The Perfect Enemy

Suppose you wanted to create a perfect enemy. An enemy so vile that its evil would be recognized by almost everyone. An enemy that would inspire people to come together in order to ensure its defeat.

To be more specific: suppose you were a screenwriter with the assignment of creating a suitable villain-organization for a major motion picture. The marketing plan for this movie suggests that it will be marketed primarily to a certain demographic and that, hence, your villain-organization should be particularly appalling to members of that demographic. The demographic in question consists of people who are affluent, highly educated (college with at least some postgraduate education), not particularly religious, and who consider themselves politically liberal or “progressive.” The plot of the movie demands that the audience must see the necessity for Americans–of many beliefs, occupations, and social backgrounds–to come together in order to defeat the enemy.

Oh, and one other thing. The year in which you are given this assignment is 1999.

You will clearly want your enemy to share many of the characteristics of the Nazis–disrespect for human life, wanton cruelty, a love of apocalyptic violence. But to make the enemy particuarly awful from the standpoint of your target demographic, you will want to emphasize certain aspects of its belief system.

Members of your demographic usually have strong beliefs about women’s rights. So, your enemy must have a particularly disrespectful belief set, and a violent behavior pattern, towards women. Similarly, your demographic is generally favorable toward gay rights…so the enemy must advocate and practice the suppression, torture, and killing of gays. Your demographic is generally nonreligious and often hostile toward religion…so, make sure the enemy includes a large element of religious fanaticism. Members of your demographic talk a lot about “the children”–so make sure your enemy uses children in particularly cruel ways.

Had you created such an enemy for your screenplay in 1999, you would have surely felt justified in assuming that it would achieve its intended reaction with your target demographic.

It didn’t work out that way, though.

The enemy I’ve described is, of course, the one that we currently face in the form of radical Islamic terrorists and their associated rogue states such as Iran. In real life, not in the movies.

But the members of the demographic I specified have been strangely reluctant to engage in wholehearted condemnation of this enemy (observe, for example, the endless excuse-making, for and even glamorization of, Palestinian terrorism), and even more reluctant to join with their fellow Americans for its defeat. Indeed, it seems that many journalists, entertainers, writers, and college professors have such strong feelings of fear and/or contempt for the majority of their fellow Americans that these greatly overshadow any concerns about terrorist fanatics and terrorist states with nuclear weapons.

In Poul Anderson’s 1972 SF story A Chapter of Revelation, God stops the movement of the sun across the sky. (Technically, He does this by slowing earth’s rotation period to a value identical with Earth’s year.) The reason for the miracle is to demonstrate His existence to the world, thereby encouraging people to prevent the nuclear war which is about to occur.

Anderson describes the intital reaction to the miracle: The pilgramages by torch to the Ganges, by canclelight to the Western Wall and the Mosque of Omar, by furnacelike sunlight to Our Lady of Guadalupe, were not frantic in any true sense of that word. They were awesome: men, women, children by the millions flowing together and becoming a natural force.

A theology student, in conversation with a scientist, offers the view that “…today we’re so far gone into spiritual savagery that nothing except the most primitive, public sort of demonstration could touch us”…to which the scientist replies “As if we’d flunked quantum mechanics and been sent back to roll balls down inclined planes?”

Very soon, people begin to use the miracle to justify whatever belief systems they already hold. A Russian scientist (remember, this was written in 1972) suggests that “The requirement of minimum hypothesis practically forces us to assume that what happened resulted from the application of a technology centuries beyond ours. I find it easy to believe that an advanced civilization, capable of interstellar travel, sent a team to save mankind from the carnage threatened by an imperialism which that society outgrew long ago.” The Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party suggests that it was all about the intersection of Marxism and ESP: “The mind of man may have tremendous abilities, once liberated from the blinkers of the past. More than a third of the contemporary human race is guided by Marxism; more than half this number has for more than a generation been under the tutelage of wholly correct principles. Thus, the massed concentration of the peace-loving peoples may well have triggered cosmic energies to produce those events which have halted the imperialists in their bloody track and trown them wallowing back into the basest superstitions.”

In the U.S., extreme right-wing evangelists use the miracle to prove that their vision is the correct one. Radical Black Power advocates do the same: “‘What He really stopped was this rich man’s war that was getting started when the bombs of white Amerika’…he formed the K with his fingers, a gesture that had become his trademark–‘struck our Chinese brothers. The rich man’s war on the poor, the white man’s war on the black, the brown, the yellow, the red.'” Moralists assert that the miracle was a warning about moral degeneration: “Satan’s agents continue to gnaw like rats at the heart of faith, morality, and society. These atheists, evolutionists, free-love swine, boozers, tobacco smokers, dope fiends still try to hide from us the plain truth of God’s word as revealed in the Holy Bible.” The Joint Chiefs of Staff propose a preemptive attack on China–“I keep thinking of Jehovah the Thunderer,” says their spokesman, “–the Crusades–Don John at Lepanto, saving Christendom with sword and cannon..”

