Enemies in the East: An Interview with Anca-Maria Cernea. Part I.

Romanian analyst and writer Anca-Maria Cernea says that Communism wasn’t altogether defeated in her country. What Cernea has to say about Romania can be said for most of the former Communist countries of Europe. There is an ongoing struggle in Eastern Europe and Americans seem oblivious– especially American politicians.  A Polish journalist recently wrote to me: “I think many U.S. politicians do not have knowledge about the nature of Bolshevism. They may be historians, strategists or even experts, but it does not mean they understand Russian methods. ”

The Russian methods referred to include (1) control of the political opposition through secret agents; (2) strategic deception and disinformation to mislead and disorient; (3) political violence or the threat of political violence; (4) and monopoly control of the media, big business and the government bureaucracy. Such methods are still used in Eastern Europe, for the benefit of Russia and the former Communist elite. Sadly, the old Communist system was not completely eradicated. There was no trial of Communism, no justice for millions of innocent victims. If you want to understand what happened, read carefully the words of Anca-Maria Cernea. When I asked her if Romania is a free country she replied: “I can’t answer that question by yes or no. I would say Romania is a relatively free country.”

She is thankful, of course, that Romania enjoys more freedom than it had before 1989. “On the other hand,” she added, “I can’t say that we are really free, according to classical Western democratic standards, because our society has too many features of an oligarchic system.” This oligarchic system is partly a continuation of the old system. The democratic, pro-Western forces, she says, “never completely managed (or didn’t try hard enough) to deliver our society from oligarchic and Eastern-leaning influences, like during the terms of President Constantinescu, with the government of the Democratic Convention, and now, under President Băsescu, currently serving his second term, along with the government supported mainly by the PDL [Liberal Democratic Party, center-Right].”

Romania had one of the most repressive Communist regimes in Eastern Europe. The Communist Party and the secret police had almost total control over the population. According to Cernea, “The people who were serving the Communist regime and the almighty political police enjoyed privileged positions, socially and economically; they were connected among themselves through common interests, complicity in very serious crimes and, last but not least, fear of each other, which was meant to prevent any defections from the system. The rest of the Romanian people lived in misery and terror, cut away from the civilized world. Additionally, our society was devastated by the general distrust; everybody suspected their colleagues, neighbors and even family members of collaborating….”

Cernea explained that the Communist elite “were not ready to give up the privileges they had obtained by murder, treason and theft…. On the contrary, they and their offspring became prosperous businessmen, media tycoons and successful politicians. They constituted some kind of a privileged cast, an establishment, enjoying an enormous power, no matter who was officially governing the country.”

This establishment, Cernea says, “is the most important obstacle” keeping the country from being truly free. This establishment, made up of former Communist officials and the children of Communists, “hinders the institutions of the democratic State from functioning properly [and] it is the source of large-scale corruption….” Pro-Western forces, she explained, have always operated at a disadvantage. The post-Communist structures are dominated by the former functionaries of the Communist regime. These former Communists are also a source of what Cernea calls “serious, organized political violence.”

“Politically, we are relatively free, in the sense that we have elections, we have different parties and there is some political competition,” Cernea noted. “But the competition, however real, is far from being fair. And that can be said about other aspects of freedom, like the freedom of the press or the rule of law. To a certain extent, normal Romanian citizens can nowadays make use of their freedom of speech or they can obtain justice in a court of law. However, it is very difficult for a normal citizen to win if his/her interests collide with the interests of the post-Communist establishment.”

No longer exercising totalitarian control over the press, the former Communists nonetheless rule the media. “They own most of the media companies and they don’t hesitate to make use of them according to their convenience,” says Cernea; “they practice character assassination, slander and intimidation campaigns, against anybody who attacks the establishment – currently their target is mostly President Băsescu.” As for the rule of law, most of Romania’s judges were part of the old structures. According to Cernea, “they refuse to enforce the law if it is against the interests of the establishment. There are huge corruption networks involving politicians and judges, for instance as it was revealed recently, in the Voicu-Costiniu case, when a number of such people were arrested or indicted.”

But how could this be? The 1989 Revolution supposedly brought down the Communist system. How could the Communist elite continue to keep control of the country’s key assets? Cernea explained that there was a genuine anti-Communist revolution: “But there was also a coup d’état organized by people of the regime who were taking their orders from Moscow. The Soviets had their agents in the Romanian Communist Party and in Securitate [the secret police]; Ceausescu was aware of their existence, he was keeping them under control, but his position towards the USSR didn’t allow him to eliminate those people.”

