More Cultural Bulldozing: Political Correctness Gets H.P. Lovecraft, Woodrow Wilson Of The Geeks

The bust says it all...

The bust says it all…

Really bad and dangerous ideas take hold and thrive because, like a particularly deadly virus, they pop up in so many places at once, especially dark corners and exotic locals. The current progressive contagion of airbrushing history, toppling icons and cultural bulldozing–one of several  habits of successful totalitarians being embraced by the left these days—is such an idea. As usual, defenders of this thought-inhibiting and unjust practice behave as if it is the epitome of common sense and virtue, when in truth it is the  opposite.

To the credit of the followers of the World Fantasy Award (for literature in the fantasy an horror field), the administrators’ decision to cave to political correctness and retire an H. P. Lovecraft bust (designed by black humor cartoonist Gahan Wilson) as its symbol—H.P. was like, Woodrow Wilson, a white, Western culture supremacist —was not met with universal approval. Nonetheless the Award’s head honchos did it.

They did it to mollify the social justice zealots in the organization’s midst, who insisted on sending the message that currently non-conforming ideas and beliefs should be punished decades or even centuries later by pretending that legitimate and important contributions to art, politics, science and civilization didn’t exist, if the man or woman involved stepped across a political correctness line that didn’t exist when it was stepped over. All it takes to justify eradicating any honor, recognition or symbol of cultural gratitude is for a major historical figure in any field to have been shown to have engaged in, thought about (or consorted with those who engaged in or thought about) practices that the current culture, with assistance of many years of debate and experience that the toppled never had, now finds misguided, objectionable, offensive or wrong.

The proper punishment for this retroactive crime, these spiritual brethren of Stalin believe, is banishment, rejection and shame in the very field where the individual’s positive accomplishments reside. This is necessary to keep future generations from being influenced by ideas that might trigger discomfort among true believers of the official creed.

Thus, reason doctrinaire Princeton kids who have figured out The Great Truths at their tender age, Woodrow Wilson’s major contributions of strengthening and burnishing the name of the college, leading the United States for two terms, including through a world war, and devising the concept of the United Nations, no longer warrant respect and memorial, because he was, like so many other Southerners of his time, an unapologetic white supremacist. Of course, so was Abraham Lincoln and much of the nation, but that cuts no ice with the practitioners of merciless presentism. It isn’t just the views of the long dead that are being punished, you see. It’s a warning to non-conforming thinkers alive yet. Watch out! it says. Your thoughts, inspirations and ideas are impure and wrong, and you are still vulnerable to real punishment, not just the post-mortem fate of being defiled and forgotten.

Every situation is a bit different, and who can decypher the sliding scales and fluctuating values that are employed to decide that a give important figure needs to be ejected into oblivion.  Franklin Roosevelt just had a major memorial built to him, even as it was dawning on FDR’s liberal worshipers that Woodrow was a KKK admirer. Yet Roosevelt allowed a nest of anti-Semites under his supervison to turn a blind eye to the Holocaust; he approved the imprisonment of 100,000 Japanese citizens; and truth be told, I’d guess that he was something of a white supremacist himself. Why is he immune from the Big Topple, and Wilson is not? John Fitzgerald Kennedy was as much of misogynist as Wilson was a racist: why hasn’t his bust been banished from the Kennedy Center, while the performing arts building itself is renamed “The Steinem Center” or something similar? Later, when it is discovered deep in Gloria’s diary that while fighting for women’s rights she secretly barbecues and ate puppies, we help PETA  pull down her bust and name the Center for Lassie. Why is Planned Parenthood still honoring Margaret Sanger, who would have been likely pals with Josef Mengele?

Author Stephen Erickson wrote a rebuttal of critics of the decision to dishonor Lovecraft; I don’t have the energy to dismantle it in the detail it deserves, since I have dismantled its threadbare arguments before. I will say that applying retroactive political correctness to Lovecraft is particularly silly and wrong for several reasons. Unlike President Wilson, his political beliefs had no impact; they were just beliefs, and beliefs that were, though Erickson discounts the fact, considered common, reasonable and respectable in their time. The man was born in 1890, for heaven’s sake. He died in 1937, before the Holocaust, before the Civil Rights movement, and before blacks were allowed to play Major League baseball. Thirty years after his death, it was considered shocking for Captain Kirk to kiss Uhura on Star Trek. Lovecraft was also a very strange man, hardly anyone’s role model, and quite possibly mentally ill: the same brain peculiarities that caused him to dream—he turned his dreams, which for any of us would be the worst nightmares we ever had in our lives, into his stories–such horrors also produced his politics. Who can say that it was possible for him to have one without the other? That aside, the truth is that nobody in their right mind would honor Lovecraft the man, racist or no racism, any more than the mystery writers whose award is bust of Edgar Allen Poe would honor the man, rather than the man’s art.

The quick summary of Erickson’s flawed position is that race is more important than anything. At this moment, progressive cant holds that it is more important than free speech, merit, freedom of association, objective journalism, education, standards, safety, national defense, law enforcement, history—everything, or close to it. Anyone who assumes this race obsession will stand in perpetuity, even for group identity addicts, is a fool. Priorities change, perceptions change. Ideas change, if we allow them to be expressed, which right now is an American principle under assault.

The nucleus of what passes for his argument is contained in this passage:

[ A critic] points out that the World Fantasy Award is not about racism, and he’s right.  It’s not.  So why symbolise it with the bust of a racist?

The short answer is that the award is the bust of an author of indispensable  importance and influence in the field bestowing honors, and it refers to his writing and only his writing, as his writing relates to that field. It is not, for this purpose, the bust of a maladjusted hypochondriac obsessed with his mother and a lifetime failure, or an antisocial loner, or a racist, any of which accurately describe Lovecraft the man. Erickson’s impossible standard–no award or honor can be linked to anyone who engaged in any conduct now considered reprehensible by any group, spoke any words that good and right citizens today would object to, or be shown to have thought condemned and prohibited thoughts at any point in their adult lives.

It is an open question whether the genre that H.P. Lovecraft’s bust once celebrated would be half as important or vital without his work, or whether most of the authors it honored would be parking cars if he did not write his weird tales.  Call me an old softie, but I think that should count for a lot more than the crackpot social theories he wrote about in his letters and  the tangential asides in his narratives. Joyce Carol Oates,  Stephen King and others have agreed that Lovecraft’s contributions to fantasy and horror literature were indispensable to its development and popularity, as well as a crucial inspiration to many, if not most, of the practitioners who followed. That’s enough. That’s all that is necessary to fairly assure the author permanent honor for his legitimate and undeniable achievements. The bust didn’t honor his racism, or even refer to it, any more that the J. Edgar Hoover building honors the FBI founders biases, or that Martin Luther King Day celebrates adultery. Trailblazers and founders, warts and all, must be honored, always and forever. To reject the memories of pivotal figures who are responsible for the existence of a profession, an industry, a genre, a tradition, a city, company or a nation is a betrayal.

Nobody, past of present, living or dead, can meet that standard, and it is unethical to apply it to H.P. Lovecraft, Woodrow Wilson, or anyone else.

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Pointer: Alas! A Blog

39 thoughts on “More Cultural Bulldozing: Political Correctness Gets H.P. Lovecraft, Woodrow Wilson Of The Geeks

  1. It amazes me that these pitchfork-wielding oafs cant see how many dark ages in the lifespan of a nation were begun this way. Then again, these are very likely the people who would put anyone not toeing the line into camps or gas chambers should they ever get their utopia.

