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Books / July 1, 2011

I’ve often wondered why the American Right has been so quiet about V.S. Naipaul. He’s easily the most talented reactionary writer in the English language–maybe the only living talent left in the right-wing zombiesphere. The American Right devotes an insane amount of resources into manufacturing hagiographies on anyone whom they believe makes them look good–even the Soviets couldn’t compete with today’s American Right when it comes to glorifying their pantheon of degenerate cretins like Ayn Rand, Phyllis Schlafly, Friedrich von Hayek…

I found a few passages that I think explain why they never liked Naipaul much. Basically, it comes down to this: The American Right only needs “team players”–shameless, cynical hacks who can be counted on to churn out whatever rank propaganda ordered up by the Heritage Foundation. For that, you need a Rotary Club nihilist like Dinesh D’Souza, someone totally devoid of a literary ego, intellectual curiosity or a gag reflex.

I was just reading Patrick French’s brilliant biography of Naipaul, The World Is What It Is, and came across this interesting scene from Naipaul’s visit to America in 1969. Naipaul had already started developing a reputation at that point as one of the rare examples of a dark-skinned reactionary Tory from a Third World colony, making him one of the most despised literary figures among the trendy-left.

His first impressions of America weren’t good: “They [Americans] are really now a group of immigrants who have picked up English but whose mental disciplines are diluted-European,” he wrote in one letter home.

In another letter, he confessed:

I now dread meeting Americans, especially their alleged intellectuals. Because here the intellect, too, is only a form of display; of all the chatter about problems (very, very remote if you live in an ‘apartment’ in Manhattan: something that appears to be got up by the press) you feel that there is really no concern, that there is only a competition in concern…The level of thought is so low that only extreme positions can be identified: Mary McCarthy, Mailer, Eldridge Cleaver and so on. Ideas have to be simple…The quandary is this. This country is the most powerful in the world; what happens here will affect the restructuring of the world. It is therefore of interest and should be studied. But how can one overcome one’s distaste? Why shouldn’t one just go away and ignore it?”

A good question–I ask myself that just about every morning. The “relevancy” argument he raises is losing its persuasive appeal fast. (The best answer I can come up with is, “To make some of their lives as miserable as they’ve made mine.”)

Anyway, it’s interesting that Naipaul mentions the name of Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver here in 1969–because Cleaver’s name comes up again in an essay Naipaul published in 1984 on the Republican Party Convention in Dallas. This was at the height of the Reagan counter-revolution, when a reactionary like Naipaul should have come to pick up his check, make a few speeches, write a glowing account of America’s turn to Conservatism, and find his books turned into bestsellers via the right-wing mail-order pipeline.

But Naipaul was always too intellectually honest–and too vain. In the essay on the 1984 Republican convention, titled “Among the Republicans,” Naipaul describes the degradation of Eldridge Cleaver, the Black Panther whom he once lumped in with all the “simple” American intellectuals he had contempt for. It’s the first morning of the Convention, and Naipaul sees this announcement in his Dallas Sheraton hotel:

11:00 AM. Press conference, Richard Viguerie and Howard Phillips, Populist Conservative Tax Coalition. Subject: “Are Liberals Soft on Communism?” Guest speaker: Eldridge Cleaver, former Black Panther.

Eldridge Cleaver! One of the famous names of the late 1960s: the self-confessed rapist of white women, the man who had spent years in jail, the Black Muslim, the author of Soul on Ice (1968), not really a book, more an assemblage of jottings, but a work of extraordinary violence, answering the mood of that time. In 1969, when for a few weeks I had been in the United States, I had heard it said of Cleaver that he was going to die one day in a shoot-out with the FBI. That hadn’t happened. Cleaver had found asylum in Algeria and then in France; he had become homesick there and had returned, a born-again Christian, to the United States.

In Paris earlier this year I had met a man who had made an important film about Cleaver during the revolutionary days of the late 1960s. The film man now regarded that time, which had its glory, as a time of delusion. And now Cleaver himself was part of a side-show—or so I thought of it—at the Republican convention.

It seemed a big comedown. And it was even sadder, when I got to the conference room, to find that there was no crowd; that Cleaver was not the most important person there, that he was sitting on the far right of the second row, that some people didn’t seem to know who he was; that the few journalists asking questions were more interested in the other people of the Populist Conservative Tax Coalition.

So ordinary now, so safe, this black man for whom a revolutionary’s desperate death had been prophesied. I had known him only from his younger photographs. He was now forty-nine and almost bald; what hair he had was gray. There was something Chinese, placid, about his eyes and cheekbones; he looked very patient. His eyebrows were thin, like penciled arcs, and his hooded eyes were quiet.

