The Ghouls of May
Friday, something unprecedented happened. The Right/Red blogs banded together to destroy ONE person (a blogger claims he feels “threatened”). The entire front page of Memeorandum is dominated by this coordinated attack and smear. That OUGHT to scare hell out of everybody else, but I see virtually no commentary whatsoever.
The entire blogosphere has been coopted into the narrow agenda of a few individuals and the nation’s issues are thrust to the side as less important than their personal grievance, and coordinated, timed “blog against” an obscure individual is made more important than any other issue facing a nation in crisis.
This is a dangerous precedent. Beware.
BREITBART TOLD THE STORY JUST BEFORE HE DIED
In the last radio interview Andrew Breitbart ever gave, on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, Breitbart talked about a new ruthless tactic used by thugs against political opponents:
[O]ne of the things they’ve done to people who have worked with me in the past, including an L.A. prosecutor, is to “SWAT.” That means that they’re spoofing phones, pretending to be somebody else’s phone, calling 911, and saying “I killed somebody” and then the person’s home is met with the guns drawn, the SWAT and the helicopters, in a horrifying act. It’s happened twice: once in New Jersey, once in Los Angeles, with an L.A. County . . . prosecutor who [is] associated with me.”
I am that L.A. County prosecutor. And in this post, you’ll hear the hoax call that sent police to my house, pointing loaded guns at me.
THE NIGHT I COULD HAVE BEEN KILLED BECAUSE OF MY BLOGGING …
Ah, a coordinated act of personal destruction and blog terrorism claiming the selfsame projected qualities. “I know you are, but what am I?” as the noted pundit P.W. Herman is oft heard to say. And it’s always nice to see the ghoulish hand of Breitbart from beyond the grave …
Each to his own soothsaying says I. Some worship the Dow. Others (far too many) worship at the shrine of “Polls.” Not a day goes by that some new polling of the public (and we all know how painful THAT can be) reveals some grand new truth, or provides fodder for an army of journalists and bloggers who, evidently, don’t actually find anything much newsworthy and spend their long prologue into senescence by dithering about trivialites dug up by the unconscious biases of the pollsters — because we can only poll on what we KNOW, and never on what we DON’T KNOW, which is where all the action in the news cycle is anyway.
Sadly, the pollsters, dependent on their constant polling commissions (and omissions) even find a way to capitalize (literally) on stunning new news, by polling the public on what they THINK about the twists and turns of history.
It is a form of soothsaying, unless mathematical prediction is any more legitimate a pursuit than the reading of turtle’s entrails or tea leaves.
If we all have free will, of course, polling doesn’t work. Then again, if all is Written by the Hand of Destiny, then we would think like most of the Eastern Hemisphere and our entire approach would be different.
So, allowing the metaphor of soothsaying, not as a belief system, or even as a serious proposition (since neither soothsayers nor scientists can grasp a simple fact in the whole morass, namely, that it either works or doesn’t work, based on an unprovable assumption that you can find in the Lord’s Prayer, an old Western/Middle Eastern notion called “As above, so below,” the basis of all sympathetic magic and skrying), today’s metaphor is Astrology.
In the land of no ears, Vincent van Gogh is king.
Algol, the Demon, the Demon Star, and the Blinking Demon, from the Arabians’ Ra’s al Ghul, the Demon’s Head, is said to have been thus called from its rapid and wonderful variations; but I find no evidence of this [Star Names was published in 1889, it was that year that Algol was discovered to be an eclipsing binary — Wikipedia], and that people probably took the title from the second-century Greek astronomer Ptolemy. Al Ghul literally signifies a Mischief-maker, and the name still appears in the Ghoul of the Arabian Nights and of our day. It degenerated into the Alove often used some centuries ago for this star…
Our modern English word “ghoul” is derived from the Arabic name of the star, and it OUGHT to be a reminder to us that the reason so many of our major stars carry Arabic names is that astronomy/astrology fell into disuse during the Dark Ages, and the flowering Arabic Civilization was ahead of Western Civilization in the arts and sciences. This is where we get “Algebra,” from the Arabian mathematicians. Nobody’s number one forever, and when the Western “knights” arrived during the Crusades, they were presented with a more technologically advanced civilization … which they stole freely from. But the star Algol has been pretty universally seen as maelevolent, even outside of the old Greek Myth of Perseus:
The Hebrews knew Algol as Rosh ha Satan, Satan’s Head, English writer on globes John Chilmead (circa 1639)’s Rosch hassatan, the Divels head; but also as Lilith, Adam’s legendary first wife, the nocturnal vampyre from the lower world that reappeared in the demonology of the Middle Ages as the witch Lilis, one of the characters in Goethe’s Walpurgis Nacht.
