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Samizdata quote of the day

Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

- Karl Marx

It must be plain to the historicist that Tinky Winky is such a personage. First, as supporting character in the American tragedy of Jerry Fallwell; now as a causus belli in the farcical end of Polish ultra-Catholicism. The trouble is, Marx – or at least that Marx) had it wrong, as usual. It is always farce and tragedy at the same time.

24 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Samizdata readers – I need your votes!

    All the other Australian libertarians are head-in-the-sand, wishy-washy, Ron Paul-esque fascist-appeasers (apart from Yobbo of course)

    Vote here!

  • apologies for the shameless O/T nature of the comment, Guy.

  • Nick M

    Bloody hell pommygranate, that was appalling.

    Best of luck, though!

  • seems to be working though, Nick!

  • seems to be working though, Nick!

  • Nick M

    Yeah, in bloody stereo!

  • RAB

    Polish paranoia pure and simple!
    All the “Real” men have left to be plumbers in Britain.
    Perhaps they fear they’ll be left with ones to camp to work a wrench.

  • Sunfish

    Also Spracht RAB:

    Polish paranoia pure and simple!
    All the “Real” men have left to be plumbers in Britain.
    Perhaps they fear they’ll be left with ones to camp to work a wrench.

    MUST….RESIST….URGE….TO….COMMENT….

    But seriously, though, there were Marx’ who understood humor, and those who didn’t. Most of them were actually fraking hilarious. However, there was one forgotten Marx Brother whose very existence was tragic rather than funny, and they kicked him out.

    What did Carlos Marx end up doing, again?

  • guy herbert

    RAB,

    If the atmosphere is that unfriendly, maybe it is all the gay Poles who have become graduate plumbers and cleaners in Britain.

  • Nick M

    This thread has become even more bloody confusing than it was. I’m a.

  • RAB

    Guy, Having coped with the domination of Soviet Russia rather well,
    I dont think your average pole is likely to be taking this
    Gay threat anymore seriously than we are.
    Do you?
    As for the rest of you-
    extemporise away!
    (I dunno. One little attempt at a joke and they go bonkers!)

    PS Nick my machine informs me that I have only 6 g left in my memory. Help!!

  • Paul Marks

    As the link that Guy helpfully provided pointed out, mainstream (i.e. leftist) media people in the United States were pointing to “Tinky Winky” as a homosexual icon years before the late Jerry Falwell said anything about the matter (indeed he had not even heard of the show till he read about it in the establishment media).

    This did not stop the same “mainstream” media types turning on Jerry Falwell as “paranoid”, “silly” (etc) as soon as he made his statement.

    It was a classic case of “having it both ways” (no sexual pun intended). Say something is a homosexual icon – and then snear (and do a lot more than snear) at someone else for saying the same thing.

    The people who attacked Falwell (for saying what they had themselves said some time before) could only get away with it because (in spite of Fox news on a good day) there is still a de facto liberal-left media monopoly in the United States.

    “We are at war with Eurasia”, “O.K. we are at war with Eurasia”, “What do you mean by saying we are war with Eurasia – we have never been at war with Eurasia”, “But you just said….”, “Oh you paranoid fool as if anyone but a bonehead like you would ever say we are at war with Eurasia”.

    Now I do not know whether “Tinky Winky” is supposed to be homosexual or not (I have never even seen the show), and (unlike the late Jerry Falwell) I do not really care about homosexual acts anyway (although I do have a problem with sex with children). But I do know that the snear campaign against Falwell on this issue was unfair (to put it mildly).

  • Paul Marks

    By the way Jerry Falwell (whatever his other faults may have been) was not paranoid about the fact that some powerful groups promote sex with children.

    For example, children in a school in Boulder Colorado were ordered (ordered – no freedom of choice) to attend a meeting where adults argued they (the children) should use drugs and engage in sex (including homosexual sex).

    One of the people on the panal was paid for by the one of the biggest accountancy firms in the world – as part of their “community outreach” scheme (I doubt that the share owners would be overjoyed at this “socially progressive” use of their money).

    This stuff goes on a lot – the only difference with the Boulder meeting was that a tape was made of what was said and the tape was sent to Fox.

    Without the tape any complaint would have been dismissed as “paranoia” or “silly”.

    And, even with the tape, the local media in Colorado have mostly done the standard job of putting the story on the spike (most of the media in the United States follow the New York Times line about printing all the news that is “fit to print” i.e. that supports the left, which is for example why they have been so quiet about the takeover of all broadcasters and suppression of protests by Chevez in Venezuela). And none of the people involved in organizing the compulsory meeting has been dismissed – they are all still in charge of children.

