This just in.
I’ve been lately reading around in a large volume of the late Christopher Hitchens’ essays entitled Arguably, which is arguably not a title. But since Chris isn’t here anymore, I won’t argue with him. The dead deserve the dignity of a decent repose. And atheists in death deserve nothing, which is what they believe in, and even desire. As Schopenhauer would say with ardent contempt, It’s Buddhism without the Buddha. Nothing without the nothingness.
Hitchens’ book was recommended to me by my old campfire friend, Chuck Wannop. You’ll remember him from The Republic. Hitchens is arguably most famous — or infamous — for a volume entitled God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Actually, the title of the book spells God “god.” That’s either an orthographic solecism, or an adolescent affectation. Or, in this case, both, with the affectation causing the solecism. You can easily be 60 years old and an adolescent when the subject is spiritual maturity.
Someday I intend to open Hitchens’ God-fraught book of godlessness like an archaeological dig to search for contemporary relics. By relics I mean fossils. I don’t mean holy items of elevation or anti-items of execration. Or, perhaps, I’ll go fossil fishing for coelacanth ideas. These ideas are greasy odd-smelling concepts, the names of words sluggishly swimming in the cold depths of human unconsciousness. Nor is that strange. We carry the ocean around with us in our salty inner sanguine sea, and we carry the universe about in our inner cosmic consciousness.
Meanwhile, I’ve already started my textual dig. I’ve exposed the title of Hitchens’ book to sunlight. What did I find? Of its two parts, neither is true. In the best emotive senses of human amplitude, the title is false. (A morphology of significance can be found in Reality 101.) A false title is a bad start for a book which would be true. But you can be far worse than wrong. In a logic of progress, you can be behind the times.
It’s an easy surmise that Hitchens’ book disproves retired ideas with tired arguments. But — and I poetize with fortitude — the truth of progress is world words now. Yesterday is only an archive of old speech. Scholars fight the dusty wars of the idea dead there — as do deep adolescents who haven’t recapitulated the past yet, and caught up with the present. Ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny might be a canard in biology. But I’ve seen it happen too many times in history and myself to disregard it. Humans must recapitulate the phylogeny of consciousness if they would live in spirit time now. Of course, we all know that very few people outlive their deaths. But few people know that most humans don’t live long enough even to be born.
Hitchins’ volume consists of a variety of occasional pieces written in superbly clear prose. His diction is always a brisk and lissome flow. It never backs up to build up behind jumbled log jams, or circles slowly in serene mill ponds, or goes rushing in withering rapids to plunge over waterfalls.
Hitchens’ transparent collection includes a short review of a volume of the letters of one of the Mitford family. The Mitfords are famous these days for the passel of sisters who were Lord and Lady Redesdale’s clutch of children. Even a BBC mini-series has been made about them. Or was it several documentaries? Well, on TV that’s the same thing. In other words, an English soap opera starring the Mitfords has been broadcast. No American man I know of would watch American soap operas during the day. But they’ll watch English laundry products at night.
“It’s just so hard to find good scullery maids these days!”
“Or any maids!”
“Maids! They’re all whores. And they want half their nights off so they can go out hotting about like cats in heat! They should be fixed!”
“Well, you know, they say the Yanks have dishwashing machines now.”
“Really? But, of course. They have machines for everything, don’t they? Even for love, they say.”
“Oh my dear, don’t be naïve about Americans. Let me show you something.”
“What is that!”
“Well, it’s this little, like, device. And it runs on batteries. Completely safe. And guaranteed! ‘Will never short out.’ If only—”
“Yes, I know. But Henry has so many affairs these days to attend to.”
“Yes, I’ve heard of them.”
“And yet, you know, we’re hoping for a little extra something come the New Year.”
“My dear! Sir Hubert will be so delighted! His club, you know! Oh, and, of course, I’ll be so happy for you, too!”
“You’re too kind.”
“Did you say, theoretically speaking, that the device runs on those handy little dry cells sold at the chemist’s?”
