Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Neo-Marxist Record

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about what a repulsive tyrant Mao Tse-Tung was.  In that piece, I remarked at how the world has turned upside down, with Marxists currently commended for their compassion and capitalists portrayed as vicious oppressors.  This was not the nation in which I grew up.
A few days later, I received an email from a reader of my own generation.  He too lamented at how many people nowadays have forgotten the legacy of Marxism.  Not having personally experienced it, they romanticize the horrors perpetrated by butchers such as Che Guevara.
As a sociologist, I am surrounded by Neo-Marxists.  Many of my colleagues, especially at other universities, advocate socialism.  They sincerely believe that a collectivist economy presided over by experts, such as themselves, promotes social justice.  Only this, they are convinced, can create egalitarian prosperity.
And yet, over the last century, socialist experiments have wrought little but destruction.  Their partisans proclaim a multitude of successes, whereas failure has been the norm.  Whether in Russia, Eastern Europe, China, North Korea, Cuba, and now Venezuela, a succession of dictators delivered poverty and repression.
It is the same in the United States.  The damage done has not been as extensive because neo-Marxist control has been less far-reaching.  Nonetheless, although liberals regularly boast about their accomplishments, their path here is also strewn with the bones of rotting social programs.
Do you remember how Jimmy Carter was going to be a man we could trust?  He would bring down inflation and apply his engineering expertise to foreign policy.  But what did he give us?  Well, it was a roaring inflation and dozens of hostages held by the Iranians.
Do you also remember how Bill Clinton would extract us from a recession and preside over a peace dividend?  But he tried to give us HillaryCare and higher taxes.  Only a conservative congress saved him from himself.  Without this, there have been no balanced budget or growing economy.
Lastly, do you remember when Barack Obama assured us he would oversee a rebirth of transparency and peace?  Yet his was the most secretive administration the nation has ever had, while “strategic patience” allowed Syria to splinter and Russia, China and Iran to assert their hegemony.
Look too at how progressive policies have dumbed down education, expanded welfare dependency, brought violence to inner city streets, exacerbated race relations, over-regulated the economy, and turned health care into a battleground.  Was this supposed to be progress?
Words are not deeds.  Promises are not performance.  Neo-Marxism, whatever it is called, has never worked.  Its sorry record of repression and over-sold salvation springs from the contradictions at its core.  Collectivist regimes depend upon humans being what they are not.  As a consequence, these governments dole out the opposite of what they undertake.
First, ordinary people never love others with equal intensity.  Love, of necessity, has a narrow focus.  Genuine love is only of a few.  Second, ordinary people are not egalitarian.  They want to be special.  They want to be winners, not mediocrities.
Third, this means that neo-Marxists must use force when imposing their solutions.  Why?  Because people resist what goes against their nature.  Fortunately for the collectivists, they enjoy employing force.  They are, as a result, determined to assemble so much personal power that no one can resist them.
Ironically, we are seeing the fruits of these propensities in the Trump presidency.  To begin with, Trump would not have been elected had not millions of Americans rebelled at being treated like sheep.  They were no longer prepared to delegate their fate in an insensitive federal government.
Next, liberals would not be so upset with Trump had they not provided him the tools to undo their legacy.  By concentrating additional power in Washington, he was enabled to use executive orders to nullify what was created by executive order.  Now Democrats have difficulty stopping what they designed to be unstoppable.
Here then is the supreme irony of Neo-Marxism.  The dictatorial government machinery it bequeathed us can be turned against itself.  When people recognize how feckless the progressive record has been, they are able to reverse it with the same imperious techniques used to create it.
Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology

Kennesaw State University

Sean Spicer: Public Enemy?