Seeing Cleaver paraded around like a defeated, conquered aborigine struck Naipaul hard, opening up deep raw wounds: that of a colonized, backwater, dark-skinned twerp whose only way out of Trinidad was through Tory England, his conquerors.

Although a reactionary, Naipaul was never a lackey like today’s right-wing “intellectuals”; he never shied away from describing  the brutality of colonialism (unlike bootlicking scum like Dinesh D’Souza, who never missed an opportunity to glorify his white right-wing masters for colonizing India, despite the tens of millions of Indians who died of famine in the Raj).

Naipaul continues:

And at last Cleaver stood up. He was tall beside the CIA man. He was paunchy now, even a little soft-bellied. His blue shirt had a white collar and his dark red tie hung down long. The touch of style was reassuring.

Somebody asked about his political ambitions. He said he wanted to get on the Berkeley city council. And then, inevitably, someone asked about his attitude to welfare. His reply was tired; he gave the impression of having spoken the words many times before. “I’m passionately opposed to the welfare system because it’s made people a parasitic dependency on the federal system…. I want to see black people plugged into the economic system…. Welfare is a stepping-stone to socialism because it teaches people the government is going to solve our problems.”

That was more or less it. It seemed to be all that was required of “Eldridge,” that statement about socialism and welfare. And soon the session was declared closed. A repeat began to be prepared. As in a fair, shows were done over and over again, and in between business was drummed up.

Naipaul is so affected by the sight of this conquered, lobotomized-Republican Eldridge Cleaver that he goes back again to Cleaver’s Black Panther days and finds himself not just empathizing but actually appreciating Cleaver’s literary and intellectual talents, something Naipaul couldn’t see back in the 60’s:

…Away from the dark corner, Cleaver, placid, gray-haired, leaned against a wall. Two or three journalists went to him. But the very simplicity of the man on display made the journalists ask only the obvious questions, questions that had already been asked.

There was a many-layered personality there. But that personality couldn’t be unraveled now, with simple questions in a formal public gathering. To find that man, it was necessary to go to his book, the book of 1968, Soul on Ice. And there—in a book more moving and richer than I had remembered—that many-layered man was: with his abiding feeling for religion and his concern with salvation (as a Roman Catholic, then as a Black Muslim, then as a revolutionary); his need for community constantly leading him to simple solutions; his awareness of his changing self; his political shrewdness:

And here Naipaul quotes an amazing passage from Cleaver’s Soul On Ice:

I was very familiar with the Eldridge who came to prison, but that Eldridge no longer exists. And the one I am now is in some ways a stranger to me. You may find this difficult to understand but it is very easy for one in prison to lose his sense of self. And if he has been undergoing all kinds of extreme, involved, and unregulated changes, then he ends up not knowing who he is….

In this land of dichotomies and disunited opposites, those truly concerned with the resurrection of black Americans have had eternally to deal with black intellectuals who have become their own opposites….

In a sense, both the new left and the new right are the spawn of the Negro revolution. A broad national consensus was developed over the civil rights struggle, and it had the sophistication and morality to repudiate the right wing. This consensus, which stands between a violent nation and chaos, is America’s most precious possession. But there are those who despise it.

The task which the new right has feverishly undertaken is to erode and break up this consensus, something that is a distinct possibility since the precise issues and conditions which gave birth to the consensus no longer exist.

That was Eldridge Cleaver in the late 1960’s, describing exactly what would happen over the next two decades.

Now that Naipaul could compare the two Eldridge Cleavers–the Black Panther vs. the Republican lackey–the message was clear. If Naipaul wanted to pick up that check from the American Right-Wing, it wasn’t enough to have fought on the front-lines of the ideological battle of the 1970’s against the literary Marxists. He’d have to become a lobotomized, conquered version of himself, an Eldridge Cleaver. He’d have to give up everything interesting about himself.

Instead, Naipaul essentially banished himself to the whispered margins of the American Right by doing what he was always best at: Describing exactly what he saw at  the 1984 Convention, without artifice, without pandering. Here is Naipaul describing the effect of the climactic speech by Ronald Reagan:

So that at the climax of the great occasion, as at the center of so many of the speeches, there was nothing. It was as if, in summation, the sentimentality, about religion and Americanism, had betrayed only an intellectual vacancy; as if the computer language of the convention had revealed the imaginative poverty of these political lives. It was “as if”—in spite of the invocations and benedictions (the last benediction to be spoken by Dr. Criswell)—”as if inspiration had ceased, as if no vast hope, no religion, no song of joy, no wisdom, no analogy, existed any more.”

