Saturday, July 06, 2019

Antifa: Terrorists of the Bourgeoisie

July 4, 2019

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The savage assault on journalist Anti Ngo by leftists in Portland, Oregon, has brought renewed attention to the barbaric Antifa organization.

Ngo, a journalist for center-left online magazine Quillette, was beaten by a mob and sent to the emergency room with a brain bleed while filming demonstrators from the group. He is the victim of a criminal, terrorist act. The only normal, appropriate response is to wish him a speedy recovery—and to demand the swift arrest and prosecution of his attackers.
Here is the danger that journalists like CNN’s Jim Acosta constantly warn about from the comfort of their sinecures. But instead of blaming Antifa, the media responded to an actual assault on a journalist with equivocation and muted indifference. Reporters latched onto a “concrete milkshake”rumor to downplay the fact that Ngo was assaulted. Outside of a few token denunciations, the media ignored the attack, joining the ghoulish scolds who blamed Ngo, the victim, for “provoking” Antifa.
Why this response? Journalists know that Ngo is not one of them, which is to say they are safe. They are “real journalists,” liberal activists who evangelize their “truth” behind a mask of neutrality.
Many on the Right have noticed, with alarm, that the media turns a blind eye to leftist violence, and this is no mistake. Antifa are the untamed, unhygienic foot soldiers of the bourgeoisie. It’s an unfortunate position for so-called Marxists to be in, but it’s true: Antifa does the dirty work that’s too low for even the professional smear artists behind Covington Catholic, Russiagate, and the slander against Brett Kavanaugh.
Instead of calling Antifa “fascists,” which they are not, it would probably upset them more to call them what they really are: communists and anarchists pretending to be dissidents, while enjoying the protection of those in power. They’re rebels without a cause, with all of the adolescent angst that title implies.
Antifa members are plainly terrorists, and their violence is no joke, yet their activism is superfluous, narcissistic roleplay. Antifa justifies violence by appealing to an urgent threat of “bigots” having a platform, as if Big Tech corporations were not already taking care of that for them. Their “revolt” is happening from the top-down, not the bottom up.
The most prestigious papers and universities, the most powerful corporations, share in common with these malcontents a liberal monoculture that has hollowed out and colonized American culture. Their most relevant political ideas—open borders, kooky gender theory—have already been co-opted by the mainstream. Marxism, on the other hand, is an academic philosophy with virtually no relevance to the political world anymore.
Historically, Marxists railed against the bourgeois. Today’s “revolutionaries” are the bourgeois. What could be more horrifying, more injurious to a Marxist’s self-esteem—to be on the same side as Nike?
Leftist revolt is, these days, a contradiction in terms. But a veneer of dissidence is politically necessary for their project. A dominant Left takes up the mantle of the underdog to justify chasing conservatives out of the public square.
Antifa shares with their journalist sympathizers a romantic, misplaced sense that they are persecuted rebels. It must pain Antifa and their cheerleaders in Brooklyn to know that their ideas have been absorbed into mass culture. Having the same viewpoints as Fortune 500 companies and Stephen Colbert isn’t so punk, is it? It’s obviously not edgy or cool, but a desire to role-play as turn-of-the-century labor agitators persists.
The Left therefore has a dilemma: how to be transgressive, when the opportunities for transgression have been taken away? Answer: invent an imaginary, omnipresent threat of Nazis in need of being punched.
This is where the revolutionary make-pretend of Antifa and persecutory delusions of elite journalists solemnly intoning “Democracy dies in darkness” converge: leftism is culturally dominant, but the Left can’t give up the label of the dissident to the very people they are forcing their ideology upon. So the Left convinces itself, and tries to convince everyone else, that there is an ascendant “fascist” threat. Violent public tantrums are rationalized as the necessary pushback.
But these fancies of persecution are all backwards. Even the fringiest leftism is boring, milquetoast, and safe. Despite Trump’s attacks on the “free press,” journalists—at least liberal journalists, anyway—incur no risk when they tattle on Catholic high school boys from the heights of power for “smirking” at a Native American, or print libels about the president of the United States with impunity, or publish op-eds about how toxic the West is.
For journalists in the era of Trump, Trump’s attacks on their largely unchecked power to influence public opinion is imagined as an assault on democracy. But journalists have worked to stifle democracy, not merely by discrediting an election but by forcing their unpopular ideas on a population that has rejected their elite ideology.
Journalists have a grandiose tendency to style themselves martyrs for democracy, but really they are paladins of the powerful, agents of the illiberal liberalism that Americans voted to reject in 2016. Trump’s election was a true bottom-up rebellion at the ballot box against this oppressive monoculture. Their vote was for common sense over political correctness, national identity over open borders.
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Despite Trump’s rise to power, the Left remains firmly in control of the culture. So they invent an imaginary rampant bigotry and romanticize the danger faced by the brave journalists and activists “fighting for democracy” to justify the indefinite advance—by violence, if necessary—of progressivism. What “fighting for democracy” actually means, it turns out, is fighting for leftism at any cost, whether by encouraging violence against dissenters or preaching about the pressing need for Portland, Maine, to accept Third World refugees.
On some level, it must bother the next generation of progressive activists-in-training at elite universities to recognize that they enjoy vastly more privilege than the downwardly mobile whites they castigate as the spawn of Satan. That projection soothes the conscience, keeps the obvious contradiction out of mind: America’s most privileged people are constantly reminding everyone else, especially those on the decline, of privilege they don’t have.
While Antifa’s “revolution” is a complete joke, the movement’s methods are not, and the mainstream Left is still wise enough to maintain a careful distance with token criticism of its violence. But Antifa offers something too useful to be rejected for the bougie progressives who occupy the halls of power. They are a threat, a warning, for those Americans who refuse to bow down before Progress and History.
The media will go to any length to defend the fringe left against even the most moderate conservative. Andy Ngo is hardly right-wing: Quillette prides itself on being a bastion of classical liberal centrism. But liberal centrism, failing to be progressive, is an aberration that the Left hates like a true believer hates a heretic.
More and more conservatives are alarmed by a growing tendency on the left to tolerate worse and worse violence against them. “Milkshaking” is fast giving way to blaming the victims of mob beatings—because they’re on the wrong side. In tolerating Ngo’s attack, the liberal establishment has sent an ominous message: the future of the United States has no room for conservatives or their “bigoted” notions, and conservatives who do not surrender now should expect the worst.
One can only speculate about what motivates individual members of Antifa to wake up every morning, but quite a few of them seem to be mentally ill, maladjusted dropouts. To hazard a guess, activism for Antifa members is a kind of public therapy, an excuse to be terrible people and unleash violent resentments on a scapegoat for their personal problems.
They have a desire to terrorize and inflict harm, but there is nothing for them to fight for that has not already received the sanction of those in power. This is, admittedly, a frustrating situation for people who are desperate to be a part of history, but whose role has already been usurped by Silicon Valley, the FBI, Yale, and CNN.
Such people make for perfect attack drones, and the bourgeois is only too glad for their help.

