The return of the samizdat

The modern form of the gulag in the West is ostracism and exclusion. In extreme cases, such as with Tommy Robinson, they might even put you in jail. But with virtually all those who earn their living by writing or within academic institutions working for the government, you pay attention to what it is forbidden to say and conform without deviation to the ruling far-left ideology or you are out. You have to be relatively old by now even to have heard of the term “samizdat” but it was the means for what was a genuine resistance in the Soviet Union and the captive states of Eastern Europe pre-1989 to communicate with each other. Manuscripts were hand-typed by individuals who passed various subversive documents amongst themselves since actually having these works published was literally impossible. Today we can publish, but the consequences to one’s career can be devastating.

Oddly, and I am certain that this is pure coincidence, two prominent bloggers have used samizdat in titles of their posts just this week. First, at Powerline, Steve Hayward wrote on: IT HAS COME TO THIS: ACADEMIC SAMIZDAT. It begins:

We have come to the point where even liberal academics in good standing will feel the wrath of leftist orthodoxy if they depart from the party line. So what to do? Imitate the late Soviet Union, and start a samizdat literature.

And then this from The Other McCain: Reading Samizdat. Here he quoted from a book that is in many ways toxic but in which the following passage may be found that could not be written by anyone who wished to stay within the ruling class ideology of our current elites.

With the passing of the Melting Pot fantasy has come the anti-fantasy — the American Mosaic. The intellectual mise-en-scène has suddenly been rearranged to accommodate a new sociological fad, the pluralistic society, in which all races and nationality groups live harmoniously side by side, all maintaining and strengthening their racial and cultural identity, each making its own contribution in its own way to the total picture of American life.

Like the promoters of the Melting Pot, the salesmen of pluralism have misread history, which teaches that pluralistic societies are static and caste-ridden and a standing invitation to disorder and disaster. Historically disoriented, the voices of pluralism are also dramatically contradictory. They are opposed to racism in theory, but support minority racism in practice. They uphold group identity, but demand integration. They approve of racial quotas, but are against racial discrimination.

Basically, these are thoughts you cannot say in public if you value your career.

The American media cannot stop lying

Below you may find the entire text of 11 Craziest Revelations From Bob Woodward’s Book on Trump’s ‘Nervous Breakdown’ Presidency, which is trying to explain just how wonderful Woodward’s worthless book is.

But before you read that, you should read this: Trump Unleashes on Woodward, Accuses Him of Making Up Quotes and Being a ‘Dem Operative’. From which:

mattis statement

The rest is a summary of Bob Woodward‘s book about the Trump administration, Fear taken directly from the 11 Craziest Revelations. But if you want to apply the word “crazy”, it is to the people who first write and then hunger for stuff like this.

The book, as the Washington Post reports, naturally and as a matter of course “paints a harrowing portrait of the Trump presidency, based on in-depth interviews with administration officials and other principals.” These are the traitorous monsters who actually spoke to Woodward, the kind of people who produce a movie about the first landing on the moon but leave out the planting of the American flag on the moon’s surface. They hate America. These then are the “revelations”, not one of which is a matter of any kind of policy issue, even if they were true.

As the article portrays it, “here are the most stunning moments from Fear: Trump in the White House, set for release on Sept. 11″. You will no doubt all be stunned that anyone would think any of this matters even in the slightest.

1. Defense Secretary James Mattis is “exasperated” by Trump acting like a fifth grader

Woodward writes that in one National Security Council meeting from January, Trump questioned why the U.S. was spending money maintaining a presence in the Korean Peninsula. “We’re doing this in order to prevent World War III,” James Mattis told him, per Woodward.

After the meeting, Mattis “was particularly exasperated and alarmed, telling close associates that the president acted like — and had the understanding of — ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader.’”

2. Chief of Staff John Kelly rips Trump

Woodward’s quotes from John Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff, are stunning. He called the president “unhinged,” and apparently uttered this magnificent stream of consciousness in a group meeting:

“He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”

3. Reince Priebus called Trump’s bedroom “the devil’s workshop”

But not for the reason you might think… Per the Post:

Woodward writes that Priebus dubbed the presidential bedroom, where Trump obsessively watched cable news and tweeted, “the devil’s workshop,” and said early mornings and Sunday evenings, when the president often set off tweetstorms, were “the witching hour.”

