The New-Old Fatalism

The idea of historical inevitability just won’t die. But there was nothing unavoidable about our current political crisis.

Appeared in: Volume 13, Number 3 | Published on: October 27, 2017
Aviezer Tucker is the author of The Legacies of Totalitarianism: A Theoretical Framework (Cambridge University Press 2015). He is writing now a book about neo-illiberal democracy.
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  • Arkeygeezer

    I’m sure that this is a very intellectual discourse, but I don’t get it. I guess that us “DEPLORABLES” are not expected to understand such elite thoughts. What is the point?

    • FriendlyGoat

      Probably the point was best revealed in the subtitle. Why make dumb choices and then throw up our hands in “what will be will be” resignation?

      • Tom

        You should probably ask yourself that question, for starters.

    • D4x

      Mr. Tucker suffers from weak writing skills, poor sentence structure, way too many words. I gave up at the third to last paragraph, of what I assume was his four paragraph conclusion of an essay intended to persuade the reader that a) history did not end with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and b) a quest to promote two points: “RussiaPutin is Evil”; and, “Trump is a populist demagogue with sinister intent”.

      It IS deplorable that he gets paid to write what deserves a D- for incoherent postmodern academia-babble.


      • Everett Brunson

        More to the point–I found it to be self contradictory in the extreme. In the beginning he decries central planning but his solution (other than establishing “better” history classes) is more and better central planning. At least he understands the GIGO of algorithms, but even while doing so still notes ” but at least they are immune to political pressure and short-term self-destructive passions.”as if the world might be saved by some benign artificial intelligence. IOW a better and dispassionate central planning computer program god.

        Too he appears consumed by the idea that Putin can out-Machiavelli, Machiavelli and that Trump is nothing more than an ill-bred buffoon whose buffoonary was exposed by the artistic slight of hand by the oh-so subtle Macron. So much for his assertion that it isn’t “nice” to point out to the unwashed peasants that they are, indeed, unwashed peasants.

        One thing I did find agreeable was his assertion that the snobbery of the elite class does little more than solidify the opinion of the lower classes against the elite. That is becoming more apparent by the day–though as I stated above, Tucker couldn’t resist doing it himself. I suppose he believed none of the unwashed might read his screed. I also chuckled at his assertion that voting should not be left to the masses. How very benevolent of him.

        Finally, I’m glad that I decided to “follow” you in that I never would have stumbled across this had I not seen your comment in Disqus. I know I owe you an answer to your post of a few days ago–and I promise to get to it as you left much food for thought. I have been buried of late trying to complete a remodel on the spare bedroom.

        • Kathy Hix

          sleight of hand

          • Everett Brunson

            Thanks Kathy. When typing too fast and failing to properly spell check, disaster soon follows. I will edit and correct.

          • Kathy Hix

            sleight of hand might help with that remodel, too!

          • Everett Brunson

            I wish I had a magic wand. My house is over eighty years old. The floor joists and flooring have dry-rotted. I am having to take it all back “to the dirt” and replace. Yuck! The kitchen is the last room to do and the one I dread the most.

        • StudentZ

          I could be wrong, but I believe the comments about central planning were part of a larger argument the author was criticizing for being too reductive. Personally, I liked the article quite a bit, not only because I found the author’s analogies interesting, but because he actually made concrete suggestions that can’t be dismissed as some self-indulgent academic exercise. The point is that policies and institutional changes can alter the course of events that various deterministic schools of thought dismiss as inevitable. Although some might dismiss his examples and proposals, I wish readers would at least consider his ideas instead of dismissing him for his prose. He is emphasizing the limitations of neat ideological boxes, a point that is apparently lost on some readers who fault him for not providing a neat box of his own.

          • Everett Brunson

            He is emphasizing the limitations of neat ideological boxes, a point that is apparently lost on some readers who fault him for not providing a neat box of his own.

            But isn’t that the point of good prose StudentZ? Moreover, the idea that the arrow of time’s course might be altered still goes back to the idea of who (or what? –if you give any credence to my quip about the AI algorithm god) is most qualified to change that course?

            Too, I belong to the school of assertion, proof, and direction/solution. Tucker’s Reality shows and the World Wrestling Federation are the cultural and institutional contexts from which current American populism has emerged. to be a totally asinine assertion followed by exactly no proof and totally lacking any hint of a solution. All it does is underlie his original premise that the non-intellectuals are too prone to simplification–and thereby so easily led.

            The American electorate has shown its common sense every election cycle. Every time it has undergone the “throw the rascals out” upheaval has been shown as a move back to the center in politics. I offer as “proof” the mid-terms of 2010 as the reactionary reproof of President Obama’s far left/central control move to the nationalization of the health care field. While many (polling data) now say that they favor Obama Care in general, when one digs down they find the same people are highly dissatisfied with the day to day workings of the ACA–higher premiums, higher deductibles, less access to physicians, and so on.

            Finally, a question for you–from your own experiences have you found “history” to be cyclical or linear? I ask, not to challenge you, but to ascertain where you stand in the event we have further discussion on this topic.

