August 04, 2012

Sociopath's Delight

OK, let's continue this discussion with Comment No. 1, having exhausted our 200 limit on the last post. Ball's in yr court, amigos...


Blogger Unknown said...

Mr. Berman

In regards to people thinking that you are somehow advocated slavery in chapter 4 of WAF, I think James Baldwin said it best, "America is where paradox goes to die." I'm in African American by the way, and understood your argument quite well.

1:29 AM  
Anonymous Hey, Nonny Moose! said...

No, with all due respect, I do not think that I am being unfair to the "Ray of Yankee sunshine", or misinterpreting his remarks in any way. I've been reading this blog for some time. Unless it's a different person posting under that name, I've also been reading variant refrains of his Song of the anti-South for some time now, as comments to various post-WAF posts.

So, I figure it's well past time to call him on this, as it's getting rather old. On the other hand, maybe there's an online forum somewhere for Northern Supremacists, and he could migrate there. Who was it that said that everyone needs to feel superior to somebody?

With regard to the infamous Chapter Four, in general: It's unfortunate that there are always those who, when told that, say, Stalin observes that 2 + 2 = 4, will then insist that the correct answer must really be 5.

8:52 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


That's a great line from Baldwin, I never heard it before. I would also add, where nuance goes to die as well. If u have a moment, and the spirit moves u, perhaps u cd post a review of WAF on Amazon. Too many folks there really do believe I was lamenting the loss of slavery. Jesus, my mother told me I shd be a plumber, but did I listen to her?...


I still don't think that's what Ray is saying, but this may be an argument that is generating more heat than light. Not sure what Stalin hasta do with it, either. But it any case, we try to avoid ad hominem attacks on this blog, and stick to the content of the argument.


9:41 AM  
Anonymous abc said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Again, thanks for your thoughtful response; I actually had seen this article by Greenwald and sent it to my friend to forward on to her husband. She declined to do so--"he's dealing with a lot at work and I don't want to upset him." You're right, the mobs will be led by many well educated, well intentioned people. I guess my question is: why is this so? Why do we (as a human beings) so willingly, and seemingly effortlessly, discard our reason, humanity and sense of justice to uphold an ideology? And it seems to me it doesn't matter what the ideology is, the dynamic is the same whether we're defending "America", facism or Zionism.

I have QoV and will reread the essay you recommended.

10:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your blog. You know, it is a lot of hard work finding intelligent discussion regarding our collective state of mind. I live in a college town. You would think there would be people here who take a deeper look at the issues before us but, alas, no. More often than not I have to bite my tongue during a so-called discussion of the economy, politics, ecology, whatever. I am reminded that biologist Ernst Mayr called humans "the lethal mutation." The collective stupidity that passes for intelligence is stunning. I have to include myself in this unfortunately. Very few people want to actually think about things like resource depletion, population overshoot, etc, etc. Fix stuff but just don't rock my world, don't mess with my shit. James Kunstler in his most recent book uses a great quote from Mike Tyson, "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." We have been punched in the mouth but haven't realized it quite yet.

10:25 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I've been rdg the ms. of a forthcoming bk called "The Approaching Great Transformation." It's written by a friend and colleague, Joel Magnuson, and will be out next year. It's a courageous attempt to look at no-growth, homeostatic economic possibilities, and in concrete terms. Meanwhile, you all can check out his blog:



11:07 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

This discussion/digression about chapter 4 of WAF is a perfect example of how anyone who doesn't toe & parrot the cultural party line will be marginalized & dismissed as a serious thinker. MB has made it abundantly clear that he's NOT defending or excusing slavery in any way; but that doesn't prevent ostensibly intelligent readers (especially academics) from clinging to that alleged belief like grim death. So from now on, he can easily be disregarded as that crazy guy who wants to bring back slavery.

The same academics apparently have no problem praising (for example) the heights of Golden Age Greece to the heavens -- and deservedly so -- without mentioning that it was paid for by slaves working in horrendous conditions in the silver mines of Athens. And I'll bet that some of them are writing their denunciations of MB on iPads made by what amounts to slave labor in China right now.

GW Bush spoke for most Americans when he proudly proclaimed, "I don't do nuance."

As evidence, the attacks on Gore Vidal have already started, denouncing him as a racist & elitist. Granted, he could certainly be a provocateur -- hell, he reveled in it! -- but a few lines deliberately taken out of context make it that much easier to dismiss everything he ever said & wrote. See this article from Slate for instance:

(Hmmm ... Toe & Parrot ... sounds like a Surrealist pub!)

11:16 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yeah, fact is that Gore was one of the greatest thinkers America ever produced. These postmortem critics don't have a half of 1% of his talent--or his courage.

I'd love to open a pub called The Toe & Parrot. Under the title I'd put the following sign: "Where Shit and Shinola Merge". We wd serve very bad beer, and praise it to the skies.


11:52 AM  
Blogger Noah Linden said...


While it's true that many people discard their reason, humanity and compassion to uphold an ideology, it's also true that without any ideology of any kind, we enter a moral void - a psychological space where there's no compelling reason to do anything good, and every reason to exploit and destroy others.

However, when someone has no ideology, something rushes in to fill the void: an ideology of selfishness, hedonism, narcissism and violence. This can be seen most clearly in the Christian Right, which is basically an anti-ideology, as it is absolutely hostile to love, reason, compassion and generosity, and enamored of narcissism and violence.

Basically, without an ideology, the law of the jungle prevails - the most primitive and destructive ideology possible. America is a clear example of a country without any principles or standards that has defaulted to the embrace of the law of the jungle.

In this way, we can see that an ideological void usually co-exists with some fanatical adherence to a destructive ideology. The Puritans, with their narcissistic and violent fundamentalism, were fanatical ideologues...and yet they committed every atrocity imaginable against the Native Americans, revealing that they really did not have any principles at all.

1:10 PM  
Anonymous TonyU said...

Today everybody in America is a slave to the Wall Street and to the banks. Whether or not slavery started in the culture of the South states is irrelevant to me. What is important is that the culture of hustling CANNOT be separated from the culture of slavery. A true hustler will enslave his own mother for money! Bankers and Wall-Streeters who destroyed the American society are slave masters to you and me, period. We are all economic slaves to the financial institutions. Anything else is splitting the atom.

In my personal opinion, John Brown of Harpers Ferry is NOT “one of the greatest thinkers America ever produced”. Rather, he is the GREATEST THINKER ever produced by the human race. YET, he is remembered as the father of American terrorism:

I bet $1 million dollars that some people here do not know much about John Brown. How many businesses did he found? How many times did he marry? How many kids did he have? How many white people did he kill and why? How many times did he invite Blacks to sit at his diner table with his wife, daughters, and sons to share foods and drinks? One serious John Brown today is capable of fixing the rot in the American economic and political systems. A man immersed in the American hustling and superiority sentimentalities would not think as he did at the period he did? Today we need John Brown 2.0! However, you will NEVER find one John Brown today because everyone in America is busy hustling for personal gains, personal pleasure, and personal wealth!

1:51 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Interesting discussion. I guess we're screwed with or w/o ideology! Somebody wrote me some time ago that a line from "Coming to Our Senses" was *the* most quoted sentence on the Net (I have no idea if that is true or not): "An idea is something you have; an ideology is something that has you."

The danger is something I discuss in the 1st chapter of that book, "The Basic Fault," which is abt the vacuum or void you are talking abt. Although this 'gap' (Jacques Lacan) was, I believe, much smaller among our hunter-gatherer ancestors (see "Wandering God"), and that the Void problem got exacerbated with the rise of civilization, it does lurk there as part of the human wiring system. The Japanese call the need to close that gap 'amae', and see it as fundamental to human psychology. Amae is passive love, the warm embrace of the mother for her infant; the sense of attachment, of security. The problem begins when that gets ruptured, and stuff pours in to fill the Void, as you suggest: drugs, alcohol, television, Reaganomics, Kim Kardashian, war, communism, anti-communism, strawberry cheesecake, corned beef on rye with cole slaw and Russian dressing. Hence the relevance of that line from CTOS, which was a suggestion that we 'take a position' on our need, our addictions, our ideologies. Then we shall have them, rather than the reverse, in which they have us (in their blind and intense grip). But this might be too much to ask, I dunno.

Another way to frame this is in terms of the limbic vs. the thinking brain. The limbic brain is the area of impulse, addiction, emotion-1st. This is where most Americans live; they are children, when you get rt down to it. Mental health means a balance between the two: not the repression of the limbic brain, but certainly not the endless indulgence of it either. This is the responsibility of the frontal cortex. Jung was a pioneer in trying to create that balance, that dialogue; his followers, of course, turned him into an ideology, a religion. Not that he wd have objected, all that much: being idolized is also limbic, a heady wine, to be sure. Lacan believed that we never, ever get beyond transference, but that we shd try. I guess that's what I also was trying to suggest.

But as you correctly note, amae is such a powerful force, esp. since it's unconscious, and so nature abhors a vacuum and the denial of ideology typically evokes even more ferocious ideology. Since we can't go back to being hunter-gatherers, the most likely conclusion is that we're fucked. With one qualification, which I argue for in "Wandering God": it's possible to make the judgment that some civilizations are better than others, and some ideologies are better than others. Faced w/a choice between Fascism and consumerism, for example, I'd take the latter. Faced with a choice between consumerism and a steady-state economy, I'd take the latter. And so on.

Food for thought, anyway.


3:02 PM  
Anonymous Zero said...

As the decay expands, the plot thickens: Buffoons on parade... with iPhones and... guns!

3:04 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Americans are so stupid, the guy probably thought he was killing Muslims.

But this is penny ante stuff, really. If, as I keep urging, every single American had an AK-47, we would be able to wind up this final phase of empire in a week or two. Plus, nuke San Fran, Toronto, and Paris at the same time. I mean, one thing we don't need at the present time is restraint. As I write the Pentagon every day, 'restrait is for sissies'.


4:09 PM  
Anonymous shep said...

Best indicator yet of CRE. Mr. Willy's pole has risen to 66% in popularity.

It won't be long now. Any day maybe!

6:36 PM  
Anonymous Jessica said...

Questions to shep:

1. Who is Mr. Willy.

2. In what context did his popularity rise to 66%?

Please explain???

10:52 PM  
Anonymous JJSmith said...

We are civilized people. We are God-fearing, gun-loving people:

Ohio man shoots wife of 45 years as she lays in intensive care unit
Sunday, August 5, 2012, 12:23 PM

An Ohio man is charged with attempted murder after police said he went to the intensive care unit where his wife of 45 years was being treated and shot her.

The shocking incident happened shortly before 9:00 p.m. Saturday, WEWS-TV reported.

John Wise, 66, walked into his 65-year-old wife Barbara’s room in the ICU at Akron General Hospital and shot her, cops said.

She had been admitted a few days earlier with an unspecified condition that doctors said was life-threatening.

She survived the shooting and was listed in critical condition Sunday, according to WKYC-TV. Her doctor was in the room with her, but was not hurt.

A security guard was able to wrestle the gun away from Wise, and he was booked into the Summit County Jail.

Akron General spokesman Jim Gosky told WKYC that the shooting was apparently a domestic incident.

11:01 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I don't post messages submitted by Anons. Pick a handle and re-submit, if you'd like.


11:32 PM  
Anonymous shep said...


One of many hustlers that I loathe is Bill Clinton. Turns out he is going to make a big, big speech at the Democratic Convention because he is so popular in the polls. (Supposedly 66% positive)

9:21 AM  
Anonymous Pauli said...

"white supremacists" responsible for shooting in Wisconsin. These people are angry at the wrong people. Go to the Wall Street and New York, not to innocent people:

"Though police have not given any details on the motive of the shooter, but Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms Special Agent Thomas Ahern said Page had tattoos that suggested he had ties to white supremacists."

9:24 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

The guy has a small moment of remorse at the end:

10:03 AM  
Anonymous Zero said...


What do you mean them Sikh ain’t Muzlimz? They’re rag-heads, ok. So they’re Muzlimz.

They hate our freedomz. ‘Cause they’re Muzlimz.

Servz them right! Had it comin'.


12:20 PM  
Blogger Boris the Spider said...

It's nice to see economists telling it like it is, in this case, "Why We're Screwed":

Here's a good quote: "In times like these, I always recall Robert Sherrill’s 1990 statement about the S&L crisis that 'thievery is what unregulated capitalism is all about.'"

1:36 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

I like this book by Clive Ponting on WW2 because its gives a broad view. Ponting says that the war killed 85 million people, most sources put it at around 60 million with about at least half being civilians or Russian. With this in mind, I get a little tired when people tease out particular slaughters as war crimes when the entire war was a crime that really began with WW1 which added at least 15 million more dead. It was essentially western civilization trying to commit suicide from 1914-1945, and it’s been a shell-shocked victim ever since. Hitler launched a war of extermination against the Russian people, and the Japanese did the same in China, very few Americans know this. There is a scene in the beautiful film Red Sorghum by Yimou Zhang that I thought gave a glimpse into what the Japanese occupation of China must have been like. Bombing Nagasaki only three days later sure looks like a war crime, but my point is that war is a crime and that people who start them and even those who romanticize them are criminals.

5:34 PM  
Anonymous Politically Incorrect said...

In following with your topic.

6:04 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

I don't know whether to laugh or cry about this. Man texts, "I need to stop texting," right before driving off a cliff. He then had to spend six months recovering in the hospital, including learning how to speak again:

He now believes he's on a mission from God to get people to stop texting while driving. I *guess* that's sort of an ideology.

7:46 PM  
Blogger Reader said...

Shep ...

Ha! And I thought you were referring to Willard and some fake FOX News pole.

8:17 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

I'm getting confused here...are we talking about a pole, as in a May pole; or a poll? If the former, we need to stick it where the sun doesn't shine. If the latter, possibly the same.

Pol, Chris, Boris-

If u just keep in mind that more than 99% of the population consists of thugs and/or morons, understanding the daily news becomes a lot less cryptic.

As for the Sikh shooter, I'm braced once again for the 'psychotic loner' profile, this had nothing to do with the nature of American society, etc. horseshit.

I tell ya, ya get up every day and say: "Well, that's the worst of it; the CRE couldn't possibly go any deeper"; and then--it does!


8:36 PM  
Anonymous Michael in BK said...

Frightening, regardless of my lack of knowledge of what legally constitutes "wiretapping".,b=facebook

8:39 PM  
Blogger Reader said...

LOL, Oops. I meant poll, and I do know better. Love your blog, btw, My lucky day to have just happened on it.

8:54 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Trying to hang onto my cookies, but it ain't easy:

9:29 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Dr. B,

Freud called America a gigantic mistake after his Clark U lectures, you did it before you've got one up on him! (I guess i'm discounting that it was his first and only time here). I just read that after his visit he also stated "America is the most grandiose experiment the world has seen, but I am afraid, it is not going to be a success." True that, Dr. Freud.

11:51 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

I would have to argue with you on your premise that Americans are less intelligent than the rest of the civilized world. I have traveled extensively and what I have seen are people of other nations trying to copy American behavior and its 'way of life'. Perhaps part of that is the U.S. cultural hegemony exported globally, but a vast IQ chasm between Americans and the global population simply does not exist in my experience and travels.
Perhaps corporate control of all the major mass media outlets has something to do with the dumbing down of public discourse and keeping the citizenry in line as obedient and disposable workers. Now that would be something to bash instead of the average citizen who is simply trying to survive in such an environment.

12:15 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


You could be right, but extensive travel is anecdotal; it doesn't really prove anything. For example, my own travel brought me to the opposite conclusion. I can have conversations with folks in Europe that wd be literally impossible in the US, save for the university crowd; and then only sometimes. Similarly, when I sit and read articles in Die Zeit, Corriere della Sera, Le Monde, or even The Guardian, they are often at a level that you can only find in America in specialized academic journals. If the NYT or whatever were to carry such discussions, they'd be bankrupt within 2 mos. Or check out bkstores in Hamburg or Paris, how crowded they are, and the quality of stuff being sold. In the US, newspapers and bkstores and even libraries are folding. I remember Patricia Wms in The Nation writing during the 90s that she was visiting friends in rural France, and their 12-yr-old kid was able to discuss the inner politics of the Clinton admin on a level that most news anchors in the US wdn't be able to do. Europeans traveling in the US tell me that they have to stop saying "I'm from Holland" or whatever, because Americans have never heard of it; and if they say, "From Europe," the typical response is, "How long does it take to drive there?" You can be sure that Europeans know where America is; or Ghana, for that matter.

What we really need is for the UN to do an international comparative survey of IQ (which is, however, only one measure of intelligence). It'll never happen, of course, but I'm guessing the avg IQ of a Dane or an Indian would be 20 pts higher than that of an avg American.

The desire to copy American behavior is the result of a very good snow job that the US has done culturally. Once those foreigners get here, if they do, they begin to realize the huge gap between what they were told and what is real. They learn (among many other things) that the average American doesn't have a huge, luxurious apt. in NYC while working part-time or not at all ("Friends").

(continued below)

3:36 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

We need to bash the avg citizen as much as we can, not only because they are dumb, but because they are deeply anti-intellectual, and proud of it. There are so many studies since the famous one by Richard Hofstadter ca. 1960 ("Anti-Intellectualism in American Life"), showing how clueless the American public is, and how they aggressively despise the life of the mind. The last decade has seen a whole series of books on the sheer stupidity of Americans, complete with surveys and statistics ("Just How Dumb Are We?," "Idiot America," etc.). In addition, the bashing is important because it removes the illusion of the Left, that the problem is that Americans have had the wool pulled over their eyes; that at root, they are really quite smart, so that it's only a matter of education--removing the wool--in order to precipitate positive social change. But the truth is that in the US, the wool *is* the eyes; there is no fundamentally intelligent person underneath the surface just waiting to be liberated. And this goes way beyond IQ. Try talking to university professors, for example, in terms of a fundamental critique of the nation and its history, and they glaze over in 30 seconds and change the subject. I mean, Robert McNamara probably had an IQ in excess of 130, and he was one of the dumbest human beings around (and a war criminal to boot). I'm sorry, but there are real limits to the argument that Americans have been victimized. As I've said repeatedly on this blog, you can only push the 'rape' model so far; 'consensual sex' is much closer to the truth. It's why I can only partly agree with the "false consciousness" argument, or the "manufactured consent" argument. Americans want a shallow, meaningless life and the American Way of Life gives it to them, in spades. There is not a lot of complaining about this, finally, and in that sense the US is an extremely successful democracy--it delivers the goods.

