A kerfuffle over … what?

Yesterday I posted a comment at Ilana Mercer’s blog responding to her criticism of Patrick H.’s comment at VFR about the vuvuzela. Shortly afterward, she removed my comment. In an update to the same entry, she explains why she removed it. She says that Patrick and I were attempting to “commandeer” her site, in order to indulge “pettiness.” I wasn’t aware that sending a comment in response to a blog entry was an attempt to commander that blog. I wasn’t aware that politely asking a blogger to explain her position was to indulge in pettiness.

I’m simply at a loss to understand Ilana’s behavior. She launched a criticism of Patrick’s comment, calling it “hysterical” and comparing herself favorably to Patrick, “[a]s a writer who reasons rather than emotes.” Naturally enough, he posted a comment defending himself, to which she replied. I then read the entry, and had further things to say about it, and so I sent a comment. I avoided (or at least I felt I was avoiding) any tendentious tone. I spoke to Ilana politely and respectfully, in the manner of an intellectual debate. At least that was my intention.

Below is my comment, followed by Ilana’s update telling why she removed it. Also, in keeping with my original intention to avoid a confrontational tone, I will not be posting any comments in this entry that are strongly critical of Ilana. I take this policy because Ilana and I, after a few years during which there was no communication between us, have been on good terms lately, and I don’t want to do anything that she might see as a betrayal of that friendliness. I’ve posted this entry to draw attention to this somewhat unsettling event, and comments are welcome, so long as they avoid personal attacks.

My comment:

I must say I don’t understand the basis of Ilana’s criticism of Patrick H.’s comment at my site. I don’t know what it is about the comment that she objects to. He describes in vivid detail a particular phenomenon—the incessant playing of the vuvuzela which hurts the ears and blanks out all other sound, all other human expressions, which essentially destroys the experience of soccer. Then he describes the authorities’ response to this barbaric and intolerable behavior, which is to permit it, out of the liberal impulses of tolerance of blacks and fear of blacks. Then he says that this is the distillation of the liberal order, i.e., the combination of barbarism with a liberalism that allows and facilitates the barbarism. Thus he takes one particular phenomenon, portrays it in detail and in outline, and then refers to its larger significance. I then added a title to his comment that I thought fit what he was saying. I thought his comment was well reasoned and well written.

Now Ilana says she disapproves of Patrick’s reliance on symbolism. But it seems to me that Patrick is not engaging in symbolism. he is engaged in close observation of a specific set of behaviors. Then, at the end of his description, he says that this set of behaviors is the quintessence of a characteristic pattern of left-liberal society. Is Ilana saying that it is invalid to point out that a phenomenon is typical of a certain type of society or belief system? Is she saying that we cannot reason from the particular to the general? Is she saying that there are no larger categories, e.g., “the post-modern, post-European, liberal world” as Patrick calls it, of which a particular phenomenon can be seen as representative? Is she saying that there are only separate phenomena, and no larger wholes of which those phenomena are examples?

If that is what she is saying, and if those are the rules that must be followed, then I don’t think I would have been able to write 90 percent of what I have written, because in my writings I, like Patrick, see various behaviors and thought processes as emblematic of various belief systems such as left-liberalism, right-liberalism, neoconservatism, paleoconservatism, nihilism, vitalism, non-discrimnation, the unprincipled exception, and so on.

Now perhaps I have completely misunderstood Ilana, in which case I apologize. But if I have misunderstood her, could she explain again what is it exactly about Patrick’s comment that she disapproves of so strongly?

Here is Ilana Mercer’s update explaining why she removed my comment:

UPDATE (June 16): As a courtesy to one of my readers I commented in passing on this topic. Larry Auster and one of his readers have decided to die on a molehill over my criticisms off this tack, framing it, grandiosely, as an “objection.”

They’d like to commandeer my blog to indulge this pettiness. Sorry.

I care not a whit as to how conservatives argue—increasingly they sound to me as irrational and emotional as liberals.

Larry’s reader claims the missive was farce; fair enough. Yet Larry wishes to continue debating the thing (on my blog) as if it were not; as though horn blowing as emblematic of a liberal/atavistic society were a serious argument.

Both refuse to plug their logical lacuna—explain European soccer hooliganism. It’s not that hard. The idea, moreover, of proceeding from the particular to the general is surely predicated on galvanizing more than one fact in support of your case. In the case of South Africa, that too is easy.

As one wag put it, “South Africa has blown it,” but I’d argue—and I’d have facts, not feelings, on my side—that it’s not necessarily the noisy horns that signify the end of civilization there and the triumph of liberal egalitarianism; it’s the piling bodies, looting of land and property, radical affirmative action (BEE), etc.

[End of Mercer update]

- end of initial entry -

Leonard D. writes:

I have a guess as to what Mrs. Mercer is unhappy about, but I am not sure. Anyway, first I think you should meet her where she wants and address her concerns.

