Busyness has made the last two editions of THE ZONE less powerful than they could have been. My apologies. I hope this week’s edition will steer this submarine back onto its proper course.
Obligatory shilling. I wrote for Spectator World about the theory that Thomas Pynchon has been posting away on an obscure account.
I wrote for The Critic about how violence begat violence in Kenosha.
I wrote for my paying subscribers about the platitudes that follow terrorist attacks.
Order, order. Yuval Levin explores the pathologies of passivity:
Habits and institutions of restraint can work like sculptors of the social order—selectively chipping away at our wild, boisterous pursuit of happiness to shape it into more beautiful forms of energetic human action. But what if we fail to act on our longings to begin with? What if there is nothing to restrain, and so no raw material for the sculptor to work with?
This is an excellent piece. Conservatives are all about order but order is not inherently good. That which fosters beauty, culture, innovation et cetera is. (Granted, unless you live in North Korea it is still preferable to its opposite.)
There is a strange feedback loop between our institutions and the internet: the internet spreads mental illness like a plague and our institutions codify the latest psychosis. In pop culture, this dynamic created critical barista theory, in which the language of high criticism is used to articulate pop culture preferences.
The technological nightmare. In a time when authors sell fewer and fewer books, and especially fewer fiction books, esoteric pseudonymous reactionary scribe Zero HP Lovecraft making tens of thousands of dollars with his debut book They Had No Deepness of Earth is a major literary event. Because of his politics, it has been ignored. Salvator R. Tarnmoor, in Athwart, provides the only serious review that I have seen:
ZHPL finds horror in a different place than did the earlier Lovecraft. For H.P. Lovecraft, the nightmare lurks in the unknown—the distant past, outer space, the protean realm of dreams—and in the unknowable—unrecognizable colors, incalculable geometries, words that cannot be pronounced, bodies that cannot be anatomized, cults with unidentifiable membership and inscrutable intentions. The pervading theme is the limits of human reason. For ZHPL, the theme is rather the lack of such limitation: human reason creates the technological nightmare that destroys it.
Being uncharitable. Over at im-1776, John Smoke explores the uses and abuses of the charitable status of NGOs:
Charities are the main intermediary unit between academia and journalism. They can imbibe whatever is coming out of universities, turn the issues in question into campaigns, and then use those campaigns to secure coverage in media outlets. This all serves to exert pressure on liberal-democratic legislatures, getting them to copy-paste the charity’s findings into legislation which lawmakers can rubber-stamp.
For more examples of what Mr Smoke is talking about, readers can consult the “SW1 Forum” blog which explores charities that believe it is “somehow appropriate to brag about their connections to Pol Pot defenders and armed robbers” or that “have a record of advocating on behalf of people who later go on to commit terrorist acts or who are revealed to have been members of terrorist organisations”.
Hysterical Southern gothic. Alex Perez files a charming rave review of a book by the American author Padget Powell:
His 10 books, written in his idiosyncratic style, a hysterical Southern gothic mashup of pathos and hijinks, are singular literary creations and the work of a beautiful weirdo the likes of which are nearly an extinct species in the literary world.
I have no experience of Mr Powell’s work but this review made me want to buy and read his books immediately. That is a rare thing.
Opening a can of worms. Scott Alexander investigates the much-hyped, much-mocked theory that Ivermectin, used to treat parasite infections, is a powerful treatment for COVID-19. Alexander takes the contrarian position that it is not but that it may be of some use in areas where intestinal worms are common as these parasites suppress the immune system.
Welcome to Sweden. Paulina Neuding reports on gang culture in Sweden:
It turns out that the gangs are stronger than the Swedish state. Police in the end told the two hairdressers to stay away from Jordbro. They have since moved and can now only visit their old neighbourhood with police escort. They carry personal assault alarms and live under police protection.
Slander as sport. Olivia Hartley reports on the damaging effects of TikTok in schools:
I couldn’t resist searching for [my partner’s] school and what I found disturbed me: videos would unashamedly tar entire departments as either paedophiles or racists. It made for grim viewing, and it was depressing to see my partner — one of those teachers who actually cares about the wellbeing of their pupils, even the horrible ones — be slandered in this way.
Don’t need that education. Then again, teachers can need accountability. Abigail Shrier alleges that activist teachers in California have been ideologically grooming students in a manner that defies the will of the parents and the privacy of the kids:
“So we started to brainstorm at the end of the 2020 school year, what are we going to do? We got to see some kids in-person at the end of last year, not many but a few. So we started to try and identify kids. When we were doing our virtual learning – we totally stalked what they were doing on Google, when they weren’t doing school work.”
Mercy in Action. In memory of my mum, my dad is cycling up Everest (remotely) to raise money for the poor.
Before I wrap up I would like to remind you that if you become a paying subscriber to this humble Substack you get free writing every week and access to its expansive archives. I think you would struggle to find a more eclectic ‘stack (which is not necessarily a virtue - but might be!). Where else can you find commentary not only on Afghanistan, COVID and terrorism, but on Ballard, Betjeman and Beckett, and on the mafia, professional wrestling and body image.
Have a lovely week,