Cernea believes the Soviets helped prepare some of the changes in Eastern Europe in 1989, with the following stipulation: “When I say ‘the Soviets were preparing’ I don’t mean that all of the changes that took place in 1989 were 100 percent KGB manipulation. I mean that the Soviets were aware of the failure of their system long before 1989, and were working on projects that would allow them to keep, or even increase their power by changing their appearance through glasnost/perestroika and by giving up certain less important aspects of their control over the region – like Marxist ideology and centralized economy. I think their plans succeeded in great part, but not completely.”

The national security implications of Cernea’s analysis should not be passed over, especially considering the present rulers of Russia, the ongoing modernization of the Russian armed forces, and Russia’s alliance with Iran. One might be tempted to ask if Romania is a reliable NATO partner. According to Cernea, “As long as Băsescu is president of Romania, I am sure there is no doubt about our commitment to the alliance with the U.S. and Israel. On the contrary, as I see the situation now, it’s rather a problem for us and for Băsescu that the United States are less and less interested in Eastern Europe and that we can’t count on our American allies to protect us against the Russians. It’s rather you Americans that will decide if Romania will stay in the Free World or will be taken back under Russian domination – if let’s say Băsescu has an accident, or is removed from power by some other means.”

Is Cernea suggesting that Russia could retake Romania?  “Romanian people are traditionally hostile to Russians,” she explained. “This is a thing deeply rooted in our culture and mentalities and it’s much older than Communism. The Communist experience has only strengthened this hostility to an unprecedented degree. Iliescu himself had to disguise his attachment to Russia, however difficult it was for him to do so.” It is not a question of the Romanian people going over to Russia. It is a question of whether the Romanian people can retain their freedom under an oligarchy that doesn’t believe in rule of law, and secretly supports Moscow.

“In my opinion,” Cernea concluded, “NATO is indeed undermined, by many things. The fact that former Communist countries, with their former Communist armies and secret services are now members of NATO is just one of the risks; it’s a real risk, but it’s not the most important, and it can be dealt with – and should be, of course. But the Western armies and secret services are probably infiltrated too. The most serious problem is not even that; it’s the fact that NATO seems to have no real political will, no realistic plan, no effective decision-making, no leadership. NATO looks more and more like OSCE, or the UN; it is just another place for debate, similar to so many other international organizations. It doesn’t act like a military alliance, committed to defend its values against real, clearly defined enemies.”

Cernea is correct, and there is more that could be said. The West has lost its way. We no longer properly identify our enemies. We no longer prepare for war with Russia – our main enemy. It seems that America’s armaments exist only to deal with weak threats – like the Taliban, Iran or North Korea. A large and powerful foe, like Russia, cannot be spoken of as a threat. Such an admission would be a scandal. We seek amelioration and peace at every turn. America’s policy is a strange combination of appeasement and presumption. Sad to say, everything may be lost if we ignore words of warning from those who are fighting against Russian tyranny – in Romania, Poland, Ukraine, and other countries.

Communism is not dead. We only have to look at American politics to see this.

Jeffrey Nyquist is the President of the Strategic Crisis Center and Distinguished Senior Fellow in Political Science at the Inter-American Institute for Philosophy, Government, and Social Thought.

This article was originally published on Financial Sense on March 26, 2012. The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute.

One Nation Under Drugs

When a star promotes a product in a film, it’s called an “advertorial.” So is the film It’s Complicated an advertorial for smoking marijuana? Jason Silva notes in his review of this movie at the Huffington Post that it shows “successful, cosmopolitan adults enjoying a marijuana joint with no consequences.”[1] Upset that the film received an “R” rating merely because of its potheads, Silva protests, “We should all be proud of director Nancy Meyers, and actors Meryl Streep and Steve Martin for helping solidify marijuana’s entry into acceptable pop culture status.”

Apparently pot is acceptable these days, with starring celebrities toking in feature films such as It’s Complicated, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Even three years ago The Christian Science Monitor noticed a trend: “Films featuring characters using marijuana have mushroomed.” It is “cinema’s stoned age.”[2] (There’s even a list of the 20 best stoner movies.)[3] Silva happily notes, “Our 10,000-year relationship with cannabis can now exist without shame or rebellion.” (Our 10,000-year relationship with cannabis? The cannabis “relationship” here began in earnest in the 1960s.)