Check out the movie "Game Change," BTW: how utterly stupid Sarah Palin is, and how millions of Americans screamed and ranted in the hope that she might eventually wind up in the White House. There is just no other country I can think of where a de facto moron (in which category we can also put Bush Jr., obviously) could aspire to the highest office in the land, with huge public support. I mean, you sit and watch this movie, and can't stop gasping.

So in the end, we need to bash much more, and I invite you to join me. The problem is, in a nation of dolts, who is going to do it? This is the real meaning of the 1%-99% divide, if only OWS had been smart enuf to see that; except that the divide is a lot closer to .1%-99.9%.


3:46 AM  
Blogger Mickey S. said...

I don't think we can single out America for mass stupidity. Rather, we can fit humans from every nation into four broad categories.

It should be noted that nowhere in Nature do we find such a spread of intelligence as in Man. One can have a slightly brighter Labrador than the next, but with humans the degree of difference is not short of astonishing. Indeed we can say that a very clever animal is much closer to an idiot than the idiot to a Spinoza.

We have the utterly stupid, those of mediocre intellect (always forming the majority), the intelligent, and what we may call genius. Every nation will have roughly similar percentages of the above mix.

A highly intelligent man, as a rule, must accept loneliness. Since the mob cannot rise up to his level he must descend. So he is frustrated, even agonized. Remember that you cannot converse with the vulgar without becoming vulgar yourself. The crass will drive him into solitude, loneliness tempt him back towards the Herd. Pain increases with knowledge, as the Teacher has said.

7:27 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

MB: I will second you on the comment about how foreigners come to the US with fantasies about America and soon become disillusioned. When I worked in a Univ. library we always tried to hire international students because they could only work on campus. And I can say every single one (except for the Somalis) couldn't wait to get out of here ... with a college degree.

9:22 AM  
Blogger Reader said...

Mr. Berman,

Although I've not heard anyone else say it, I would put Romney in the stupid camp, as well. He might know how to swindle money but in every other way he appears as dumb as a door knob.

9:50 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Too long! Compress by 50% and I'll run it.


Same problem; compress by 1/3, thank u.


Yes, he is pretty vapid. Pls note that on this blog we refer to him as Rom Mittney. I personally am working on a 5-vol. study called "Fundamental Principles of Mittnism" (most of the pages are blank).


But the problem is that every nation *doesn't* have the same percentages of this mix. That wd be wonderful, but the evidence for this isn't there. Evidence for US being a nation of dummies seems pretty convincing. Suggest u put small post-it on yr bathrm mirror, to look at every morning: "I LIVE AMONG DOLTS". This is an excellent way to start the day, because it explains a lot of what is going to happen to u during that day--if you live in the US.


11:00 AM  
Anonymous David M said...

Dr. B & DAAers
A belated happy birthday to you Dr. B.

I been away for a few days and the explosion of relevent post is just fantastic. After taking a few hours to read and reread them I have come to a conclusion. The Amerikan people suffer from the peter pan syndrome.

Let me elaborate.

I won't grow up
I won't grow up
I don't want to be a man/woman
I don't want to be a man/woman

Tony U
I'm with you on John Brown. I was rooting for Raymond Massey and Van Heflin while everbody else was for Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan in the movie. At the time I could not understand why. Now I know. See above. All you get in history books is a few pages concerning the insurrection.

Anecdotal time: When I entered college to get my electrical engineering degree, my first class had over 40 students in it. At the end of the semester there were only about twelve left(1978). Seems that most student thought that they were going to learn how to fix televisions and not learn the fudamentals of electricity. That utilitarian or I only want to know what will help me make money mind-set had been astablish in peoples mind 30 years ago.

Last but not least: I picked up a book by Mark Bauerlien "The Dumbest Generation" sub-titled "How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future or don't trust anyone under 30". Contains a lot of information anecdotal, polls, (as apposed to poles) research and studies. Haven't finish it so I don't an overall opinion yet but lots of info.

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

I've had this experience more than once, and I'm willing to bet some of my fellow WAFers have too: I bring up any uncomfortable or unpopular issue, speaking as calmly & factually as possible, only to have the other person shut it down immediately. I haven't had anyone go so far as stick fingers in ears & chant, "Na-na-na-na-na can't hear you!" Not yet, anyway. But I have had reasonably intelligent, caring people say, "I don't want to know."

I think MB is right. Granted, most Americans are essentially addicted to consumerism, which requires deliberate dumbness to maintain the illusion. But trying to convince them with facts is like trying to reason a hardcore smoker out of his cigarettes, or a pill-popper out of his Oxycontin, etc. Though it's more like heroin, I guess.

Also granted, they were born & raised in a consumerist culture that imprints itself on their brains from birth -- and they're trying to get into the womb as well. But by & large, most people have willingly embraced & accepted the bargain -- I'd say Faustian bargain, but that actually has some moral heft to it that's unmerited here; and besides, most wouldn't get the reference anyway. Some 40+ years ago Ted Roszak wrote that if you've sold your soul for a new refrigerator, you'll wind up trying to convince yourself that it was worth it.

People don't want to know. They don't want to wake up. If you do try to wake them, they'll want back in, just as Cypher did in The Matrix. And isn't that the ultimate consumerist dream? Everything you want is there & you don't have to worry about things like conscience or moral choice. It's an illusion, sure, but it's a monstrously convincing illusion, more real than reality for most.

But of course it doesn't quite work that way in real life America. The most they can offer is the empty promise that you too can enjoy the good life, as they define it. That's why Tony Robbins & his ilk are so successful. YOU can be rich! YOU can succeed! YOU YOU YOU!

And if that's all you think about, how can you possibly imagine anything beyond it? Though again, "think" is used advisedly here, as it's far more visceral. Limbic, didn't you say, MB?

11:10 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Mr. Berman,
I certainly agree with you in regards to the dumbing down of the American People compared to other countries, and as a former “Progressive” I think those on the left need to realize that, God Bless them, they are fighting a battle that they can’t possibly win. The problem isn’t that most people need to be awakened to some grand vision of how this country can function; it’s that most people if you truly ask them just don’t give a damn. I remember awhile back attempting to draw attention to some of the studies you cite about how “dumb” we are as a country and all I would get at most would be a collective yawn, and words to the effect of, “why should I care who we seceded from” or “why we fought the Cold War, or that I can’t name a play by Shakespeare, how is that going to put money in my pocket? That’s just useless knowledge.” I think that’s really when I saw how pointless all my petitioning and getting the vote out there was, people don’t want to live in any kind of enlightenment era, they simply want to “get their piece of the pie” before anyone else does, and they don’t mind this society one bit. I guess the old adage is true that being the only sane person makes you crazy.

12:10 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

There actually was a study done called 'IQ and the Wealth of Nations':

The results don't show America as being particularly stupid on the IQ spectrum.
I think this swindling or hustling nature you talk of appears to be a behavior shared by those who are part of the global elite and cultivated by the capitalist system. Remember the recent study done by The Tax Justice Network entitled 'The Price of Offshore Revisited':

Now that shows that the swindling/hustling nature is shared transnationally in the top 0.001% of the world's über wealthy.
The ruling class are more in common with their fellow global elite than with their own countrymen:

The problem is the economic system itself, exemplified by America but practiced worldwide. The wealth gap is happening globally.

12:14 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanks for bringing my attn to this study; I found the whole thing fascinating. Did you read the section called "National IQ Estimates"? Here's the crucial sentence:
"Rather than do their own IQ studies, the authors average and adjust existing studies and use other methods to create estimates." The whole thing is full of holes, and the critical reception of the bk was devastating, basically calling the bk worthless--esp. in terms of methodology. I fear this particular study can't be used to establish anything abt American intelligence. For now, we are left w/anecdotal evidence, and my own, from years of experience, travel, and discussion with many people, is that Americans are just plain dumb. You don't hafta go looking for it, so to speak; it hits you in the face.


This is why IQ is not the only measure of intelligence. The attitudes u.r. describing overlap w/that, I wd guess, but there really is such a thing as spiritual or ontological stupidity, evidenced by these types of responses. Yes, once again, it's brought abt by the historical impact of a hustling culture; but it takes an aggressive form of stupidity to reproduce that culture, and Americans do that on a daily basis. This is why I keep saying that we are a true democracy, because we are getting exactly what we want. Just for a tiny moment of contrast, ride the tube in London and listen to businessmen discussing the candidates for the Man Booker Prize every year. No way u.r. going to hear anything like that on the IRT, that's fer sure. Americans don't even know there's such a thing as a National Book Award, and (as u suggest) wdn't care less if they did.


1:27 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Tim, problem for Americans is that "the consumerist dream" of "everything you want is there" is vanishing from the lives of ever more of 'em. Sure, they sell their souls for money - but what happens when the Economy dies on them? "I belly-flopped into the arms of Capitalism, and all I got was a busted belly." [Big E & C to indicate deity-hood.]

Imagine "The Matrix" if the Matrix went broke and had to close. What would Cypher do? Blow his brains out? Shoot up a movie theater?

A pretty sight does not a failed hustler make.

1:38 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

What can we say about the collective human IQ of the planet which continues to:
1.) ...overpopulate the world and demand economic expansion, destroying the ecosystem upon which all life exists.
2.) ...increase the use of coal and other fossil fuels to maintain an unsustainable lifestyle, and
3.) ...use its technological prowess to create more lethal weaponry?

A reset is in order and it will be global.

2:06 PM  
Anonymous TonyU said...

For me, the best way to learn about the US history is to read old books. Read, read, and read older books written in the period of interests by authors in both sides of any particular issue. I learned more about slavery by reading proslavery thoughts and ideas from the Southern states. Further, I concentrate on one event or personality. I choose an event or a personality and then I study other events, issues, and court cases surrounding it. JB as a topic is the best part of the American history that excites me. The man was a white abolutionist, but he hated other white abolutionists due to their hypocrisy and no-action sentimentality. I downloaded many books on JB, but I have not read them all (Go here to search for older books on JB: Also, use this: To me, JB is the greatest American ever!

One thing about JB's thoughts and actions is that the old man was fighting for a tiny section of the US population. Recall that at the period only Blacks were in slavery in America and their number as a percentage of entire US population was very small. Today, more than 95 percent of Americans are in slavery (whites, blacks, latinos, green, orange, North, South, Protestants, and Gentiles are in economic and political bondage in America of today). YET, no person thinks like JB. There is no JB to be discovered anywhere. Rather, everyone is happy in bondage. Is it not ironic - Americans fought to liberate themselves from British bondage only to turn around and enslave themselves at home?

More information on JB
The same article on JB, but cleaner and more readable (many web pages):

Yale University history course:
John Brown's Holy War: Terrorist or Heroic Revolutionary?

2:35 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Pls post no more than once a day, thank u.

2nd: There is no such thing as a collective IQ. Some nations are smarter than others, and I suspect we are near the bottom of the pile. Plus, not all countries are following the trajectory you outline; there are modifications (Norway, New Zealand, e.g.).

3rd: Intelligence is not just abt IQ; there is also such a thing as ontological intelligence, of wh/I suspect the US has very little.

In a word, I don't think your list proves very much; altho I agree w/u that we are in for a global 'reset'.


2:47 PM  
Blogger gerald spezio said...

We had better find Berman's all causative animating Geist(s) soon, or else.

They are in our culture's soul?

A reviewer of Dark Ages America, Scilabba, says;

"In Spenglerian fashion, Berman seeks the source of our civilization’s decline in its innermost principle, its animating Geist. What he finds at the bottom of our culture’s soul is … hustling; or, to use its respectable academic sobriquet, possessive individualism. Expansion, accumulation, economic growth: this is the ground bass of American history, like the hum of a dynamo in the basement beneath the polite twitterings on the upper stories about “liberty” and “a light unto the nations.” Berman scarcely mentions Marx or historical materialism; instead he offers a nonspecialist and accessible but deeply informed and amply documented review of American history, period by period, war by war, arguing persuasively that whatever the ideological superstructure, the driving energy behind policy and popular aspiration has been a ceaseless, soulless acquisitiveness."

Scialabba learned lit crit at Hahvid too.

Berman has been doing lit crit & all causative Geists for almost a half century & it appears that there is no end in sight.

Geists are the problem?

First let's find the damn things.

4:17 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

IQ studies be damned. I've posted this once before a while back, and it's worth mentioning again...the only measure that matters is the size of a person's heart. My old man told me that long ago. Additionally, the measures they use IQ studies (internationally) are biased and full of holes.

4:56 PM  
Anonymous Jessica said...

@TonyU, here is another excellent video on John Brown. It took me a while to locate it; I had watched it a while back and I knew that someone would have it uploaded into Youtube.

PBS 'American Experience' production: John Brown’s Holy War

Note: you can download it from youtube. Follow these steps:

1) Go to

2) paste into there the youtube url given above

3) Click on 'download' button

4) Something pops up asking you to accept (this is java. you must have it installed to download videos from youtube). Accept and then download the video.

5:05 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I suspect we need both head and heart. I never thought they were mutually exclusive, myself. Whenever I've been interviewed on the subject of my beliefs, I try to avoid the subject; but if I can't, I usually say that I'm a mystical atheist, or (to the best of my ability) a sacred humanist. If that doesn't give them mental indigestion, nothing will.


I wonder if Geist is like the Higgs particle. I've often felt that if we ever find it, it will be on toast: ham on rye, geist on toast. I'm also convinced that chopped liver has a significant role to play in all this. As u say, no end in sight.


5:22 PM  
Anonymous abc said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I think Mike has a point about this being a global indictment of collective stupidity and there being no shortage of dumb (or corrupt) people making bad decisions in every country. But whenever this discussion comes up I have to think maybe we're not talking about the same thing. Your point-
"3rd: Intelligence is not just abt IQ; there is also such a thing as ontological intelligence, of wh/I suspect the US has very little."

seems to me to be at the crux of it as there is a difference in the US compared to other countries. I've traveled a lot and noticed this too. This was taken from Slaughter House Five:

"Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: "If you're so smart, why ain't you rich?" There will also be an American flag no larger than a child's hand--glued to a lollipop stick and flying from the cash register."

In other countries I've been to, no matter how eagerly they've embraced ipods, cell phones, designer purses, etc., there was a real respect for other values and accomplishments too--spiritual leaders, scholars, artists were respected and known. And it wasn't just b/c they're "famous" but b/c they were widely recognized as making a valuable contribution.

5:33 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, this might be a restatement of the thesis of WAF, or what is implied by that book: How can a nation acquire ontological intelligence when its entire history, going back more than 400 yrs, is one of hustling? Hustling is like DMSO, the universal solvent. As Marx wrote, under capitalism "everything is dissolved in the icy waters of egotistical calculation."

While I do believe that a UN-sponsored comparative study of IQ would show that Americans are dumber than most, the experiential evidence for ontological stupidity is so obvious as not to even warrant comment. Hustling is like cancer: it takes over everything. Americans are so stupid, as a result, that if someone asks them something about (e.g.) Shakespeare, their reply is: "How is that going to make me any money?" One cdn't have a better example of doltishness.

And this goes to the heart of my argument that it's not ultimately about what the rich did to us, and that there is abs. no hope for positive social change. Quite simply, a nation of empty-headed clowns cannot save itself; there is absolutely no way. Who, for starters, wd do the saving?


6:06 PM  
Blogger J. P. CAZADOR said...


You wrote:

"..if someone asks them something about (e.g.) Shakespeare, their reply is: "How is that going to make me any money?" One couldn't have a better example of doltishness".

In 1981, when I was in the 11th grade in H.S., I was visiting the home of a classmate and somehow the conversation came around to how I liked reading classic literature like Shakespeare.
The classmate's father, who was probably the age then that I am now, said "Why do you want to waste your time with trash like that? How is it going to make you any money? I only read tech manuals and 'how to' books because at least then I'm learning something useful that I can earn a living from".

Similar scenarios have played out numerous times over the years since then, like being called a snob for reading the New York Times, or being thought of as weird for not owning a TV and preferring to spend my time reading, etc., or just conversations where people, like the father mentioned above, said that classic literature or books in general are a waste of time because there's no monetary profit in it.

I've never had such conversations with the countless foreigners I've interacted with over the years, ever. In fact, most of them, if not all, knew classic literature very well, along with contemporary literature too, as well as art, classical music, etc.

6:53 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yeah...this is what I mean by we all have an intuitive feel for the difference between the US and other countries. Conversations that are normal in the US are abs. ludicrous in other countries; even superficial experience abroad makes that pretty clear pretty quickly. Conversely, conversations that are normal in other countries ("Have you read the poetry of Ho Chi Minh?" "What did you think of Franz Scheisskopf's article in Die Zeit?", etc.) cd never take place in America. You can't make a literary reference in the US, let alone a mythological one, w/o evoking rage, hatred. Not only are we surrounded by buffoons, but every day in America, across the nation, OB-GYN wards are cranking out more of them. In a terrifying way, it's kind of impressive: we managed to construct a nation in which nearly everyone hates knowledge and is proud of this. It's worse than pathetic; it's disgusting.


7:24 PM  
Anonymous Zero said...

Speaking of Americans not being very intelligent, I can’t remember the last time I had an interesting conversation with an American. On the other hand, I have interesting conversations with people from other countries all the time. Let’s just say most Americans are boring, uninformed, and self-centered hustlers.

Also, over the years, I have been teaching a variety or psychology, sociology, and philosophy college courses in America. You would think that might present me with interesting conversations, right? Wrong! I can probably count on the fingers of one hand how many semi-informed and intelligent students I have had over the years.

