Wednesday, August 16, 2017

What Is Antifa?

In a better world Donald Trump would have stifled his thoughts about moral equivalence yesterday. They made him look like he was taking back what he had said the day before. Unfortunately, we do not live in this better world and Trump continues to blurt out what comes to mind, regardless. Whatever else you think, he will certainly go down as the president who has most fully mastered the Freudian art of free association.

If psychoanalysts knew anything about psychoanalysis, they would acclaim Donald Trump the model of the cured patient.

Today’s radical and anarchist left, now going by the name of the Antifa, for Antifascists, is not a bunch of nice people. They have happily adopted the methods of prior fascist brigades, from the German Brown Shirts to Mao’s Red Guards.

According to Peter Beinart—not a right wing loon—the Antifa radicals have given themselves the right to determine who speaks and who does not speak, who can and cannot exercise the right to free and peaceable assembly.

But in the name of protecting the vulnerable, antifascists have granted themselves the authority to decide which Americans may publicly assemble and which may not. That authority rests on no democratic foundation. Unlike the politicians they revile, the men and women of antifa cannot be voted out of office. Generally, they don’t even disclose their names.

The people preventing Republicans from safely assembling on the streets of Portland may consider themselves fierce opponents of the authoritarianism growing on the American right. In truth, however, they are its unlikeliest allies.

Like the fascist right the anti-fascist left has no use for democracy:

Since antifa is heavily composed of anarchists, its activists place little faith in the state, which they consider complicit in fascism and racism. They prefer direct action: They pressure venues to deny white supremacists space to meet. They pressure employers to fire them and landlords to evict them. And when people they deem racists and fascists manage to assemble, antifa’s partisans try to break up their gatherings, including by force.

In June of last year, demonstrators—at least some of whom were associated with antifa—punched and threw eggs at people exiting a Trump rally in San Jose, California. An article in It’s Going Down celebrated the “righteous beatings.”

Obviously, the antifascists are just as fascistic as the fascists they abhor. Beinart argues effectively that the fascist right and the antifascist left feed each other, provoke each other and produce a cycle of violence.

Some of the violence counts as relatively mild. Beinart reminds us:

On Inauguration Day, a masked activist punched the white-supremacist leader Richard Spencer. In February, protesters violently disrupted UC Berkeley’s plans to host a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, a former Breitbart.com editor. In March, protesters pushed and shoved the controversial conservative political scientist Charles Murray when he spoke at Middlebury College, in Vermont.

On Inauguration Day antifa radicals committed numerous acts of violence, including firebombing cars. They did the same at Berkeley. At Middlebury they sent one woman to the hospital. We are not talking about engaging in free and open debate.

The Antifa radicals happily rationalize their actions:

Antifascists call such actions defensive. Hate speech against vulnerable minorities, they argue, leads to violence against vulnerable minorities. But Trump supporters and white nationalists see antifa’s attacks as an assault on their right to freely assemble, which they in turn seek to reassert. The result is a level of sustained political street warfare not seen in the U.S. since the 1960s. A few weeks after the attacks in San Jose, for instance, a white-supremacist leader announced that he would host a march in Sacramento to protest the attacks at Trump rallies. Anti-Fascist Action Sacramento called for a counterdemonstration; in the end, at least 10 people were stabbed.

Some of the fascist Trump supporters have turned to violence. This, from Portland, Oregon:

When antifascists forced the cancellation of the 82nd Avenue of Roses Parade, Trump supporters responded with a “March for Free Speech.” Among those who attended was Jeremy Christian, a burly ex-con draped in an American flag, who uttered racial slurs and made Nazi salutes. A few weeks later, on May 25, a man believed to be Christian was filmed calling antifa “a bunch of punk bitches.”

The next day, Christian boarded a light-rail train and began yelling that “colored people” were ruining the city. He fixed his attention on two teenage girls, one African American and the other wearing a hijab, and told them “to go back to Saudi Arabia” or “kill themselves.” As the girls retreated to the back of the train, three men interposed themselves between Christian and his targets. “Please,” one said, “get off this train.” Christian stabbed all three. One bled to death on the train. One was declared dead at a local hospital. One survived.

The cycle continued. Nine days after the attack, on June 4, Trump supporters hosted another Portland rally, this one featuring Chapman, who had gained fame with his assault on the antifascist in Berkeley. Antifa activists threw bricks until the police dispersed them with stun grenades and tear gas.