Friday, July 05, 2019

How Jared Lorenzen inspired so many, including me

By Tommy Tomlinson
July 4, 2019

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Jared Lorenzen looks to pass against the Dallas Cowboys on September 9, 2007 in Irving, Texas (Matt Slocum/AP)

We never got to be friends, exactly. We were more like soldiers who had fought in the same war. We talked in shorthand. I didn't have to explain eating a box of Girl Scout cookies in one sitting. He didn't have to explain trying to find a pair of pants that fit his waist and his thighs at the same time.
In a lot of the important ways, we had lived each other's lives.
In other ways, we hadn't. Jared Lorenzen had been a star quarterback at Kentucky and won a Super Bowl ring with the New York Giants. I'd had desk jobs my whole life, stringing together words for a living. That's why I was writing about him, instead of the other way around. But when we talked -- and we talked a lot, that spring and summer of 2014 -- I felt like I was talking to a mirror.
I'm just now realizing that we never ate a meal together. That would have been fraught for both of us.
I wanted to write about Jared because I was afraid to write my own story. Jared was known as the biggest quarterback anyone had ever seen; he often played at more than 300 pounds, and by the time I met him, he was somewhere about 400. But he wasn't as big as me. That year, I was closing in on a high of 460, and I had this weird two-sided life: I loved my work and loved my wife and loved my friends, but I often hated myself because I couldn't control my weight and I knew one day it would kill me.
For years, I had been hauling around the idea that I should write about all that -- that I should share the most important story of my life. But I was afraid to reveal the darkest parts of myself. And I was terrified of the damage it might do to the people I loved. So I stuffed all that back inside and kept writing about other people.
Telling Jared's story was a substitute for telling mine.
I went to his office. I went to the radio station where he worked part time. I watched him play Wiffle ball with comedian Jay Mohr. I hung out at the apartment he had just moved into, strewn with boxes and clothes and toys belonging to his two kids. The one thing he had managed to do was hook up the TV. On one of my interview tapes, you can hear golf announcers in the background, calling the British Open.
I talked to his mom and his ex-wife and his old agent and a bunch of his coaches. They all loved him and cared about him. None of them knew how to help him.
I try to keep myself out of stories I write about other people. But as I wrote Jared's story, it became clear I had to put myself in. My struggle was the whole reason I was writing about his. I started the story this way:
Jared Lorenzen and I are in love with the same woman. Her name is Little Debbie, and she makes delicious snack cakes.
The story on Jared ran that August and became one of ESPN's most-read stories that year. I got hundreds of emails and messages from readers who had their own weight issues and saw something in Jared's story that made them want to change. I forwarded a bunch of those emails to Jared. He was hearing from a lot of people too. His story moved so many.
One of the people Jared inspired was me. As I listened to him being so open and honest about his weight, I started to think that my story might be worth telling too. I wrote a book proposal for a memoir, and we found a publisher. That book, "The Elephant in the Room," came out this past January. Since then, I've heard from hundreds of more readers who were motivated to change because of the book or who used it as a way to connect with someone they know with a weight problem.
The book would not exist if not for Jared showing me the way.
I sent him a copy when it came out. We had kept in touch off and on over the years. He didn't say much except that he was doing OK. But every once in a while, I saw photos of him online. As I was getting smaller, he was getting bigger.
Jared died on Wednesday. He had gone into the hospital last week with an infection and heart and kidney issues. I don't know for a fact that they were related to his weight, but it seems likely. He was only 38.
After the story came out, he started a company called Throwboy Tees; one of his nicknames as a player was the Pillsbury Throwboy. He worked on the radio team at Kentucky football games. He always had a business idea or two in his head. But I don't know that he ever found anything with the clarity and purpose that football gave him.
A couple of years after the story, he finally went to the doctor and stepped on a scale for the first time in years. He weighed 560 pounds.
