Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Will To Believe

     You would think, more than a year into the presidency of Donald Trump, that the talking heads would have relaxed to it. You would think that to be indisputable on the Right, inasmuch as Trump has followed a course more conservative, and more swiftly effective, than the first year of the Reagan Administration. You would think that the applause for Trump from the Heritage Foundation, an unstained bastion of conservative sentiment and thought, would nail it to the barn wall.

     You’d be wrong. The report from the House intelligence committee conducting the Russia probe to the effect that there is no evidence supporting the notion that either campaign colluded with Russia has excited a frenzy in the political and media elite. Some are decrying the committee’s report as partisan, or premature, or what have you. Others are doing their best to back away from positions they’d maintained stoutly before this.

     About 36 minutes into this Special Report video from yesterday evening, comes a panel discussion in which, to quote Ace at AoSHQ:

     Jonah Goldberg emphasized the positive by claiming the big news from the report is that it vindicates the intel agencies' finding that Russia "interfered" in our election. Mollie Hemingway then told him it also knocks down the "Washington consensus" that Trump was a traitor who colluded with Russia.

     At this point, Jonah became visibly angry as he defended the "Washington consensus," as if he were a card-carrying member of it, and essentially defended both the liberal media (such as CNN) and his NeverTrump fellow travelers by claiming that Russia/Trump collusion had never, ever, ever been part of the "Washington consensus." I guess this means, "So I have nothing to apologize for, nor do my palz at CNN."

     Mollie then pointed out that if he and the "Washington consensus" of which he seems so proud and so defensive had not been believers in the collusion narrative, maybe they could have made that clear by explicitly writing what they believed and what they did not believe to be the truth.

     Goldberg was flustered by Hemingway’s riposte. There’s a reason for that: the Punditocracy and the political elite in both parties have strained to associate President Trump with Russian efforts to perturb the 2016 election. Neither the Democrats nor the Republican Establishment nor the media have ever wanted to leave any other impression with the public. All three have done their best to persuade the public – sometimes subtly, sometimes not – that Trump’s accession to the White House is somehow illegitimate. Their pride and prejudices require that they believe and maintain exactly that.

     The will to believe what one wishes to believe can be very strong. Here’s another example:

     How much more self-glorifying can you get? But of course, Hillary Clinton wrote a huge book of excuses and self-exculpations for her election loss. Her vanity demands that she find “victories” beneath her defeat.

     Needless to say, Hillary Clinton would love to see a verdict of collusion with a foreign power against President Trump. Not that it would put her in the Oval Office, of course. But the salve for her wounded ego would be most soothing.

     Wishful thinking is always risky. In politics and political opinion-mongering it can be fatal.

     The aim of the High is to remain where they are. – George Orwell

     The American mind is uncomfortable with the notion of an elite. We have a predisposition toward egalitarianism, even though actual equality among men is impossible. The closest we can come to actual equality is equality in our rights as individuals. This is usually phrased as “equality before the law.”

     But such is the nature of Man that there will always be some who demand to be viewed as superior to others, with all the honors and emoluments attendant thereto. This is the essence of the dynamic of politics: Only persons who believe themselves fit to wield power over others will seek it. Among those, a few will attain their goals while the rest are left behind...but the left-behinds will not cease to believe themselves worthy to rule.

     The same dynamic governs altitude in political commentary. No one who writes political opinion believes that others’ insights and analyses are as good as his. In this field as in politics itself, those who have already established themselves upon the heights will be hostile to the notion that they could ever be seriously wrong. If an “upstart” should challenge them in such a manner, it will provoke them to fury. The panel exchange from yesterday evening’s Special Report provides a tasty example.

     We who ask only to be left alone want clarity of vision and purpose. They who endeavor to rule us – body or mind – want to remain where they are: i.e., to decree and pontificate without challenge or dissent. No one who has attained such a position ever willingly steps down from it. To be challenged by a member of the hoi polloi is to them lese majeste. To be forcibly displaced from the heights is unthinkable.

     I’ve been writing this drivel for more than twenty years. The underlying truths have always been the same. Mankind divides into two mutually hostile groups: those who want to be left alone, and those who refuse to permit it. The former group wriggles and writhes to escape the coils of the latter, while the latter will be damned if it will permit the former to escape.

     Hasn’t anyone spotted a convenient planetoid yet?

     Political tags—such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and. so forth—are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort. -- Robert A. Heinlein


John C. said...

"Mankind divides into two mutually hostile groups: those who want to be left alone, and those who refuse to permit it. "

One of your best social/political lines ever. I'll be quoting that one for a long time. Thanks, Fran.

Linda Fox said...

They've been hectoring at us for years. For them, the problem started when we barked BACK.

We refused, finally, to stay quiet and take the abuse.

And, for them, THAT'S the problem.

jb said...

I second John C's comment, and loved the Heinlein quote.

Likewise, Linda's comment.

Fran - you have done well in your choice of "co-writers" on your site. The Colonel is astute, and acerbic at just the right times, and should Sarah Sanders ever step down from Trump's cabinet, Linda Fox would be an excellent choice to replace her. She can deliver the "zingers" as well as anyone online, and to watch her torch CNN's eunuch, Acosta, would be a delight to watch.