Category: History

Clark on the Ace of Spades Podcast

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I've been reading Ace of Spades since way back in the early days of the blogosphere, so it was a thrill to be invited on the podcast last night to talk about the blue, pink, red, and gray teams, about #GamerGate, about John Scalzi and Vox Day fighting for the heart of science fiction, about how the broader culture war is over, and about how that doesn't much matter because the current American government will be swept away by the tide of history within twenty five years.

Listen to the whole thing here.

Gamer Gate: Three Stages to Obit

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A lot of things been written about Gamer Gate. Some of them wrong, some of them stupid, some of them both.

A lot of the confusion (both accidental and malicious) is because Gamer Gate is three separate things clustered together under one name.

The Three Stages of Gamer Gate

Gamer Gate began in a relationship spat. Person X was dating person Y. At some point person X realized that person Y had engaged in a pattern of cheating and lying, and person X blogged about the dirt.

This relationship drama was the first stage of the GamerGate, and as a he-said-she-said tale, it's of interest only to the two people involved, and their friends.

The blog post, though, went beyond "she told me she loved me and then she showed she didn't", and alleged that the unfaithful partner had slept with powerful media figures in the small world of computer games journalism…figures who either reviewed games coded by the unfaithful partner, or managed writers who did review the games. The alleged behavior is (at best) a breach of common sense, and (at worst) a major breach of journalistic ethics.

This gamer journalism drama was the second stage of GamerGate, and as a sex-for-positive press coverage scandal (unproven, in my mind), or just as a "jeez, gamer journalism is as corruptly orchestrated as mainstream media is under Ezra Klein's Journolist" scandal, it's of interest to the tens of thousands of people who read and write game review journalism… which doesn't include me.

This is where things got wacky. And by "wacky", I mean "exploded like a barbecue grill when liquid oxygen is poured on it."

Strange Seeds on Distant Shores

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In Soviet Russia, Pravda punches you

I once asked a coworker who had grown up in the Soviet Union "What was the most surprising thing about coming to the West?" I was assuming it was going to be something physical and mundane: the shape of traffic lights, or the fact that you can't find Vodka for sale in bus stops – something like that.

His answer, though, made me realize that I'd accidentally asked a really interesting question. "Growing up under communism, things didn't make perfect sense. Facts didn't quite fit together. But because everything – schools, newspapers, radio – was all from the same people, you never knew what was wrong…but you could tell that something wasn't right. It was like boxing while you're blind folded. You keep getting hit in the face, but you don't know why. Only after I got out did I see how the real world really was, and how everything we'd been told was lies and distortions." (Quote is from memory ten years later)

There's an aphorism that "fish don't know that they're in water." While googling up the phrase to make sure I had it exactly, I learned that Derek Sivers has made exactly the point I wanted to make next, and made it well, so I'll let him speak:

Fish don't know they're in water.

If you tried to explain it, they'd say, "Water? What's water?"

They're so surrounded by it, that it's impossible to see.

They can't see it until they get outside of it.

This is how I feel about culture.

We're so surrounded by people who think like us, that it's impossible to see that what we think are universal truths are just our local culture.

We can't see it until we get outside of it.

I was born in California and grew up with what I felt was a normal
upbringing with normal values.

My Russian friend was a fish, and it wasn't until he got out of the water that he could look down and exclaim "Holy shit! That is why I felt so wet all the time!"

Well, lucky us – we live in the West where the schools, the media, and the government aren't all held captive by one totalitarian ideology, so we get a diversity of viewpoints and can see how things really work.

I'm joking, of course. (more…)

Controlling Public Art By Lawsuit: Japanese-American Citizens Sue To Remove "Comfort Women" Memorial

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I have written about many maddening lawsuits at Popehat. But I cannot remember a lawsuit that so immediately repulsed and enraged me.

During the Second World War, the Empire of Japan sexually enslaved women — at least tens of thousands, and perhaps hundreds of thousands — to be raped by its troops. They were forcibly seized from the countries Japan occupied, primarily Korea. Though Japan officially apologized in 1993, in recent years right-wing forces in Japan have been seeking to retract those apologies, asserting that the enslaved women were actually voluntary prostitutes, or that the Empire itself wasn't involved in any coercion. This attempted walkback can best be understood in the broader context of Japanese nationalist politics, in which right-wing politicians play to their base by doing things like visiting shrines honoring war criminals.

