The Flight from Truth by Jean-François Revel

A fine review of a book published in 1991 that is astonishing in its ability to see into the future and exactly captures the ideological world we are in right now. I will do my own review of it in the next week or so, but this will give you some sense of what there is. I will only say there is much much more and is the most insightful work on our present dilemma I have come across, but no one would write it today – well maybe Thomas Sowell – but I fear even more that no one would publish it. Here’s the review.

BOOK REVIEW: THE FLIGHT FROM TRUTH

by 

The Flight from Truth: The Reign of Deceit in the Age of Information by Jean-Francois Revel (New York: Random House, 1991); 408 pages; $25.When Jean-Francois Revel published How Democracies Perish in the early 1980s, he wanted to deliver a warning to the nations of the West that the Soviet Union was being allowed to win the Cold War. This threatened victory of communism, he argued, was not due to any inherent superiority in the Soviet model. Rather, it was coming about due to weakness in the democratic West. As a conservative, Mr. Revel was worried about a failure of will by the Western nations to stand up militarily to the perceived Soviet threat. But the core of his argument was an ideological one: the West had surrendered its vision and its understanding of why a free, open, market-oriented society was both moral and prosperous. Western intellectuals had accepted the premises of socialism and welfare statism. And as a consequence, the war of ideas and ideology around the world was being won by the Soviet Union.

Now, in the early 1990s, socialism in the form of the Soviet threat is gone. Communism has collapsed in the country in which it was first implemented because of its own internal weaknesses and contradictions. But the West, unfortunately, still suffers from the same ideological problems that Mr. Revel wrote about ten years ago. And this is the theme of his new book, The Flight from Truth: The Reign of Deceit in the Age of Information.

Every one of the premises of the Left has been refuted by the failure of the socialist experiment. Socialism brought neither freedom, justice nor prosperity. Rather, socialism produced cruel despotisms, privilege and corruption, and economic distortion and poverty. But this is a reality that is too disturbing for many on the Left to accept. To admit the truth would shatter their beliefs, dreams and desires.

So, instead of accepting the truth, the Left has continued to construct deceptions and distortions of reality to protect and guard their most cherished premises. Mr. Revel explains that the heart of these deceptions has revolved around the attempt to prevent discussions of human-rights abuses and economic stagnation in socialist states and to limit all such discussions to “right-wing” dictatorships or Western nations. The standard reply to criticisms of socialism has not been a straight answer to meet the charges. Instead, the critic has been accused of ignoring equal or even greater abuses in capitalist countries and being so paranoid about communism that he is blind to the ever-threatening resurgence of fascism. Hence, the critic has been sidetracked into a debate over the possible revival of fascist dictatorships and away from the reality of the socialist experiment.

The second line of defense, Mr. Revel argues, is the use by the Left of the charge of racism. Insisting that there is no greater evil and danger in the world than racism and racial discrimination, the Left reduces all social and cultural tensions between people to one dimension: race. In discussions about the Third World, the only human-rights abuses of significance to the Left are those in South Africa under apartheid — and for the Left, apartheid is nothing more than a degenerate form of capitalism. That millions have died from socialist-produced famines in black-ruled African countries — that Marxist regimes in black Africa have tortured and murdered tens of thousands of their own people — does not even go down an Orwellian memory-hole; for to be erased from the record would imply that these events in Africa were reported in the press, when, in fact, they occurred in an informational void, ignored by most of the press in the West.

When the Left has been challenged about socialist tyranny in Africa, the response has often been that freedom without development is meaningless. As @&. Revel says, “I was under the impression that freedom was good in itself, independent of the standard of living of the population…. In reality, if democracy without development was meaningless, then neither the French or the American revolution nor the British reform movement should have been undertaken.” And he asks, “[Wlho would be qualified to fix the degree of development above which a democracy ceases to be ‘nothing’ and becomes ‘something’?”

All of dim tendencies in evading the truth of the socialist experience and fabricating smoke screens in reality’s place, Mr. Revel argues, have been bolstered by a journalistic community that views itself as an advocate of “good causes,” rather than as reporters of events; by an academic community that views its task as one to remold the minds of the youth in their charge; by an intellectual community that has nothing but ridicule and hate for their own society.
The perspective from which most of the members of these communities approach their duties is moderate to extreme Leftism.

And even now in a post-communist era, the lies and flights from truth will continue to persist. Why? Because what many of these people really want is not so much the success of socialism as the destruction of capitalism. Their hatred, fear and contempt of human freedom and the market economy will survive the demise of a thousand socialist experiments. And that is the real face of the enemy.