In GQ Mark Healy agrees: By all accounts this should be a golden age for stoners. Weed has never been stronger, more accessible, and less criminal—particularly if you’re wealthy, white, and living in one of the thirteen [now fifteen] states where it’s approved for medicinal purposes.[4]

How did this come about? Healy says, I guess it began the moment medical-marijuana advocates began equating pot with something healthful and people started actually believing them . . . to treat nausea and headaches. . . . You won’t likely hear of pot’s harms,[5] while millionaires like Hugh Hefner and billionaires like George Soros have helped finance marijuana legalization.[6]

Making it “healthy” has made pot seem no more dangerous “than a bottle of spirulina,” says Healy, who complains that pot is now so widespread, it’s no longer cool. How widespread? Silva crows, “There are now more marijuana dispensaries in L.A. than there are Starbucks.” And to date, fifteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized “medical” marijuana. More states are likely on the way. A 2010 Franklin & Marshall poll “found that 81 percent of Pennsylvanians supported making medical marijuana legal—up from 76 percent in 2006,” noted Mackenzie Carpenter in the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette: They’re lighting up joints in Bryn Mawr and Squirrel Hill [Pennsylvania] after putting the kids to bed.

At [Ava Lounge] in East Liberty, pro-medical marijuana activists are recruiting and organizing new members over martinis.[7] What about those medical reasons for marijuana? In California, writes Mackenzie, “otherwise healthy young people with ‘back pain’ are wangling permission from unscrupulous doctors to obtain the drug.”

She quotes Lynn Abraham, Philadelphia’s former district attorney: “Why is it that in California most people using it are 20 to 35 years old? Give me a break. Is this what we want to become in Pennsylvania? . . . A pleasure palace? Yikes. We’re just going to turn into a bunch of spoiled, self-indulgent dope heads.”

Defenders of cannabis legalization, of course, would say Abraham is just wrong.


Yemen’s Woes


What might a society with widespread drug use over a few generations look like? My interest in this question began in 1978, when I read an article called “Qat’s Cradle” in Human Behavior. It recounted how the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare had paid two UCLA researchers to spend two years in Yemen to ascertain what life would be like “in a total drug culture.” Yemen was a good place for such a study because a large proportion of its population cultivated and used qat (pronounced “khat”), a so-called “mild” narcotic leaf, considered less addictive and less harmful than marijuana.

The researchers reported that Yemenis of all ages used qat: Students chew [the leaves] liberally. . . . Children chew qat starting at seven or eight years of age . . . women … have their own qat parties . . . taxi drivers chew. . . . Politicians chew with politicians; religious leaders and scholars chew with their groups. Qat chewing even plays a role in the highest government circles.[8]

This habit of qat chewing in Yemen is some 400 years old, the researchers reported, citing a 19th-century traveler to Yemen who tried it and commented, “The Yamini can go for several days without food, but not a single day without qat. Men and women and children, they all use it.”[9] The society that engaged in all this qat chewing was described as a lethargic population that endured widespread malnourishment, impoverishment, and infant mortality.

A World Bank report issued in 2007 corroborates the picture painted by the UCLA researchers. Titled “Yemen: Towards Qat Demand Reduction,” this report states that “until the 1960s, qat chewing was an occasional pastime, mainly for the rich,” but that in the last half-century, it has become much more widespread, with “trend” data showing increasing use by children as young as five years old. The report shows how qat use has been “linked to widespread child malnutrition and household food insecurity” and numerous other problems. It states:

The adverse health effects of qat . . . include high blood-pressure, underweight children (when pregnant women chew qat), cancer (from consuming pesticide residues), and dental diseases. Consumers spend, on average, nearly 10 percent of their income [on qat]. . . . [Qat is] inimical to the development of a productive work force, with as much as one-quarter of usable working hours allocated to qat chewing.[10]


A Universal Problem


Yemen is not unique. “Joints” and various hallucinogens have long been with us. In his book The War on Drugs, James Inciardi, an authority on drugs and crime, writes that references to marijuana appear in early Persian, Hindu, Greek, Arab and Chinese writings [and the] chewing of coca had already been in Inca mythology for centuries.[11]

Though surrounded by rich national resources, most indigenous peoples in Central Mexico, Costa Rica, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Morocco, Egypt, Yemen, Jamaica, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, and Fiji live in dire poverty with culturally accepted use of drugs filtering down to children.