Finally, in regards to IQ tests, as a psychologist I administered hundreds of such tests. Some of the subtests that go into the IQ test measure what some might consider to be inborn capabilities, such as memory, speed, visuo-spatial performance, etc. However, a large portion of the IQ test measures general knowledge and information, such as who wrote Hamlet or Faust, who was Gandhi or Cleopatra, etc. As a result, Americans, being so ignorant and uninformed, will automatically score lower on IQ tests than people from other nations.

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Neunder said...

Ran across a quote that made me think of you and your thesis about America:

"Nations have always good reasons for being what they are, and the best of all is that they cannot be otherwise." --Custine

8:45 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

Dr B and Wafers:
Sorry if any of my recent posts have had an tinge of surliness. Like most Americans, I’ve been under a lot of stress lately worrying about whether or not Romney’s horse would win the Olympic horse prancing event. Well, sadly it didn’t happen. Looks like you’re going to have to put London on top of your list of places that need to be nuked. BTW, the horse is named Rafalca, I’m guessing this is Latin for, ‘you’re fired’ or ‘tax shelter’, you people are the Latin experts here, what’s your guess?

8:59 PM  
Blogger Noah Linden said...


Great analysis there. I would only add what is (in my opinion) a slight correction: although it's not possible to live without ideology, it isn't really desirable to do so anyway. After all, thinking anything at all is a kind of ideological assertion (in some rudimentary form), so to get rid of ideology, you have to get rid of all thought. Hence, you'd need to be lobotomized, unconscious, brain-dead, or any combination of these to get rid of ideology.

And as you pointed out, some ideologies are better than others. I would say that some ideologies are even good things, if correctly digested mentally - like the Buddhistic ideology of love, forgiveness, and nonviolence that I have personally witnessed in Tibetan monks (who are the exact polar opposite of Americans in terms of how they think). Because of this, I wouldn't say we're not so much screwed as forced to choose between different types of ideologies (to the extent that our ability to think critically and clearly allows us). What can I say? There are lots of things in life that force us to choose between alternatives, things that we can't do without.

My previous comment wasn't really meant to be pessimistic. I only wanted to show, as you pointed out, that getting rid of ideologies is impossible, and the consequences for attempting to do this are disastrous in the long run. Better simply to be loving and develop one's intelligence; if we do that, we'll think straight and will have embraced good ideologies.

9:06 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yeah, an interesting problem. I wrote a fair amt abt Wittgenstein (see "Wandering God"), who was acutely aware of the problem of creating the ideology of no-ideology. His goal was really to dispense w/programmed thinking; then he noticed that all of Cambridge was dressing the way he did (completely nondescript) and imitating his jargon. Buddhism is also designed to cut thru the bullshit, but frequently produces clones who mechanically talk abt cutting thru the bullshit. There is that great scene in "Life of Brian" where John Cleese is trying to escape 10,000 people who think he is holy and want to adore him. So he turns to the crowd and says, "Look, you've got the wrong idea; you are all individuals; you must think for yourselves!" In response 10,000 voices intone, "We are all individuals; we think for ourselves!" Oy.

What I'm talking abt--ideas vs. ideology--may be possible only on an individual level, I don't know. I don't agree with you that thought is equivalent to ideology, however; as the case of Wittgenstein, or the Buddha, wd indicate. Instead, non-ideology may be the only real thought around. To paraphrase Freud, there may be no hope for the human race, only hope for a few individuals in it.


Please, Mittney. Maybe Rafalca means Kiss My Tushie?


r.u. referring to the engineer living in Denver?


Clearly, we're talking abt bozos and shmucks, people with Gerber's baby food in their heads; just in case I haven't made myself entirely clear on the subject. I worry sometimes that I'm pulling my punches on this subject--holding back a bit too much. I confess to being somewhat ashamed of the way I tiptoe around the subject of American lack of intelligence. I really need to assert myself more in this regard, be more explicit.


9:30 PM  
Blogger LJansen said...

Re: Gun culture. Reason why America "...cannot be otherwise"?

"America's Dark Shadows: Aurora, Sikhs and Guns"

Much in tune with MB, it seems.

12:30 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thank you for this reference; the guy does sound like he's been rdg my work. Hard to believe he is a professor at the Naval War College in Newport, RI, or that he hasn't been fired by now. Let me cite a few excerpts that I found particularly relevant to what I've been saying for a long time now. He writes about “a collective national vision of righteous violence," and goes on:

“Mental illness may explain how individual persons "snap" — but it is hardly sufficient. We must recognize and acknowledge how deep-rooted narratives shape our very ethos. Only these can tell us why those who snap always seem to reach out for such rooted rituals. "Sick" killers show us, indelibly, the dark side of our national identity — and our celebrated history.

“Americans cannot recognize their own blood-identity rites, even as they so passionately rise either to attack or defend them. We cannot see how guns are sacred to us. We cannot see how our tradition of sacrificial and retributive violence is closely intertwined with our collective imagination.

“Nothing is going to happen. If it did, one thing would have to come first: recognition. Just getting to that place of self-awareness would represent an amazing achievement. It would be nothing short of America stepping outside of itself. We will go nowhere as a society until we take this first step.”

I find this concluding paragraph particularly poignant, because the author does understand that nothing is going to happen. Self-awareness in America wd be nothing less than a miracle--requiring Americans to step outside of themselves and look at the nation objectively, as an historical and sociological phenomenon. This is what I've been doing since the year 2000, and (I believe) why Americans literally cannot hear what I've been saying (any more than they will pay any attn to this particular article). I can't help thinking of a review of the German edn. of Dark Ages America that appeared in the Berlin newspaper, Die Tageszeitung, in which the reviewer called me a patriot and said that America's only hope was in paying attn to fundamental critiques of the country, as represented by my book. But America cannot understand that true patriotism lies outside the box, not inside it; and that true recovery (no longer a possibility, imo) can only be achieved by this reflexivity, this ability to see ourselves from the outside, as it were. This is why I keep saying that in the US, even the smart ones are stupid, because this is the one thing they are not willing, or perhaps not able, to do. This is a brilliant article, reaffirming for me an obvious truth: our fate is sealed, and WE have sealed it.


8:49 AM  
Blogger Noah Linden said...


You seem to be defining ideology as unconscious, unthinking acceptance of ideas from the outside. I define ideology as believing in a set of principles, whether consciously and intelligently decided or merely unconsciously, unthinkingly absorbed from the outside.

This, I think, is why we come to different conclusions. I am certainly no fan of the type of behavior you highlighted from Life of Brian. Becoming intoxicated with the emotions of a large crowd is very dangerous. I myself never felt that urge; people with a very weak sense of who they are are the only ones who would ever even get their minds around such behavior.

Chris Hedges has written brilliantly about the mob mentality. He notes that when people become members of a mob, they abolish any sense of conscience and personal responsibility within themselves. He also notes that the mob mentality is fundamentally about sadism and power hunger.

Nevertheless, there is a dark side to individualistic thinking. One of the worst aspects of this dark side is moral relativism. "Well, killing three million Arabs in the Middle East who never did anything to us might be wrong in YOUR mind, but in MY mind, it's a wonderful and ethical thing. Who are YOU to be the arbiter of morality?"

I personally hate people who think like that. Lol. I get the urge to give them a nice backhand to the face.

9:01 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


How strong is that belief? The question is whether u have any distance from it. Followers of an ideology generally don't; it's why they overreact when their ideology is challenged, because they are fighting for their psychological lives. This doesn't have to involve 'large crowds' or 'mob mentality'. But people who have ideas--that's a different story. It means there is some flexibility in the system. I don't see our difference here as merely semantic; I think it's really fundamental. However, I think this argument is getting a bit boring; we are not going to agree, and shd probably just leave it at that.


10:06 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

I am glad to note from the discussion of Noah and the good Dr, that everybody has an ideology. This has been a point of contention for me for some time and explains why propaganda is so easily powerful. This hucksterism, or greed, has been in effect for a long time. I read once where the Roman empire, at its peak, had 1800 owners of the entire empire! Obviously I am no intellectual giant but have been born with, I think, an ability to recognize evil in many different ways, i.e. somewhat immune to propaganda. Consent manufacturers selfishly prevent this and thus this world is sick, at all times.

This leads me to remark on the statement, “Wealth is life.” This quotation stops short of my reality, or ideology. To me, wealth is a “contented” life. For, what good is it to have to live a monastic existence? Or, in the extreme, to have to face nuclear war. What kind of choice is this? It makes me mad as hell and somebody has to pay. Oh, if only I had a stinger rocket and cd destroy at least one mansion without the owner present. Wud not actually do it, unless it was my brother’s, or someone I knew personally.

I want each and every person to be at peace but it ain’t gonna happen. This is my story and I’m sticking to it.


10:53 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


I've had similar encounters. One time I mentioned to a co-worker that I was re-reading a favorite classic, and he asked, "Why are you doing that? You've already read it. There's nothing more to get out of it." I asked, "Does that mean you should only listen to a song once?" he replied, "That's different."

I continued: "For one thing, you get more out of any work of art the more you return to it." He had an answer for that: "All the hidden meanings? That's what Cliff Notes are for." (Today it would be Google.)

Of course, he at least read books, if only once. Another co-worker said he hadn't picked up a book since graduating from college, as there was no reason to read now that he was done with tests & didn't have to worry about grades.


It's frighteningly fascinating to watch a show like Jeopardy & realize that much of what passes for general knowledge is now current pop culture & glorified product placement, as opposed to actual book learnin'. Compare that to well-written TV dramas of some 50 years ago, which were filled with literary & mythic allusions, which the writers expected audiences to understand.


Yes, I definitely agree that the consumerist dream is indeed drying up for the majority. Which probably means a redoubled effort to sell it, to convince everyone that they & they alone will be among the lucky few who can still get it. Whick means an ever more brutal, self-centered culture, a Thunderdome where all enter & only a handful leave. But remember, YOU can be among that handful!

"A war of all against all." That's the proper allusion, isn't it?

11:09 AM  
Blogger Mickey S. said...

'Hustling' is the basic condition of all lifeforms. Each organism fights with the next for resources, and all, as the Sage said, 'die with sword in hand.' The idea that 'hustling' or stupidity is unique to some group of people living within arbitrary, recently-drawn lines on a map is simply untenable.

Weren't the Conquistadors hustlers? That the mob is stupid in all nations is attested to throughout history. Behold the ancient Greek orator who, in the middle of a speech, having received an incredible applause, turned to an aide and said, 'have I said something stupid?'

That it is more pronounced in America due to new technologies and other reasons sure, but the general theory crumbles on a perusal of history.

Look to Kung Fu-Tze, who said, in ancient China, 'a great man thinks of what is right, a small man of what will pay.' Must have been hustlers there too. The historical examples are too numerous to list. Indeed one should pen a book entitled, 'Why Mankind Failed.'

Were those men changing money at the temple, the ones whose tables were tossed by Jesus, also not 'hustling?'

1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I work in a civil service job with a college educated guy who used to be well read and up on current events as well as union issues within our own job. Over the last few years our pay and benefits have been chiseled away and now this co worker of mine along with another employee have joined a multi level marketing pyramid scheme known as 5linx. So a few weeks ago I had a print out of the latest Hedges article and I handed it to him while passing in a hall way. My co worker looked at it and yelled “I don’t what this Shi*t, Chris Hedges doesn’t make me any money.” He then furiously threw the article on the ground and walked away. Maybe I should write to Hedges and ask him to stop his useless bitching and give us some into that will help us make money?

-Patrick Green

1:50 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Comment from me about this is unnecessary.

Read the whole thing.

2:11 PM  
Anonymous kjs said...

Dr. Berman -

Read WHY AMERICA FAILED via great reviews on COUNTERPUNCH and was highly influenced by it. Even gave another COUNTERPUNCH contributor who never heard of you a link to your Web site.

We ARE utterly doomed. My cousin in NYC, a schoolteacher for 30 years, wanted to call my brother in Chicago from her Queens home. She asked me, "Is Chicago two or three hours behind our time?"

Now I keep reading on comment boards about how both Stalin and Hitler were liberals...

Can't make this crap up, even in a political/social parody.

3:04 PM  
Anonymous TonyU said...

Jessica, thanks for bringing letting me know about the following video:

Here are some quotes from the video:
1) Slaveholders have forfeited the right to live, and the slaves have the right to gain their liberty by any means necessary - JB.
2) JB to his dying son at Harpers Ferry: Shut up and die like a man!
3) Slavery can only be destroyed by bloodshed - Douglas.
4) JB was in so much debt that he felt he got nothing to lose.
5) Self-defense is a religious duty - Beecher

Someone here provided the link to the following article: "Why We're Screwed"
Here are some quotes from the article:
1) Financiers are forcing schools, parks, pools, fire departments, senior citizen centers, and libraries to shut down. They are forcing national governments to auction off their cultural heritage to the highest bidder. Everything must go in firesales at prices rigged by twenty-something traders at the biggest and most corrupt institutions the world has ever known. And since they’ve bought the politicians, the policy-makers, and the courts, no one will stop it
2) all the top financial institutions are dens of thieves
3) You turn over your salary to Wall Street in the hope that should you need healthcare, they will allow your “service provider” to provide it. But when you need the service, Wall Street will decide whether it can be provided.

As I said before, Americans are in slavery, and having people in slavery is a state of war that requires bloodshed. No peace-loving Occupy Wall Street will save any modern-day slaves, period. In the past, it was physical slavery. Today, it is mental slavery, and mental slavery is far worse than physical slavery. People in mental slavery do not realize that they are in bondage, and hence they work hard and then willingly send their salaries to the slave masters.

4:26 PM  
Anonymous Danno said...

As a second-generation(hopefully the last) Korean-American, I feel this post(the section on the dumbing down of America) applies to first-generation immigrants as well. Korean immigrants seem to have a "special" knack for taking these American words of "wisdom" and repeating them over and over again to their children like a wretched Korean pop song. Needless to say, I have terrible conversations with my parents because I feel like I'm speaking to a three year old.

5:22 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Mon cher, u.r. terribly confused. I take it u never read WAF. 'Hustling' doesn't refer to aggression; that goes back to the Stone Age, even b4. I'm talking about a certain type of economy that emerged in Europe around A.D. 1500, and which took root on the American continent at the end of the 16thC. Previous economies were homeostatic, including that of the Conquistadors, ancient China, and ancient Rome. In order to obtain genuine historical and conceptual clarity, you need to do more than just peruse history; you need to study it in depth. Now may be a gd time to start.


5:29 PM  
Anonymous Zero said...


I’ve had the same experience with my relatives (including parents) from America. My family from Romania are normal, intelligent people, while my American relatives are brainwashed morons unable to utter a sentence that does not start or end with “USA! USA! USA!”

Brainwashing is very powerful in America. You really have to be strong minded, and you have to reject everything about American culture in order to experience a true rebirth. But once you do that, the American system of mind control around you crumbles and becomes completely impotent. All the inconsistencies and dissonances in the system become sources of endless joy. You become mentally stronger by the day, and find amusement in watching the morons around you soak in the stupidity they are fed. Watching CNN or MSNBC then becomes more entertaining than Saturday Night Live. You even take pleasure in seeing the morons suffer, because you know that they are getting exactly what they deserve. For example, I take great pleasure in seeing tens of millions of Americans go without access to medical care, because that is what they wanted to begin with, and that is what they deserve. I think to myself: “That’s what you deserve, you individualistic, selfish, independent, libertarian, tea partier, exceptionalist piece of shit, you! Now go crawl under a rock and die quickly of your cancer, because you didn’t want European-style socialism here, did you.” And, I end every such though with a cheerful: “USA! USA! USA!”

You become like Neo in the Matrix. I just love it!

6:12 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


The late Gore Vidal once said, "Stupidity excites me." As a close observer of American life, he was excited a lot.

Here's a short poem on the subject (Keats, move over):

"Our lives are pledged;
Our heads are wedged!"


7:12 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

Yep, Vidal was an excitable boy in just the right environment and at just the right time.

Paraphrasing from memory, he also said:

"We Americans never learn form our's part of our charm."

So, he was excited and charmed just about anytime he was "home".

Another paraphrase from Philosopher Carlin...

"Consider the average American.

Then consider that half of all Americans are dumber than that."

Amazingly, I found a copy of Joe Bageant's Rainbow Pie at a used bookstore here in CR. Needless to say, I paid the local equivalent to 6 USD and devoured that sucker. I think he would have been in the neighborhood of 50/50 on the question of manufactured consent vs. inherent stupidity. Of course, even if you're on the MC side, you have to admit that the mfr's of consent have a great mass of idiots to work with. I think that even though the American people don't need much training these days, those in the consent manufacturing bidness should pay a price for doing what they do...sort of like Michael Vick had to do time for major league animal abuse.

7:38 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Dr. Berman,

About the man who went Sikh hunting with Jesus being a ‘psychotic loner’ – when you consider the atrophy of family, community, and social capital in our blessed land you realize that this is a nation of psychopathic or sociopathic loners.

Tim Lukeman,

About re-reading – here is what Vladimir Nabokov (in “Lectures on Literature”) told his students when he taught college literature back in the forties and fifties:

“Incidentally, I use the word reader very loosely. Curiously enough, one cannot read a book: one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, an active reader is a rereader. And I shall tell you why. When we read a book for the first time the very process of laboriously moving our eyes from left to right, line after line, page after page, this complicated physical work upon the book, the very process of learning in terms of space and time what the book is about, this stands between us and artistic appreciation. When we look at a painting we do not have to move our eyes in a special way even if, as in a book, the picture contains elements of depth and development. The element of time does not really enter in a first contact with a painting. In reading a book, we must have time to acquaint ourselves with it. We have no physical organ (as we have the eye in regard to a painting) that takes in the whole picture and then can enjoy its details. But at a second, or third, or fourth reading we do, in a sense, behave towards a book as we do towards a painting.”

“Since the master artist used his imagination in creating his book, it is natural and fair that the consumer of a book should use his imagination too.”

