The Brett Kimberlin Saga:

Follow this link to my BLOCKBUSTER STORY of how Brett Kimberlin, a convicted terrorist and perjurer, attempted to frame me for a crime, and then got me arrested for blogging when I exposed that misconduct to the world. That sounds like an incredible claim, but I provide primary documents and video evidence proving that he did this. And if you are moved by this story to provide a little help to myself and other victims of Mr. Kimberlin’s intimidation, such as Robert Stacy McCain, you can donate at the PayPal buttons on the right. And I thank everyone who has done so, and will do so.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Was Chris Coons a Bearded Marxist?

Patterico and I have been going back and forth on this for a while.  Let’s start with the basic facts.  Chris Coons wrote in the mid-eighties a piece called “Chris Coons: The Making of a Bearded Marxist.”

Patterico’s position is that “Bearded Marxist” was meant ironically, because his friends were mocking him as that.  My position is I don’t see it the irony.

First, for starters, you should read it yourself.  Don’t just accept our version of things.  Certainly this line, where the term “bearded marxist” comes from has an element of... if not humor then at least irony and wit:

My friends now joke that something about Kenya, maybe the strange diet, or the tropical.un, changed my personality; Africa to them seems a catalytic converter that takes in clean-shaven, clear-thinking, Americans and sends back bearded Marxists.

Now obviously there is humor there somewhere.  And there are jokes peppered throughout the piece.  He shows a picture of “a clean-shaven Chris Coons” and a picture of Africa with the words “Kenya: the ‘catalytic converter.’”

But what was the joke in the “bearded Marxist” line?  That he was a bearded Marxist?  Or something in the diet or the tropical sun made him one?  I would posit the only obvious joke in that sentence is the diet and sun part.  Where is the clear irony about Marxism?

And if I made a joke about being a “bearded Marxist” I would follow it up by saying, “which I am not.”  Or “the truth is I believe that capitalism is the best system, but flawed.  And Marxism is a failure wherever it goes.  And I shave daily.”  Or something specific to say it is not true.


Patterico compares it to calling himself a “Jackass” (a joking reference to Mark Levin calling him that).  But there are two differences.  First, he is a semi-famous guy.  So he can expect people to know he is not an asshole, or at least to already made up their own mind on the subject.

And even if we didn’t know you, when you call yourself something so clearly insulting, refutation is implied.  With the exception of Johnny Knoxville, most people don’t call themselves a jackass with pride.  But I have met a lot people who have said they were a Marxist and proud of it, especially in the ivy league.  Being an jackass is considered almost per se a bad thing, but being a Marxist is not considered per se a bad thing (even if in my mind Marxists are at least misguided).

Now against that silence, let’s review what he did say:

·         He studied under a “bright and eloquent” Marxist professor (or was he being ironic there, too?)
·         He said that our dogma caused us to lose Vietnam (what dogmatic beliefs is he referring to?)
·         That equal opportunity in America is a myth.
·         That America is not a beacon of freedom and justice to the world.
·         He suggests that democracy and free enterprise will not solve the problems of developing nations.  (Never mind that it did solve our problems when we were developing.)
·         That the poor are not just lazy and uneducated.
·         That his belief in the miracles of free enterprise and the boundless opportunities of America might be largely untrue.

He does come around and say he loves America, “but in the way of one who has realized all its faults and failures and still believes in its promise.”  In other words he loves America, but feels it needs to change.  I suppose he has hope for its change...

Now it is possible to be a good capitalist and say most, if not all of those things.  No one word he says there proves all by itself he really was a Marxist, and he wasn’t kidding.  But how many of the talking points does he have to rattle off, without ever affirming a belief in free enterprise, before you realize he is not joking?

Occam’s razor says that the simplest solution is probably the best.  The simplest solution is he was what he put as the title of the article: a Marxist.  And I will note that at a place like Amherst, being a Marxist is not even all that unusual.  It’s more unusual to be a staunch capitalist, or at least to be openly one.

But like I said, read the piece and make up your own mind.  But I for one am convinced he meant it in earnest.  Which doesn’t tell us for sure what he is today, but there you go.

Sidebar: And let’s dig a little deeper.  He says on one hand “A course on the Vietnam War painted in gory detail a picture of the horrible failures made possible by American hubris and dogmatism.”  Now let us pause for a moment and ask ourselves seriously what the dogmatism was there.

There are actually two possible answers I know of.  The first is the pernicious idea that capitalism and freedom is not for the Vietnamese, that this is for western people.  And we have seen this sentiment recently, haven’t we?  That is what they have been saying about Iraq and the middle east in general right, right?  Democracy and capitalism is never the right answer for darker-skinned people.

But there is another dogmatism that is commonly pointed to.  The concept of tutelage.  It was this frankly racist idea that other people in the world, particularly Asians, were not ready for democracy and freedom.  So they needed to be under the boot of a “benevolent dictator” who would teach their nation to be free.

And interestingly that issue has animated some of the debate over Iraq, too, the pro-iraq-war advocates saying, more or less, that unlike in Vietnam, we are not engaged in tutelage.  In Vietnam the people had a choice between a communist dictator and a dictator who promised eventually to be a democrat.  You can understand why they didn’t see the difference.  This time we are bringing actual democracy, not just a dictator who claims to believe in it.  I will frankly state that this is my belief.  The lack of real democracy undermined our efforts in ‘nam, and we rightfully didn’t follow the same path in Iraq.

Is there a third possibility?  Let me know in the comments, but I really can’t think of any.

Well, he writes: “Can private enterprise and democracy solve- the problems of developing nations?”  And by the end of the piece you get a distinctive feeling that in his mind, the answer is “no.”

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