The words are by Emerson; they were written about England. English Traits, published in 1856, was about Emerson’s two visits to England, in 1833 and 1847, when he felt that English power, awesome and supreme as it still was, was on the turn, and that English intellectual life was being choked by the great consciousness of power and money and rightness. “They exert every variety of talent on a lower ground.” Emerson wrote, “and may be said to live and act in a submind.” Something like this I felt in the glitter of Dallas. Power was the theme of the convention, and this power seemed too easy—national power, personal power, the power of the New Right. Like Emerson in England, I seemed in the convention hall of Dallas “to walk on a marble floor, where nothing will grow.”

All of the young reactionary intellectuals I knew when I was younger eventually came around to a similar epiphany. At some point, it just couldn’t be ignored: These people were scum; mean, sleazy, boring scum. It became impossible to be near them. They–we–dropped out of the Right, and wanted nothing more to do with it all. But by ruining everything in this country–economically, culturally, intellectually, militarily–the Right essentially chased us wherever we went, poisoning everything they could get their hands on. Until finally there was nowhere to go but Leftward. A hardened, mean Left.

Either get the Republican lobotomy (just look at poor P.J. O’Rourke), or go Left: those are the only choices in this country today.

Naipaul’s career developed at a time when Western reactionary intellectuals could still be formidable, dynamic and unpredictable; there was space carved out on the Right for reactionary talent like Naipaul. They had to struggle for publishing success at a time when the printed word was dominated by left-wing/Marxist philistines. Those Left-wing intellectuals no longer exist today, except as phantom boogeymen in the heroic fantasies of the Right. What’s worse, the American Right has no need of unpredictable talent like V.S. Naipaul, so they’ve driven his species into extinction as well, poisoning the intellectual eco-system forever, making it impossible for a new Naipaul to threaten them again. They’ve replaced the Naipauls with libertarians, the fake, predictable, genetically-modified version of reactionary intellectualism–so insanely corrupt and so profoundly retarded that, like a skunk spraying foul stupidity whenever threatened, libertarianism has successfully scared away anyone with brains and dignity from bothering them while they feed.

Naipaul always despised facile thinking. It was because Naipaul was so committed to merciless observation that he allied himself with reactionary intellectuals of the pre-Reagan, pre-Thatcher era–it was the Left that wore the rose-tinted glasses back then. What Naipaul didn’t realize was how much worse, how much more intellectually stifling America’s right-wing intelligentsia would turn out to be once in power. And sentimental to the point of disgusting–that’s the other thing that comes through Naipaul’s essay on the 1984 Republican Convention: the cheap, contemptible sentimentality of the American Right, the very opposite of rigor.

What’s left today, three decades after Reagan’s victory, is a ruling class of Rotary Club nihilists. Right-wing degenerates. And they’re not even interesting degenerates anymore, the way some Right-wingers used to be. They just scream a lot. Scream and bang a stick on the ground–and at the end of the stick-banging, they go to pick up their checks from their billionaire sponsors.

All of which brings me back to Naipaul’s original question: How can one overcome one’s distaste? Why shouldn’t one just go away and ignore it?

Mark Ames is the author of Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion from Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine.

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95 Comments

Add your own

  • 1. Black Monk  |  July 4th, 2011 at 9:19 am

    Don’t tell me some auto worker moving a button repeatedly and making 150k a year doing so because he and his peers can blackmail the ssystem is not a parasite. But I will say that not only are unions parasitical, so are all the Red staters, the backbone of the modern Republican party, sucking money down from the productive north.

  • 2. FOARP  |  July 4th, 2011 at 9:31 am

    @darthfader – Ames can trash my comments all he likes, and twice on Sunday. As much as I disagree with him I dig this post because:

    1) It made me think about Naipaul again, who I haven’t read in years but is actually a great writer.

    2) It trashed some targets I enjoy seeing trashed, particularly Dinesh D’Souza.

    3) It included that excellent quote from Eldridge Cleaver, who is actually as much the subject of this article as Naipaul is.

    That said, this is really an American piece about a non-American. In the UK, like other countries, we’ve had relatively hard left governments and parties in the past, in the US you’ve never really had this alternative. Even FDR never went nearly so far as Clement Atlee’s government did after 1945.

    In 1978 the British government accurately described the economy as ‘mixed’ (i.e., half nationalised, half private), the top rate of tax was more than 90%, the unions were all powerful. This is not to indulge in any of the nonsense that this meant that Britain at that point was not a ‘free’ country, or that people in Britain hadn’t voted for this – they obviously had. It’s just that hard left governance is not some untried alternative in the UK, but something of the not-to-distant past which only a very few actually want to return to.