For a while, he did a video series called "The Jared Lorenzen Project" about his fight to get back in shape. When ESPN's show, E:60, did a piece on him last year, he had dropped down to 477. This past February, he was the subject of an online documentary series, also called "The Jared Lorenzen Project." The last clip on the series' Facebook page is from two months ago. He looks tired and stressed.
Jared had told the E:60 crew that he was willing to be the face of obesity, to be the one to stand up and say, "I'm fat," and then to show people what it took to get better. He had a desire to change people with the force of his personality, the way I always hope to change people with my words.
Wednesday night, on Twitter, a reader named Noble Brown told a story about reading my story on Jared. At the time, Noble was about to turn 40 and weighed more than 300 pounds. He read the story and stared at the unopened can of Dr Pepper on his desk. He resolved to never drink it. He started eating better and exercising. Now he lifts weights five times a week, and 5K races are a breeze.
His whole thread reads like poetry, and it ends this way:
As strange as it sounds
In some small way
Jared Lorenzen saved my life
I am deeply saddened to hear of his passing
He was younger than I was when I turned my life around
Perhaps in a few years, he might have done the same
I'm honored and humbled that the story on Jared has made a difference for so many. I wish my words had been strong enough to make the difference for Jared. His courage made so much of a difference for me.

Today's Tune: Rodrigo y Gabriela - Mettavolution

America in Full

Tim Rice
July 3, 2019

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Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story, by Wilfred M. McClay (Encounter, 504 pp., $34.99)

Wilfred McClay’s Land of Hope wastes no time making its purpose known. The first thing you notice about it is that it looks like a textbook. From its heft and glossy pages to its artistic cover and evocative subtitle (“An Invitation to the Great American Story”), this volume would look perfectly at home on a school desk, in a backpack, or jammed into a locker. Without even opening it, though, you can tell that Land of Hope is very different from that other book with which it is being been compared—Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.

Land of Hope is a fact-driven history, open to the now radical-seeming notion that America is good. By presenting American history in full, McClay opens the door for a serious, studied patriotism. From the outset, this book sets itself apart from ordinary textbooks. Rather than dutifully marching through the facts and figures that led to the Founding, McClay takes care to situate America in a broader historical context. In quick but effective bursts, he guides the reader from the Crusades to the Reformation, stopping in at each milestone in European social, religious, and political history. At the same time, we see the premodern pilgrimage across the Eurasian land bridge of those who will come to be known as Native Americans.

By the time the first settlers dock at Jamestown, McClay has swiftly dispensed with the usual accounts of pre-eighteenth-century America. Neither winsome idealists nor vicious colonizers, the European settlers of the New World are presented as they would have understood themselves: as the inheritors of centuries of Western civilization. McClay, in turn, shows these settlers to be the most recent batch of rugged individuals, who, over millennia, have come here in search of a better life.

The spirit McClay identifies in this first group of Americans is crucial to his account of the Founding. Through a careful cultural study of the politics and religion of the various colonies, McClay shows that ideas of self-rule and a firm belief in the natural rights of man long preceded the conflicts of the 1770s. He doesn’t view the colonists as fighting to reclaim their rights as Englishmen. He sees the Founding, rather, as something entirely new in history—a revolution in thought based on distinctly American ideas about politics and civic life.

This is a crucial point, as McClay tells the story of America through the lens of the Founding. He takes note of all deviations from the Founders’ ideals, from the “manifest destiny” of the nineteenth century to the administrative revolution in the Progressive Era to Harry Truman’s decision to deploy nuclear weapons in World War II. No person or action is exempted from scrutiny or criticism, regardless of their political leanings or historical circumstances.

