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ESR still at it July 19, 2006

Posted by joemomma in Iraq, Middle East.

smiffy’s latest post reminded me of a classic “Suicide of the West” rant by Eric S. Raymond, who is best known for inspiring the open source software movement with his essay The Cathedral and the Bazaar. In “Suicidalism“, Raymond argues that not only is there a decadent strand of defeatism running through western society, but that this strand was in fact deliberately put there by the KGB during the Cold War. I don’t have much to add to my previous discussion of that post on politics.ie, but I did revisit ESR’s site today to see where he’s at at present.

Delightfully, his latest post is based around a quote from Caligula, “Let them hate, so long as they fear“. He has seized on the fact that a Palestinian group released a hostage when they discovered him to be American as proof that such people are now reluctant to mess with the US lest they end up like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

…having even bush-league terrorists fear harming Americans is a good start, and as neat a vindication of George Bush’s foreign policy and the war in Iraq as anyone could ask for. The war is not, after all, breeding terrorists; it’s killing the leaders and frightening the small fry into letting go their victims.

It’s a bit of flimsy vindication at best, but sadly for ESR, it turns out that the reason this particular hostage was released is that the hostage-takers were looking for an Israeli hostage to swap for Palestinian prisoners. As the gunmen were from the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade associated with Fatah, they are not particularly motivated to seek a confrontation with the US, on whose support they will certainly rely in the future. If anything, the episode demonstrates that those groups with whom you have an open dialogue are less likely to target your citizens than those you are simply bombing from a great height.

It feels a little unworthy to engage with a crazy like ESR, as I’m not aware of anyone who takes him seriously in this context. However I find his output compelling in a train crash sort of way. Also, I will use any excuse to quote the below comment from somebody called Adrian which was appended to his “Suicidalism” post. The quote from ESR in italics is supposed to be characteristic of the decadent western intelligentsia:

There are no objective standards by which we may judge one culture to be better than another. Anyone who claims that there are such standards is an evil oppressor.

There’s an oversimplification. Western culture (which you will doubtless wish to separate into decaying European and vital American branches so you can continue to relish the thought of France being laid waste by rioting groups of unemployed Algerians) is unquestionably more comfortable than the Afghan alternative – but excessive comfort *has* been known to breed decadence in one or two empires in the past which might have lessons for the attentive today.

One standard which could be used to judge cultures is whether they’re sustainable, and there are a few people around who suspect that Western culture isn’t, simply on the grounds of the energy it uses. Now I know you’re going to say that that’s pessimistic and defeatist, and if we’d just become cheerleaders for funky stuff like pebble bed reactors and solar power satellites and abiotic oil and accept that The Market Will Provide Everything If Only You Just Believe then there will be plenty of energy for the whole Third World to consume at First World standards and we can keep expanding our GNP until we’ve eaten the local group of galaxies and anyone who disagrees with you is stupid and precognitive and duped by Stalinists and lower than vole scrota and ought to be shot for objectively supporting our enemies etc. etc. etc. But really – the Caliphate is a hopeless fantasy of dreaming nutbars, unless you want to delineate how it comes about as I suggested earlier. Your heavily-armed ass is safe from shar’ia no matter how many latte-sipping quiche eaters in your suburb think Osama may have had a point about something or other. Whether it’s safe from Peak Oil is another matter, though hopefully that will turn out to be a fantasy as well, eh?

OTOH, everyone needs a hobby.

Lovely stuff, I hope you’ll agree.


1. donagh - July 20, 2006

“anyone who disagrees with you is stupid and precognitive and duped by Stalinists and lower than vole scrota and ought to be shot for objectively supporting our enemies etc. etc. etc”. brilliant. I couldn’t have put it better myself. And it contains a ref to PKDick and Stephen J Gould in one sentence. I’m amazed.


2. WorldbyStorm - July 21, 2006

ESR is one of those intriguing ultra-libertarians (?) who seems to have subsumed his personality wholesale into the most vapid of US myths.

His use of straw men is sadly typical of those who like the slogans of others to do their thinking for them.

Should we be surprised?