Trump, for his part, described Priebus “like a little rat. He just scurries around.”

4. Trump mocked H.R. McMaster’s suits and said he looks like a beer salesman

Per the Post:

He often mocked former national security adviser H.R. McMaster behind his back, puffing up his chest and exaggerating his breathing as he impersonated the retired Army general, and once said McMaster dresses in cheap suits, “like a beer salesman.”

5. Trump called Attorney General Jeff Sessions a “traitor” and “mentally retarded”

Woodward writes that Trump called Sessions, a frequent target of his public ire, a “traitor” for recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

“This guy is mentally retarded,” he reportedly said. “He’s this dumb Southerner. … He couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama.”

6. Trump demeaned Rudy Giuliani by describing him as a baby that got his diaper changed on live television

After the release of the Access Hollywood tape during the 2016 campaign, in which Trump bragged about groping women, Rudy Giuliani was one of the few surrogates that went on TV to defend him.

“Rudy, you’re a baby,” Trump said after Giuliani’s TV hit. “I’ve never seen a worse defense of me in my life. They took your diaper off right there. You’re like a little baby that needed to be changed. When are you going to be a man?”

7. After Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical attack, Trump demanded Mattis assassinate him

Per the Post:

After Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad launched a chemical attack on civilians in April 2017, Trump called Mattis and said he wanted to assassinate the dictator. “Let’s fucking kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the fucking lot of them,” Trump said, according to Woodward.

Mattis told the president that he would get right on it. But after hanging up the phone, he told a senior aide: “We’re not going to do any of that. We’re going to be much more measured.” The national security team developed options for the more conventional airstrike that Trump ultimately ordered.

8. Senior aides steal documents off Trump’s desk

Gary Cohn, Trump’s former top economic adviser, took documents off Trump’s desk to thwart his attempts to pull out of trade agreements, per Woodward:

Cohn, a Wall Street veteran, tried to tamp down Trump’s strident nationalism regarding trade. According to Woodward, Cohn “stole a letter off Trump’s desk” that the president was intending to sign to formally withdraw the United States from a trade agreement with South Korea. Cohn later told an associate that he removed the letter to protect national security and that Trump did not notice that it was missing.

Cohen pulled a similar move when Trump was threatening to pull out of NAFTA.

9. Trump said his reluctant condemnation of white supremacists after Charlottesville was “the biggest fucking mistake I’ve made”

Per the Post:

Trump was sharply criticized for initially saying that “both sides” were to blame. At the urging of advisers, he then condemned white supremacists and neo-Nazis, but almost immediately told aides, “That was the biggest fucking mistake I’ve made” and the “worst speech I’ve ever given,” according to Woodward’s account.

10. Cohn threatened to resign over Trump’s response to the Charlottesville rally, which Trump called “treason”

When Cohn gave Trump his resignation letter, the president accused him of “treason”, and convinced him to stick around.

Kelly had similar sentiments to Cohn. “I would have taken that resignation letter and shoved it up his ass six different times,” Woodward reports Kelly told Cohn.

11. Trump’s legal team desperately tried to convince Mueller that the president can’t sit through an interview without lying

John Dowd, Trump’s former lawyer, really did not want the president to testify to Mueller under oath.

According to CNN’s report on Fear, Woodward reports that Trump’s lawyers held a mock interview with Mueller to see how the president would fare.

Trump failed, and Dowd concluded he could not sit for an interview under oath with Mueller without committing perjury.

Per CNN, Dowd took that information to Mueller:

Then, in an even more remarkable move, Dowd and Trump’s current personal attorney Jay Sekulow went to Mueller’s office and re-enacted the mock interview. Their goal: to argue that Trump couldn’t possibly testify because he was incapable of telling the truth.

“He just made something up. That’s his nature,” Dowd said to Mueller.

Washington Post reports Dowd told Mueller the interview would also make the U.S. president “look like an idiot”:

“I’m not going to sit there and let him look like an idiot. And you publish that transcript, because everything leaks in Washington, and the guys overseas are going to say, ‘I told you he was an idiot. I told you he was a goddamn dumbbell. What are we dealing with this idiot for?’”