Since they are anarchists, the Antifa radicals have no use for the state. One should add that fascist radicals are at permanent war against the state, also:

What’s eroding in Portland is the quality Max Weber considered essential to a functioning state: a monopoly on legitimate violence. As members of a largely anarchist movement, antifascists don’t want the government to stop white supremacists from gathering. They want to do so themselves, rendering the government impotent. With help from other left-wing activists, they’re already having some success at disrupting government. Demonstrators have interrupted so many city-council meetings that in February, the council met behind locked doors. In February and March, activists protesting police violence and the city’s investments in the Dakota Access Pipeline hounded Mayor Ted Wheeler so persistently at his home that he took refuge in a hotel. The fateful email to parade organizers warned, “The police cannot stop us from shutting down roads.”

Of course, this has been happening on college campuses for quite some time now. Dissident students are shut down, penalized for not being politically correct. On campuses professors have the power to grade students. Often that suffices as an instrument of mind control. On the streets anarchists try to impose their views with threats of violence. Their agenda, Kevin Williamson wrote, is their anger. But they are trying to show that they are so right and their opponents so wrong that any means of fighting them are justified. 

It is fair to note that Antifa radicals and Democratic politicians have never produced any outrage over acts of Islamist terrorism. Not a smidgen of outrage.... And have never even been willing to criticize them. Which is more of a threat to Western Civilization: the alt-right or radical Islam?

The Great German Urinal Caper

Have those brilliant Germans finally discovered what women really, really want? They want gender neutral urinals in public restrooms. Is this the solution to the problem of long lines for female toilets?

Again, what would we do without the Daily Mail—reporting here:

City officials in Berlin are hoping to solve the problem of lengthy female toilet queues by introducing gender-neutral urinals. 

In a 99-page policy document titled 'The Toilet Concept for Berlin', the left-wing coalition governing the German capital committed itself to pissoirs - public urinals - for both men and women. 

The paper explains: 'In the future urinals which can be used by all genders should be offered.'

It was justified as an enterprise because it represented a 'continuation of the [toilet] concept and an opportunity for Berlin to show that it is innovative', according to a translation on the BBC

Think about it, a group of bureaucrats churned out a 99 page document designed to solve this pressing problem. The solution, which also strikes a blow against sexism, is to have urinals that can be used by both sexes. They can even be used by both genders.

Here's one design option:

After you, madam: In the future, Berliners of both sexes could find themselves weeing at neighbouring urinals 


And here's a testimony from a woman who used one, of a different design, in a German theatre:

Pictured: Tanja Janezic was amused after using a 'Frauenpissoir' in a theatre in Winterthur, Switzerland 

Given our raised consciousness about gender, men and women can use these urinals at the same time. That would solve the problem of transgendered toilets, don’t you think?

And the new urinals will be more environmentally friendly. I am sure you find great relief in the thought that the new designs will compensate for the fact that women, as a rule, flush the toilet three times, thus wasting precious water resources.

Meanwhile Professor Mete Demiriz of Gelsenkirchen University said that because women often flush the loo three times during a visit, gender-neutral urinals could save water. 

He told the website jetzt that a design team of his is working on a pissoir with a cubicle and a door. 

It is also lower down and allows the woman to have her back against the wall.  

We are relieved that these great German engineers have advanced to the point where they can envision a cubicle with a door. All together—breathe a sign of relief.

It’s yet another instance of life imitating art. Here, from Marcel Duchamp, a sculpture entitled: Fountain.

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James Mattis on Therapy

Secretary of Defense James Mattis addressed the troops at Naval Base Kitsap, in Washington on August 9..

Many have posted this remark for its vulgar reference and its thinly veiled attack on the Pajama Boy. I bring it to you because it offers the Mattis theory of why people undergo psychoanalysis:

So you'll never regret, but you will have some of the best days of your life and some of the worst days of your life in the U.S. Navy, you know what I mean?  That says -- that means you're living.  That means you're living.  That means you're not some pussy sitting on the sidelines, you know what I mean, kind of sitting there saying, “Well, I should have done something with my life.”  Because of what you're doing now, you're not going to be laying on a shrink's couch when you're 45 years old, say “What the hell did I do with my life?” Why? Because you served others; you served something bigger than you.  

Someone  call the thought police....

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Prevaricator in Chief

This morning Bret Stephens has some reflections on language. In part, he comments on Donald Trump’s use of language, but the meat of his column concerns the Obama administration’s systematic lies about Islamic terrorism.

Stephens begins by showing the extent that the Obama administration contorted language in order to lie about Islam and its relation to terrorism:

…. Islamist terrorism, or what former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano used to call “man-caused disasters” in order to “move away from the politics of fear,” as she explained in a 2009 Der Spiegel interview.