Basically, just about everyone responds to the miracle by reinforcing whatever belief systems they already had, and the world slides into further chaos, with riots, coups d’etat, and cross-border military attacks. The story is a beautiful description of confirmation bias on a very large scale.

The attacks on 9/11 were a “primitive, public” demonstration like the stopping of sun in Anderson’s story, albeit a demonstration which was intentionally brutal rather than benign. But even with an enemy that seems custom-designed to be appalling to “progressives,” and with the most primitive and public demonstration imaginable, confirmation bias has, for many proved far stronger than evidence.

17 thoughts on “The Perfect Enemy”

  1. Leftist is driven by the all consuming narcism of the articulate intellectual. For them, the only true conflict within the entirety of humanity is the one that exist between them and their immediate social and political competitors within Western/developed society itself. They evaluate every facet of foreign policy based on how it influences their own internal standing. As such, all external enemies are really just external manifestations of the evil of the Western right.

    Likewise, the solution to every foreign policy problem is more internal power for leftist.

    You can see this model operating quite clearly in old-fashion i.e. end of the Cold War, Marxism in which ever solitary negative event in the known universe is attributed by one serious Marxist scholar to the evils of capitalism. Such evils will only come about with the creation of a society that, by pure coincidence I am sure, has people like Marxist scholars on top.

    Leftist should see the Islamist as the dangerous fascist they are but that would require them to adopt a world view in which they are not the center of all solutions. Fighting fascist is an ugly business that requires a lot of blunt force and blunt force (or any kind of physical action) is not the leftist forte. When people sit around talking about WWII, they spend most of their time talking about the role of leftist intellectuals in defeating Euro-Japanese fascism but the intellectuals do get a lot a positive press for turning Indochina over to Communist. Likewise, admitting that a dark cancer is eating its way through Islam the way one once at its way through Germany requires them to act unselfishly and to put the good of the everyone else on the planet over their own.

    They can’t do that. They would rather spin elaborate fantasies about how the world would have been so much better is leftist had run things since the Big Bang than to consider even for a minute that other societies and cultures are quite capable of initiating action, especially evil action, without our prodding.

    It’s all about the mighty ME for leftist. They can’t pry their eyes of the mirror long enough to look at the world around them. When someone evil like the Islamist shows up standing beside them, their only thought is, “How does this make me look.”

  2. shannon…”the only true conflict within the entirety of humanity is the one that exist between them and their immediate social and political competitors within Western/developed society itself” some degree, of course, it is natural for people to feel especially competitive with those who are closest/most visible to them. When Lou Gerstner took over IBM in 1992, he was struck by the extent to which fierce emotions within the company were directed against internal rivals rather than external competitors. Given his extensive business experience, he had surely seen somewhat similar behavior at other companies…but evidently, at the IBM of the time it was considerably more extreme than typical. (See Gerstner’s book, “Who says elephants can’t dance?”)

    The whole worldview of the “progressive” Democrats, who seem to see America primarily as a theater for a neo-Hobbesian struggle of group agaist group, encourages a focus on internal rather than external enemies.

  3. ..continuing the preceding thought, see this post from Neptunus Lex:

    “The innate character flaw of the political right, with its thrumming appeals to the logic of blood and soil, is its lamentable tendency to go in search of enemies abroad. The left, on the other hand, with its own appeals to the politics of envy and class warfare, is content to find mortal enemies closer to hand.”

    (The post is about Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn)

  4. Consider 2 bell distributions, side by side, overlapping. Left curve is for women, right for men. The curves measure sociability. Women are more sociable then men. Evolution favors men who are innovators, self-reliant and competitive. Evolution favors women who work well in groups. Men hunt, fish and gather. Women raise babies, keep house and gardens. Women’s work is highly social and political. They like job descriptions to stay the same year after year. They do not compete.

    Men cannot be successful hunters, fishers and gatherers unless they are able to adapt to constant changes in the climate, the number of fish, the quantity of game and the location of wild plants. Men deal with change so that women can have the stability they need.

    We call women liberals even though they hate change. We call men conservatives even though they live and deal with constant change and they like competition. Of course not all men are conservatives. Girly men are liberals. Not all women are liberals. Some like to compete, some like to hunt and fish and hang out with the men. They are called sluts.

    Men try to explain constant change as the Will of the Gods. Women have eliminated change through social organization. They do not need Gods because they are in control. Thus conservatives tend to be religious, liberals atheists.

    This explains the phenomena you describe. The explanation may be correct, it may be coincidence. Remember nature’s joke on us. Intelligence is carried only on the Y chromosone.

  5. The acquisition of progressive ideas has quite a lot to do with not going to church, which was partly about saying “amen” from the pew and shaking the preacher’s hand at the door but also about acquiring beliefs without having to work at it too hard. That was what the Preacher was paid to do. The secular children of those old-time churchgoers are no brighter than they were and don’t want to work any harder. For them the hymnal has changed and the Preacher has got his theology from a different source.