Every time I re-read a book, I find (or should I say ‘construct’?) things I never saw before.

What fraction of one percent of Americans can even comprehend this, much less actually do it? “That’s not going to get you anywhere!”

David Rosen

9:20 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Well, on the question of brainwashing vs. collusion in your own destruction, which continues to exercise us on our little blog, I ran across an interesting discussion in Shadia Drury's biography of Alexandre Kojeve. She's discussing Heidegger, and reads him this way:

"Society invents countless distractions to conceal from us the truth of our existence and inevitable death. But to be so distracted by the social environment and its oblivion is to live an inauthentic life, to live as others wish and to be what 'they' expect, and to do as 'they' do....Only in light of our impending death do we become aware of our life as our own free project. Only in the face of our finitude do we become 'resolved' to take possession of our life and shape our destiny. It is important to note that Heidegger was not oblivious to the importance of fate, heredity, environment, and the circumstances in which we find ourselves 'thrown'. Even though man is not responsible *for* his being, he is unique in being responsible *to* his being: his life, his death, and his destiny are his project and his responsibility. Man is altogether unlike a rock or a tree--given, static, and identical with itself. Man is sheer possibility. His very nothingness, his no-thingness, is what makes him so extraordinary. Heidegger gives nothingness a creative significance. It becomes a symbol of man's freedom--his singular, exceptional, and remarkable existence."

11:26 PM  
Blogger LJansen said...

The Heidegger quote reminded me of something. Feeling my mortality as I approach Medicare age, I resolved last week that my main job until I dissolve back into stardust is to have fun. It was very freeing to have that as my main responsibility. For some reason, the first thing I did was to start reorganizing my bedroom and getting rid of excess clutter. Fun is what you make it I guess. Looking forward to see what else turns into fun.

12:00 AM  
Blogger Zosima said...

I had thought our elites probably felt content staying with Obama as figurehead. Now, after this most recent shooting, I think I may have been mistaken. Like Dr B., they know that if there is to be a revolution in this country, it will come from the right, not the left. If Obama loses, his supporters will be content just to laugh it off by watching more Stewart and Colbert. But since all the passionate intensity in this country exists on the right, we can expect that another Obama win would unleash a frightening new wave of racist frenzy. With everything going their way now, I don’t think our elites want to see that kind of instability.
It will be difficult to throw the election for Twitney since he is one of the most inept and unlikable candidates in US history, but with the help of Republican voter suppression, it’s doable. Look for the oligarchs to make it so. Watch for Obama to help, perhaps with a deliberately bad debate performance.
So the ‘Onward and Downward’ fan base may want to cheer for Otrocity not Twitney, that is, if you really want to watch the fur fly in this country.

2:03 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

How many people of color are there compared to whiteys?

I just read a column by the great John Pilger of Australia detailing the treatment of 'niggers' through the years.

I wonder when people of color are going to say enuf is enuf and just rise the hell up.

Most black destinies are never in their control much less their responsibilities.

Pilger's article appears on "How the Chosen Ones Ended Australia's Olympic Prowess and Revealed a Secret Past."

And, btw, how many get any sort of formal education other than a whip along with a generous portion of ridicule, mockery and embarrassment?

7:49 AM  
Anonymous JJ Peter said...


I love the following quotes:
“Shut up and die like a man!”

“JB was in so much debt that he felt he got nothing to lose”

It was Karl Marx who said that the most dangerous man in any society is the man who got nothing to lose. Notice that majority of Americans are in a lot of debt and their homes worth far less than in 2007, so they got nothing to lose.

I’d say as Americans you should shut up and die like men!

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Jessica said...

the culture of hustling CANNOT be separated from the culture of slavery. A true hustler will enslave his own mother for money! Bankers and Wall-Streeters who destroyed the American society are slave masters to you and me, period. We are all economic slaves to the financial institutions.

The above statements are simply amazing. Can we get the thoughts of some people on these statements?

Dr Berman talks about the economic system of hustling that started long ago with the British commercial class. The period it started was the same period slavery started in the West. Was this a coincidence? Was slavery in the West not a direct consequence of the hustling culture that began in Europe?

Everyone here talks about Mit Romney and people like him who made millions in profits because of the same hustling economic system. They made their wealth by destroying jobs at home and using cheap labor abroad. Further, Romney and his ilk refuse to pay their share of income taxes that sustain the hustling system that allowed them to make their wealth. They are not only hustlers, they are traitors to the hustling tradition of their ancestors. They used the hustling tradition and then destroyed it by shipping it to locations abroad while making sure the hustling home base is no more.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, the antebellum South certainly did argue that the 'wage slavery' of the North was slavery; but the existential difference between being a slave and being a free person is rather definitive, even if the slave is more or less comfortable and the wage slave is suffering. That the two systems interacted is true, but it doesn't make them identical. Whether the Southern slave economy was or was not capitalist, or to what extent and how to define it, has been a major debate among American historians. The longest footnote I ever wrote (that I can remember) is n.41 in ch. 4 of WAF, which reviews the subject in some detail. That might help u clarify things (or at least I hope).


10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just sent message about this tv show . Host asks Anericans " do you think Canada should get its own Prime Minister?" or... "do you think Canada should get a daily newspaper?"... Ok.. I am Canuck... I don't profess things are a ton better here... But I have to say, alot of my friends shake their heads at what is going on in US these days. Only prob.. Our prime minister a conservative idiot....I am Jenny White of Toronto

11:14 AM  
Anonymous willie piet said...

Dr Berman

I am new here, and I am waiting for a copy of your book.
Be assured that as soon as I get the book, I will read it, especially chapter 4.

For now, please explain your position on slavery.

1) Are you saying that slavery is ok, whether northern type or southern type?
2) Are you saying that Northern slavery (wage slavery) is worse than Southern slavery (southern slavery = complete slavery, in which human beings work for free, are treated like animals and properties, and are eventually murdered at will by the ‘masters’ or owners supported by the laws of the nation )?

You really need to explain your stance on the slavery issue because some reviewers at Amazon claim that you defend Southern slavery. Do you defend Southern slavery?

11:38 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Other Anons (not Jenny White): I don't post Anons. Pls, pick a handle. Thanks.


Abt 25 yrs ago a German friend of mine did his freshman year at an American university, I think it was in NYC, to improve his English. He told me that the other freshman in his dorm asked him questions like, "Where is Germany?," and "Do they have TV in Germany?" True story. And people laugh when I say we're a collection of dummies. Jesus, how much evidence do we need?


11:41 AM  
Blogger Noah Linden said...


You have good points there. I've learned from your last response - the necessity for one's sense of self not to be bound up in needing to believe something is true.

And I will concede that you are right in saying that ontological stupidity includes "an indescribably intense subconscious malice and need for self-glorification", because those kind of psychological drives indicate a deep ignorance and inability to grasp a better way of living and being. I suppose I'm just suspicious that Americans - those that aren't literally brain-dead, anyway - really do know that what they are doing is wrong, and simply don't care. That's why I was hesitant to say their evil actions are a result of stupidity, since American pseudo-liberals so often deny the reality of evil by ascribing it to "stupidity" instead of malice.

For instance, my parents always say Bush is an "idiot", but had refused, until I spelled it out for them about a thousand times and listed some of the horrible things he did, to consider that he is actually a sociopath. My mother is still convinced he is merely stupid, not evil. Likewise, according to my mother, John Birchers, neo-Nazis and other similar types are "idiots", not actually evil.

I'm sure you've encountered this bullshit before. Labeling these people as "idiots" instead of sociopaths is itself idiotic. Going back to WAF, I can see this problem as an example of how Americans denying keep that America has failed utterly, or that it even has very serious problems due to large numbers of fascist-minded people living within its borders.

But I'm rambling here. I just wanted to clarity why I said some of the things I said here.


12:13 PM  
Blogger Jack at CASCADIA ARTPOST said...

Another CRE moment: Apparently one can order automatic assault weapons through, or receive them instead of the latest electronic toy.

12:55 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Pls be careful how u quote me. I don't believe I ever said that ontological stupidity includes "an indescribably intense subconscious malice and need for self-glorification". Or at least, I can't find that in anything I wrote on this blog. Ontological stupidity only means that one lacks a basic understanding of what makes human beings tick. This is why Robert McNamara, with his high IQ, was an ontological dummy. Bombing Vietnam repeatedly just led the Vietnamese into ever-greater opposition to the US; it was clearly not working. His solution? More bombing! He didn't grasp that we really had no idea what we were doing there, whereas the Vietnamese were fighting for their life and country. Which is why they won, tho they had to sacrifice 3 million people to do it. After the war, and for the rest of his life, McNamara walked around DC like a haunted ghost. He knew he was a war criminal; he also understood that the whole thing was a grotesque failure. But he never understood why. This is the far edge of ontological stupidity, so to speak, but it's only one example among many.


The problem is that Americans are not very bright. Nuance is not their forte, to say the least. They get emotional, 'think' in terms of rage and slogans, and think they are thinking. At several pts in ch. 4 I say that slavery was an abomination and that the War had to be fought to eradicate it. Those lines never get quoted by my critics; oh no, that wd be too inconvenient for their self-righteous indigation. What I say is that the Civil War was fundamentally not about the moral issue of slavery--evidence for that is quite abundant--but about a clash of civilizations; a thesis that even the 'freedom school', including Eric Foner and Jas McPherson, finally endorse. I say that the South was fighting for a way of life, and that there were many features of that nonhustling way of life that were valuable; but that the perversity of the situation, the horrible paradox of it, was that that elegant and leisurely and nonhustling way of life was rooted in a slave economy. And finally, that the mode of conduct of the war--the scorched earth and 'scorched soul' policy practiced by the North--became the model of how we wd treat any enemy, i.e. in a violent and Manichaean fashion. The US is totally 'pure'; the enemy is totally 'dark'; and thus genocide becomes somehow 'justified'. Hence the war on Mexico, Japan, Vietnam, Iraq ('shock and awe'), etc, etc (it's a long list) all follow the Civil War pattern (altho it was prefigured in the way we massacred the Native American population prior to that). And the end result, as Gene Genovese pts out, is that the victory of the North opened the door to unbridled capitalism, unbridled hustling, and to the world of 'affluent depravity' in which we now live.

In a word, I paint a very complex picture, but certainly not one that condones slavery, not in the least. Again, my critics themselves live in a slogan-driven, Manichaean world, and so if I say even one thing positive about the antebellum South, 'clearly' I must be a Southern apologist and proponent of slavery. In effect, they repeat the very logic that I show is horribly fucked up. But this is America; what're ya gonna do?

I shd add that no white supremacist group, or any pro-Confederacy group, has invited me to lecture, because (assuming they even read WAF), they know I'm hardly on their side. They understand that my position is not, "The South Will Rise Again!" Rather, it's that the North, and the hustling life it stood for, turned into an abject failure.

I hope that helps. I confess I'm really tired of defending myself on this score. But again--that's America!


1:02 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Also see my reply to Jessica, above: I say that the existential difference between 'wage slavery' and real slavery is definitive, even if the former might be miserable and the latter, on occasion, more or less comfortable. A slave is not a free man or woman, period.

1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The discussion of smarts and intelligence, or its flip side, stupidity and ignorance, bothers me. I’ve never been a fan of IQ, sometimes thought to be a measure of sheer processing power (though Julian/Zero gives the lie to that notion), since even supposedly smart people can be staggeringly wrong about things (Prof. Berman uses McNamara as an example), nor does it take intellectual brilliance to be a fundamentally good person. Part of what bothers me is that the context in which Americans live, by virtue of birth but obviously with later uncritical embrace and even jingoistic gusto, makes it nearly impossible to rise above muck and mire. Surprisingly, a fair number do just that, though they may be NMIs rather than media clowns and thus be out of sight.

Yet lacking compassion, Prof. Berman sez: We need to bash the avg citizen as much as we can, not only because they are dumb, but because they are deeply anti-intellectual, and proud of it.

So what, we beat the stupidity out of ’em? Bash ’em until they see the light, which they’re now incapable of glimpsing anyway in the caustic glare of the American Dream? It’s difficult to tell how arch that exhortation is meant to be, if at all. Further, this particular point in history has delivered a particularly miserable set of circumstances, which we all tend to reinforce and perpetuate simply by being here, much like our very lives add to the human footprint and consumer excess that is wrecking the planet. Shedding light on our problems is great, but I find it agonizing to contemplate that the best use of my time and intellect is to beat down on others, as if any improvement could spring from that.

Further, Shep sez: ... how many get any sort of formal education other than a whip along with a generous portion of ridicule, mockery and embarrassment?

Kinda goes to the heart of the issue, no?

1:37 PM  
Anonymous Rowdy said...

Pediatrician accused of 'waterboarding' 11-year-old daughter:

1:49 PM  
Anonymous Samuel Waspo said...

Mr Berman

If I am reading you incorrectly, please let me know. This is in response to your response to Willie.

You believe that the North stood for hustling and the South stood nonhustling. Am I reading you wrong?

Further, you seem to believe (as implications of the above) that:

1) slavery was not and could not be a consequence of the hustling culture (of the North)

2) slavery was not and could not be a consequence of the nonhustling culture (of the South)?

Here are your thoughts:

“it's that the North, and the hustling life it stood for, turned into an abject failure.”

“I say that the South was fighting for a way of life, and that there were many features of that nonhustling way of life that were valuable”

2:39 PM  
Anonymous Larry Schiller said...

I recently read Chris Hedges "Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt". Hedges sheds light on the "wage slavery" issue in an interview with a Florida farm labor supervisor who said, "At one time the big farms (plantations) had slaves for farm labor, now we just rent them". The implication was that ownership requires some responsibility, for food, shelter, etc. With "rental slaves", no responsibility is required. Farm labor "wage slaves" are on their own, often sleeping in cars and fending for themselves. While no one could condone any type of slavery, I find it interesting that this point is raised yet seldom discussed, the real dynamics of "wage slavery". With an overabundance of labor, wage slavery is the inevitable result. Whether by design or the evolutionary forces of the marketplace makes little difference. The net result is the same. This should be a topic of open debate, not an issue shrouded in thick fog.

2:47 PM  
Anonymous Danno said...


Thanks for the encouraging words. However, the problem is that there is not much you can do to defend yourself from this system because it is not mainly based on physical cohesion. At least if it was physical it would be morally defensible to fight back. These people have a sick notion that abuse only occurs if there is "physical" evidence with a direct mechanism. As a result, Americans(from all shades) and their Americanized counterparts(especially South Koreans) are able to roam freely and bully(non-physically) anyone that does not adhere to their ideology of careerism and materialism.
Taking into account of what you said, the best solution for me, is to watch these infantile imbeciles kill each other from a far. This country is hopeless and I am glad to say I never had any strong attachments to it.

3:10 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Every significant issue in the US is shrouded in thick fog (the NYT is an excellent example of this); no reason why this one shd be an exception.


I'm sorry, I just can't do it. It's all spelled out in ch. 4, which, despite its complexity, is clear as a bell if you have an open mind. If I had to respond to every inquiry abt or critique of that ch., I'd be online forever. So Willie wants an explanation, then u want an explanation of my response, then Joe Blow wants...I just don't have the time, I'm sorry. So I have to refer you to the primary text (and don't omit the ftnotes!), and wish you luck. Just keep in mind that the ch. cannot be summarized in sound bites, or easy yes-or-no questions; the Civil War doesn't lend itself to that. Try to think in terms of both/and rather than either/or.


Well, sometimes arch is good, what can I tell u? Besides, my major target in dolt-bashing is not the dolts per se: they aren't exactly reading my work, amigo (beyond rdg ch. 4 of WAF and deciding I'm pro-slavery); it's the political Left. So Chomsky believes in some vague socialist future, and Michael Moore talks in terms of a populist tradition (ignoring the very dark side of American populism), because they adhere to the Progress View of History. They cannot admit to the Dolt Factor (DF) because that makes the hope of a bright future a lot less likely. Yet there can be no accurate political analysis of the American situation w/o taking the DF into account. The dolts--most of the country--can very likely be rallied to effect negative, rt-wing change; it's abt pure emotion, after all. But there's no way they can be rallied to effect positive change, because they simply don't have the gray matter for it. I believe this has to be stated over and over again, as politically incorrect as it is. We have the phrase 'let's call a spade a spade', but I think we need to improve upon it: 'let's call a dolt a dolt'. So join me: let's dolt-bash until we collapse from exhaustion! ("Stupidity excites me"--Gore Vidal)

And BTW, compassion for dolts won't change the situation one iota; don't u believe it for a minute. It might make us feel like we are Good People, with our hearts in the rt place, and if that's yr thing--well, knock yrself out. Personally, I prefer to stick to an analysis of what will or will not work politically. Nor do I have any compassion for cops who throw the OWS library into dumpsters, or for the millions of people who were screaming for Sarah Palin, or who will be screaming for our current war criminal president this fall (to take just three examples among many).


5:19 PM  
Anonymous TonyU said...

Dr B:
You say: A) “slavery was an abomination” and B) “the War had to be fought to eradicate it”. Also, you say: C) “the South was fighting for a way of life, and that the way of life was nonhustling, valuable, elegant, and leisurely and that D) the way of life (of the South) was rooted in a slave economy”.

I submit to the readers that C) contradicts D). Read the two claims carefully and convince yourselves that they cannot both hold because a way of life rooted in a slave economy CANNOT be described as nonhustling, valuable, elegant, and leisurely. This contradiction becomes obvious as you read the following:

I submit that A) and B) taken together contradicts C) and D). If you truly believe that “slavery was an abomination and that the War had to be fought to eradicate it”, then it logically follows that you believe that the South was an abomination that had to be eradicated by the civil war. But then you seem angry with the North (via your accusation that North’s culture introduced hustling into USA) and you seem in love with the South (via you belief that South’s culture is nonhustling, valuable, elegant, and leisurely). In other words, you agree that South’s culture was an abomination that should have been eradicated by civil war, but you have no problem hanging on to the belief that the same South’s culture is nonhustling, valuable, elegant, and leisurely.