Now Japanese-American plaintiffs, served by American megafirm Mayer Brown, are pursuing the agenda of reactionary Japanese politicians through despicable litigation.

Glendale, California is a suburb of Los Angeles. I grew up next door and still live there. It's incredibly diverse with many thriving ethnic communities. In 2013 the City of Glendale erected a modest memorial to the comfort women of World War II in a public park next to the library. Japanese politicians were enraged and have repeatedly demanded that the memorial be removed. The federal lawsuit filed by Mayer Brown seeks to have the memorial removed by force of law.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit — which I have uploaded here — are Glendale resident Michiko Shiota Gingery, Los Angeles resident Koichi Mera, and GAHT-US Corporation, which says it is in the business of providing "accurate and fact-based educational resources to the public in the U.S., including within California and Glendale, concerning the history of World War II and related events, with an emphasis on Japan’s role." The plaintiffs complain that the presence of the comfort women memorial in Glendale causes them to suffer "feelings of exclusion, discomfort, and anger because of the position espoused by her city of residence through its display and endorsement" of the monument, and that they avoid the park because it shows a "pointed expression of disapproval of Japan and the Japanese people" and diminishes their enjoyment of the park. Though the lawsuit discusses a controversy over what the Empire of Japan did to women in the war, the complaint unsubtly conveys a position: "These women are often referred to as comfort women, a loose translation of the Japanese word for prostitute."

Plaintiffs argue in part that the City of Glendale did not follow its own rules in approving the exact language on the memorial. But their primary argument — the most shocking one — is that the City of Glendale cannot erect such a memorial because it violates the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and interferes with the federal government's sole right to conduct U.S. foreign policy.

Glendale’s installation of the Public Monument has a direct impact on U.S. foreign policy that is neither incidental nor indirect. By installing the Public Monument, Glendale has taken a position in the contentious and politically sensitive international debate concerning the proper historical treatment of the former comfort women. More specifically, given the inflammatory language used in the plaque that is prominently featured alongside the statue, Glendale has taken a position at odds with the expressed position of the Japanese government.

Though the plaintiffs make this argument about the comfort women memorial in Glendale, it is nearly limitless in its application. For instance, though this fight is over a memorial, it could just as easily be about a city council resolution recognizing a day to remember some historical event. Similarly, though this fight is about the agenda of reactionary Japanese forces that seek to suppress discussion of wartime conduct, it could just as easily be about a hundred other historical disputes. If you think that's mere speculation, think again. Glendale, California and the surrounding communities are also home to one of the largest Armenian diaspora groups in the United States. Will Mayer Brown next be suing to force the removal of memorials to the Armenian Genocide, or to prohibit city councils from recognizing it, because it is extremely controversial to apologist forces in Turkey? Given the delicacy of U.S. relationships with the new government of Afghanistan, will someone use the federal courts to police the language of civic war memorials and commemorative statements across the nation, to make certain that they portray the Afghans as our allies?

This is not a First Amendment issue, exactly, because government entities don't have First Amendment rights. But it is an issue of federalism, of local self-determination, and of citizenship. Local citizens, through their local elected government, wished to recognize a historical atrocity using local government money on local government land. Their city did not purport to engage in negotiation with any foreign government or to take any position on behalf of the United States — they just took a position on behalf of its citizens. They did not do anything prohibited by the Constitution, like establishing a state religion. The notion that the federal government or the federal courts should regulate this expression is noxious.

Moreover, the argument against it is vague, unprincipled, and endlessly malleable. If a case like this succeeds, what will the courts say to a Holocaust denier who argues that a memorial is too harsh in condemning Germany, a nation with whom we have dicey relations? The plaintiffs here might argue that the difference is that recognition of the Holocaust isn't controversial and wouldn't anger most Germans, while the comfort women issue has angered Japanese politicians. But that's just another way of saying that foreign politicians should be able to dictate what American towns put on their civic memorials. The more that foreign politicians are willing to make demands and issue denunciations, the less free American towns would be to commemorate historical events. This would drive exactly the sort of entitled, thuggish behavior that Japanese politicians have shown here, issuing churlish demands that a foreign city shut up about their nation's history.

