Monday, June 19, 2017

Bernard-Henri Lévy writes another groaner of a column (yes, I know that's not really news)

French philosopher and chronic gadfly Bernard-Henri Lévy goes full-on Edmund Burke in Emmanuel Macron and the Post-Revolutionary Idea Project Syndicate 07/14/2017. And thereby providing yet another example documenting Glenn Greenwald's characterization of him as "France’s most celebrated (and easily the world’s most overrated) public intellectual." (France Arrests A Comedian for His Facebook Comments, Showing the Sham of the West's "Free Speech" Celebration The Intercept 01/14/2015)

"It all began with the French Revolution," BHL grumps. And he's relieved to think the whole nightmare that the French Revolution started is coming to an end. Yeah, before those dang hippies in the French Revolution started stirring things up, we had a perfectly good feudal system where the grown-ups were in charge and everything worked just fine, thank you very much! Good grief, this is Pat Robertson with a slightly more sophisticated vocabulary. (In the Christian Right construct of history advocated by Robertson, the reign of the Mean Libruls began with the Bavarian Illuminati stirring up the French Revolution.

According to BHL, the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia proved conclusively, "Revolution, it had now become clear, was not just difficult or elusive or impossible; it was downright detestable." The end of history, we might say.

And he writes:

But it was in Cambodia’s faraway killing fields of 40 years ago that revolutionary reason and imagination were smashed to bits and neutralized. And it was the prolonged shock, the slow explosion and the blast effect that accompanied it, the systematic invalidation of the divisions, disputes, and, ultimately, designations that made up the “French exception” that Macron’s triumphs have brought to an end.
Please read the whole column, because I know it must sound like I'm quoting the great philosopher out of context somehow.

And that's partially true. I left out the mind-bending twist in which the evil French Revolution and Pol Pot created ideology left and right, and because of Pol Pot, Emmanuel Macron was elected President of France this year and we've finally achieved the End of Ideology and the End of History. Somewhere in here, in think, the neoliberal ideal of There Is No Alternative (TINA) is buried. That is, no dispute about the sanctity of Herbert Hoover/Heinrich Brüning economic dogma is legitimate. But the argument is so strange, it's hard to tell.

As it turns out, I've been re-reading Tom Paine's The Age of Reason (1793-95). Paine was an active participant in the American Revolution, which was consciously admired by the French revolutionaries. BHL must consider the american Revolution to be just some isolated squabble in the colonial backwaters.

Paine went on to participate in the French Revolution, even being elected as a member of the National Convention (Convention Nationale) that governed 1792-1795. He was arrested in 1793, and served a half year or so in prison. This was during the Terror under Robespierre. So, as Paine describes, the risk that he might have been executed was not negligible. After Robespierre fell in July 1794, Paine was released from prison and reinstated in the Convention.

Paine explained that he accepted the reinstatement "to shew [sic] I could bear an injury without permitting it to injure my principles or my disposition. It is not because right principles have been violated that they are to be abandoned."

Paine wasn't looking for the End of Ideology.

To sum up, good ole Bernard-Henri Lévy, the world's most overrated public intellectual, is sounding like he's only a cocktail or two away from John McCain levels of incoherence. (The THING? Why didn't you ask about the THING?!) BHL says Emmanuel Macron got elected President of France this year because of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia of 1975-79. And Macron's election finally puts an end to the French Revolution and now we can finally have the End of Ideology and the End of History and go back to the glorious 17th century and the Peace of Westphalia and stuff. He's not only gone full-on Edmund Burke, he's on the verge of babbling about the Illuminati and Freemasons.

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