serious work on fascist ideas to show that they were revolutionary movements, if only to destroy their seriousness, sense, validity and morality. Hobsbawm, in some senses (occasionally it comes out, like here, though he is usually a solid historian) was caught by the glamour of the idea of revolution, and liked to keep it a preserve of the left (if not just his Marxist comrades).

* When I say "sources" I mean intellectual mentors, he did his own archive research for this book. You can't buy it cheaply now, I was lucky to pick up a random copy in a Hay bookshop for peanuts, but his other serious book on Italian Fascism, his study of D'Annunzio's occupation of Fiume is more readily available and essential reading on the roots of Italian fascism, similar to Hugh Thomas' detailed account of the Spanish civil war, which, if nothing else, gives a forensic account of the context of Franco's authoritarian state and its relation to the Rivera dictatorship and the Falange and, therefore, why it wasn't, in a very strict sense, fascism.

But this is arcane stuff, like picking apart Trot sects. It's important, though, as I'm sure Droid will agree.

02-06-2016, 10:00 PM
And, lest we forget, 'Mein Kampf' is a classic of the anti-Western canon.

02-06-2016, 10:22 PM
I mean, I don't like to dismiss Hobsbawm out of hand, but his point seems to be, "Fascist Revolution? Well it was Nationalist but it wasn't all that Socialist, so it was certainly Fascist but it definitely wasn't revolutionary!"

But that wasn't what Mosse was talking about at all!

08-06-2016, 12:18 PM
Thanks for the above, Craner. I couldn't even be called a dilettante re: politics and history, so I tend to read such things uncritically!

Another fantastic Orwell essay that I read yesterday: http://orwell.ru/library/reviews/wells/english/e_whws

'Wells, Hitler and the World State'

Hitler is a criminal lunatic, and Hitler has an army of millions of men, aeroplanes in thousands, tanks in tens of thousands. For his sake a great nation has been willing to overwork itself for six years and then to fight for two years more, whereas for the common-sense, essentially hedonistic world-view which Mr. Wells puts forward, hardly a human creature is willing to shed a pint of blood...

What has kept England on its feet during the past year? In part, no doubt, some vague idea about a better future, but chiefly the atavistic emotion of patriotism, the ingrained feeling of the English-speaking peoples that they are superior to foreigners. For the last twenty years the main object of English left-wing intellectuals has been to break this feeling down, and if they had succeeded, we might be watching the S.S. men patrolling the London streets at this moment. Similarly, why are the Russians fighting like tigers against the German invasion? In part, perhaps, for some half-remembered ideal of Utopian Socialism, but chiefly in defence of Holy Russia (the ‘sacred soil of the Fatherland’, etc. etc.), which Stalin has revived in an only slightly altered from. The energy that actually shapes the world springs from emotions — racial pride, leader-worship, religious belief, love of war — which liberal intellectuals mechanically write off as anachronisms, and which they have usually destroyed so completely in themselves as to have lost all power of action.

History as [Wells] sees it is a series of victories won by the scientific man over the romantic man. Now, he is probably right in assuming that a ‘reasonable,’ planned form of society, with scientists rather than witch-doctors in control, will prevail sooner or later, but that is a different matter from assuming that it is just round the corner. There survives somewhere or other an interesting controversy which took place between Wells and Churchill at the time of the Russian Revolution. Wells accuses Churchill of not really believing his own propaganda about the Bolsheviks being monsters dripping with blood, etc., but of merely fearing that they were going to introduce an era of common sense and scientific control, in which flag-wavers like Churchill himself would have no place. Churchill's estimate of the Bolsheviks, however, was nearer the mark than Wells's. The early Bolsheviks may have been angels or demons, according as one chooses to regard them, but at any rate they were not sensible men.

But because [Wells] belonged to the nineteenth century and to a non-military nation and class, he could not grasp the tremendous strength of the old world which was symbolised in his mind by fox-hunting Tories. He was, and still is, quite incapable of understanding that nationalism, religious bigotry and feudal loyalty are far more powerful forces than what he himself would describe as sanity. Creatures out of the Dark Ages have come marching into the present, and if they are ghosts they are at any rate ghosts which need a strong magic to lay them.

All seems extremely relevant in this age of profound technological and scientific progress on the one hand, and Trump and ISIS on the other.

15-06-2016, 09:15 PM
I just watched Vittorio de Sica's film 'The Garden of the Finzi Contini', which is a beautiful and chilling piece about the Jews in Fascist Italy. It's the most intelligent film about Italian Fascism I've ever seen, certainly superior to Bertolucci's 'The Conformist' which, while being a Masterpiece in many ways, is ultimately undermined by the directors absurd theory that Fascism, at root, is a psychological phenomenon of repressed homosexuality.

It made me think of writing a comparative essay of de Sica's film and Renzo de Felice's classic tome 'The Jews in Fascist Italy', to compare historiography against aesthetics in the context of contemporary political debates about democracy, anti-Semitism and fascism. But now I've typed out the idea in that exhausting sentence, I probably won't bother.

I wrote this post in response to my own droning monologue above.