Mercer demands an explanation of European soccer hooliganism. But it is the same: the liberal state. In the case of hooliganism, the liberal state has neglected its duty to enforce the law, to punish criminals, and to keep the peace because, according to liberal theory, crime is caused by social deprivation, not the will of criminals. (Although it is notable that England has cleaned up its problem quite a bit in recent years, probably because of the mostly rightish and whitish nature of her hooligans. The liberal state has little difficulty suppressing these two groups. If they were black, Muslim, or leftist, we’d not have seen that.) In the case of the vuvezelas, the South African state is tolerant of them because it is liberal.

The difference between the two forms of soccer-related antisocial behavior is a matter of degree. The vuvuzela fans are not hurting anyone beyond maybe temporarily deafening a few. Soccer hooligans do hurt people, although usually just each other, and that is part of the attraction. Certainly the two types of behavior are not comparable in the degree they are injurious. But they are comparable in that they selfishly ruin soccer matches for other people.

Mrs. Mercer also seems to want to focus on the indisputably awful and criminal behavior in SA: the “piling bodies.” It is true that this stuff—genocide—is the quintessence of the liberalism-induced collapse of civilization, whereas mass antisocial behavior is merely a minor symptom of it. But I think the significance of the vuvuzela still is worth discussing for several reasons. You’ve touched upon some of them. But let me add this: genocide is evil and uncivilized, but to its perpetrators it is not antisocial as such. Rather, it is the almost the oldest social activity there is: let’s get all of us together and go kill them, and take their land! The genocide in SA does highlight one particular failure of the democratic state: that it is prone to withdraw the protection of the law from minorities.

By contrast, ruining soccer matches really is antisocial. The tolerance of the vuvuzela highlights a different aspect of the democratic state, in this case a consequence of liberal/libertarian rights theory. According to libertarian theory, peaceful antisocial behavior must be tolerated. People blowing vuvuzelas aren’t hurting anyone, nor does one individual blowing a horn make enough noise to make a difference. Thus, even if collectively they are ruining it for everyone but themselves, they must still be permitted. Now, to the extent that the World Cup tournament is seen as private, a libertarian (though not a liberal) could comfortably argue that the organizers should ban the vuvuzelas. But the state cannot, nor can it tell the organizers to. And I think even if the SA World Cup organization is nominally private (I have no idea whether it is or not), in practice everyone would agree it is an arm of the state. Thus, neither the liberal nor the libertarian can advocate banning the zuzuvela. And as we have seen: even when faced with broad-based complaints, including those from the players, they don’t. Rather, “I have always said that Africa has a different rhythm, a different sound. I don’t see banning the music traditions of fans in their own country.”

This is, I am guessing, what has vexed Mrs. Mercer. She is a woman of some refinement and taste, and cannot possibly approve of such insipid, antisocial and boorish behavior as soccer hooliganism or vuvuzela-ing. And she has every reason to resent what the state and the blacks in SA are doing to her people and her old country. On the other hand, she is also a libertarian, and while she can easily condemn the genocide on principle, she is having a hard time condemning the vuvuzela-ing, even though it springs from the same people, and is not being suppressed by the same state. Thus, cognitive dissonance, and a certain amount of displacement.

Howard Sutherland writes:

I read the discussion about the significance of the vuvuzela with great interest (I actually came upon it at Ilana Mercer’s site, because I was curious to see what, as a South African, she might have to say about the ANC’s World Cup). Like you, I was confused by Mercer’s reaction to the discussion. The vuvuzela phenomenon and the authorities’ response to it are excellent examples of how liberalism is both destructive of tradition and suicidal at the same time. Why couldn’t she see that?

I think the answer is that Mercer is an expatriated South African (even if not an Afrikaner), and this whole spectacle is just too painful. After spending the last few months of 1983 in South Africa and loving that country—even while uncomfortable with much of the apartheid system—I share in some slight measure her sorrow over what South Africa is today, compared with the functional (even if, yes, imperfect) Western society she had until 1994. Mercer tells what she thinks in her conclusion:

As one wag put it, “South Africa has blown it,” but I’d argue—and I’d have facts, not feelings, on my side—that it’s not necessarily the noisy horns that signify the end of civilization there and the triumph of liberal egalitarianism; it’s the piling bodies, looting of land and property, radical affirmative action (BEE), etc.

As I read that, Mercer is saying, in effect: “You people are only now noticing what has happened to my native land because people are blowing bloody plastic horns on TV? That’s the least of it; you haven’t been paying attention!” Unfortunately, her entirely justified feelings about the ongoing destruction of South Africa have blinded her to the reasonableness of Patrick H’s point, which reflects the facts about lethal liberalism.

This whole South Africa-soccer thing is bizarre anyway. Soccer football is clearly being pushed, by the government and Western do-gooders alike, as a counter-sport for blacks against the sports that dominated in white-ruled South Africa, rugby football and cricket. When I was there, I spent a fair amount of time in pubs—granted, mostly among white South Africans. As in most places, sport is something people who don’t know each other well can talk about. There was a lot of talk about rugby (especially) and cricket, as well as golf and tennis. I can’t remember anyone paying the slightest attention to soccer. The South African team in this World Cup is billed as representative of the new “Rainbow Nation.” I think it is no such thing; it is in fact the anti-Springboks, and very deliberately so. In any event, it looks like being eliminated from the tournament at the first opportunity.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 17, 2010 10:05 AM | Send

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