This lawsuit is thoroughly contemptible. It should fail, and everyone involved should face severe social consequences.

Edited to add: It occurred to me what this reminded me of: Croat lawfare trying to get Bob Dylan charged with hate speech for talking about Croat atrocities.

The Extraordinary, And Those Who Did It

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Today, on Veterans Day, I'm remembering my grandfather, Paul K. Doyle. I get my middle name from him.

Also, my sensuous lips.

Also, my sensuous lips.

Grandpa served on the USS Hamlin — a seaplane tender — in the Pacific during World War II, as well as on other ships servicing Naval aviation. He was a supply officer specializing in supplying Naval intelligence planes. He was not in combat, but he was damned close:

One night I took one of our small boats to another seaplane tender that I was responsible for as aviation supply officer. While I was gone, a kamikaze dove into the side of the ship and right through my room. My roommate was in the room at the time and was very badly hurt. The room was full of sea water and the furniture was upside down. The pictures of Judy [my mother — Ken], mother, and saucy [the dog] had been on my desk in a red leather portfolio.

We still have one of the pictures. The discoloration is from the seawater and liquor (from bottles Grandpa used for "trading purposes"):


Grandpa got the Bronze Star because he was particularly good at anticipating aviation supply shortages and finding creative solutions to them. Grandma says that if you found out, and asked him what he had done, he would say "Oh, I don't remember. Probably won it in a beer drinking contest."


Grandpa would be the last man to call himself a hero, or call himself extraordinary.

After 9/11 it's popular to refer to veterans as heroes. I think that term shortchanges them, unless we remember that heroism is about what you do and about not who you are. When extraordinary people do extraordinary things, it's not remarkable. The exploits of superheroes and the inhumanly able play out on our screens every day. But Veterans Day is a time to remember that ordinary people are capable of the extraordinary. The men and women who have served were just men and women — broken, like all of us, flawed, like all of us, afraid, like all of us. But faced with duty, they stepped up and did astounding things. They endured seas of crushing boredom dotted with islands of sheer terror. They committed acts of jaw-dropping bravery and sacrifice. They volunteered to venture into unknown territory amid danger and uncertainty. They served quietly in supportive roles essential to the things that get on the news. They did those things without superpowers and without magic and without the uncanny abilities or luck of our on-screen heroes. They did them with only the natural gifts that you and I have, and with skills borne of hard work and training — borne of service. They demonstrated by example what we can do if we are willing to commit ourselves to a cause.

Today, we should thank veterans for their service. But we should also thank them for their example.

History Must Be Curved

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I'm about to quote almost 700 words from a blog post, which normally would be considered long…but it's from an almost book-length series of posts, so as a proportion of the whole, it's actually quite short.

HISTORY MUST BE CURVED, for there is a horizon in the affairs of mankind. Beyond this horizon, events pass out of historical consciousness and into myth. Accounts are shortened, complexities sloughed off, analogous figures fused, traditions “abraded into anecdotes.” Real people become culture heroes: archetypical beings performing iconic deeds. (Vansina 1985)

In oral societies this horizon lies typically at eighty years; but historical consciousness endures longer in literate societies, and the horizon may fall as far back as three centuries. Arthur, a late 5th cent. war leader, had become by the time of Charlemagne the subject of an elaborate story cycle. Three centuries later, troubadours had done the same to Charlemagne himself. History had slipped over the horizon and become the stuff of legend. In AD 778, a Basque war party ambushed the Carolingian rear guard (Annales regni francorum). Forty years later, Einhard, a minister of Charlemagne, mentioned “Roland, prefect of the Breton Marches” among those killed (“Hruodlandus Brittannici limitis praefectus,” Vita karoli magni). But by 1098, Roland had become a “paladin” and the central character, the Basques had become Saracens, and a magic horn and tale of treachery had been added (La chanson de Roland). Compare the parallel fate of a Hopi narrative regarding a Navajo ambush (Vansina, pp. 19-20). This suggests that 17th century history has for the bulk of the population already become myth. Jamestown is reduced to “Pocahontas,” and Massachusetts boils down to “the First Thanksgiving.” And the story of how heliocentrism replaced geocentrism has become a Genesis Myth, in which a culture-hero performs iconic deeds that affirm the rightness of Our Modern World-view.

Conclusion: Our ancestors were not fools.

In three centuries, the long complex story of how the mobile Earth replaced the stationary Earth dipped below the horizon from History into Legend. Like all good legends, the story of heliocentrism and the culture-hero Galileo is simple and general and geared toward supporting the Rightness of the Modern worldview. But history is always detailed and particular.

The reasons for the stationary Earth were rooted in empirical experience and successful modeling. The dual motion of the Earth is not sensibly evident and was difficult to establish on empirical grounds. Heliocentrism triumphed first of all because Neoplatonic number mysticism had become au courant during the Renaissance, and Platonists equated mathematical elegance with physical evidence.

Resistance to heliocentrism was rooted in the science of the day and religion entered the picture mainly because the Church Fathers had interpreted Scripture in the light of that science. They weren’t about to change until there was solid evidence that the science (and hence the interpretation) was wrong; not in the middle of no honkin' Reformation they weren’t. Thomas Huxley said after investigating the affair that “the Church had the better case.” But Pierre Duhem put it differently. The Copernicans were “right for the wrong reasons.” The Ptolemaics were “wrong for the right reasons.”

Science doesn’t follow a mythic positivist ideal but the plural scientific methods described by Feyerabend: a mixture of empiricism, flights of fancy, intuition, aesthetics, doggedness, and jealousy. Scientific theories are underdetermined. Any finite set of facts can support multiple theories, and for a long time the available facts were equally explained by geostationary or geomobile models.

In the Legend, the conflict was between Science and Religion. But in the History, the conflict was between two groups of scientists, with churchmen lined up on all sides. Copernicanism was supported by humanist literati and opposed by Aristotelian physicists; so it was a mixed bag all around. Science does not take place in a bubble. International and domestic politics and individual personalities roil the pot as well. The mystery is not why Galileo failed to triumph – he didn’t have good evidence, made enemies of his friends, and stepped into a political minefield. The real mystery is why Kepler, who actually had the correct solution, constantly flew under the radar. A deviant Lutheran working in a Catholic monarchy, he pushed Copernicanism as strongly as Galileo; but no one hassled him over it. Too bad he couldn’t write his way out of a paper bag.

This is from the conclusion of Michael Flynn's masterful nine part essay on "The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown".

I can not recommend it highly enough.

  1. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown
  2. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: Down for the Count
  3. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown:
    The Great Galileo-Scheiner Flame War of 1611-13
  4. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown:
    The Down 'n Dirty Mud Wrassle
  5. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: Here's Mud in Yer Eye
  6. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: Comet Chameleon
  7. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: Time and Tides Wait Not
  8. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: Trial and Error
  9. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: From Plausible to Proven

If you find the idea in the first quoted paragraph above ("Beyond this horizon, events pass out of historical consciousness and into myth. Accounts are shortened, complexities sloughed off, analogous figures fused, traditions 'abraded into anecdotes.'") somewhere between tantalizing and fascinating, then you could do worse than to check out his Spiral Arm series of novels:

  1. January Dancer
  2. Up Jim River
  3. On the Razor's Edge
  4. In the Lion's Mouth

I loved the books.

Wikipedia has this to say about them:


This is a far future science fiction novel set in a universe populated with only humans and "pre-human" artifacts. It is told as a narrative presented with variations on English, Chinese, Indian, and Celtic words. The literary style has been described as extremely difficult to read due to the inclusion of non-English terms and historical accounts that are not common knowledge to most SF readers[1][2]. The characters in the story belong to 2 major factions of humanity: The United League of the Periphery, and the Confederacy of Central Worlds. The Confederacy is the remnant of Earth and its original colonies while the League is composed of the planets far out on the spiral arm of the galaxy. These 2 factions are in a galactic "cold war" and both have secretive pseudo-military agencies that feature prominently in the book. The story centers around the Confederacy and League agents seeking the answer to a mystery of the disappearance of ships in the rift between the spiral arm and the central worlds. The story's title comes from a "pre-human" artifact called the Dancer which is discovered early in the book. It exerts a subtle but very profound effect on various characters throughout the story. It is eventually revealed to be part of an ancient race of silicon based lifeforms called "The Folk of Sand and Iron" that have played a very significant but almost unknown role in human history. The story has 2 sequels and a third planned[3]. The January Dancer was a finalist for the 2009 Prometheus Award.

