Respectable Barbarians

Many thanks to JLH for translating this op-ed from the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

Respectable Barbarians

by Konrad Paul Liessman
February 8, 2018

The barbarians are among us. They are not lurking on the right or lower edges of society, they are not among the uneducated or the educationally failed, they do not come from under-developed regions. They are sitting at the levers of influence in art and science, they write in quality publications, discuss at universities, manage art galleries, dominate the talk shows. Nonetheless, they are barbarians, for in their innermost being, they despise art.

Under the pretext of fighting sexism and racism, they whitewash poems, make pictures disappear from museums, re-touch films, boycott concerts. Replete with the idea that subjective shock and politically correct thinking make anything permissible, they are instituting cleansing actions intended to free the world of all esthetic double meanings, provocations, disturbances and asymmetries of appetite.

Faulty reasoning that would not be countenanced in a pro-seminar now belongs — in the truest sense of the word — to high fashion. For instance, the confusion of a work’s validity and its genesis. It seems to be a given, according to present-day standards, that a work of art must do penance because its creator led a perhaps not entirely blameless life. On the other hand, no artist can be so above reproach that he cannot be suspected of offending someone with his work. Forgotten or demonstratively ignored is the fact that historical context can also play a role in the judgment of art; that profound knowledge could protect against intuiting sexism behind every instance of female nudity.

Of course, none of the new enemies of art wants to censor ideas, works or thoughts. A 19th-century painting of a mythological scene in which wanton nymphs entice a young man to his doom is only taken down for the purpose of — as it is so prettily phrased — provoking a discussion. Someone here has basically misunderstood something. If I want to discuss a work of art and its ambivalence — even discuss its darker side — I have be able to see it, experience it, study it. Taking this one step further might be making judgments only about texts you have not read. But what is the next step here? Shared — or feigned — understanding for the activities of the new barbarians, even in the most sophisticated feuilletons, is not so much evidence of a deliberative analysis as the expression of a deep-seated pusillanimity. Hardly anyone wants to openly defend art which may arbitrarily be suspect of sexist, misogynist or racist attributes. That the quality of a work of art is not programmatic, and that works of art are also valued because the contradiction of form and content, makes possible an oscillation between affirmation and criticism — this concept is not only too complex a thought for the simplistic moralism of our time, but is also apparently no longer a viable means of esthetic perception for many people.

Behind the criticism of allegedly morally dubious art is concealed, among other things, a true hostility to art, the hatred of what is beautiful, which derives from categorizing and arranging. The new enemies of art would like to live in a world in which everything is unambiguous, idyllic, clean, spotless, contractually regulated, monotone and irritation-free. There are respectable barbarians at work here, compared to whom the petit bourgeoisie of the Biedermeier[1] era were esthetically open rebels.

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Konrad Paul Liessmann, of the University of Vienna, is professor for methods of communicating philosophy and ethics. There is no question that is alien to his columns.


1.   Circa 1815-1848 in Central Europe, when the middle class expanded and arts and style appealed to common taste.

22 thoughts on “Respectable Barbarians

  1. I suppose though that an artist who has painted pictures of black women cutting off the heads of white people is a paragon of virtue and a role model for the non-white races. And of course, she must be a worthy artist because she painted Bathhouse Barry.

    • He painted pictures of black women holding the severed heads of white women and Bathhouse Barry. She panted My Belle Moochelle.

  2. Sadly, sadly true! We, as a society, seem to have lost our moral values! Is there a possible way out of this? I don’t know, but I know we should try hard to put an end to this collective delusion, by defending our values wherever we can have some influence, by sticking to them in our lives, by admiring what is really beautiful, and in as many other ways as we can think of.

    Let us pray to God for His help, and always express our opinions, whenever appropriate and in a civilized way, against Marxism, Leftism (in general), Islam and other evil doctrines so wrongfully accepted as good (or, at least, as innocuous) among us!
    Thank you for your kind attention!