Marijuana and betel nut are common in most of Egypt and Asia. The Cree Indians of North America brew and chew calamus or “rat root,” while farther south, from Central Mexico to Costa Rica, hashish and thle-pela-kano (“Leaf of God”) keep the inhabitants hooked. Opium, heroin, hash oil, and hashish are indigenously Asian. Hashish abounds in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Nepal. Like other Third World countries, Nepal’s life expectancy hovers at about 51 years of age, in sync with its annual per capita income of about $1,010.[12]

Widespread consumption of indigenous drugs often correlates with poverty, early mortality, and illiteracy, and it may explain a general condition of apathy or lethargy called amotivational syndrome.

Adult use often leaves children vulnerable to neglect or abuse, by their parents or others.


Kick it!


What do the people of Yemen think about their qat habit? The World Bank report states: Most users believe that qat is bad for them. More than 70 percent of the respondents describe qat chewing as a “bad habit” that is also bad for the economy and bad for the nation’s image. Users want to “kick the habit” but they cannot. Either because of social pressures, or because of the psychological dependency resulting from prolonged use, users do not feel that they can stop using qat on their own. Some 53 percent of all male and 61 percent of all female respondents declare that Government intervention is necessary to address the qat problem.[13]

They want government help to quit? Do any of the legislators from the fifteen U.S. states that have legalized marijuana know about Yemen? They should. Meanwhile, back at the Huffington Post, Jason Silva concludes his story about our new marijuana culture thus: One thing is certain. It’s Complicated does a good job of showing something not so complicated: marijuana can make you giggly, hungry and maybe even hyper-philosophical . . . but it doesn’t make you a couch-dwelling, pizza-eating sloth or criminal.

There probably is little danger that rich Hollywood elites like Meryl Streep and billionaires like George Soros will become sloths, whether or not they smoke pot or chew qat leaves. And even if they did, their wealth would mitigate the ensuing problems for themselves and their families. But what about poor and working-class citizens? Take Detroit, about which Matt Labash wrote last fall in the Weekly Standard: “[T]hat’s exactly what a city with 15 percent unemployment that’s as chronically crime-ridden and dysfunctional as Detroit needs: more drugs.”[14]

Michigan did approve “medical” marijuana, and up to 900 people a day were applying for marijuana use when Labash wrote: A state court of appeals judge recently lamented in a decision, “Michigan will soon have more registered marijuana users than we do unemployed—an incredible legacy for the Great Lakes State.”

The Yemenis might warn us about our grand experiment in medical marijuana. Are we in any state to listen?




[1] www.huffingtonpost.com/jason-silva/its-not-that-complicated_b_415332.html.

[2] www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Movies/2008/0516/p15s01-almo.html.

[3] http://movies.popcrunch.com/the-20-best-stoner-movies-of-all-time.

[4] www.gq.com/entertainment/humor/201001/pot-culture-stoner-culture.

[5] www.ncfamily.org/FNC/0901S2.html.

[6] http://cannabisnews.com/news/20/thread20166.shtml.

[7] www.post-gazette.com/pg/10192/1072041-51.stm.

[8] Kennedy, J. and R. Hurwit, “Qat’s cradle,” Human Behavior (October 1978),pp. 38–39.


[10] www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/ WDSP/IB/2007/06/26/000090341_20070626112355/Rendered/INDEX/397380YE.txt.

[11] James Inciardi, The War on Drugs (Mayfield Publishing, 1986).

[12] www.who.int/countries/npl/en.

[13] Op. cit.

[14] www.weeklystandard.com/articles/gone-pot.

6Dr. Judith Reisman is a Distinguished Senior Fellow in the Study of Social Trends, Human Rights, and Media Forensics.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute. This article was originally published on Salvo Magazine in the 17 Issue. You can buy Dr. Reisman’s book Sexual Sabotage on her website.

By What Authority?

Years ago, one basic rule in the lawyer’s toolkit was to ask the question, “By what authority?” If there were not a constitutional, legal or legislative authority, then the courts would strike down the executive action.

Recently, the price and wage czar for President Obama told the president of Bank of America that he had to return close to $2 million of his salary. The loony newspapers thought this was a good thing. The question they should have asked, however, was, “By what authority?”

Of course, the czar doesn’t have such authority. The government doesn’t have the authority to fix wages and prices. This is a bold, outright communist power grab by another refugee from the Dark Ages of the 1960s.

Acclaimed anti-communist author and Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn told an audience at Harvard in 1979 that, if the Russian people had opposed the Soviet Communists, the Soviets would not have been able to devastate the country and send tens of millions of people to their untimely deaths.

It is time for us to stand up. This czar has no authority to do this. The government has no authority. We need to hold their feet to the fire of the Constitution and restore the United States to a country where the law reigns over the government rather than the government making its own laws for its avaricious, psychopathic power grab. If we sit back and do nothing, we will find ourselves in the gulag.

Of course, the ultimate law is the Law of God found in the Old Testament and New Testament documents. We need wise conservatives who will abide by that Divine Law.

The United States will have either biblical laws or anti-biblical laws – and we will either have constitutional laws or unconstitutional laws. There is no in-between.

Furthermore, the liberal, leftist, libertarian, atheist and secular activists and leaders who cry “separation of church and state” or “separation of religion and state” are actually hypocritically violating their own standard because their vocal opposition to God’s Law is itself a commingling of church and state or religion and state, according to their own definitions. They are like the Muslim who wants to replace the traditional Judeo-Christian laws of the United States and Great Britain with some weird kind of Middle Eastern Islamic law, or “Shariah.”

That’s because you can’t very well support a moral/religious law that attacks other people for supporting their own moral/religious law. That is contradictory, hypocritical and illogical.

Someone’s moral/legal theology, or doctrine of God’s Law, has to win in the end. Either the Christian’s, the atheist’s, the Muslim’s, the Talmudic scholar’s, the libertarian ideologue’s, etc.

If we want to live in a civilized society, then the biblical doctrine of law and morality should prevail.

Be that as it may, it is clear that the wage and price czar’s interference is not only anti-biblical, but also unconstitutional. Neither the Bible nor the U.S. Constitution gives government the right to determine the salaries of private citizens in private companies.

Note: Tom Snyder, editor of Movieguide®, contributed to this article.


Dr. Ted Baehr is the founder and publisher of MOVIEGUIDE, chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission, and a well-known movie critic, educator, lecturer and media pundit. He also is the author of several books, including “The Culture-Wise Family” with legendary entertainer Pat Boone, and a Distinguished Senior Fellow for Study of Culture, Media, and Mass Entertainment at the Inter-American Institute for Philosophy, Government, and Social Thought. For more information, please call 800-899-6684 or go to the MOVIEGUIDE website.

This article was originally published at wnd.com on November 3, 2009.. The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute.

The Family Crisis and the Future of Western Civilization

Read below Stephen Baskerville‘s’ essay “Freedom and the Family:  The Family Crisis and the Future of Western Civilization,” originally published in the scholarly journal Humanitas.

Stephen BaskervilleStephen Baskerville is IAI’s Senior Fellow in Political Science and Human Rights. He is Associate Professor of Government at Patrick Henry College and Research Fellow at the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society and at the Independent Institute.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute.

Sacred Causes

It is a natural impulse for man to escape from the narrowness of personal and family daily routine to venture into the wider universe of history, where he feels his life transcends itself and acquires a superior “meaning.” The most banal and crude way of doing this, accessible even to the mediocre, the unqualified, and the rascal, is militancy in a party or “cause,” that is, in some group selfishness embellished with pompous words like “freedom,” “equality,” “justice,” “patriotism,” “morality,” or “human rights.” These words may represent some substantial value but they do not mean anything when, instead of filling them with his own personal substance, it is the individual who acquires from them all the value that he may have. The most criminal illusion of modernity was to persuade people that they can ennoble themselves through their identification with a “cause,” when in fact all causes, regarded as names of abstract values, can only acquire concrete value through the nobility of the men who represent them. The bottom of degradation is touched when some “causes” become so highly prized that they seem to infuse virtue in any deadbeat, phony, or thug who consents to represent them. The very word virtue is derived from the Latin vir, viri, which means “man,” designating that virtues are qualities proper to individual human beings and not to general abstract ideas, however beautiful and attractive the names of these ideas may be.