  • Sunfish

    And, even with the tape, the local media in Colorado have mostly done the standard job of putting the story on the spike (most of the media in the United States follow the New York Times line about printing all the news that is “fit to print” i.e. that supports the left, which is for example why they have been so quiet about the takeover of all broadcasters and suppression of protests by Chevez in Venezuela).

    The AM afternoon drive-time shows have been hammering this. And not only the station that carries Bill O’Really? either. I don’t know if Air America[1] has touched this one yet. Their hosts, though, are normally so cursedly stupid that I don’t know how they remember to breathe.

    For what it’s worth, Boulder’s daily paper had some coverage as well. This morning, they had an article in which the school district claimed that the meeting was voluntary and was not an official school activity, for what it’s worth.

    It’s not just Boulder, though. My high school paper once carried an opinion piece where the author demanded that the school provide education in ‘outercourse,’ which would basically be a how-to class. (A ‘hands-on’ class? No, even I’m not low-brow enough to make that joke. Okay, yeah, I am.) Actually, I was supposed to write a counterpoint to that, but I think I instead turned in something demanding that the school sell marijuana in the cafeterias due to the poor quality of the stuff available for sale across the street. I think my poor memory here may have had something to do with having a massive crush on the girl who wrote the first article.

    And none of the people involved in organizing the compulsory meeting has been dismissed – they are all still in charge of children.

    If it was compulsory. Depending on where one looks, that may be up in the air just now. I’m personally not ready to hang my hat just yet.

  • guy herbert

    This did not stop the same “mainstream” media types turning on Jerry Falwell as “paranoid”, “silly” (etc) as soon as he made his statement.

    That’s because he was. Whether or not Tinky Winky was identified as ‘gay’ by the adult audiences for Tellytubbies (which is not the same thing as being a gay icon) is irrelevant to the pre-schoolers for whom it is devised.

    Falwell’s particular lunacy, now follwed as we see by another variety of fundamentalists, was to take the perverse, contingent, interpretation placed on the character by a giggling adult, if not grown up, audience – Telletubies being early popular with students and clubbers as unchallenging entertainment when intoxicated – and decide that it was the point of the show.

    If you consider it, it is an epitome fundamentalist thinking: the world is a personalised battleground between good and evil forces, and everything that happens in it is part of the purpose of one or the other, nothing neutral or irrelevant or inconsequential. Thus, the inverted reason runs, that some people spot ‘gay’ a character in Tellytubbies implies the character is intended by the Tellytubby demiurge to be gay, and that this has a purpose. What could such a purpose be? Well since the character is not shown as evil or punished, his ‘gayness’ is being exhibited as positive to children by evil forces. Ergo Tellytubbies is an instrument of the Devil for the promotion of the categorical evil of homosexuality.

    For myself I couldn’t care less whether homosexuality is advocated to children or not, though I would prefer it to be treated as a fairly ordinary part of life, no big deal. But I think you have to partake of Falwell’s madness to detect any sexuality at all in the show. Or why only Tinky-Winky? Why not accuse it of promoting erotic experimentation with vacuum-cleaners through the character of the Nu-Nu?

    There’s a glorious mockery of deep pseudo-analysis here.

  • Paul Marks

    As you know Sunfish, Bill O’Reilly did give the three school people a chance to put their side of the story (he did not even go himself – he sent the fellow who is about my height so that they would not be scared), but they just ran away.

    The Denver Post seems to have basically spiked the story, although (I am told) that the Rocky Mountain News covered it – you will know more than me.

    One local paper is now trying to present the three school people (teacher, principle and head of the school head board) as victims because lots of nasty conservatives are sending them e.mails (oh dear, how sad, never mind).

    As the three have refused to explain themselves (but have invited the sex and drugs people back for next year – which proves that it WAS an official school event), they have made a rod for their own backs (although they most likely enjoy rods being used on the backs – and whips and stuff).

    Guy.

    I see, so when the leftists say the character was meant to represent homosexual stuff they are not paranoid, but when Falwell (who has just died and is not in a position to defend himself) said it he was paranoid – even though the “paranoia” smear came from some of the same people who had said what he had said (only they said it before he did, and they thought it was a good thing to encourage very young children to become interested in homosexuality).

    O.K. fair enough, whatever.

    Of course I have never seen the show (and have no interest in doing so) and doubt it does anything about anything (the British childrens television I have seen is too crap to be dangerious and I doubt this show is any different). My point is why was it “hip” and “with it” for the leftists to say something, and “paranoid” for Jerry Falwell to say the same thing? The only differences being that he said it after them (indeed he got the idea from them – like me he had never seen the show), and that he thought it was a bad thing not a good thing.