      • StudentZ

        He doesn’t suffer from weak writing skills, but he may have alienated his audience here, especially if you really think those were his points. Or maybe your dubious conclusions reflect your thoughts more than his? Surely you enjoyed his thinly-veiled criticisms of aspects of postmodernist thought towards the end?

        • D4x

          Reading should be a pleasure, not a painful exercise in deconstructing ‘superior intellectuals’. Since Mr. Mead and his interns exited, especially since TAI relaunched into a propaganda site, I read the comments first.

          Arkeygeezer deserved an answer to his question. Tucker’s assault on Donald J. Trump and his
          old uneducated and rural voters triggered my ‘Big Lie’ alarm, making my further reading
          more an exercise in cognition than a nodding of agreement.

          Tucker misread the moment when “President Macron, too clever by half for his guests, escorted the Trumps to the grave of Napoleon in Les Invalides.” Tucker does not know how to read photos, including the photos of the Macrons and Trumps at the Hamburg G-20 on July 7, or the other photos from POTUS and First Lady Trump as Official Guest visit for Bastille Day on July 13-14. 07 13 2017 Napoleon’s tomb photo Carolyn Kaster

          I have written at TAI, especially since the Monument War started in Charlottesville! on August 12, about Trump’s use of Twitter to stimulate interest in history. His Aug. 17 “Study General Pershing” Tweet and Aug 21 venue of Fort Myer, Arlington, VA for his Afghanistan speech led me to hours of stimulating self-directed
          learning of American history, and posting related comments here at TAI.

          For some reason, TAI deleted their Search feature with the relaunch, making it impossible to access pre-launch posts, but google searches of the right keywords will bring up these older post comments.

          Anyone who reads (primary source) would infer that Macron and Trump have an excellent, strong relationship, working effectively on major issues.

          As for Tucker’s weak writing skills? He almost lost me with: “For example, a firing squad overdetermines execution because of the causal redundancy of most members of the firing squad.”

          At the time I read this, that sentence screamed for an edit. Simpler is more effective:

          ” The use of a firing squad is wasteful redundancy.
          It only takes one person with a gun to kill the condemned prisoner.
          However, use of a firing squad does make execution of the condemned seem less like murder, more of a shared task in the service of the state.”

          After that first edit, instead of doing two more, I replied to Arkeygeezer.

          Alas, StudentZ, “You deserve no such attention.” Lady Catherine De Bourgh, “Pride and Prejudice”, written by Jane Austen. Find someone who actually cares about incoherent postmodern academia-babble, or learn how to read pictures, worth a thousand words.

 07 07 2017 G20 concert Hamburg, Germany

          • StudentZ

            So you’re the insufferable Lady Catherine de Bourgh in this scenario and I’m the heroine, Elizabeth Bennet? Okay.

            I concede the following two points: (1) the paragraph distinguishing historical necessity from historical contingency, which included the execution example you mentioned, could have been easier to follow; and (2) Macron’s actions are subject to interpretation. Otherwise, it bothers me that you are more critical of an article for being pretentious than a president who has abandoned intellect entirely to appeal to the basest impulses of his supporters. I’m sure you could find much to criticize in Trump’s tweets, if you were so inclined.

            Also, some of the greatest written works in history are a slog to get through. I imagine if reading had to be pleasurable, people would never bother to try to understand some of the more difficult concepts and ideas published. Words give the pictures you post context. They can turn an apparently benign exchange into calculated diplomacy. The pictures mean little because we don’t know what the subjects of those photos are saying to each other. Also, I am more inclined to develop an impression of Macron’s relationship with Trump from foreign policy journals and various newspapers than a website that promotes Trump’s policies. I will point out that the incoherent Trump from an AP interview earlier this year could not be more different from the Macron interviewed in this month’s Spiegel Online. Macron is politically savvy enough to make the relationship work, but his knowledge of French history renders Tucker’s interpretation both believable and funny.

  • Angel Martin

    If the world economy has another downturn like the 1930’s. I guarantee that the trend will be toward economic and social closure and illiberal rulers.

  • D4x

    Aviezer Tucker skims quite a bit of real history, and implies anyone decrying Fake News must be kin of the Russian secret police, the Okhrana – KGB – FSB, with:
    “Nobody seems to recall the plagiarized rewrite of ridiculous fake news by the Russian secret police more than a century ago, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” …and has been used by other autocratic regimes as one of the most destructively effective propaganda tools in history.”

    For the record, quoting my paper, May, 2005, for a graduate class on “History of Anti-Semitism”, without the citations:

    […] The tract emerged from Russia between 1903 and 1905. Some attribute authorship to the Czarist secret police, the Okhrana, …
    It is uncertain whether Czar Nicholas II subsidized distribution in Russia in 1905,
    but such a subsidy is believable based on the pressures to liberalize that followed Russia’s humiliating defeat to Japan in 1905, a defeat financed by banker Jacob Schiff of the U.S. banking firm Kuhn, Loeb as payback for Russia’s horrendous anti-Jewish policies and pogroms since 1881. Spasms of liberalism in Russia in 1905-06 coincided with violent pogroms.
    Russia reverted to autocracy by 1907.
    The Protocols slept.