    And if the Britain of 1978 was not hard left enough for you, try the Labour manifesto of 1983. In 1983 the Labour party ran on leaving NATO and the EU, nationalising all the major industries (British Aerospace, the motor manufacturers – all of them, British Steel, ship-building etc.), as well as unilateral nuclear disarmament. It lost that election.

    Once again, I’m not indulging in any of the O’ Reilly style demonisation of the left. These were policies which were, at that time, attractive to a significant portion of the population. They were not disguised. They were honestly presented to the electorate. They also lost. They would suffer an even more stunning rejection if they were presented to people now.

    Whatever form Ames’s “hardened, mean Left” will take, it has to try something different to the policies and approach of the hard left parties of the past. If it means, for example, a legal requirement for union representation on company boards – as in Germany – then sell it to people as something good for business, but be prepared for a backlash.

    Polls show defence expenditure cuts to be popular. Go for that, but similarly, be prepared for a tidal-wave of people accusing you of selling out the military or whatever.

    Similarly, polls show that people think the super-rich should pay more in taxes. In the US this means at least getting rid of the Bush tax cuts, which in turn means getting a solid enough majority in the legislature to be able to push budgets through without having to cut deals. It also means changing rules which allow the GOP to filibuster. This requires a gloves-off (but not non-constitutional) approach – I guess this is where the “meaner” part comes in.

    I probably still wouldn’t vote for a party like this, but there would be at least some who might.

  • 3. Victorvalley Villain  |  July 4th, 2011 at 11:48 am

    What the new, mean Left should look like:

    http://ruralpeople.atspace.org/central_peoples_commune.htm

  • 4. exploitedtimes  |  July 4th, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    @ #23 Mr Bad: ‘Ames got some speed and stayed up all night..’ that’s funny.
    I think Ames likes Naipaul cuz the dude is a shredder, plus the Cleaver and Panther intrigue. It’s just good shit all around, relevant and timely.
    Lots of praise in these comments. Worthy, Ames moves forward here.
    Thanks

  • 5. Mr. Bad  |  July 4th, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    @ 37

    “Are union parasites, the lazy who don’t work, self-indulgent hippies etc, somehow better than moronic rednecks/ Protestant fundamentalists?”

    Short answer: YES. The problem with private unions is that there are few industrial businesses left to unionize, it’s hard to impose the union model on retail workers because they’re all a couple weeks pay or less from being out on their ass, they can’t strike without becoming homeless – they are also low skilled and easily replaced. Retail is the foundation of our consumer driven economy and the union model, like it or not, is doomed. The only way out is a broader worker movement organized along the lines of the IWW, but good luck finding support for that from the political “left” in this country.

    The public sector unions are taking it too far and failing to understand that when you’re accountable to the average taxpayer in very hard times it is best to at least “appear” sympathetic. It’s sickening to watch them dig their own graves. I never understood how thr public sector unions, whose mission is partly to reduce wealth and income inequality, (IMO that should be the #1 political goal of the left now) can be so tolerant of wealth and income inequality among the working class, i.e union vs. non-union workers? Public union workers are not “parasites” but when they fight against pension and health care reform and for contractual raises during a time of huge economic pressure on their fellow working taxpayers (not the rich) they look more like an enemy than a friend.

    If you look at NY politics you can see how great unions are for workers: the unions wanted that millionaire tax, they wanted it and wanted it until they could cut a deal and leave taxpayers with the bill:

    http://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Cuomo-silences-union-critics-1044320.php

    The lazy and self indulgent at least stay out of the way, give them that, they may be doing us all a favor. Most people want to work, they just don’t like being wage slaves and I can’t blame them.

  • 6. Mike C.  |  July 4th, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Given that meanness is the sole consistent virtue of modern conservatism (GOP or TP), I doubt the left can — or ought to — compete on that level. They’ve (or their mainstream counterparts have) already dumbed themselves down, sold out, and done everything short of merging, male angler fish-like, into the thrashing bundle of terrible instincts that is the American right.

    The very attitudes with which the right approaches damn near everything are inconsistent with a functioning society. If one can’t find a direct application for bottomless paranoia and misanthropy, one is out of luck trying to imitate the success of the right in galvanizing and mobilizing a demographic of state-dependent rogue independent mavericks, and crypto Confederates, terrified of humanoid reptiles.

    The average member of any major party is dumb and shallow, and largely incapable of defending even the most factually-supported conceits, but you simply won’t find as single note a performer on the left as you will on the right.

    So content are they in their raging bitterness, they’ve reverted to an infantile kind of innocence to basic causality; totally unable to recognize that the ideas they’ve been shrieking bloody murder for have already been implemented, and are in the process of apocalyptic failure.