    By the way I suppose I should follow your link on the Roman Catholic Church in Poland.

    However, I happen to know some Polish Roman Catholics (for example one is married to a friend of mine. a friend who works for a Catholic institute in London) and they tell me the Roman Catholic Church is doing rather well in Poland – certainly better than the liberal-left “Bishops Conference” (which, of course, is not controlled by the Bishops) dominated Church in this country.

  • Paul Marks

    I have followed your link.

    It seems that the Polish education minister has heard what various liberal-left activists in the United States and other countries said about the character.

    Although, most likely, the education minister (not a priest of the Roman Catholic Church by the way) heard it from American conservatives, who in turn read in mainstream newspapers (years ago) who in turn got it from the liberal-left activists.

    Of course, I suppose someone should actually watch the show at some point (as this is turning into a game of Chinese whispers).

    I rather like the Polish government. The twins (President and Prime Minister now) were living in a tiny flat before the election.

    Unlike the liberal-left “ex” communist politicians they did not somehow get vast sums of money after the collapse of Marxism in Poland.

    I despise these “ex communists” in Poland, Hungary and so on.

    And, I must admit, part of that dislike is based on the vast amounts of money they have.

    Perhaps there is some class war envy in me.

  • guy herbert

    Paul,

    I suspect you are being deliberately obtuse in order to be fair to traditionalists who don’t deserve your sympathy.

    I see, so when the leftists say the character was meant to represent homosexual stuff…

    No leftists involved. Campness jokes aren’t confined to ‘progressive’ circles. And those who affect to see gay characteristics in the Tellytubbies and to provide alternative narratives for all all sorts of chidren’s literature and programmes – reframing The Magic Roundabout as commentary on 60s drug-culture, for example – are consciously amusing themselves, not imputing a meaning or instrumental intention to the programme-makers.

    … they are not paranoid,

    How should they be, if even on the intent model the ‘gayness’ of Tinky Winky is not seen as a threat by them? Paranoia, broadly, is detecting imaginary threats in the world. I assert that Falwell’s attitude was paranoiac because he took a playful post hoc interpretation by adults of a trivial children’s programme to represent a reality, and because he deemed that imagined state of affairs to represent a threat. It is doubly paranoiac, really, since it is hard to see that even were the character intended to represent a camp ‘gay’ personality, under fives would be likely to extract that complicated social code and draw conclusions about sexual morality from it. Even if the allusion were intended, any threat would be illusion.

    …but when Falwell (who has just died and is not in a position to defend himself)…

    Hmm. I doubt Falwell would be much interested in defending himself. Not his style; he was an attacker. We shouldn’t take someone’s ideas more seriously, or forget when they are wrong, simply because they are dead, surely.

    … said it he was paranoid – even though the “paranoia” smear…

    A smear is a story one spreads about someone in order to damage their reputation and diminsh their support. Generally it is one that is untrue or irrelevant to the debate. Describing Falwell’s attitude to homosexuals and his conduct in this particular case as “paranoid” is as I have outlined colloquially correct, if obviously not a well-considered psychiatric diagnosis. It is shorthand for a particular kind of irrationality. If I say colloquially, “You are being paranoid,” then I suggest that you are seeing threats where none exist.

    … came from some of the same people who had said what he had said (only they said it before he did,

    As an in-joke. Fanciful commentary on stories – particularly magical fiction plainly not set in the real world, but even when the story is seriously intended – is not generally considered to represent fact. Most educated people in cultures throughout history have grasped and accepted this automatically. The capacity to imagine things that are not factual, knowing them not to be factual, it is at the heart of most literature and science. However there remain millions among the unsophisticated (but not necessarily uneducated) who cannot pull off that particular trick, and they either acquiesce in enjoying the material life without reflection, or become fundamentalists and conspiracy theorists – sane paranoiacs.

    … and they thought it was a good thing to encourage very young children to become interested in homosexuality).

    I don’t think there’s any evidence of that whatsoever. That’s a slighter error of interpretation, but paralleling the Falwell back-formation, I’d suggest. If anyone did think that was a good, they would be likely disappointed. Very young children don’t find sex very interesting or structure that interest like adults or adolescents – without hormones or social functions it is a distant curiosity lacking significant meaning.

    (Maybe fundamentalists fear the ‘corruption’ of children so much because they see mental and emotional states within individuals as falling into rigid and separate categories and constellations, just as they do persons and social institutions, single causes having total consequences, so that an unconscious touch of the gaybrush means you could end up pink all the way through.

