The forthcoming book of collected essays from Pierre Ryckmans—for more on which, see my current column at Taki’s Magazine—contains a nice little encomium to Fr. Laszlo Ladany, a Jesuit priest and scholar who, from 1953 to 1982, published a weekly bulletin titled China News Analysis.
Writing shortly before Fr. Ladany died in 1990, Ryckmans says this:
Far away from the crude limelight of the media circus, he has enjoyed three decades of illustrious anonymity. All “China Watchers” used to read his newsletter with avidity; many stole from it—but generally they took great pains never to acknowledge their indebtedness or to mention his name . . .
China News Analysis was compulsory reading for all those who wished to be informed of Chinese political developments: scholars, journalists, diplomats. In academe, however, its perusal among many political scientists was akin to what a drinking habit might be for an ayatollah, or an addiction to pornography for a bishop: it was a compulsive need that had to be indulged in secrecy. China experts gnashed their teeth as they read Ladany’s incisive comments; they hated his clear-sightedness and cynicism; still, they could not afford to miss one single issue of his newsletter, for, however disturbing and scandalous his conclusions, the factual information he supplied was invaluable and irreplaceable.
By that point in Ryckmans’ text, I was thinking of our own Steve Sailer, who claims on indirect but (it seems to me) convincing evidence that several of our bigfoot opinion journalists read his blog in the privacy of their chambers. I think Steve would object to “cynicism,” though.
Why does Ryckmans think Fr. Ladany’s newsletter was such compulsive reading for China experts?
What made China News Analysis so infuriatingly indispensable was the very simple and original principle on which it was run (true originality is usually simple): all the information selected and examined in China News Analysis was drawn exclusively from official Chinese sources (press and radio)...
What inspired his method was the observation that even the most mendacious propaganda must necessarily entertain some sort of relation with the truth; even as it manipulates and distorts the truth, it still needs originally to feed on it. Therefore, the untwisting of official lies, if skillfully effected, should yield a certain amount of straight facts. Needless to say, such an operation requires a doigté hardly less sophisticated than the chemistry which, in Gulliver’s Travels, enabled the Grand Academicians of Lagado to extract sunbeams from cucumbers and food from excreta.
“Straight facts” . . . Hate facts. You can probably see where I’m headed with this. I’m going to try making an argument that we on the Dissident Right are performing a function not dissimilar to Fr. Ladany’s work.
China was at that time a closed country, like present-day North Korea. The precise degree of closed-ness varied with the ebb and flow of internal Chinese politics, but it was never easy to get a visa. Even if you got one, you could not move freely inside China. Chinese “minders” were assigned to you and managed your itinerary. Your contacts with ordinary Chinese people were very restricted.
(English politician and wit Clement Freud went to China with a parliamentary delegation in the late Mao years. At the welcoming banquet one of their hosts asked the parliamentarians what they would most like to see during their stay, assuming that they would opt for either a model commune, or a revolutionary ballet, or the award-winning hog bristle production brigade. Freud said brightly that he would very much like to see a labor camp. He was not invited back.)
It was extremely difficult for Western journalists to figure out what was going on at the high levels of Chinese politics. They had to do most of their watching from outside the country. There was a nest of them in Hong Kong, still a British Colony during that period; I was personally acquainted with some of them there in the early 1970s. They were very cynical, and drank a lot. Ryckmans:
In the course of his exhaustive surveys of Chinese official documentation, the analyst must absorb industrial quantities of the most indigestible stuff; reading Communist literature is akin to munching rhinoceros sausage, or to swallowing sawdust by the bucketful . . . He must scan the arid wastes of the small print in the pages of the People’s Daily and pounce upon those rare items of significance that lie buried under mountains of clichés. He must know how to milk substance and meaning out of flaccid speeches, hollow slogans and fanciful statistics; he must scavenge for needles in Himalayan-size haystacks . . . He must crack the code of the Communist political jargon and translate into ordinary speech this secret language full of symbols, riddles, cryptograms, hints, traps, dark allusions and red herrings.
Now, I am not going to claim that extracting true hate facts from official U.S. government publications, or from reports in our mainstream media outlets, is as arduous as trying to fathom who did what to whom, and why, or even where, in (say) the Lin Biao incident. It can be something like that, though.
SARCs discuss DTM 11-063 requirements during briefings with new commanders and also emphasize this information with SAPR Program personnel (SAPR VA, SAPR POC, and SAPR Command Liaison) during training. All training material have been updated with newly implemented guidance regarding expedited transfers for Service members victims involved in Unrestricted reports of sexual assault.
Right. For extracting newsworthy facts from these bucketsful of sawdust, you really do need Fr. Ladany’s dogged skills.
Take for example the odd fact that among active-duty military, “1.2% of men indicated they experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012” (PDF page 2 here). Given that 1.2 million of our active-duty military are male, that’s 14½ thousand guys getting molested—forty a day. Good grief!
Corresponding numbers for active-duty military females are 6.1 percent of 205 thousand, which is 12½ thousand. So more guys than gals “experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012.”
What’s up with that?
It’s suggestive that when you look at the breakdown by service (PDF page 19 here), the Navy comes out way ahead by incident rate at 2.7 percent, the other branches at 1.1 and below. Closeness of confinement below decks? Or the Winston Churchill effect?
If you can figure out the answers to questions like that from the DoD report, you’re a better analyst than I am. (Though I note, for readers who might be thinking of joining the Navy, that according to PDF page 487 here, 6pm to midnight on a Thursday is the time of greatest hazard.)
And I’m just scratching the surface here. Try tackling the following question:
This comes to mind because of the extraordinary differentials for interracial rape and sexual assault in society at large recorded in a typical year by the National Crime Victimization Survey. In 2008, for instance, black-on-white numbers for these crimes were 19 thousand, while white-on-black were too few for the sampling methodology to process (Table 42 here).
That you may not know. It is Hateful just to ask. If the numbers are even gathered, they are kept in a filing drawer at the Pentagon under a higher security clearance than ICBM targeting codes.
The booze-fuddled hacks I used to hang out with in the Kowloon bars back in the day had a better chance of finding out what Mao Tse-tung had for breakfast than I have of getting interracial sexual-assault stats for the U.S. Navy.
Without an ability to decipher non-existent inscriptions written in invisible ink on blank pages, no-one should ever dream of analyzing the nature and reality of Chinese communism. Very few people have mastered this demanding discipline, and, with good reason, they generally acknowledge Father Ladany as their doyen.
“Analyzing the nature and reality” of modern Western society is largely a matter of unearthing Hate Facts. For this, special skills are needed. They are in all too short supply.
Could we perhaps start up some training courses?
John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him. He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. His most recent book, published by VDARE.com com is FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle). His writings are archived at JohnDerbyshire.com.
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