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Jan 17, 2012                   

Crisis: "How to be a dictator" + "Wilders Rising...be warned"

Previous crisis


"The conditions which created Fascism there must not pass unnoticed here. Their first and most dangerous symptom is always the same everywhere: an abandonment of equal justice to all, the placing of some groups in a preferred class of citizenship at the expense of other groups."
-- Supreme Court Judge Hugo L. Black

I am less well again, and only note two articles I found and mention the Wikipidia's closing

1. "How to be a dictator"
2. "Wilders Rising...be warned"
3. Wikipidia is inaccessible on January 18, 2012

These are interesting and relate to things I wrote on my site about dictators (see also Machiavelli's "The Prince" with my notes) and about Geert Wilders, the Dutch xenophobic politician with the weird hairdo, and about the US attempt to censor the internet.

1. "How to be a dictator"

To start with generalities. The title of the section links to an article in The Economist with that title, that is an interview with Alastair Smith, who is a professor of politics at New York University, and who published “The Dictator’s Handbook: How Bad Behaviour is Almost Always Good Politics” last year.

I quote and comment some, and only quote Smith's answers to questions asked.

The common misconception is that you need support from the vast majority of the population, but that’s typically not true. There is all this protest on Wall Street, but CEOs are keeping the people they need to keep happy happy—the members of the board, senior management and a few key investors—because they are the people who can replace them. Protesters on Wall Street have no ability to remove the CEOs.

This is true, but requires three additions. First, a dictator can remain in power for a very long time, indeed can found a dynasty, if his repressive apparatus - secret police, military force - is sufficiently strong. Second, the frightening thing about modern technology is that it is much easier than it used to be, in principle, to keep a large population in check: If they don't carry mobile phones, a dictator can force chips in their bodies to spy on them and find them if they misbehave. Third, the CEOs - see my Crisis: Corporate psychopaths - part A - can do as they please and reward themselves with tens of millions each year, because the system of control has been deregulated. Fourth, the common people have very little influence because the media are bad or corrupt or full of propaganda.

It is virtually impossible to find any example where leaders are not acting in their own self interest. If you are a democrat you want to gerrymander districts and have an electoral college. This vastly reduces the number of votes a president needs to win an election.  Then tax very highly. It’s much better to decide who gets to eat than to let the people feed themselves.

Clearly, professor Smith is of the cynical school of politics, but then that is often realistic. The above needs at least four caveats: First, some leaders were not merely acting from self interest. Second, what leaders act for if they act from self interest is what they perceive to be their own interest, in which they may be mistaken. Third, the reason leaders can do as they please is that there are no - sufficient - checks and balances on their acts and omissions. Fourth, the many dictatorships show that there are good grounds to allow the population to be armed, even if that may enable more civil murders and massacres: An armed population is much more difficult to repress than an unarmed one. (See my chapter 11 to "On "The Logic of Moral Discourse"". (*)

If you’re working for the common good you didn’t come to power in the first place. If you’re not willing to cheat, steal, murder and bribe then you don’t come to power.

As also noted by Machiavelli - except that it is even worse, as noted by Lord Acton: "All power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely". One of the shortcomings of the American democratic political system, where the people's representatives have now signed away part of the people's rights - see my Crisis: Exit US-Constitution?! and The times they are a'changin' - 1964/2012 - and likewise of the Dutch and English democratic political system, is that these breed a class of governors who cycle personally between seats in parliament, jobs in government, high positions in journalism, NGOs, politically appointed professors in universities, and advisorships, always serving their own kind and their own party, and who can do so for a lifetime, while keeping the effective political élite small, if only to help the members of the élite to know  who they deal with.

