Archive for May 2005


Well the French people aren’t as stupid as their leaders. I suppose that one can say that about any democratic nation and its leaders, but the French have really given it to Chirac good and

Steven Den Beste – Godfather of Bloggers

Originally posted at Dean’s World

Recently Glenn Reynolds mentioned the folks at the Surviving Grady baseball blog have published a book, and he also added that he thinks it’s time that Steven Den Beste did the same. I wholeheartedly agree. Some of you may not be familiar with the name, since Den Beste stopped blogging about current events over a year and a half ago. However the retired engineer from San Diego was one of the godfathers of the blogosphere – along with Reynolds, Andrew Sullivan, and a handful of
others. While the history of the blogosphere is still being blogged the writing of Den Beste stands as a milestone in the development of "New Media" and its challenge to the Mainstream Media (MSM).

His writings have influenced a complete generation of bloggers. Before LGF. Before Powerline. Before INDC Journal and even Dean’s World, there was USS Clueless. I began blogging as a way of expressing myself in the weeks after 9-11. I remember the helplessness that I can only express using the title of one of Harlan Ellison’s best works:
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream
. For a month I was silent, stunned as I reexamined my beliefs, some of which crumbled to expose others that lay like bedrock underneath. During that time I discovered that web logs, which had seemed yet another example of navel gazing in an overly narcissistic culture, had changed into what they are today: another medium for news and analysis. And no one’s analysis was better than Steven Den Beste’s.

What we’re doing is right and it is necessary. Awful things are going to happen, and we’re going to do some of them. But worse things would have happened if we had not done this, and that’s all that matters. – Oct
10, 2001

Before Den Beste, it was extremely difficult to find well written and thought out pieces anywhere on the web. Such work was the domain of the MSM. Depending on your flavor of politics one had the New Republic or National Review. For Science essays there was Stephen Jay Gould writing for Natural History and the occasional piece in Wired or Scientific American.

However Den Beste was a master synthesizer in the mold of James Burke and could take two seemingly unconnected events and weave them together into a whole that was much greater than the sum of its parts. How did the Burgess Shale fossils relate to World War 3? Click here to find out. He had a patience for his readership that has been lost by many modern writers. He could walk you through his argument showing why life is rare in the Universe without leaving you behind or losing you in digressions. He recognized and labeled trends such as the divide between Wilsonians – those supporting a trans-nationalist idealism – and Jacksonians – those rooted in a populist based conservativism.

While some of his best writing in my opinion is that touching upon his experiences in Engineering (my old blog, The Razor, isn’t indexed so I can’t find these posts. Besides, it would take
too much time since a good part of my early writings often included phrases like "Read the entire thing" with hyperlinks to a Den Beste post), his philosophical musings are what really hit home to me at an extremely critical time in my intellectual development.

After 9-11 I realized that I had previously been indoctrinated in moral and cultural relativism. During the weeks that followed I began to examine (and uproot in most cases but not all) these beliefs and attitudes that I had held unquestioningly since my college days at that bastion of PC indoctrination: the UC system in California. One post in particular by Den Beste made me realize the folly in my thinking:

If our attackers are automatons with no moral responsibility, then they are mad dogs, and so we should fight back, for if we don’t they will surely attack us again.. If, on the other hand, they have free will, then we are justified by their acts in visiting punishment on them — and killing them anyway. Neither point of view justifies pacifism on our part.

And if they are responding to things we did, then would we not in turn be responding to things they did? If they are not culpable for attacking us, how would we be culpable for responding in kind? If their attack on us was ethically neutral because they were responding to things we did to them, then our counterattack will equally be ethically neutral because we will in turn be responding to things they did. Ultimately no-one is responsible for anything, and ethics again becomes a null-set.

Deep down this theory assumes that we are not the same as them. We really can think, we really can make decisions, but they ultimately are stupid creatures who merely respond to their environment. It is deeply chauvinistic. It is only by assuming a gargantuan moral inequivalency that this argument stands. (Oct 4, 2001 )

This article, along with an article by Francis Beckwith titled "Philosophical Problems With Moral Relativism" influenced my intellectual growth in a way that hadn’t happened since the Jesuits had their hooks in me in high school. Accompanied by a new-found sobriety this growth has made my writing better. It has sharpened my intellect and allowed
me to ride through some pretty tough times. In the past books have had this power, but in 2001-2 it was Steven Den Beste’s writing at USS Clueless.

Den Beste stopped writing about current events for a variety of reasons including his health and dealing with nutjobs. He still writes about anime and slips in the odd event at Chizumatic. However I would love nothing better than to read a book of his previous work and maybe even a new piece or two.

For those of you who weren’t around back then, Den Beste has a page of what he thinks are his best posts. However he has culled out too much, so it wouldn’t hurt to read the entire thing; it just would be easier to read it in a book.

Posting here is light…

for a variety of reasons. One, I get tired of writing for no one to read. Two, I have been writing to be read at Dean’s World. Three, the posts about Da were some of my best work ever. They came straight from the soul and were written with a trembling lip.

The experience of his death has really drained me.

But has led to some weird happenings. I’m not seeing ghosts, but I swear that the veil between the living and the dead is mighty thin around here.