December 17, 2005


Reflections in the Evening Land: The celebrated critic Harold Bloom, despairing of contemporary America, turns to his bookshelves to understand the trajectory of his country (Harold Bloom, December 17, 2005, The Guardian)

Huey Long, known as "the Kingfish," dominated the state of Louisiana from 1928 until his assassination in 1935, at the age of 42. Simultaneously governor and a United States senator, the canny Kingfish uttered a prophecy that haunts me in this late summer of 2005, 70 years after his violent end: "Of course we will have fascism in America but we will call it democracy!"

I reflected on Huey Long (always mediated for me by his portrait as Willie Stark in Robert Penn Warren's novel, All the King's Men) recently, when I listened to President George W Bush addressing the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was thus benefited by Rupert Murdoch's Fox TV channel, which is the voice of Bushian crusading democracy, very much of the Kingfish's variety. Even as Bush extolled his Iraq adventure, his regime daily fuses more tightly together elements of oligarchy, plutocracy, and theocracy.

At the age of 75, I wonder if the Democratic party ever again will hold the presidency or control the Congress in my lifetime.

You don't have to approve of Huey Long to find it amusing that it was instead FDR who set up the American concentration camps.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 17, 2005 1:09 PM

Churchill said that "if you are not a liberal at age 20 you have no heart and if you are not a conservative by age 25 you have no mind." Its a shame that at age 75 Mr. Bloom has learned little about how human societies order themselves in a democracy such as ours. Does he think that the ACLU would allow "his" country to go down the fascist road any more than the American voter (who re-elected GWB by a large majority of the popular vote) would allow our country to be hijacked by the extreme (occult fascist communist) left as represented by the self same ACLU? In what other "oligarchy, plutocracy, and theocracy" in the world would the leader of the country be allowed to be called a liar and stupid? That's right, the USA. Mr. Bloom is ruining his old age thinking such sour thoughts or is he just demonstrating his dotage.

Posted by: morry at December 17, 2005 1:52 PM

"I was thus benefited by Rupert Murdoch's Fox TV channel, which is the voice of Bushian crusading democracy, very much of the Kingfish's variety."

So by that logic, CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, CNN, HN, MSNBC, CNBC, Al Gore's new channel, NPR and Air America are the voice of its opposition.

Shouldn't Bloom be celebrating the fact that Fox is outnumbered over 10 to 1? (Not to mention the 300 other channels that DirecTV airs.) Or is no dissension at all in the PC ranks to be tolerated?

Posted by: Ed Driscoll at December 17, 2005 2:50 PM

I never thought of Huey Long's politics as being of the "crusading democracy" type. Attacks on the rich and on corporations, higher taxes, free stuff for the poor: all that sounds more like left-wing socialism than Bushian "fascism."

Posted by: PapayaSF at December 17, 2005 3:08 PM

Of course Churchill was just trying to explain away his own flightiness....

Posted by: oj at December 17, 2005 3:37 PM

Of course in his own bailiwick, local officials are going for appointed for life status

Posted by: narciso at December 17, 2005 4:41 PM

Dotage is right, pining away for the economies and politics of the 1930's...
Mr. Bloom is the southern end of a north bound mule.

Posted by: Mikey at December 17, 2005 5:07 PM

Calling the Japanese internment camps "concentration camps" is going a long way even for you. I recognize that you observe no limits when it comes to condemning Democratic politicians, but get real. Provide me with the list of deaths from our internment camps that compare with Japanese POW camps or Nazi concentration camps and I'll retract the statement that you're going too far with that little comparison. Roosevelt was no fascist, and only the most bitter partisan could see him as one.

Posted by: Brandon at December 17, 2005 5:08 PM

You don't to kill people to have a concentration camp. You just have to concentrate them. Just because the Nazis had them doesn't mean the Nazi version is the only version. I think you're thinking of "death camps" which is what the Nazi concentration camps became. If Orrin had said that, sure he'd be wrong, but there's not much difference between an internment camp and a concentration camp.

Posted by: Bryan at December 17, 2005 5:15 PM

Concentration camps date from the Boer war. The English were facing a native rural insurgency in which the combatants couldn't be told from the noncombatants. The Boers would engage in hit and run tactics and then melt into the population.

The English fought back by concentrating the rural population into a series of camps. Any Boers outside the camps were thus, ipso facto, the enemy. Sanitation being what it was at that time and place, there were numerous deaths, made worse by skimpy supplies and, it must be said, sheer British bloody mindedness. To this were added the kind of rumors of war crimes that have dogged concentration camps ever since (ground glass in the sugar, intentional spreading of disease, torture, etc.). The Nazis used the term for their death camps purposefully, as a type of camouflage.

None of this changes the fact that OJ, like many leftists, was likening FDR to Hitler and us to Nazi Germany.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 17, 2005 6:05 PM

This is so sad. A giant in the fight to save the glory of the Western heritage dissembles without direction or ballast about Shakespeare, Byron, Chaucer etc., while real live, incredibly brave Iraqis by the millions defy death to vote for the third time under the protection of "imperialist" U.S. forces who watch their buddies die as they play soccer with kids, keep the utilities going and dream of withdrawal and home.

