The Literary Drover No. 5032

When I moved into my current home I did so with specific knowledge in hand: Work would be required on my part to make the house a home. The previous owners, after their fourth daughter moved out, decided that the time had come to travel. They put their furnishings into storage and turned the property over to a property management group that could have been named “Three irresponsible drunk frat brothers and an incontinent goat”. Simply and bluntly, the property management group responsible for the property did a very poor job of properly managing the condition of the property, allowing renters to do what renters are infamous for doing. The house was structurally sound but cosmetically it needed work. For example, the door for one bedroom was inexplicably off the hinges and stored in the back of the closet in the bedroom. The toilet on the lower level of the house worked, but when flushed alternated between a death rattle-like sound and a stutter that sounded like Donald Duck when he was using inappropriate language. Most of the lawn had been reduced to weeds and small rocks otherwise used for xeriscaping. Only one flower bed had flowers growing in it and they were in desperate need of care and pruning, and the other beds were covered with various forms of debris.

The first day after I moved in I went to the back yard, to the fence, and measured a square foot. I cleaned up the area inside the measurement, removing leaves and trash, and prepared the soil in the defined space for better things. The next day I repeated the process, starting on one side of the previously measured and tended area. Day after day I continued my pursuit until I worked my way around the side of the house and proceeded into the front yard.

Because of where I live I was able to gather leaves and twigs and send them to a local recycling yard where they were transformed into mulch. Some material gathered and removed had to be put out for the general trash, and by the end of the first week of living in my new home the trash dumpster was full.

Week after week I continued the required work, and when the landscape for my home had been cleaned and cleared of debris and trash I set about restoring the lawn and flower beds. Because the weather was good I was able to work outside in the morning and in the evening after spending the day working for a living.

Summer became Fall and I continued working. As I did I became aware of a relevant fact: A neighbor, who has since become a good friend. Retired from several professions he spent his days maintaining his property, and when he saw that I was making an effort to restore my home to a more acceptable state he introduced himself.

He did not offer opinion on my efforts. He did not criticize my accomplishments. He merely nodded as I worked, sweat often present on my person as I dug up this bit of rot and ruin or as I worked to restore or establish a section of landscape.

When the weather began to cool and because the exterior of my home was much improved I turned my attention to the interior of the house.

The aforementioned toilet was addressed. The door was rehung. Threadbare carpet was removed and replaced with hardwood floors. Painting was done. The kitchen and bathrooms were scoured, scrubbed, and cleaned.

The property took on the appearance of a living space.

Over the years I have continued my efforts and more than a few people have expressed praise for the improvements and the transformation from a residential embarrassment to a home others have copied in one form or another.

In order to keep my house a home I have made decisions regarding it. For example, when a neighbor took to leaving the trash from his fast food purchases on his yard and the wind blew them into my yard I gathered them into a black trash bag, and, when the bag was full, I put it on his front step. He got the message and proper disposal of the trash was undertaken.

Over the years, how I live in my home has extended beyond my home. The vehicles I drive are also kept in good condition. My wardrobe is in good condition. My life is in excellent condition.

I mention this personal information because it also applies to my Social Media presence. When I decided to start this blog I did so with specific facts in hand.

Fact: Ninety-nine percent of everything on Social Media can be discarded without concern because it has very little, if any, worth or value.

Fact: To make the most of worthwhile information on Social Media requires aggressive enforcement on my part, using block functions and filters.

Fact: Social Media has great potential and offers almost unlimited opportunity, but potential and opportunity can only come about through dedication, discipline, and determination on the part of the Individual.

Fact: Social Media is an extension and a reflection of the Individual, and the life an Individual chooses to live. I choose to have a healthy and fulfilling Life, and that is represented by the content of my Social Media presence. For example, I do not eat what is described as “junk food” in my real life. As a Writer I do not use language on my Social Media presence that can politely be described as “junk food”.

Fact: The Social Media presence that will stand out from others and endure is the Social Media effort that involves effort on the part of the Individual who creates and maintains it.

I mention these facts because it has come to my attention that the Social Media platform my Social Media presence is located on – WordPress – does not seem to agree with my opinions and assessments. Some time ago I noticed a dramatic drop in the traffic this blog was generating. Investigating the matter I learned about a practice now commonplace by Social Media platforms: Shadow banning. Bluntly, censorship using algorithms to supress specific Social Media accounts because the content published to the account does not support or advance the agenda of the Social Media platform.

Because I do not pay WordPress to host this blog I cannot and will not challenge their actions. I can and will, however, suggest caution be taken by those who use Social Media, specifically WordPress, because you might find yourself on the receiving end of censorship.

I mention the facts noted about Social Media because it has come to my attention that quality is not taken into consideration regarding promotion of a specific Social Media account. Again and again this opinion has been documented to be true and factual. For example, a blog brought to my attention by a friend and a fellow blogger.  The blog has been promoted for reasons that are not apparent. The blog showcased contains profanity, explicity threats, misspellings, punctuation errors, and other issues.

