The Joy of Schadenfreude
- Horowitzian prism about those 200,000-plus Americans from every walk
The War Party is having a bad time of it hooray!
The Joy of Schadenfreude
by Justin Raimondo
Friday, September 30, 2005
Smear of the Year, or perhaps a prominent entry in Hysterical
Outbursts of Note. And what vivid imagery it conjures! Seen through a
Horowitzian prism, those 200,000-plus Americans from every walk of
life who came to Washington to protest an unjust and intolerable war
were really turbaned terrorists: instead of chanting "Peace, now!"
what they were really saying was "Zar-qa-wi! Zar-qa-wi!"
Ah, the joy of schadenfreude! There's really nothing quite like it.
Wikipedia tells us there is no equivalent word in English, and defines
this German expression as meaning "pleasure taken from someone else's
misfortune" or "shameful joy." In short, it means gloating, albeit of
a very special kind, and these days there is plenty of opportunity to
indulge in it to our heart's content and I intend to take full
advantage of the opportunity.
Let's start with the neocons' reactions to the gigantic antiwar march
held in Washington this past weekend: if you like your humor dark
and I do you'll get a horse laugh out of poor old David Horowitz,
whose bile threatens to eat away at his insides until all that's left
is a hollow husk: "100,000 Zarqawi supporters mass in D.C.," he
screeches. Now there's a headline that surely deserves some sort of
special recognition: Smear of the Year, or perhaps a prominent entry
in Hysterical Outbursts of Note. And what vivid imagery it conjures!
Seen through a Horowitzian prism, those 200,000-plus Americans from
every walk of life who came to Washington to protest an unjust and
intolerable war were really turbaned terrorists: instead of chanting
"Peace, now!" what they were really saying was "Zar-qa-wi! Zar-qa-wi!"
People like Horowitz, who made an abrupt right turn after signing on
with the New Left in the 1960s and, in his case, filled a special
niche as one of the leading groupies of the Black Panther Party are
suffering from a severe form of ideological whiplash. So abrupt and
traumatic was their turnaround, that, in many cases, they took leave
of their senses: their brain rattled around in their skull so
violently that the result was madness. The particular variety of
mental derangement suffered by Horowitz manifests as a kind of
political coprolalia. Although there may have been a time when he knew
how to frame a real argument and make his case, his expostulations
have degenerated, over the years, until they consist primarily of
epithets. "Communist" and "Jew-hater" are two of his more mild
descriptions of the marchers. By the beginning of the second
paragraph, he is already comparing them to Hitler. [NOTE: Irrational,
neurotic Horowitz followers create the majority of anti-divestment
activists. There are few "normal" people among the pro-Israel crowd.]
This progressive derangement is not limited to Horowitz, but extends
to his followers and employees (or do I repeat myself?). A recent item
on Horowitz's appropriately named "Moonbat Central" blog denounces Lew
Rockwell a man who would repeal the 20th century, and might not even
stop there for being "leftist-like." The hallucinatory effects of
drinking the Horowitzian Kool-Aid are readily apparent: if you don't
support the war, the neocons, and the Bush regime, you're a "leftist."
These people are so indoctrinated, so unwilling to consider anything
outside their own narrow and cartoonishly simple paradigm, that
they're no longer capable of perceiving even the vaguest outlines of
reality. In this, they resemble nothing so much as old-time
Stalinists, of the sort that Horowitz in his New Left Period at least
pretended to abhor.
This is fitting, as the American stance abroad increasingly takes on
both the substance and style of Soviet policy toward Eastern Europe at
the height of the Cold War era. Cato Institute analyst Justin Logan
trenchantly describes our foreign policy as a "harebrained,
warmed-over version of the Brezhnev Doctrine" the "Bushnev Doctrine"
and the Sovietization of the conservative movement is one bizarre
consequence of this development.
Speaking of cartoons, another symptom of the ex-leftist-turned-neocon
syndrome is the tendency to become a caricature of oneself, and surely
Christopher Hitchens fits the bill in this regard. His reaction to the
weekend's massive antiwar mobilization is that it represented a
Popular Front of "fascism, Stalinism, and jihadism." No one can be
sincere in opposing this war, according to Hitchens: we were all
manipulated by an evil cabal consisting of the Workers World Party,
which supposedly controls the International ANSWER coalition that
co-sponsored the Washington march. No one has told Hitchens that
Workers World has split into two rather tiny factions, and has left
ANSWER: the two splinter groups, together no more than a few hundred,
are hardly in a position to manipulate anyone.