    Trying to mimic the right to solidify the left is like trying to treat a head wound with a hammer.

    Nevertheless, I’m sick of this shit. I think a lot of us are, knowingly or not, awaiting marching orders.

  • 7. super390  |  July 4th, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    @#51 – No, the average auto worker doesn’t make $150,000 a year, now we have a 2-tiered labor pool where all the new auto factory hires must take a much smaller salary and benefits than the guys left over from the old days. Union-haters add the value of all possible benefits to their media propaganda, but the benefits include medical, and you know America has grotesquely inflated medical costs compared to other advanced countries because the of the medical-insurance complex. The new guys at the foreign-owned plants in Red states are not making a fraction of what you say – or as much, adjusted for inflation, of their Detroit counterparts 40 years ago. How will unions look once we’ve all been pushed down to $5 an hour?

  • 8. super390  |  July 4th, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    @#32 – The reason birthrates are falling in the outside world is that women have more education and more rights; you can’t win a babymaking contest with a movement whose men and women agree that women should have less (real) education and fewer rights.

    What you do is steal their children by opening up their minds. This is why far-right movements can’t replicate themselves for more than a few decades, from the Pilgrims to Sarah Palin and her sin-happy daughter. But the bad guys understand this and are trying to steal your children too, by replacing public education with an education market that will pander to the authoritarian prejudices of most parents and inevitably favor religious extremists who will work cheap for God.

    The battle front is where kids decide what institutions should inform their beliefs, not in women’s wombs.

  • 9. super390  |  July 4th, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    FOARP:

    After the Tories have destroyed your National Health Care system in exchange for campaign contributions from American insurance conglomerates, I hope you can let us know how much your first private medical insurance bill from Royal Blue Cross is. I actually had some hope for the Tories until I saw that they were just carrying out the GOP/Shock Therapy blueprint; give away money to the rich to create a budget crisis, then privatize all social services to those same rich. I heard Pinochet moved to Britain; are you sure he’s really dead?

  • 10. guts ache  |  July 5th, 2011 at 1:46 am

    “All of which brings me back to Naipaul’s original question: How can one overcome one’s distaste? Why shouldn’t one just go away and ignore it?”
    You do realize it’s pretty much the same everywhere else, going to another country is just “changing the geo”. My least favorite Americans are the little prigs who brag that they are more European, that they love Europe, that Europe is really where they belong. They’re usually the biggest hicks going. I guess all those wonderful old buildings and ruins make a crap temp assignment or English teaching job that much sweeter.

  • 11. Trevor  |  July 5th, 2011 at 6:51 am

    Naipaul is too brown and Houellebecq is too French but Rand — ugly, talentless, and dead — is just Right!

  • 12. Tubman Chubaisovich Kompot-y  |  July 5th, 2011 at 7:01 am

    This would be a fun read: http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article3688422.ece

  • 13. Sean the Mystic  |  July 5th, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Please allow me to introduce myself; I’m a man of wealth and taste.

    The most intelligent and insightful analysis of modern society does not come from either the “Left” or the “Right”; they are two sides of the same wretched collectivist coin. The most radical and vital critique of the current order comes from the Nietzscheans, the Satanists, and all those who could be generally classified as disciples of the Left Hand Path. This group celebrates all the things our dumbed-down, disposable consumer culture does not: true aristocracy, high art, good taste, discriminating intelligence, the supremacy of the individual will over the collective, and a recognition that humans are not creatures of light and goodness, but clever, evil animals who thrive in darkness.

    Mark Ames is clearly a person of high intelligence and culture, but I can’t for the life of me understand why he cares about the fate of this wretched culture. Why not do what the illuminated have done throughout the ages when they realize that they are not part of the herd: celebrate, deify and separate yourself from the common run of humanity and revel in your time?

  • 14. FOARP  |  July 5th, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    @super390 – One of the things that makes it easier to be a conservative in the UK is that certain things are 100% off the board as far as privatisation goes. Even Thatcher wouldn’t touch the NHS, much less Cameron, who has to rely on support from the Lib Dems.

    In the US, it’s still possible that the GOP might reverse the Obama government’s progress in this regard if they win the next election. But they’re most likely going to lose, and once they do, and Obama’s policies come fully into effect, universal healthcare will become institutionalised in exactly the same way the NHS is.

    This kind of state activity, where the state actually performs better than the markets, is something nothing but die-hard conservatives want. Nobody will support privatising the NHS. Ever. Nor would privatisation ever work as an austerity measure, because the US is such a shining example of how privatised healthcare actually costs more.