    1917 changed the world. Britain’s Balfour Declaration of 1917 […]
    The Russian Revolution of 1917 gave birth to ‘Judeo-Bolshevism’, widely perceived as a mortal threat to capitalism, religion, and democracy in the West.
    Between 1918 and 1920, the White Russian monarchists used The Protocols to raise support against the Reds.

    …Winston Churchill was quoted in Illustrated Sunday Herald, on February 8th, 1920
    …By 1921, analysis by the London Times exposed the inspirational source to an 1865 satire of Napoleon III by Maurice Joly
    entitled “A Dialog in Hell: Conversations Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu about Power and Right.”

    By 1919, the Hapsburg, Hohenzollern, Romanov, and Ottoman empires had collapsed.
    National self-determination and humiliation for Germany dominated the peace conference at Versailles.
    The post-WW I traumas and dislocations of Germany needed an explanation. Hyperinflation plagued Germany while
    deflation plagued the U.S. A German translation of The Protocols surfaced in 1919, spread into the Western
    world, and gained credibility and respectability despite repeated proof of its forgery in the press and the courtroom between 1921 and 1935. It has become the second most popular book after the Bible, translated into many languages, including Arabic, Chinese, and Japanese.
    The automobile magnate Henry Ford, Sr. was a temperance dry who absolutely detested Wall Street financiers of all religions,
    and an isolationist … He was a national hero, a conservative anti-union populist, and was considered Presidential material between 1916 and 1924. By 1919, nativist, anti-immigrant hysteria was sweeping many industrial states.
    In 1919, he started a newspaper, The Dearborn Independent. His general Manager Ernest Liebold got a copy of an English translation of The Protocols being circulated in the U.S. by Russian émigré Boris Brasol.

    On May 22, 1920, The Dearborn Independent started a series “to reveal the role of the ‘International Jew’ in world affairs. …[singling] out Bernard Baruch, Eugene Meyer, Paul Warburg, Oscar Straus, Felix Warburg, Albert Lasker, Otto Kahn, Julius Rosenwald, and Louis Marshall.” This series was subsequently published as “The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem.”

    This collection of the articles runs to over seven hundred pages, was published without copyright, and was quickly translated into twelve languages. Unlike The Protocols, Ford’s polemic is widely available in a new 2002 edition, and on the internet.

    “The International Jew” mostly focuses on the cultural decline brought to America by Jews who controlled the media, especially films, and the bootleggers. It was Ford’s belief that these two industries were destroying the moral fiber of Americans.
    However, he does not spare the international ‘speculative financiers’.
    Ford was sued for libel by Aaron Sapiro, “originator of the California school model of framing cooperatives”,
    ultimately shut down the Independent, ceased publication of the book version, apologized publicly to the Jews of America in face of a threatened boycott, and tried, without success, to get the German publisher, Theodor Fritsch, to also cease publication.

    Max Warburg unsuccessfully sued “Fritsch over the popular German translation of The International Jew, because it included a fabricated letter encouraging Bolsheviks to deposit their money in the account of M.M. Warburg.”

    It is probable that The Protocols would have served the Nazis well enough without Ford’s commentaries, but
    “The International Jew provided the seal of credibility to The Protocols. Future Hitler Youth Leader Baldur von
    Shirach read “Der internationale Jude” in 1924, “a year before he even heard the Fuehrer speak.
    ‘And if Henry Ford said that the Jews were to blame, why, naturally, we believed him.’* ”

    [*Neil Baldwin. “Henry Ford and the Jews: The Mass Production of Hate”. New York: Public Affairs, Perseus Books Group, 2003, p 172-3]

  • Joe Eagar

    Here’s a better idea of how we should educate the young: teach them (as well as everyone else under age 70 in this country) how to freaking deal with status anxiety.

  • Joe Eagar

    Also, I think we need to stop saying that minorities are never a threat (economic or otherwise) to anyone, as if it is inherently true. Obviously uneducated immigrant labor is an economic threat to uneducated native labor wherever it occurs, given the low economic value of the unskilled. Could not such vulnerable workers be justified in their anxiety?

  • Anthony

    A serious and interpretive Essay; an Essay that certainly cannot be fully appreciated upon “one reading”. A key takeaway is “one must debunk a bad idea at it most articulate if one expects to debunk it successfully.” (Aviezer Tucker/Sidney Hook)

  • Californio

    Oh, that clever French president! Little, insider, knowing wink-wink things among the smart set like this makes think Europe should have had Hitler and my “dull” little middle-america relatives could’ve stayed at home, stayed alive and let Europe f*ck itself. (the types who wrote this article are far too “smart” to do stupid things like fight…in..”wars”) And enough with the American “right-wing” – that ridiculous set of pansies couldn’t threaten a brownie troop with “fascism”. Comrades – may you get the reeducation you desperately want for everyone else. Enjoy the same result as the Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War.

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