  3. I forget who said this: The purpose of entertainment is to reassure; the purpose of art is to raise doubts.

  4. Then there are those other barbarians, the EU Commission and their over 54,000 employees (12,000 of them are off the balance sheet), infesting the ugly buildings of the Brussels EU and the courts in Strasbourg. I once had a look at their salaries and perks (all in euros and minus the 2-3percent raise they gave themselves in 2018):
    Head Commissioner makes 25,351 per month. The Commissioners under him 22,963. per month. Then add the thousands in travel reimbursements, moving expenses, and many, many other reimbursements, and perks.

    European MEP makes 7,956.87 per month. Add a daily allowance of 304 euro per day, and office allowance of 4300.00 per month, travel reimbursements, a second tier medical insurance system, and other perks.

    EU staff/bureaucrat, depending on rank, starts at 4,300 and reaches up to 18,370 per month, plus all the reimbursements and payments those already mentioned get.
    It’s a grand bubble to live in where the sun always shines for them and the proles are all but forgotten.

    • No wonder they are more than happy to toe the official line and look the other way to what is being done to Europe by the elites. I take comfort in the knowledge that someday they will face justice, and the defence that they were only following orders will be found to be unsatisfactory. [redacted suggestion regarding violence]

      [NOTE: check the commenting rules regarding civil discourse]

      • Unfortunately the EU Commissioners and the EU MEP’s cannot be litigated against in a court of law.

        The commission writes its own laws. The laws often conflict with International Law as laid down in the UN charter.

        The judicial system is also run by the EU Commission of 28 members.

        The professional staff of the EU can be charged with an offence and summoned to legislative account.

        The EU law assumes authority over both Common Law and International Law, and often over looks the duty of care incumbent is the role of public service.

        The EU should also be subject to the laws within the states they operate, but they can and does change law within 7 days to accommodate obstacles to their objectives.

        In effect THE EU is a totalitarian autonomous quasi political tool of global corporate pecuniary interests.

        The people who are resident within the 28 states have no control over the EU’s policies.

        The only way the EU could maintain tax revenue, if any nation sate wanted to exit, would be by the exertion of a very heavy internal para military police cohort.

        We saw this method deployed on the Catalonian protestors in Barcelona.

        This brings into question the proposed use of “The European Battle Groups”. NATO and the EU knows it cannot win the Russian Federation by martial assault.

        “The European Battle Groups” could be used to quell dissent within the 28 members, those members who refuse to accept the impositions issued by the European Commission.

        In effect Europe would return to a totalitarian fascist command state which rewards the few and taxes the many.

        Of course many people would seek to flee this regime. The EU would then build the 30m high double fences as used by the former Soviet bloc of E Europe. The fence would stop EU citizens escaping.

        KIEV is currently testing many of the methods in the Ukraine which included the “ethnic cleansing” of ethnic Russian orthodox Christians

        Further in formation can be found at “stalkerzone”. There are two sites with this name, one is a decoy – an EU decoy- and the authentic one which has Cyrillic alphabet letter in the title. This is site is in the English language.

        In this site all of the current social control methods can be examined. Readers may be surprised at the depravity of the KIEV method which has been sanctioned and and supported by the EU.

        The EU has given KIEV about eight billion Euros and most of it has disappeared.

        • Very interesting and dark description of a truly fascist state, the EU. If NATO forces, and US forces in particular, participate in the internal enforcement of this totalitarian state’s authority, it will be impossible to think of the US as being a good influence.

          We had an inkling of both the suppression and the arbitrary rules when NATO forces bombed Serbia and Serbs in the Bosnian and Kosovo wars. Realistically, one could not expect a Clinton administration to be motivated by anything other than money or power. But, the theme of violent intervention favoring totalitarian, globalist ideology is becoming a regular feature in US politics and foreign affairs assumptions.

  5. It’s not just visual art, Baron, but music as well. I have long held that music uniquely defines the human condition and thus it also reflects the time and place of the culture from which it originates.

    What’s around in the mainstream these days is very revealing, and I don’t just mean ‘Rap’ or tarts of various ages prancing around on stage or in videos in their underwear or nothing at all whilst screeching inanities into a microphone.

    • You can find “uncivil discourse” on many comment sections. I suggest looking at some of them on, say, The Washington Times news reports. People trade “you’re stupid/no, you’re stupid” endlessly.