“No, my dear. On high-voltage long-life batteries.”
The Mitford girls remind me of the formidable Soong sisters. Chiang Kai-Shek married one of them. Or rather more likely, she married him given what Stillwell thought and Mao did to Chiang.
Now, all of this by itself would be just elegant gossip — in other words, biography. Biography records the lives of temporarily significant people, and the ephemera of the permanent. Thus most of humanity receives no general attention. Of course, with social media, everyone can “broadcast” themselves to the world. But who’s watching when there’s 7,000,000,000 channels and counting to choose from? As for the significance of biography, who knows what the posthumous gawks and awes of humans are worth. It’s clear Thoreau didn’t think much of them. That’s why he commissioned his official biography while he was alive. And he wisely hired the best writer he could find.
What makes these Mitford sisters significant here — besides being a source of republican fun — is what they did with the birthright of their aristocratic status.
Some of the sisters traded it away for bourgeois things. For example, Nancy became a famous novelist. Apparently she wasn’t famous for very long. Hamlet said something about that once. Besides, writing? “So many words! How did she keep track of them all! Writing is for secretaries. And when I need a social notice in The Times, I call for one of their scribes to be sent out. Journalists they’re called these days. So boring.” We can disregard the self-cashiering Mitford siblings.
That leaves three significant sisters.
First, there’s Deborah. She did her duty and married a duke. “Good lord! A duke? I do hope he gets a promotion.” “Dear, you could talk to George some time. He really is a dear. I did him some favors once, you know.” “Yes, dear, I’m sure he remembers your favors.”
Second, there’s Diana. She married Sir Oswald Mosley. Mosley was the Grand Fascist Poohbah of Great Britain (GFPGB). I didn’t know they gave Ks to black shirts back then. But maybe that was when Mussolini was an international hero. After all, a Duce is just an updated Duke for democracies. And Mussolini was renowned for his incessant and even incandescent energy. Like Col. Roosevelt. Meanwhile, Soviet communism had been diagnosed a hygienic threat to the world well-being of western civilization. In contrast, fascism was a healthful and energetic regimentation that was both people and progress friendly. Like the US already was.
Finally, there’s Jessica. Jessica is the subject of Hutchins’ short review of her brill letters. Jessica says brill, not “brilliant” like Harry Potter in the movies. ‘“Movies”? “Potter”? What words! So boring. There’s upstairs downstairs, of course. And then there’s below the stairs. And everyone should know their place! Thank God for the Durselys. They know where they stand in the queue for us!’
Jessica married a nephew of Churchill. He was a communist. Not Churchill, the nephew. Churchill was an opportunist. And he loved war. Someday Churchill will be fruitfully compared with Mussolini. Both of these warlords got voted out of office in the midst of their best war. Well, it was their best war earlier on. Lots of big plans for adventure! Brill! Later on both countries lost. Or at least they didn’t win. Alliances with America. So boring. But still, this is the stuff of grand soap opera: “The Communist Cousin” or some such mini-series. Lots of ideology and urgency, illicit sex in the cell, and whispered nothings in public which, are the people’s secrets being passed in one-time cypher. Great trade craft and love technique.
Now, all of this, as you’ll have noticed, is still just bio-trash. But there’s an idea here like a diamond deep in old dung. So let’s go dumpster diving in the historical slum of dung, and recover the glint of what was once the best.
Chris informs us of Jessica’s contempt for the middle class. She had no time for anything like that. ‘So droll. They’re always saying how much something cost them. That’s to let you know how much you should envy their latest acquisition. As if a Beethoven symphony is worth a bag of talers! Dread. But, of course, the bourgeoisie have no sense of value, only price. They’re always selling something, usually themselves. And then they try to buy it back at a profit. Their whole life is like that. Retirement is their last attempt to own themselves. Then they go to the beach to turn themselves in the sun like vile hot dogs on greasy rollers at noxious carnivals, slowly darkening and dehydrating like do-it-yourself mummies on a budget. Not even in immortality do aristocrats retire! Or great artists. We hire them, and then we refuse to fire them! Like Michelangelo. Brill. Here’s a toast to the working class! It values nothing. Except getting drunk! To Alexander and Diogenes! But, of course, that’s our fault, isn’t it? We oppress them into sodden debauchery. We’ll have to do something about that. The dole for Diogenes! And I still think we should sell those distillery shares Grams gave us. Dear old thing! What was the latest dividend?’
Alas, Jessica. Your theory of the middle class is what Marx called a causal inversion. And if as an old sea power you now like navel inspection, Freud called it the depth-comfort of a sub-psych lie. Meanwhile, you and your obsolete assumptions and presumptions no longer set and regulate the tempo of world assessment. The middle class does that now. And it hasn’t any time for the fossil affectations of aristocrats, or their attempted totalitarian metamorphoses. Except, that is, on TV after a profitable republican day. Aristocrats show so well on screen or stage. They carry their persons with a commanding carriage, and they wear distinguished clothes with such distinction. The democratic Athenians understood this about the hoi aristoi, and so they staffed their tragedies with the best. The old families. The few. The quality. No Smiths and Joneses for Aeschylus and Sophocles! Only the best would do for the god of their immortal religious works.
Now, here’s where the Mitford sisters enter severally and advance to the center of history briefly.
What can aristocrats do when an aristocracy of power has become obsolete?
One, they can continue in their haughty recidivisms, and decline into quiet irrelevance while pretending to leadership in the Lords.
Or, two, they can admit they’ve lost their old and superior leadership of the people, and seek out novel replacements no one will recognize as such. The 20th century offered two new proxies of aristocratic command. And both were in the name of the people. Brill! And both were socialist. How do you like that, Dad? Unspeakers!
One was national socialism, the other was international socialism. And that covers all the possibilities. What sisters! Like Spain and Portugal and the pope in 1494, they divided the world amongst themselves.
And notice how both Diana and Jessica — with the cunning unconsciousness of historical logic — positioned themselves as servants of the people. Of course they’d serve. And then they’d deserve. They were primus inter pares. Just because you’re called the Home Secretary doesn’t mean you address envelopes at the kitchen table!
The Mitford sisters were a living illustration of what the senatorial class of Rome did in its long and leisurely decline. The Mitfords are a picture. But they’re a significant picture: an archetype.
Some of the senatorial scions in Rome continued to serve as front men of the imperator and his governing gang: for Rome’s uncrowned king and his unvetted government. The Senate was then only a cheering section the same as the “parliament” of the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, more historically progressive and world-concerned scions of the Senate become bishops of the Church. They were called shepherds. They were humble men who led and fed their flocks with golden croziers, and who then sheared the sheep and dined on mutton at golden tables graced with elegant company. In other words, the bishops became the senatorial aristocracy of a holy empire. And then, of course, for slender lesser brothers — there’s only so many positions of love available at any time! — there were always slithery caves where alone — as “monks” they called themselves in the Greek — they could revel in the sinfulness of their filth, and daily bathe — their only bath — in the pathetic tears of their bathetic prayers. See the great historical poem, “Concerning His return” (“De reditu suo” c. 416 AD) by Rutilius Claudius Namatianus for a sense of Roman astonishment at such self-destructive absurdity, and for the astonishing Roman unconsciousness of what was coming down the pipeline when history flushed. Communism is also a holy empire whose spiritual colophon is a monotheism of the logos. And notice in passing that most modern revolutionaries are from the middle class: they work harder, they’re more ambitious, they have better management skills, and they’re relentlessly eager to gain. Aristocrats, however, are allowed to join and help out as equal adjuncts. “O look! Apologetic solidarity! So progressive!” Later they can be liquidated for progress.