  • 15. FOARP  |  July 5th, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    . . . nothing but die-hard conservatives want to privatise, that is.

  • 16. RapeIsBad  |  July 5th, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eldridge_Cleaver

    “In the most controversial part of the book, Cleaver acknowledges committing acts of rape, stating that he initially raped black women in the ghetto “for practice”, and then embarked on the rape of white women. Cleaver refers to the serial rape of white women as “an insurrectionary act.””

    Why…. would anyone…. defend or feel sorry for Eldridge?

  • 17. Black Monk  |  July 5th, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    @57

    Plenty of unionized US autoworkers with high school educations make 150k a year. That’s how they afford their lakefront cottages in northern Michigan (like the Kid Rock song) where they go boating in summer and snowmobiling in winter, living the Ted Nugent dream. I know a guy who dropepd outfo college after one year, got a union job, and was buying his fiance a new Lexus SUV (while of course driving his American brand Escalade to work). Unionized janitors, meanwhile, make 60k a year.

    This doesn’t justify whatever obscene amounts CEOs make, but still, post 19th century, union = parasite.

  • 18. Rawlery  |  July 5th, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    Naipaul really needs is an endorsement from Hitchens!

  • 19. Mr. Bad  |  July 5th, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    @ 64 FOARP

    No offense meant, really, but you have no idea what you’re talking about. The NHS IS “Universal care”, the Obama plan is a vastly expanded medical INSURANCE scheme. The differences are so great that it would be a waste of space to begin to explain but suffice it to say that aside from some laudable changes (ban on preexisting condition disqualification and lifetime coverage caps) little will change for the presently insured except they will pay more for less and a whole bunch of uninsured people will be forced into Medicaid (pauper health insurance which few doctors accept) and Medicaid coverage itself(which is 1/2 paid by the states) will be diluted. States have been given TONS of leeway by Obama to restrict and reduce what medicaid covers so that they can afford to include the hundreds of thousands the new mandate will put on the rolls and get Obama his 2nd term.

  • 20. Mike C.  |  July 5th, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    @66. RapeIsBad
    Fair question. I suppose not everyone enjoys seeing the corrupt trotted out by the victors. Especially if that bad, corrupt person also had some zingers.

    The second question being: are we looking for heroes or ideas? Are we looking for a sanctified path from cradle to grave, leading by example — for whose benefit we know not — or are we rather waiting to hear our fears articulated, and solutions prescribed?

    The truth as I see it: there is no role model for adults living in the real world. In that way we have freedom. The terrible freedom of picking what to believe, not who.

  • 21. RapeIsBad  |  July 5th, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    Well, I ain’t following no rapist that used his race for practice and mine for pleasure/vengeance, that’s for damned sure.

    I don’t expect someone to be a saint but I think NOT being a racially-motivated serial rapist is the very least we can expect in a role model.

  • 22. wengler  |  July 5th, 2011 at 11:35 pm

    Even William F. Buckley, the heavily overrated conservative that was birthed out of the same New England Conservative shit factory that gave the world the Bushes, was concerned that rightwingers didn’t seem to give a shit about objective evidence before he kicked the bucket.

    I remember he was roundly ostracized for giving a shit that there were no WMDs in Iraq. The heavy rightwing politicization of white evangelicals means that one political party in a America can exist in a totally fact-free environment. When you believe in the hierarchy of orthodoxy over democracy and the exploration of knowledge it inevitably follows that intellectuals should not exist. The preservation of the hierarchy brooks no dissent.

  • 23. rj  |  July 6th, 2011 at 12:08 am

    It’s not just “the trendy-left” who hate Naipaul. He’s *despised* by black Trinidadians, whom he has publicly compared to monkeys. Naipaul doesn’t even think of himself as Trinidadian, and certainly has little fellow-feeling with the colonised – he’s a Brahmin aristocrat with a cold disdain for the post-colonial antics of dark-skinned people everywhere. The Saint Lucian poet Derek Walcott recently wrote a scabrous little satire on Naipaul ending with the words “he doesn’t like black men, but he likes black cunt.”

  • 24. joe  |  July 6th, 2011 at 9:55 am

    @63. Sean the Mystic

    “Why not do what the illuminated have done throughout the ages when they realize that they are not part of the herd: celebrate, deify and separate yourself from the common run of humanity and revel in your time?”

    Cuz I got bills to pay.

  • 25. Mike C.  |  July 6th, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    @ 71. RapeIsBad

    I was arguing against there being role models at all. Freedom is uncomfortable because WE have to choose. The only justifications we can offer for our opinions are our own. Having a hero/role model is just a means of deferring that responsibility to someone else.