Ponder these two propositions:
1) The North hated slavery and loved hustling.
2) The South hated hustling and loved slavery.

5:24 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Not contradictions; paradoxes. This is what ch. 4 is about. As I just said to Sam, I can't help u w/this. If u read ch. 4 and cannot see that a leisurely society was rooted in a slave economy, there's not a lot more I can say.


5:36 PM  
Anonymous Danno said...


Sorry, I just realized a typo in my last post to you. In case you were wondering, I meant "physical coercion," not "physical cohesion." But I'm sure you were able to pick that out.

5:40 PM  
Anonymous Roberto Wess said...


I watched the pbs video on John Brown. It taught me lots of history lessons I did not learn from more than 14 years of school in America. Thanks a lot for the video.

All I need to add is that if whatever is an abomination should be eradicated with bloody wars, then John Brown was right that slavery should have been eradicated by force and bloody wars.

John Brown did not introduce war-mongering and barbarity in wars. The North did not introduce the same either. Simply read your bible to understand the source of the belief that bloodletting and wars are necessary means for eradicating evil from human affairs. Read your bible; read the Book of Joshua. Ironically, the Southerners know and understand the bible more than any other group of people on planet earth.

10:12 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

An American has difficulty understanding that both sides in a conflict might be wrong (each in their own ways) and right too. It has got to be one or the other. You must choose sides and maintain the absolute rightness of yr side and the absolute wrongness of the other, even when they are mixed bags. Are you a Punch man or a Judy man? Yankees or Dodgers? Us or them? Bully A or Bully B? Team Blue or Team Red? Saying "I can't wholeheartedly support either one" is finally incomprehensible, bewildering, annoying, and suspicious to an American.

Americans, even when they are atheists, are essentially preachers. I feel less angry at them when I realize that this is simply who they are and that asking or expecting them to change is futile, and even presumptuous. Maybe one shd take the Mencken attitude wrt most of them: laugh at the show and pass on.

Meanwhile, this November, are you for candidate X and all the forces of hell, or are you for the other guy? Remember, it's The Most Important Election of All Time (isn't it a miraculous gift that this just so happens to be occurring in your and my time?) - a watershed event in the eternal battle of good vs. evil... Flash Gordon vs. Ming the Merciless.

11:13 PM  
Blogger Reader said...


You are a perfect specimen of a black and white/either-or/good-bad thinker. Unless you are capable of escaping that limited cognition, you simply will not be able to understand what Mr. Berman has explained, outlined, and documented extensively ... because it's layered thinking, it is not linear, and you must understand one thought in one context and the next thought in a different context, with his conclusion building to a new context altogether. Read the chapter again, without your bias and without your dead-set ideology (can you do that?), do some critical thinking on the areas troublesome to you, open your mind and your minds-eye, and you will get it and have that 'Aha' moment, be somewhat embarrassed, but feel great because you will know you are now a bit wiser. If not, well, you might be out of your league in your choice of reads.

12:54 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Sorry, amigo, I don't post Anons. Pls pick a handle and try again.


Well, maybe it takes an outsider to see it. In "Around the World in 80 Days," Phineas Fogg is traveling thru the Midwest during an election year and is approached by some bozo who asks him, "Well, who are you voting for: Camerfield or Mandiboy?" Fogg says, "I don't see that there's any difference." The bozo goes nuts. Then in "Pickwick Papers," same scenario; Pickwick is approached by another bozo, who says to him: "Hooray Fitzroy!" Dickens writes: "Not wanting to upset the natives, I very cautiously repeated his cry: 'Hooray Fitzroy!'" Then the bozo says: "No Popkin!" And Dickens writes: "I repeated it once again: 'No Popkin!'"
Dickens makes it clear that he thinks these people are crazy, out of control, and have to be treated very gingerly unless they go totally bonkers on you. All of this was 19C, BTW; imagine if he and Jules Verne were writing today. "Hooray Mittney! No Palin!" etc.


4:13 AM  
Anonymous Jass Elliot said...

@TonyU, you did a good job presenting your thoughts. This thing is about laying down your claims and supporting them with arguments. You did a good job.

The problem with relativism is that it does not lead to knowledge and settling of conflicts.
If truth, falsehood, good, bad, abomination, etc are relative to the speaker or context, then there is no way of deciding truths and falsehoods. There is no way of knowing what is good and what is bad. If one person says, “X is an abomination” and if another person says, “X is not an abomination”, there is no way of settling the disagreement. As a result, a behavior can be both good and bad. No person has the right to condemn the behaviors and beliefs of other people; no culture or tradition can say that the behavior or beliefs of other cultures are inferior or bad. The Japanese or Chinese have the right to enslave Americans, or the American Indians have the right to enslave or exterminate Americans when these other people get the biggest and baddest guns, and there is no way of pronouncing their behavior/action as right or wrong. If you do not see anything bad or wrong in enslaving one group today for your personal, economic pleasure because you have more guns and better technology, then do not expect other people to see anything wrong in enslaving your kind for the same economic reason because of the same access to bigger and better guns and technology. One thing is certain in human history: no empire lasts forever!

4:36 AM  
Anonymous JJSmith said...

@Reader, state your position without attacking your opponent’s person or character.

Dr B, whats up with the ad hominem from the poster named Reader??

It seems as though when logic fails some people, they must resort to name-calling or to childish evasion of responsibility. To such people, ad hominem is the perfect tool of self-professed nonlinear thinking, especially when they hail from some oyo-ibadan axis. It is easy to attack your opponent or to make sweeping generalization without specific explanation of what is wrong with your opponent’s argument. If you cannot produce what your opponent specifically said that you do not agree with, then you are the person in fact making a fool of yourself, and this shows that the person you attack must be making unassailable arguments.

5:05 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yes, yr rt, that was an ad hominem attack, mea culpa. I thought it might be helpful to Tony as a kind of wake-up call, because not grasping the difference between paradox and contradiction is fundamental to misunderstanding not only WAF ch. 4, but much of history in general (which tends to be messy, and not either/or). But yr rt, of course; personal attacks are out of place on this blog. As you say, much better to be specific and tone-neutral in one's critique.


It may be over my head, but I found yr post incoherent. Tony didn't do a 'good job'; rather, he missed the boat entirely. And I'm not clear as to how relativism fits into this, or who is supposedly arguing for it, or how that wd lead us to conclude that no empire lasts forever. Sorry, it all seems rather murky to me.


5:26 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

Wait a minute! Is this the dolt blog? The only thing that is important: America Has Failed.

I will say this tho. I was born and raised in the South. The South is a ridiculous place. There is nothing here but progandized outrageously racist puppets sucking on the many tits of Fox (Huckster) News. Every day I hear something even stupider than five minutes before. Slavery has never left. It’s magic because the blacks are actually in bondage, have nothing and it’s all their fault. (INCLUDING WHITE UNEMPLOYMENT)

On John Brown: I watched the American Experience presentation and was impressed. Very interesting. Especially Douglass’ comments. But, JB was a fax of the Decider, in that, God spoke to both. U’ve got to admit this is really moron dangerous, esp. if u believe there is no god.

7:46 AM  
Blogger Reader said...

My apology.

8:05 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Man, I never thought of it: A Dolt Blog! Yr an effin' genius. Along w/that we need a Dolt TV Program: All Dolts, All Day, All Week; we give you dolts 24/7.

I seem to remember some program yrs ago that did video clips of stupid behavior, but I can't remember exactly what it was. But the Dolt Show would just do things like scan faces at Herman Cain rallies, that sorta thing. Or perhaps of Americans lining up at polling places to vote, thinking that this was meaningful activity. My imagination is running wild here...


9:39 AM  
Anonymous Smith said...

To add to the complexity, every American "dolt" believes that HE, and not Morris Berman, is the lone voice standing against an "uneducated" populace. Here's a good example:

This is an article written by a Tea Party supporter. It's a list of logical fallacies, so the poster is well-educated. But, he ascribes all these logical fallacies to "leftists," specifically to Saul Alinsky and his book, "Rules for Radicals."

Ironically the author fails to realize that the majority of logical fallacies come from Rush Limbaugh, or the Tea Party itself, or from the book reviewers of Alinsky's work on who give it 5 stars because it supposedly "explains" why "leftists are spoiled brats stamping their feet to get their way" and "where Obama's socialist communist leanings come from." Ironically, the book reviewers do not address Salinsky's actual argument...

...and they make the same argument-avoiding attacks that they accuse liberals and Salinsky of, WHILE accusing them!

And these are ELDERLY people, who should know better but are really just bratty children themselves, despite their frequent accusations of young people's brattiness.

So to add to the problem, EVERY "American dolt" thinks that HE is the intelligent person standing against the dumb crowd, even when in reality that description better describes people like Berman.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Unlike most other countries, in the US doltism is age-neutral, because if u were raised in this country u are likely to have cow pies in yr head. Following Shep's suggestion, I'm thinking of branching out, and starting a blog called Old Dolts. An additional possibility is a blog on the dearly departed, in which folks like the ghost of Robt McNamara wd be interviewed. That might be called Dead Bolts.


10:25 AM  
Anonymous Sondra Mann said...

I did not understand, so I went seeking the meaning of "paradox":

1) Dictionary:
A statement or proposition that, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that...
A seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.

2) Wikipedia:
A paradox is a statement or group of statements that leads to a contradiction or a situation which (if true) defies logic or reason, similar to circular reasoning. Typically, however, quoted paradoxical statements do not imply a real contradiction and the puzzling results can be rectified by demonstrating that one or more of the premises themselves are not really true, a play on words, faulty and/or cannot all be true together.

The word paradox is often used interchangeably with contradiction.

3) paradox
1. a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.

2. a self-contradictory and false proposition.

3. any person, thing, or situation exhibiting an apparently contradictory nature. opinion or statement contrary to commonly accepted opinion.

10:32 AM  
Anonymous Mike Alan said...

To Smith:

I'm glad to see I'm not the onlky one who has run into this intellectual hypocrisy with Tea Party types. I see them as religious ideologues, even though they may not be Christians. Their political ideology is the religon. Their way is the only way and ALL problems encountered are the fault of "Liberals". Liberals are ALL people who do not see the world as they see it. Further, they can use any and all of the intellectual and logical failings of which they accuse their target and see no problem whatsoever with that tactic. While I know not all of them are complete morons, having a debate with one of these folks is as productive as having a debate with my dog.

On another note, I am about 2/3rds of my way through James Howard Kunstler's latest book Too Much Magic and it drives homes the point of just how screwed we are yet again. Just imagine how all of these Tea Party types, as well as many other types, will act when Mexico stop exporting oil to us. Or any of the other countries that send oil our way. Interesting times dead ahead! Be mindful of what's going on around you. And...good luck to all.

10:44 AM  
Blogger Noah Linden said...


Speaking of American stupidity, there's one aspect of it which I find quite remarkable: the unwillingness to discuss or acknowledge facts. One American president (which one, I forget) said: "Facts are stupid things."

An example: whenever I criticize Obama and the many wars he's waging against small, largely defenseless Third World countries, I'm often given this response: "Well you couldn't do any better than he's doing! He's doing the best he can!" Then I mention (as one example out of thousands that their claim is false) that he waged war on Libya without Congressional approval, that he did so ON HIS OWN INITIATIVE. I then explain that I would have done no such thing if I were president. In response, I am told basically to shut the fuck up, that I'm ruining everybody's day, raining down on their parade. What they really mean, of course, is that I've held up their childish, narcissistic fantasies to the light of reason, and thus deprived them of their delusional psychological comfort, and that because of this, I'm a bad person.

It's quite amazing when you think about it: the total unwillingness to have even a shred of common sense. I believe that it is mostly the hostility of the American mind to truth, not hatred and aggression, which has caused America to fail.

10:53 AM  
Anonymous TonyU said...

@Smith: thanks, loud and clear!
Every human being is a living contradiction? He desires money, fame, peace, love, shelter, food, etc and he is willing and ready to do what is necessary to satisfy his desires even if it means enslaving other people. He is a barbarian, but he would not admit it. However, his words and behaviors clearly expose him as one. Of course, when the time and conditions are right, he will revert to his barbaric ways. This is why he is human, not because he is barbaric by nature, but because he chooses to be barbaric, and he prays and wishes that others be submissive to his barbaric ways and choice.

This is why I hang on to my guns and ammos WHILE living among humans like him – it is because I may need tools, any time, anywhere in the future (in the spirit of JB). The thing though is this: You may shoot straight into my head or heart, but you will only succeed so long as I am asleep. But burst through my doors when I am awake or confront me while I drive down any road, I will bury your wicked/useless soul in a heap of bullets.

Send all my posts here to God or to your gods. I do not care! I do not give a rat because I am a proud man from a proud people who live in a proud country where you currently pillage. As I said many times on this blog, you need us more than we need you – I know this for certain! I know because what motivates you now is the fact that your very nature have sold your soul and birthright to the devil, and the devil will never let go of you!

11:35 AM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

MB said "we need a Dolt TV Program [...] we give you dolts 24/7. I seem to remember some program yrs ago that did video clips of stupid behavior"

Dr. B, are you having us on here? Every channel is Dolts 24/7. There are many shows now that feature candid clips of stupid behavior. I deduce that yr TV viewing habits must be pretty healthy. You haven't sat and flipped endlessly thru the channels in years; if you had, you would know that your Dolt TV idea is superannuated. It is far too late for that.

12:02 PM  
Blogger LJansen said...

"Dead Bolts"! Ha.

Following my new dictum of seeking out fun things, reading this blog is a no-brainer. Ha!

12:28 PM  
Anonymous Heaton22 said...

Here is one of the reviews of "Why America Failed: The Roots of Imperial Decline".

This is the second to the last review posted on The date it was posted is May 4, 2012. The writer of the review is Heather B. Larkin (GREENACRES, WA, US). Here is the content:

"I am a liberal who thought I would find validation in this book. Instead I was shocked to find overt racism. The Author instructed us to forget that slavery ever happened. In true National Socialist Party AKA Nazi fashion, he instructed us to look at everything that white Americans lost because of the civil war. Southerners are big on tradition and apparently the author feels the north wanted to punish them for their pride in tradition. Don't look at poor starving beaten Uncle Ben in the cabin per Berman's instruction.

Aside from the racist overtone, the book deserves to be ignored for other reasons. The author merely quotes the opinions of other pundits. He doesn't offer a coherent argument based on historical facts.

Don't buy this book. If you are ever introduced to Morris Berman, walk out of the room without saying a word. He is pure poison."

I agree with the review completely. Mr Berman needs to explain to his readers here why Heather is wrong. I know he won't. I know you (mr. Berman) will not even post this my comment. Google will know about your selective censorship of comments. You are breaking the law.

12:38 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


So if I don't run a post, I'm breaking the law? Are u demented?

As far as explaining ch. 4, I've done it several times in the comments to this post, and towards the end of the comments on the previous post. How many times do I have to explicate the argument? Why not actually read what I wrote, here and in WAF? Might help u a bit (one can only hope).

Aside to Wafers: u.c. what I'm up against, yes? Over and over I tell u guys there is no hope. Can u seriously doubt me here? How much evidence do u need?


I don't own a TV, and with rare exceptions, haven't watched TV since 2006, so I'm rather out of it.


12:49 PM  
Anonymous Luke Ghauri said...

The CONTRADICTION is there in hating northern hustling while loving southern slavery. Be honest and admit your mistake! More reviews from
1) November 4, 2011, By Joseph A. Domino
Berman writes "In contrast to the zeal for money that characterized the North, the South was guided by ideals of honor, courage, amiability, and courtesy." This of course is recognizable everywhere in America today, right?
2) March 9, 2012, By T. Prentice (Austin, TX USA)
"Why America Failed" has one significant flaw, ... that flaw is in Chapter Four which tries and fails to paint an impossibly romantic, "Gone With the Wind" kind of close-to-perfect simple, agrarian, common-sense (white) American South. The chapter just drips with nostalgia for something that NEVER existed. Berman himself is not racist and repeatedly notes that the "South" he writes about is/should be without slaves. But Berman doesn't speak very much about the Jim Crow, sharecropper/tenant farmers, KKK, segregation, White Primary, Poll Tax, separate-but-equal, virulent racism of the (white) "South" which exists to this very moment.
3) April 9, 2012, By KMH (Ohio USA)
For an author who uncompromisingly refuses to give the American people a pass for their corrupt and destructive political, economic, and technological institutions, his giving the southern ruling class a pass for the cruel economic hustle of slavery to further accumulate wealth and leisure is, at best, puzzling. At worst, it challenges the intellectual and moral integrity of his entire work.

1:42 PM  
Anonymous wes mouch said...

You must not do a lot of work as a Professor since you post all day. How is the pay in Manana land?

1:47 PM  
Anonymous JWO said...

I do understand what you're up against, lest we forget that even someone as smart as Douglas Dowd can misunderstand chapter 4 ( ... what do you expect from some random internet people?

Back to one of the earlier topics, we on the blog can tend to simplify American CRE by just calling them low IQ or whatever, but raising a criticism of IQ tests is missing the point. The issue isn't the level of dolt-dom it is that many, many Americans are dolts and proud of it, they don't want to learn. It makes me think of Fahrenheit 451 where the implication is that rather than an oppressive govt banning books, the people stopped reading of their own accord.

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Politically Incorrect said...

As the good Dr says time and again... nuance is not part of the American lexicon. I've personally given up trying to have rational discussions on subjects like WAF, NMI, DAA, politics, etc. with most people outside of this and a couple other forums because most can't handle stepping outside of their comfort zone without going into a rage or trying to change the subject, (ie: me, being a downer if I don't put a positive spin on things). As a result what I've usually run into is people who don't read with an open mind and grasp the totality of what they've read, and "think" for themselves, maybe consider what they've read, look into some of the references in the book and see if any of it makes sense. You know, be able to approach a subject calmly with "You know, I never thought of that before, or what an interesting perspective" I should check that out further... My experience of hanging out in "left" circles most of my life has been woefully short on open mindedness... I say most, not all. I take things on the merits of the energy behind what's being said and how people conduct themselves. I resonate with the progressive side of things but it's never been a one-sided one size fits all type of affair. Anyway, one has to wonder whether some of the readers have really read the material and understood what they read.