  2. The social justice warriors in the Science Fiction and Fantasy field rival only the current college students in ferocity and insanity. I remember back in 2009, my first run in with this brand of crazy was what’s know in the fandom as Race Fail ’09. That witch hunt resulted in the (ongoing) black listing of a respected author, Will Shetterly, for being the wrong brand of liberal. (He’s a dyed-in-the-wool socialist who argued that class, rather than race, was the root of modern injustice. This was unacceptable to the race fanatics among the writers, reviewers, and publishers, who still label him a racist and throw jabs at him six years later. He ended up writing a book on the subject: “How to Make a Social Justice Warrior”)

    Since then there have been a laundry list of similar instances. It’s practically a template for the idiocy you see in academia.

  3. Hmmm, how long before Robert E. Howard and the author of Starship Troopers are erased? What about C.S. Lewis, who was, if not a full-on racist, clearly not a fan of Middle Eastern culture? What about Tolkien, whose writings could be interpreted to support all kinds of wrong racial pr politically incorrect theories? $10 says no one touches Philip Pullman, though, despite, or perhaps because of, his church bashing. Thomas Covenant is right out, I bet, due to the hero’s shameful acts. I wonder if JKR’s Harry Potter writings will stand the test of time, even given her tiresome attempts to tack on the Very Important Message of equality.

    I do some fantasy writing myself, and some of it is flat-out politically incorrect, but it’s FANTASY. It’s not intended to be or parallel reality, although it is heavily influenced by romanticized Age of the Crusades history. I’d like to think it would be judged on its merits if ever I tried to publish anything. Like artists, authors should be judged onvtgeir work, not their politics, or a lot of good stuff will be missed and a lot of crap published.

    • Robert A. Heinlein is still lambasted by PC literary nabobs as a fascist, due to the society he imagined in “Starship Troopers”; along the lines of the awful movie so loosely based on his award winning novel. Yet, this was the same man who wrote “Stranger In A Strange Land”, sometimes referred to as “the hippie bible”! Heinlein was actually a libertarian before the term became known.

      Robert E. Howard was a somewhat unstable man who was intensely devoted to his mother. He rejected religion, drank heavily, had a very masculine outlook and even wrote semi-pornographic short stories. When his mother died a cruel death from cancer, he shot himself out of grief, thus cutting short a promising career. He’s most famous for his creation of Conan the Barbarian and his only novel length story was based on that character. (“Red Nails”… a grim tale that might have even given Lovecraft bad dreams!) This was not his only character by any means. Despite his rural Texas background, he developed an amazing sense of history and was able to present it in such a way as to make it come alive. His works of historical fiction were among his best. He also wrote some of the best westerns I’ve ever read.

      Let these imbecile racists and pandering academic dolts do what they can to smear and submerge writers like Howard and Heinlein. As I’ve often said, judging the past on a basis of the present is the folly of the amateur historian. But this goes further, as its aim is to erase the entire heritage- literary, historical and political- of an entire nation for the sake of the political power of a self-defined group. Nor are radical blacks the only ones engaged in this. While the colleges have sadly failed in their task of preserving that heritage, they will not succeed in destroying it. Even in a nightmarish “Fahrenheit 451” society (a vision which the Left seems to cherish) will that form of negation prevail. In that story, people memorized books before the “Firemen” could destroy them. God spare us from such a thing.

      • I say it goes even further than that. The whole point of fantasy and science fiction is to turn your imagination loose. These neo-fascists want to chain the imagination itself, and say you can’t or shouldn’t even THINK of certain things or in certain ways. My apologies for breaking Godwin’s Rule, but it was the Nazis who suppressed all kinds of different art forms in the name of right thinking (jazz music, modern dance, anything by Jewish folks, meritorious or not), and it was the Communists who tried to shackle art to the current regime (pushing “socialist realism” and demolishing cathedrals to pave the way for an unrealistic “Palace of the Soviets” which never materialized). God help us all if we get to that point.

      • 1) love the movie. It’s not the novel, but it’s science fiction political satire, the monsters are scary, and I love the actress who gets killed by the flying bugs.