Napolitano’s “man-caused disasters” didn’t survive the political laugh test, but the fantastically elastic phrase “violent extremism” did. President Obama’s broad reluctance to use variants of the word “Islam” in proximity to “terrorism” became one of the staples of his presidency. The group that calls itself “Islamic State” was always and adamantly “ISIL” to him.

Remember Omar Mateen, who perpetrated the mass murder of 49 people at a gay nightclub. Might that count as homophobia? Not, to the Obama administration:

After Omar Mateen explicitly declared his fealty to the Islamic State in a 911 call and massacred 49 people at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in June 2016, Obama acknowledged the blood bath as “an act of terror” but stressed that the “precise motivations of the killer” remained unknown.

As for ideologically motivated students driving crowds into crowds, it happened when Obama was president, too:

Last November, a Somali student at Ohio State University rammed a car into a crowd of students and then began attacking them with a butcher knife before being shot dead. “If we increase our suspicion of people who practice a particular religion, we’re more likely to contribute to acts of violence than we are to prevent them,” said the White House spokesman Josh Earnest. As for Obama, I can find no record of him ever speaking publicly about the attack, which was so reminiscent of what happened Saturday in Charlottesville.

Of course, the administration tried to hand over Egypt to the Muslim Brotherhood. They sent Secretary of State Hillary to Cairo to be the first foreign leader to congratulate Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi. And yet, the Brotherhood is an international terrorist organization, declared as such by places like the United Arab Emirates.

For the Obama administration, not so much:

The Muslim Brotherhood — whose credo includes the words “jihad is our way; dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope” — was, according to the former director of national intelligence James Clapper, “a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried Al Qaeda.”

The administration walked back the “largely secular” line, but remained equivocal about what is arguably the largest hate group in the world.

As for the administration sell-out to Iran, Obama saw it as reparations for the dastardly way the American government overthrew the Mossadegh government in 1953:

It also tended to equivocate when it came to apportioning historical blame for United States conflicts with militant adversaries. If Iran had taken Americans hostage and killed hundreds of our soldiers, well, as Obama often noted, hadn’t we helped overthrow the Mossadegh government back in 1953?

When Obama Stood Strong Against Racial Hatred

As always, we look for inspiration to our fearless leader, a god among men, Barack Obama, for the right way to deal with violence predicated on racial bias.

Happily, the Obama administration saw numerous act of racial violence, especially directed by blacks against white policemen and even against everyday white people.

Naturally, President Obama expressed severe outrage. He held groups who promoted the violence, accountable. His justice department launched civil rights investigations and called it out as domestic terrorism.

Or not.

Remember Dallas? The Daily Caller does:

In July of 2016, an avowed black nationalist murdered five police officers during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Dallas, Texas. The act of violence was well-planned and was motivated entirely by the hate-filled ideology of the shooter, Micah Xavier Johnson.

With several officers dead by the hand of a committed black nationalist, one might think the Obama administration may have considered the assassinations domestic terror and launched an investigation into groups associated with this ideology.

What did Barack do? He blamed guns. For some reason whenever people of a certain race commit crimes, the fault must always lie elsewhere. Apparently, such people are not responsible for their behavior. It's blame-shifting at its finest.

Barack Obama condemned the shootings, but he did not call out or even allude to Johnson’s hateful views. He did, however, blame “powerful weapons” for the violence.

In her statement on the shooting, then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch exploited the tragedy to push for gun control and praise the cause of Black Lives Matter. No mention of Johnson’s ideology or “hate” in was made in her statement, but she did manage to directly name multiple cases of police-involved shootings — all after cops were the ones murdered.

Was the Dallas massacre a one-off event? Not on your life:

In the same month, three officers were gunned down in Baton Rouge, Louisiana by an adherent to this radical ideology.

In a less violent case that also occurred in July of 2016, several churches in the area of St. Louis, Missouri, were vandalized and graffitied with rhetoric associated with black nationalism.

Other such events have occurred in the Trump Era, but no journalist or politician has stepped up to denounce them or to call for an investigation into the racially divisive ideology of black nationalism.

Surely, Barack Obama bears some responsibility for the current state of race relations in America. And yet, if you say so, you are more likely to be pilloried for being a hater.

The End of Psychoanalysis

The party is over. Psychoanalysis is dead. It has been dead for quite some time now. The only question is the burial and funeral arrangements. In truth, it’s better to bury a dead horse than to try to beat it back to life.