You can lead a horse to water so to speak...

2:26 PM  
Anonymous satyaSarika said...

Altho I agree that the US has a really high percentage of morons who choose to be dolts, I think posts rejoicing in the fact that they/we don't have decent healthcare are over the top.

I contrast this type of remark with the kind of things said by the late great Joe Bageant whose piercing intellect was balanced by a kind heart.

The smugly superior tone I am seeing here more and more here kind of reminds me of Bill Maher. It's not something I respect.

4:21 PM  
Anonymous Zero said...

I think it is safe to say that at this point American society is in complete nose-dive:

"Third mass shooting in a month leaves 3 dead at Alabama nightclub"

Please allow me: "USA! USA! USA!"

4:51 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...



I never rejoiced in the fact that Americans don't have decent health care; not once. r.u. sure yr referring to this blog? But beyond that, I can understand that my contempt for dolts might make you unhappy; in which case, this is probably the wrong blog 4u. The fact is that I'm a truly awful person; all of my close friends tell me that. And I definitely dig Bill Maher: my kinda guy.


I don't work as a prof anymore. I have abs. no work, nothing to do; I just sit around all day posting and eating tortillas. This must be evident from the nonexistent literary output I've generated over the past 4 yrs.


There's no winning this, because u simply don't grasp the difference between paradox and contradiction, and are stuck in the same blind morass as the Amazon reviewers. I never said I loved Southern slavery; not once. What book were you reading, anyway? In fact, at several pts I say it was an abomination, and that the Civil War had to be fought to get rid of it. My critics conveniently forget to quote those parts, for some odd reason. Hence:

1. The Domino review: one line, quoted out of context.
2. The Prentice review: I explicitly say that the antebellum South is a mixed bag; there were significant elements of "Gone with the Wind," but that that is also a romanticization. (Try to think in terms of both/and, mon cher, not either/or.) Also, why wd I start talking abt the KKK? Ch. 4 is abt the antebellum South, not abt today.
3. KMH review: again, I *don't* give the South, or the slavery system, a pass; I condemn it. Read the book!

Amigo, the 'mistake' is yours--and theirs. It comes about by not reading and understanding what is actually in front of you. I've also explicated ch. 4, upon request, in the comments to this post and in the previous post. Why not do your homework? Truth is that you and other folks just want to attack, not grasp what I'm actually saying. It's self-righteous, and makes you feel good; what the heck if it has nothing to do w/what I wrote? The interesting thing for me is that you are repeating precisely the B&W, slogan-driven, Manichaean thinking of the Civil War era, that then got extended to every subsequent enemy (real or invented) of the US. Complexity, nuance--these are not your bag, quite obviously. Much better to 'think' with your knee-jerk emotions, right? Makes life so much easier.


5:11 PM  
Anonymous JWO said...

MB you don't have to post this comment.

Ouch, where are all these random people coming from all of a sudden? I wonder if there is a strange book review or organized internet thing going on.

Or is it that you are just publicly posting some of the crazy comments that you usually get? Talk about unnuanced, where did "posts rejoicing in the fact that they/we don't have decent healthcare are over the top" come from?

5:16 PM  
Blogger LJansen said...

MB, I don't watch television either, but when I did, I noticed that Bill Maher is a dolt when it comes to Islam, so not someone I can admire. Many of the so called militant atheists seem to be Islamophobic. I myself detest religion but when someone with a platform like Maher displays such selectivity with his religious rants, it is a step O&D imo.

5:25 PM  
Blogger Cj said...

Good Lord Professor, the idiots (Wes, Luke, Heaton, etc.) are coming outta the woodwork to post here. Why all of a sudden I wonder?

Unfortunately I doubt they're smart enough to realize their posts prove many of your points.


5:26 PM  
Anonymous abc said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

satyaSarita--Joe Bagent was insightful and compassionate without ever compromising the truth as best as he could see it. Nothing was sugar-coated and the only people he demonized were the corrupt members of the 1%. The South he describes in his last book, Rainbow Pie, is the South that's been destroyed by rapacious hustling and one, I suspect, that was present pre-Civil War. My maternal grandparents were from the backwoods of Kentucky so I saw this first hand as little had changed from the late 1800s to midcentury. There was no electricity, indoor plumbing, etc. The majority of Southerners didn't own slaves yet fought anyhow so, obviously, something else was important to them. I reread chapter 4 and am amazed its so misunderstood.

I agree some of the comments are sweeping generalizations about how dumb Americans are too much. Even though Joe saw this flaw and it infuriated him, he did understand why there were limitations to people's ability to understand and didn't judge them harshly.

Dr. Berman--hopefully you're safe from arrest in Mexico for not posting every insane comment that hits your blog.

5:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I see the blog has been discovered by the usual idiots that can't read or comprehend much and therefore make stupid crtitcisms....they're everywhere...

Dr. Henne

5:57 PM  
Anonymous satyaSarika said...

Esteemed Mb,

Sorry, I guess I should have been specific. I was referring to zero's post addressing Danno.

If I didn't respect your work I wouldn't read your blog.

Bill Maher is just another Obamabot so can't say the same for him. Additionally, Altho I used to think him funny, after I saw the manipulative way he controlled the interviews in Religulous I lost all respect for him. (I'm an a atheist and am certain not above making fun of Silly doctrines)

Sneering at others wherein he's not smart enuf to be onto Obama is a joke in itself

6:00 PM  
Anonymous Hey, Nonny Moose! said...

"But it any case, we try to avoid ad hominem attacks on this blog, and stick to the content of the argument."

My comment re. Ray's views was directly related to the content of the argument, and not ad hominem, at all. The bits that may have seemed so were actually semi-humorous, or intended as such, though the underlying points were not. Regrets if that aspect did not get across.

My point re. "2 + 2 = 5" may have been a little subtle. Stalin is irrelevant. Substitute any odious historical figure you like. I simply mean that, just because someone is historically considered odious, overall, that assessment does not mean that everything that comes out of his mouth is odious, or that it is mistaken.

The application to the antebellum South is, I hope, obvious, and I assume that you and I would agree about this. It is less clear to me that others, such as Ray, do. Of course, I could be mistaken, and would be delighted if I were, but the Amazon reviews that focus obsessively on Chapter Four unfortunately suggest that I am not.

6:16 PM  
Blogger Reader said...

Wes, Satya, Luke, Heaton, TonyU, etc.

It appears that there is an attempt by a few Dolts to sabotage this blog, by attempting to prevent any ongoing, intelligent dialog to occur. They are set on keeping the attention on themselves and their ditto-head ideology. I wish I had
some sparkly red slippers to place on your feet ... I'd have you click them together three times.

6:56 PM  
Anonymous Danno said...

Professor Berman,

I am sure you already may know that I am new to your blog. I wanted to check out your blog after reading WAF. I must admit that I was a little shocked when I got to chapter 4. However, my state of "shock" diminished towards the end of the chapter-followed by some contemplation. I must admit that you write very beautifully and elegantly yet simple enough for an average person like me to comprehend. I thought that section on the alternative history(had the South won)--was very thought provoking indeed. Your writings have definetly challenged my view of the American South for the better.

But to my real question, is this discussion about your latest blog or about Chapter 4 in WAF? I am starting to become very confused.

7:09 PM  
Anonymous Vince said...


I have just caught up on the last two of your postings. I must say that I must give you credit for posting the comments by the people who are having a difficult time or outright refuse to actually think about what you have written in your book(s).

Their complaining reminds me of the comments that I heard in my critical thinking class at the university. What these posters are unwilling to admit is that you have not just struck a blow to their webs of belief, you have pretty much burned them down to the ground with truth and legitimate arguments.

There is not a day that goes by that I do not encounter people who put forth logical fallacies or simply act in a paradoxical manner. One thing comes out of their mouth and another outcome is result of their actions. People complain about the system but then defend it as the best system available.

These encounters / conversations only serve to reinforce my need to lead a very reserved lifestyle while remaining in the U.S. It is all I can do to maintain my sanity and humanity for those people I really care about. When people that I know ask me why I don't smile very often, I tell them that my expression is similar to Johnny Cash's habit of always wearing black.

Just remember that there are those of us who understand you, CH, RN, NC, and others loud and clear. And if your detractors continue to hound you there is always this response.


7:31 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

The evil that men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones (so let it be with Berman).
OY, stop beating a dead horse. These people will never get it because they don't want to get it. I only fear your obit will read "Social critic and an apologist for slavery" after a lifetime of such splendid work. You are being too kind to respond to these morons but you probably are, at heart, a teacher and thus know that suffering is just part of the job.

8:38 PM  
Blogger Tao Jonesing said...

"So let me conclude with my original point. As the above discussion would indicate, Heist is a film that gets you going. It contains much to admire, and (in my opinion) much to criticize; but that’s a good thing"

That sums up nicely my initial impressions of your latest book, Dr. Berman. I hope many more people read it, and I hope they use your thoughts as a starting point for their own investigation into the reality that surrounds them.

As an aside, regarding the apparently infamous "Chapter 4," I've yet to see any legitimate criticism of it. In fact, based on my own exploration of primary source documents, I'd say you got everything >99% correct.

Where you go astray-- and this may be why the crazies seek to paint you with the racist or pro-slavery brush-- is in portraying the South as the victim of Northern aggression, which may come across to the weak-minded as defending the South and, implicitly, slavery.

In fact, a closer reading of history shows the South was the aggressor against the North before the ink of the Constitution had dried. Southern politicians dominated federal politics and were much more skilled than their Northern counterparts,constantly berating and bullying the North into political submission. The South even engineered Lincoln's election to office (by splitting the Democrat vote between two candidates, whose combined votes would have handily defeated Lincoln) as a pretext for seceding, and then the South STARTED the Civil War by sacking Fort Sumter.

The South ultimately became a victim, but it was a bully until then.

9:35 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I don't agree w/yr assessment on the start of the CW, and many other historians don't as well. The South was basically given a choice to fight or commit suicide (economically speaking), and they chose to fight. Raimondo Luraghi is particularly good on this point. However, it does remain a pt of debate, and it's clear that there are arguments on both sides. It's hardly open and shut.

As for the rest of you who wrote in: I tell ya, I'm wondering if Mars is in Jupiter's house, or some such astrological configuration. Yes, the morons have definitely come outta the woodwork, as you've all observed, and I'm frankly so tired of ch. 4 I cd scream; but I keep trying to talk to these folks in the very foolish hope that they can be reasoned with, even tho I do know that nothing I say can or will make any difference. To answer somebody's question, no, this blog is NOT abt ch. 4, it's abt the US going down the drain, and I'm sorry we hafta keep beating this poor moribund horse. It really does amaze me, tho: the chapter is 44 pp. long and is rich in facts, figures, and primary citations; it has no less than 52 ftnotes; and one of those notes (#41)--discussing the nature of the slave economy--goes on for several pages. It's one of the most tightly argued, empirically substantiated things I've ever written, and in addition, it draws heavily on some of the greatest historians America has ever produced for support: Eugene Genovese, C. Vann Woodward, Eric Foner, and James McPherson, to mention but a few. I'm hardly an isolated figure advancing some bizarre interpretation of the Civil War, in short; I'm in extremely good company. All that notwithstanding, and all of my explications of the perverse nature of the Southern paradox on this blog notwithstanding, I continue to get bombarded by folks who confuse emoting with thinking and insist--in the face of several explicit statements in ch. 4 to the effect that I believe slavery was an abomination and that the Civil War had to be fought to rout it--that I am a pro-slavery Southern apologist. And as someone else said, they are indeed proving my point, that the US is heavily composed of bone-heads. Yes, Dan, as a teacher I feel a responsibility; but what do you do when you are trying to reason with people who insist on drinking their own Kool Aid, and think its champagne? I get some small comfort out of the confirmation of my continuing argument that there really is no hope for the US, and that a good part of that is because Americans have chicken fat between their ears; but finally, as I'm sure all of you recognize, it's cold comfort indeed. Jesus, when I was in high school we were debating the ins and outs of issues as complex as these, and we were in our fucking teens. The clowns that are berating me here are adults, and yet have no idea as to the difference between an argument or an opinion, or what empirical evidence actually is, or--above all--what nuance or paradox are, and thus why historical analysis is not about angry, self-righteous slogans. And then when someone tells u that not posting a message is a crime in the US, you know u.r. not only dealing with buffoons, but possibly with borderline psychotic buffoons as well. As the saying goes, these people 'rest my case'--I don't hafta rest it myself.

Anyway, enuf o' this shit. These folks are going to think I'm pro-slavery to their dying day, so let's just let them and move on to more interesting topics. How about this, e.g.?:

Peace, Love, and CRE-

10:56 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...


I definitely see clearly what you are up against after reading the comments on this post. Not that I didn't realize I was firmly embedded in a great dolt empire, but I often found pockets (albeit very few and far between) of class and graciousness, and (fewer yet), some that possessed those qualities AND true thinking / discourse. This blog is among the latter, and one of the only I have found. I realize that even this respite is subject to seapage from the sewer that is the American collective unconscious. I also am now more aware than ever how difficult it is (impossible?) to have any sort of nuanced thinking with any issue that elicits any emotion, because Americans exist in the swamp of impulsivity; the feel/act pattern that leaves out cognitive processes altogether.

I guess the bottom line is I admire and dig you more than ever for this blog, seeing what a bunch of 'critiques' you've dealt with and how you've maintained your integrity, class, and respect for orthers throughout. sry for the long post. Gracias.

11:39 PM  
Anonymous bart said...

mb, I think it worth considering that the people writing in to the blog to disrupt it are paid trolls. This happens throughout the progressive universe. Thom Hartmann has pointed out that there are people paid by right wing funding sources to call into his program to disrupt whatever he's saying. They have scripts, i.e. "right-wing talking points" that they tiresomely parrot. In my opinion, Hartmann is far, far too tolerant of this stuff.

Most of Chris Hedges' pieces are visited my the same kind of trolls, who accuse him of every crime imaginable and it takes what could be some promising discussion of what he's written into name-calling and complete confusion. It produces exactly what the right wing wants... endless fog. It takes no more than a pair of them to throw the entire comment section into chaos.

Many people love to just see fights and insults...

The most coherent, intelligent and insightful writers are the ones who are harassed, and it appears you might be reaching a point of visibility where the right-wing thinks it worth putting these trolls to work.

My sense of things is that the people writing in now, because I noticed the same phenomenon JWO mentions, are paid trolls. The fact that they're all showing up in concert and all fixating on the spurious stupidity that you're pro-slavery is a sign that they're scripted and being paid to post... They're incredibly stupid... and haven't the slightest interest in a discussion or thinking about what you're saying. They clearly haven't even read what you've written.

Just like all liars they know that making misstatements will register in reader's minds. They feed on confusion. The main thing is for them to mischaracterize, make ad hominem attacks and completely destroy civility.

Obviously I'm speculating that this is the case but it's worth paying attention to at this point if you find this kind of coordinated posting where the subject is to accuse you of laughing at people without health care, being smugly superior, being pro-slavery.

This is, for me, the most impressive and intelligent blog out there in terms of your own writing and the people who contribute to it. It's great to encourage people with differing opinions to debate and express their thoughts. There's a big difference between the difference of opinion between you and Tao, where you both have valid, thought out opinions, and Heaton/Luke/Wes. The latter three strike me as varmints.

PS... This is overlong and no reason whatsoever to post it... Just giving you a heads up.

11:52 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Sign up for my new T-shirt series:




(No Wafer shd be w/o them; all 3 for $19.95 + s&h; Visa and Mastercard accepted.)


11:52 PM  
Blogger Reader said...

Mr. Berman,

I suggest you ignore/delete/don't publish/respond to the saboteurs; otherwise they will continue to dominate the conversation, as you well know.

12:09 AM  
Anonymous dookie said...

Wormhole transit and exit unpredictable.
Here are some excellent BBC documentaries on what the jolly old Englanders experienced as they unraveled in the mid-1600s

"History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme." Twain

" ... excellent three part BBC series on the English Civil War. I ask that you watch it on two levels:
First, to learn about these extremely important events that are not taught in public schools which dramatically impacted Anglo-American history, particularly regarding the background of the American Revolution, constitutional separation of powers, and the Bill of Rights.
Secondly, watch it as current events unfolding in contemporary America, on the dangers of fanaticism from earnestly-minded bigots from across the religious and political spectrum that fall prey to their ignorance and zealotry. If civil conflict and open warfare in the streets comes to American communities I am afraid that such armed militant groups appealing to the basest of motives of the lowest common denominator will prove dominant.
This series has superb production values with exceptional re-enacted dramatic portrayals of events, like watching a first class feature film."

1:22 AM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

MB, fame and controversy attract pranksters like gnats to a bug zapper. (For example, "wes mouch" is a villain in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.) These misbehaving children will move on if you stop posting them.

As to Ch 4's ruining yr rep, that's superb, a provocation engineered to get right under an author's skin! The vast majority of readers of WAF (ok, so that's a small absolute #) can get Ch 4. It is even presented too simply IMO. They misrepresent it merely for a handy stick to beat you with. You're the fellow who showed that America is over and wasn't great from the start - so, for plenty of people, ANY stick will do. Remember the NYT's DAA review? They used the "loony lefty" stick/schtick.

It ain't abt Ch 4 - FORGET Ch 4, ok? It's abt the whole gd book.

A source of some intelligent readers' angst (to the extent it sincerely exists) over Ch 4 may be that you present, and do not solve, a really ugly paradox as old as Man. Here is part of yr statement of it, heavily excerpted (p. 149): "After all, Athenian democracy depended [...] on having more than a million slaves working the silver mines, yet by and large we are great admirers of Athenian democracy [...] doesn't that come off as rather...grotesque?" Rather than face and ponder this horror (slavery is evil, but some otherwise valuable societies relied on it), these readers expect you to FIX it like Oprah. Stating it clearly and exploring it (or congruent matters) isn't enough; they expect you to end centuries of pain with a declarative sentence or maybe just an adverb. Well, this objection isn't a strong one, and they know that. A lot of "shoot the messenger" is involved here too I think.

