for 7 November 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.
This Magick Moment
I used the banishing rituals steady for three years to get rid of some unfortunate personal habits. They worked. (the act of will to of course being the important first step).
I am still a Libertarian.
I think if you read Magic Without Tears his last book he sees the dead end of fascism.
You have to understand his early views were probably clouded by his work for British intelligence. And the Victorian view of Empire.
Dear Mr. Simon:
Thanks for your comments. I by no means meant to suggest that admiration for Crowley, or use of his techniques, precludes libertarianism; in fact meant to suggest that they should demand it. You are correct that Crowley's missteps in that regard are probably largely a matter of personal experience and cultural baggage. However, I still maintain that his emphasis on True Will as that to be unfettered leaves too much room for the idea that only the self-actualized Supermen deserves liberty. I'm glad the magick worked for you.
Why did you link the word "death" to a page about a book about Norwegian BLACK metal. Moron.
Hey ya big jerk
While I may perhaps be less versed in all the subdivisions of metal than you, to my understanding the two terms are analogous in most people's minds, while the "black metal" phrase tends to confuse Americans, who think it means metal played by black people which would be exactly the wrong impression to give about the Scandahoovians who dominate the genre.
We Crowley kooks (at least the ones of my acquaintance) are deeply impressed by your Halloween article at Suck. I run a modest website myself, The Beast Bay, a sort of Thelemic Slashdot, and I went to post a glowing mention of your piece, only to find that someone had already beaten me to it.
Your criticisms are well-taken. In particular, your analysis of Crowley, Modernism, and Fascism expresses something I've been trying to get at for many years. Thank you.
Incidentally, if you live in the Bay Area and are free this Monday (11/6), I'd invite you to our Samhain ritual and pot-luck as an honored guest. But we might be too ghastly for you; I'd completely understand.
Thank you very much for your kind words. I feared, given the flippant tone of suck, that Crowleyans might find the piece unfairly dismissive of Crowley, who I do admire in many ways. Were I in the SF area, I'd be pleased to attend your event, but alas I will not be. Thanks very much for the invitation, however.
Re: Al's old Scottish home overlooking spooky Loch Ness.
I actually saw (and have a picture somewhere) of that house. I was at Loch Ness in 1990 and my Uncle (who was a diehard zep fan) just HAD to see this house. So we climbed over a small fence and made our way up his back yard to get a good shot.
I remember the taxicab driver being a little nervous when my uncle asked about "the old Crowley house" and he was also quite unwilling to wait (and keep the meter running) for us but agreed to return 10 minutes later.
Anyway, good article.
Thanks for the interesting story. Glad the old man still inspires annoyance in the locals.
While I enjoyed your article on Crowley and learned many things about this intriguing figure, I must point out that his "central slogan" "do what thou wilt shall be the whole of law" is not derivative of Rabelais and St. Augustine, but is rather a mere paraphrasing of Kant's universal law formulation of his Categorical Imperative. Sorry to be so nitpicky, but I can't help myself. I'm one of those annoying people that corrects their friends' grammar and spelling, let alone their philosophy. Good shit though, keep it up.
Mark G. Anderson
It's most definitely derived from Rabelais, see his Abbey of Thelema in "Garagantua and Pantagruel". I don't at all see how it's a paraphrase of Kant's categorical imperative, which as I understand it says you shouldn't do anything that you wouldn't want to be a universal law don't do anything you wouldn't want everyone to do, while Crowley's Thelemic law says, do whatever it is your will demands.
I am willing to be further educated on this, but I don't see it so far. Do I misunderstand Kant?
Them Against Fire
Best to double-check the background of S.L.A. Marshall. His tale of leading troops in WW I proved to be a lie, as was much of what he claimed about himself and his research. See David Hackworth's book, About Face. Hack worked with him at one point and learned the truth about this fraud.
Ah, good. I was waiting for someone to bring this up. Because, okay, if you go to for example the online encyclopedia at Infoplease.com, you'll get a one-line dismissal of SLAM as a once-respectable military historian and theorist whose work has since been debunked. And I think that's far more the product of a desire to believe that his conclusions are false than a product of any kind of reality about the man. Three, maybe four, things:
1.) The Army itself clearly still believes that Marshall's work holds up. His books are still on the reading lists at just about any ROTC program or Army command course, from OCS to ICCC; his picture still hangs in a prominent spot in the entryway at Infantry Hall (home to the US Army Infantry School); and the PX at the Infantry School still retails great enormous piles of Men Against Fire.
2.) All kinds of entirely respectable contemporary military historians and theorists treat his work with respect. Read Dave Grossman's On Killing, or Richard Holmes' Acts of War, or John Keegan's The Face of Battle, and you'll see Marshall's name over and over again. They're not attacking his stuff; they're talking about how useful it is in understanding combat.
3.) Plenty of other research supports his conclusions about the participation of riflemen in killing during WWII. David Grossman cites a bunch of these cases: The 12,000 dropped rifles at Gettysburg that had never been fired; Richard Gabriel's conclusion that 1 percent of WWII fighter pilots shot down 30 to 40 percent of the total number of enemy planes destroyed, suggesting that most (or at least many) pilots chose not to shoot at all; the 1986 reenactment of a hundred 19th and 20th century battles by the British military, in which the weapons of the time in each battle were found to be likely to have caused far more casualties than actually occurred, suggesting that many soldiers deliberately fired high or never fired; and all kinds of anecdotal evidence about individual soldiers encountering an isolated enemy in the confusion of battle, and, absent the social pressure to fight, waved and moved on quietly. I mean, there are stories about enemies in WWI climbing out of the trenches to share cigarettes with one another, in the absence of orders to fight, then resuming combat when told to do so. So, yeah, SLA Marshall: Killing in combat is usually the result of social pressures, and it stops when the social pressures are removed.
