Sunday, February 20, 2011

Perish or Parish

The expression "Publish or perish" doesn't make a lot of sense. Wikipedia's entry: "The phrase is thought to have originated around 1950 with Kimball C. Atwood...." It refers to academia, that one publishes or has no great career. I think it makes more sense in the expression, "Publish or Parish." The trained and credentialed intellectual goes on, in the Victorian era and previous, to a career at a state- or church-supported university or one goes to some poor rural place and survives on donations from the parish peasants. Wikipedia trumps my poor guess. Who am I to counter Wikipedia? I'm just some guy with an opinion. That's the position most of us face when it comes to power within the current make-up of our intelligentsia. The Left, as a rule, comprise such, and outside that, no one is very seriously considered these days. Successful writers are Leftists, as a rule. Until they aren't. The rest of us just aren't. What is it that makes a successful leftard writer? Or makes one fail? And what about our success? What concerns us? Perish or Parish?

Caroline Glick writes about the loss of status and position on the Left of "a radical leftist reporter named Nir Rosen." In the full essay she gives a clear account of "Why." My interest here is not in the why a leftist would lose his job and status among fellow leftists; my concern is about those of us who are not going to lose anything among the Left because we have nothing positive in the first place. There is just about nothing the Left can take from us, being banned, as we are, from the "Mainstream media" as it's called, and banned more or less from the Academy, and banned from (fill in the blank). There is a matter of that genuinely necessary "bourgeois virtue," as D. McCloskey calls it, of Prudence. Leftists have it in abundance, strange to say. Prudence means, in our time and place, saying and writing, communicating at all times, adherence to lies and bigotries and outright evils. One gets along by going along. It is prudent. Today one must be anti-American, pro-terrorist, anti-Modern, pro-barbarian, anti-Semitic, pro-Islam, and so on. That's how one gets along in the society we live in if one works in the mainstream intelligentsia. Glick writes of a conformist to the mainstream Left norm who got canned for moving too far from the Left's narrative, indulging in what Lenin terms the "infantile Left." It can happen. It did happen. It's rare that one is so far left of the Left that one is fired for it and banished from Left company. For the rest of us, we don't get in unless at best we forever keep our mouths shut up about what we believe. Its prudent. Having a job requires one to play by the rules, like them or not. That is one of the prime bourgeois virtues. It's what makes the world go round. I'm my personal idiocy, I term this the work of "Conformity Hippies." You would soon notice in knowing me that I do not have a legitimate position in today's society. I am imprudent. I don't get along well in society. I can't seem to shut up myself. But, this is not, I will argue below, a necessarily bad thing that will leave us all standing in line at the soup kitchen, our wives bitter at our failure to provide the basics of life in a competitive world, our children dressed in rags, Rocco and Vinnie searching to break our legs for missing our payments on desperate loans. No, there is another way to be prudent and honest in the Left world today without being broke and miserable. One can even be successful in a world of the Left domination. It means being prudent in a different way.

Below is Glick's take on what a successful leftard is, though in this case, one who went too far and is now not successful. Glick explains what went wrong for this fellow. What interests us is what went right so long for this creature of the Left intelligentsia. After suffering through that, let's look at how we can thrive at the normal end of this mess.

On Tuesday, [Nir] Rosen wrote defamatory attacks against [Lara] Logan on his Twitter account. He mocked her suffering and bemoaned the fame the attack would win her.


Rosen's writings reveal him as an anti-Semite and an anti- American. Rosen has written prolifically about his hope to see Israel destroyed. His war reporting from Afghanistan and Iraq unfailingly takes the side of America's enemies. He was an embedded reporter with the Taliban and is an outspoken champion of Hezbollah, Hamas and the Taliban.

Rosen's hateful politics have brought him book contracts, prestigious fellowships, interviews on influential television shows and even a request to give testimony before the US Senate. His work has been published in elite magazines and newspapers.

No one batted a lash when he called for Israel to be destroyed or supported the Taliban - whose treatment of women and girls is among the most brutal in history. But for attacking Logan, he was excommunicated from polite society.