Also, there is this, from G.K. Chesterton, who wrote a book about it, together with Hilaire Belloc - and I give two quotes from Chesterton's Autobiography, that readers of Dutch can find with some more context in my note to Multatuli's Idee 971:

"When the public theory of a thing is different from the practical reality of that thing, there is always a convention of silence that cannot be broken; there are things that must not be said in public. The fact concealed in this case exactly illustrated the thesis of the book called The Party System; that there were not two real parties ruling alternately, but one real group, "the Front Benches," ruling all the time." (p. 210)

"They collaborated in a work called The Party System, of which the general thesis was that there were really no Parties, though there certainly was a system. The system, according to this view, was essentially one of rotation; but rotation revolving on a central group, which really consisted of the leading politicians on both sides; or as they were called for convenience in the book, "The Front Benches." An unreal conflict was kept up for the benefit of the public, and to a certain extent with the innocent assistance of the rank and file; but the Leader of the House was more truly in partnership than either of them with their own followers, let alone their own constituents." (p. 199-200)

To return to professor Smith's interview:

He wanted to make society more inclusive. This is always the battle cry of revolutionary leaders. When they get into power they change their tune. The real question is what stops politicians from backsliding once they get in? Typically, it’s that the country is broke and the only way you can get people to work is by empowering them socially, but once you do that it becomes hard to take powers back from them. Broke countries are the ones that end up having the political reforms that make them nice places with good economic policy in the long run.

"What stops politicians from backsliding once they get in" are: A free press, an independent legislature, a well-educated population, effective systems of checks and balances on various institutions and persons with power.

As is, also in The Free Western Societies, the press is mostly corrupt or functions as lackeys; the internet can be shut down or curtailed, which is happening (see the last item of today's Nederlog); the legislature consists mostly of the political elite with law degrees, and have been appointed by them, usually because they were card carrying members of the parties whose leaders nominated them; the population is not well-educated at all, but get the vote because restricting the vote to the well-educated would be dangerous to the political elite; and very many checks and balances have been broken down, removed and deregulated since the Reagan years, usually in the name of the benefits of "free market forces", but in fact to help the big corporations and their managers.

In case you think not all (big) corporations are corrupt, professor Smith disagrees:

All corporations are run like this. The bonuses are handed out to the people who determine the fate of the CEO. It’s a tiny number of people—ten to 20. There are very few shareholder revolts that work. Most leaders are deposed internally. This is why corporations pay huge bonuses.

I think my analysis above give most of the answers, and the main point is deregulation: Those in power - of the corporations, of governments, of the banks, of the political party system - have broken down the checks and balances that could keep them in control, and have done this in the name of (market) freedom, and through buying politicians and the media.

2. "Wilders Rising...be warned"

Next, an application: The title links to an article from Newsweek that has as full title "Geert Wilders Says There's No Such Thing as Moderate Islam", Wilders being the xenophobic Dutch leader with the Marilyn Monroe hairdo, who one must not, I repeat not, call "a fascist", for then Geert (**) and his very many Dutch fans get most offended, while almost every Dutchman knows that a man like Geert can do no harm, what with his humanistic wishes of locking all who are not properly Dutch in camps, to put them on transport.

The title I use is from the end of the article, and is a variation of what his supporters claim, with "Islam" for "Wilders".

The article is good and informed, if not friendly about Mr Wilders:

a charismatic Dutch politician with dyed-blond hair, a mysterious past, and a platform of paranoid hate

about whom it may be surmised, perhaps in exoneration or mitigation, also having seen his hairdo and heard his antics, that he is scarcely sane - but then many would be dictators were scarcely sane, and sanity, rationality and honesty are not what makes careers in politics, especially in democratic politics, where the large majority of the electorate is moved by delusions, propaganda, ignorance and lack of intelligence, all to the benefit of deceivers, schemers, intriguers, liars, and indeed would be dictators. (See my: democracy plan, that will scarcely get democratic support, because it is a rational diagnosis.)

Not only does Mr Wilders have "a mysterious past": He also has mysterious finances, that - given his rhetoric - probably come from the US. As the article correctly notes

At home in the Netherlands, his explosive theme of unrelenting hostility to Islam has built his xenophobic Party for Freedom, founded in 2005, into the country’s third-largest political party; across the Atlantic his message packs serious resonance in an American heartland still shaken by the 9/11 attacks.

Incidentally: While it is indeed called a "Party", it is no such thing. There are no members, no statutes, no financial responsibility or openness - there just is Wilders and his personally elected parliamentarians voted in on the strength of Wilders persona, many of whom can only be adequately described as scumbags, indeed similar to what happened with the late Pim Fortuyn, and his vehicle and gang of (would be) parliamentarians.