The main work of the march was accomplished by United for Peace and
Justice, which Hitchens describes, somewhat grandiloquently, as
"A very extended alliance between the Old and the New Left, some of it
honorable and some of it redolent of the World Youth Congresses that
used to bring credulous priests and fellow-traveling hacks together to
discuss 'peace' in East Berlin or Bucharest."
The hallucinatory effects of the neocon Kool-Aid are particularly
strong in this little essay, where, it seems, time has run back.
Suddenly we are living in the heyday of Hitchens' sort of archaic
leftism: the Cold War era, where brave "anti-Stalinist" commies of the
Hitchenesque variety denounce the depredations of the Soviet
"degenerated workers states" and urge "the masses" to rise up and
smite the Thermadorians all from the comfort of their studies, of
Hitchens' historical analogy, aside from being the product of his
longing to return to the far-off days of his youth when, at least,
he had some principles, albeit wrong ones is also quite inaccurate.
Bin Laden and his followers, far from resembling the Soviet Union at
the apex of its power, are nowhere in control of a single state. They
never really even controlled Afghanistan, probably because no one ever
has, although we may hand them control of Iraq or a remnant of it
if we persist in our wrongheaded and counterproductive policy of
waging war on the Muslim world. Hitchens squirms and screams and yells
imprecations at this paradox, yet never succeeds in refuting or even
"Some of the leading figures in this 'movement,' such as George
Galloway and Michael Moore, are obnoxious enough to come right out and
say that they support the Ba'athist-jihadist alliance. Others prefer
to declare their sympathy in more surreptitious fashion. The easy way
to tell what's going on is this: Just listen until they start to
criticize such gangsters even a little, and then wait a few seconds
before the speaker says that, bad as these people are, they were
invented or created by the United States. That bad, huh? (You might
think that such an accusation these thugs were cloned by the
American empire for God's sake would lead to instant condemnation.
But if you thought that, gentle reader, you would be wrong.)"
The easy way to tell if someone has gone mad is to reflect on how
often, and how vehemently, they reject known facts of reality.
Hitchens denies that the U.S. was ever allied with bin Laden and his
followers. That little war in Afghanistan against the Soviets where
bin Laden, the construction magnate, built huge underground tunnels in
the sides of mountains to hide the U.S.-funded mujahedin has been
entirely blanked out of his memory. Not to mention the occasion when
bin Laden's legions, in alliance with Tony Blair and Bill Clinton,
waged a war of "liberation" a war hailed by Hitchens on behalf of
Kosovo's Muslim jihadists, who are now feeding on the carcass of
dismembered Yugoslavia. Oceania is at war with Eastasia. Oceania has
always been at war with Eastasia and don't you forget it!
We not only invented bin Laden, we have enabled his rise, as Michael
Scheuer puts it, to the point where the United States government has
become his "indispensable ally." To the hallucinating ex-leftist,
however, on his way to reconciling with "bourgeois" society and
eager to suck up to some new Historical Imperative there is no law
of causality. Cause and effect, supply and demand, and the idea of
objective reality all of this is repealed by the ideologue, who
lives in a world of dogmatic assertions.
This dogmatism is particularly redolent of our neoconservatives, such
as Hitchens, who have only lately discovered the narcotic effects of
U.S. military action on behalf of traditionally liberal or even
leftist political goals. That's why they insist the news coming out of
Iraq a daily horror show of sectarian violence and a growing
insurgency cannot be true, and that the media is presenting a
deliberately distorted picture of our glorious "victory." Just like
the Soviet generals and their masters in the Kremlin, who insisted the
Communist future was assured and that they were marching forward into
the daylit utopia of a socialist paradise, right up until the day the
Berlin Wall fell. They said it even as the whole structure of the
Marxist monolith began to disintegrate quite rapidly. Statists of all
stripes always revert to a crude determinism when backed up against a
wall, and so it is with Hitchens, who lapses into Soviet journalese
mode when he describes what the U.S. is doing in Iraq and Afghanistan:
"In Afghanistan and Iraq, agonizingly difficult efforts are in train
to build roads, repair hospitals, hand out ballot papers, frame
constitutions, encourage newspapers and satellite dishes, and
generally evolve some healthy water in which civil-society fish may swim."