This approach becomes especially important as McClay reaches the twentieth century. These chapters are bound to be the most talked about portions of the book. When faced with a full and fair account of twentieth-century history, even the most cynical reader will be shocked at just how biased to the left, in comparison, the mainstream historical narrative has become.

It’s tempting to combat the accepted story of twentieth-century progress with a commensurate tale of decline, one that conservatives often tell: how Woodrow Wilson and his coterie of German professors tossed out the Constitution, creating the conditions in which Franklin Roosevelt sowed the seeds of a soft despotism that remains with us to this day. Instead, McClay presents the upheavals of the twentieth century as the result of an ever-present temptation to deviate from the Founding’s principles. The consistent application of this critique is one of this book’s greatest strengths.

Like other disciplines, the study of American history has fallen victim to a peculiarly modern obsession with facts. But factual accuracy does not guarantee fairness. True, most history textbooks are dull progressions of facts, but only facts that fit a specific leftist narrative. Land of Hope upends the narrative. This is not to say that it’s light on detail—rest assured, you’ll find everything you need to pass the AP exam in this volume. McClay doesn’t sacrifice facts, but instead builds up from them, reintroducing a grandeur to American history all but absent in most books of this kind.

“There is only one thing in life . . . that I must and will have before I die,” says Madeleine Lee, the socialite protagonist of Henry Adams’s 1880 novel Democracy. “I must know whether America is right or wrong.” To hear many historians today tell it, the American past offers a choice: you can love your country or you can learn its history—but not both. McClay rejects this dichotomy. He tells the tale of America in full, inviting readers to take up Lee’s question for themselves. Land of Hope proves that patriotism is not only compatible with a clear view of America’s past—it should proceed from it as well.

Was Thomas Jefferson On The Duke Lacrosse Team?

By Ann Coulter
July 3, 2019

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Statue of Thomas Jefferson on the University of Missouri campus

While tearing down everything that's great about our country, the left has always permitted us to celebrate patriotic holidays.

But this year, on the week that we commemorate the unveiling of the Declaration of Independence, Nike yanked a Betsy Ross tribute sneaker off the market because the American flag didn't sit well with Colin Kaepernick.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., is telling wild, provable lies about America's border agents.

This Fourth of July, let's look at the tactics used by the left to blacken the reputations of American heroes. To wit, the lie that the principal author of the declaration, Thomas Jefferson, fathered a child with his slave, Sally Hemings.

The charge was first leveled in 1802 by a muckraking, racist, alcoholic journalist, James Callender, who had served prison time for his particular brand of journalism. He had tried to blackmail Jefferson into appointing him postmaster at Richmond. When that failed, Callender retaliated by publicly accusing Jefferson of fathering the first-born son of Sally Hemings -- or, as the charming Callender described her, "a slut as common as the pavement."

No serious historian ever believed Callender's defamation -- not Dumas Malone, Merrill Peterson, Douglass Adair or John Chester Miller. Not one. Their reasoning was that there was absolutely no evidence to support the theory and plenty to contradict it.

The Jefferson-Hemings myth was revived by feminists trying to elevate the role of women in history. Modern pedagogy requires that no period of our past be taught without turning it into a lecture on racism, sexism or homophobia.

Fawn M. Brodie got the ball rolling with her 1974 book, "Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History," which used Freudian analysis to prove Jefferson kept Hemings as his concubine and fathered all six of her children.

Brodie's book was followed by Barbara Chase-Riboud's 1979 novel "Sally Hemings," a work that imagines Hemings' interior life. When CBS announced plans to make a miniseries out of the novel, Jefferson scholars exploded, denouncing the project as a preposterous lie. The miniseries was canceled.

Finally, a female law professor, Annette Gordon-Reed, wrote "Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy," which accused professional historians of racism for refusing to defer to the "oral history" of Hemings' descendants.

She said "racism," so the historians shut up.

In 1998, a retired pathologist, Dr. Eugene Foster, performed a DNA test on the Y-chromosomes of living male descendants of Sally Hemings, as well as those from Jefferson's paternal uncle. The Y-chromosome is passed from male to male, so, if the story were true, Hemings' male descendants ought to have the Y-chromosome of the Jefferson male bloodline.

What the DNA tests showed was that Hemings' firstborn son, Tom -- the Tom whose alleged paternity was the basis for Callender's accusation -- was not related to any Jefferson male.

Foster's study did establish that Hemings' last-born son, Eston, was the son of some Jefferson male, but could not possibly say whether that was Thomas Jefferson or any of the other 25 adult male Jeffersons living in Virginia at the time, eight of them at or near Monticello.

For Eston to be Jefferson's son, we have to believe that five years after being falsely accused of fathering a child with Hemings, Jefferson decided, What the heck? I may be president of the United States, but I should prove Callender's slander true by fathering a child with my slave!