The Chinese gave it the gruesome title Tseih She, the Piled-up Corpses.
Astrologers of course said that it was the most unfortunate, violent, and dangerous star in the heavens, and it certainly has been one of the best observed, as the most noteworthy variable in the northern sky….
(from Star Names, Their Lore and Meaning, Richard Hinckley Allen, 1889.)
And the old Ghoul has been in the news just this month:
Astronomers discover ancient Egyptian observations of a variable star
Posted by TANN
Ancient, Astronomy, Breakingnews, Egypt, Universe 11:30 AM
The study of the “Demon star”, Algol, made by a research group of the University of Helsinki, Finland, has received both scientific and public attention. The period of the brightness variation of this eclipsing binary star has been connected to good prognoses three millennia ago. This result has raised a lot of discussion and the news has spread widely in the Internet.
“The Demon Star” – Ancient Cairo Calendar Shows Egyptians
Discovered the Binary Algol 3200 Years Ago [Credit: NASA]
The Egyptian papyrus Cairo 86637 calendar is probably the oldest preserved historical document of bare eye observations of a variable star. Each day of one Egyptian year was divided into three parts in this calendar. A good or a bad prognosis was assigned for these parts of a day.
“The texts regarding the prognoses are connected to mythological and astronomical events”, says Master of Science Sebastian Porceddu…
The ancient Egyptians have made accurate measurements that provide useful constraints for modern astronomers.
“It seems that the first observation of a variable star was made 3000 years earlier than was previously thought”, says [docent] Lauri Jetsu. “However, I want to emphasize that our research has only been sent to a scientific journal about two weeks ago. This type of results can raise a lot of controversy before they are accepted.”
You see, in our modern understanding of astrology (which ought to be what astronomy is called, “the study of the stars” instead of “the naming of the stars”) Algol is actually an eclipsing binary star: two stars engaged in a deadly dance around a gravitational midpoint, an invisible maypole.
And the larger is tearing the smaller one apart, sucking it like a tick, until all its mass has transferred to the larger star.
The ancient Egyptians didn’t know that, of course. All they knew was that there was a star that would grow brighter and darker over a period (currently) of 68.75 hours — or just under three days — “winking” at them. This was discovered by all great astronomical cultures fairly early, as the 3,000 year old Egyptian observations attest.
So, the Egyptian records give a differential time of revolution for the Algol binary of (in scienteze) “0.017 days.”
I kid you not. Seventeen thousandths of a day.
What is that in millimeters, I wonder? Gallons? Kilohertz? Puppies?
24 hours multiplied by 0.017 gives us 0.408000 hours, which is a number just as useless as 0.017 days, or 92.7 handshakes, 5.6 milkshakes or 1.0 earthquakes.
How about 60 minutes an hour 24 hours a day? Equals 1440 minutes in a day.
We’re onto something. Now we just multiply those minutes by that fraction of a day, and we’ll have a human number.
Lessee: 1440 times 0.017 gives us 24.48 minutes and rounding that (in engineering math) .48 of a 60 second minute is half, so 24 and a half minutes.
About half an hour in 3,000 years. Thank you Ancient Egyptian trained observers.
“We can explain why the period of Algol has increased by about 0.017 days”, says Lauri Jetsu. “The period increase during the past three millennia could have been caused by the observed mass transfer between the two members of this binary. In fact, this would be the first observation that confirms the period increase of Algol and it also gives an estimate of the mass transfer rate.”
But isn’t it also interesting that humans all over the Earth, watching that phenomenon, and declared the Ghoul star the evilest star in the sky?
I mean, they’re just burning rocks in the sky in the modern conception, so why aren’t the results more random?
Anyway, the point here is that we will undoubtedly be looked at in 3,000 years as condescendingly as we look at 3,000 year old Egyptians, especially when we had to pay an exorbitant fee to view them. Or, eventually, us.
I like astrology for that reason: the world came up with different systems of interpreting the motion of the stars in the heavens as reflecting here on Earth, that preserved an unquestioned precept of millennia past: “On Earth as it is in Heaven.”
And, in the centuries following the rather acrimonious breakup of astronomy and astrology, the twain have rarely deigned to meet.
I like the old Ptolemaic astrology, and the Arabian Parts and the Lunar Mansions, and the Hindu and Chinese lore. This is the first time in history we’ve ever had a chance to go through everybody’s notes and compare them. It’s a way of getting into the heads of historical figures, remembering that they gave as much credence to their astrological weather as you and I give to polls and the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
So, the soothsaying metaphor, and a coincidence and another metaphor and we’re done. (If it helps, our word “alcohol” also comes from Medusa’s head, the Gorgon star, Algol. Ghoul.)
