The internet is awesome in large part due to websites like dictionary.com and wikpedia.org that make it possible to quickly find largely-accurate reference information. But also due to sites like Political Theory Daily Review that point out, among many other things, book reviews we'd never have found on our own.
The following is the final graph of this book review on John Brown, Abolitionist : The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights:
Since America is a democratic republic, and since that republic survived the Civil War, we are fated to confront the legacy of John Brown whenever normal politics seems too blocked, too slow, too deafened to the cries of injustice. It is not so much a contrast between radicals and moderates: plenty of radicals refused to join Brown's operation, no matter how much they celebrated him in later years. The contrast posed by Brown is between a savage, heedless politics of purity and a politics of the possible. In flat political times, when the possible seems shrunken and democracy seems hollow, Brown materializes as a noble figure, an egalitarian paragon, a man ahead of his time. David Reynolds's book forces the matter yet again, in tones appropriate to its own time, and for that it is worth arguing with -- and for understanding all over again that John Brown was not a harbinger of idealism and justice, but a purveyor of curdled and finally destructive idealism. This is what Abraham Lincoln understood. John Brown deserves to live in American history not as a hero, but as a temptation -- and as a warning about the damage wrought by righteous American terrorists, not just to their victims but also to their causes.
I had heard of John Brown - the white dude who went ballistic because he was so angry with the U.S. government for allowing slavery to continue, right? Basically.
So, this book review, as are other book reviews, was a good way to quickly get two different points of view on any given topic.
[Doing a serious book review must really be ball-busting work. It seems to be part literary criticism, part historical research, part being a really darn good reader, etc. Not many people can pull it off well. This book reviewer, even though I don't agree with him on everything, seems to have done at least a decent job.]
I had sympathies towards John Brown - what very little I knew of his story - because he seemed to me to someone taking on this monumental case of injustice for purely ethical reasons - very much like Chomsky and many other people I admire. How to reconcile that with Brown's killing of innocents? Same goes for Che Guavara. And if these guys are to be heroes of some kind, or looked-up-to in some way, or not completely denounced and detested for their having killed innocents for some 'larger cause', then doesn't that go very quickly into the extremes of the 'moral relativism' realm, where right and wrong largely disappears and 'objective truth' is no longer discernable or even necessary, resulting in any one being able to justify any thing? Yes, and no. I haven't figured all that out yet, but I do know that I need to get there as quickly as I can. I don't know how we can go about getting any real work done when we can't even agree on what is right and what is wrong.
The book review above has this line in it:
One problem with this wish for "vigorous challenges from individuals" is that, contrary to Reynolds's spirited demurrals, the American who most fully emulated John Brown in recent years was Timothy McVeigh. (If you object that McVeigh was a right-wing madman and not a carrier of the Anglo-American radical tradition, Gore Vidal will be happy to correct you.)
I had seen Vidal's name in the recent past in something I'd read, and when I Wiki'ed his name found out all this interesting stuff about him. For one, he seemed smart - very smart. So, I set off to find out what Vidal had said about McVeigh. It turns out he said a couple of things - at least two articles published in Vanity Fair, only one of which I could find online: The Meaning of Timothy McVeigh; Vanity Fair; September 2001). It's pretty good and Google seems to have found quite a number of people condemning/mocking Gore for 'calling McVeigh a hero'. That is not what I took away from the article at all, but it seems like the mainstream press usually villifies those who don't toe the party line. I had noticed that Vidal has Chomsky-like intellect, and Chomsky's ability to see the bigger picture of American politics. [I always wonder how much people I admire - usually people I consider to be very smart and very honest - will agree with each other.] This Vidal article, like most of Chomsky's writing I've read, is packed with information you've never heard before. Read the whole thing.
First, we have this:
McVeigh made no final statement, but he had copied out, it appeared from memory, "Invictus," poem by W.E.Henley (1849-1903). Among Henley’s numerous writings was a popular anthology called Lyra Heroica (1892), about those who had done selfless heroic deeds. I doubt if McVeigh ever came across it, but he would, no doubt, have identified with a group of young writers, among them Kipling, who were known as "Henley’s young men," forever standing on burning decks, each a master of his fate, captain of his soul.
Invictus goes like this:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
We find out a lot about McVeigh's motivations - creeping government totalitarianism (i.e. the U.S. government's war against its citizens), best exemplified by the Bill Clinton/Janet Reno raid on the Waco compound.
This PBS Frontline show gives a good synopsis of what went down. 27 children killed. And it was the largely due to the bloodthirsty psychopaths at the FBI's HRT (Hostage Response Team) unit on the scene. The negotiaters kept trying to negotiate while the HRT thugs kept agitating for war - often attempting to draw the Branch Davidians into a conflict by any number of outrageous tactics. Keep in mind, David Koresh may have been the one most responsible for the killing of those kids, but everybody knew those kids in there were innocent, and the FBI's HRT still went in guns blazing. It seems the Davidians eventually set fire to the place themselves - with the cowardly Koresh killing himself so he didn't have to suffer the same fate that many of the women and children had to suffer - suffocating to death.
We find out about yet another cabal inside the U.S. government:
In fact, at one point, former senator Danforth threatened the recalcitrant F.B.I. director Louis Freeh with a search warrant. It is a pity that he did not get one. He might, in the process, have discovered a bit more about Freeh’s membership in Opus Dei (meaning "God’s work"), a secretive international Roman Catholic order dedicated to getting its membership into high political, corporate, and religious offices (and perhaps even Heaven too) in various lands to various ends. Lately, reluctant media light was cast on the order when it was discovered that Robert Hanssen, an F.B.I. agent, had been a Russian spy for 22 years but also that he and his director, Louis Freeh, in the words of their fellow traveler William Rusher (The Washington Times, March 15, 2001), "not only [were] both members of the same Roman Catholic Church in suburban Virginia but…also belonged to the local chapter of Opus Dei." Mr. Rusher, once of the devil-may-care National Review, found this "piquant." Opus Dei was founded in 1928 by Jose-Maria Escriva. Its lay godfather, in early years, was the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. One of its latest paladins was the corrupt Peruvian president Alberto Fujimoro, still in absentia. Although Opus Dei tends to Fascism, the current Pope has beatified Escriva, disregarding the caveat of the Spanish theologian Juan Martin Velasco: "We cannot portray as a model of Christian living someone who has served the power of the state [the Fascist Franco] and who used that power to launch his Opus, which he ran with obscure criteria – like a Mafia shrouded in white – not accepting papal magisterium when it failed to coincide with his way of thinking."
You see the power of the Wiki. And of the internet, in general. The internet has to be the government's worst nightmare - every government's worst nightmare - not just China, but the U.S., too. China can still rely on a lot more force than can the US, which is why it is even more important for the U.S. to control information flows. The US must rely more on nonviolent forms of coercion than China. There's a reason that the U.S. is so good at propaganda and consumerism and Madison Avenue techniques of mind control - the only other option is physical force, and the U.S. population isn't, in general, willing to submit to rule by force - yet. Government, especially Presidential, power continues to grow - who will stop it?