4.) The Army actually published a book on The Influence of S.L.A. Marshall on the United States Army in 1990; it was written by an active officer, and published by the Training and Doctrine Command. And it credits Marshall with producing accurate work that had an enormous positive impact on the Army. "Some critics, in their attack, for example, on Marshall's 25 percent firing ratio, betrayed a vested interest in its invalidity, seeing the ratio as a reflection of their own combat leadership," that book says. The same book also notes that Marshall tended to adopt a swagger and could be really, really irritating, and so made enemies by just generally being a jerk. Still: Valid and useful work, still used by the Army to shape training.
5.) And so on, but you get the point. Doubt the doubt, in this case, and consider the motivation for it.
Ambrose Beers does it again. I'm going to have to cancel my subscription to Foreign Affairs review and The Economist, because they don't come close to providing the quality of insight, to what's going on in the world, that you do. Particularly telling is your reference to Clinton (the nations foremost draft dodger) calling this terrorist act cowardly. In light of your review the act seems less than cowardly. And less than final.
I think this reduces the circulation of Foreign Affairs to, like, ten. But think of the trees you've saved...
As a former Marine, I salute your writing. I was talking with a more learned friend of mine and he told me that he thought that, because we as a nation are so committed to our policy in the middle east and blind to what could be the full implication of that policy, the U.S. would be willing to sacrifice the life of 500,000 service men to the middle east! This shocked me because I had placed the number at only 5,000 (roughly ten percent of the U.S. dead in Viet Nam). Having read your article I may be forced to reconsider my position. A change of heart seems to be particularly apt considering the stunning fact that the candidacy of Dubya Bush is considered legitimate by almost half the voters of the U.S. I will read Men Against Fire.
A "former" Marine? I thought that was supposed to never happen.
Anyway, I'm a soldier, so I'm going to go ahead and hope that both the 5,000 and 500,000 figures are wrong. Honestly I don't think the country would stand for that kind of bloodshed, but who knows? Anyway, we have the coca fields on Latin America on our dance card, first. Oh boy.
And you should definitely read the thing I wrote about Dick Cheney and the military, a few weeks back:
Thanks for writing,
You should write for the Times op-ed. I must admit that I never imagined that Suck.com would become such a good source of foreign and military policy analysis, but today's piece was at least as insightful as anything by Anthony Lewis, and much more interesting. Dismissing one's enemy as a coward is a good tactic for mobilizing the public, but that doesn't make it accurate.
I wonder, though, what do the webmasters at all the .mil sites you link to think of all the Suck.com referrers? They must get a bit confused sometimes.
Go Army, Beat Navy,
I will call the Times tomorrow morning, and let them know. One thing: "as insightful as anything by Anthony Lewis" is not generally considered a compliment. Except by Anthony Lewis, of course.
And I prefer not to know what the .mil webmasters are thinking on that subject. Let's just keep hoping they don't notice.
Excellent article. Inspired me to go straight to Amazon to order Men Against Fire. I also noticed a "Vietnam Version" called "Reading Athena's Dance Card: Men Against Fire in Vietnam", by Russell W. Glenn (who wrote the intro to the new paperback edition of MAF). Have you read that one as well?
Your article reminds me of the old "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter", and of the rag-tag band of Minute-Men who were the ur-US Army. To dismiss the men is to dismiss the cause without having to argue the case it may be that the cause isn't right, but it should be faced fairly and in the open, and let the chips of public opinion fall where they may.
The whole Cole episode passed me by, I'm ashamed to admit. I've been living in Scotland for a few years now, though, and so have a lot of first-hand experience of public opinion in these isles about the Northern Ireland problem. Anyone who has sympathy in the US for the "brave Fenian men" should at least have the same respect for the bombers of the Cole, or those stalwart Basque patriots of ETA or the AIM, for that matter.
You've just said the whole thing I was trying to say, in about 1400 fewer words: To dismiss the men as cowards, in this instance is to dismiss the case without having to argue the case. Contemporary American political leadership in a nutshell. Yep.
Haven't read the Vietnam version thanks for pointing it out.
Your essay today on terrorism was very interesting and very well put. Men Under Fire is an amazing book and I'm glad you brought it into view. What I consider most interesting is how terrorism is most likely to come out of consistent marginalization.
...and the response to which is to try to marginalize it. In geometry, this is known as a "circle." It doesn't have an end, is the problem.
Nice essay today. Paul Fussell covers a lot of the same ground in Wartime, an amazing book about his experiences in WWII. Wartime was kind of ignored in the post-Private Ryan "good war" glut, but he talks a lot about soldiers all being kids who were motivated to move forwards by preferring death to appearing weak in front of others.
Extrapolating this behavior to terrorists was smart, and unfortunately probably correct.
Haven't read this one, but I'll go buy it. Thanks.
Great column today. I forwarded it to those who would appreciate it. Most important is this: you've made us see why the dumbing down of an issue by others is an act much like that of Marshall's soldiers. Perhaps we should coin a term.
"Marshall's Law: when media fails to follow it own directives of truth to the nth degree. Usually caused by a lack of compassion for the readers and a lack of compassion for media leaders."
A useful term, sure. But I'm picturing a bunch of soldiers running through the streets, shooting and beating everyone in sight and setting up giant detention facilities. And then, when someone finally explains which law had been mentioned, being all, like: "Uh... We thought you said martial law, man. Sorry about that."
It's best to be safe.
Thanks, and glad you liked it,