Battle of Britain + 81

This month marks the 81st anniversary of the Battle of Britain.  It was the first major battle that was fought entirely in the air, and it pioneered the use of radar as a force multiplier. The history of this battle is very interesting from the military and technology standpoints–but those things are not the focus of this post.

With the fall of France (June 22, 1940), many people believed that further resistance by Britain was hopeless.  The French writer Georges Bernanos, living in exile in Brazil, wrote (in December of that year) about how many establishment figures had been willing to despair…and how epic a story Britain’s survival in fact was:

No one knows better than I do that, in the course of centuries, all the great stories of the world end by becoming children’s tales. But this particular one (the story of England’s resistance–ed) has started its life as such, has become a children’s tale on the very threshold of its existence. It mean that we can at once recognize in it the threefold visible sign of its nature. it has deceived the anticipations of the wise, it has humiliated the weak-hearted, it has staggered the fools. Last June all these folk from one end of the world to the other, no matter what the color of their skins, were shaking their heads. Never had they been so old, never had they been so proud of being old. All the figures that they had swallowed in the course of their miserable lives as a safeguard against the highly improbable activity of their emotions had choked the channels of circulation..They were ready to prove that with the Armistice of Rethondes the continuance of the war had become a mathematical impossibility…Some chuckled with satisfaction at the thought, but they were not the most dangerous…Others threatened us with the infection of pity…”Alone against the world,” they said. “Why, what is that but a tale for children?” And that is precisely what it was–a tale for children. Hurrah for the children of England! 

Men of England, at this very moment you are writing what public speakers like to describe in their jargon as one of the “greatest pages of history”….At this moment you English are writing one of the greatest pages of history, but I am quite sure that when you started, you meant it as a fairy tale for children. “Once upon a time there was a little island, and in that island there was a people in arms against the world…” Faced with such an opening as that, what old cunning fox of politics or business would not have shrugged his shoulders and closed the book?

But only a two years earlier, Britain had signed the Munich agreement.  General Edward Spears, along with many others was overcome by despair:

Like most people, I have had my private sorrows, but there is no loss that can compare with the agony of losing one’s country, and that is what some of us felt when England accepted Munich.  All we believed in seemed to have lost substance.

The life of each of us has roots without which it must wither; these derive sustenance from the soil of our native land, its thoughts, its way of life, its magnificent history; the lineage of the British race is our inspiration.  The past tells us what the future should be.  When we threw the Czechs to the Nazi wolves, it seemed to me as if the beacon lit centuries ago, and ever since lighting our way, had suddenly gone out, and I could not see ahead.

Yet it was only two years after Munich that Britain demonstrated its  magnificent resistance to Nazi conquest.

The Battle of Britain has been, fairly, called a battle that saved civilization. But the saving of civilization is not a one-time thing, and there are today very serious threats to individual liberty and the rule of law..really, to civilization itself…in Britain as well as in the US. There are many dark clouds overhead and on the horizon. But the Battle of Britain should inspire us with the thought that battles that seem to be hopeless may, in fact, be winnable through sufficient determination and skill.

Social Media and Section 230

A couple of useful links for those following these issues:

From Eugene Volokh, a detailed legal analysis of the proper interpretation of Section 230.  Haven’t read it yet, but I plan to soon.

Vivek Ramaswamy, in the WSJ, offers a favorable view of Trump’s lawsuit against search and social media companies.  Excerpts and commentary at Stuart Schneiderman’s blog.

There are few if any issues more important than the problem of oligopolistic control over information flow.

Report Those With Unapproved Ideas to the Proper Authorities!

In China:

In April the party launched a telephone hot line and online platform for reporting “historical nihilists,” who fail to comply with the official party line. 

In the United States:

In a national survey, 85 percent of college students who identify as “liberal” say they’d report a professor who made an “offensive” comment. Sixty-five percent of “independent/apolitical” students and 41 percent of “conservatives” also would report a professor to the university.

Students were almost as eager to report their classmates: 76 percent of liberals, 57 percent of independents and 31 percent of conservatives say that a student who says something that offends other students should be reported.

We have fallen a long way from the ideals expressed in Norman Rockwell’s classic painting, and the downward path is continuing.

 

Courageous, Eloquent, Disturbing

A teacher’s letter of resignation.

Of course, not all students are true believers. Many pretend to agree because of pressure to conform. I’ve heard from students who want to ask a question but stop for fear of offending someone. I have heard from students who don’t participate in discussions for fear of being ostracized. One student did not want to develop her personal essay — about an experience she had in another country — for fear that it might mean that she was, without even realizing it, racist. In her fear, she actually stopped herself from thinking. This is the very definition of self-censorship. 

Read the whole thing.

Kids who develop under an environment such as the one described will tend to become either cowards or bullies.  (Of course, they may also become both cowards and bullies)

What happens to a business or other organization that employs a high % of people who came of age in such an environment?  What happens to an entire society when many of its citizens–especially citizens in leadership organizations–grew up in atmospheres of conformity and bullying?

See also the comments of a Virginia woman who grew up in Maoist China and sees very disturbing parallels with what is going on at her son’s former high school in Virginia.