“John, I understand,” Mueller reportedly replied.

To Trump, Dowd put it bluntly: “Don’t testify. It’s either that or an orange jumpsuit.”

Trump disagreed, assuring Dowd: “I’ll be a real good witness.” Dowd disagreed, and resigned the next day, per the Post.

Music and the Struggle for the Soul of the West

One of the most interesting and insightful articles I have ever come across. Odd title perhaps – O Magnum Mysterium – but this tells you what you need to know.

From the time of the troubadours and the trouveres of the Crusades, the advances in Western thought have not only been mirrored in our music, but occasioned by it, from Guillaume de Machaut, Josquin des Prez and Pierre de la Rue, to Obrecht and Ockegham, to Palestrina to Johann Sebastian Bach. A popular song such as “L’homme armé” could become the subject of numerous medieval masses, not because of its secular origin (although that certainly helped, as the worshippers would respond to its familiarity), but because its implicit polyphonic structure could be successfully and inventively exploited by composers across Europe, leading to ever more complex and inventive ways of using the material.

Yes, masses. Because the development of European polyphony was, like religious dogma itself, inspired by Aristotelian ideas of free inquiry and the teleological impulses of both Judaism and Christianity. Music, like faith, has to be headed somewhere. Our lives may be temporally constricted, but freedom of inquiry is not.

And the writer is someone to contend with, a true scholar:

Michael Walsh was for sixteen years the music critic and foreign correspondent for Time, for which he covered the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. His works include the non-fiction best-seller The Devil’s Pleasure Palace (2017); this article is an extract from its sequel, The Fiery Angel: Art, Culture, Sex, Politics, and the Struggle for the Soul of the West, which was published by Encounter Books in May.

“A Sociopathic Philosophy Conceived in Gross Error and Ignorance”

A note to me from the author.

If you want to stop and reverse the resurgence of socialist ideas on campus and elsewhere, here’s an excellent vehicle for doing it:

This thirty-three thousand word essay is now available in Kindle format at for just 99¢. Go here to order it.

Royalty free licenses are available for anyone who wants to assign the essay to a class or distribute it to any special group, such as the members of an organization or its contributors, or to one’s personal list of friends and associates. Write to me at to request such a license along with a copy from which duplicates can be made either for distribution online or in hardcopy format.

You gotta try, but the hill to climb does keep getting steeper and more difficult. Might just mention Scott Johnson discusses just this today: Socialism as a Hate Crime. What is there not to understand about one of the most intense political failures in the history of the human race? But whatever there is, no actual real world experience ever seems to get vast numbers to see the disastrous futures they plan for themselves should they actually achieve their political ends.

A reading list of original and influential liberal thinkers

This just arrived in my inbox and may be of interest. The question asked is who among the great liberal philosophers should be included in a course on Western Civilisation.

Dear colleagues and friends,
For the 175th anniversary editor of The Economist is launching Open Future, an initiative to discuss liberal values and policies in the 21st century.
I have just crossed this online article about a series on influential liberal thinkers and some critics. It explicitly asks readers to diversify its preliminary list by submitting further suggestions: 
This may interest some of you.

“Liberal”, as the article notes, is now a much contested term. This is what The Economist writes:

The definition of liberalism has long been the source of disagreement. The very term has come to mean “progressive” in the United States, whereas in Britain it has kept its older meaning of being respectful of individual freedom and the wisdom that can be drawn from free thought and open debate.

Once liberalism was invaded by the Fabians, I’m not sure all that much of its original meaning remains, but with Jordan Peterson and others like him prowling about, who knows what the future might bring.

The Deep State and Donald Trump

Back in Oz and the first thing I see at the airport is that ludicrous front page on The Australian: Putin backlash hits Trump after Helsinki summit supplemented by its fool editor-at-large Paul Kelly with his Friends betrayed, foes rewarded: Trump’s Russia reset, not to mention the foreign editor with his ridiculous Trump’s duty to call out Putin for crimes.