Let me link to one other that seem to make the point, and it is relatively recent as well, from 2011: Managed truth: The great danger to our republic which begins with a very astute comment:

French social critic Frederic Bastiat (1801–1850) once said, “The worst thing that can happen to a good cause is not to be skillfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended.”

He also discusses the arrival of Keynesian economics as part of this process.

In his General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (1936), Keynes advocated the planning of a nation’s economic life, political supervision of private industry, and manipulation of the currency, that is, a massive increase in the size and scope of government. The first enthusiastic review of Keynes’ General Theory by a professional economist was by G. D. H. Cole, an avowed Marxist and a founding member of the Fabian Society. Two of the strongest proponents in America were government officials in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration, Lauchlin Currie and Harry Dexter White, both proven communists. Keynes himself was quoted as saying, “The Republic of my imagination lies on the extreme left of celestial space.”[24] Despite this, Keynesian economics dominated the American economy until the election of Ronald Reagan, after which it was declared dead. Unfortunately, the corpse continues to convulse and has now arisen as a zombie, more difficult to kill than ever.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect and the ignorance of experts

Sent to me from an old friend. That I can still have friends who find this video appealing says more about them than about myself. The intent is to prove what a self-confident dunce the American president is. For myself, listening to the text leaves me colder than cold. Not to distinguish between immigrants and illegal immigrants is one of those slither-past issues that the video makes hay with. Or to think the issue over the EPA is anything other than the utter idiocy of global warming, and even quotes the 97% statistic! Having been put together in 2017, it was made before the overwhelming evidence that the American economy is booming and manufacturing jobs are returning, so on yet another score it misses the point. And what’s the latest opinion on bringing home troops from Syria? My friend writes in his accompanying email:

‘The tag line is “The enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge”‘

which is the essence of the Dunning-Kruger effect, adding:

‘which may have direct implications for your continuing battles with orthodox academia.’

And so it might. But if I find any particular statement fits my mood in dealing with economic theory, it is from Richard Feynman:

Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.

Which applies as much to modern macro as it does to the modern Administrative State. As for the illusion of knowledge, what I find more incredible is the absence of knowledge. The media’s main role has been to ensure that only one side of the case is ever freely available. If news reporting were ever to become unbiased and honest – which it won’t – the parties of the left would never win another election until they too became parties of the right.

After 1400 years what will change and why would it?

Top Islamic authority lists twenty evil qualities the Qur’an attributes to Jews. This is the list.

The following article, with its numbered list of twenty Qur’an-sourced statements of anti-Semitism, used to be posted at IslamOnline.net, but the scandal of it apparently made them think it prudent to take it down. It can now be found at numerous sites on the web by pasting some of the text into Google. Sheikh ‘Atiyyah Saqr (died 2006), the Head of the Fatwa Committee at Al-Azhar University, the chief center of Islamic and Arabic learning in the world, wrote it:

“The Qur’an has specified a considerable deal of its verses to talking about Jews, their personal qualities and characteristics. The Qur’anic description of Jews is quite impartial; praising them in some occasions where they deserve praise and condemning them in other occasions where they practice blameworthy acts. Yet, the latter occasions outnumbered the former, due to their bad qualities and the heinous acts they used to commit.

The Qur’an praises them on the verse that reads: “ And verily We gave the Children of Israel the Scripture and the Command and the Prophethood, and provided them with good things and favored them above (all) peoples.” i.e. the peoples of their time. (Qur’an 45:16)

Among the bad qualities they were characterized with are the following:

1. They used to fabricate things and falsely ascribe them to Allah. Allah Almighty says: “ That is because they say: We have no duty to the Gentiles. They speak a lie concerning Allah knowingly.” (Qur’an 3:75) Also: “The Jews say: Allah’s hand is fettered. Their hands are fettered and they are accursed for saying so. Nay, but both His hands are spread out wide in bounty. He bestoweth as He will.” (Qur’an 5:64)

In another verse Almighty Allah says: “Verily Allah heard the saying of those who said, (when asked for contributions to the war): “Allah, forsooth, is poor, and we are rich! We shall record their saying with their slaying of the Prophets wrongfully and We shall say: Taste ye the punishment of burning!” (Qur’an 3:181)

2. They love to listen to lies.Concerning this Allah says: “and of the Jews: listeners for the sake of falsehood, listeners on behalf of other folk” (Qur’an 5:41)

