Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Letter to a Friend

Insipid, formless, easily molded by outside pressure:
Are we describing Jello, or the JBS under its current upper management? Yes.

(The following is a slightly edited version of a recent letter to a friend I met through the JBS.)

Dear Horatius: I finally read as much as I could of the Bulletin Foreword you mentioned to me ("A Slice at a Time or Education is the Master Key," by CEO Art Thoimpson).

Oh, my God.

I write those words as an earnest prayer, not as a casual blasphemy. The sickness that infects the JBS will only come out through prayer and fasting.

As a result of reading Art's essay, I will NEVER again complain about Vance Smith's reliance on ghostwriters ([such as] Tom Gow [and] Don Fotheringham) for his copy.
At least the essays that went out under Smith's byline displayed coherence and focus, and even boasted an occasional felicitously written phrase.

THIS, on the other hand, is equal parts fever dream, printed
aphasia, and the transcript of a monologue produced by premature senile dementia.

The history is slap-dash and dubious. For example: Did Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, and Voltaire REALLY "outline" the same "process" presented in the
Communist Manifesto? This isn't a Robert Welch-style "wild statement" -- meaning an inconvenient truth boldly spoken. It's an example of untutored name-dropping by someone trying desperately to appear sagacious, and succeeding only in appearing pretentious.

The writing itself is unpolished to the point of being a formless gray mass in which the only distinguishing features are errors of usage, diction, or composition. (Where it's stylistically appropriate and interesting, sentence fragments can be used. Art, in this respect, is less a writer than a fragmentation grenade.)

The whole production reads like an over-long, under-reasoned, and indifferently written letter to the editor of a small weekly newspaper -- the sort of thing that would result if Floyd R. Turbo could type.

What REALLY gets between teeth and gum, however, is Art's bizarre stab at offering a strategic vision:
"The cost of compromise will be great if we allow it to lead to defeat. If it is just a strategy instead, then we are getting what we can while we organize to come back at the Insiders again with increased strength. We haven't given up; we say to ourselves that we should get what we can while we get busy organizing to get more, and more, in the future."

Isn't this a transliteration into Birch-ese of Mayor Bates' version of the "Collaborator's Song": "I'm just trying to see this thing through"?

Honestly: "Compromise" is the JBS's new "strategy"?
A couple years ago ... I tweaked Appleton by saying that their motto should say, "Capitulation is our total strategy"; what I wrote in parody is now apparently Appleton's policy. They really are trying to make themselves satire-proof, which is NOT a good thing. [...]

What are we to make the statement, "we should get what we can while we get busy organizing to get more, and more, in the future"? My initial reaction is that this is a product of the same mind that, a few years back, produced the masterpiece of motivational rhetoric describing "Determination" as "a commitment to serious commitment."

I never got to know Art very well at all. He struck me as a well-organized and competent sort with some pretty interesting opinions about American history. He also seemed fairly sharp where financial management is concerned. So he's not without his gifts. But he's obviously even
less suitable to be the leader of the freedom fight than Vance Smith was.

Vance was pathologically manipulative ... but he did have a strategic vision and a passion for battle. He also knew his limitations and was willing to seek the help of others in dealing with them.
It's tragic that Vance spent most of the last several years spending most of his time in the effort to save his own job. But isn't that EXACTLY what Art, Alan, and Jack are doing now, albeit in a different fashion -- simply doing whatever they think is necessary to keep the program running, and their jobs intact?

YouTube: Our Blessed Atavachron

The proprietor of a YouTube channel entitled "Liberty in Our Time" has assembled a very good archive of vintage JBS videos and other presentations (as well as some great Paleo-Libertarian stuff); the collection includes several installments of my old "Review of the News Online" podcasts. I'm indebted to him for providing this service, and especially for rescuing the podcasts, which otherwise would probably end up being thrown down the Memory Hole.

Here's a two-part video adapted from a March 7, 2004 commentary entitled "Inventing an Enemy" --

Part I:

Part II: