Quote of the Day: Plus ça Change

 

“From their roosts in the great cities, and certain collegiate eyries, the left wing intellectuals of almost every feather (and that was most of the intellectuals in the country) swooped and fluttered in flocks like sea fowl – puffins, skimmers, skuas and boobies – and gave vent to hoarse cries and defilements. … No depravity was too bizarre to ‘explain’ Chambers motives for calling Hiss a communist. No hypothesis was too preposterous, no speculation too fantastic, to ‘explain’ how all those State Department documents came to be copied on Hiss’s Woodstock typewriter. Only the truth became too preposterous to entertain.”– Witness, Whittaker Chambers

I was born in 1952, the year that Whittaker Chambers publisher Witness. For all these years I somehow missed out on learning much about the late 1940s and the events that led up to the Hiss trial and eventually the McCarthy hearings. I finally picked up a copy of Witness and set about plugging the gaps in my education. The book is something of a hard slog as Chambers tends towards the philosophical and only sprinkles in the narrative at intervals but it is well worth a read if you have not.

It occurred to me several times that what Chambers wrote could just as well have been written in an online column today. It has been 67 years since these words were published. The leftists we struggle against today are a second or third generation removed from the leftists of early post-war years but the the tactics are instantly recognizable. You have to give them credit for persistence.

Can we hang hang on long enough to beat them in the long game? I think so. What do you think?

The more things change …

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There are 14 comments.

  1. Al French, sad sack Member

    Chambers didn’t think so. He famously opined that, when he abandoned communism, he was switching from the winning to the losing side.

    You are correct that the book, while a long slog, is definitely worth the read.

    • #1
    • October 6, 2019, at 7:42 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  2. Vectorman Thatcher

    TC Chef: It has been 67 years since these words were published. The leftists we struggle against today are a second or third generation removed from the leftists of early post-war years but the the tactics are instantly recognizable. You have to give them credit for persistence.

    The hard core leftists have always been less than 10% of the population. In the 1950’s-1980’s the middle and right Americans believed in basic (Judaeo-Christian) morals. We would argue and allow a few leftist values such as Welfare, Abortion, and Same Sex “Marriage” to keep the peace. Without a common moral system, it’s now much harder to stop them.


    The Quote of the Day series is the easiest way to start a fun conversation on Ricochet. There are only 6 open days left on the October Signup Sheet. We even include tips for finding great quotes, so choose your favorite quote and sign up today!

    • #2
    • October 6, 2019, at 7:48 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  3. philo Member

    TC Chef: Can we hang on long enough to beat them in the long game?

    If, as I suspect, the definition of “long game” extends well beyond the current Republic, then that would be a definite “maybe.” 

    I hate to break it to you but “we” have been losing ground steadily, if not since late 1901 then certainly since 1913. Today the combined forces of the worst Elected Ruling Class ever and the corrupt to the core Deep State (no “so-called” here you local buffoons) possess all of the high ground save ONE seat. And even if they cannot take that one by force sooner they will get it in 2025 (or 2029 at the latest). The damage they do between now and then will continue to be massive (and non-reversible). The retribution after that point will be even worse. The sun is setting on this little experiment.

    In this “fatalism” the hope in the “long game” comes from Chambers himself (as quoted by W. F. Buckley in the forward of my 50th anniversary edition of WITNESS):

    “It is idle to talk about preventing the wreck of Western civilization. It is already a wreck from within. That is why we can hope to do little more now than snatch a fingernail of a saint from the rack or a handful of ashes from the faggots, and bury them secretly in a flowerpot against the day, ages hence, when a few men begin again to dare to believe that there was once something else, that something else is thinkable, and need some evidence of what it was, and the fortifying knowledge that there were those who, at the great nightfall, took loving thought to preserve the tokens of hope and truth.” – Pages vi–vii

    • #3
    • October 6, 2019, at 8:18 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  4. HankMorgan Coolidge

    • #4
    • October 6, 2019, at 11:39 AM PDT
    • Like
  5. TC Chef Coolidge
    TC Chef Post author

    philo (View Comment):

    TC Chef: Can we hang on long enough to beat them in the long game?

    If, as I suspect, the definition of “long game” extends well beyond the current Republic, then that would be a definite “maybe.”

    I hate to break it to you but “we” have been losing ground steadily, if not since late 1901 then certainly since 1913. Today the combined forces of the worst Elected Ruling Class ever and the corrupt to the core Deep State (no “so-called” here you local buffoons) possess all of the high ground save ONE seat. And even if they cannot take that one by force sooner they will get it in 2025 (or 2029 at the latest). The damage they do between now and then will continue to be massive (and non-reversible). The retribution after that point will be even worse. The sun is setting on this little experiment.

    In this “fatalism” the hope in the “long game” comes from Chambers himself (as quoted by W. F. Buckley in the forward of my 50th anniversary edition of WITNESS):

    “It is idle to talk about preventing the wreck of Western civilization. It is already a wreck from within. That is why we can hope to do little more now than snatch a fingernail of a saint from the rack or a handful of ashes from the faggots, and bury them secretly in a flowerpot against the day, ages hence, when a few men begin again to dare to believe that there was once something else, that something else is thinkable, and need some evidence of what it was, and the fortifying knowledge that there were those who, at the great nightfall, took loving thought to preserve the tokens of hope and truth.” – Pages vi–vii

    Thanks for the additional quote philo. Chambers really did have a defeatist streak. I found myself not in agreement. No question that conservatism has been on the defensive since 1913 or before. However, I am not ready to throw in the towel. Even my lefty relatives have a core of decency and I believe there is a point where they will say (as Chambers did) , “no more, this is wrong”.

