The Cold War has been over, or so we’re told, for over a dozen years now. Why then is it that our political discourse sometimes still sounds like Marx vs. Gladstone? Eric S. Raymond examines the history of ideological warfare, from its roots in the Cold War, to the modern manifestation in the seeming clash of civilizations between Islam and the West.
The essay does wax a bit … pretentious, if I may. But all the name-dropping (in terms of philosophers, writers, and memes) is exactly the sort that ivory tower types might be most excited by.
The essay also seems to adopt what Richard Hofstadter has called the “paranoid style”. Now, I’m not big on conspiracy theory or religion, which share some traits. Still, the temptation to adopt conspiracy theory is a basic human impulse, and in this vein, one could do worse than to read what Raymond has to say. You don’t have to agree with his conclusions, but what he states should be interesting, and a thought-provoking examination of the source of your beliefs.
[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]
6 thoughts on “Ideological Warfare”
Excellent piece. I don’t think it is pretentious. He drops names because he is actually quoting people and understands what they were saying.
Conspiracy theories are usually wrong in a free and open society like the United States. They are sometimes true in a very clubby place like England, where people have all kinds of loyalties and the ability to keep a secret. They are sometimes true in France, where the Enarques are a tight-knit group that look out for each other. And as to Soviet communism, it was expressly and precisely a decade-spanning conspiracy. You don’t need to imagine anything. The Soviets worked hard to try to destroy the United States by all “asymmetric” means, since direct military confrontation was too risky or costly. Ugly public sculpture? Who knows, maybe the Russians promoted it. It would not surprise me. The nuclear freeze movement, the European anti-nuclear protests in the early 80s, both were financed in part by the KGB. Why is anyone scandalized by this. The Cold War was a conflict that was in earnest and the Soviets wanted to win and Lenin himself said that useful idiots, infantile leftists, should be used and exploited to the maximum extent possible to subvert capitalist society. It would be stupid to think the Soviets were NOT doing these things.
The full truth about the Soviet Union has come more and more to light in recent years. Most people who are influential in our society are still in denial about what these facts say about some of their most precious beliefs.
I like this writer’s use of the word suicidalism is certainly derived from James Burnham’s book Suicide of the West, which is over forty years old and is more timely than ever.
His statement that the ideological damage we suffered during the Cold War has damaged our ability to deal with the current threat is right on the money.
Excellent post. Thanks for sharing.
Why then is it that our political discourse sometimes still sounds like Marx vs. Gladstone?
Because all political disagreements in the last two hundreds years have broken down across two philosophical divides which Thomas
Sowell labeled the constrained and unconstrained visions. Others have called it the tragic vs the utopian visions.
I think one thing that people forget in looking at the Cold War is that communism in Russia, China and other lesser developed areas was in fact a side effect of the internal conflict within western developed nations. Communism was kind of Frankenstein monster that escaped the coffee shops and universities of the industrial west and spread into pre-industrial societies world wide. It was the bastard child of free-world Leftist to begin with so it should come as no surprise that they in turn were such profound enablers of it.
Every enemy we are facing at this moment, are old sattelites of the USSR. The USSR used muslim nations against the west, and the US used oppossing muslim factions against the soviet ally for the purposes of a conventional war by proxy.
This is STILL the cold war, and fact is, it sitll is until we turn russia into a rational nation.
How odd, then, for an officially atheist state to be replaced as “the evil empire” by a fanatical transnational non-state organization.
They share one trait – both are/were control freaks. Neither are interested in the messiness of “toward a more perfect union”; both feel that if only their rules/laws were enforced, a perfect union would result. Which leads us to a second trait, both begin with this vision & expect human nature to mold itself to reach perfection.
Ginny, that’s precisely it!! I once wrote something on that: Coping with Modernity – Leftism and Islamism. Just plugging that article once again. ;-)
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