15-06-2016, 09:18 PM
The ultimate Orwell book is the Everyman collected essays. All of his most relevant work is in there.

16-06-2016, 12:45 AM
I just watched Vittorio de Sica's film 'The Garden of the Finzi Contini', which is a beautiful and chilling piece about the Jews in Fascist Italy. It's the most intelligent film about Italian Fascism I've ever seen, certainly superior to Bertolucci's 'The Conformist' which, while being a Masterpiece in many ways, is ultimately undermined by the directors absurd theory that Fascism, at root, is a psychological phenomenon of repressed homosexuality.

It made me think of writing a comparative essay of de Sica's film and Renzo de Felice's classic tome 'The Jews in Fascist Italy', to compare historiography against aesthetics in the context of contemporary political debates about democracy, anti-Semitism and fascism. But now I've typed out the idea in that exhausting sentence, I probably won't bother.

I wrote this post in response to my own droning monologue above.

It's a silly film but isn't the idea reichs? That unsatisfactory orgasms lead to fascism?

29-06-2016, 06:45 PM
a long but a rare positive article (well, "positive" if you don't mind being ruled by the amazon overload)...

Good News at the Washington Post

17-08-2016, 01:18 PM

Extraordinarily amusing and brutal takedown of Howard Jacobson, which I found while looking for articles BY Howard Jacobson, who I've read a few pieces by recently which I liked.

Stuff like this always makes me wonder if I have any critical thinking skills whatsoever, or any opinion of my own. Because as soon as I read such a coruscating attack on somebody I've previously respected, I feel as if the attack at worst is aimed at me, and at best suggests I've really not got much of a mind at all.

17-08-2016, 01:50 PM

Here's the same fella (Sam Kriss) being hilariously insulting towards Alain De Botton.

Reading stuff that's this brilliantly written thoroughly depresses me, because I write like a chimp by comparison, and am too lazy to doubt (let alone hate) De Botton so passionately.

17-08-2016, 02:39 PM
Charlie Brooker was better at that sort of hyperbolic hatred. Howard Jacobsen and ADB are wretched cunts though

17-08-2016, 03:45 PM
You're right, stuff like this:

Alain de Botton would see the seas turned to acid slime and the sky filled with iron and smoke. He is directly responsible for every evil act in the world today. He wants us to kill our young.

Is very Brookerish, and - as with Brooker - you can't help but feel the author doesn't feel THAT strongly about De Botton, but it's fun both to write and read bitter invective. Actually, reading this stuff is a bit like eating junk food, insofar as it's extremely flavourful but afterwards leaves you feeling rather nauseous and numb.

I mean, shortly after praising this guy to the hilt I started thinking that I may have swallowed HIS line of reasoning rather too easily... I'm so fucking GULLIBLE and credulous, it's a real handicap. Again, I think it's down to mental laziness, but also a lack of self-esteem which manifests itself in being extremely easily persuaded into believing things, particularly by people with strident voices.

17-08-2016, 03:52 PM
Frankie Boyle writes like this for the Gruniad now, too: https://www.theguardian.com/profile/frankie-boyle

This stuff is sort of the left's equivalent of Katie Hopkins, isn't it? Very OTT and replete with ugly imagery; only, being aimed at left-wing liberals/socialists, it also finds room for lots of high-brow references.

I find it all very easy and fun to swallow cos it chimes in with my own anti-Tory prejudices. If I read a column arguing that Corbyn was an evil, hideous-looking cunt I'd probably consider it a form of facist propaganda, but as far as David Cameron goes, let the pig-fucking ham-faced nazi have it!

17-08-2016, 04:20 PM
I'm doing a 180 on this guy ATM, really starting to detest him.


17-08-2016, 04:35 PM
Hahaha you're funny but yeah it's a template and no one writing from a template is a 'writer' Brooker bought more flair to it but after you've read a few articles like that you start feeling a computer program could produce a Brooker cos it's so formulaic.

17-08-2016, 04:41 PM
I think there's a skill in coming up with funny comparisons to things, but I reckon that's what makes it feel flavourful but empty. It's not substantive. It dazzles and disarms credulous yokels like me and doesn't make you think and therefore isn't half as clever as it flatters itself, and its readers, as being.

17-08-2016, 04:45 PM
I'm very much concerned with how clever I am because that's always been the thing I've been praised for being, alongside funny, and to think that there are others out there cleverer than me is liable to drag me into a pit of despair. Stupid, isn't it?

Also as I become more and more of a failure in most areas of life such as relationships and sex etc I'm pinning more and more hopes on being clever, and simultaneously realising more and more how clever I'm not. This must be what it feels like to be a great beauty detecting the first crows-foot in the mirror.

17-08-2016, 04:59 PM
That's where you have to start drawing distinctions. Like, well they're very clever in a mechanical rational way but they've got no wit which is indicative of a lack of perspective. Or, yeah they're brilliantly instinctively funny but they don't take anything seriously indicating a superficiality which reflects poorly on them.
Or yeah they're clever but they're nerds and they don't take drugs or listen to rap music.

Always safeguard your sense of superiority. Its all we have.

17-08-2016, 05:09 PM