As it happens, I spent the journey home reading my signed copy of The Deep State: 15 Surprising Dangers You Should Know which essentially highlights everything you knew but through the sheer massing of the facts and the detail really does bring the dangers presented by our “elites” to a level of clarity that is quite quite astonishing. If you are anti-Trump then you are trying to contrive a Venezuelan future for us as well. You are either ignorant, stupid or malevolent, but there is no justification for running an anti-Trump screed when the American President is all that stands between us and a socialist future of wealthy elites who use politically correct thoughts to identify their ideological enemies, who are, in general, you and me. Then there is Tucker Carlson who discusses these things as well.

John Brennan is mentioned everywhere by everyone. Well how about knowing this when you hear his name, and he is merely representative and in no way an outlier: John Brennan Entered CIA in 1980 Though Voted Communist in 1976:

Barack Obama’s CIA chief, John Brennan, told the Annual Legislative Conference of the Congressional Black Caucus, on 15 September 2016, in Washington DC, that when he had applied in 1980 to join the CIA, he admitted to them that in the 1976 Presidential election, when Jimmy Carter was running against Gerald Ford, Brennan had voted instead for the candidate of the US Communist Party, Gus Hall, and that he was then greatly relieved to find that this information didn’t cause rejection of his CIA-application.

These people are our enemies, and to see them quoted in the mainstream is not just a disgrace but something you really need to fear.

AND IN ADDITION: From P in the comments with gratitude: Everyone Is Smart Except Trump. Here are the first and last paras but you really should read it all.

It really is quite simple. Everyone is smart except Donald J. Trump. That’s why they all are billionaires and all got elected President. Only Trump does not know what he is doing. Only Trump does not know how to negotiate with Vladimir Putin. Anderson Cooper knows how to stand up to Putin. The whole crowd at MSNBC does. All the journalists do. . . .

What has Anderson Cooper achieved during that period? Jim Acosta or the editorial staffs of the New York Times and Washington Post? They have not even found the courage and strength to stand up to the coworkers and celebrities within their orbits who abuse sexually or psychologically or emotionally. They have no accomplishments to compare to his. Just their effete opinions, all echoing each other, all echoing, echoing, echoing. They gave us eight years of Nobel Peace Laureate Obama negotiating with the ISIS JV team, calming the rise of the oceans, and healing the planet.

We will take Trump negotiating with Putin any day.

Philip Roth has passed away

If you asked me to name my favourite author, it wouldn’t be Philip Roth, although I may have read more of his novels than any other fiction writer I can think of, so perhaps he is. Alas, he will write no longer, as he has just passed away at 85, and it seems he had stopped writing anyway in 2012 although I hadn’t noticed but had to find out from his obituary. The obit is from the New York Times so is bound to miss almost everything of significance, but as I read Roth over the years, my most certain conviction is that he had drifted from the left to the right, or at least he ended up being able to describe the world not only as I saw it, but seems to have also undergone the same transformation. Let me just quote this:

In his 60s, an age when many writers are winding down, he produced an exceptional sequence of historical novels — “American Pastoral,” “The Human Stain” and “I Married a Communist” — a product of his personal re-engagement with America and American themes.

I read all three as my own private possessions, but let me share with you, in particular, American Pastoral. A melancholy looking back at the madness of the 1960s (for which, I now find, he won the Pulitzer Prize). He also won the initial Franz Kafka Prize in 2001, which I would be more impressed with if the latest winner wasn’t Margaret Atwood. But this is the aim of the award which Roth fully deserved:

The criteria for winning the award include the artwork’s “humanistic character and contribution to cultural, national, language and religious tolerance, its existential, timeless character, its generally human validity and its ability to hand over a testimony about our times.”

Close enough. More important, he was a great story teller who wrote about things that really matter in a way that helps you see what’s there.

MAYBE HE WAS NEVER ON THE LEFT: I just assumed it since he was from New York and all the right people seemed to like his work. But now I’ve come upon this: Philip Roth on Getting Kicked out of Prague, and this was in 1977.

From 1972 through 1977, I traveled to Prague every spring for a week or ten days to see a group of writers, journalists, historians, and professors there who were being persecuted by the Soviet-backed totalitarian Czech regime.

I was followed by a plainclothesman most of the time I was there and my hotel room was bugged, as was the room’s telephone. However, it was not until 1977, when I was leaving an art museum where I’d gone to see a ludicrous exhibition of Soviet socialist realism painting, that I was detained by the police. The incident was unsettling and the next day, heeding their suggestion, I left the country.