Bloom has shamed himself and joined Sartre, Russell and many other genius' in missing the whole point and duty of old age. Let's all throw a few bucks in the pot and take him to a strip club.

BTW, I'm going with Brandon here, tempered by David. C'mon, Orrin, shameful as they may have been, they weren't concentration camps. And no, Bryan, concentration camps have nothing to do with concentration.

Posted by: Peter B at December 17, 2005 7:17 PM

Why not? You're concentrating people into one specific location, aren't you? Concentration doesn't just mean to think hard, you know.

Posted by: Bryan at December 17, 2005 7:43 PM


What were they?

Posted by: oj at December 17, 2005 7:45 PM


Because we can't just decide for ourselves what words mean, especially words that seek to explain the dramatic events that form us morally and for which which we seek a common language. In terms of public dialogue, the term "concentration camp" is not to be defined by logical postivism, but by the experience of the millions who were in one and the other millions who fought to rescue them. We have to make compromises about language as much as about first principles.

From time to time, Orrin makes semi-enthusiatsic attempts here to semi-rehabilitate the word "fascism", generally as a bulwark against a greater marxist threat. On strictly historical grounds, he is right to do so as a good historian/scientist. Given the searingly painful moral issues attending and the need to find a common dialogue with the surrounding community, his case is hopeless.

Posted by: Peter B at December 17, 2005 8:10 PM


So Japanese-Americans were the enemy?

Posted by: oj at December 17, 2005 8:16 PM


If the point wasn't to concentrate a despised population where the government could have easy access to it then what were the camps and why weren't Japanese-Americans in Hawaii, where they were a large enough population to be a threat if hostile but also big enough to have some political power, similarly sent to camps?

Posted by: oj at December 17, 2005 8:28 PM

It was bad, but we didn't make lampshades out of them.

btw, Harold Bloom/Judy Blume...same room?

Posted by: Noel at December 17, 2005 8:32 PM


Of course not, we won the war.

Posted by: oj at December 17, 2005 8:40 PM


Mind you, I've no problem with you guys supporting the witch hunt you liked, nor with FDR who was just a product of his Applied Darwinist times.

Posted by: oj at December 17, 2005 8:42 PM


Because of the combination of a patriotic commitment to war and a consequent security pre-occupation that left the policially powerless as sitting ducks. We are appalled to-day, and honour to us for that, but we do have the advantage of assuming the certainty of the outcome. But, however concentrated the camps were, they were not concentration camps and Roosevelt was not Hitler.

Posted by: Peter B at December 17, 2005 8:59 PM

Peter B:

OJ may not like Roosevelt much but I don't think he's ever compared him to Hitler.

It may be technically correct to call them concentration camps but we all recognize the different between the theoretical and the realistic. Realistically, that term denotes Nazi death camps and that is unlikely to change, so I personally would use some other term.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at December 17, 2005 9:44 PM


OJ may not like Roosevelt much but I don't think he's ever compared him to Hitler.

Darn, you're right. I meant Darwin. You know, Darwin, Hitler, Roosevelt...Darwin, Hitler, Roosevelt...boy, it's confusing. :-)

Posted by: Peter B at December 17, 2005 10:01 PM


Yes; and one of the ways we won was by detaining a bad few with the decent many. In further irony, it was done by Earl Warren--over J. Edgar's disapproval!

Yet today we let any old Harold/Judy walk our sidewalks with impunity. Funny world.

Posted by: Noel at December 18, 2005 12:47 AM

Harold Bloom wrote absolutely the worst book I have ever read the first 50 pages of. I am not surprised that his political opinions are worthless.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at December 18, 2005 1:53 AM


So you labor under the delusion that the camps were to protect the internees?

Posted by: oj at December 18, 2005 7:47 AM


Except that there weren't even a bad few, but the sentiment is accurate.

Posted by: oj at December 18, 2005 7:48 AM

OJ: No, the Japanese-Americans were not the enemy and even if some were, they shouldn't have been interned without trial under these circumstances. The camps were a colossal error, not least because, in allowing them to go forward, the Supreme Court held that the government can discriminate on the basis of race if the need to do so is "compelling." This is why affirmative action, etc., are held to be constitutional.

None of this changes the fact that the Germans purposefully used the term concentration camp to hide their genocidal plans.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 18, 2005 10:43 AM

So this is just about semantics? I agree the internment camps weren't intended to hide pre-planned genocide, they were just normal concentration camps.

Posted by: oj at December 18, 2005 10:50 AM

It's odd how the left wing fringe has been "afraid" of Bush and the conservatives since 9/11.

In 1998/99, it was the right wing "fringe" which was afraid Clinton was going to inter Christians and Republicans when the world collapsed on Y2K.

I suppose the next wave of paranoia will be farmers and ranchers fearing that the vast hungry middle class will steal their crops and cattle. Or perhaps the squishy center will fear that a new political party headed by Al Gore and Tom DeLay is going to take over America and inter all RINOs and moderate Democrats.

And just maybe Ann Coulter and Robert Scheer (sorry, Ann) will get married and breed an army of pundit warriors to conquer the world.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 18, 2005 3:59 PM