Medusa by Carvaggio (1595)
The language of astrology is poetic language for psychology, and modern astrology has been thoroughly adulterated with it. Everything is a lovely metaphor and nothing bad ever happens. You are in charge of your destiny, they intone in silky, comforting tone, and find some ‘lucky’ star to make you feel better.
This is a trick known to palmists and portfolio advisors alike, never give bad news, since, if you’re wrong, they’ll despise you. But, if you only give good news (or “buy” advice), they will only remember the pleasure of the gains and never the pain of the losses. It is a problem in soothsaying from astrologers to the business press, that never tell you the bad news in direct proportion to when you need it most.
Thus it was, when the eclipse occurred last Sunday, I noted the old Fixed Stars that were mainstays from before old Ptolemy (diviner of the Epicycles, that strange explanation of the wanderers — planets — suddenly reversing themselves and traveling backwards over many nights) until after Sir Isaac Newton (who cast and constructed horoscopes, there being as yet no bill of divorcement between astronomy and astrology).
Sir Isaac Newton, scientist and astrologer
After all, a “horoscope” is nothing more or less than a map of the sky dome (above the horizon) and the unseen sky dome below the horizon. If you know the night sky, and know to factor in a full thirty degrees* (the precession of equinoxes that most modern astrology has failed to note) , you could generate a “horoscope” for that hour and walk outside and know where to find all the stars and planets. It’s just a simplified sky map for a point in time.
[* thirty degrees equals, in human terms, three widths of your fist held at arm’s length from your eye. Straight up is 90 degrees. The width of your little finger is two degrees, and the width of its fingernail is one. ]
Almost all cultures have taken this VERY seriously, however — as the careful Egyptians measured the blinking of the demon star three thousand years ago — and as comets were said to presage the fall of a king, or a plague, so, too everyone was sure that the stars moving in the sky meant something. And we have projected our mythology and our psychic history onto the night sky, and that’s why I enjoy it without necessarily subscribing to it: the rich tapestry of human poetic history is writ there, and guided the minds of our recent forebears.
When the Spanish Influenza struck the World during World War I, many all over the world (and right here in the Good Ol’ USA) were absolutely convinced that the Influenza came from the tail of Halley’s Comet, which we passed through when it returned in 1910.
The Head of Medusa, by Peter Paul Rubens (1618)
Or consider the origins of the word “Influenza,” which comes from Italian by way of the Latin root that creates our own word “influence.”
The word Influenza comes from the Italian language meaning “influence” and refers to the cause of the disease; initially, this ascribed illness to unfavorable astrological influences. *
[* Wikipedia Footnote source = “Influenza, The Oxford English Dictionary, second edition.”]
You see? That old thought system is woven into the warp and woof of our culture, just like the Bible, and it is foolish to be culturally illiterate in either — whether one believes or not.
Which brings us to the eclipse. Now, in the old reckoning, eclipses are bad things. And the “ruler” of “ruling planet” of the eclipse is an indicator of how bad it will be. I am not an astrologer, nor a deep practitioner, but even I could look at it and see that the “ring of fire” eclipse took place over the Plieades, specifically Alcyone, and that Mercury (the “ruler”) and Jupiter were in tight conjunction over Algol at the time.
So, I checked the various web sites and online astrology sites to SEE how this was interpreted.
All New Agey “have a nice day” nothing to see here and suchlike. Virtually no modern astrologer noticing the Algol connection, and most saying that “in the olden days, the Plieades and Alcyon were considered bad/malefic, but, really, there’s no bad stuff and everything’s fine.”
Wood carving (door) by Thomas Regnaudin circa 1660
Even in the older branch of astrology, very little acknowledgement of the event. The older branch is called “mundane” or worldly astrology. It deals with the fate of nations and the world stage. It’s older because kings and potentates were concerned with it, and could pay court astrologers salaries, while the newer branch “horary” or hourly astrology deals with your personalhoroscope, and if you’ll meet your soulmate, etcetera. Not a big dollar market draw, and until recently, historically, the lesser focus of astrologers. Even old J.P. Morgan, he of the invisible dirk and father of the modern bank that just lost $3 billion in derivatives trading, said “Millionaires don’t have astrologers, billionaires do.”
(One wonders whether their current astrologer saw that coming.)
I finally found ONE more traditional astrologer who said this:
I don’t think I’ve ever done a chart where there were so many negative stars and I hope to never have to write about one again.
