Sunday, January 30, 2005

Atrocity Porn

William Norman Grigg over at The New American writes scathingly about "atrocity porn": fabrications that have accompanied the Imperial war adventure in Iraq. He calles them that because they bear as much resemblance to real atrocities as pornography does to lovemaking, and has the same prurient purpose.

Writes Grigg:
"Atrocity porn plays a critical role in the process of mobilizing mass hatred on the part of the state’s designs. Like its sexual equivalent, atrocity porn (especially, and obviously, in the case of stories describing rape and other sexual abuse) appeals to prurient interests to manipulate base impulses. [...] authors of atrocity porn also cynically exploit the predictable reactions it will provoke from decent people."

Though he starts of debunking one of the most graphic atrocity stories from Iraq - that of Jumana Hanna's "rape" - Grigg puts in it the historical context, quoting three specific examples of atrocity porn: the "incubator babies" lie of the First Iraqi War, the lies about Spanish atrocities in Cuba that served to whip up the frenzy for the 1898 Spanish-American War and the WW1 "Belgian atrocities" attributed to Germans by British propaganda.

Obviously, atrocity porn has been a staple of imperialism for at least a century, because it is so damned effective. Grigg doesn't say it in so many words, but anyone who has been a victim of Western media coverage from the Balkans should find it obvious.

Crowds, Civilization and Democracy

Bill Bonner reviews James Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds, over on LRC:

Mr. Surowiecki seemed to us like a teenager who had just discovered sex. He didn’t quite know what to make of it, but he was clearly looking forward to it. [...] He is so fascinated by the mechanics of it, he has not yet thought about the perverseand cynical possibilities.

What he had stumbled upon was civilization, the infinite and subtle private arrangements that allow people to get along and make progress, without anyone in particular telling them what to do.
[...] What he is describing as "wise crowds" is really the fluid, unfettered interactions between individuals in a civilized society.

[...] a group of people working together is not the same as a crowd. And a crowd is not the same as a mob.
[...] where the crowd really goes wrong is where it turns from cooperation to force...when it begins to insist...and build concentration camps. This is where it becomes uncivilized. [...] When the crowd takes up a corrupt wish – to get something for nothing...or to make the world a better place by killing people – the last thing it wants is another point of view. It is already too late for that. The few people who are able to think clearly can only try to get out of the way.
Democracy, says Surowiecki, demonstrates the wisdom of the crowd. And yet, it seems to demonstrate the exact opposite. [...] Democracy replaces cooperation with force...consensual civilization with the tyranny of the majority...the wise crowd of independent citizens with a mob of voters, with silly slogans on their bumpers and mischief in their hearts.
These are just some salient points; the piece is definitely worth reading in full.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Cheney Wore a Parka?!

The Washington Post, ordinarily all too willing to worship the Empire, ran a story today (front page, albeit in the Style section) about the Grand Vizier's choice of, ah, couture during the Auschwitz commemoration. Photographs show Dick Cheney wearing an olive fur-trimmed parka and a ski cap, standing out like a sore thumb in the crowd of black-clad European politicians and camp survivors. The parka was embroidered with Cheney's name; the ski cap bore the inscription "Staff 2001." The Grand Vizier also wore brown lace-up hiking boots.

Now I know the age of dressing properly has passed like the European civilization with the Great War - and more's the pity - but there are still some standards about dressing for solemn occasions, at least for State rulers and their coteries.

Was this a "wardrobe malfunction"? Ms. Cheney was dressed appropriately. Did someone lose Dick's formalwear bag? Or is it simply that the Grand Vizier of the American Empire lacks the sensitivity to dress for the commemoration of mass murder of unprecedented scale for any one place? It's not like he's been bothered by the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths he is responsible for, one way or another. It's bad enough the horrific anniversary is being used as an occasion to worship the modern state (a concept without which the Holocaust could not have happened). Everyone could have done without Dick dressing up as an Ugly American.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Name Adjustment

(until this day, the blog was called "Black Lamb and Gray Falcon")

It's not really a "change" as such, more of an adjustment to what this has been from the start.

The address has always been just "grayfalcon".

I've decided there's nothing much lamb-like about either this blog or its author.

Plus, there's the whole image of the gray falcon as the Prophet Elijah, the messenger of God, from Serbian epic poetry - not that I aspire to being a prophet, or a messenger of God! That I leave for folks with delusions of grandeur; but the image is powerful nonetheless.

So, from now on, this is the Gray Falcon, proud member of the "reality-based community" the Emperor so clearly scorns. Same content, same author, slightly different name.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Who won the Cold War?

Karen Kwiatkowski at LRC has a new theory:
"The Soviet Union won when they threw off the yoke, and began to expose and destroy seventy years of lies on top of depraved lies piled on top of mendacity of which even the most cynical Russian didn’t believe their government was capable."

Meanwhile, in the United States:
"The liberal pillars of America’s wealth, productivity, and freedom have been gnawed and hacked away in the dark damp cellar of too much government, yet we continue the party upstairs. Our republican values that would condemn the diddling desire of despots have already evaporated, and the new drink is intoxicating."
Some people are nostalgic for the old USSR - not all of them are in the USA, either - because they were part of the ancien regime so much that everything they had vanished after its collapse. For that matter, there are still plenty of people in the former Yugoslavia - which was economically far more liberal - all too accustomed to sucking on government teat, and unable to adapt to the post-Communist world. I'm beginning to think a major reason former Communist countries haven't done better economically and socially is that too many of their residents haven't mentally said farewell to Communism.

