The Long View 2005-12-16: Better Paranoia; Testable Origins; Kantian Complacency

The manner in which radial organizations of the Left and Right are supported by organizations with nefarious motives, is a topic that doesn't seem to lose its currency.

Better Paranoia; Testable Origins; Kantian Complacency


Legend has it that, in the days of the Republic of Venice, a hollow statue of a lion stood in the Plaza of St. Mark. Into the statue's mouth informers could drop notes that anonymously identified the enemies of the Republic. For several centuries, that lion was the last word in paranoia technology. Now, however, the folks at Frontpage Magazine have set a new standard with their Discover the Network engine.

In some ways, it's like any other database. You enter the name of someone on the Left you want to know about, or perhaps of some foundation that supports lefty causes, and you will get a prose narrative describing the malefactions of the object of your suspicions. The wonderful part, however, is the Image Map. Click on the icon for that, and you get a spider-web graphic that shows who that party knows and who finances that party's operations.

David Horowitz, whose industry brings us this service, really is onto something. Scratch the surface of the noisier antiwar groups, and you will find that many of its constituent parts belong to the creepy-crawly region of the Left. They are the sort of people who show up for every demonstration, but who have to work through front organizations, because their own agendas are too repulsive to expose to the public. The Frontpage folks also have a lively sense that this old New Left network is now in cahoots with Islamism, which is arguably now the world's most formidable revolutionary ideology.

Still, without having examined the database exhaustively, it seems to me that it misses something. The network is not merely Red-Green, but Red-Brown-Green, at least on the ideological level. Fascists and mystical nationalists are mixed up in it, too. The really radical Right in the US, the LaRouchies, the Russian Eurasianists, and the deformation of Shiism that rules Iran can, at times, be heard to sing a remarkably similar tune. Are there organizational links as well? I don't know, but a hunt merely for the residual Left could obscure the question. The mid-century hopes of Black Traditionalists like Francis Parker Yockey have progressed from insane to merely very unlikely.

* * *

The herd of independent minds is even larger than I thought. I had planned to post here about a certain advertisement that seemed to me to sin against geography, but then I found that many other people had noticed the same thing. Consider Diary of a Necromancer:

A question, raised by lying about watching TV all afternoon because I wasn't exactly up to much else yet: some of you may have seen that CG Coca-Cola commercial where the penguin gives the Coke polar bear a bottle of his favorite sugarwater; now, speaking off the top of your head, do you know if this is a likely scenario? Because I mentioned this to Mum as a prime example of how dumbed-down Society has gotten, and she expressed her doubts as to whether the average American on the street would think twice about the penguin and the polar bear...

There are no polar bears in Antarctica. Apparently, everyone knows this, but we all think that everyone else does not know. The one good point about solipsism is that you have so much company.

Of course, if there were polar bears near the South Pole, they would be antipolar bears.

* * *

Whatever happened to primordial soup? When I was in school, every biology text had a section on Stanley Miller's famous experiment that seemed to suggest that life could be expected to arise spontaneously in a reconstruction of the primitive environment of Earth, which you could reproduce using Tupperware and ordinary household cleansers. Thanks to a link from Danny Yee, however, we can now all get up to speed on the origin-of-life question. Science writer Richard Robinson, in his article Jump-Starting a Cellular World: Investigating the Origin of Life, from Soup to Networks, has this to say about the Miller experiment:

“The initial Miller experiment was earth-shaking,” says Harold Morowitz, Professor of Biology at George Mason University, and a long-time theorist and researcher in this area. The suggestion that random chemistry could produce the molecules of life “held the field for a long time.” But later calculations appeared to show that the early atmosphere contained much more carbon dioxide and much less hydrogen than Miller's model required, and correcting these concentrations cast doubt on the likelihood that complex molecules would form in abundance. Where, then, might organic precursors have come from? There is some, albeit scant, evidence for their arrival on comets colliding with the earth, but there is little enthusiasm for this as a solution. Finally, there is no geologic evidence, in either sediments or metamorphic rocks, that such a soup ever existed.

The thinking now is that the kind of life we have today, with its DNA heredity, could not have arisen from prebiological components in any conditions that now obtain on Earth or that obtained in the past. (Why? I think the short answer is that early DNA and its catalyzers would have destroyed each other before they could organize.) However, it is possible to imagine that RNA-based life might have arisen spontaneously, because RNA, unlike DNA, can both encode information and catalyze other bits of RNA. It is not such a big step to imagine RNA life acquiring a DNA component, with RNA retreating to the auxiliary role it plays in the biology we know.