    Stances on ideas have nothing to do with character. If you agree with a person’s idea, nothing says you have to follow their reasoning or behavior anywhere else. The all or nothing approach is for children and Christians.

  • 26. toughlove  |  July 6th, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    @58 / Super390:

    We can’t “convert” the baby-machines faster than they can squirt out babies, sadly. I’m not saying that liberals should try to compete with those 10-children-to-one-mom households, obviously, we must *at least* breed at or slightly above replacement level if we want to stay in the game.

    The delusion that we can consistently “convert” hardline conservative’s children has also got the left in a rut. It has really been backfiring in recent years.

    How can the left possibly convert a woman that’s convinced she’ll live eternally so long as she submits to her husband? Or a woman that’s been kept ignorant her whole life so that she can basically be a domestic slave, traded away by her father once she comes of age?

    The unfortunate reality is that these folks will have to be matched strength-for-strength physically BEFORE they might be defeated culturally. Their culture is basically a liberty-smashing mechanism, and it works. The contemporary liberal affection for cultural relativism just hands victory over to the right wing. It’s a pleasant ideological notion that spells death for its proponents.

    Remember Quintus Aurelius Symmachus? No? He was a big intellectual figure of his era. Many of his writings survive. He thought that it was possible to compete with early christians without using naked power as back up. See how well that worked out for him?

    Ugh, I’m starting to sound like that tit Hitchens now. But please please understand that if you can’t breed at replacement level then your ideology is impotent and will never survive. Poaching children from other cultures is not a viable strategy.

  • 27. _dog_star  |  July 6th, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    Sometimes when I’m in the zone and feeling unstoppable in pick up hoops at the Y, I can identify with Michael Jordan. I take his moves, but I reinterpret them and add my own filthy junk that Mike never even thought of, making his moves even better. In other words, I’m better than Air Jordan, without the NBA titles or the Nobel Prize in Literature.

  • 28. boson  |  July 7th, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    awesome article.

    but the sad truth is, it seems to me, that going left doesn’t help either.
    i doubt that a new social-democratic revival of some sort in the US and/or the EU would go very far in improving the economic/social situation. or, for that matter, the cultural degeneration which (to me at least) seems unstoppable. redistributive policies within rich countries would bite the dust in no time within the system of fierce global competition we’re in.
    and not only that, but there are problems on the demand side too: the electorate in Europe did not react to the crisis by turning left but by sinking ever more deeply in the most idiotic repressive-xenophobic ideologies. even if Leftism could be an answer, people don’t want it.
    look at the UK, France, Italy etc.
    or the US.
    so while the idiocy and corruption of the Right is undeniable the analysis and prescriptions of the Left (either the radical left or sociademocracy [which is extinct by now, but nevermind]) also proved to be inadequate.
    what then? i seriously don’t know. i myself have just abandoned politics and any political hopes as such – and i got to confess, i used to be involved in radical left politics when i was younger, i just left the boat in the end.

  • 29. justaguy  |  July 7th, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Am I supposed to care about this “anti-socialist” ass clown because his skin offers more sun protection than mine?

  • 30. HS  |  July 8th, 2011 at 7:58 am

    @RapeIsBad

    Its not that I like Eldridge Cleaver the rapist. The rapist is a monster, but has some morally neutral virtues. He shows some courage, a willingness to buck social convention, and an unapologetic defense of what he believed. I would love to see a reformed rapist who kept those virtues. Those qualities are gone, replaced by mouthing empty cliches to those who’ve heard them a thousand times. Its the loss of those qualities that I regret.

  • 31. Zhu Bajie  |  July 9th, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    Timur, there is no Left in the USA, only rival rightish factions, such as Libertarians vs. Dispensationalists.

  • 32. Zhu Bajie  |  July 9th, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    “the lazy who don’t work” — Black Monk

    These are mostly Repubs who’ve inherited a bit of money.

  • 33. Black Monk  |  July 11th, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    @82 Repubs who inherit money don’t go on welfare. The only decent people on welfare are Russian immigrants. They spend the money on ballet lessons and private schools for their children while voting Reepubican because they know how stupid the pro-lazy Democratic approach to the poor is.

    Anyways, the problem with the American political culture is that each party is electorally dominated by certain groups that have no business havibng the right to vote. With Republicans we have the trailer trash illiterates, the white racists (yes there is some overlap), and members of various sects such as Southern Baptists who want to impose their sinful heresies on everybody else.

    With democrats, it is union parasites, affirmative action “reverse racists”, and sanctimonious followers of various causes that the Communists describe very accurately as bourgeois distractions (i.e., veganism, etc.).