There is no greater evidence of this than Christianity itself, which, prior to being a “movement,” a “cause,” an institution, or even a doctrine, was a flesh-and-blood person, the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom, and exclusively from whom, everything else that came to exist in the history of the Church receives any validation it may aspire to get.

When taken as maximal or only measure for gauging good and evil, a “cause” acquires the prestige of sacred things and becomes an object of idolatrous alienation. Now, to a greater or lesser extent, this happens to all, absolutely all, economic, social, and political causes of the modern world, with no exception. Communism, fascism, feminism, the black rights movement, the gay rights movement, and sometimes even free-market liberalism cannot admit any greater virtue than the adherence to their causes or any greater sin than that of fighting against them. To a militant, “a good person” is anyone who sides with him in his cause, “a bad person” anyone who is against it. It is a judgment against which one cannot allege, not even as an attenuating circumstance, any universal value embodied in a concrete person. Even though all those movements are historically confined, making no sense at all beyond a strict chronological limit, the moral judgments based thereupon are accompanied with a claim to timeless universality, abolishing even the sense of cultural relativity: to enragées feminists, the male’s authority is hateful in all times, even in those in which the hardship of economic conditions, natural dangers, and the threat of constant wars made unthinkable any wish for sexual equalitarianism.

What is more: the effort made in public in favor of a “cause” is so an absolute and definitive a criterion for judgment that, once this criterion is met, it exempts a person from practicing in his private life the very virtues that the movement to which he belongs claims to represent. The allegation, for example, that Karl Marx established the most rigid class discrimination at his home, excluding from his family table an illegitimate son he fathered with his housemaid, is considered a “mere” argumentum ad hominem which proves nothing against the sublime value of the Marxist “cause.” In the same fashion, Mr. Luiz Mott[1] is praised for his fight in favor of gay marriage, even though he brags about having hitherto gone to bed with more than five hundred men, that is, about having never had the least respect for the institution of marriage, whether it be homosexual or heterosexual. Mutatis mutandis, the most obvious personal virtues of an opponent become irrelevant or despicable in comparison to the fact that he is “on the wrong side.” Morally speaking, Francisco Franco, Charles de Gaule, or Humberto Castello Branco[2], men of exemplary personal honesty, were infinitely superior to Fidel Castro or Che Guevara, serial killers who murdered his own friends, not to mention Mao Dzedong, a compulsive rapist. But what communist would admit seeing in this detail a sign, even a far removed one, that the nobility of the cause he defends may not be as absolute as it appears to him? Even the virtues of the martyrs and saints do not mean a thing in comparison with a high office in the Communist party.

When I say that this phenomenon signifies that all that is contingent and provisional has been made sacred, I am not using figurative language. Mircea Eliade, and following his path, all the historians of religion, defined “the sacred” as all that to which one ascribes an ultimate value, a sovereign and insurmountable judging authority, which is, in turn, immune to all judgment. Insofar as they understand adherence to, or rejection of, their cause as the ultimate and unappealable criterion for judgment of human conducts, those movements I referred to above have become grotesque caricatures of religion and morality, and through their mere existence, they already bring about the moral degradation of mankind on the level of sheer politically opportune criminality.

[1] A leader of the gay rights movement in Brazil.

[2] Marshall Castello Branco was president of Brazil from 1964 to 1967, the first three years of the military dicatorship in that country.

Olavo de Carvalho is the President of The Inter-American Institute and Distinguished Senior Fellow in Philosophy, Political Science, and the Humanities.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute. This article was originally published in the Brazilian newspaper Diário do Comércio on January 17, 2012, and translated from the Portuguese by Alessandro Cota.

The Incompetent Many

Years ago a friend posed the following question: “How does a lower intelligence relate to a higher intelligence?” The answer, he said, was that the lesser intelligence could not relate to the higher intelligence. Then he asked: “What do you get when you empower an idiot?” The answer, of course, is a powerful idiot. From what we learned in the previous paragraph, under democracy the powerful idiot uses his vote to elect someone who is slightly less idiotic (but far more powerful).

Professor Dunning and his colleague Justin Kruger suggest that people do not possess the wisdom needed to sustain democracy. But this isn’t news. Socrates indirectly suggested the same thing in ancient Athens when he taught that the democracy of his day was riddled with ignorance and self-delusion. What Socrates found in ancient Athens can be found in modern America. The Athenians believed they were wise, and believed they had found the best system. It wasn’t long before they were ruined, their country defeated by foreign enemies and convulsed by civil war.