It would be as if five years after the Duke lacrosse hoax, one of the falsely accused players went out and actually raped a stripper -- in fact, the same stripper.

Nonetheless, Nature magazine titled its article on the study "Jefferson Fathered Slave's Last Child." Hundreds of newspapers rushed to print with the lie, e.g.:

"Study: Jefferson, Slave Had Baby" -- Associated Press Online, Nov. 1, 1998

"DNA Study Shows Jefferson Fathered His Slave's Child" -- Los Angeles Times, Nov. 1, 1998"

Jefferson Exposed" -- Boston Globe, Nov. 3, 1998

Two months after these false "findings" had been broadcast from every news outlet where English is spoken, Foster admitted that the DNA had not proved Jefferson fathered any children by Sally Hemings, merely that he could have fathered one child. Only eight newspapers mentioned the retraction.

The science alone puts the odds of Thomas Jefferson fathering Eston at less than 15% -- less than 4%, if all living Jefferson males are considered, not just the ones at Monticello.

All other known facts about Jefferson make it far less probable still.

There are no letters, diaries or records supporting the idea that Jefferson was intimate with Hemings, and quite a bit of written documentation to refute it, including Jefferson's views on miscegenation and his failure to free Hemings in his will, despite freeing several other slaves.

In private letters, Jefferson denounced Callender's claim -- a denial made more credible by his admission to a sexual indiscretion that would have been more shameful at the time: his youthful seduction of a friend's wife.

None of the private correspondence from anyone else living at Monticello credited the Hemings rumor, though several pointed to other likely suspects -- specifically Jefferson's brother, Randolph.

Eston was born in 1808, when Thomas Jefferson was 64 years old and in his second term as president. His brother Randolph was 52, and Randolph's five sons were 17 to 24 years old. All of them were frequent visitors at Monticello.

While Jefferson was busy entertaining international visitors in the main house, Randolph would generally retire to the slave quarters to dance and fiddle. One slave, Isaac Granger Jefferson, described Randolph in his dictated memoirs thus: "Old Master's brother, Mass Randall, was a mighty simple man: used to come out among black people, play the fiddle and dance half the night."

There is not a single account of Thomas Jefferson frequenting slave quarters. Nor did Jefferson take any interest in Hemings' children. Randolph did, teaching all of Hemings' sons to play the fiddle.

Randolph was an unmarried widower when Eston was conceived. After Randolph remarried, Hemings had no more children.

In response to DNA proof that only one of Hemings' children was related to any Jefferson male -- and her firstborn son was definitely NOT fathered by any Jefferson -- the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the Monticello Association and the National Genealogical Society promptly announced their official positions: Thomas Jefferson fathered all six of Hemings' children! Guided tours of Monticello today include the provably false information that Jefferson fathered all of Hemings' children.

So now you, at least, know the truth -- not that it matters in the slightest. Happy Fourth of July!

Ann Coulter's Latest Book Resistance Is Futile!: How the Trump-Hating Left Lost Its Collective Mind is available on Amazon