Above a quite adequate photographic portrait of Wilders, the article correctly identifies what he is about:

Expanding on his claims that the Quran should be banned, just as Mein Kampf has been in some countries, he said the United States should be “getting rid of Islamic symbols—no more mosques—and closing down Islamic schools.”

There is Dutch tolerance, Dutch freedoms, and freedom of religion for you! In fact, Wilders has publicly equated Mein Kampf and the Quran - which is one of my reasons to say he is scarcely sane, or indeed is an able user of Hitler's Big Lie. Then Wilders pleads himself free from any and all consequences of his propaganda for his own power:

Wilders is a master at capitalizing on real fears and conjuring false ones—and then dodging responsibility if people’s lives are ruined or lost. “I am responsible for my own actions and for nobody else’s actions,” he says

This also refers to the Norwegian mass-murderer Breivik, who was strongly inspired by Wilders.

Also, as I said above, while Wilders has said he is in favour or rounding up Muslims, putting them in camps, and then transport them elsewhere, he and his many supporters gets quite angry, or at least pretend to get angry, if he is called a Fascist or a Nazi:

In his view, those who follow the Quran are deluded or worse. “Totalitarian fascist ideology,” he calls it. “I have nothing against the people,” he says. “I have something against Islam.”

As it happens, and so far, he is not anti-Jewish. Then again, how one can have nothing against the people, while forbidding the people to choose their own religion for themselves, within the framework of civilized laws, is beyond rational thought.

Immediately following the above quote, the write of the article, Christopher Dickey, writes

You start to wonder if Wilders really believes what he says or if he’s just staked out a position that suits him politically.

Indeed. Then again, the Nazi ideology also was scarcely sane in many ways, but widely believed and voted for by many, and also believed by most or all leading Nazis.

A bit further on, the article turns to Mr Wilders' older brother Paul, who strongly disagrees with him:

But it’s as if the rhetoric has taken control of the speaker. “He has always loved attention and power,” says his largely estranged brother, Paul Wilders. “He has ruled out any sense of doubt.”
As a teenager, Geert was almost out of control, his brother says. Much younger than his siblings (there are also two sisters), Geert was the spoiled baby of the family, and not much of a student.

There's more I skip, only noting in passing that indeed Mr Wilders is neither an intellectual nor a great intellect, to turn to US-politics:

In recent years Wilders has become something of a dabbler in U.S. politics, and he’s eager now to expand the market for Islamophobia.
As it is, Wilders-style anti-Islam rhetoric, only slightly modified, has long been echoed by the U.S. presidential hopefuls Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, who have found it useful to paint previous opponents as weak on “radical Islam.” Back in 2010, Gingrich publicly issued a fatwa of his own against Islamic law: “I believe Sharia is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States.”

Well, that's just a Big Lie - Wkipedia:

"The Big Lie (German: Große Lüge) is a propaganda technique. The expression was coined by Adolf Hitler, when he dictated his 1925 book Mein Kampf, about the use of a lie so "colossal" that no one would believe that someone "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.""

For Mr Gingrich is easily smart enough to know he is lying, and to know that the supposed dangers of Islamic Terrorism, ever since 9/11, have been an instrument to break down the US Constitution and introduce state terrorism: The supposed dangers of "Islamic Terrorism" are not a tiny fraction of a tiny fraction as dangerous as the situation during the Cold War, when huge states with huge armies, a totalitarian ideology, large populations, and many atomic weapons threatened the Western European states and the US without any Western government then deciding to restrict freedoms, restrict habeas corpus, allow waterboarding, break down the constitution, or force identity papers on ordinary citizens.

What Mr Gingrich peddles and what Mr Wilders peddles are Big Lies, certainly for their own personal power, glory, status and benefit, and quite possibly orchestrated by some group within or behind the US Republican Party.

Back to Europe:

Europe, however, is where Wilders continues to have the most influence—and where he raises the worst fears.
This xenophobic movement is often characterized as “radical right-wing,” but the actual situation is much more complicated than that. “These parties do not fit easily into the traditional political divides,” says a recent report from Demos, a British think tank (..)