Amongst Jessica’s many endearing affectations, I especially enjoy her contempt for paper napkins, a hauteur clearly applauded by Chris. But linen napkins are dread. In fact, they’re revolting. Just to pick one up and open its rich folds feels unclean. And to use it! I feel like I’m polluting a piece of posed fashion. It’s altogether more déclassé than a peasant wiping his mouth on his shirt, or an aristocrat using a corner of the tablecloth, which 18th century aristocrats would even use to give their teeth a good scrub. Peasants, of course, have no tablecloths, poor dears, their teeth! Meanwhile, Americans use paper tablecloths. The English of it! But why would anyone want to contaminate fine cloth with the gunk of oral exudates? Yucksville! I mean Dreadsburg!
My siblings and I once had the same thoughts about our executive father’s expensive handkerchiefs. Why would you want to evacuate your mucus membranes into fine ironed fabric, then wad up the boogers and incubate them in your pocket all day? Yuckers! And then there’s the re-use issue. Gross! Given Jessica’s views on napkins, imagine what she must have thought about the unmentionable daily paper? Not The Times! That bourgeois rag! No, blue blood will out. And that’s even when it’s dressed in a brown leather skirt or a red poppy top. No, Jessica wiped her toosh with linen, and her touché with silk.
Before we depart these drolleries of aristocrats doing dialectics, I want to culturally immerse in Hitchens a bit. In a review of a book on Somerset Maugham, Hitchens derides Maugham’s prose. Bitchy bitchy bitchy. I’ve read a number of Maugham’s books, and they certainly don’t merit such stylistic contempt. And yet I agree that Hitchens’ English is incessantly sharper and more sparklingly clear. But that’s the problem. It isn’t writing. It isn’t style. It’s isn’t literature. It’s just journalism. Such persistent clarity and invariant brilliance are as trivial as the overhead light of a blue sky noon. It’s a kind of illumination no painter would ever portray: bright, glaring, flat. Great for growing crops. And these days, with electricity, you can simulate such tedious sunlight at any time by flipping on the overhead lights. Indeed, most people live all day in such lighting and half the night. And in rooms at Lubyanka Hiltons, the lights are on all night long. “We’ll keep the light on for you.” And, now, notice here a bonus as have I: a style that doesn’t struggle at least some of the time — or, altogether more accurately, a struggle that doesn’t style words around its efforts to say the world with laughter and love — will never be literature.
Thus I’m reminded of Gore Vidal, another great journalist of essays — almost a pleonasm —who, like Hitchens, had a hankering to be a novelist. What is this thing for novels? Answer: Novels are what operas once were with composers: where the monied reputation was. In Vidal’s essay on his old bosom buddy, Tennessee, Gore can hardly restrain his astonished shock and studied contempt. Tennessee Williams, a chucklehead from Knuckleville like Faulkner, is a great writer, and Gore, a man of family — “Daddy is a Senator” — is not. In another essay, Gore even insisted — pleaded to eternity — that he’d followed all the rules in his historical novels. ‘I researched every single name and date, and I made no factual mistakes in my novels!’ he insisted in his deposition to critics’ aesthetic complaints. Soto voce secret aside: Most people will tell you what is wrong with them if only you will listen to them speak. Humans are relieved to tell the truth out loud. Human pride can afford to do that. Most humans don’t hear themselves. And, yes, Vidal was factually right — but only if he were writing history. But, of course, he wasn’t. Alas, what does art have to do with facts? That fact always peeves rigorous people who don’t love the world with themselves. “But I wore the newest fashions! And I said the right things at the right time!” Right. And what’s left when the times are over? Remember Edgar in his antepenultimate line at the end of Lear? Such right speech isn’t true or even wrong. It passes like last season’s hottest song. Long speech is different, and said with a will, a heat whose world fervor no death can chill. ’Tis not a thing done often or in jest as your King’s Player discreetly knows can attest. And, unlike Marlowe, Shakespeare avoided bouncy bars. I named my son Marlowe. After Christopher and Philip.