Thursday, July 04, 2019

This Fourth of July, why patriotism is worth defending

July 3, 2019

This Fourth of July, why patriotism is worth defending

For the haters, it’s open season on the American ideal.
Colin Kaepernick doesn’t like today’s American flag because it reminds him of police brutality and he doesn’t like Betsy Ross’ O.G. flag because it reminds him of slavery. I’m starting to think maybe Colin Kaepernick is not so fond of the flag, or of the country that made him rich.
Nike supported him by withdrawing the Betsy Ross-flagged sneaker. That’s right, the American flag, in any form, is now apparently a toxic symbol. The governor of California, Gavin Newsom, actually praised Nike.
Meanwhile, the Charlottesville City Council justvoted to stop celebrating Thomas Jefferson’s birthday in the city where he died on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence he wrote. American patriotism has just reached a record low entirely because of Democrats, of whom only 22% say they’re “extremely proud” of their country. To celebrate the Fourth, America’s most prominent newspaper is bidding for the trolling Hall of Fame by running a video, titled “Please stop telling me America is great,” that argues how America is “just OK.”
Remember the distant past of 2016, when leading voices of progressivism were saying, “America never stopped being great” (Hillary Clinton) and “America is already great” (Barack Obama)? All that’s over.
American military, economic and cultural power dominates the world (you’ve never heard of the biggest movie made by China or France this year, but they’ve certainly heard of “Avengers: Endgame”). America leads the world in Nobel laureates, and it isn’t close. America leads the world in the success of our middle class, and it isn’t close. True, America has more poor people than some other countries — but that’s because we let in millions of people from poor countries. Saying “America has a poverty problem” is like saying, “Florida has a high death rate.” Florida doesn’t kill people, it just attracts a lot of old ones.
“What about slavery?” is not an irrelevant question to ask about American history. Slavery is indeed our original sin. It’s important. We fought a war over it. You may have heard of it.
But to think of slavery first when you think of American history is like thinking of Charles Manson first when you think of men. America accomplished a few good things as well. America is a radical idea that had never come close to being implemented before — a broad-based democracy with government engineered for the purpose of zealously protecting our natural, or God-given, rights. We zoomed out ahead of the rest of the world, and we never looked back. As late as 1870, only 40% of the men in Britain were entitled to vote. Voting in America was not universal until women got the vote in 1920, but the US was miles ahead of everybody else in allowing its people to be heard.
Even more important, the US was and is miles ahead when it comes to allowing its people to speak. In Britain, people can and do get thrown in jail for things they’ve said on Twitter. (The 2003 Communications Act makes it a crime to type mean things on the internet. No, you don’t get a break for being young, or drunk, or for thinking you’re being darkly funny. The police actually monitor social media looking for people to arrest.) A 2014 headline in The Guardian reads, “Is it right to jail someone for being offensive on Facebook or Twitter?” No, it isn’t right. It is in fact quite wrong, and in America it is unthinkable because we have the world’s strongest protections for speech.
The First Amendment, like everything else about America, has not always worked perfectly (Woodrow Wilson threw Eugene V. Debs in jail under the Sedition Act for opposing World War I) but is a great and noble ideal, and we are far closer to living up to its full potential now than we ever have been in the glorious history of this exceptionally wonderful country.
Don’t take it from me; ask the world. A Gallup survey notes that 150 million people, or one out of 25 adults on the planet, would move to the US if they could. That’s more than the next four countries combined. “America remains unusually attractive to people from all over the world — in a way to which no other country compares,” Gallup reported.
Everybody knows America is number one, which is why, even among the hating class of Americans, no one ever leaves. Ta-Nehisi Coates and Spike Lee haven’t moved to France. Gavin Newsom isn’t moving to Mexico. Colin Kaepernick isn’t moving to Cuba. Lena Dunham, Bryan Cranston, Barbra Streisand and all the other celebrities who threatened/promised to move to Canada are still here. Hell, we can’t even get the Canadian-born whiners and haters (like Seth Rogen and Jim Carrey) to move back.
America didn’t complete the project of freedom on that broiling day in Philly, but that’s like saying your kid’s first day of school is no big deal because your kids can’t do algebra yet. On July 4, 1776, we began setting up the greatest opportunity for human flourishing the world has ever known, and our example continues to be the world’s beacon. The United States of America isn’t perfect. We’re merely the best.

Today's Tune: Shooter Jennings - 4th Of July [Official Live Video]

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

The perils of empire

By Rick Atkinson
July 2, 2019

Fighting at the Battle of Monmouth
George Washington at the Battle of Monmouth, 1778.

Empires are hard to build and even harder to keep intact. No sooner does an empire congeal than centrifugal forces — overreach, complacency, strategic miscalculation and enemies, foreign and domestic — threaten to tug it apart.

As we celebrate our 243rd Independence Day, and the resultant American empire that would come to dominate the modern world, it’s worth considering the 18th-century British Empire against which we rebelled in a bleak and bloody eight-year war. We have become more like that Anglo imperium than perhaps we suspect, and we face some of the same head winds that caused so much grief for King George III and his nation.

Several dynastic coalition wars against European adversaries had ended indecisively before Britain’s wildly successful triumph in 1763 over France and Spain in the Seven Years’ War, called the French and Indian War in America. Britain massed firepower in her blue-water fleet and organized enough maritime mobility to transport assault troops vast distances, capturing strongholds from Quebec and Havana to Manila in what London also called the Great War for the Empire. “Our bells are worn threadbare with ringing for victory,” one happy Briton reported.

Spoils under the Treaty of Paris were among the greatest ever won by force of arms, including Canada, a half-billion fertile acres west of the Appalachians, various sugar islands in the West Indies, Florida and parts of India. Britain emerged from the war with the most powerful navy in history and the world’s largest mercantile fleet, some 8,000 vessels. She cowed her rivals and so dominated Europe’s trade with Asia, Africa and North America that by 1773, the writer George Macartney could celebrate “this vast empire on which the sun never sets.”

Britain was ascendant, with its own mighty revolutions — agrarian and industrial — underway. A majority of all European growth in the first half of the 18th century had occurred in England, a proportion that would increase with the arrival of the steam engine, patented in 1769, and the spinning jenny a year later. Canals were cut, roads built, highwaymen hanged, coal mined, iron forged. Sheep would double in weight during the century; calf weights tripled. “I felt a completion of happiness,” the Scottish diarist James Boswell wrote. “I just sat and hugged myself in my own mind.”

Hubris, the disease of victory, also set in. Britain viewed the new empire as an affirmation of her virtues — tenacity and martial prowess among them — as well as the fountainhead of national wealth and power. Colonies existed to provide raw materials for the mother country and to buy her finished products, not to find their own way in the world or to extend prosperity to the masses.