3. Disobeying Almighty Allah and never observing His commands. Allah says: “And because of their breaking their covenant, We have cursed them and made hard their hearts.” (Qur’an 5:13)

4. Disputing and quarreling. This is clear in the verse that reads: “Their Prophet said unto them: Lo! Allah hath raised up Saul to be a king for you. They said: How can he have kingdom over us when we are more deserving of the kingdom than he is, since he hath not been given wealth enough?” (Qur’an 2:247)

5. Hiding the truth and standing for misleading. This can be understood from the verse that reads: “…distort the Scripture with their tongues, that ye may think that what they say is from the Scripture, when it is not from the Scripture.” (Qur’an 3:78)

6. Staging rebellion against the Prophets and rejecting their guidance. This is clear in the verse: “And when ye said: O Moses! We will not believe in thee till we see Allah plainly.” (Qur’an 2:55)

7. Hypocrisy. In a verse, we read: “And when they fall in with those who believe, they say: We believe; but when they go apart to their devils they declare: Lo! we are with you; verily we did but mock.” (Qur’an 2:14) In another verse, we read: “Enjoin ye righteousness upon mankind while ye yourselves forget (to practice it)? And ye are readers of the Scripture! Have ye then no sense?” (Qur’an 2:44)

8. Giving preference to their own interests over the rulings of religion and the dictates of truth. Allah says: “…when there cometh unto you a messenger (from Allah) with that which ye yourselves desire not, ye grow arrogant, and some ye disbelieve and some ye slay?”(Qur’an 2:87)

9. Wishing evil for people and trying to mislead them. This is clear in the verse that reads: “Many of the People of the Scripture long to make you disbelievers after your belief, through envy on their own account, after the truth hath become manifest unto them.” (Qur’an 2:109)

10. They feel pain to see others in happiness and are gleeful when others are afflicted with a calamity.This is clear in the verse that reads: “If a lucky chance befall you, it is evil unto them, and if disaster strike you they rejoice thereat.” (Qur’an 3:120)

11. They are known of their arrogance and haughtiness. They claimed to be the sons and of Allah and His beloved ones. Allah tells us about this in the verse that reads: “The Jews and Christians say: We are sons of Allah and His loved ones.” (Qur’an 5:18)

12. Utilitarianism and opportunism are among their innate traits. This is clear in the verse that reads: “And of their taking usury when they were forbidden it, and of their devouring people’s wealth by false pretenses.” (Qur’an 4:161)

13. Their impoliteness and indecent way of speech is beyond description.Referring to this, the Qur’anic verse reads: “Some of those who are Jews change words from their context and say: “We hear and disobey; hear thou as one who heareth not” and “Listen to us!” distorting with their tongues and slandering religion. If they had said: “We hear and we obey; hear thou, and look at us” it had been better for them, and more upright. But Allah hath cursed them for their disbelief, so they believe not, save a few.” (Qur’an 4:46)

14. It is easy for them to slay people and kill innocents. Nothing in the world is dear to their hearts than shedding blood and murdering human beings. They never give up this trait even with the Messengers and the Prophets. Allah says: “…and slew the prophets wrongfully.” (Qur’an 2:61)

15. They are merciless and heartless. In this meaning, the Qur’anic verse explains: “Then, even after that, your hearts were hardened and became as rocks, or worse than rocks, for hardness.” (Qur’an 2:74)

16. They never keep their promises or fulfill their words. Almighty Allah says: “Is it ever so that when ye make a covenant a party of you set it aside? The truth is, most of them believe not.” (Qur’an 2:100)

17. They rush hurriedly to sins and compete in transgression. Allah says: “They restrained not one another from the wickedness they did. Verily evil was that they used to do!” (Qur’an 5:79)

18. Cowardice and their love for this worldly life are their undisputable traits. To this, the Qur’an refers when saying: “Ye are more awful as a fear in their bosoms than Allah. That is because they are a folk who understand not. They will not fight against you in a body save in fortified villages or from behind walls. Their adversity among themselves is very great. Ye think of them as a whole whereas their hearts are divers.” (Qur’an 59:13 and Qur’an 59:14). Allah Almighty also says: “And thou wilt find them greediest of mankind for life and (greedier) than the idolaters.” (Qur’an 2:96)

19. Miserliness runs deep in their hearts. Describing this, the Qur’an states: “Or have they even a share in the Sovereignty? Then in that case, they would not give mankind even the speck on a date stone.” (Qur’an 4:53)