ObDisclosure about this review:

  1. I've never met Michael Flynn, and have no personal or economic stake in his success.
  2. I do, however, have a memetic stake. He thinks Deep Thoughts that I agree with. I wouldn't mind him getting funded so that he can keep writing.
  3. The links to his books above use the Amazon Popehat affiliate code. Read about how that money gets spent here.
  4. Depending on the reaction to this post, I may end up writing reviews of science fiction novels that I find worthy of note. Whether or not people like this one, I'm pretty likely to write one of my big-honkin' pieces on the topic of left/right/centrist post-apocalyptic novels.

UPDATE: Thanks for dropping by, Hacker News readers. If you liked this you might want to subscribe to the RSS feed. Popehat is a group blog. Ken is the most prolific blogger and covers civil rights law. I'm the second most prolific blogger (this week, at least) and talk about science, politics, and – upcoming – intended to dive deep into Urbit and will soon start writing reviews of science fiction novels. The other co-bloggers are also fascinating nerds and write about stuff that the typical news.yc reader would enjoy. Stick around!

The Guns Of August

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99 years ago today, the first German uhlans crossed the Belgian frontier, seizing telegraph offices and rail stations. At 11:00 p.m., 99 years ago today, the United Kingdom entered a state of war with the German Reich. By midnight, the Royal Navy was steaming to battle stations.

British Navy
Once the Germans crossed that frontier, which was guaranteed by Britain, there was no turning back.

99 years later, many of the descendants of the men who fought in the British Expeditionary Force believe that the event that triggered the Great War was the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Many more believe that it was Margaret Thatcher, rather than Herbert Asquith, who declared war. One of the leading sources of British knowledge of the Great War is "Blackadder."

This is the world that was made, 99 years ago today.

Blogging As Cooperative Free Association

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Links are the currency of blogging. We're fortunate these days to receive a fair number of them, for which we're thankful. But once in a while, a link stands out, a link from another blogger who takes your story, and spins it into something of his own inspiration, something you'd never think to write, or something you simply couldn't write.

I was especially thankful, therefore, to receive a link this morning from Unwashed Advocate, in which the author riffs on my trifle about yet another overbroad law aimed at the Westboro Bigot Church, to tell the little-known history of William Calley after My Lai, the disgusting fashion in which high government officials pandered to Calley's fan club, and the author's meeting with one of the jurors at Calley's court martial: I give you Calley Revisited.

Point of order

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Concerning the higher education bubble and employability, John Leo writes:

Employers, because they realize that many college graduates aren’t really educated, now routinely quiz job seekers on what they majored in and what courses they took, a practice virtually unknown a generation ago. Good luck if you majored in gender studies, communications, art history, pop culture, or (really) the history of dancing in Montana in the 1850s.

He implies that those who major in the five disciplines he mentions, or in kindred areas, will need luck since their training and capabilities will not be adequate to pass muster. In short, they "aren't really educated." Well, maybe. But one of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn't belong here….

Art history isn't one of the fashionable new disciplines, along the lines of <noun>-studies, that arose in the academic turmoil of the 20th century's latter half. As an academic endeavor, it has historical roots similar to those of psychology and economics: rumblings of inquiry and analysis in the late 1700s, disciplinary differentiation on the continent in the later 1800s, and finally a blossoming between the wars. Even in the United States, the PhD in art history (to say nothing of the undergraduate major) has been around since the 1940s. On a broad definition, art history as a systematic learned endeavor traces back to the monumental 16th-century labors of Giorgio Vasari.

