By Scott Kirwin
For the past few weeks I’ve been watching large amounts of Japanese anime. Most of the limited TV watching I do is shared with the Wife, and if I stumble across something particularly good I save it so that we can watch it together. But she doesn’t like anime, which I can understand. It is an acquired taste. I have binge watched Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, Attack on Titan, and now am in the middle of a Sword Art Online marathon of sorts.
But this essay isn’t about anime. It’s about one of the original bloggers who gave up writing about current events and switched to blogging about it. Today I was thinking that I was following a similar path, forgoing writing about politics and instead thinking about the pure escapism offered by anime. I thought I’d drop him a line. Although he was a giant of the early medium, all right-leaning bloggers who started soon after 9-11 read his work at USS Clueless. I never met him and only knew him from his writing, but I did send him one or two fan emails both of which he politely answered. So I figured I’d pen some thought in a quick email. A quick search made it clear no email would be necessary.
For those of you who weren’t around in the early days of blogging in the period between 9-11 and the 2003 Iraqi invasion, let me just tell you that the blogging world was a brilliant place, and no one shone brighter than Steven Den Beste. Instapundit regularly linked to him. All the other right-leaning blogs including my own quoted him. In 2004 I wrote, “Den Beste was a master synthesizer in the mold of James Burke and could take two seemingly unconnected events and weave them together into a whole that was much greater than the sum of its parts. How did the Burgess Shale fossils relate to World War 3? Click here to find out. He had a patience for his readership that has been lost by many modern writers. He could walk you through his argument showing why life is rare in the Universe without leaving you behind or losing you in digressions. He recognized and labeled trends such as the divide between Wilsonians – those supporting a trans-nationalist idealism – and Jacksonians – those rooted in a populist based conservativism.”
But his writing did something much more personal for me. Steven Den Beste taught me how to finally rid myself of moral relativism that I had been indoctrinated into by the University of California. Relativism is the rot that lays at the heart of the American higher education system. One poignant quote I saved from October 4, 2001. It destroys moral relativism in less than two short paragraphs.
If our attackers are automatons with no moral responsibility, then they are mad dogs, and so we should fight back, for if we don’t they will surely attack us again.. If, on the other hand, they have free will, then we are justified by their acts in visiting punishment on them — and killing them anyway. Neither point of view justifies pacifism on our part. And if they are responding to things we did, then would we not in turn be responding to things they did? If they are not culpable for attacking us, how would we be culpable for responding in kind? If their attack on us was ethically neutral because they were responding to things we did to them, then our counterattack will equally be ethically neutral because we will in turn be responding to things they did. Ultimately no-one is responsible for anything, and ethics again becomes a null-set.
Deep down this theory assumes that we are not the same as them. We really can think, we really can make decisions, but they ultimately are stupid creatures who merely respond to their environment. It is deeply chauvinistic. It is only by assuming a gargantuan moral inequivalency that this argument stands. (Oct 4, 2001 )
Den Beste was an engineer, and of all classes of people I find engineers to be the most interesting. I was saddened when he quit blogging about politics, but 12 years later I now understand why he did it. I only regret that I never met him in person to thank him for helping me focus my post 9-11 rage into my writing.