No, we shouldn’t be…


3. Pax - July 23, 2006

Esr is in the all-time top ten Mad Libertarian B’stard league alright and serves as one of the ‘attack dogs’ of the far-right in the US. Despite this there’s some great (opposing) contributors to his blog, maybe this is due to his unfortunate prominence in the open source/ free software area – his political polar opposite in this being Richard Matthew Stallman (RMS)- attracting a different poster mix I dunno.

I had to weigh in on this Department V of the KGB, time-travel-tunnelled-Soviet-suicidalism-viral-meme! based hypothesis under the avatar name SlaineMacRoth.

One of those contributors, Amos Batto’s comments on this and other ESR posts are worth a read.


“…..There are some on the left that do draw inspiration from countries like Cuba, but never from Stalin. And most see Venezuelan-style Bolivarian Revolution as the future, not a pure Marxist revolution. The few people in the Third World who proclaim Marxism almost always renounce the totalitarianism of Stalin. Trying to argue that pacifism has Marxist or Stalinist roots is so off-base that it is laughable. Pacifism generally draws from Christian roots (or in the 60s some drew from Buddist roots). Ghandi looked to both Hindu and Christian spiritualism for his non-violent non cooperation. Pacifism is an explicit rejection of the use of force advocated by Stalinists. Some people charge that “political correctness” is a form of totalitarianism, but most political correctness is a call to recognize diversity and other cultures, which is the opposite of Stalin’s ideas. Look at Stalin’s ideas about nation and nationalism and you will realize how false this argument is.
Trying to lump all leftist philosophies together deriving from Stalinism is a ridiculous proposition, but then again the whole argument of this essay is ridiculous. The propositions listed are simplistic parodies of the true position of most leftists. While I would be the last person to deny the influence of Marxist thought in all sorts of areas, the argument that somehow all these leftist ideas come out of Department V of the KGB is a paranoid delusion and totally historically inaccurate. None of these ideas had any roots in Stalinism, and very few of them even derived from Marxism in general…..”

Perhaps he’s read his Critiques of Libertarianism linked to on the right…

Btw ESR expands on this theme (or his own counter viral meme ?…) in his post this February ‘Against Suicidalism from Down Under’ where he backs up his thesis with reference to a suitably mad article penned by an editor of David Horowitz (of Campus Watch* , Fox News ‘Analyst’ etc fame ) which is on the eh billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, backed FrontPageMag.com site.
Those ruggedly individualistic libertarian billionaire union reps eh?

More from Amos Batto on that second Suicidalist thread.

(excerpt )
“…….In the early 90s, historians finally got a chance to go into the Russian archives an look at the records of the great purges. After Stalin died, people in his own party sought to discredit him by claiming that he killed 20 million of his own citizens in the gulags. When historians examined the records, they only found evidence of only 2.4 million having died in the gulags. Conservatives took these historians as apologists for Communism, but they were simply searching for accuracy. When an academic questions Truth with a capital T, they are simply recognizing the complexities and not trying to shoehorn everything into simplistic answers. Some academics are leftists but the majority aren’t and shouldn’t be accused of some leftist agenda. I personally am a leftist, but I am an outlier in my program. Of the roughly 50 students getting history PhDs in my program, the majority do vote democrat, but only 4 or 5 are what I would consider leftists. My friends in the US consider me a radical, but when I go to Latin America, people there tell me I am a moderate social democrat. The US academy is hardly a hotbed of leftist thinking compared to universities in Latin America…… ”

(I started a pie thread on this student spy ring titled ‘The Plot Against America?’
also see ‘Who’s Watchaing the Watchers?’ by Joel Benin and also by the same uthor the pdf

” ‘The New American McCarthyism: policing thought about the Middle East’

Race & Class, Vol. 46(1): 101-115;

Abstract: September 11 ushered in a sustained campaign by the American Right and the Bush administration to deligitimise critical thought abut the Middle East, Islam and the Arab world. The Middle East Studies Association (MESA) has borne much of the brunt of this campaign, some of it conducted by think-tanks with close links to Israel’s ruling circles. Such attacks on MESA date back to 1967 and the Arab-Israeli war. The role of organisations such as ADL, AIPAC, AVOT and ACTA is examined, as is Campus-Watch and the attempt to introduce legislation in 2003 to place university-level Middle East studies under much closer government control (via HR 3077). )


4. joemomma - July 23, 2006

Nothing this Amos Batto person says is false, but he seems to be misunderstanding or misrepresenting ESR’s crackpot theory. ESR is not saying that pacifism or political correctness (manifestations of “suicidalism”) derive from Stalinism. He’s saying they derive from Stalin, i.e. he deliberately introduced them into the West in order to weaken it.