    • #5
    • October 6, 2019, at 5:52 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  6. Old Bathos Member

    On the one hand, the global Communist threat is largely gone but on the other, the American elite is more monolithically anti-American, anti-freedom.

    The Algiers Hiss case was open class warfare. Patrician Hiss versus grubby commoners Chambers & Nixon. The Ivy Leaguers who populated 100% of the top echelons in State and CIA resented the idea of one of their own being called to account by lesser types-guilt or innocence was a secondary concern. The FBI (lots of ethnic Catholics and small town non-patrician Protestants) versus State Dept also fit the class divide.

    Feels like the class war is back. In spades. And the left holds more ground.

    • #6
    • October 6, 2019, at 6:28 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  7. philo Member

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    On the one hand, the global Communist threat is largely gone but on the other, the American elite is more monolithically anti-American, anti-freedom.

    The Algiers Hiss case was open class warfare. Patrician Hiss versus grubby commoners Chambers & Nixon. The Ivy Leaguers who populated 100% of the top echelons in State and CIA resented the idea of one of their own being called to account by lesser types-guilt or innocence was a secondary concern. The FBI (lots of ethnic Catholics and small town non-patrician Protestants) versus State Dept also fit the class divide.

    Feels like the class war is back. In spades. And the left holds more ground.

    Directly from the book:

    No feature of the Hiss Case is more obvious, or more troubling as history, than the jagged fissure, which it did not so much open as reveal, between the plain man and women of the nation, and those who affected to act, think and speak for them. It was, not invariably, but in general, the “best people” who were for Alger Hiss and who were prepared to go to almost any length to protect and defend him. It was the enlightened and the powerful, the clamorous proponents of the open mind and the common man, who snapped their mind shut in a pro-Hiss psychosis, of a kind which, in an individual patient, means the simple failure of the ability to distinguish between reality and unreality, and, in a nation, is a warning of the end. – Page 793

    • #7
    • October 6, 2019, at 6:38 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  8. I Walton Member

    philo (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    On the one hand, the global Communist threat is largely gone but on the other, the American elite is more monolithically anti-American, anti-freedom.

    The Algiers Hiss case was open class warfare. Patrician Hiss versus grubby commoners Chambers & Nixon. The Ivy Leaguers who populated 100% of the top echelons in State and CIA resented the idea of one of their own being called to account by lesser types-guilt or innocence was a secondary concern. The FBI (lots of ethnic Catholics and small town non-patrician Protestants) versus State Dept also fit the class divide.

    Feels like the class war is back. In spades. And the left holds more ground.

    Directly from the book:

    No feature of the Hiss Case is more obvious, or more troubling as history, than the jagged fissure, which it did not so much open as reveal, between the plain man and women of the nation, and those who affected to act, think and speak for them. It was, not invariably, but in general, the “best people” who were for Alger Hiss and who were prepared to go to almost any length to protect and defend him. It was the enlightened and the powerful, the clamorous proponents of the open mind and the common man, who snapped their mind shut in a pro-Hiss psychosis, of a kind which, in an individual patient, means the simple failure of the ability to distinguish between reality and unreality, and, in a nation, is a warning of the end. – Page 793

    Indeed, and in those days most of the nation was not so gullible and willing to believe what the top told them. Now a huge chunk of the population just goes along, I mean, whatever! We must take our schools and mainstream media back, whatever that might mean.

    • #8
    • October 7, 2019, at 2:41 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  9. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member

    I know people who still refuse to believe that Alger Hiss lied and was a traitor to the US.

    Chambers may have had no confidence in human agency to “win,” but he was a Christian. Christ has already won the victory. Chambers knew that.

    • #9
    • October 7, 2019, at 5:01 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member

    I have had my ninth graders read this book as part of their US history course. It is long, but it is powerful.

    • #10
    • October 7, 2019, at 5:02 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  11. Henry Castaigne Member

    TC Chef: Can we hang hang on long enough to beat them in the long game? I think so. What do you think?

    Yes. Everything they do fails eventually. Humans always prefer lies to Truth but they don’t like the consequences of those lies so like Rome, they turn back to the truth after killing it and persecuting everyone who spoke of it. 

    Furthermore, with genetic engineering and sex robots, we will be able to more effectively reduce the number of people dependent on government welfare thereby making leftism less appealing. 

    What’s more, leftism isn’t fun anymore: sex is rapey, you can’t like your country, you can’t eat meat dressing up for Halloween is cultural appropriation, your either a victim or a victimizer so whatever you are you should feel offended or guilty. Conservatism is all about grilling. 

    • #11
    • October 7, 2019, at 5:05 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  12. Old Bathos Member

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):

    I have had my ninth graders read this book as part of their US history course. It is long, but it is powerful.

    Wow! Big deep book for 9th graders.

    • #12
    • October 7, 2019, at 6:02 AM PDT
    • Like
  13. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):

    I have had my ninth graders read this book as part of their US history course. It is long, but it is powerful.

    Wow! Big deep book for 9th graders.

    So far, I’ve had three out of four read it in 9th grade. The fourth wouldn’t have gotten as much out of it at the time, too young for it; I’m saving it for his course in American government in 12th grade, which is next year.

    • #13
    • October 7, 2019, at 6:07 AM PDT
    • Like
  14. Henry Castaigne Member

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):
    What’s more, leftism isn’t fun anymore: sex is rapey, you can’t like your country, you can’t eat meat dressing up for Halloween is cultural appropriation, your either a victim or a victimizer so whatever you are you should feel offended or guilty. Conservatism is all about grilling. 

    They will also remember the book because it is told in a story form.

    • #14
    • October 7, 2019, at 6:19 AM PDT
    • Like