But Britain had emerged from the Great War for the Empire deeply in debt. Interest payments devoured half of the government’s yearly tax revenue. Britons were among Europe’s most heavily taxed citizens, paying excise fees on items from soap and salt to male servants and racehorses that might exceed 25 percent of an item’s value.

It seemed only fair that colonists should help shoulder the burden: a typical American, by Treasury Board calculations, paid no more than sixpence a year in Crown taxes, one-fiftieth of the average Englishman’s payment, even as Americans benefited from eradication of the French and Spanish threats and the Royal Navy’s protection of North American trade.

Yet the Americans, famously, bridled at every attempt to tax them without their consent, whether through the Stamp Act of 1765, the Townshend Acts a couple of years later or the small, residual tax on tea that caused costumed insurrectionists in Boston, said to be “dressed in the Indian manner,” to dump 45 tons of Bohea, Congou, Singlo, Souchong and Hyson tea into Boston Harbor in December 1773. At that point, the spiraling descent toward war accelerated until the rebellion burst into flame at Lexington and Concord in April 1775.

Although King George decreed that “blows must decide,” some British intellectuals doubted the wisdom of waging war across 3,000 miles of ocean in the age of sail. Adam Smith, the Scottish philosopher whose sweeping study of political economy, titled “The Wealth of Nations,” would be published in 1776, argued that Britain would be better off jettisoning her colonies. The New World was “not an empire, but the project of an empire,” Smith wrote, “not a gold mine, but the project of a gold mine . . . mere loss instead of profit.”

Likewise, William Pitt, who had engineered Britain’s victory in the Seven Years’ War, denounced the government’s folly in America. “All attempts to impose servitude upon such men, to establish despotism over such a mighty continental nation must be in vain,” he warned. Edmund Burke, the Irish-born political philosopher, told the House of Commons that “the horrors of a civil war . . . may terminate in the dismemberment of our empire, or in a barren and ruinous conquest.”

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The Battle of Bunker Hill, 1775 by John Trumball

Many British merchants — potters and shoemakers in Staffordshire, the makers of fishing nets and lines in Bridport — also worried that the loss of American markets would cripple their businesses because colonists bought up to 20 percent of British manufactured goods, and a much higher proportion of certain commodities such as glassware, English cordage, worsted socks and beaver hats.

But hefty majorities in both houses of Parliament insisted that the Colonies obey imperial commands. The essayist and lexicographer Samuel Johnson denounced the Americans as “a race of convicts [who] ought to be thankful for anything we allow them short of hanging.” His companion James Boswell recorded how Johnson “breathed out threatenings and slaughter, calling them rascals, robbers, pirates, and exclaiming that he’d ‘burn and destroy them.’ ”

The king and his ministers embraced several strategic misconceptions in, for example, overestimating the depth of loyalist support across the Colonies and in underestimating rebel resolve in confronting British firepower. Moreover, London believed that allowing the American Colonies to detach themselves from the empire would encourage insurrections in Canada, Ireland, India and those West Indies sugar islands. Dominoes would topple, causing Britain to “revert to her primitive insignificancy in the map of the world,” as a member of the House of Commons warned. A cabinet secretary, Lord Dartmouth, added ominously that “destruction must follow disunion.” With the empire dismembered, an impoverished Great Britain, no longer great, would invite “the scorn of Europe” and exploitation by Continental enemies — France and Spain foremost — aching for revenge since the humiliation of 1763.

Among those particularly well-suited to assess the hazards of expeditionary war against a dogged insurgency was an elfin man with a double chin and a squat nose who, in his study on Bentinck Street in London, was writing a great saga, the first volume of which would be published in 1776 as “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” As a member of Parliament, Edward Gibbon remained steadfast for the Crown, warning a friend, “We have both the right and the power on our side. We are now arrived at the decisive moment of preserving, or of losing forever, both our trade and empire.” But he was too good a student of history to be entirely cocksure, writing, “With firmness, all may go well. Yet I sometimes doubt.”

A British politician and army officer who had seen military service in America during the Seven Years’ War assured Parliament that 5,000 redcoats could march through the Colonies unhindered because Americans, “of a pusillanimous disposition, and utterly incapable of any sort of order or discipline,” would “never dare to face an English army.”

Yet Britain soon overextended that army and navy in a struggle that would last for eight years, waged in more than 1,300 battlefield actions, mostly small and gory, with a few large and gory, plus 241 naval engagements. As the essayist and firebrand Thomas Paine advised Admiral Lord Richard Howe, commander of Royal Navy forces in North America, “In all the wars which you have formerly been concerned in, you have had only armies to contend with. In this case, you have both an army and a country to combat.”