Speaking of Shakespeare, a few weeks ago at a cook-out with Wannop and our sons Eliot and Marlowe — no tablecloths or niceties, it was stag: just steaks and ale, and nary a whiff of priggery cross-gartered or otherwise religiously appurtenanced — I confirmed that students still get a little Shakespeare in K-12. But they’re still being told that Shakespeare was a rustic dirtbag or village hick. Alas for elites — both aristocratic and socialist — Shakespeare’s father owned his own business, he was an alderman of his town, and he sent his son to Latin school. Private. Exclusive. Expensive. Then Will could go on up to Oxford. Like Marlowe. But no, Shakespeare wouldn’t listen to Dad. He couldn’t wait for the show to go on. Just like me. So he ran off with the circus or something. And me the human comedy. I was supposed to be an accountant lawyer corporate wonk. But I couldn’t wait for the universe to think. Meanwhile Eliot was astonished. “I thought Shakespeare was a clod!” Right. And Lord Bacon paid him to play his front. “To write plays is small town work-about. But I‘ve these words in me which just must out!” In other words, the middle class produced Shakespeare. And Shakespeare grew affluent owning the properties he made from himself, by himself, and for himself. Then he retired to dabble in real estate. And he died with a will of contempt.
What is the moral of this long picaresque aristocratic tale? I do admit it’s rather long, but not as long as aristocrats’ domination of the West or even the BBC. The moral is this. Aristocrats of accomplishment are always welcome in a republic. But a class of political aristocrats is not. Whatever costumes such power people wear — whether ermine or mink, worker’s cap or strut skirt — their output won’t be republican. And in a republic the quality is and will be republican.
In your last post, there are several points which, when juxtaposed for combination, produce a view as curious as it is confusing: a chimera.
First, by equality you say you mean equality before the law and only that. Of course, that’s the classical specification of minimal government intrusion into private property and civil society, which are the great republican forums of self-directing Americans.
Second, you pronounce yourself “firmly in the corner of Capitalism.” I hope this is the champ’s corner of an economics boxing ring, and not the dead-quiet cul-de-sac of a Soviet Père Lachaise!
And third, you’re a supporter of Senator Sanders, presently America’s socialist in being.
The logic of power — as practiced in human assemblages of all sizes and all kinds everywhere always — isn’t some simple deductive syllogistic arrangement. Power logic isn’t reasonable in the rational ways loved by mathematical logicians and other practitioners of mind tidiness. I’m thinking especially of Bertrand Russell. Russell is a regular guest in my critical thinking courses, and as a special guest in Reality 101. One of Lord Russell’s major philosophical efforts — his theory of descriptions — was perpetrated to secure the foundation of such non-dialectical logic. “It’s true or it’s false!” That’s lordly. “I’m right. And now you will repent and die!” But Russell’s epistemological insistence won’t impress statesmen, or poets, or even most historians these days. And given the domination of the sciences by statistics, it won’t impress scientists either. In fact, Russell’s cutting edge effort was archaic even when it was born. And maybe so was Russell.
But even given the convoluted and contradictory logic of politics, I really doubt your three points can really be held together with any political cohesion. I don’t think even a logic prostitute going at it whole hog with the best dialectical devices in the old USSR could do it in Moscow, not even at the ultimatum request of the Commissar of Thought.
However, I think I know what you mean, and that on the basis of remarks you’ve made in this and other posts.
I’ve been reading a book of humorous anecdotes from the life of a traveling salesman. He covered a territory in Mississippi for Procter and Gamble in the middle of the previous century. Even in retirement he was proud of the distinction of his position: he had a car with air conditioning! Dude, that’s almost standard equipment now. Even I have AC! Of course I never use it. Summer is supposed to be hot. And if you don’t like the heat, why bitch about the winter? Or do Americans always want it to be 70˚? “Mommy, can we live in the mall?” “Dear, we do.”