My response: If this is the standard I have no interest in pursuing the implied standard and accept that my efforts here will toil in obscurity.

Since starting this blog I have learned many things. One is a reminder of what transpires in my Life: In order to make the most of Social Media I must lead by example.

I start now.

The Literary Drover No. 3780

And . . . they carry my books:

The Literary Drover No. 3778

Learn. Know. Understand:

The Literary Drover No. 3776

Read . . .  my. . . books:

The Literary Drover No. 3772

The Writer Theodore Sturgeon formulated a Law of Standards that bears his name: Sturgeon’s Law.

At the time of formulation Sturgeon’s Law asserted that ninety percent of Everything is average. A decade later the law was adjusted to declare that ninety-four percent of Everything is average.

Today, given the condoning of mediocrity I state, according to Sturgeon’s Law, that ninety-nine percent of Everything is average.

The erosion of accomplishment, the degradation of excellence, inflicted by the unabashed arrogance and unapologetic egotism that is considered “human progress”, erroneously presented as ‘civilization’, might be considered demoralizing. I suggest that it provides for clarity and simplification in Life: Instead of expending energy and effort on the average and the mediocre you can focus on the one percent of Everything that makes the most of Life.

I do.

The Literary Drover No. 3770

The process of learning is about repetition. So here goes – Tell. Me. A. Good. Story:

The Literary Drover No. 3768

[In the past I have offered a long-winded missive or manifesto about why this is important or should be important, and have managed, with the grace of a left-footed mambo dancer, to infuriate, antagonize, and alienate just about everyone I can. For this occasion I offer the following sans such introduction. Do with it what you will, for whatever it may be worth.]

A Coalition for Cultural Freedom

by Matthew Continetti

On May 15, 1939, philosopher John Dewey issued a statement to the press announcing the formation of the Committee for Cultural Freedom. Attached were the committee’s declaration of principles and the names of 96 signatories. The following day, at a meeting inside Columbia University’s Low Library, the committee adopted its official manifesto. “Never before in modern times,” the document began, “has the integrity of the writer, the artists, the scientist, and the scholar been threatened so seriously.”

The committee’s members included anthropologists, philosophers, journalists, dramatists, attorneys, educators, and historians. Politically, they ran the gamut from democratic socialists to New Deal liberals to 19h-century liberals who embraced the market without serious qualification. What unified them was their commitment “to propagate courageously the ideal of untrammeled intellectual activity.” The “fundamental criteria for evaluating all social philosophies today,” their manifesto read, are “whether it permits the thinker and the artist to function independently of political, religious, or racial dogmas.” The basis for this alliance between such disparate persons, they continued, was “the least common denominator of a civilized culture — the defense of creative and intellectual freedom.”

It was the existence of Popular Front groups who toed the Stalinist line in science, literature, social thought, and the arts that moved the committee’s chief organizer, Sidney Hook, to action. “It seemed to me that it was necessary to challenge this massive phenomenon that was corrupting the springs of liberal opinion and indeed making a mockery of common sense,” Hook wrote in his autobiography, Out of Step(1987). “I decided to launch a new movement, based on general principles whose validity would be independent of geographical or national boundaries and racial or class membership.”

Hook’s committee was the precursor of the international Congress for Cultural Freedom, convened in Berlin in June 1950, and the affiliated American Committee for Cultural Freedom organized in 1951. At that first meeting in Berlin, Arthur Koestler read from the dais the “Manifesto of Freedom,” which held “as self-evident” that “intellectual freedom is one of the inalienable rights of man,” and that such freedom “is defined first and foremost by his right to hold and express his own opinions, and particularly opinions which differ from those of his rulers. Deprived of his right to say ‘no,’ man becomes a slave.”

The America of 2018, needless to say, is a much different place from the America of 1939 and 1951. Nazi Germany is long gone, extinguished in a war that killed 60 million souls. The Soviet Union disappeared 27 years ago, after a Cold War that lasted some five decades. Print media have collapsed and been replaced by digital and social media that limit the power of gatekeepers and extend the reach of minority viewpoints. If the late 1930s and early 1950s are the baseline, the world of 2018 is much more free.

But threats remain. Totalitarian systems in Russia, China, and their former Marxist-Leninist satellites have transformed, with the exception of North Korea, into systems of authoritarian control that permit some economic liberty while maintaining state sovereignty over politics, society, and culture. The authoritarians use “sharp power” to interfere in democratic elections, bully and exploit Western corporations and universities, and influence public discourse through information warfare. A renascent Marxism competes with, and to a large extent has been subsumed by, the ideology of multiculturalism and its attendant identity politics.