20. Distorting Divine Revelation and Allah’s Sacred Books. Allah says in this regard: “Therefore woe be unto those who write the Scripture with their hands anthem say, “This is from Allah,” that they may purchase a small gain therewith. Woe unto them for that their hands have written, and woe unto them for that they earn thereby.” (Qur’an 2:79)

After this clear explanation, we would like to note that these are but some of the most famous traits of the Jews as described in the Qur’an. They have revolted against the Divine ordinances, distorted what has been revealed to them and invented new teachings which, they claimed, were much more better than what has been recorded in the Torah. It was for these traits that they found no warm reception in all countries where they tried to reside. Rather, they would either be driven out or live in isolation. It was Almighty Allah who placed on them His Wrath and made them den of humiliation due to their transgression. Almighty Allah told us that He’d send to them people who’d pour on them rain of severe punishment that would last till the Day of Resurrection. All this gives us glad tidings of the coming victory of Muslims over them once Muslims stick to strong faith and belief in Allah and adopt the modern means of technology.”

Also at the link are “LINKS TO CORE ISLAMIC TEXTS AND OTHER DATA” that are equally enlightening.

The true nature of things likes to conceal itself

The proper title of this article is, In defence of Donald Trump, a man of character among a pack of dogs. This is how it ends with much of good sense before the end is reached.

I don’t know anyone who voted for Donald Trump, or who later came to support him, because he thought the president was a candidate for sainthood.

On the contrary, people supported him, first, because of what he promised to do and, second, because of what, over the past two years, he has accomplished. These accomplishments, from rolling back the regulatory state and scores of conservative judicial appointments, from moving our Israeli embassy to Jerusalem to resuscitating our military, working to end Obamacare, and fighting to keep our borders secure, are not morally neutral data points. They are evidences of a political vision and of promises made and kept. They are, in short, evidences of what sort of character Donald Trump is.

Add them up and I think they go a long way towards a definition of good character that Donald Trump can clear.

Voltaire, writing against Rousseau and his self-intoxicated paeans to “virtue,” occupied a similar semantic neighborhood: “What is virtue, my friend?” Voltaire asked. “It is to do good: let us do it, and that’s enough. We won’t look into your motives.”

Character is not destiny. The future is not fixed. We have a right to hope.

And in this spirit, the best to you all for the New Year.

Crossword puzzle knowledge and Donald Trump

There are two kinds of knowledge in the world, Crossword Puzzle Knowledge and then there is Knowing How Things are Done. As an intellectual with a social sciences background, I have the first kind of knowledge, where just about nothing I know or know how to do would be of any use to someone living either a hundred years ago, a thousand years ago or at any time besides the present. And then there are the genuine kinds of knowledge, which are based on the development of our scientific understanding of the natural world that surrounds us, the kinds of people who not only know “germs” cause disease, but are able to turn that knowledge into practical outcomes in real time for real people. Which brings me to this, whose title I have amended to this: Why Intellectuals Hate Trump. Here the focus is on why going even beyond the demented socialists of the left, even among those on the right there is a disdain for the American President.

The anti-Trump right-wing intellectual bristles at a political system that does not “appropriately” value their “expertise” and “superior” knowledge and which, consequently, elevates a “buffoon” like Trump to the presidency—and on the shoulders of millions of those “deplorables,” no less. Anti-Trump right-wing intellectuals traffic in information, the gold standard in today’s world, something upon which we are ever-more reliant. Yet, in this arena, the American electorate defied them and their harebrained “proposals,” offered coercively, not through persuasion. Brazenly so. Thus, they resent the man who smashed their pretensions of politics-as-white-paper-drafting-session and roundly repudiated their perceived “right to rule.

These people are the Crossword Puzzle (CWP) brigade, who know a million things like what’s the capital of Morocco, but not how to actually get things done. The President, who in fact knows quite a lot of CWP forms of knowledge, also knows how things work and knows how to get things done. And the resentment of the CWP types for those who know how to get things done is immense. But sickening.

Almost every significant city in the eastern Mediterranean world was destroyed

Total collapse of civilisation in the 12th century BC.

One of the biggest mysteries in history is the late Bronze Age Collapse. There’s no good explanation for why an early globalized civilization should suddenly disappear at around 1177 BC. “Within a period of forty to fifty years at the end of the thirteenth and the beginning of the twelfth century almost every significant city in the eastern Mediterranean world was destroyed, many of them never to be occupied again.”

There is no explaining the inexplicable, but one may nevertheless still wonder. A story I have never come across before, told as if it is common knowledge.