Well... it seems right-wing and it seems radical to me. The reason most of them don't want to be called "fascist" or "right-wing" or "radical" is that these terms have a negative connotation, rather than that they object to fascist or right-wing ideas, ideals and practices. To quote Bertrand Russell:

"The first step in a fascist movement is the combination under an energetic leader of a number of men who possess more than the average share of leisure, brutality and stupidity. The next step is to fascinate fools and muzzle the intelligent, by emotional excitement on the one hand, and terrorism on the other."

The article goes on to quote the think tank to this effect:

“Formerly on the political fringes, these parties now command significant political weight in the parliaments of Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Hungary, the Netherlands, Sweden, Latvia and Slovakia, as well as the European Parliament.”

And for all the leading idea is xenophobia, and the leading technique is populism, indeed as with Nazism and Fascism also with some socialist colouring. To quote Supreme Court Judge Hugo L. Black:

"The conditions which created Fascism there must not pass unnoticed here. Their first and most dangerous symptom is always the same everywhere: an abandonment of equal justice to all, the placing of some groups in a preferred class of citizenship at the expense of other groups."

Here is the article's last paragraph:

Wilders gets plenty of death threats. To him, they only prove how right he is. “Geert doesn’t seem to take responsibility for the potential consequences,” says his brother. “But I would add that with his growing support and popularity, he’s starting to believe his message.” Perhaps it’s time for another billboard: “WILDERS RISING ... BE WARNED.” (***)

3. Wikipidia is inaccessible on January 18, 2012

In case you missed it, or the links to Wikipedia in this Nederlog don't work on January 18: Wikipidia is inaccessible on January 18, 2012, and so is Archive.org, for 12 hours.

The reason is SOPA - and I quote from Wikipedia, minus note numbers

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) (..) if made law, would expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement and copyright holders to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods.
Proponents of the bill say it protects the intellectual property market and corresponding industry, jobs and revenue, and is necessary to bolster enforcement of copyright laws, especially against foreign websites.
Opponents say that it violates the First Amendment is Internet censorship, will cripple the Internet, and will threaten whistle-blowing and other free speech actions. Opponents have initiated a number of protest actions, including petition drives, boycotts of companies that support the legislation, and planned service blackouts by major Internet companies scheduled to coincide with the next Congressional hearing on the matter.

Wikipedia opposes, and will therefore not work on January 18. I agree with the opponents.

Previous crisis


(*) This is a large theme on which most leftists disagree. Well... if you can trust "the people" with vote, even if it is to vote in dictators; if you do allow conscription in times of war, also if the war may be unjust, why can't you trust the people with arms, even if you know some may abuse them against some? Indeed, if ordinary folks were natural born killers, chain saws and axes are sufficient to indulge these tendencies - so clearly ordinary folks are not natural born killers.

(**) Among Dutchies who do not admire him also known as "Greet" (for "Geert"), this being a once popular name for especially lower class women, because of his weird hairdo.

(***) See also yesterday's Nederlog on Dutch morality: Maybe today's piece on Wilders makes it a little clearer why
I cannot admire the Dutch nation - which doesn't mean
there are no admirable Dutchmen. Then again, good men
are rare, and not only in Holland.


Corrections, if any are necessary, have to be made later.
-- Jan 18, 2012: Corrected some typos and omissions and inserted some links.


As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):
1.  Anthony Komaroff Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS (pdf)
3.  Hillary Johnson The Why
4.  Consensus of M.D.s Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf)
5.  Eleanor Stein Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)
6.  William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
7.  Paul Lutus

Is Psychology a Science?

8.  Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
 Maarten Maartensz
ME in Amsterdam - surviving in Amsterdam with ME (Dutch)
 Maarten Maartensz Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Short descriptions of the above:                

1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:

7. A space- and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
8. Malcolm Hooper puts things together status 2010.
9. I tell my story of surviving (so far) in Amsterdam/ with ME.
10. The directory on my site about ME.

See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources
The last has many files, all on my site to keep them accessible.

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