And stayed away until the Soviets themselves went away. Very impressive.

AND A BIT MORE: Titled Goodbye Colossus which seems to confirm my take was more general:

In 2006, the New York Times Book Review asked literary scholars, writers, and critics to name “the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years.” The book that received the most votes was Beloved by Toni Morrison; but the author who received the most votes was Philip Roth—although the votes for his work were split amongst an astounding seven different novels.

Such objective metrics confirm what, for many, has long been a subjective reality: Philip Roth is the Beethoven of modern American literature. In my view, at least, there is Roth and then there is everybody else. Yes, we enjoy the brilliant Mozartean concertos of John Updike, but nothing quite does it like the Beethovian reverie of Roth. Nowhere else do we find the ferocious passion and pathos, the unfiltered bathos and manic wit, the unsparing humor and surprising compassion, and the relentless, propulsive, vitalistic force of life as we find it in Roth’s fiction. His may not be the literary art of, say, Thomas Mann, but it feels animated as if by the life-force itself. If we read (as Harold Bloom has written) “in search of more life,” when we arrive at Roth, we have found it.

Sometimes the good die old

Working the Graveyard Shift as I do, I thought I should mention for the record the passing of two of the all-time great authors. The first is Bernard Lewis, and this is from Roger Franklin at Quadrant Online:

Vale Bernard Lewis

bernard lewis

To reach the age of 101 is by any reckoning a pretty fair innings, but mere longevity was the least of Bernard Lewis’ achievements. The author of some 30 books and hundreds of articles passed away on Saturday (May 19) at an assisted-living home in New Jersey, where he spent his final years. As the Jerusalem Post puts it

Lewis was a leading scholar on Oriental and Middle Eastern studies. His study of antisemitism, Semites and Anti-Semites was a cry against Soviet and Arab attempts to delegitimize Israel … he argued Arab rage against Israel was disproportionate to other tragedies or injustices in the Muslim world.

Quadrant‘s Daryl McCann addressed Lewis’ work and his critics on the Left, not least the late and unlamented Edward Said, in our October, 2012, edition. His essay, Bernard Lewis and the Dangerous Creed of Freedom, can be read via this link.

The other is Tom Wolfe who passed away last week at 88. I had been scouting for someone who sees him as I do, but having begun with The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test in 1968 – and you cannot imagine what a blast it was at the time – and then eventually ended up with his The Kingdom of Speech, his last book, for which I did a rave review* also at Quadrant [November 2016 but, alas, not online], it has been not easy to find someone who covers the terrain. It was not his fiction I truly enjoyed, but “the new journalism”, if you will pardon the expression, since we are talking about something that began fifty years ago. So let me snatch these bits from John Derbyshire’s 2004 review of I am Charlotte Simmons, which fiction though it is, where the right sort of sentiments are struck.

• The political incorrectness. Well, not exactly that. Tom Wolfe takes no point of view, has no bill of goods to sell. He just calmly, coolly records the way things are, the way people look and talk, the commonplace, mostly harmless, prejudices and solidarities that have survived 30 years of relentless media and educational indoctrination against them.

• The class angle. Modern U.S. society is addled with class snobbery. Poor and rural Americans are coarse-looking, ill-dressed, speak in dialect, and have lousy dietary habits. Rich suburban and high-urban Americans would much rather have nothing to do with them. When confrontations do occur, the rustics are insecure but defensive, the rich patronizing but impatient, with a frisson of guilt. Again, these are things known to everyone, but we are not supposed to notice them. Wolfe does notice them, and draws them to a “t.”

• The cold eye. I don’t know how the future will rank Tom Wolfe as a novelist, but he is a simply terrific journalist. Oh, sure, he exaggerates some when writing fiction to get the effects he wants; but you could put a Wolfe novel under a steel-mill press and not squeeze a single drop of sentimentality out of it. Wolfe’s authorial tone to the reader is: You don’t have to like this, and I’m not too crazy about it myself, but this is the way it is, and we both know it. Our society is awash with the grossest kind of sentimentality — in movies and TV, saturating the sappy nostrums of the Sunday magazine-supplements and corporate mission statements, pouring in from self-help cranks, victim-industry moaners and weepers, love-the-world useful-idiot politicians and Oprah-fied pain-feelers. Wolfe is the antidote to all this sugary glop. There isn’t enough of him to have much effect, unfortunately; but when you’re drowning in treacle, the merest squirt of lemon juice is refreshing. Wolfe worships the God Kipling worshipped, The God of Things As They Are.

