September 17, 2019

War as politics, politics as war – and various other things “continued by other means”...


“War is the continuation of politics by other means.” 
Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831)
       Prussian general and military theorist
       On War (1832-1834), Bk. VIII, Ch. VI, Section B: “War is an Instrument of Policy”

       This is the traditional English translation of a line from On War (Vom Kriege), a collection of writings by Clausewitz that was published posthumously by his wife in three volumes between 1832 and 1834. It encapsulates a point Clausewitz made, but it’s not an exact translation. One issue is that some words can be translated several ways. For example, the German word politik can mean either ‘politics’ or ‘policy.’ In German, the full sentence the maxim comes from says: “Wir behaupten dagegen, der Krieg ist nichts als eine Fortsetzung des politischen Verkehrs mit Einmischung anderer Mittel.” This can be and has been translated in several ways, but essentially says something like: “We maintain [or ‘assert’] however, that war is nothing but a continuation of politics [or ‘policy’] with the admixture [or ‘addition’] of other means [or ‘resources’].” In context, the point Clausewitz was making is that he disagreed with the idea that war amounted to an end of political ‘intercourse’ (Verkehr) or discourse. He asserted that war is merely another kind of political communication that has its own ‘grammar’ (Grammatik). In short, while the oft-quoted maxim does seem to reflect Clausewitz’s line of thought, the common English translation is not literally correct.


“American politics is now the continuation of ‘war by other means.’...Government shutdowns, threatened debt default, racism, homophobia and Islamophobia can seem like discrete political struggles for democracy, good governance, and equal rights. Progressives and moderates make a huge mistake when they do not see the connections extremists make among them. It is crucial to see that to the extreme right-wing that is hijacking our political process right now, these are not discrete issues but part of a cosmic war on Satan played out in our American political life.”
       Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite
       Professor of Theology at the Chicago Theological Seminary, author of #Occupy the Bible: What Jesus Really Said (and Did) About Money and Power  
       In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, October 15, 2013
       (Cartoon by David Horsey)


“War is the improvement of investment climates by other means.” 
       Ben Kingsley as the character Walken, The Viceroy
       In the satirical anti-war movie War, Inc.


“Technology is the continuation of evolution by other means, and is itself an evolutionary process.”
       Ray Kurzweil
       American inventor, author and futurist
       In his book The Age of Spiritual Machines


“Law in a good society is first and foremost the continuation of morality by other means.”
       Amitai Etzioni
       German-born American sociologist
       In his book The New Golden Rule


“Litigation...the continuation of business by other means.”
       Frederick L. Whitmer
       Professional litigator and author
       In his book
Litigation Is War (2007)


“Mr. Raimi [movie director Sam Raimi]...has cited the Three Stooges as his comic inspiration, and indeed, Evil Dead II is a sort of continuation of Stoogism by other means. Here, an eyeball isn’t just poked, but poked out and sent flying across the room, to be swallowed by an innocent bystander. Of such things, Moe Howard could only dream.” 
       Dave Kehr
       American film critic
       Referring to the famed
“eyeball popping” scene in the horror film Evil Dead 2 (1987)
a DVD review in the New York Times, October 18, 2005