The Soviets, too, boasted of their road-building, hospital-building,
and other efforts at modernization in Afghanistan even as they
carpet-bombed entire cities, rounded up all possible opponents, and
killed many thousands. They, too, hailed the education and general
uplifting of women as a social objective worth going to war over
even as the Red Army slaughtered sons and fathers in the name of
"progress." That the Americans have taken up this old Communist
propaganda ploy as one of their own talking points suits old lefties
like Hitchens and his friend Horowitz just fine. It's an old wine
marketed in a new bottle, and the effects are just as intoxicating
particularly for power-lusting intellectuals out to save the world
from itself, by force of arms if need be.
Yes, the Soviet style of these largely unreconstructed totalitarians
leeches through, even after all these years. The enemy is not just
mistaken, or misguided, or just plain wrong: oh no, that's not good
enough for their purposes. The enemy must be the epitome of evil, the
lowest of the low, the Devil incarnate. The Soviet press was fond of
insect analogies: cockroaches was a favorite epithet, and Hitchens the
hack is not above borrowing from the old Stalinist arsenal:
"[I]n each case, from within the swamp and across the borders, the
most poisonous snakes and roaches are being recruited and paid to
wreck the process and plunge people back into the ooze. How nice to
have a 'peace' movement that is either openly on the side of the
vermin, or neutral as between them and the cleanup crew, and how
delightful to have a press that refers to this partisanship, or this
neutrality, as 'progressive.'"
The Nazis likened Jews to "poisonous snakes" and infused such imagery
into books intended for children. Hitchens is eclectic: he borrows
from his antecedents on the right as well as the left. The enemies of
the all-powerful American state are "vermin," in his view, and our
armies are a "cleanup crew." We must sweep the world with the mighty
broom of the U.S. military, like that old Soviet poster of the Red
Army brushing aside the "fascist insects." In this way, the commies of
yesteryear comrades Horowitz and Hitchens fulfill their youthful
dreams of World Revolution.
There is, when you think about it, a scary sort of madness about this
sort of language, this ability to analogize individual human lives and
destinies with vermin with dirt and the actions of self-appointed
sanitation engineers. It goes beyond mere arrogance and approaches a
kind of mental illness a sociopathic syndrome that makes its
victims a danger to decent people everywhere.
I have to admit, however, to taking an inordinate amount of pleasure
out of this public display of unwholesome and unholy hysteria. Poor
Hitchens is unnerved by the absolute failure of his new allegiance:
having abandoned the Marxist determinism of his youth, he cast his lot
in with the seeming inevitability of American power just in time to
see it dashed on the rocks of its own hubris.
So, too, must Horowitz be driven into a similar psycho-political dead
end, snarling at the sight of his enemies triumphant: he, too,
switched sides just as the tables were turning. The only problem being
that they were turning in an entirely different direction than the one
In a piece arguing that the Iraqis should vote to reject their newly
minted constitution, Fred Kaplan offhandedly writes:
"I say this with nothing but dismay. The Bush administration wants to
withdraw most U.S. ground troops from Iraq by the end of next year, as
do I. The official rationale will be: We've done our job; Iraq has a
new government and a new constitution; we'll keep a cadre of troops
behind for training and essential security, but otherwise the defense
of Iraq is up to the Iraqis. But if there is no new constitution, no
new government, a major pullout will be harder to justify."
Yes, it won't be long now before Horowitz and Hitchens are snarling at
the Bush administration. The revolution has been betrayed, once again!
As they contemplate the polls, and the vast unpopularity of this war,
they will soon be condemning the American people themselves as
cowards, betrayers, decadent and too "soft" to fit the mold of the
heroic neo-Soviet soldier fighting for "progress" and "modernity."
From this realization will be born yet another permutation of
right-wing thought: the paleo-neoconservatives.
Oh, this is fun too much fun to indulge in much longer (now that
would be true decadence!). The joy of schadenfreude is so sweet, so
intense, that it can only be borne for a very short period of time
that is, for as long as it takes me to write a single column
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