Art history requires facility with languages, engagement with intellectual history, an understanding of evolving technologies of representation and communication, and a grasp of the rich interaction among methodologies and social forces underlying creation, distribution, consumption, and analysis. Maybe some who choose art history desire to look at and laud the pretty pictures — a practice better understood as art appreciation — but many who pursue it do so because doing art history well is hard, and there's pleasure in doing hard things well.

Perhaps the foregoing is true, too, of "gender studies, communications, …pop culture, or …the history of dancing" but I can't speak to that question with authority. (As for the broader anti-humanistic trend, I've called it out before). This much seems true: thinking that the study of art history doesn't provide a "real education" (including, but not limited to, skills valuable to employers) betrays not just ignorance of the particulars but a contempt for the humanistic endeavor in general.

John Leo isn't alone in his trench; it's not hard in excavating the word hoard of today's techno-intellectual cultural backlash to find other examples of sneering disdain. Standing with one foot in the humanities and the other in STEM, I'm disappointed to see complex, mature, and deeply rooted disciplines trashed alongside academic novelties and questionable latecomers, all in the service of a monolithic, pragmatic vision of education as mere job training.

Good luck if your pedagogical vision is limited to empirical and procedural questions of what and how. Why and whether and what to do with paradox and gray– these also matter.

Misappropriation of Decency and Valor

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People who have followed recent events concerning Brett Kimberlin — including our coverage here — know that Kimberlin runs a nonprofit organization called "Velvet Revolution."

That catchy name is not original. The brave, principled, nonviolent uprising against the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, which led to the overthrow of Soviet dominance there, used the name first.

To learn more about the real Velvet Revolution — and to understand why it is singularly disgusting that Team Kimberlin has appropriated the name — check out a new blog on the topic, and on related topics of righteous defiance of tyranny: Velvet Revolution.

Especially noteworthy: Brett Kimberlin and the Justice of Google.

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Most important, what Krugman calls the “right-wing mythology” is largely correct: government intervention is responsible for the systematic problems with the US banking system. That, however, is not the same as “bad banking.” Banks, like any other business, make mistakes all the time. Bad banking happens in free markets, but markets provide incentives and knowledge signals that help banks avoid and correct such mistakes. The question is not whether there is or isn’t “bad banking,” but which institutional environment minimizes and corrects it best. What doesn’t happen in free markets are the systematic mistakes that lead to panics and massive bank failures.

The passage I quoted is really a critique of Krugman on political macroeconomy, but there's plenty of room left to criticize Krugman's alt-historical approach, his motivations, really his entire weltanschauung. Read the whole thing.

"No Elephant-Headed God-Men Were Killed, Mistreated, Or Blasphemed In The Making Of This Play"

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If the makers of Ganesh v. Hitler, a play set to debut in Melbourne, Australia on September 29, would like to add that line to their playbill, all we ask is that they credit Popehat (but please don't mention that to the Roman Catholics).

According to the playwright, Hitler stole the swastika from the Hindu religion.  And, much as U2's Bono recovered the song "Helter Skelter" from Charles Manson on behalf of the Beatles and Indiana Jones recovered the Ark of the Covenant on behalf of Uncle Sam, Ganesh just wants to steal the swastika back. 

The publicity blurb for Ganesh versus the Third Reich, from Geelong-based company Back to Back Theatre, depicts the elephant-headed Hindu god of prophecy seeking to go one-on-one with Hitler over the swastika.

Rajan Zed, a Hindu statesman from the United States, said Hindus were concerned about the play, which will premiere at the Melbourne Festival.

"The Lord Ganesh was meant to be worshipped in temples and home shrines and not to be made a laughing stock on theatre stages," Mr Zed said in a statement.

"Lord Ganesh was divine and theatre/film/art were welcome to create projects about/around him showing his true depiction as mentioned in the scriptures," said the president of the Universal Society of Hinduism.

"Creating irrelevant imaginary imagery, like reportedly depicting him being tortured and interrogated by Nazi SS, hurt the devotees."

While Rajan Zed, the Hindu statesman from the United States, isn't explicitly calling for censorship, the thought of Lord Ganesh suffering at the hands of Nazis has gotten some Australians, specifically Dr. Yadu Singh of the Council of Indian Australians, calling for censorship:

Depiction of Lord Ganesha in this manner is going to become an Issue in India and among Indians, and is likely to create a controversy between India and Australia, which is unnecessary.