A few years ago I wrote my own funeral oration for psychoanalysis. I entitled my book The Last Psychoanalyst. In it I showed how a pseudo-science became a pseudo-religion. If you understand that psychoanalysis was always nothing more than a cult gussied up to look like a scientific practice you have been duped. The cult leader, the demiurge named Sigmund Freud, promoted and sold a radical, ideologically driven theory that accounted for nothing and that neither treated nor cured. As I said, psychoanalysis is overpriced storytelling.

Some psychoanalysts have seen the light. Among them Jacques Lacan, the most influential Freudian since Freud, who declared clinical practice to be a scam. His acolytes and disciples dismissed his remarks as a misstatement by a doddering old man, but they were both intelligible and correct. As famed Oxford biologist and Nobel prize winner Peter Medawar said, Freudian psychoanalysis is a confidence trick. As we would say on this side of the pond, it’s a con.

Now, reviewing Frederick Crews’ magnum opus debunking Freud—Sigmund Freud: The Making of an Illusion-- Alexander Kafka offered an indication of where it’s all at today.

He wrote:

"It’s obvious," says Stewart Justman, an emeritus humanities professor at the University of Montana who has written about medicine and society, "that there’s a diminished hard core of Freudian defenders, and that when they pass from the scene, that’s it. Game over."

Richard J. McNally, a cognitive-behavior-oriented psychologist who runs a lab at Harvard and oversees clinical training, remembers that on grand rounds at Massachusetts General Hospital in the 1990s, there were still a lot of psychoanalysts. "A half-dozen years later," he says, "they seemed to have disappeared."

What does Crews think?

Apart from any intellectual fuss that somebody like me could make, the system has been dying on the vine for decades. So that now, really, psychoanalysis survives in humanities departments not for any reason that one would call scientific or empirical but because the psychoanalytic way of thinking is conducive to discourse production, devoid of constraint.

As I said, the party is over. The few people still defending psychoanalysis are superannuated, like Harold Blum, or true believers bitterly clinging to their faith.

For example:

Crews wants the public to think that psychoanalysis rises and falls on Freud’s reputation and personal history, and that’s "a very reductionist way of thinking," says Adrienne Harris, who teaches psychoanalysis in New York and Northern California and has a clinical practice. 

And if psychoanalysis is so rickety, Harris asks, why do humanists who discover it in academe so often want to pursue training as therapists? And why are psychoanalytic institutes in Eastern Europe, China, and elsewhere so hungry for it?

If you were a humanist in the American academy wouldn’t you be trying to find another line of work? Freud attracts humanists precisely because he is such a good storyteller. He has created a literary fiction that attempts to transform nothing less than human nature itself. If you are an arrogant humanist who thinks that literature can change the world, you cannot do much better than that.

Harold Blum is a Freud apologist, one of the last. He touts Freud’s influence, but such touting does nothing to counter the Medawar argument that it was all a confidence trick:

"I find it very hard to take Frederick Crews seriously," says Harold Blum, a New York psychoanalyst and former executive director of the Freud Archives. Oedipal urges, the incest taboo, the erotic fantasies underlying locker-room talk and dirty jokes, loaded linguistic metaphors, Freudian slips, the vividness of infantile sexuality, the stages of child development, the importance of nurturing the young, the symbolic weight of dream images. On and on. These bountiful psychoanalytic insights are in the very air we breathe. To deny that, Blum says, is "irrational."

Calling these insights “bountiful” tells us that Blum has little command of the English language. Calling these dogmas of the Freudian pseudo-religion insights is yet another sleight-of-hand, a trick to seduce the gullible. Does anyone really still believe that we are driven by our Oedipal urges and that the only thing we really want in life is to copulate with our mothers? You have to be a true believer, someone who has suspended your critical faculties to take it seriously.

Crews does not. All religions need godheads, figures of surpassing genius who can be worshipped for providing us access to higher truths. And yet, Freud was simply a brilliant but arrogant man consumed by his ambitions who wanted to become famous. At the least, Crews shows that Freud had no use for scientific experimentation.

Kafka summarizes his viewpoint:

Early in his career, as an anatomist, he wields his microscope expertly but cannot take the next step of devising experiments that might test one hypothesis against another. He suggests, later, in his quest for fame and wealth, that he was more involved than he really was in discoveries made by others — for example, Carl Koller’s breakthrough use of cocaine as a local anesthetic in eye surgeries. The young Freud did make a name for himself, it’s true — but as a foolhardy shill for cocaine’s much wider and more indiscriminate medical application. That stance came to embarrass him and drive him even harder to seek some magnificent accomplishment that would eclipse it.

He continues, describing Freud through Crews:

He is a reckless, greedy, bullying, inept, and monomaniacal clinician. He fosters some patients’ addictions to morphine, cocaine, or both. He treats symptoms with possible physiological causes — arthritis, say, or ovarian cysts — as obvious consequences of hysteria. He bilks rich but hopeless clients for whom he has no sympathy or coherent treatment plan. He sleeps through his afternoon sessions, confident nonetheless that he’s absorbing some psychic gist of his analysands’ complaints. He browbeats nominal hysterics into relating questionable traumas, and some of his early patients scoff at his interpretations on their way out of his empty waiting room.

Freud’s genius was as a writer, a novelist, if  you will who knew how to tell stories:

None of this stops Freud from writing up cases with a cocky flair, in conscious imitation of Sherlock Holmes tales, depicting treatments as indisputable triumphs of psychological detection and portraying questionable casual encounters as triggering virtuoso insights. He reinterprets cases with ever-shifting ideas of whether symptoms were set off by actual or imagined sexual traumas.

Kafka summarizes the argument neatly:

For Crews, however, most of Freud’s career was a blind alley, but filled with dazzling and disorienting smoke and mirrors to disguise the futility of his method.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Obama's Outrage over the Fort Hood Massacre

The world would be a better place if there were fewer white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other assorted alt-right hate groups. As it happens, precious few of these characters dot the landscape, so we ought to feel somewhat fortunate that the pestilence is contained.

Not entirely, of course. Last Saturday a neo-Nazi drove a care into a crowd of demonstrators, injuring many and murdering one. Denunciations came swiftly from politicians and commentators on the right or the left.

Trump's detractors and haters went into the highest dudgeon over what Donald Trump did not say about the murder in Charlottesville. They noted that he has been too slow to denounce people who have, after all, tended to support him. These are fair points.

Yet, it is also fair to say that not one of those who are most outraged at Trump's lack of outrage has ever denounced any alt-left hate group that targets white people or Israelis.

Trump missed a chance to step up to his role as leader by denouncing the organizers of Saturday’s Charlottesville protest. As it happened, most Republican leaders did denounce the act as domestic terrorism. For some it was not enough. When Sen. Ted Cruz forthrightly declared that the man who drove his car into a crowd was a domestic terrorist, New York Times reporter Eric Lipton denounced him anyway… for posturing.

Some people are never satisfied.

Anyway, Trump was roundly disparaged for being insufficiently outraged by the attack. He did not live up to the fine example that Barack Obama set when Major Nidal Malik Hasan yelled Allahu Akhbar and opened fire in a cafeteria in Fort Hood.

CBS News reported on Obama’s full throated expression of outrage:

President Barack Obama said Friday the entire nation is grieving for those slain at Fort Hood, and he urged people not to jump to conclusions while law enforcement officers investigate the shootings.

Mr. Obama met Friday morning with FBI Director Robert Mueller and other federal leaders to get an update on what they've learned. Thirteen people were killed and 30 others injured in the shooting rampage at the Texas Army post on Thursday. The suspected shooter is an Army psychiatrist; his motive remains unclear.

"We don't know all the answers yet. And I would caution against jumping to conclusions until we have all the facts," Mr. Obama said in a Rose Garden statement otherwise devoted to the economy.

"What we do know is that there are families, friends and an entire nation grieving right now for the valiant men and women who came under attack yesterday," the president said.

As it happened, the Obama Defense Department knew all about Maj. Hasan's interest in radical Islamist terrorism. They did not do anything about it because they did not want to be Islamophobic. As for not jumping to conclusions, President Obama was happy to do so when the victims were black and the perpetrators were white. To think that this constitutes a fair and just assessment of the facts is absurd. 

Once the relevant information was known, the Obama administration still refused to say that Hasan’s action was terrorism. It persisted in calling it workplace violence. How many journalists and media commentators were outraged over Obama’s manifest dereliction? I suspect that the answer was very close to: none.

Then, of course, Obama set out to fight his true enemy: Islamophobia. And white police officers.

It is perfectly fair to criticize President Trump for bumbling his Saturday statement. But is perfectly unfair to pretend that the Obama example was anything but derelict. When faced with an Islamist terrorist who murdered American soldiers, Obama was nonplussed. He acted as though he did not care. 

Media elites who want Donald Trump to be drawn and quartered did not dare denounce Obama. Some people on the right were appalled by Obama’s reaction, but the mainstream media downplayed their reaction in order to idolize their Messiah.