      Ain’t gonna happen here, Maria_dee.

      A bit of history: we didn’t start moderating comments until 2011, when the “educated” Swedes and Norwegians began flaming us because we supported Fjordman. The comments became a cesspit very quickly. In fact, we closed our comment section until the shock of the mass murder on Utoya began to die down…so instead we got poison pen letters. Those nice, nice Norwegians aren’t so nice after all. They were like a swarm of yellow jackets.

  6. Political Correctness is Fascism pretending to be manners
    3 Phases Of The Downward Slope From Freedom To Communism

    Phase 1: Trends that Lay Groundwork for Tyranny
    The first phase towards tyranny in a free society is a generational or decades-long process. It’s a period in which minds can be closed to reason and more influenced by emotion and propaganda. Even at institutions of supposedly higher learning, students start to lose their capacity to think independent thoughts. We might summarize this as the conditioning phase—maybe the “programming” stage—that paves the way for groupthink to solidify. Below I list some of the trends in this phase.

    Creep of social policies that promote polarization, dependency, and human isolation

    Phase 2: Manufacturing Propaganda
    Propaganda is not so much a phase as an ever-present nuisance. But once its groundwork has been laid in the minds of men, propaganda’s intensity and effectiveness increases in direct proportion to the ignorance out there. You’ll find many definitions of propaganda, but my definition goes like this: Propaganda is the process by which power elites condition individuals through psychological manipulation to adapt to an agenda. Some of its trends are as follows.

    Language manipulation. The whole point of the totalitarian abuse of language is to prevent independent thought, the subject of George Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language.” When people accept the abuse of language, and incorporate it into their own vocabularies without thinking about it, they can be easily ventriloquized by power elites.

    Phase 3: Agitation and Mass Mobilization
    The whole point of propaganda is to drive people to action, Cultivation of hate and frustration.
    Mass mobilization. This is the craft of getting the alienated and frustrated masses, programmed by propaganda, to do the bidding of power elites. We saw it happen in Charlottesville, as well as in Berkeley, at Middlebury College, and Dartmouth and many other places. Today the goal is to shut down speech and real conversation. Such mobs generally make a lot of noise and create a lot of action so that they get their way, even if they represent a small minority.

    • The countermeasure to the systematic propaganda construction you describe is the non-centralized, peer-to-peer networking possible on the internet. Tucker Carlson had a brief segment interviewing a social network developer involved in totally bypassing the centralized monsters of Google, Twitter and Facebook. So, the stifling uniformity and conformity of the mass media, including massive social network corporations, can be bypassed.

      This is why I oppose any government intervention at all to assure “fair” display of diverse opinions. The more government intrusion, the more difficult it will be for small, shoestring operations to provide a real alternative. It’s more inconvenient for the moment, but more likely to maintain a real freedom of information flow.

      Of course, this has no bearing on the question of oligopolies building up businesses, and then pulling the rugs out from those with the wrong political orientation. This is using monopoly status and breach of contract to artificially limit the market, and is illegal under almost any definition. By the way, it is not necessary for courts to honor illegal clauses in contracts. Thus, having content providers implicitly or explicitly agree to a contract letting YouTube or Google do anything they want, does not compel courts to ignore common law or actual legislation. It is a common legal principle that contractual clauses that violate the actual law are not enforceable.

  7. And all of this is intended to quench the human spirit and reduce us to the status mindless and soulless workers and drones in hives whose sole purpose is to pander to the elite.
    To counter this agenda one must as a matter of duty visit an art museum, discuss what was viewed, then follow with a game of chess and then dinner over which politics and philosophy are fervently discussed and/or debated.

  8. If you wanted to impact the world now you would create a new breed of post-secondary education that would claim the following goals:

    “Our liberal arts program will shock and astonish our students every day with new and ancient ideas and will favor and bias none.”

    “Our goal is to develop the students’ ability to create his or her own political philosophy and our faculty will never espouse personal opinions, only teach ideas. ”

    “Speakers and experts in all epistemological concepts will be constantly invited to speak on campus and our young minds will burn with controversy.”

