February 12, 2005

We'll Always have Pyongyang

I've had occasion to comment on Neil Clark's unique brand of totalitarian nostalgia before. While I doubt he will ever again meet the standard set by his groundbreakingly perverse "Milosevic, Prisoner of Conscience," I still keep rooting for him. Perhaps something like: "Mugabe: Hard Worker, Loyal Husband, and All-Around Fine Person." You can use that one for nothing, if you like, Neil.

Clark seems to inhabit a kind of Addam's Family or Fungus the Bogeyman world. You know, where the through-the-looking-glass people say something is ugly, or horrible, or dreadful, but they mean it in a positive sense. "That's a dreadful hat you have on my drear." "Thank you darling. You're so awful."

Or rather, since Clark is a political writer, it's more like:

Straight man: "you know, [fill in the name of any random mini-Stalin or contemporary totalitarian dictator] has killed a lot of people and turned the lives of those left standing into a living nightmare."

Clark: "yes, what a dreadful man - isn't he dreamy?"

Or words to that effect.

There was a column by Clark in Thursday's Guardian, and while it's no "Milosevic: Prisoner of Conscience," it does have its moments. Tim Worstall critiques the column's topsy-turvy economics here; but the basic spirit of the thing is that the wrong side won the Cold War and it's really a shame that 1989 ever had to happen. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, life in eastern Europe's police states was spectacularly horrible. And that's "horrible" in the sense of "like some joyous, delicate dream."

"All is not lost," however, according to Clark. With any luck, a concerted effort by "popular fronts against the tyranny of neo-liberalism" may well be able to bring back that swell iron curtain and plunge half the world into darkness once again. What a dreadful idea, darling.

UPDATE: the New Statesman charges for content these days, so I replaced the link, which was originally to the NS version of "Milosevic: Prisoner of Conscience," to the Pravda version. Have at, shadies and gentle-devils.

UPDATE II: Harry's post on the Clark article is worth checking out.

Posted by Dr. Frank at February 12, 2005 03:19 PM | TrackBack

Soviet nostalgia is all the rage these days, Dr. Frank. Hammer-n-sickle is hot and hip. Very timely post, way to ride the zeitgeist.

Posted by: JB at February 13, 2005 05:23 AM

This isn't the first time I've seen this claim that GDP plummeted in Eastern European nations after the fall of communism. Given that essentially every economic statistic that emanated from the Warsaw Pact nations was specious, how can we even know whether this is the case?

Here's another gem:

"Faced with such grim economic prospects, thousands have voted with their feet, preferring the uncertainties of a new life abroad to pauperisation at home."

Yes, well at least they can do so these days without getting machine-gunned. Stalinostalgia nauseates me.

Posted by: David Gillies at February 13, 2005 08:07 AM

I majored in Economics in college in the College of Arts and Sciences. Anyhoo, there was also a college of Indisrial Labor Relations (read "College of Communism"). I had to take a few classes in ILR and I remember the professors were always making these obsurd arguments about African slaves in the south being better off than "wage-slaves" in the north which they backed up with completely speculative formulas based on the writings of Marx some other nonsense. You have to wonder what sort of "wishful thinking" this is where people want to believe good is evil and evil is good. Maybe they just like the feeling of believing that they are the only ones who are "right" about the world.

Posted by: josh at February 14, 2005 02:30 PM

josh: "Maybe they just like the feeling of believing that they are the only ones who are 'right' about the world."

The longer I live and the more I encounter the hard-core leftist I believe more and more that this is exactly their primary motivation. Especially among the Baby Boomers, the idea of distinguishing yourself by being "right" in the face of all that is wrong, of being intellectually or morally superior (and making sure everyone else knows it), of smugly retreating to one's cocoon of enui, of being special and unique and individual seems all the personal motivation required to put on your beret, sip your absynth and scorn the world. I don't think it's coincidence that these "look at me and love me Daddy" sorts increasingly not only understand their protests and political activism is counter production bu tthat they really don't care because the real goal was never to effect political change, but rather to attain personal gratification by being "right."

Posted by: submandave at February 14, 2005 03:37 PM

Wow, Frank, a "Fungus the Bogeyman" reference! I thought I was the only person who owned that book! Speaking of which, did you also have "Goodnight, Orange Monster"?

Posted by: Nick at February 14, 2005 04:11 PM
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