Apparently, some interesting feedback loops have been created using RNA. Should such reactions one day produce RNA life in a test tube, then the Intelligent Design hypothesis would have been falsified. Again: can anyone suggest a comparable test of Darwinian evolution?

* * *

But who first settled the Americas, you ask? A programme aired by the BBC supports something that a mad physical anthropologist told me almost 30 years ago:

"DNA lineage predominantly found in Europe got to the Great Lakes, 14,000 to 15,000 years ago"

The speaker is one Douglas Wallace of Emory University, who has been keen on explaining why the famous Clovis Point of Clovis, New Mexico, which has been dated to 11.5k years ago, resembles tools make in Europe during the Solutrean Ice Age. Modern Eskimos say that they would have had no trouble navigating around the edge of the extended ocean ice sheet between Europe and North America. Now, apparently, there is a bit of DNA evidence involving the Ichigua people, who live around the Great Lakes, to suggest that someone may have done it.

When I went to find more information about the Ichigua, by the way, I found that White Nationalist websites were featuring this story, in the misguided hope that a new model of the peopling of the Americas would allow them to win the game of more-indigenous-than-thou. Actually, though, you would have to reconcile any such claims with other new findings, such as this:

The 7,500- to 11,000-year-old remains suggest the oldest settlers of the Americas came from different genetic stock than more recent Native Americans. Modern Native Americans share traits with Mongoloid peoples of Mongolia, China, and Siberia, the researchers said. But they found dozens of skulls from Brazil appear much more similar to modern Australians, Melanesians, and Sub-Saharan Africans.

Somedays I think Tolkien's make-believe history is less misleading than the archeological consensus.

* * *

Fans of Peggy Noonan will know that, though she generally supports President Bush for much the same reasons I do, she also finds that the style of the Administration grates.

David Brooks noted last Sunday on "Meet the Press" that in private Bush aides are knowledgeable and forthcoming about the war--this is working, this isn't, we made a mistake here and are fixing it in this way--but that in public they rely too much on platitudes and talking points.

It's true. The Bush White House treats the message of the day as if it were the only raft in high seas. Hold, cling, don't let go. Their discipline seems not persuasive but panicky.

They think their adherence to spin is sophisticated and ahead of the curve, but it is not. What is sophisticated is to know that the American people have been immersed in media for half a century and know when they're being talked to by robots who got wound up in the spin shop. They are not impressed by rote repetition, cheery insistence or clunky symbolism. They see through it. When you have the president make a big speech and he's standing under the sign that says VICTORY, the American people actually know you're trying to send an unconscious message: Bush equals victory, Bush will bring victory, victory is coming. It's not so much nefarious as corny.

This political style seems to be shared by the Bush family. The elder President Bush had a sterling record of public service at every level of government. Few more knowledgeable men had ever sat in the White House. Nonetheless, he chose to run his 1988 presidential campaign as an extended visit to a flag factory.

On the other hand, Bush the Younger is not really ineducable. He has started to present his strategy for Iraq repeatedly and cogently, and events on the ground seem to be cooperating. Now it is the proponents of immediate withdrawal who seem locked in a logic loop when they repeat that the president has failed to articulate a strategy. This is all well enough, as far as it goes, but the White House must resist the temptation to move on "to the rest of its agenda." The war is the agenda. There is no other.

Speaking of events on the ground, Instapundit echoes some pointed questions about the establishment media's coverage of yesterday's parliamentary election:

THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE: Ed Morrissey wonders why the New York Times editorial page isn't excited about Iraq.

Similar questions might be asked about me, too, but my silence is not malicious: I rarely talk in detail about events in Iraq, because I have no special sources of information. As for the significance of those events, I tend to follow the example of the old guy in Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy:

I would sit here, in perfect confidence, if the [imperial forces] landed on the planet, Trantor, itself.

Anyone seeking a similar degree of metahistorical equanimity might consult the website of R.J. Rummel. Kant's Perpetual Peace, plus some AH novels: what more could a reasonable man ask for?

Well, Hegel, maybe.

Copyright © 2005 by John J. Reilly

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