Like any scholar, you've made an imperishable contribution, and hatred and misrepresentation is proof that you may be on yr way to classic status, even if only as a jr. partner to the world-historical greats. You are starting to become important enough for bastards all over the world to tell shameless lies about. The ride is bumpy. But Spinoza had it rougher, lacking really good corned beef. Apologies for length.

1:30 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

bart and Reader:

Hmm, that cd well be the case. It *is* in fact kind of odd how there was a 'convergence' of stuff on WAF ch. 4 and the topic of how awful I am in general (which I don't deny, BTW; I really am utterly and totally disgusting). It seemed like a sudden bombardment, all within a day or two. However, I really can't believe I'm visible in American culture; I'm no Chris Hedges, after all, no Thom Hartmann. In a nation of 311 million people, WAF sold something like 3,000 copies. It didn't get a single hardcopy review, and only two online. This is not exactly major exposure, and no one in America--left, rt, or center--has anything to fear from me. I have zero influence on this culture. The day Amy Goodman calls to interview me on "Democracy Now" will be when pigs fly. Jesus, the following on this blog is 100 at most. I practically don't exist.

In addition, the Civil War stirs up very deep emotions in America, because the truth is that it never ended. Emotions are often as raw now as they were in 1866. Gene Genovese pointed out that it was nearly impossible to say anything at all positive about the antebellum South, no matter how extensively you qualified it, w/o getting branded a racist and a proponent of slavery. So quite honestly, I knew what was coming; the more so since, as I've said ad nauseam, we are not dealing with an intelligent lay audience. Both Gene and myself use polysyllabic words, after all, and the last 50 yrs have witnessed the dramatic collapse of the American mind, as everyone here knows. When I was writing 'Twilight', in the late 90s, the # of Americans who were illiterate or functionally illiterate amounted to 120 million people. 15 yrs later, you can be sure the figure is much higher. The % who still read books--real books, not iPads--decreases steadily year by year. And so on.

I may be off-base here, but I have the feeling that a lot of these folks who accuse me of being pro-slavery really mean it, and are not part of some rt-wing troll operation. They mean it precisely because of what I just wrote: Americans are simply not very bright. Sit these folks down in front of a page of text from myself, Genovese, Eric Foner, or any decent cultural analyst and they wd be at a loss: they wd not be able to follow the line of reasoning beyond the 2nd sentence, and wd just paste their own 'interpretation' over that text. What they are primed to do is have a knee-jerk emotional reaction and then attack. They don't even know what dialogue is, finally. You cd be rt, that they are trolls and saboteurs, but maybe they are just poor shmucks. Did you know that the official medical figures are that at any given pt in time, 25% of the American public is mentally ill? When I first read this data, yrs ago, I was sure that it was far too low; that the real figure must be closer to 50%. The truth is that that mythical entity, The American People, is in a bad way, deeply troubled. I mean, what can ya say when someone writes in that it's a crime (actually illegal) not to post a message on a blog, and obviously believes it?

However, I think yr rt abt not indulging them anymore, regardless of who they are. For one thing, whatever their motives are, they are going to continue to see me and my work in only one way; nothing I can say will change that. For another, I'm quite tired of this discussion; it's not a lot of fun for me, critiquing the same flawed reasoning over and over again. So perhaps it's time to bid the trolls or shmucks (whichever they are) a fond farewell:

Sayonara, Trolls (or Shmucks); we hardly knew ye!


1:39 AM  
Anonymous satyaSarika said...

re: the story @

which comments on the fact of scarce resources in relation to human greed:

It is the eco-catastrophes in progress and those that await that keep me from being hopeful regarding any long term human future.

Bill Mckkiben's recent article, "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math", describing the carbon footprint of the known reserves of carbon-based energy combined with the fact of corporate greed don't speak well for long term survival. Among the many serious threats to life, the situation of the methane in the arctic adds yet another dire threat. See

The facts of these threats make me believe the international elites as embodied by corporate entities such as Dutch Royal Shell are a moronic bunch to rival Joe Schmoe America. I mean when we have caused the ecology we inhabit to change such that we can no longer live on the planet, what use is lotsa dough?

I mean if it can't buy chopped liver????

Then we have Pooty Poot going after the Pussy Riot gals....

So do we Americans really have a monopoloy on moronic attitudes?

I'd guess probably/perhaps yes as a whole population, but not compared to other government elites and corporate yo-yos.

4:05 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

9:55 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I guess we need Carlin now more than ever.


But I too, lack corned beef (sniff). I mean, chicken enchiladas are OK, but sometimes I have erotic dreams abt the Stage Deli in NY. (I think my favorite Seinfeld episode was the one where George was eating a pastrami sandwich in bed during sex. His girlfriend: "George, what are you DOING?")


I've often wondered exactly what a varmint is. I mean, is it a type of mint, like a chocolate mint, an After Eight? "Can I offer you a var mint?" And who did shoot Liberty Valance, anyway?

Anyway, I'm finished with posting about the Civil War, and refer all those who wish to continue that discussion to other blogs that have that as their primary focus. I'm not sure whether this blog was hit with a Blitz of Buffoons, a Torrent of Trolls, or a Seizure by Shmucks, but I think we can put all that behind us. However, just to make the Buffoons, or Trolls, or Shmucks--whoever you are--happy, let me say that my idea of the good life is that I sit on the veranda, or perhaps the levee (waiting for the Robert E. Lee), and say: "Rufus, I'll have another mint julep," and Rufus says, "Right away, massuh!" (I have no doubt that this sentence will be quoted in all future Buffoon/Troll/Shmuck articles about me.)

What a world we live in, eh?


10:39 AM  
Anonymous abc said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

And this world we live in is about to take yet another giant step toward incurable insanity. I'm sure you've all heard by now the lucky winner in the VP sweepstakes was none other than douchebag deluxe, Paul Ryan. From a profile introducing us to this genius:

In a 2005 speech to a group of [Ayn] Rand devotees called the Atlas Society, Ryan said that Rand was required reading for his office staff and interns. “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand,” he told the group. “The fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.”

No more free lunches all you liberal, chopped-liver-eating commies!!

11:12 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I was really excited to hear this. It cdn't be worse; which means, from the pt of view of this blog, better. I've got my fingers crossed for a Mittney-Ryan victory in November. By then I shall have completed my 5-vol. opus magnum, "Principles of Mittnism," and become the official White House Philosopher. And no more Obama; Jesu Cristi, no more Obama! Lord, Lord, free at last!


11:27 AM  
Blogger Noah Linden said...

Mittney will win the election; it's essentially guaranteed. Bombs will fall on Iran, Syria and Egypt, as well as Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, and Yemen...dropped by the American military.

There will be a dramatic increase in homelessness, with Mittney gutting the last of the social service programs and demolishing subsidized housing to make way for condos, strip malls and gas stations.

And America will become (if it isn't already) the most hated nation ever to exist.

1:58 PM  
Anonymous Stone said...

Yes, let's throw them trolls outta here.

We've all read their piffle, and methinks that in fact, whether they really be trolls or not, is irrelevant to the situation at hand: the strategy is the same, i.e., to throw discredit upon a work of history and social criticism and its author by creating much ado about a figment of the commentator's imagination that is tied to a hot-button issue: slavery and its terrible legacy of pain, anger, and guilt, to this very day. And the aim of said strategy is the same: to make people waste their time on a non-issue, to get people worked up, to get as many folks confused as possible, and thereby to bring the entire critical enterprise of Morris Berman's work into an ocean of fog, where all critique becomes blunted and neutralized by the haze.

Basically, we get the picture and enough fussing has been done. Time to draw the line and dispatch these folks to other shores.


2:21 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


But Obama is ldg in the polls. His negative attack ads are working. Mittney may go down in flames, and then we'll be left w/4 more yrs of Millard Fillmore. Ugh!


The thing is that despite the violence and stupidity of the trolls, I have a soft spot in my heart for them. I imagine them as being round and furry, and in need of being petted. Instead of attacking this blog, they shd form a Troll Liberation Front (TLF) to plead their cause. I mean, even trolls need love, no?


2:28 PM  
Anonymous Mike Alan said...

Gotta love Mittney's choice of Ryan. He's just what we need, an Ayn Rand disciple with enough of that usual over-the-edge cognitive dissonance (or hypocrisy, but they are usually too deledued themselves to understand the hypocrisy). The Mittney/Ryan ticket isn't just stepping on the accelerator, it's like flipping the switch on the Nitrous-Oxide injector about 30 yards from the brick wall, cliff's edge, etc... Not only that, these two clueless buffoons are sure to stir up much more hostility in the half awake segments of the 90-99% sheople crowd against the 1-7% crowd to whom Mittney will cater.

There's a lot to look forward to in a Mittney/Ryan win, but one of the best moments will come when the deluded Tea Partiers finally realize that their boy Ryan didn't really include them in the club of the "haves". You can be sure Mittney will bow down nicely for his owners while screwing the Tea Party folks. Meanwhile Ryan will feed them lip service and Rand quotes to explain it all away while blaming it all on Obama. You know, the usual schtick. The few bright bulbs in the TP movement might start to see through the BS and rile up the vast array of dimmer bulbs in the crew. Then, as these folks come to realize that their own antiquated, hierarchical, backward-looking paradign has failed them yet again (after Ron Paul dropped out) could be quite entertaining to watch.

Looks like they've got the cars in the pits for the demo derby. The mechanics and drivers are looking over the engines and tires and getting things ready as the crowds start filling the stands. The more observant race fans have noticed there are many more ambulances sitting idly by at this race and they aren't just for the drivers thisd time around, plus they are closing off the exits. It's going to be an exciting race!

4:41 PM  
Blogger LJansen said...

Trolls: Sez MB -- "I imagine them as being round and furry, and in need of being petted."

No no no. You're describing tribbles, not trolls!

"To protect a space station with a vital grain shipment, Kirk must deal with Federation bureaucrats, a Klingon battle cruiser and a peddler who sells furry, purring, hungry little creatures as pets." [Description of Startrek episode "The Trouble with Tribbles"]

4:46 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yr probably rt, altho my original inspiration was Leibniz's monads. I studied this in grad school (briefly), and always thought of them as round and furry. But it's possible that this cannot be transferred to trolls. I never did watch Stardreck, in any case.

That being said, I confess to being exhausted by the recent tsunami of trolls that hit this blog. Or perhaps shmucks, if we wish to avoid looking at the whole thing as an anti-Berman conspiracy (Jesus, who the fuck wd bother, anyway? A minor blog of a minor author in a galaxy far far away...).

"Where have all the trolls gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the trolls gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the trolls gone?
Wafers have picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?"
(With apologies to Pete Seeger)

Wafers are encouraged to submit possible songs about trolls. Not that I miss them, but I think some sort of eulogy might be kinda nice.


5:35 PM  
Blogger Reader said...

Mr. Berman, you stated that you have few followers who read your blog and that you basically "don't exist." Your blog is the best reading that I've found in a very long time and I've already shared it with two acquaintances of mine whom I know will appreciate it, as well. I agree with bart and Sanctuary, you are, no doubt, being noticed in the greater arena. I am pleased to have found you, briefly, in this arena before that occurs. All of my best to you, sir.

6:07 PM  
Anonymous bart said...


Trolls, according to wiki, are supernatural beings in Norse mythology and can be synonymous with witches, berserkers and various other evil magical figures....

Here's one that, although I'm just taking a guess, strikes me as a berserker:

6:39 PM  
Blogger Reader said...

Troll song

6:42 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

I'm not the go-to guy on troll mythology, but I recall a few SNL sketches that involved them living under bridges, and so...

Like a bridge over troll-bled waters

Troll-bled waters might be doing semantic double time...if any further trolls get sliced & diced with the Berman wit we have come to relish...

And there's this, just because I always think of a bridge being involved somewhere along the getaway route...

And as long as we're on the bridge songs theme, I'm pretty sure there was a bridge involved with the disappearance of Eddie in the movie that gave us Eddie and the Cruisers.

Yeah, it's a 'channeling' of Springsteen's She's the One, but for a song in a movie, give 'em marks for taste wrt what to steal/borrow from.

6:43 PM  
Blogger LJansen said...

Anti-troll tonic: MB interview w/Tom Hartman posted on Jesse's Cafe Americain blog:

Pardon if posted before.

6:57 PM  
Blogger Reader said...

Trolls, trolls, their gang’s all here,
The Devil’s nipping at your heals,
Your truth and fame they hope to steal.

Trolls, trolls, their gang’s still here,
They leave their garbage at your door,
And they’re not going anywhere.

Trolls, trolls, the gang just left,
Cause when the going got tough
Your friends got just a little rough and ...
You know your friends are always here!

7:58 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Dr. Berman,

Re: WAF Chapter 4 Critics – Cretins or Conspirators?

It has to happen sooner or later to an author who writes intelligent books requiring intelligent readers in a land predominantly populated by dolts. Whether or not these people are exhibiting what the Inquisition called “invincible ignorance”, or are part of some dirty-tricks campaign is probably irrelevant – it’s a waste of time trying to argue with them.

I think a similar thing happened to Ivan Illich back in the early eighties when he published his book “Gender”. I don’t think he was in any way arguing against women’s rights or that they should be (remain) second-class citizens, but instead that sex and gender were not the same thing, and that the whole subject was incredibly complicated. Unfortunately, most “progressives” at the time were a little too simple-minded for such complexity, and Illich was crucified.

The same kind of thing frequently happens with Amazon book reviews. If someone writes an interesting and intelligent book about the Bible for example, it will start getting one-star reviews blasting the author for denying that the Bible is the “inerrant-word-of-God”!

Apparently this has begun to happen to WAF, which your feeble-minded critics actually use as ‘evidence’ that they are correct! Not to worry; intelligent people read between the lines in Amazon book reviews. (Back in New York in the sixties ‘CUE Magazine’ gave a brief review of every movie playing in the NY area. I used to look for a certain kind of bad review which told me I would like the film.)

David Rosen

8:02 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Thanks everybody for yr support. As far as troll songs and commentary, we seem to have an embarrassment of riches here. Ty: the following lyrics had me weeping:

"When you're weary
Feeling small
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all

"I'm on your side
When times get rough
And friends just can't be found
Like a bridge over troll-bled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troll-bled water
I will lay me down..."

Then I thought of this, and felt a bit more upbeat:

"Well I'm not braggin', babe, so don't put me down
But I've got the fastest set of trolls in town
When something comes up to me he don't even try
'Cos if I had a set of wings, man, I know she could fly
She's my little deuce troll
You don't know what I got..."

Anyway, we have hopefully weathered the trollnami, and now can sing about it. It's funny: you keep saying that the country is filled w/mental defectives, but when they show up en masse...Well hell, it's impressive.

"She's my little deuce troll..."


11:32 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Sorry, I seem to be out of con-troll here (with apologies to Louis Armstrong):

"Oh when the trolls go marching in
When the trolls go marching in
Oh lord I want to be in that number
When the trolls go marching in"

12:47 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

More good news:

8:41 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

Morris Berman is the most sensible, healthy and well-spoken individual I have ever come across.

Thank you Senor.

Watching the Thom Hartman interview was a real treat this Sunday morning. Talk about Great Minds! What we got here is Socrates, MLK, Ghandi, Voltaire, Vidal, Jesus, Einstein, The Great Carlin, Henry George, Schumacher and on and on and on....

8:45 AM  
Blogger Noah Linden said...


The latest link you posted is exactly why I will be leaving the USA once I am done with my college training. It baffles me that Americans could not care less that their every conversation and every action is being meticulously monitored and recorded by the government, and that any of them could be whisked away to be tortured and/or killed in the most painful way possible without evidence or a trial.

Fascism has come to America. What's more, most Americans welcome this. They think it will protect them, even though it has stripped them of all their civil liberties. This reminds me of nothing so much as the thinking by many Americans that people would be safer if everyone owned an AK-47.

I can't live in a place where people love their fascist government. How am I supposed to make friends? I'd have to say things like "You know, Bob, I think it's absolutely FANTASTIC that they passed that law that says anyone can be tortured and killed, without evidence or trial. It makes me feel so darn SAFE, knowing our government is sacrificing so much to help us."

And then Bob would smile enthusiastically in agreement. You're right: Americans have the laws, and the government, they desire. The reason, I think, is that it offers most Americans what they really want: a shot at becoming the next sociopathic, fascist dictator, or the next sociopathic corporate CEO, no matter how slim. Do I believe most Americans are this ill-intentioned? Yes, I do.

But as you have pointed out, it is not so elsewhere. I plan on moving to Ireland, a country that is not imperialist or warmonger-ish in any way. People from Asia and Latin America are far more likely to be civil and loving; I cannot tell you how many sweet people I have met from these places.

9:04 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, I doubt I'm quite at the level of that star-studded cast, but I appreciate the sentiment anyway. I did write Mr. Obama, suggesting that they add one more head to Mt. Rushmore, but thus far I haven't heard back. (I know he's busy with surveillance and torture and assassination of American citizens, so it will probably take a while.)


10:04 AM  
Anonymous Hey, Nonny Moose! said...

On a different topic, how goes the search for a publisher for the book on spiritual matters that you mentioned? Would you be willing to say more about it, perhaps in another post, with excerpts? I'm sure I am not the only one who is curious, especially as it sounds like a more positive--and I assume NMI oriented--counterweight to all the (perfectly justified) negativity that otherwise dominates the forum.

And on a less elevated note, I just want to mention that the expression I used in a previous post, "stomp someone into a mudhole", is an old Southern colloquialism that I thought would be at least mildly amusing in context. I did not expect my interlocutor to catch that aspect of it, but I hoped he might at least grasp that its use was metaphorical and hyperbolic. Oh, well....