5. Pax - July 24, 2006

True Esr is not saying that about Pacifism but what he does say, (and what Amos Batto responds to and yes in doing so mixes up (according to Esr’s crackpottery)what Stalin used with the source of same and what he believed in) is

ESR wrote:
“> These ideas travel under many labels: postmodernism, nihilism, multiculturalism, Third-World-ism, pacifism, “political correctness”
> to name just a few. It is time to recognize them for what they are, and call them by their right name: suicidalism.
> Trace any of these back far enough (e.g. to the period between 1930 and 1950 when Department V was at its most effective) and you’ll
> find a Stalinist at the bottom.”

Like I said on ESR’s blog it’s this strategy seems to have been a dismal failure what with “the most vocal opposition [those on the left who opposed Stalin and the Soviet Union] now and in the past to unnecessary wars and imperialism might have had a beef say with the SU’s sponsorship of violent insurrection and direct invasion?” and the fact that the US engaged in so much armed operations since 1945 the intention of which was not to promote world peace, freedom and democracy but to promote its own political or economic interests.

As I said in response to the Al Queda rubbish
ESR wrote:
>“Western suicidalists have transferred their >allegience from Communism to Islamofascism >without a hitch.”

‘Then again perhaps Department V had an influence in the resultant growth of Islamic fundamentalism. However not where ESR has suggested but in the actions of the neocons in the Bush administration he’s defending both today in Iraq and their 1950s fellow travellers in Iran’

The history of the growth of Islamic fundamentalism has more to do with those promoting war than the sufferers of Soviet suicidalism’s pacifism. Again this not-actually-existing-phenomena seems to have been a dismal failure with respect to it’s intended targets.

But then again maybe time travel was involved?
As RvnPhnx wrote
>“Umm…..bud I hate to tell you that a lot of the >stuff you claim that “Department V” put forth >into the American psyche has been with us since >the begining–literally.”

According to this theory pacifism is part of suicidalism and was introduced by Stalinists, as you say, to weaken the west.

ESR wrote:
>the suicide thinker is typically a Western >academic or journalist or politician whose >mission it is to destroy the West’s will to >resist not just terrorism but any ideological >challenge at all.

That they existed prior to the existence of the Soviet Union or Department V and seem to progress in tandem with the development of a modern nation suggests both some time travelling tomfoolery coupled with a genetic change in human nature for this particular ‘theory’ to work in reality. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacifism#History )
As I said,
“So there we now have proof positive that the influence of Department V of the KGB tunneled through time and influencing the “left?” intellectuals of the Enlightenment in fact created the US….

but only to defeat it in the present! :x”

This includes the bullet points of suicidalism not the later mentioned er “deep environmentalism”?! As Esr wrote ‘it being ‘rather obviously a result of generalizing suicidalism not just to culture but to species. ‘
one presumes the brave non-suicidalist fate of the Easter Islanders being an example of the lack of this madness.

Having said that supernatural thinking by the those in power in the West, such as say, hoping and praying for the ‘Rapture’ seems to be a criminally overlooked avenue of KGB suicidalist memetic warfare on behalf of Esr.

Also the typical suicide thinker would be Stanford University Middle East History Professor Joel Benin etc who are worthy of both watching by the likes of Campus Watch, and, for their dangerously latent Suicidialism to be put under much closer government control (via the Republican supported HR 3077).

See http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=263
This original blog piece on

Best to take the michael from this stuff though I mean it’d hardly reach the mainstream via David Horowitz’s Fox News ‘Analyst’ appearances now would it?….. Amos Batto seems to include partially relevant elements of his/her history studies in much of his/her posts and to conflate what Stalin was and what he would use. However all of this is factual and non-false/non-‘holocaust denial’ studies, the Esrs hate that pin-in-the-balloon stuff as it can close off further madcap avenues of progress for Esr’s spiel.


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