What’s most distinctive about the salesman’s vignettes is that the humor is usually at the expense of others. But this humor isn’t the fillip of a quick wit or the giggle of a tee-hee trick. It is humor taken at other people’s falls. Literally. People’s personal misfortunes were opportunities then for public happiness. It’s the same type of unexpected psychology in which your friend’s social triumph causes you private regret which you hide behind your show of public delight. But, of course, friends are equals. And now you’re not. And notice that this cackling nastiness is at the heart of Hobbes’ theory of laughter. As you’ll remember from our course work, after the state of nature, the state of Hobbes outlaws all inappropriate laughter. Who will determine inappropriateness? King Leviathan or Comrade Big. And what happens to false comics isn’t funny. Like jokers on college campuses these days. They don’t laugh last and their laughs don’t last. They’re suspended or expelled.
Now consider another point along with the salesman’s. Some years back I was at an outdoor performance of some kind at night — bring your own chairs sort of thing on the grass — when my chair started slowly canting to one side, then suddenly it went over, tipping me out. One of the legs had sunk into some soft ground. What was the reaction of people around me — and not just the women. “Oh! Are you okay!? Are you hurt?!” While still on the ground in a heap — I’d confirmed my intactness in a second — I started laughing. And I was the only one laughing! I found myself slightly offended at what I considered an excess of public solicitude for my well-being. After all, I’d rolled onto a park lawn! These days someone would have called 911 right off. And others would take insurance photos: Defective chair design. Faulty turf. Inadequate consumer warnings. It could be a class action suit! “He fell. I saw it. The emotional distress of it all! Counsel!” It’s no wonder I like von Hayek’s Emersonian attitude so much: the self-reliance of private property! Remember “Don’t tread on me”? Well, don’t bandage me if I’m not bleeding to death! More unsolicited solicitude than that is an unrequitable social diapering. “Don’t diaper me.” At the same time, please be socially reassured. I’ll be the first to let you know if I have an incontinence emergency in the park!
Now, what was the cause of this dramatic change in American public attitude from not long ago?
I think the answer is obvious. And it’s the answer unconsciously provided by our soap salesman as the “natural” background to his anecdotes. Life was hard for most people. They worked hard — or gold-bricked — and got by. Life was mostly a pain, and usually a frustration. In such circumstances, the failure of others was a relief and even a victory.
The obvious cause of this new public sensibility is the recent incredible increase of production and consumption. It has reduced the frustration of life. Of living. Of being human. And of knowing it. Someone else’s hunger today doesn’t mean that you will eat. Humans can be sympathetic in ways they do not hunger.
How did this great wide-spread wealth come about? At a rally of the elephants, the “long” memories will honk the trumpets of private property, small government, low taxes, and other usual — and true — suspects. But those are only some of the causes. As Hayek could wisely advise, the great wealth transformation, which started in England c. 1800, required almost 200 years of unchoreographed complexity to become the commonplace it now is in all leading republics. As illustrated by England, other catallactic causes include: all sorts of self-help “friendly” societies; savings and loans; workers’ fraternal organizations; crackpot utopia schemes; celebrations of unleashed human productivity — as with Marx; guild and unskilled labor unions; and various governments doing various infrastructural and redistributive things. Of course, Henry Ford was one the first and greatest redistributers when he doubled the base wage overnight at his new Rouge River factory. “It’ll ruin capitalism!” was the howl of the Morganites. But Ford, a self-made man, knew better. Higher wages at Ford afforded both happier and more responsible employees — (af)forded in the style of the remorsefully guilty post-socialist conceptually coy affluent intellectual workers: (af)forded, get it, huh? — for both happier and more responsible employees. Such employees — such productive humans in transitional upgrade from mere lowly workers — will spend most of their increased wages on capitalist productions anyways. Like Ford’s. The higher pay will come back in higher sales. But the rest will go into savings to capitalize the vast leisure and education infrastructure of the middle class. You can’t have a middle class without long horizons, and money is the telescope of most humans’ vision.