THE STORY of the media at Tahrir Square exposes those rules for all to see. The bravery of the journalists on the scene, the media's determination to ignore Islamic misogyny, and their expulsion of Rosen from polite society all tell us that what drives the international media is not a quest for truth. It is a quest to advance the ideology of identity politics.


When we understand the rules of reportage as dictated by adherents to identity politics, we understand why Rosen was excommunicated when he mocked Logan and not when he called for Israel's destruction, condemned the commemoration of the September 11 attacks, or sided with the Taliban and the Iraqi insurgents killing Americans. In those cases, he followed the rules - preferring the cause of "victims" over the lives of "perpetrators."

Nir Rosen was not expelled from the Left for being a scum-bag. That scumminess is what allowed him to rise to the top of the Left. He was the paradigm of conformity to the Left narrative. We ain't gonna make it there as we are if we are as we are. We have to remain silent. Or we don't have to play the success in the Left game at all. If being a success on the Left means having to do what Rosen did, most of us would rather turn to other occupations than those within the intelligentsia. Thus, I argue that we should abandon the intelligentsia, if we haven't done so already, or if, as is as likely, we are already banned and burned. There is the intelligentsia, controlling the vast machine of the normative and "successful" in our competitive world; and then there is what I will call the counter-intelligentsia. Consider this:

Avenging Apostate writes:

[I] think I am long way off from publishing material. That's what I think. Plus as I said, the stuff that I am capable of writing, I don't see it getting published by a mainstream publisher. I might be wrong about all of this though. I don't know, I am going to work on finishing my book ... and then see if any literary agents or publishers are interested in it or not.

Who gets the book contracts? Who do publishers call up out of the blue and beg to submit copy for huge advances? Who loves you, baby? Well, till a few days ago we could have said Nir Rosen was one of those on the A List of writers favoured by the publishing world. To be successful, one thing we could do, and this is prudent, is to write about our lovely time spent with the Taliban, of how much we hate Israel, America, capitalism, Sarah Palin, and the Jooos, and so on. There's a clear formula to follow to be a successful Conformity Hippie. It's how prudent people of our intelligentsia get along in our world. For those of us who can't quite stomach it, there are alternatives, such as the soup kitchen.

Or, there is the alternative that some follow that leads to sneering and jeering among the literati, the cool people, the "successful."

You can't keep a good man down, they say. You can't stop Robert Spencer, for example, from writing successful books. But what about Hugh Fitzgerald? One can see that he is not on the New York Times best seller list. Big publishers are not beating on his door to offer him contracts and advances. He is not part of the machine of the Left intelligentsia, and thus, he is not going to "make it." Nor is his colleague, Rebecca Bynum. Are those two stupid? Are they imprudent? Are they not good writers? Most of us know they are excellent in most ways; but we also know they are not marketable in today's culture the way Nir Rosen is, or was until recently. That is in our favour. Who wants to succeed at being a scum-bag? But there is an alternative, of course, to that kind of success. One must simply redefine success.

We would, for the most part, not like success if it meant we would have to do what Nir Rosen did to be successful. We couldn't, as a rule, figure it out, success being so alien in that sense as to be beyond our ken. And the shame would not be worth the effort if we could. If I were successful as a writer like Rosen, why, I'd feel compelled to hang anyone who liked my copy. It's the kind of principled man I am. I'd be ashamed of my readers and wouldn't want them associated with me. People like Bynum take this a step further and write principled work in the first place, appealing to those who are moral and decent. It's a concept I like. I call it success, though it defies the normative.

