You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

December 01, 2007

Splendid? Check. Blond? Check. Beast? Check.

George Bush:

"This has been a joyous experience, and still is."

George Bush:

"I'm at peace with myself."

Rush Limbaugh:

CALLER: It was like a college fraternity prank that stacked up naked men—

LIMBAUGH: Exactly. Exactly my point! This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation.

Michael Ledeen:

"No stages. This is total war...If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don’t try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war...our children will sing great songs about us years from now."

Friedrich Nietzsche, in On the Genealogy of Morals:

[W]e ask ourselves who it is that is really evil according to the code of rancor. The answer is: precisely the good one of the opposite code, that is the noble, the powerful...anyone who knew these "good" ones only as enemies would find them evil enemies indeed....once they step outside their circle become little better than uncaged beasts of prey...They revert to the innocence of wild animals: we can imagine them returning from an orgy of murder, arson, rape, and torture, jubilant and at peace with themselves as though they had committed a fraternity prank—convinced, moreover, that the poets for a long time to come will have something to sing about and to praise. Deep within all these noble races there lurks the beast of prey bent on spoil and conquest.

This hidden urge has to be satisfied from time to time, the beast let loose in the wilderness...even their highest culture shows an awareness of this trait and a certain pride in it...

(See also.)

Posted at December 1, 2007 01:57 PM

How do you do this? Do you just sit down with a copy of On the Genealogy of Morals, or a transcript of the Nixon Tapes, with a pencil in your hand, underlining the good bits? Does someone send you this stuff? Is there a service you subscribe to, like the Incredibly Relevant Historical Quote of the Month Club?

It's really just amazing how you do this, time after time.

Posted by: SteveB at December 1, 2007 03:24 PM

He probably educated himself somehow. I mean, really, there's no excuse for it.

Posted by: Don Bacon at December 1, 2007 03:39 PM

I second SteveB's question. Also, I was present for at least some of Jon's education, and the only guess I can offer is that all of this information is somehow contained in songs by They Might Be Giants.

Posted by: Aaron Datesman at December 1, 2007 03:56 PM

I dunno. Does this work? Nietzsche in the end was a fascistoid character but at the same time he was also a brilliant thinker and writer, together giving him the typical multifarious, controversial reputation he has. Bush, Limbaugh and Ledeen can hardly be seen to qualify for the "noble" as Nietzsche understood it, can they?

Posted by: Paul at December 1, 2007 04:06 PM

For full disclosure: Nietzschw was a frat boy himself. He overcame; W did not.
Nietzsche was no precursor to fascism or NS.

Posted by: donescobar at December 1, 2007 04:50 PM

Donescobar, from what I've read autobiographically by the very early Nietzsche I would say he was way too serious for being characterized as a frat boy. I agree that characterising him as a precursor to German fascism is incorrect but a link there still is. This praising of the blond beast for instance and his militarist snobism. Incidentally, Nietzsche's famous prophecies - (Musil, who was level-headedness incarnate, actully called him "a great prophet") - overlap considerably with what Heinrich Heine has to say in his earlier Zur Geschichte der Reilgion und Philosophie in Deutschland. All of this of course goes into the mercurial, both brilliant and (I think) repulsive personality he was.

Posted by: Paul at December 1, 2007 05:39 PM

Paul, of course,I was kidding about his membership in a university Burschenchaft.
The link to fascism or National Socialism would have repulsed Nietzsche. More than most critics of Western (Christian) culture, he understood the meaning of bourgeois resentment at the root of fascism. The blond beast is more a Northern version of the Greek or Dyonisian warrior, but not the butcher of dark-haired women and children.

Posted by: donescobar at December 1, 2007 06:53 PM

Did anyone here pick up the word "Innocence"? I actually think Nietzsche was wrong on least this category does not apply to anyone we are trying to describe.

Posted by: En Ming Hee at December 1, 2007 07:17 PM

'How do you do this? Do you just sit down with a copy of On the Genealogy of Morals, or a transcript of the Nixon Tapes, with a pencil in your hand, underlining the good bits?'