It is this ideology and politics that have captured America’s most prestigious intellectual, cultural, and media institutions. The university, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and increasingly formerly “neutral” and “objective” platforms such as the New York Times and The Atlantichave come under the sway of racial and sexual dogmas and attitudes that brook no disagreement. Membership in these institutions, which play a crucial role in elite opinion formation, and the social networks in which they are embedded, is contingent on agreement with or silence about certain ideas of “white privilege,” patriarchal “oppression,” “Islamophobia,” and “gender fluidity.” To dissent from these ideas — to exercise one’s right to say no — invites not only anathematization from polite society but also the loss of one’s job and, in some cases, physical threats.

The ferocity with which challenges to the ideology are met signifies not power but weakness.All it takes to end the hegemony of political correctness is to combat or ignore its will to intimidation. And that is happening.

Just as happened in the 20th century, an unlikely group of compatriots has emerged to resist the contemporary domestic challenge to cultural freedom. Reading Bari Weiss’s recent article on the “intellectual dark web,” one cannot help being struck by the diversity of opinion and partisan allegiance among the renegade thinkers challenging political correctness and its stigmatization of arguments that violate its axioms of group identity, racial strife, and transgenderism. A stultifying intellectual atmosphere, in which the subjective emotional responses of designated victim groups take precedent over style, argument, and empirical evidence, makes for unexpected alliances. Who would have thought that Kanye West would become, in the space of a few tweets, the most famous and recognized champion of individual free thought in the world today? Who could have anticipated that New Atheist Sam Harris would find himself in a united front with Jordan Peterson, who instructs his millions of acolytes in the continued relevance of biblical stories?

The new advocates for cultural freedom are different from their forebears. They are more ethnically and sexually diverse. Practically all of them operate outside the academy. They are not self-consciously organized as a movement. To some extent, of course, this lack of institutionalization is related to present historical conditions. The mid 20th century was an era of bigness, of vast bureaus, of hierarchical corporations where political life, especially on the left, was divided and subdivided into party, committee, and cell. The early 21st century is too fractured, disaggregated, and anarchic for such precise construction and coordination. This is a time of weak relationships, of loose affiliations. People drop in and out of movements at the press of a “like,” “tweet,” or “send” button. And because our media is unbundled, and the multiple means of personal expression so accessible, no one authority has monopoly power to distinguish reasonable dissenters from cranks. This creates an opportunity for the enforcers of political correctness, who are quick to associate the enemies they unfairly deride as racists with genuine ones.

What has come into being is not a committee or congress but a Coalition for Cultural Freedom. This wide-ranging assembly of critics opposed to the consensus that dominates the commanding heights of culture, entertainment, and media is neither centrally directed nor unified, not precisely delineated or philosophically consistent. But they do all believe in what Gaetano Mosca called “juridical defense,” pluralism in opinion and institutions to guard against conformity and repression. And the fact that Kanye’s heresy and Weiss’s reporting were greeted with contumely, derision, outrage, and agony is evidence for the strength of such conformity, the desire for such repression.

Political correctness reigns in San Francisco, Hollywood, and Berkeley, and it is making inroads into New York and the permanent bureaucratic government in Washington, D.C., but its position is insecure, unstable. The ferocity with which challenges to the ideology are met signifies not power but weakness. All it takes to end the hegemony of political correctness is to combat or ignore its will to intimidation. And that is happening.

The simple truth is that people do not like being reduced to their skin color, and they hate being called racists. So they tend to abandon the figures and organizations that see them as nothing but biased, sexist, bigoted dullards who belong in a basket of deplorables. They may not voice their opinion to a pollster for fear of social ostracism. But they reveal their preferences through action.

Hillary Clinton can tell you as much. So can ESPN and the NFL and the Hollywood studios whose social-justice masterworks are rewarded at the Oscars but not at the box office. Google and Facebook have also felt the backlash from censoring non-woke voices. Conversely, the success of American Sniper, Donald Trump, Jordan Peterson, and Roseanne has revealed the size of the audience willing to abandon the poses of political correctness for authenticity and disruption.

“The defense of intellectual liberty today imposes a positive obligation: to offer new and constructive answers to the problems of our time,” wrote the authors of the Freedom Manifesto. “We address this manifesto to all men who are determined to regain those liberties which they have lost and to preserve and extend those which they enjoy.” Those ranks included Sidney Hook and Arthur Koestler. Today they have been joined by Jordan Peterson, Charles Murray, Christina Hoff Sommers, and, yes, Kanye West.

This article first appeared in the Washington Free Beacon

The Literary Drover No. 3766

In order to succeed Writing must be a selfish act, the efforts of The Individual; the perceptions, prejudices, and experiences of The Individual, transformed into something that – hopefully and ideally – appeals to and resonates with other Individuals.

So much of what is presented as Writing is not a selfish act as stated, the efforts of The Individual. It is, bluntly, the excrement of groupthink. Until The Individual is acknowledged as the creator of Writing and until such time Writing is considered the sole domain of The Individual there is little in the form of Writing to consider. – James C. Hess

The Literary Drover No. 3764

The Writer is an Individual. To suggest or propose otherwise is to perpetuate fraud, a falsehood, a lie. – James C. Hess