    Or perhaps this is an example of magical thinking: sympathy and contagion. Tinky Winky has camp characteristics therefore he is like ‘a gay’ therefore he is gay. (Sympathy.) Contact with Tinky Winky by watching him will transfer his gayness to viewers. (Contagion.)

    The two models aren’t mutually exclusive, of course. Sympathy and contagion as operators will create equivalence classes in the magical world, necessarily disjoint, so it fits happily with categorical reasoning.)

  • Paul Marks

    When the leftists say something it is O.K. – but when Jerry Falwell repeats the same thing he is “paranoid” and so on.

    All the things you write above do not alter this double standards approach.

  • Sunfish

    Of course, I suppose someone should actually watch the show at some point (as this is turning into a game of Chinese whispers).

    This anti-Chinese bigotry has to stop.

    I tried to watch the show once. It took me less than ten minutes to realize that there’s a good reason why only PBS would carry it. I couldn’t see how the character was gay. It was a guy in a costume prancing around with a six-month-old doing a voice-over. I don’t see that aforementioned infant reading a script containing “Those shoes are sinply FABulous! Cher’s new CD is so to DIE for!”

    I know plenty of gay people. None of them has purple felt for skin, all are capable of speaking coherently (except for the one crashing on my couch this week, but that’s just because he’s impressively drunk right now), and I don’t think any of them have triangles on their heads.

  • Paul Marks

    That was good Sunfish.

    If that is the show I can not see the harm in it. Apart from wasting the time of young children – “speaking coherently” (?) does that mean that the characters do not speak clearly?

    It is important that young children (who are still learning to speak) are presented with clear speech. Still if the show does not do that, it is just wasting their time (not really harming them).

    Guy said something about “fundementalists” having a great dread of their children being corrupted.

    It is difficult to know what someone means by a “fundementalist”.

    Does it mean someone who believes that Jesus was the incarnation of God and believes in the physical resurrection of Jesus (in which case I am a “fundementalist”), or does it mean someone who thinks that human beings were created out of dirt in 4004 B.C. (in which case conservative Polish Roman Catholics are NOT fundementalists).

    Sadly Guy is right if he is implying that “creationism” is on the rise in Protestant circles in the United States.

    This is odd when one considers that the first two conservative theologians (and Common Sense school philosophers) who showed that evolution neither threatened Christianity or good morals were both Americans – Noah Porter and James McCosh (back in the 19th century). Both Protestants.

    Evolution does not mean athieism, nor does it mean the denial of morality.

    In fact athiesm does not mean the denial of moralty either.

    I know several athiests who are very hostile to the corruption of children (and adults) and despise leftists even more that I do.

  • Paul Marks

    Last comment.

    In case anyone is thinking “how do you square your opposition to such things as drug use with your libertarian belief that it should be legal”.

    I do not believe that all sins are crimes (i.e. a matter for the criminal law), drugs no more than getting drunk so often that one is useless to oneself and one’s family.

    Of course giving drugs to children and having sexual relations with children are things that most (although not all) libertarians hold should be a matter for the criminal law. Certainly such acts are morally bad (sins).

    Something can be a morally bad (a sin) without being a violation of the nonaggression principle (a crime). For example, being rude. Some sins are
    worse than others (for example leaving ones parents to starve is worse than not returning the greeting when someone says “good morning”). But even very great sins are not always crimes.

    Rather basic really, one does not have to call oneself a “libertarian” to understand it. After all Edmund Burke understood it perfectly well. He was opposed to laws against such things as drugs whilst understanding that the use of them could make someone fail in his duties to his family (of course using drugs to deal with the pain of terminal cancer is something that Burke had personal experience of).

  • guy herbert

    Guy said something about “fundementalists” having a great dread of their children being corrupted. It is difficult to know what someone means by a “fundementalist”.

    Not quite what I said. I asserted that fundamentalists fear the corruption of children, not their children.

    I agree the term is in such disparate uses that it can be hard to spot what someone intends by it. In this case I am not referring to a particular set of beliefs, or single tradition, but am using ‘fundamentalism’ as a classification of anti-modern modes of thought, marked by literalism, an-historical values and positions, and appeal to the authority of revelation. Falwell’s peculiar evangelical Protestantism, ultra-conservative brands of Catholicism, many modern Muslim sects, Hassidic Judaism, many Greens, some communists, and arguably many secular bureaucracies, offer examples of fundamentalism. It isn’t what they believe. It is how they believe it.

  • Paul Marks

    I agree that children are more vulnerable to being corrupted than adults (although there are wise children and vulnerable adults).

    On the other things you have to say. I partly agree and partly disagree – these are complex matters.