As ‘Things Fall Apart,’ People Seem to ‘Lack All Conviction’

May 4, 2021 Updated: May 4, 2021

Commentary

The American poet Delmore Schwartz (1913–1968) had a number of good one-liners.

His mot about existentialism, for example, is hard to beat: “Existentialism,” he said, “means no one else can take a bath for you.”

Given the level of pretension that surrounded the French-German import, and given its dour currency in the academic stock market at the time, that deflationary observation was just the thing.

Schwartz’s comment seized upon something essential in that school of philosophy—its radical individualism—and then gave it a comic twist. Not the Heideggerian “Dasein,” whose essence is “being-unto-death,” but a nice warm bath that is yours and yours alone. It was nicely done.

Another comment by Schwartz has special relevance to our own situation. I mean his observation that “Even paranoids have enemies.”

I reckon that Rudy Giuliani can savor the truth of that apothegm. Likewise, Victoria Toensing. Both were raided by Joe Biden’s secret police, the NKFBI, last week.

Ditto Paul and Marilyn Hueper.

The Alaska couple were enjoying a little sleep-in on April 28, when “a dozen armed FBI agents kicked down their front door in an investigation associated with Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s stolen laptop.”

The agents, with guns drawn, handcuffed the couple and interrogated them for nearly three hours.

The Huepers, you see, had been in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6 for the big Trump rally.

For the commissars of the deep state, anyone’s presence in Washington on Jan. 6 under the auspices of President Donald Trump is prima facie evidence of guilt, not to mention mens rea—intentBut as luck would have it, unlike the Canadian Mounties, our secret police don’t always get their man.

The Huepers were able to demonstrate they had never come close to the Capitol, which meant that they hadn’t absconded with Pelosi’s laptop.

The agents separated the Huepers and interrogated them separately while they ransacked the house looking for the missing laptop.

It turned out that these gun-toting goons had a fuzzy picture of a woman wearing a coat similar to one owned by Mrs. Hueper.

So a bunch of them got together, kicked in their front door, and terrorized them for a couple of hours.

“At no point was the couple read their Miranda rights or charged with any crime,” one paper reported, “and the agents left after three hours without offering an apology. They also took Marilyn’s phones and laptop.”

Wot larks.

I suspect that whoever made off with Pelosi’s laptop has cloned her hard drive multiple times and has distributed the copies to various secure, undisclosed locations around the globe.

Apparently, that’s just what Giuliani did with Hunter Biden’s laptop.

Anyway, I hope he did.

Projection

There are two main lessons to be absorbed by the curious distemper of the times.

The first has to do with what the Freudians call “projection.”

It isn’t news that the Democrats specialize in the deployment of that defense mechanism.

Do something you’re not supposed to, then distract people by accusing your opponents of doing the very thing you have been doing.

Amazingly, it works again and again.

The entire Russian collusion delusion was an exercise in projection. The Dems had hired various Russian assets to fabricate dirt on candidate, then president, Trump.

With the Steele dossier in hand—a dossier, remember that was furnished via various shady Russian operatives—Hillary & Co. then accused Trump and various members of his circle—Michael Flynn, Carter Page, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos—of doing exactly what they had been doing: enlisting Russians to influence the 2016 election.

Here’s where the paranoia kicks in and, at the same time, becomes indistinguishable from simple prudence.

Giuliani is accused of violating something called the Foreign Agents Registration Act by lobbying on behalf of certain Ukrainian politicians.

The Act is rarely enforced, but it makes for a great pretext when you want to attack a political enemy and get access to his records.

Giuliani, of course, was a close adviser to Trump.

He was also instrumental in bringing attention to the activities of what he called the Biden Crime Family in China, Ukraine, and elsewhere.

Moreover, it was Giuliani, together with The New York Post, who beat the drum over the revelations contained on Hunter Biden’s laptop: the pornographic videos and evidence of drug abuse but also the scads of incriminating evidence of his relations with corrupt entities in China and Ukraine.

Twitter and virtually every other news outlet tried to bury that story. And they came close to doing so.

But certain details percolated out.

Here’s one. A Ukrainian businessman named Vadym Pozharskyi in 2015 was an adviser to Burisma, the shady Ukrainian energy company on whose board Hunter sat. Hunter had no experience in the energy sector, but he had introduced Pozharskyi to his father.

But his dad was vice president of the United States and apparently that was worth the $50,000–$80,000 per month that Hunter collected in fees.

Vadym was grateful for the introduction, as recounted by the Post.

“‘Dear Hunter,’ he wrote, ‘thank you for inviting me to DC and giving me an opportunity to meet your father and spent [sic] some time together.’”

The Post story continues: “Less than eight months after Pozharskyi thanked Hunter Biden for the introduction to his dad, the then-vice president admittedly pressured Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko and prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk into getting rid of prosecutor general Viktor Shokin by threatening to withhold a $1 billion US loan guarantee during a December 2015 trip to Kiev.”

But how do we know this? Joe Biden told us himself. Live on television.

“I looked at them and said, ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’ Well, son of a bitch. He got fired.”

Son of a bitch, indeed.

The psychological deployment of projection is one big lesson of our political culture today.

Perverting Institutions

Another big lesson is how rapidly the institutions guaranteeing our freedoms can be emptied out and perverted.

“Things fall apart,” Yeats wrote in “The Second Coming.” “The centre cannot hold;/ Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,/ The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/ The ceremony of innocence is drowned.”

We nibble at our morning egg and take in the latest news. We drive to work and everything seems normal, except where it doesn’t. (“Why,” you wonder, “is everyone wearing a mask?” “Why are restaurateurs taking my temperature when I go to lunch?”)

Yeats went on in that poem to make a famous observation: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity.”

Those lines are regularly quoted by all sides to describe their political opponents.

They seem to me to have a special relevance to today as the American population has been cowed into COVID submission and then been told that anyone who supports Trump is, at least in embryo, a “domestic terrorist.”

That meme is recycled endlessly through the state propaganda network on CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other affiliates.

No one really believes it, but it has a distinct anesthetizing effect so that when a prominent personality such as Giuliani is raided by the secret police at the behest of the president of the United States, it seems, if not quite normal, then at least part of The Narrative.

Some people object that such actions are worthy of a banana republic or a third-world totalitarian junta.

Those people are right. And they are, most of them, full of passionate intensity. The deep state always assures that they are “deplorables,” paid-up, card-carrying members of those Yeats calls “the worst.”

What’s not always so obvious is the way such melodramas bleed the passion out of the populace at large.

Whether those count as “the best” is perhaps an open question.

But to the extent that they “lack all conviction,” to that extent our declension toward the abyss is both hurried and assured.

Roger Kimball is the editor and publisher of The New Criterion and publisher of Encounter Books. His most recent book is “Who Rules? Sovereignty, Nationalism, and the Fate of Freedom in the 21st Century.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.