What happened to Athenian democracy? The conservative way was overthrown by rampant innovation. Old structures were replaced with fluid, mobile opinions (i.e., democracy). Aristocratic leaders were replaced by demagogues. A similar transformation has occurred in American life, only on a more massive scale, with innovation threatening the most basic social structures.  Everything has been transformed today, and nothing is what it once was. If we have conservatives in today’s society, they have almost nothing left to conserve. The licentiousness of the multitude is the supreme law, so that freedom no longer means freedom from an oppressive government. Rather, it is the freedom to behave in a manner that requires greater and greater government involvement; more and more government intervention – from family courts to health care.

In ancient Athens the licentiousness of the people was more narrowly focused in terms of lust for power. The Athenians built an empire and extracted money from other states. The desire for more power, more wealth and more conquest led to the fatal invasion of Sicily in which the cream of the Athenian Army was destroyed. This is not surprising, since mediocre men rose to generalship. Some Athenian leaders were demagogues, some proved to be traitors, but most were overmatched by circumstances. Compare now the situation of American democracy. Here the licentiousness of the people is more hedonistically focused. The Americans have built an empire by defending the free world against totalitarian threats (Nazism, Communism, radical Islam, etc.). Instead of extracting money from other states, the Americans have worked out an arrangement whereby they export their inflation. This allows a high standard of living on the basis of a “service economy,” with manufacturing jobs disappearing year to year. Under this arrangement, mediocre men have been elected to the U.S. presidency. Some have been demagogues. None are equal to the crisis.

The gadfly who sticks a pin into the overinflated saviors of the hour, who openly assails the prevailing notions as false, makes little headway. Socrates was condemned to death by his fellow Athenians because he had questioned and tested the best men of his day, and found they were deluded. The story of how he came to this path is rather interesting. The Delphic Oracle had said there was no one wiser than Socrates, and because of this Socrates set out to prove the Oracle wrong. He went in search of someone wiser than himself. “I went to one who had the reputation for wisdom, and observed him,” said Socrates at his trial. It was a prominent politician, with many friends. “When I began to talk with him,” Socrates continued, “I could not help thinking that he wasn’t really wise, although he was thought wise by many, and wiser still by himself; and I went and tried to explain to him that he thought himself wise, but was not really wise, the consequence was that he hated me.” Such was the unfortunate outcome for Socrates.

Today we have researchers confirming what Socrates discovered 2500 years ago. Professor David Dunning (mentioned above) and his colleague Justin Kruger have discovered something called the Dunning-Kruger effect. As it happens, there is “a cognitive bias in which the unskilled suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average.” Even more interesting, “Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding.” The example of Socrates adds a further dimension:  being competent, he could not believe he was the wisest man. After all, he knew himself to be ignorant. Yet the wisdom of all others he encountered proved to be nonsense. If he was wiser than others, it was only because he was not deluded by false wisdom.

The modesty of intelligent men is of this type. The more they know, the more they are humbled by their ignorance. The ancient Athenian politicians and voters, like the modern American politicians and voters, rarely notice their own ignorance. Today’s politicians present their ideas and the ignorant multitude sits in judgment. “Democracy substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few,” said George Bernard Shaw. Sadly, it would be more correct to say that democracy more and more signifies the appointment of the corrupt few by the incompetent many.

After Socrates received his death sentence, he asked for a favor which we should take to heart:

 When my sons are grown up, I would ask you, O my friends, to punish them; and would have you trouble them, as I have troubled you, if they seem to care about riches, or anything more than about virtue, or if they pretend to be something when they are really nothing – then reprove them, as I have reproved you, for not caring about that for which they ought to care, and for thinking they are something when they are really nothing.

Jeffrey Nyquist is the President of the Strategic Crisis Center and Distinguished Senior Fellow in Political Science at the Inter-American Institute for Philosophy, Government, and Social Thought.

This article was originally published on Financial Sense on March 5, 2012. The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute.

Media-Wise Investing in Hollywood

This Sunday, millions of Americans will watch the entertaining and glamorous Oscars ceremony. Increasingly, however, it seems Americans are more interested in what the stars are wearing rather than who the Academy crowns “the best.” Hollywood is largely disconnected from the average moviegoer as evidenced by the fact that only one of the Best Picture nominees – “The Help” – made it into the Top 25 Box Office Movies of the Year. Even more telling–not counting the animated movies–only one of the nominated movies, “Hugo,” was a family movie full of faith and values.