My theory is that Jon has engaged the late Billmon to assist with the time-warp goodies - remember his series of telling juxtapositions between Bush's USA and Stalin's Russia, Hitler's Germany, Mao's China?

The other blogger who came to mind reading this is Rigorous Intuition's Jeff Wells, who does it's true wander off to la-la land on a regular basis but who has also written some chillingly plausible speculations about organised elite perversions (ritual child abuse and animal slaughter primarily) which all turn on the notion that 'deep within these noble races there lurks the beast of prey', with particular emphasis on the occasional need to satisfy the beast, and to signal their pride in this primal behaviour via some subtle sign or other (the countles pics of Bush giving some acknowledged devil's hand-signal at lots of solemn events etc etc).

Well OK, they weren't that plausible, but they were chilling. Anyway, who nowadays would be truly surprised by such revelations?

Posted by: Glenn Condell at December 1, 2007 11:51 PM

that's a brilliant post.

Posted by: john at December 2, 2007 01:31 AM


As a history major at college, there are few iron rules for studying history that you cannot go wrong assuming. I will name just two. The first is that Mankind is often the most prideful of creatures, who thinks that wisdom can be made up for with knowledge. It is to this false view that nearly all of human folly can be traced. The second is that all the works of wise men are quickly lauded and then forgotten, only to be lauded again later, and similarly forgotten. With these two rules in studying human history, you cannot go wrong.

Posted by: En Ming Hee at December 2, 2007 01:32 AM

It's been a long time since I read any Nietzsche. I think we were still using Walter Kaufman's translation of that work during my undergrad days. Looks like I should see where I stored that one.

Posted by: James at December 2, 2007 02:19 AM

En Ming, I believe "innocence" reflects a lack of self-awareness, not a lack of guilt. I rarely read Nietzsche so I may get this wrong, but given the context, that's what it would have to mean.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at December 2, 2007 12:11 PM

I'm reading Nietzsche's use of the term "innocence" similarly to No One of Consequence. Here was Walter Kaufmann's translation of that passage:

"they go back to the innocent conscience of the beast of prey"

I read that within the surrounding context to suggest a more animal-like sense of awareness, a sort of lacking of the sense of self that we humans take for granted.

Posted by: James at December 2, 2007 04:20 PM

About that blond beast:

"Moral intolerance is an expression of weakness in a man: he is afraid of his own 'immorality,' he must deny his strongest drives because he does not yet know how to employ them."
The Will to Power

Posted by: donescobar at December 2, 2007 06:26 PM

donescobar: Yes, but it is the act of a coward that makes a man a coward, and the act of bravery that makes him a hero. NONE are born either coward or hero but the ACT defines the morality of a man. Not even the thought police can tell one from the other BEFORE the act.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 2, 2007 06:47 PM

A spendid blond beast of prey lives at my house - my cat, who naps beside me as I write. (My other splendid beast of prey, my black and white cat, is somewhere else in the house). He is innocent in a way that I cannot be, because he lacks the capacity to examine whether his actions are moral by either consequentialist or deontological standards.

A school of psychological thought, "Moral Foundations Theory", argues that

The current American culture war can be seen as arising from the fact that liberals try to create a morality relying almost exclusively on the Harm/Care [consequentialist] and Fairness/Reciprocity [deontological] foundations; conservatives, especially religious conservatives, use all five foundations, including Ingroup/Loyalty, Authority/Respect, and Purity/Sanctity. In every sample we have examined (including samples in the US, UK and Western Europe), political conservatism correlates negatively with endorsement of the Harm and Fairness foundations, and positively with endorsement of the Ingroup, Authority, and Purity foundations.

I suggest - and this is just me talking, without doing any further looking into the topic - that Ingroup, Authority, and Purity foundations for moral action would be a lot more comfortable with mass murder. But I could be wrong.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at December 3, 2007 02:20 PM