10:28 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanks for your interest. Yeah, perhaps a bit more optimistic on an individual level, but nothing that Oprah wd approve of (thank god). I'm still searching around, asking folks who may have publishing contacts if they can get someone to at least read it. My Mexican publisher read it and said Yes! immediately, so it'll be out in Spanish trans next yr. What an irony. You see, down here, money doesn't necessarily come first; Mexicans know that there's more to life than just dinero. North of the border, that's all that counts, so my little bk may never see the light of day (in English). I'm still hoping something will break, however.

As for stomping...more aggressive than metaphorical, I suspect. I do think you attacked him personally. Hopefully, we can get beyond that.


10:35 AM  
Anonymous Hey, Nonny Moose! said...

Not for publication, but just a quick note to you:

"As for stomping...more aggressive than metaphorical, I suspect. I do think you attacked him personally."

Not at all, and I don't appreciate the implication that I am lying--itself a "personal attack", I'd say, as well as a baseless one.

As for "getting beyond all that", the simplest solution is that I simply not post here again, so I leave it to the rest of you. Best wishes in your endeavors.

11:01 AM  
Anonymous bart said...

A pedantic, folkloric note.

Being a Southerner on my father's side and personally familiar with many Southern colloquialisms, I have to question the phrase "stomp someone into a mudhole."

The only Southern colloquialism I'm familiar with in connection with mudholes is the threat to "stomp a mudhole in your ass", generally used to intimidate or threaten someone .

Something along these lines:

Parenthentically, perhaps from my having Southern roots, I never had any problem whatsoever with WAF's Ch.4. I think it spectacularly insightful and well-reasoned.

11:36 AM  
Blogger gerald spezio said...

Geists, spirits, witches, thoughts, ideas, as in the spontaneous generation of maggots.

Sociopaths & their pathologies ARISE & take over everything providing work-a-plenty for literary wordsmiths.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

To pick up a possible thread here, from abc's earlier remarks on Joe Bageant, and the condemnation or noncondemnation of dolts etc.:


You may know that Joe and I corresponded a bit, before he died, and that I wrote a eulogy for him after (it's posted in the Archives here, under "Rainbow Pie"). Yes, he was a big-hearted guy, and I admired him greatly; but his indiscriminate generosity left him impotent in terms of solution to the mess he was describing, and possibly oblivious to the dangers posed by the folks he saw (rightly) as brainwashed by the system. Here's what I'm getting at:

1. Victims are not just victims, as I've said repeatedly. They buy into the system and reproduce it: hence, metaphorically, consensual sex rather than rape, it seems to me. I don't think Joe addressed this issue, and it left him frustrated and torn up inside.

2. Victims also become victimizers, and this is where judgment becomes very important. The NYPD (e.g.) are not your friends. They participate in heavy surveillance of citizens; they destroy libraries at the order of their (Jewish) mayor; and they have no compunction about beating up protesters in peaceful demonstrations. I'm a little leery of letting them off the hook as 'victims of the system,' in short. When Ronald Reagan went to the cemetery near Bitburg in 1985, where 49 members of the Waffen-SS were buried, to lay a wreath there--and refused, BTW, to visit a concentration camp--he said the following:

"These [SS troops] were the villains, as we know, that conducted the persecutions and all. But there are 2,000 graves there, and most of those, the average age is about 18. I think that there's nothing wrong with visiting that cemetery where those young men are victims of Nazism also, even though they were fighting in the German uniform, drafted into service to carry out the hateful wishes of the Nazis. They were victims, just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps."

Consider how nuts, and dangerous, that last sentence is: The SS were as much victims as the children they gassed. Whew! That's a lot to digest (without vomiting).

3. So Joe was not able to come up with any recommendations, as a result. Which is OK, really; pointing out the problem as well as he did was a great contribution. But I personally felt/feel the need to suggest ways out, and I don't think I wd have been able to do that from a position of 'we're all screwed by this system'. Not that my recs are so great, but let me repeat them anyway:

a) The NMI option, outlined in the Twilight book. What might be called an 'inner' emigration: mentally breaking with the dominant culture; working to preserve the treasures of American civilization; and, I wd add now, in retrospect, working on alternative ways of functioning, esp. in terms of economic alternatives to what we have now.

b) Outer emigration--hitting the road, simply leaving the country. This does not exclude option (a), I hasten to add.

c) Political emigration. I.e., leaving the country, but with a large group of your friends. This is commonly known as secession, and such movements do exist in the US today. (It also does not nec exclude option a.) At present, the secessionists have no power to carry out their plans, because of the military strength of the central government. But in 30 or 40 years, the situation may be very different, and who knows what will be possible by then.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents on the subject. Heart is good, of course, but it hasta work together w/head, or else we just get stuck.


12:34 PM  
Blogger gerald spezio said...

In thirty or forty years we will have found the all causative animating GEISTS & cast them out of our "minds."
The power of lit crit & mentalistic solutions will free us from pesttilence, sin, corruption, lawyering, & lobbying in general.
Joe Bags & I would correspond also.
Joe called me one of "those scientist types."
Joe never found the all causative Geists before he died, but he sure looked for them.

1:27 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


True, but at least he was not beset by trolls, which is saying something. And in 30 yrs, trolls may take over the world. Now there's something to chew on, mate!


1:48 PM  
Blogger gerald spezio said...

Morris, you are not so much beset by trolls as you are beset by mentalism & lit crit.
You are still immersed in the same "ideation" as you openly exhibited in your florid book, The Re-enchantment of the Earth.
What conditions the Geists?

2:50 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I think you have misunderstood and mischaracterized my work; and I'm certainly not very interested in lit crit. But this wd be a very long discussion/digression, and my present focus has changed somewhat since 1981, so I'm going to hafta pass. BTW, that wasn't the title of my bk.


2:57 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I had to post you because I need to reply. If you want to write to me personally, so I can reply personally, it's

I'm sorry u.r. signing off; of course, u.r. free to do whatever you want. But saying that my statement that I disagree w/u, on attacking Ray personally, is equivalent to calling u a liar, is certainly mistaken; a rather large non sequitur, in fact. I think u.r. misguided; I think u are kidding yrself; and I think yr not aware of how u come across; but I don't think you are deliberately telling an untruth. There's a big difference, after all. A disagreement is not necessarily an attribution of bad motives, mon cher. In any case, I was not saying or implying that you were lying, and u need to think abt that. Or at least, I hope u will.


3:36 PM  
Anonymous abc said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I don't know if you're aware of it or not but in the introduction to Bageant's last book, Waltzing at the Doomsday Ball, Ken Smith referred to you:

"One book that Joe often referred to in conversation was Dark Ages America: the final phase of Empire by Morris Berman."

It went on to further elaborate your influence on him.

I read your eulogy after his death and, though I didn't know him, I would have to think he'd be very pleased. A pity you two never met.

Rather than use the metaphor of consensual sex or seduction (inferring someone's having fun), a more apt description for me is poisoning the well. I know you've said you don't watch the news anymore but I do every night. It's enlightening--not the actual "news" mind you--but what's reported, what's omitted and how it's presented. It's relentless propaganda, misinformation and all topped off with maudlin human interest stories. I guess what I'm trying to understand, and may never understand, is this: if people aren't taught how to think, or presented with thought provoking information rather than hyped up crap that passes for "debate", then exactly how responsible are they? I don't know the answer to that. I only know people are very easily led and manipulated into nonsense and I cut them a lot of slack b/c of that--maybe too much. A nation that twice voted Reagan into office and consistently ranks him as a great president goes a long way towards making your argument stick. I hadn't heard about his visit to the German cemetery but how perfectly in character for him. Pathetic and inexcusable.

But I take your point on victims--"Victims also become victimizers, and this is where judgment becomes very important." Ultimately, we have to face what our participation has been and hold other people accountable for theirs too. And if they (or I) prove to be dolts or worse, well, that's reality and it shouldn't be sugar-coated with the excuse "they were brainwashed"or "it's all they know."

6:50 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Ken does write to me from time to time, but I was unaware of the tribute in "Waltzing" (I haven't read it). But I think Ken may have mentioned something abt Joe rdg DAA, in an email, I'm not sure.

As for poisoning the well (I much prefer consensual sex), some people do manage not to drink the Kool Aid. We're not in The Matrix quite yet, I guess, and the nation isn't 100% sociopathic. It's just that we don' wanna get to the position where everything is excused, as u say, because 'the devil made me do it', or some such thing. I don't know who brainwashed Cheney and Rumsfeld and their ilk, but they need to be put on trial at The Hague for crimes against humanity, no matter what their childhood was like (very bad, I'm guessing).


7:04 PM  
Anonymous Zero said...

I must admit, I have greatly rejoiced over Mittney's picking of Paul Ryan for VP. That shows vision, gusto and intestinal fortitude. Finally, the empire is about to enter its dark ages much sooner than expected.

Thank you Mittney! Thank you! You've earned my vote in November.

7:22 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

"We were brainwashed," "it's all we knew," "we knew nothing about it" are dubious excuses, certainly. They are the same words uttered by Germans after der Fuhrer went kaput.

"When we entered Germany in the last days of the war," said one American officer (sorry, can't remember his name), "we couldn't find a single German civilian who had not been in the resistance movement."

Does anyone really think Schultz (on TV's "Hogan's Heroes") Knew Nuttink? Similarly, it's hard to believe that most Americans - who are always ready to entertain a good "conspiracy theory" - have no inkling of the crimes of the Empire; or do not even rejoice in them. Drones that zap terrace: a cool tool to fight evil. Coolies' laboring to bring us electronic toys for starvation wages: evidence of the virtuousness of capitalism (per Paul Ryan's spiritual core, the best-selling ideas of Ayn Rand). We're number one! Bomb Iran!

What will a future Daniel Goldhagen say about present-day Americans? How wrong will he be? Long past time to look long and hard in the mirror. Won't happen, tho.

Peace and be well,
& O&D

12:29 AM  
Anonymous satyaSarika said...

Dear Dr MB

Seems to me you and Joe Bageant's ways weren't that different apart from style. He seemed more of a softie and you seem a tad more acerbic, but beyond the public personas, ... Didn't know Joe real well aside from his work tho I talked to him online a few times. He was always very kind to me. He was definitely a down-home individual. Seems his choices were similar to your own in some significant ways ... ie he spent quite some time out of the US and was in Mexico when he got struck down by the cancer. Main difference, it seems to me, was that he had some real strong family ties in the states. For all I know, you may have same ... but haven't got that feeling from things you've said.

I look forward to reading your little spiritual tome in the spanish. Don't have enough practice for speaking but can read the spanish pretty well. I trust you will let us know when it comes out.

I'm feeling really happy to have started your book, Wandering God. I know I've got many happy hours before me enjoying your clear critiques and fresh views. Right now I just finished the long footnote describing how mythologists' preconceptions have greatly biased the analysis of comparative religious/spiritual beliefs in Paleolithic cultures.

Like a long fresh drink of water.

Really appreciate your work!

1:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Prof. Berman,

Regarding your feelings about Joe Bageant...I agree with you. Joe replied kindly to two emails I wrote him - personal emails that he certainly didn’t need to write. I was just one of his many fans. But he was a mensch, the kind of person my hillbilly mom would’ve said “he’s good people”. He did romanticize the white trash segment of America, especially their mindless and dangerous obsession with guns. Perhaps he understood my “tribe” better than me, but the white Appalachian working class in the US is brainwashed even more than the norm. They are a lumpy proletariat that is largely functionally illiterate, exploited mercilessly by the American elites.
Joe felt they were authentic, but to me they are simply willfully ignorant.

My own background and what I experienced when I worked for the media elite as a librarian for many years has made me an NMI. Thank you for your summary outlining inner and outer emigration and political emigration. There’s nowhere to go really for the third option: political emigration..a group of likeminded people can’t start a country just yet, although that could change in the future. If I were a better political organizer or politician, perhaps I’d take my own project Alphistia “on the road”. But I seem to be afraid of trolls, both on the web and in real life :)
But I will offer my own manifesto as a message in a bottle if I may provide the link: Even as fantasy it could provide discussion here and elsewhere of what kind of society WAFers etc would WANT to live in.

BTW, your trolls are a lot more polite and sane than the many nuts who congregate over at James Howard Kunstler’s weekly blog. It’s sad that he doesn’t ban the neo-nazis and other crazies that pop up week after week over there.

2:31 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Many thanks. WG is, in many ways, my best bk; or so it seems to me. I hope u enjoy it.


Yeah, eventually the US is going to need its own Goldhagen, to write up the story of how we gave up our civil liberties w/o a peep, and didn't know or care about torture, assassination, and the like. Or how we embraced an economic system that left something like 1/3 of the country in poverty, or technological toys that destroyed human interaction in the guise of promoting it--etc. The whole thing makes you wonder. I remember being in a taxi in NY a few yrs ago; the driver was from Senegal, and it turned out he had also been a taxi driver in a few European cities before coming to the US. I asked him his impressions of Europeans vs. Americans, and he said, "Europeans tend to think abt what's happening; Americans are like robots, they just do whatever they're told." Obviously he wasn't working me for a tip!


2:48 AM  
Blogger Zosima said...

A met a Senegalese man while staying a youth hostel in Greece when I visited in 1990, he helped a novice traveler buy ferry boat tickets, he was educated in Paris, spoke French, English and Greek. He was there to make some money helping with the citrus harvest. I felt every bit his inferior intellectually and as a human being. Ah, the joys of travel outside the US, to meet such wonderful people!

3:53 AM  
Anonymous Zero said...


Reading your post makes me wanna shout: "USA! USA! USA!"


Regarding the taxi from Senegal, my observation too over the years is that if you want to get a logical clear-minded analysis of American society, your best bet is to talk to immigrants like that guy, who do the lower jobs. On the other hand, talking to educated immigrants is often a waste of time, as they commonly become more brainwadhed and lacking of common sense than the Americans born and raised in the US.

Just my $0.02

8:10 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I don't know where u live, but u might wanna contact the folks at the Second Vermont Republic. Altho I think secession is going to take 3 to 4 decades, they are talking in terms of 1. Might be interesting 4u, in any case.


8:46 AM  
Anonymous bart said...

Along the line of Willing Executioners, here's a speech given by American General Wesley Clark, blithely mentioning the plans he was told about at the time of 9/11 to attack and remove governments in the following seven countries over 5 years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran.... and how far along these plans have come.

This speech was given in 2007,,, Where is the American press in all this time? Does Clark ever mention this again?

Would any Americans remotely care that after 9/11 their country planned to take over the governments of 7 countries? Or is that, at this point, just our God-given right?

I'd known that PNAC had Iraq invasion plans well in advance of 9/11... but the stark insanity of the rest of our plans for world conquest was conveyed to me for the first time below on two completely obscure blogs:

8:54 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Once again, I'm struck/annoyed by the restraint being shown by the US Gov't. Only 7? Last time I checked, the UN listed 158 independent nations in the world. What about those? Time to get cracking!


9:24 AM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...


How did I overlook the obvious troll anthem ?

I was seriously thinking about hiding the receiver
When the switch broke 'cause it's old
They're saying things that I can hardly believe
They really think we're getting out of con-troll

Oh, and don't worry about the NSA/CIA/BFD committee down in the basement in that undisclosed location...
they do 7 at a time so that by the time they get to the 158th country the original 7 have devolved to the point that they need to be tuned-up again by Uncle Sam.
Of all the Devil's creatures, they best understand that God's Favorite Country needs a continuous supply of Adversaries.

3:07 PM  
Anonymous Ken Smith said...

Thanks to all above for the mentions of Joe Bageant. He was a good friend and I'm keeping his website active. (

What a pleasant surprise to learn that a copy of Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir made it all the way to a used book store in Costa Rica. I'm convinced that this book is better than Joe's first book, Deer Hunting with Jesus, published by Random House. Despite Deer Hunting doing very well and still selling, Random House and other every major US publisher turned down Rainbow Pie. It was published in Australia where it made the best seller list.

Rainbow Pie started as a collection of old essays that Joe had sitting in a cardboard box at his home in Virginia. I was visiting Joe, read some of these essays, and convinced him that we should post them on his website. I made a sub-domain called Things Southern.

Somehow, these old essays caught the eye of somebody at Plan B Productions (Brad Pitt's company), and an option was sold to HBO. The actor and screen writer Ray McKinnon (the coach in Blind Side, the reverend in Deadwood,) was hired to write a script. Joe's contract with Plan B and HBO required that I remove Things Southern from the website. I received an email from Ray some months ago saying the script was finished, but HBO lost interest.

The third Bageant book is Waltzing at the Doomsday Ball: The Best of Joe Bageant. After Joe died 18 months ago, his Australian publisher asked me to select a couple dozen of Joe's online essays to be published as a book. All of these essays are available for free online, along with my introduction and bio, but the publisher believes there are enough people who prefer to read a real book rather than a computer monitor.

4:12 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Gd hearing from u again. Listen, a question 4u, but please go to my latest post, as this one is quickly running outta space.


4:23 PM  
Anonymous Sharon said...

Greetings Morris-

Did not know where to stick this but wanted you to know that I am OUT and living in Italy now. (You said to hurry and I did.!) This journey began with TWILIGHT.

The "culture shock" is not in adapting to the new country but in truly seeing the old one as it is.

You are a splendid scout. Thank you.

12:52 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Sharon,

Gd hearing from u, but it's best to send messages to the most recent post, esp. since the capacity on this one is just abt full. Thanks. Meanwhile, this is fantastic! I often urge Americans to hit the rd, assuming that less than 1% of those hearing the message will; but u did it! And Italy is such a great place to be. While I'm sure I can't change the US, I'm happy to rescue the 465 intelligent Americans (give or take) who still exist, fish them outta the drink, so to speak. And yes, the US does look very different from the outside, non e vero? Pazzo, to be honest abt it. Writing in Der Spiegel last yr, Jakob Augstein called the country "politically insane," and said it was not really part of the West any longer. Good luck,and stay in touch.


5:55 AM  
Blogger boxcarro said...

Charles Dickins was critical of the American Psychopathology

11:59 AM  

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