Thursday, September 14, 2017

Self-Exculpation, Self-Glorification, And Standard-Bearers

     Believe it or not, we of the DextroSphere don’t spend all our time looking up obscure words so we’ll sound like the reincarnation of William F. Buckley. Some of us undertake unpleasant tasks so you won’t need to:

     Believe it or not, I have been reading Hillary Clinton’s What Happened, in which she presents her take on why she lost her campaign to become president of the United States. I didn’t spend money on it, mind you. My library had it available for download, so I downloaded it.

     Having now read some 12%, I can say that the book is vintage Hillary, a toxic combination of ambition, distraction, uglification, and derision, all told with a cutesy venom that is simultaneously nauseating and boring. It’s like watching the job interview from Hell, the one in the interviewer asks the interviewee to explain some peculiarities in the resume and to answer that hated question: “What are your greatest weaknesses?”

     After lying about the resume, the interviewee from Hell gets to that dreaded question. As you know, because all of you have prepped for that question, the expected answer is something along the lines of, “My greatest weakness is that I simply don’t know when to stop working. I need to remember that it’s just not fair to do the work of 12 people better and more cheaply than they could do put together.” That type of answer is Hillary all over — boastful, smarmy, and manifestly dishonest.

     (Mind you, the last time I was asked that dreaded “your greatest weaknesses” question, I answered “I don’t have any that are relevant to an occupational context.” When the interviewer insisted that everyone has some such weakness, I replied, “Really? Tell me about yours.” And yes, I got the job. But that’s a subject for another tirade. For now, please read the whole of the linked piece; Bookworm deserves some love for her sufferings.)

     When Mrs. Clinton went down in flames on November 8 of last year, her diehards were at first crushed, and later, outraged. The months since then have been unbelievably instructive for anyone who both paid attention to the Left’s antics and looked for the reasons behind them.

     The Hillary Clinton for President campaign had many flaws, but worst among them was the certainty of victory. As the saying goes, Hillary Clinton was already redecorating the White House well before the balloting occurred. Her smashing defeat was undoubtedly the biggest surprise of her life in the public eye.

     It was also the most unpleasant surprise she’d ever received. To be rejected by the country to whom she’d been portrayed as “inevitable,” who would rescue it from meaninglessness and alienation (and from all the “isms” in the grab-bag of left-wing rhetoric), in favor of a man whom her campaign had styled as Satan incarnate, wasn’t merely a political setback. It was a repudiation of her self-image: an image that had been born in others’ minds, but which she had adopted for moral self-justification.

     Villains nearly always do that. Vanishingly few villains admit to themselves that they’re evil, they intend evil, and they have no personal problems with it. In the case of villains in the American political order, the number is zero. The reason is simple: No one can make a career out of politics in this country without deluding large numbers of persons about the nobility and selflessness of one’s aims, and the best way to make such a posture convincing is to believe it oneself.

     When such a facade falls, the crash is massive. When it falls in public, the disaster underscored by a national election tally, it’s soul-crushing. Any self-deception whatsoever is preferable to admitting to the depth of one’s failure. To one who has practiced self-glorification for several decades, the resort to such a deception is immediate, whole-hearted, and unquestionable.

     This piece, one of my favorites, encapsulates the whole of the Left’s self-protective self-image. It justifies a great many things, most recently the attempts, both legal and illegal, to suppress conservatives’ and libertarians’ rights to free speech and free assembly.

     There’s a half-concealed dichotomy at the base of this matter. Indeed, it’s at the base of every matter ever presented to the world as “a matter of rights.” Rights are one side of an absolute moral-ethical cleavage. On the other side of the line is aggressive force: the use of violence and / or threats of violence to secure some unjust end.

     Note that all-important word “aggressive.” If you must aggress against others to get what you want, it is not yours by right. However, it is perfectly licit to use force in defense of what’s yours by right. This is the one and only basis on which any claim of rights can stand. It’s at the heart of the conception of tyranny.

     The sole exception to the determinations of that cleavage is the “too stupid to know what’s good for him” case. As Milton Friedman said in Capitalism and Freedom, “We do not believe in freedom for children or madmen.” They don’t have the intellectual or emotional wherewithal to avoid harming themselves and others; thus, their exercise of certain rights deemed appropriate to sane adults is restricted. This is why sharp limitations on “child welfare” laws and the use of psychiatric commitment are vital to the defense of freedom for the rest of us: they’re far too easy to use as tools to undercut the rights of sane adults. Just ask Zhores Medvedev.

     The above four paragraphs provide the mirror-image to the Left’s strategy in our time. Concisely put: they desire to suppress all opposition to their schemes. However, the rights to freedom of speech and assembly stand in their way. Therefore, they must claim that the speech and assemblies of their opponents constitute aggressive violence, thus justifying the use of violence to prevent them. If they can succeed at that effort, there will be nothing to stand in the way of their re-ascent to power.

     In large measure, the eruption of Leftist violence against spokesmen and groups on the Right is a reaction to Hillary Clinton’s defeat. The Left is desperate to prevent Americans generally from believing that Donald Trump’s election to the presidency was the legally expressed will of legitimate voters, a conviction that would make it exceedingly difficult to thwart the Trump agenda. But rhetorical cover must be provided for this initiative – and it must include plausible excuses for Mrs. Clinton’s defeat. Viewed thus, we can see Mrs. Clinton’s copious self-exculpations in What Happened as a tactical complement to the Left’s other undertakings. Add the “Russian collusion” thesis, season with Mrs. Clinton’s well-nigh impenetrable belief in her own righteousness, stir well, and serve.

     The above might be regarded as unjustifiable psychologizing. Yet I make no claims to superior insight into the minds of men. I merely reach conclusions from their behavior as observed – and as anyone else with an adequate memory who pays attention to the news could conclude. Hillary Clinton’s defeat, when the Left had selected her as its standard-bearer for the accelerated continuation of its program, is both perfectly consistent with her earlier self-aggrandizements and with the Left’s plain and open strategic direction.

     What Happened will someday be seen as a document of historical importance. It will be paralleled with Hitler’s “stab in the back” rhetoric during his rise, just as the Left’s current street warfare will be paralleled with the Brownshirts’ operations in late Weimar and early Nazi Germany.

     As Bookworm would tell you, that doesn’t mean it’s easy or pleasant reading. Historical documents can be like that. Try Mein Kampf or Das Kapital for examples.

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