Further more, agencies which receive public funding in Australia, can’t be associating with any action, commentary, documentary or play, which lampoons the beliefs, deities or feelings of people from any religion.

What seems to be lost in the controversy and threats of international incidents is that this is a play about a giant elephant-headed man clobbering Hitler, which is not to trivialize the giant elephant-headed man, nor his divinity.  While the enormity of his crimes can't be diminished, Hitler himself has become so trivialized and diminished that politicians feel no shame in invoking Hitler to describe the Chamber of Commerce.  Hitler is now a comic book character, and a bad one at that.  Despite the playwright's description of the play as:

a “wildly inventive ride through history, where sacred icons and rituals become weapons” and “brimming with humour”.

it probably sucks, just like a bad comic book.

Surely Lord Ganesh is divine enough to withstand such a trifling indignity, even if some of his followers aren't.

Jackson Seizes Little Round Top; Meade's Flank Broken, Lee Defeats The Army Of The Potomac And Surrounds Philadelphia; So Today I'll Complain About The Kaiser's Slave Duty Increasing The Price Of Good Domestics

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As longtime readers know, we dabble in alternate history. Well, I do.  Ken's a political science major who thinks history began in 1968. But it's all wanking, as much as the long title of this post.

Still, for those who delight in this sort of wanking as much as I, here's a nifty, if deeply flawed, "counterfactual" of the Second World War with an utterly implausible (yet plausible to Hitler) thesis:

Then, too, what if Poland had agreed in 1939 to join Germany in an invasion of the Soviet Union, as Hitler wanted? If Poland had allied with Germany rather than resisting, Britain and France would not have issued territorial guarantees to Poland, and would not have had their casus belli in September 1939. It is hard to imagine that Britain and France would have declared war on Germany and Poland in order to save the Soviet Union. If Poland’s armies had joined with Germany’s, the starting line for the invasion would have been farther east than it was in June 1941, and Japan might have joined in, which would have forced some of the Red Army divisions that defended Moscow to remain in the Far East. Moscow might have been attained. In this scenario, there is no Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, and thus no alienation of Japan from Germany. In that case, no Pearl Harbor, and no American involvement. What World War II becomes is a German-Polish-Japanese victory over the Soviet Union. That, by the way, was precisely the scenario that Stalin feared.

Implausible for three reasons: First, it assumes that the Poles would, or could, have caved in to the Nazis, becoming a giant Finland as Hitler wished.  For those who appreciate such things, here's an old Polish joke that isn't derogatory to the noble people of Poland:

Q: A Polish soldier is confronted by a German soldier approaching from the west, and a Russian soldier approaching from the east. Which does he shoot first?

A: The German. Duty before pleasure.

Second, the larger work, which speaks of ways Hitler could have won the war, is flawed because it ignores its central character: Hitler. Hitler was no more capable of doing the "right" thing in war than he was of doing the "right" thing in politics.  A Hitler who could have sat back and let the Prussian General Staff dictate the course of the war to him would never have propelled the National Socialists to power in the first place, nor held power for six years before war, nor have scared the Russians so badly they'd made a deal to give Hitler a free hand, and cheap oil and minerals, while he dealt with France.

Third, the larger work ignores the singular character of Churchill, in his way as odd a man, and every bit as exceptional, as Hitler:

If we agree with Roberts, as we should, that Churchill personally helped lengthen the war by keeping Britain from seeking peace terms after the fall of France, then we are also implicitly saying that, absent Churchill, peace might have been made. The war-winning alliance of the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union was sealed only in December 1941, and could not have been achieved had Britain left the war.

"Absent Churchill" is a tall order, in that the man was on the scene.  Removing Churchill takes us from the realm of alternate history into "what if Stonewall Jackson had survived Chancellorsville?" territory: not alternate history, but The Man In The High Castle, or Doctor Who prevents the creation of the Daleks level science fiction.

Still, for those who care, this is some fantastic semi-science fictional wanking.

Via Angus, who in an alternate reality co-blogs with the Governor of North Carolina.

(Hey, I voted for his co-blogger, even if no one else did.)