Indeed, some British commanders realized that the “human terrain” in America — to borrow a phrase often invoked in modern counterinsurgency doctrine — was extraordinarily complex. Recent scholarship has estimated that roughly 20 percent of the 2 million white Americans in the Colonies during the Revolution remained loyal to the Crown (although loyalty was a slippery concept, contingent on shifting moods and conditions). Trying to broaden that minority left Maj. Gen. Henry Clinton, who would serve longer during the Revolution than any senior British commander, pondering how “to gain the hearts and subdue the minds of America,” a phrase little altered when invoked in Vietnam almost two centuries later.

Further complicating that human terrain were a half-million black slaves, pointedly excluded from the Declaration of Independence maxim that “all men are created equal.” Britain, which had long dominated the global slave trade but was gradually moving toward abolition, offered more than once to free rebel-owned slaves who escaped their American masters and shouldered arms on the king’s behalf or otherwise helped the Crown. Such initiatives enraged American slaveholders, strengthening their rebellious resolve, while failing to boost British battlefield fortunes or to liberate more than a tiny fraction of those held in bondage.

As the war plodded on, persisting for more than 3,000 days, Britain’s shortcomings became more evident and more enervating. With few exceptions, British generals proved mediocre, often misjudging the American temperament, both in the seething resentments that fueled the insurrection and in the broad, visionary commitment to a republican future. If George III was not the reactionary nitwit who still dominates the American stereotype, he was nonetheless stubborn and inflexible. The king’s men — his ministers and parliamentary allies — were poorly endowed with agility, vision and statesmanship. Reluctant to lose face or credibility, London preferred self-delusion to hard reckoning. Lord George Germain, who supervised much of the war as the American secretary, told his field commanders in 1777, “I trust that the unexpected success of the rebels will not so far elate them as to prevent them from seeing the real horrors of their situation.”

The combat theater soon expanded from North America to the wider Western Hemisphere and beyond, as Britain’s adversaries, including France, Spain and the Netherlands, joined the war against her. A deadly squabble on the far rim of civilization became a global war; the Crown sought to be strong everywhere, with predictable results. Having alienated her neighbors with overbearing commercial and military policies, Britain was alone, bereft of allies. “Our stake is deep,” the British writer and historian Horace Walpole wrote. “It is that kind of war in which even victory may ruin us.”

There would be no victory, of course. Britain ultimately lacked not only sufficient combat troops and shipping but also a coherent strategy and political will. For all their shortcomings, the Americans demonstrated endurance and just enough battlefield moxie — stiffened with vital French support — to prevail. Even a resounding British military triumph would have been unlikely to yield an enduring political solution, given the animosity aroused by years of killing and the stupendous expansion of the American Colonies, which were doubling in population nearly every 25 years, an explosive growth unseen in recorded European history and fourfold England’s rate.

Under the treaty that ended the war in 1783, Britain’s empire would shrink by about a third. The conflict had also cost £128 million and thousands of British lives, plus many lives among the 30,000 German mercenaries hired to reinforce the king’s legions. The loss of dominions in America proved to be as divisive within the British body politic as any misfortune to befall the nation in the 18th century.

Yet the moving hand of history swiftly moved on. What was lost by force of arms could be regained. Rebound sometimes follows decline. A second British Empire would flourish in the next century after defeating Napoleon and dismantling his empire, before once again dominating the world with a mastery that caused Charles Darwin, in 1836, “to congratulate myself that I was born an Englishman.”

Britain has long punched above its weight — the country is smaller than Oregon — and for nearly as long has feared the loss of status as a player on the world stage. “I have not become the king’s first minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire,” Winston Churchill declared in 1942. But, in fact, he had: Another empire would dissolve in the anti-colonial tumult that followed World War II. Anxiety over the consequences of Brexit is the latest iteration of British alarm at reverting to “primitive insignificancy.”

Comparisons of the British and American empires are easily overdrawn, particularly when assessing an 18th-century imperium with one that flourished in the 20th century. But echoes can be heard. Both were built and sustained with a large, permanent military force, including navies without peer in their respective epochs. Both reflected a devotion to market capitalism that relentlessly sought foreign markets and resources. Both derived from reasonably robust democracies, committed to political liberalism and personal freedoms within cultures that often bent toward conservatism.

Both also displayed a penchant for foreign adventures, including expansionist and punitive expeditions sometimes infused with evangelical zeal that could be taken for arrogance. Both could be bullies, demonstrating a knack for alternately alienating and wooing allies. Diplomacy as practiced by America in 2019, which often consists of giving a thumb in the eye to our closest partners, threatens to leave us as friendless as Britain was 243 years ago.

We have come far since 1776 in power, diversity, tolerance and sheer scale. We are not them, but the apple hasn’t fallen all that far from the tree.

Rick Atkinson, a former reporter and editor at The Post, has won Pulitzer Prizes for history and journalism. This essay is adapted from his latest book, “The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777,” the first volume in a trilogy on the American Revolution.