John called this post, "Why Do They Do It?", but it really could have been "Why Do I Do It?". Using the occasion of the one-year anniversary of his blog The Long View, John gives us an extended reflection on the idea of blogging, which was still new and exciting at the time, plus something of his view of history.
John mentions the anti-war group ANSWER in passing here. It is worth remembering that while there were a few sane people against the Iraq war at the time, like Greg Cochran, the loudest voices were kooks acting in bad faith like ANSWER. With anti-war groups like this, war can seem like a good idea. The quality of the opposition makes the rush to war more understandable. That won't bring back the dead or replace the missing limbs of the boys we sent over there, but we should understand what actually happened rather than trying to retcon history to match our preferences.
Why Do They Do It?
The network of blogs (which Andrew Sullivan calls the "blogosphere") has been overbuilt. I hear that it is now suffering a decline. If so, one suspects it will pick up again, as further landmines go off in this treacherous era. That last phrase sums up why I keep a blog. History has a structure, I believe, which tells us why this era is treacherous, what the best and worst outcomes can be, and why it is very far short of the end of the world. Few of the ideas I express here are original. Essentially, I am merely applying the old idea that modernity is analogous in some ways to Hellenistic antiquity. This notion is again becoming familiar in the public policy journals. However, you find little of it in the daily or weekly press, and even less on the Internet. So, here I am.
There are other reasons for using this format, of course. It allows for short comments on the news, something I recognize that proper bloggers do every day. It also allows for blessedly short notes about books I have read. Readers are sometimes puzzled, not to say numbed, by the length of the reviews on my website. All I can say is that I learned to do reviews while writing for a publication that needed review-essays, and now I cannot help myself. Less than half of the material I do comment on merits the Spengler-Toynbee metahistorical analysis that inspired the blog, and that's fine, too. You have to spend years doing technical writing before you can understand what a relief it is to write about anything that catches your attention, and even have some chance that a few people will read it.
In any case, let me offer my thanks to those who write to comment on what I say. One of the great pleasures of this enterprise is the intelligent feedback. Special thanks are due to those who have donated money through the Amazon Honor System, as well as to the readers who have bought books using the Amazon buttons on this site. You know who you are. (No, Amazon does not tell me.)
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The foreign policy of the old Left, meaning the Left before 1989, made a certain amount of sense. They were defending socialism. Usually, though not invariably, this meant defending the Soviet Union and its policies. That was a bad idea, but at least it was rational. There is a real mystery, though, about what the radical organizers of today's anti-war movement hope to accomplish. As one man, the Progressive Left of the Western world has risen to defend Jonestown on the Tigris.
Why all of a sudden this unrest and confusion. (How solemn the faces have become). Why are the streets and squares clearing quickly, and all return to their homes, so deep in thought?
Because night is here but the barbarians have not come. And some people arrived from the borders, and said that there are no longer any barbarians.
And now what shall become of us without any barbarians? Those people were some kind of solution.
This disillusion is the future of the Left.
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I suppose it's possible that these stories are true, but I would not bet on it. We had literal witchhunts in the US in the 1980s: remember "Satanic ritual abuse"? The phenomenon was interesting from a folkloric perspective. The rumors that circulated about the Satanic underground were not like the rumors from the medieval witchhunts; they were the same rumors. There were estimates that 40,000 or 50,000 people were being sacrificed every year. When the police investigated, however, they could never prove that any one devil worshiper had ever eaten any particular baby.
Not that some people did not go to jail: Janet Reno made her reputation by devising the "Miami Method," which was a way of coaching kids to say what the experts on cults suspected was happening. Janet Reno later became the longest serving US Attorney General in the 20th century. Give me John Ashcroft any day.
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