    In the end, it seems, the corporations win. They are masters of their game and all those groups and the parties they control just play their roles. This is as it should be – America is England’s heir and England, founded by Norsemen (French-speaking from Normandy, but still Vikings) was basically a seafaring, exploitative power that excelled at long-distance raiding and pillaging. The multinational corporate system seems to be the ideal, most modern, and most efficient expression of those ancient instincts. The oil company types in their khaki pants are the ultimate viking lords, obliterating entire nations and slaughtering 100,000s on the other side of the globe, so easily with the manufactured popular support.

  • 34. RobertD  |  July 11th, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    Mark Ames’ best writing for quite some time.

    John Dolan also had a few things to say about Naipul way back in the day:

    http://www.exile.ru/articles/detail.php?ARTICLE_ID=6810&IBLOCK_ID=35

    So are there any writers on the left that the Exile respects or what?

  • 35. RapeIsBad  |  July 13th, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    @80
    And you know what else? Hitler was an amazingly charismatic person with a winning smile and voice who knes how to get people to think his way. He also had a “never give up spirit” that kept him from being discouraged in any task.

    And what about Charles Manson? He was a real lady’s man with the female hippy crowd! Furthermore, he was fabulous at organizing group activities.

    Or how about Mao Zedong? He taught his fellow countrymen the importance of dieting and avoiding obesity at any costs.

    Or how about John Wayne Gacy? He knew how to delight little boys and he was amazing with children.

    It’s a shame we’ve lost all these great men and their wonderful and unique talents and character traits which made them so special. :(

  • 36. Mike C.  |  July 14th, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    @85

    Manson is still alive, though his social circles are more limited.

  • 37. RapeIsBad  |  July 16th, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    To be fair VS actually does sound like a cool guy despite liking Eldridge.

  • 38. Edward  |  July 19th, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Naipaul is a dangerous jackass despite his accomplishments. His work is primarily attacking Blacks and his own Indians. Like a true English colonial dog,he rips and tears at anything not WHITE.
    All former british colonies,especially in the West Indies are full of these self hating type.All Blacks and Indians pay because Naipaul was not born a white man. The Calypso singer The Mighty Chalkdust has an interesting song about Naipaul on youtube. Fits him to a T. Reactionary is not the word for him.

  • 39. RPG Cunthair  |  July 28th, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    VS is a cunt.

    ‘A Bend in the River’ however is the best English novel of all time.

  • 40. Hussayn Khariq  |  August 1st, 2011 at 6:20 am

    Hey Foo! So, you and Naipaul are white because Sanskrit has Proto-Indo-European words? Does that mean that a pygmy from the Congo rainforest can talk about, “Our Western Civilization” based on the out of Africa theory?

  • 41. mlrky  |  April 27th, 2012 at 3:13 am

    …you realize of course, @12, that the contempt you feel towards people is the same that our oligarchic masters feel

    they are us with money

    how else do you guess they justify the shit they do to themselves

  • 42. jay kay  |  June 29th, 2012 at 5:42 am

    V S Naipul is nothing but a colonial apologist, a fat pig who has the temerity to insult Americans for being obese. While I like Ames, and enjoyed this article for skewering the right-wing accurately, I must take issue with him making Naipul look like he has some sort of conscience – (Naipul and people like him have NO conscience – just a dick and a wallet) No, the REAL reason why Naipul was so critical is because Naipul and his colonial masters thought that they were above the so-called hoi polloi and the wretched masses – at the Republican convention, he realized that that his masters WERE the wretched masses themselves – just with more money. All the venality, the greed, the smugness which comes from being able to BUY your way into authority rather than by any dint of merit – was laid open to him. Basically he saw what his old colonial masters (whom he idolized) were REALLY like without all the discipline, the high language and all the airs and graces that mask their inner mediocrity. He realized that American conservatives didn’t want to make him into something SIMILAR to them; they wanted to make him into something they could parade around and point and laugh at as validation of their failed policies – basically a laughing stock who would merely parrot their views and get paid well for doing so.

    He also realized that if he stayed with them any longer – he would sink to their level and that would REALLY be the end of any credibility (or whatever passes for it )that he has. Nothing more, nothing less …..

  • 43. Philip Girvan  |  March 11th, 2014 at 10:57 am

    Excellent piece: as noted above, one of Ames’s best.

  • 44. amir  |  October 19th, 2014 at 12:38 am

    WELCOME to the brave new world of the 2010s.
    Manosphere, pickup game and returning women to the kitchen! life is good.

  • 45. Vic  |  March 10th, 2015 at 9:20 am

    You’re a ‘cretin’.


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