Bynum, like our friend Howard Rotberg recently, has published a 'no name' book, i.e. not through the corporate world of New York publishing. Prior to this, Mark Alexander, Fjordman, Moorthy Muthuswami, Ali Sina, and others have done the same. That's a quick glance at one of my book cases. There are others, and many others, who have by-passed the commercial route to publish work that is, according to us, worthy of consideration. Nir Rosen, successful as he might have been, is not successful to us. Yes, he had the big deals, the big bucks, the babes with big silicon-- the works, no doubt. But what a price to pay. Is he a better writer than those above? He might be. Is he a better thinker? There is no question that he is not. He got the deals; we get little to nothing. We win. It's not all about media appearances, book sales, and junkets to Afghanistan. At the end of the day, one must look at the bimbo one sleeps with. Or, in the case of a normal person, ones spouse. What is success here? OK, so I'm not the right guy to ask. Ask yourself.

All of this so far is about what it means for a writer to be a good person writing. Rosen et al are not good people, though it's impossible to argue that they are not prudent and therefore often successful in the public world of our intelligentsia. That kind of success is enough to make most of us gag. It seems to me akin to the porn star guy who never had children and died of AIDS. Most of us would prefer an honest if modest success in the world.

Nir Rosen is a porn star of Left writing. Now he has "died" in the market. The Left moves on, and his "work" is dead. Is the work of those above as good as Rosen's? I have my doubts, not having read Rosen but knowing the skills required to achieve the success he had. My guess is that he was successful in his milieu because he was talented. What does it mean?

No one writer carries the world on his shoulders. Some writers are stronger than others, and that is true of us as well as it is of the Left. It means we do not have to be super stars in our fields to compete successfully against those on the Left who are. We have to be good enough, and no more than that, to succeed in the marketplace of our own audience. Our own audience is as interested in ideas as the opposition, and we need writers to articulate our concerns and positions for us as well as do the Left need their writers and artists. No single person does it all for all of us. In the mosaic that is our mindscape, we need as well as the golden tesserae, the black spaces that give context to the brilliant. For every Robert Spencer among us, we also need a hundred Dag Walkers. We need infantry as well as Napoleons. Avenging Apostate writes that "the stuff that I am capable of writing, I don't see it getting published by a mainstream publisher." I too have concluded that my magnum opus, A Genealogy of Left Dhimmi Fascism (five volumes) is not going to hit the New York Times best seller list. In my case, I am simply misunderstood. Most others are excluded from the mainstream simply because they have the "wrong message." It doesn't mean we aren't smart enough, clever enough, talented enough to compete successfully in the marketplace of ideas. It means that we are not the in-crowd. That doesn't mean we have to stand aside and let them have all the fun. In fact, fuck 'em.

The mainstream media, the general intelligentsia, will seldom publish our work, even if we are Robert Spencer or Mark Steyn or whoever. They will not, as a rule, have us, no matter how good we are. We might not be as talented as Nir Rosen. We might have to be satisfied with our Nancy Dostoyevskys and Willard Tolstoys. My failed novels, otherwise excellent works, such as Harry Pottery and A Clockwork Orangejuice and Moby Dickhead, deserve fame, but this being the real world, I accept a limited audience of excellent readers rather than a flash in the pan fame and bimbos and other stuff that I couldn't care less about. Really. I mean it. No kidding.

So, if we are not the cool gang and on the top of the mainstream love list, let's consider what we can do instead to do what we can do.

We can publish our own damned books. Do we have to be as good as Nir Rosen? Yes, in some ways we must do a good job of a good task; but no, we do not have to conform to the ugliness of mainstream fads. Honesty and decency will take us far further in the long term. That's where we will find ourselves winners. There is no good reason for us to shy away from presenting our best work to the public just because the mainstream media won't publish our work. Self publishing has zero status in the world, as a rule, but it is not for the status that we must publish our work: it is for our own selves, to build a mass of counter-thought to the Left hegemony of the current intelligentsia that makes us work for our own good. No one man or woman is going to do all of our work for us. We need a mass of writing, a book here or there that appeals to a few here or there, till we cover the whole spectrum of our audiences. We have worth as individual writers, and if we as individuals are not super stars, it means little. It means we won't necessarily appeal to a horde of screaming Leftists, perhaps, but only to a small group of normal people. I'd call that prudent. I'd call that success. Being part of the parish is a good thing.