The cry has gone up!  Fire Sean Spicer!   He is a closet fascist who cannot be allowed to represent the president of the United States as press secretary.  A man, as callous and ignorant as he, must not be the spokesman for Trump’s administration.  This would demean the entire nation.
What was Spicer’s sin?  It was that this man had the audacity to deny the existence of the holocaust.  He stood in front television cameras and declared that Hitler had not used gas to exterminate the Jews.  How crude!  How cruel!
Well, that is not exactly what Spicer said.  What he stated was that Hitler had not used gas on his own people during World War II the way Bashir Assad did in Syria.  The point was that in this respect Assad was worse than Hitler.
Later in the day, this alleged misstatement led the evening news on all three mainstream television networks.  How, the newscasters asked, could anyone forget the mass murders in Auschwitz?  So egregious was this error that it overshadowed what Assad had done.
Yet I am reminded of what I was taught in High School.  My very liberal teachers made a point of saying that Hitler had not used gas during the preceding war.  Despite the fact that gas was utilized extensively in World War I, its effects were so gruesome that even a madman like the Fuhrer abstained.
Mind you, many of my teachers had personal connections with people who died in Nazi gas chambers.  Nonetheless, they knew perfectly well that they were making a distinction between using gas on the battlefield versus extermination camps.  They were not denying the latter by noting the absence of the former.
But neither was Spicer.  When castigated for his supposed blunder, he, in fact, made a full-throated apology.  Yes, he said, he was wrong to claim Hitler had not used gas.  But what he meant was that Hitler had not dropped gas on people from airplanes.
This mea culpa was not enough.  Despite repeating his admission of guilt several times, Spicer was raked over the coals for two entire days.  Commentators recurrently expressed their shock at his original statement.  It was so terrible it could not be discounted.
What was the point of all this?  It was clearly not to instruct Spicer.  Nor was it to protect the public from his insensitivity.  Spicer knew what he said, whereas most people became aware of this only through media repetitions.  No, the point was to collect a scalp.   The goal was to destroy the career and reputation of a Trump ally.
Liberals, and their media cohorts, have descended into an orgy of character assassination.  Having lost an election, they are determined to besmirch the names of anyone associated with the winner.  It does not matter if the targets are good people.  Their innocence is irrelevant.  What counts is can they be “got.”
This is not about rationality.  It is not about promoting alternative programs.  Given that many liberal policies have failed and that many liberal heroes were exposed as having feet of clay, the only recourse was to pull down the enemy—anywhere and by any means.
Isn’t it ironic that people who boast about their compassion show none when they perceive an opportunity to discredit a foe?  Isn’t it amazing that they brag about their superior intelligence but were unable to discern what Spicer meant?
The media attack dogs were not, of course, interested in being fair or accurate.  The job at hand was to take down a Trump partisan.  To this end, it was the decibel level of the attack chorus and not the merits of the criticism that mattered.
The objective was manifestly to intimidate the target into submission and disgrace him in the eyes of the public.  This was not about journalism.  It was political warfare.  The aim was to win—not be fair or honest.  At minimum, it was to harass Spicer and make his job more difficult.
Thus, what happened to Spicer cannot be taken at face value.  It only makes sense if recognized as an effort to inflict partisan injury.  This was political theater, not a sincere critique.
Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology

Kennesaw State University

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Pop Goes the Weasel

Recent international events have put me in mind of the old ditty “Pop Goes the Weasel.”  I had thought the lyric was about political rivals, but after checking this out online, I discover that there are many versions—most of which are nonsense.  The tune seems, in fact, to go back to cockney British music halls.
In any event, the words I learned as a child were:  All around the mulberry bush; the monkey chased the weasel.  The monkey thought t’was all in fun—pop goes the weasel.”  Somehow this seemed appropriate for the relationship between president Trump and many of his detractors.
I’m sure some of his critics think of Trump as a weasel.  They are happy to portray him as a mean-spirited creature, with sharp teeth but little sense.  Many have also been toying with him on the assumption that he is too incompetent to be dangerous.
But then came the Syria missile attack.  After Bashir Assad used saran gas on a defenseless village, the world was aghast.  So was Trump.  Yet most of us—including me—thought nothing would come of this.  Asked what he would do, the president replied, “we’ll see,” which appeared to be a classic political delay.
Although Trump mentioned a red line, the general assumption was that this might be written in the sand the way Obama’s pronouncement was.  But then, pop went the weasel.  Within days of the gassing, American retribution rained down from the sky.
This was so unexpected that it startled the world.  Many observers regarded Trump as dim-witted neophyte who had isolationist tendencies.  He would not pull a military trigger for fear of striking a hornet’s nest.  At best, he would tweet a few critical words and that would be the end of it.
Instead, there was a measured, but significant, response.  This was not the rejoinder of a wild man or a weakling.  Rather, it was the act of a man who meant what he said, and was accustomed to acting.
Ronald Reagan had a similar moment of clarity early in his administration.  When the Air Traffic Controllers threatened to strike, Reagan promised there would be a reckoning.  The union leaders, however, blew this off.  They knew their services were too important for them to be fired.
Yet Reagan did fire them en masse.  He meant what he said.  Moreover, the Russians immediately took notice.  Maybe he also meant what he said about defeating the Soviet Union.  Since the commissars knew they could not keep up with an American military buildup, they were motivated to make concessions.
Will the same be true of Putin?  Or the Chinese?  Or the North Koreans?  Or the Iranians?  Will our friends now rally around us, while our enemies step back?  Will these folks find Trump a force to be reckoned with and therefore someone whose initiatives must be taken into account?
And how about the Democrats?  They seem to have regarded Trump as a toothless tiger.  In resisting the president at every turn, they apparently assumed there would never be a price to pay.  Not only would they stop his health care legislation; they might even force him to withdraw the Gorsuch nomination for the Supreme Court.
Although I may be engaged in wishful thinking, what if Trump responds in an equivalent way to the sanctuary cities as he did to Assad?  What if he takes away their federal money and arrests some of the municipal ringleaders?  What too if he identifies some of the intelligence leakers?  Might they spend a few years in prison?
The Trump administration has thus far been slow in counterattacking his adversaries.  Yet what if that is because his people are only now getting organized?  The military was probably able to respond so promptly in Syria because it had contingency plans available.  What happens when the Department of Justice develops its contingency plans?
I am hoping that Trump is this sort of weasel.  I am hoping that he is an aggressive creature that can spring instantly into action, when action is needed.  I would like his teeth are shape enough, and his reflexes quick enough, to tame the Washington bureaucracy.  It would also be nice if he could frighten a few liberals into reversing their neo-socialist course.
Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology

Kennesaw State University

Blue Collar Wisdom

Last spring, when Donald Trump was just beginning to gain traction in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination, I had several emotional exchanges with some of my colleagues at Kennesaw State University.  Trump, I explained, was too arrogant and ignorant to serve in our nation’s highest office.
I further opined that Trump lacked the personal controls and historical perspective to occupy the oval office.  He would surely insult foreign leaders with his brash style, while simultaneously making enormous policy mistakes.  What if he started a trade war that brought about a new depression?
My co-workers assured me I was wrong.  Two, in particular, remained adamant in their support for Trump no matter how elegant my arguments?  These guys were both in criminal justice and both from blue-collar backgrounds.  They thus thought of Trump as one of them.
The bottom line in our discussions always came down to the same thing.  Trump, I was told, would get things done.  Instead of spewing reams of verbal blather, this man of action would act.  As a businessman, he would do what he always did, which was to finish the job on time and under budget.
At the end of these conversations, I usually came away feeling as if I had been talking with my father.  He too had a blue-collar mentality.  Although he eventually worked as an electronic engineer, he was not college educated.  Indeed he started out in carpentry and plumbing.
In any event, my father believed in being practical.  He hated fancy theories and was confident that experience taught him what he needed to know.  As far a as he was concerned, college educated folks were out of touch with reality.  They lived in ivory towers, where they never had to do an honest day’s work.
So here am I a full professor at a research university.  Long before this transpired, however, I was repeatedly warned that I was irredeemably unrealistic.  Despite my book learning, I did not have common sense.  Yes, I could do well on tests, but that did not mean I was able to tie my own shoelaces.
As for me, I was convinced that my father was envious.  When he accused me of living in a dream world, I was sure this revealed his own bitterness.  There was no need for me to pay attention because he was so wrong.
Now I know better!   Whatever my Dad’s motives, he was right that many intellectuals are hopelessly idealistic.  They may be smart, but they have committed themselves to philosophies that make no sense in the real world.  Whatever their rationalizations, their theories are more fiction than fact.
Barack Obama was just this sort of person.  He could use words to make almost any fantasy sound plausible.  The economy could be a disaster, his heath care program a travesty, and foreign affairs descend into chaos, but his soaring rhetoric set millions to cheering.
For a while, it looked like we might get another over-intellectualized president.  Unfortunately for her, Hillary Clinton was not as articulate or likeable as Obama.  Whereas her ideas were every bit as fantastic, they were not as inspiring.
Also confounding Hillary was the emergence of blue-collar wisdom.  Across the rust belt, working class Americans refused to be bamboozled by another liberal promise maker.  These folks wanted a “doer” in the White House.  They wanted someone as practical as themselves.
Many political commentators were puzzled by how everyday working people could have taken to a billionaire like Trump.  What did they have in common?  The answer is that they regarded him as a hands-on achiever.  He got things done.  While he might mangle the language, his strength lay in distinguishing what worked from what didn’t.
People, like might colleagues, might not have been entirely clear about why they trusted Trump, but they sensed that they were kindred spirits.  Moreover, from what we have seen so far, they were probably right. 
If so, we owe them a debt of gratitude.  They might have saved us from yet again trusting our fate to unrealistic politician.  Trump may be just the person we need to fix our economy and straighten out our foreign policy.
Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology

Kennesaw State University