• Typographical vitality. A copy editor once sent back a manuscript of mine with all the italics, semicolons, dashes, parentheses, and exclamation marks stripped out. She was, I learned later, a disciple of some dogmatic imbecile — was it Strunk? — who had pronounced that the barest text was the best text. Well, the hell with her, and him. Our Tom shares my opinion that every key on the keyboard is there to be used, including the shift key. In I Am Charlotte Simmons he has even ventured a typographic innovation (I think — it is new to me, at any rate): using strings of colons for ellipses in interrupted or disconnected thought. Like this:

::::::trying not to look at him::::::the condom, the ball-peen hammer::::::the undertow again::::::the Doubts::::::more time::::::can’t think spinning like this!::::::Look, Hoyt::::::just wait a second, okay?::::::

• Neat plotting. Wolfe isn’t one of the great plotters — not a Wodehouse, not even a Trollope — but he understands the principles of moral balance and equity that make a novel satisfying to the reader. Virtue need not triumph, but ought at least survive; evil need not be routed, but ought at least be chastened; and there must be a sufficient number of secondary characters we are sufficiently interested in that the author’s giving us some hint of their subsequent fate at the book’s end adds minor satisfactions to the major ones.

* The last para of that review:

In the meantime, I hope there are many who find their way to The Kingdom of Speech which is an amazing read on so many levels, not least of which being how revealing it is about how ideas are formed and sustained across time.


I was sorry to hear of the death of the great scholar (and, indeed, psychoanalyst) of Islam Bernard Lewis, a few weeks shy of his 102nd birthday. Nobody is terribly sad when a chap has enjoyed a 50 per cent bonus on his three-score-and-ten – “he had a good innings”, etc – but Bernard was trenchant and vigorous into his late nineties, and there was no one like him, and thus no one to replace him when it comes to a thoroughly informed perspective on the peculiar psychoses of the Islamic world. He was pretty solid on the west’s psychoses, too, because he was old enough to remember what we had been. I quote him toward the end of my book America Alone:

Bernard Lewis, the west’s preeminent scholar of Islam, worked for British intelligence through the grimmest hours of the Second World War. ‘In 1940, we knew who we were, we knew who the enemy was, we knew the dangers and the issues,’ he told The Wall Street Journal. ‘In our island, we knew we would prevail, that the Americans would be drawn into the fight. It is different today. We don’t know who we are, we don’t know the issues, and we still do not understand the nature of the enemy.’

All true.

As to his aforementioned vigor, at the embarkation of a National Review cruise, I once followed him down the corridor to our adjoining cabins. Bernard was then a mere whippersnapper of 93 or so, and I was startled to see, as his crushed linen jacket shrank into the distance, that he was opening up the gap between us with every confident stride.

At a convivial smoker, either on that cruise or another, Bernard and I were engaged in a long conversation à deux – and, out of the corner of my eye, I became vaguely aware of a National Review reader hovering, circling around and then re-hovering. About half-an-hour later, Bernard went off to work the room or whatever, and the hoverer came up to me. “Sorry about that,” he said. “I wanted to come and join you, but the two of you were so animated going back and forth that I didn’t want to interrupt. You looked as if you were hashing out the future of the world. What were you talking about? Iraq? Wahhabi reforms in Saudi? Erdoğan’s dismantling of Turkey?”

“Actually,” I replied, “we were talking about favorite Noël Coward lyrics, with a lengthy digression into Jack Buchanan” – including “And Her Mother Came Too” (which you can hear on our Mother’s Day audio special). These were the songs he knew from his days as a young student at the School of Oriental Studies in the mid-Thirties, and the memory of them warmed him three-quarters of a century later – a small but vital part of “knowing who we are”. No one saw the big picture more clearly, but he had room for the small pleasures, too: A man in full, and marvelous company almost to the end. Rest in peace.