    • Believe it or not, some of us dinosaurs aspired to such goals, but the creeping, insouciant arrogance of the socially enlightened was already at work, nibbling a the roots of a civilization created by “dead white men.” It was not the assimilated “others” who led the rebellion but the self-hating whites.

    • Yes, in the long term this can provide leaders and citizens who have been innoculated against the current madness sweeping the West. In the short term though, the barbarians are already inside the gates and are quickly moving to take control of what defenses remain. The city leaders were long ago bribed to open the gates and suppress the raising of the alarm, and they expect to be well rewarded under the new regime.

      In the short term, what is needed are those skilled in war and willing to use their skills in defense of their culture and their people. In this respect, antifa is far ahead of us, and lack only the training to be truly dangerous. I, sadly do not see anything short of a dictatorship by a ruthless nationalist who has no qualms about breaking eggs to create an omelette, as the only means now that will save the West.

  9. …but it’s so finely pre-prepared
    strict wool walking up people’s stares
    no distraction all revealed
    an empty vase, a blank wax seal

    for who would write of sweet perfumes
    in the ordered cleaning rooms
    where minds correct appreciate
    the dullness that escapes dictate

    and who are you to question this
    each sad creature needs its bliss
    where concentrated it might ignore
    the axeman waiting by the door.

  10. I think that you underestimate yourself in the West.
    This difference in mentality will still explode, as in the thriller Dogville Lars von Trier. It hurts, but it is necessary.
    I hate bloodshed, as well as those who bring simple good people to the brutality.

  11. This is a seminal essay, and makes me think of a pattern I would not otherwise be able to construct.

    It is quite obvious the motivating force behind the censorship and restrictions is cultural Marxism. Cult-Marx, it may be recalled, has as a bedrock principle that Western culture is bad and must be destroyed.. There is no underlying reason necessary for this assumption: it is a starting principle and needs no justification.

    Thus, the accusations of sexism, racism, class bias, are just so much white noise. The real objective is to suppress and hide any real expression of our history, culture or traditional world view. It really doesn’t matter why a great work of art is taken off display; the important thing to the cult-Marxists is that it not be shown.

    So, it is just so much wasted effort to engage the specific hot-air rationalizations. A principle of traditional Western thought is that all concepts are subject to discussion and debate. A principle of cultural Marxism is that any thought reminiscent of traditional culture needs to be suppressed. These are bedrock assumptions and take on aspects of religious thought.

    When someone asserts that males and females are exactly the same, except for social constructs and upbringing, it is so counter-intuitive to experience as to indicate that person is not operating on rational principles and cannot be reached through rational methods, at least for the moment.

    But, my real flash of insight came from remembering the movie “Amadeus”. Recall that in the movie, two composers were showcased. Mozart, the flashingly brilliant but socially inept composer and Salieri, the just-adequate, but politically connected Mozart rival. Salieri, though his political connections, got all the praise, money and positions. Mozart was barely tolerated. But though Salieri was a mediocre composer, he was good enough to recognize how inferior his work actually was in comparison to Mozart, and it drove him crazy. He used every trick to suppress Mozart and Mozart’s work.

    My thinking is that the cultural Marxists are barely-adequate academics who recognize their own inferiority with respect to any real thought, concept, or piece of art. However much money they get, or positions of power in bureaucracy or academia, they know how marginal and uninteresting their conclusions really are. So, their solution to the obvious inferiority of their own work is to suppress the entire context of Western thought and culture.

    I think Gresham’s Law is that bad currency drives out good, in the absence of an enforcement mechanism. The implication of this for academia or government is that the less effort it takes to attain a position of power and influence, the more inferior will be those actually reaching that position. Affirmative action, lifetime tenure, and the suppression of any real standard of critical thinking are all ways to bypass the real work of evaluating providers and culling out the ones who don’t measure up.

  12. I could not find the right extract from the book “Wisdom of the Sands” in Antoine de Saint Exupery in English. At the very beginning of the book there is a scene about the Berber rebellion, which perfectly illustrates what is happening in Europe now.

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