        2. I didn’t know that about Howard.

          • Ditto on the movie; works subversively on several levels. As for weird, though, pretty much everyone who worked on Verhoeven’s 1973 “Turkish Delight” (the high point of his ten-year’s of filmmaking success in the Netherlands) turned out to be uncommonly weird and exceptionally talented: for one, cinematographer Jan de Bont morphed into another Hollywood director (“Speed”) . . . and then there’s Rutger Hauer . . . .

        • The issue I think is when people treat the two as synonymous, even though even most of the basic world-building as completely different; for one thing, Verhoeven implied the Bugs to be technologically inferior aliens who are mostly defending themselves, while Heinlein had them as technological equals of humanity.

          • Heinlein wrote “hard” science fiction. Verhoeven didn’t know the difference, as the movie proved. It also proved that he was telling the truth when he said that he never got around to actually reading the book. He just casually accepted the glib reviews that Heinlein’s future society was fascist and took it from there. That co-ed army idiocy was all Verhoeven’s idea, too. It gave him the opportunity to throw in some gratuitous sex and nudity, something that inferior filmmakers usually resort to.

        • I’d recommend Howard’s biography; “The Last Celt”.

          Dina Meyer was a sexy little siren, wasn’t she? Too bad she had to get killed off in favor of Denise Richardson. In the book, Dizzy Flores was a big, hulking GUY!!

  4. Here’s the poem in full text (I own the book, so quoting):
    The Genius Of The Crowd, by Charles Bukowski

    there is enough treachery, hatred violence absurdity in the average
    human being to supply any given army on any given day

    and the best at murder are those who preach against it
    and the best at hate are those who preach love
    and the best at war finally are those who preach peace

    those who preach god, need god
    those who preach peace do not have peace
    those who preach peace do not have love

    beware the preachers
    beware the knowers
    beware those who are always reading books
    beware those who either detest poverty
    or are proud of it
    beware those quick to praise
    for they need praise in return
    beware those who are quick to censor
    they are afraid of what they do not know
    beware those who seek constant crowds for
    they are nothing alone
    beware the average man the average woman
    beware their love, their love is average
    seeks average

    but there is genius in their hatred
    there is enough genius in their hatred to kill you
    to kill anybody
    not wanting solitude
    not understanding solitude
    they will attempt to destroy anything
    that differs from their own
    not being able to create art
    they will not understand art
    they will consider their failure as creators
    only as a failure of the world
    not being able to love fully
    they will believe your love incomplete
    and then they will hate you
    and their hatred will be perfect

    like a shining diamond
    like a knife
    like a mountain
    like a tiger
    like hemlock

    their finest art

  5. H.P. Lovecraft was an uneven writer but I enjoyed his short stories in my youth. A couple of fun and imaginative movies made of his stories are “Re-animator “and “From The Beyond”. He was a strange guy that definitely needed psychotherapy but why replace him with some black Sci-Fi writer whose books are hardly known.

  6. Again, this is a symptom of the decay in, well, everything, that Jack has been discussing for a long time now – the politicization of every aspect of life.
    All these little Berias are nothings, zeroes, losers, and hacks. They cannot operate without politicizing anything and everything, thus the petty tyranny. The void in all their souls will not be filled until they have, figurative for now, blood of all those who disagree because their flat, totalitarian minds cannot comprehend anyone who does not share their myopic misdiagnosis of the world. A personal failure is the world’s fault, a crappy job the fault of free markets, offensive language the fault of free speech.
    These little Trotskies cannot create, cannot love, therefore they must destroy.
    Okay, Bukowski-tinged rant over 🙂

  7. Does this mean that the John W. Campbell award will soon be going in the trash? Anyone who doesn’t believe he was a racist is welcome to read “The Yellow Peril”, if you can find it. No less an icon than Isaac Asimov opined ” “Campbell championed far-out ideas … ” in part because of his ideas about slavery. In any case, the ideas of an author from pre-1900 writing should hardly be considered in light of current beliefs.