Year in and year out, for the past 20 years, Movieguide®’s Annual Report to the Entertainment Industry has shown that family movies with Christian, traditional, and conservative faith and values and little foul language, sex, or nudity make the most money. In fact, our Annual Report always has shown that the most family-friendly movies make much more money than the least family-friendly movies with lots of foul language, sexual content, or explicit nudity. Additionally, a glance at the past 15 years shows that movies with very strong Christian, redemptive, moral, conservative worldviews like “The Help,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” “Captain America,” Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol,” the “Lord of the Rings” movies, “Passion of the Christ,” the Narnia movies, “Soul Surfer,” Fireproof,” “Spider-Man 3,” and “Amazing Grace” average about three times as much money (or more) as movies with very strong non-Christian, anti-Christian, anti-American, leftist, or mixed worldviews and values, such as “Avatar,” the “Hangover” movies, “Happy Feet Two,” the early “Harry Potter” movies, “The Sixth Sense,” “Austin Powers in Goldmember,” “There Will Be Blood,” “Albert Nobbs,” Michael Moore’s movies, “Brokeback Mountain,” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

In picking its Best Picture nominations, the Academy seems to be getting at least some of this message. Only one of its nominees, “The Descendents,” was rated R, and that was mostly for foul language, including some sexual references.

However, Hollywood keeps making many R-rated movies, which also average about three to four times less money as family-friendly movies with very strong Christian, redemptive, conservative worldviews and G or PG ratings. Also, it keeps putting objectionable content in some of its movies aimed at families.

For the latter case, all you have to do is examine last year’s “Happy Feet 2,” an animated movie clearly geared toward children and families.

Yet, what did the filmmakers behind “Happy Feet 2” put into their “family” movie? A strong left-wing environmentalist theme based on the discredited theory of massive “global warming” and a message supporting the same-sex marriage ideology of the radical left, which is trying to destroy traditional notions of family and other pro-American, Christian, Jewish, and traditional, conservative values.

The result? “Happy Feet 2” made only $63.7 million in the United States and Canada. That’s only 8 million tickets out of more than 345 million people!

Movieguide®’s Annual Report shows similar statistics regarding the overseas box office and earnings on home video sales. All these statistics are not Christian or conservative statistics. They are factual economic truths that can be proven by anyone willing to do the work.

Before investing any money in Hollywood filmmakers and their projects, Wall Street investors and film financiers should watch out for the anti-Christian, anti-American left-wing ideology of the elite decision makers or knee-jerk Obama supporters that may be contacting them.

Media-wise investing in movies and television dictates that we should choose the good and reject the bad. The average entertainment consumer wants good to conquer evil, justice to overcome injustice, liberty to conquer tyranny, and truth to wipe out falsehood. They and their family members want to watch well-made, inspiring, family-friendly entertainment products that build up, encourage, and uplift, rather than obscene products that tear down, discourage, depress, and attack their values.

Hollywood needs to understand that even if they would rather continue producing envelope-pushing fare that attracts the praise of the elite, what makes money is more uplifting material. Even in Hollywood, it’s the economy, stupid.

Note: This column was co-authored by Tom Snyder.


Dr. Ted Baehr is the founder and publisher of MOVIEGUIDE, chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission, and a well-known movie critic, educator, lecturer and media pundit. He also is the author of several books, including “The Culture-Wise Family” with legendary entertainer Pat Boone, and a Distinguished Senior Fellow for Study of Culture, Media, and Mass Entertainment at the Inter-American Institute for Philosophy, Government, and Social Thought. For more information, please call 800-899-6684 or go to the MOVIEGUIDE website.

This article was originally published at townhall.com on February 25, 2012. The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute.

Tales From the Closet: A New Book Celebrates Another Sexual Outlaw and Kinsey Collaborator

Read here “Tales From the Closet: A New Book Celebrates Another Sexual Outlaw and Kinsey Collaborator” by Dr. Judith Reisman.

6Dr. Judith Reisman is a Distinguished Senior Fellow in the Study of Social Trends, Human Rights, and Media Forensics.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute. This article was originally published on Salvo Magazine in the 17 issue. You can buy Dr. Reisman’s book Sexual Sabotage on her website.