This should not only answer your question. It should greatly relieve your legitimate socialist concerns with American conservativism. That world attitude in the past consisted at times of fat vested gentlemen and their gross frocked wives — the Morganites, not the Fordites — whose idea of distribution was to keep most Americans groveling in the dust. Of course, that’s an aristocratic attitude, not a capitalist sensibility. But, of course, there are wannabe neo-aristocrats recurrently. They appear whenever summer “cottages” start having 50 rooms. No, 49 rooms won’t pass muster! Meanwhile even I marvel at leading contemporary billionaires. Steve Jobs would show up at international capital fests wearing jeans. And Zuckerberg apparently wears nothing but black T-shirts. I don’t think these men are faking affectations of democracy. I lecture in jeans, and, depending on the season, hiking boots or sandals. And I know that’s not an affectation. I can come straight from splitting wood or working my garden to lecturing on logic or power. Though when I garden in sandals, my toe nails can look rather earthy! American relaxation isn’t an affectation. It’s the astonishing nonchalance of real common wealth.
(Excellent answer on individuals and union via Hayek. It’s what professors call thinking. The federal government as emergent. And therefore retractant when not needed. The resistance of the civil service to natural constriction as an entitlement of lifelong employment. My theory of person. The inner republic not a unity but a governance of interests and opportunities. On catallaxy as a general theory of biology, society and cosmos.)
You ask at the end of your post what I think about contemporary restrictions on free speech in America. As we’ve discussed before and as must be obvious to you, the United States is in a free speech lock down of a kind not seen since the early 1950s. That lockdown was broken out of in the 1960s. The only differences between now and then are the operators and the contents: Republicans against Communism then, Democrats for Diversity now. Of course, the logical loo-loo is that the Democrats — the people who loudly lament the witch hunts of McCarthy — are now building pyres in public and people’s heads to purge and purify America of wrong thoughts. But as I’ve said before, claims of hypocrisy in power discussions are ineffective. It’s like saying Attila the Hun wasn’t nice, or that Hitler was a bad man. There are issues of human magnitude and power psychology the logics of kindergarten concepts don’t encompass with commensurability.
As for Trump being a threat to free speech, I’ve never heard of such a thing or even surmised it. I’m not aware that Trump — with verbal orders and plausible deniability — has directed offensive journalists to be “transferred” to Homeland Security compounds reportedly built in the desert after 9/11. The only inclination to silence I’ve ever heard from Trump is his threat to discontinue press conferences. And he threatens that because he says most journalists are fact hacks whose ruler of the truth is the DNC.
Now, let’s say that Trump did cease to communicate in person with the press. Is that somehow to reduce or impair the 1st Amendment? My understanding of the freedom of speech is that it means Americans have the right to speak — and the right not to speak. And Americans have the right to listen — or not to listen. Freedom of speech is also freedom from speech. The few constitutional exceptions involve children and their parents, and grand jury guests, and escaped convicts who have returned to court for a bonus onus.
If Trump chooses to not hold press conferences, what American liberty could order him to do otherwise?
Let’s ask Silent Cal about this.
“Mr. President, are regular press conferences required by Constitutional clause or American custom, or do they even necessarily serve the ethical obligations of our great Republic?”
“Mr. President, given what you’ve said here today, in a time of far too much emotive speech and far too little considerate listening, do you think it could be possible even for you in the Office of the Presidency to say too much to America?”
“Mr. President, could you illustrate for us what you think an appropriately streamlined, expedited, and abbreviated press conference might look like for our modern scientific times when history is happening so much faster than ever before in history?”
I like that. “If brevity be the heart of wit, shut up!” And now let’s ask about my condition.
“Professor, did you say everything you had planned to say in this post, including even things that you had sketched out on those yellow pads professors always seem to use for unknown reasons?”
“Professor, do you think it would be better for the transparent transmission of memorization information if you were to say everything you need to say in the fast streamlined style of fast smooth diction taught in all the leading schools of journalism and as practiced by their commercial sponsors?”
“Professor, you are obviously a thoughtful man. Can you tell us what the solution is — the solution I am sure you have already conceptualized with ardent finesse — to solving your backlogged amplitude problem of world verbal opportunity?”
Now that’s what I call speaking freedom!