    I agree that there’s narcissism in the new theology, but underlying it is the need most folks have to reach for a ready-made belief when life gives them something to think about (which for most of us, thankfully, isn’t often). Those who sleep in on Sunday get their thoughts out of the kit of progressive received wisdom. Nodding with approval as you read your New York Times makes you feel on the side of the angels – not your parents’ angels, of course, and you only have to whisper “amen” to yourself.

  6. K J Webb…it’s true that many people seek a predefined & predigested belief system: also, in many circles there are extreme social & economic pressures to not deviate too much from the accepted beliefs. If you work in Hollywood or in academia, for instance, it can be hazardous to your economic health to question “progressive” beliefs. (Read screenwriter/bloggers Roger Simon & Robert Avrech to understand some of the Hollywood pressures) Easier just to go along and not think about it too deeply.

  7. Most liberals and many or most conservatives in the US at least, simply lack the experience or historical knowledge that would make the threat “real.” They just cannot comprehend that there are BILLIONS of people who are not totally immersed in the Western liberal tradition, and who see the world in entirely different terms. Completely beyond them.

    Best example I ever saw was in late 2001 or 2002, US Sen. Patty Murray saying how the people of Afghanistan, liked Osama bin Laden because (among other things) he provided day care for their children. This about a place where women had to dress in burgas and couldn’t go outside their house unless accompanied by a male relative!!!

    Stupid, yes, but something beyond stupidity—too ignorant to even know you’re ignorant.

    Probably 90% of the Democratic Party and about 50% of the Republicans, I would wager, would see nothing unexceptional in Murray’s statement unless you pointed it out to them, and at least half wouldn’t believe you even then.

    Which leads me to the mullahs running Iran, Kim Jong Il,a nd all teh others whom Obama plans to charm into changing their ways.

  8. Marty…I’d forgotten that moronic comment by Patty Murray…hard to believe she is a U.S. Senator.

    Just about equal in the stupidity sweepstakes is a priest who Annika heard at a church service she attended:

    “What if, instead of bombing Afghanistan, we had dropped food, medicine and education”

    A lot of “progressives” were very hostile to the military action in Afghanistan, not just that in Iraq. It will be interesting to how their attitudes evolve given Obama’s apparent aggressive posture on the war in that country.

  9. David Foster,

    Notwithstanding this week’s announcement about 17K troops, let’s see how Obama actually prosecutes the war in Afghan. Was his campaign rhetoric just to deal with charges that he is against ALL military action, so he had to find some war worth fighting (since he had already cornered himself on Iraq), or is he sincere?

    And what exactly would “sincere” mean?

    Time will tell, I suppose.

  10. David Foster (again),

    That priest’s statement echoes the kind of scheiss my late Rabbi (“Obama’s Rabbi” said the articles, and I guess that tells you where I live and my religious practice) used to dish about Arafat and the PLO. A very intelligent and moral man, of much learning but only of a narrow sort.

    Which takes me back to prev. comment—Dems are so CHILDISH. I first noticed that watching the 1996 Dem Convention, where they closed every night with The Macarena. “The problem here is no adult supervision,” thought I, and very little has happened to make me question that, and much to reinforce it.

    These are people whose education ended around middle school, when they simply stopped trying to eveluate new information and reverted to the confirmation bias in your original post. When mommy told them, “Hitting never solved anything,” they didn’t take that as a lesson for playground behavior, and later learn that it only applied under certain circumstances; no, to them it is an eternal truth for all circumstances from sibling rivalry to world geopolitics. When someone said that problems can be solved by understanding and trust leading to compromise, they accepted that as applying to everyone from their close cousin to sociopaths and mass murderers, without distinction.

    That seems to be our government now… a bunch of really smart 10-year olds.

  11. Patty Murray–hard to believe she is a U.S. Senator.

    It’s even worse when she’s your senator. :-(

    Re Annika’s priest: I hear that air-dropped education tends to shatter on impact.

  12. The first step to understanding the Postmodern Liberal is to understand where they come from, and, from that, that they are in fact almost entirely culturally suicidal — this is why your treatise on “The Perfect Enemy” fails…

    I’ve pointed out this essay here before, but I have no idea how many have read it.

    If you have not, then you should. It’s very important, I think, to understanding how we got from Classical Liberalism to Postmodern Liberalism.

    What We Lost In The Great War

    WWI was the turning point, I claim — the typical classical liberal looked at the damnfool thing we’d done with our industry, our understanding of the universe, our assumption of moral superiority — and turned on Western Culture with a brutal vengeance.

    From that corpse arose Postmodern Liberalism, which has, in its black, evil little stone of a heart, a goal which is nothing less than the suicidal destruction of Western Civilization.

    None of the liberals involved, in my opinion, ever asked the all-important question of what any OTHER culture would have done better, and why…

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