All of which makes me wonder what will happen when the U.S. Imperium eventually fails, as it is bound to do. I'm not talking some Marxist "dialectic" here, just the basic laws of entropy, which can only be defied for so long...

Friday, January 21, 2005


It must be a sign of the times that the Imperator Orbis can make a speech proclaiming his commitment to freedom and opposition to tyranny - with a straight face.

I've long enjoyed the alternate-history works of Harry Turtledove, even though he sometimes took shortcuts and easy roads by making things in his alt-timelines unfold almost exactly as they have in real history ("second-order counterfactuals"). How Few Remain and his Great War series - in which the Confederacy won its independence, and faced the Union again on the opposing sides of the Great War in 1914 - largely avoided this pitfall of alt-history. Until, that is, Turtledove introduced the character of Confederate artilley sergeant Jake Featherston in a clear analogy to a certain Austrian-born corporal with a handlebar mustache. The post-war series, American Empire, unfolds very much like our timeline, with Featherston coming to power on a racist, revanchist platform and starting a war against the USA in 1941.

But here's the reason I mentioned this in the first place: Featherston's party aren't the National Socialists, but the incongruously named "Freedom Party." Instead of "Heil Hitler!" they salute each other "Freedom!"

And I just can't help but think of Jake Featherston and the Freedom Party when I hear that word defiled and desecrated by the current Emperor, when what he is doing - and intends to continue doing - is the exact opposite of freedom in just about every way. I'm not accusing Bush the Lesser of being a Nazi (though he may be a fascist); it's just a word-association that rings all sorts of eerie bells.

But by far the worst thing is that there was no political alternative to the American Empire this past election; Kerry wasn't a voice, but an echo. And that's another parallel to Turtledove's alt-universe. Once the Great War starts, there are no "good guys," only power, interest and carnage. However horribly depressing that may seem, at least Turtledove is honest about it and pulls no punches. At first I was taken aback by this seeming nihilism. But on second glance, I suspect the actual history of the XX century was just as grim. It's just that we've all lied to ourselves so well, we actually believe this arguably the darkest age of humanity was really about something good in the end.

Now I'm the farthest thing from a nihilist. I actually believe in liberty and redemption. But this ain't it. Not even close.

The "Red State Faithful"

Today on LRC, in a piece titled "Coronation Day Diary," Charles H. Featherstone writes:
This is an odd ruling elite, the Red State faithful, many of whom reverted to type and wore their cowboy boots and their fur coats to the parade. They are inheritors of both 19th century Methodist notions of human perfectibility and chosenness while, at the same time, the much-older Scotch-Irish sense of swagger and persecution. They are a people who both hate and fear the world and yet want to save it, to teach it what they desperately believe it needs to learn, for its own good. They are people who are convinced they are entitled to run the planet but are also scared to death by almost all of the strange and mysterious folks who inhabit it. That's why it's always fun to watch them take mass transit, like the DC Metro, because they dislike the notion of something like an underground train just anyone can get on to begin with, and look warily at anyone who isn't one of them and hold tight to their wallets. Alternately in charge, and yet completely at the mercy, of everything around them.

The entire article is worth reading, but this is a particularly apt description. His writing style is so literary, if Featherstone ever wrote a novel, I'd be the first to buy it.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Triumph of Believers

William S. Lind, premier theorist of Fourth Generation warfare, writes today on
"Fourth Generation war is triumphing over the products of rationalism because people who believe in something will always defeat people who believe in nothing at all. (emphasis added)
If we look at those who are fighting Fourth Generation war ... one characteristic they share is that they believe very powerfully in something. The "something" varies; it may be a religion, a gang, a clan or tribe, a nation (outside the West, nationalism is still alive), or a culture. But it is something worth fighting for, worth killing for, and worth dying for. The key element is not what they believe in, but belief itself."

As for the West - a.k.a. the European Civilization - it has long since stopped believing in anything but force, after the cultural suicide launched in 1914:
As Martin van Creveld points out in his key book on Fourth Generation war, The Rise and Decline of the State, up until World War I the West believed in something, too. Its god was the state. But that god died in the mud of Flanders. After World War I, decent Western elites could no longer believe in anything: "the best lack all conviction." Fascism and Communism offered new faiths, but in the course of the 20th century, they too proved false gods (all ideologies are counterfeit religions). Now, all that the West's elites and the "globalist" elites elsewhere who mimic them can offer is "civil society." Unlike real belief, civil society is not worth fighting for, killing for, or dying for.
Ironically, the fiercest force in service of the moribund Empire are the mimicking globalists (the "missionary intellectuals" of Serbia, for example), who actually believe the claptrap about "civil society," "democracy" and "human rights."

But I don't think the proponents of "civil society" are necessarily reluctant to kill in the name of their quasi-ideology; they've done so all too often in the past 15 years, notably in the Balkans. They are, however, reluctant to die for it. And that makes sense. Killing is easy; dying - not so much.