  8. The World Fantasy Award is not about food. So why symbolize it with the bust of someone who ate food?

    Why are we not teaching people how to extricate unrelated concepts from each other? It’s possible to approve of some aspects of a person without approving of others. Not to be able to do so is a dangerous cognitive deficiency.

    • I don’t know. This what has most terrified me since I started researching this blog. People can’t think. They have never been taught logic, or analogy, or how to get past bias. The current refugee debate on both sides is a classic example. So is this.

      • I’ve had to deal with this my entire life. Ever since I can remember, I’ve torn apart ideas, and the people around me would feel like I was tearing them apart, because they couldn’t tear themselves away from the ideas. I’ve since gotten better at meeting them more than halfway, but I’m constantly dismayed that most people haven’t learned how to move any closer to me.

        This Wait But Why post is but the latest of some particularly incisive posts on that blog illuminating some of the shortcomings of instinctive human thought and how we can overcome them.

        Also, Intentional Insights is working on helping people overcome bias. If you’d like to help out or write a guest post, I can introduce you to one of the co-founders.

  9. H.P. Lovecraft and his friend Robert E. Howard were both racists, but I would argue that they should be on the short list of the most influential 20th C. writers. They need to be honored for that, not their demons, both real and illusory.

  10. The quick summary of Erickson’s flawed position is that race is more important than anything. At this moment, progressive cant hold that it is more important than free speech, merit, freedom of association, objective journalism, education, standards, safety, national defense, law enforcement, history—everything, or close to it.

    I am trying to puzzle out your meaning here, as there is a very real ambiguity arising from the typo(s) here. Did you mean “… progressives can’t hold …” or “… progressive cant holds …”, or something else again? Granted, one of those formulations is more coherent than the other, but for all I know you were ironically demonstrating the incoherence of the underlying position, or simply unconcerned as the incoherence stems from what you criticise.

    The bust didn’t honor his racism, or even refer to it, any more that the J. Edgar Hoover building honors the FBI founders biases, or that Martin Luther King Day celebrates adultery [emphasis added].

    Um… as against that, a certain street in Dublin is sometimetimes colloquially known as “The Street of the Three Adulterers”, after the unifying characteristic of the three men commemorated in statues there. If you ask why you can only see two statues, you will be told of Nelson’s Pillar “that’s the one that isn’t there”; the lads blew it up in the 1960s – precisely because they didn’t like those of Nelson’s connections for which he was being commemorated.

    • Ugh. My groveling apologies. The passage should read..(and now does):

      The quick summary of Erickson’s flawed position is that race is more important than anything. At this moment, progressive cant holds that it is more important than free speech, merit, freedom of association, objective journalism, education, standards, safety, national defense, law enforcement, history—everything, or close to it. Anyone who assumes this will always be the case, in perpetuity, is a fool. Priorities change, perceptions change. Ideas change, if we allow them to be expressed, which right now is an American principle under assault.

      And..”Anyone who assumes this race obsession will stand in perpetuity, even for group identity addicts, is a fool.”

      I don’t understand YOUR last passage. Which “connections for which he was being commemorated” did the lads not like? Surely not adultery? Surely you don’t argue that the lads’ action was reasonable? Or that the statue really commemorated adultery?

      • Sorry, I thought it was obvious. The street is known after the adulterousness that all three commemorated figures had in common, so that association did indeed come to people’s minds from the statues’ presence. Separately, the lads (i.e. the I.R.A.) took offence at the idea of commemorating Nelson, because of his particular association with supporting British rule – even though he did that in naval matters and not in Ireland, and the original intention was to commemorate him for his naval successes; he still ended up triggering offence for an indirect connection. So here we have the statues in just one street that do indeed bring out other ideas in the eyes of the beholders than those commemorated, in two different ways and in another time and place; clearly it’s a material comparison, all the more so in not flowing from the same zeitgeist that you were looking at just there.

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