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September 7, 2019

Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable…


“Th’ newspaper does ivrything f’r us...comforts th’ afflicted, afflicts th’ comfortable.”
        Finley Peter Dunne (1867-1936)
        American journalist and humorist
        Dunne put this quote in the mouth of “Mr. Dooley,” the witty Irish character who was featured in Dunne’s popular newspaper column relating what Dooley said on various topics in a heavy Irish brogue. The line was first used in a column titled “Mr. Dooley on Newspaper Publicity,” published in many US newspapers on October 5, 1902 and reprinted in the book collecting Dunne’s columns, Observations by Mr. Dooley (1902). Dooley’s remark led to many other quotes about comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.
        The full quote as Dunne wrote it is:
        “Th’ newspaper does ivrything f’r us. It runs th’ polis foorce an’ th’ banks, commands th’ milishy, conthrols th’ ligislachure, baptizes th’ young, marries th’ foolish, comforts th’ afflicted, afflicts th’ comfortable, buries th’ dead an’ roasts thim aftherward.”
        The plain English “translation” is:
        “The newspaper does everything for us. It runs the police force and the banks, commands the militia, controls the legislature, baptizes the young, marries the foolish, comforts the afflicted, afflicts the comfortable, buries the dead and roasts them afterward.”
        Dunne’s quote is often misquoted as “The duty [or job] of a newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Indeed, that version has become a kind of motto for defenders of the free press. Ironically, Dunne’s piece was not meant as praise of the press. It’s actually a negative jab at newspapers who Mr. Dooley thinks print far too much minutiae about almost everything and everyone and pokes into the private lives of citizens far too much.
        Mr. Dooley complains that, because newspapers regularly print gossip and photos about local citizens, “There are no such things as private citizens” anymore. Interestingly, many of his criticisms of newspapers sound similar to modern concerns about the internet and social media.


“Mr. Brady, it is the duty of a newspaper to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
        Actor Spencer Tracy, in the 1960 movie Inherit the Wind. Tracy, playing defense lawyer Henry Drummond, says the line to Fredric March, playing prosecuting attorney Matthew Harrison Brady.
        The film is an adaptation of the 1955 play of the same name, a fictionalized account of the infamous “Scopes Monkey Trial.” Tracy’s famous line is not in the play, which was written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee. The movie script based on the play was written by Nedrick Young and Harold Jacob Smith. I suspect the famous line was created by Young, who was blacklisted as a Communist sympathizer during the McCarthy era and hired (secretly) by the film’s director Stanley Kramer. Young didn’t coin the saying. As noted in a post on the Quote Investigator site, a filler item in 1914 a newspaper in Danville, Kentucky said: “Mr. Dooley says the duty of the newspapers is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.” That was followed by many similar uses of this saying about newspapers that predate the movie Inherit the Wind, which premiered in London on July 7, 1960.


“The most human thing we can do is comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
        Clarence Darrow (1857-1938)
        American lawyer and free speech activist
        It’s interesting that many internet posts and some books published in recent decades attribute this quote to Darrow, the defense attorney in the real life Scopes Monkey Trial. I couldn’t find any evidence that Darrow ever said or wrote such a line. I think it’s probably a faux quote created after the movie line in Inherit the Wind became famous.


“It’s a folk singer’s job to comfort disturbed people and to disturb comfortable people.”
        Woody Guthrie (1912-1967)
        American folk musician and liberal political activist
        This line is widely attributed to Guthrie in internet posts, but never with any specific source. As far as I can tell, he never actually said it.


“The business of the ministry is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
        Frederick W. Burnham (1871-1960)
        Pastor in Richmond, Virginia
        In a March 1944 editorial in a Latrobe, Pennsylvania newspaper, Burnham attributed this saying to an unnamed “young minister.” It’s an early version of many quotes that have applied the “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” concept to Christianity and Christian ministries.


“No woman has ever so comforted the distressed – or distressed the comfortable.”
        Clare Boothe Luce (1903-1987)
        American author, Conservative Republican politician and US Ambassador     
        Luce used this line speech in which she praised Eleanor Roosevelt at a May 1950 event, during which the left-leaning, Democratic widow of President Franklin D. Roosevelt received an award for her service to the poor and “underprivileged.” Back then, political opponents actually said some nice things about each other.


“In all life one should comfort the afflicted, but verily, also, one should afflict the comfortable, and especially when they are comfortably, contentedly, even happily wrong.”
        John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006)
        Canadian-born economist, public official, and liberal activist
        From his 1989 commencement speech at Smith College, Massachusetts, titled “In Pursuit of the Simple Truth.” (Because London’s Guardian newspaper reprinted the speech on July 28, 1989, that is the usual citation for the source, rather than the commencement speech.)

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