Now, my point isn’t whether astrology works, remember. My point is that, IF it did work, then virtually all astrologers should have noticed this really bad omen in the “heavens.”*
[* “Heavens” because most astrologers nowadays rely on computer software to tell them where the stars are, or old ephemerides books to do the same, and virtually NOT ONE of them could actually go outside and SHOW you the constellation of Gemini, or Taurus or Capricorn, and would have no idea that the bright star in the evening sky was Venus, nor that Mars is prominent in the constellation of Leo, or that Saturn is just two fingers’ width from Spica, or “Arista” in the night sky. They claim to read the stars that they only know from books and not from the simple and traditional “looking up at the sky.”]
And there is our metaphor. The astrologers of today are so much filled with their “have a nice day” and psychological nonsense that what would have been a clear sign to any astrologer of, say, the past 3,000 years is invisible to them, even assuming that astrology worked.
So, too, the liberal blogs and news media.
The sign of a concerted, coordinated blog swarm to destroy one person hasn’t been seen as clearly as when Billy launched HIS Kristol-nacht against one Private Scott Thomas Beauchamp and the New Republic magazine in 2007, which they later tacitly ADMITTED*. Then, the left wing blogs remained comatose. Today, as something far bigger, and far uglier takes place, the leftie blogosphere remains as comatose about the omen in the bloggy heavens as our modern astrologers are blind to the very sort of sign that their astrology exists to see and interpret.
That is the metaphor. Both groups OUGHT to have the perspicacity to read the handwriting on the wall. Neither does.
Here, by the by, is the old interpretation of the influence of Algol [Wikipedia]:
In the Tetrabiblos, the 2nd century astrological text of the Alexandrian astronomer Ptolemy, Algol is referred to as “the Gorgon of Perseus” and associated with death by decapitation: a theme which mirrors the myth of the hero Perseus’ victory over the snake-headed Gorgon Medusa. Astrologically, Algol is considered the most unfortunate star in the sky, and was listed as one of the 15 Behenian stars. Historically, the star has received a strong association with bloody violence across a wide variety of cultures.
Modern “psychological” astrologers throw out the 4,000 years of observation and cross-cultural interpretation and just go with the “Perseus” myth about Medusa and say it’s about “angry women.” (Not because it makes sense, but because it’s convenient to their archetypal/Jungian interepretations.)
Modern “psychological” astrologers discount the literal, and emphasize the tendency to “lose one’s head” in a paroxysm of rage. Today’s blogswarm is certainly an interesting coincidence of that interpretation, but we must, needs, pooh-pooh any correlation for the purposes of our Metaphor, today. Just an interesting coincidence.
Perseus gave Medusa’s head to Athena
who placed it on her Aegis, her shield,
where it was last heard of. (Seeing it is
somewhat difficult for mortal observers)
And here is sleazebag Michael Barone in Real Clear Politics (on another matter, but double apropos here, like Algol):
Cocooned Liberals Are Unprepared for Political Debate
By Michael Barone
May 24, 2012
It’s comfortable living in a cocoon — associating only with those who share your views, reading journalism and watching news that only reinforces them, avoiding those on the other side of the cultural divide.
Liberals have been doing this for a long time. In 1972, the movie critic Pauline Kael said it was odd that Richard Nixon was winning the election, because everyone she knew was for George McGovern….
Can’t exactly refute him here. If by “debate” he means the blood sport of sneer and smear and getting all your buddies together to destroy someone, Barone is certainly correct. The Morlocks have come to dine with the Eloi. (The Eloi neglect to ask what’s on the menu.)
But the righties HAVE lost their collective heads since that superstitious eclipse thing, which is a coincidence that may not be meaningful, but their actions, as in coordinating these takedowns of Elizabeth Warren and the obscure person they chose today OUGHT to scare hell out of us. Intimidation and personal destruction in the NAME of stopping intimidation and personal destruction against them … by Eloi Thugs??!?
One does not need to know the guilt or innocence of the target to divine that lynch mobs are WRONG. If laws were broken, then the legal authorities are and ought to be the mechanism of redress. If laws have NOT been broken, there is no excuse nor justification for a massive, coordinated attempt to destroy a single individual. In either event, it’s the blog equivalent of a necktie party, “The Fox Bow Incident,” perhaps.
If the old mundane astrologers knew anything, we are in for a bloody ride. But nobody pays any attention to them, so I shant, neither.
Instead, like the New Agey astrologers of today, prograssives fiddle in rainbow-and-flower lands, riding our magic unicorns and dispensing our “have a nice day”s while there gathers a storm of thugs, silencing debate, quelling all contrary voices, throttling public discourse, destroying actual human lives and sabotaging all governance.
With nary a word said. (Oh, some mild pooh-poohing.)
Because, like, it’s unpleasant, you know?
See Niemöller for your political and astrological prediction.
Oh, and “Have a nice day.”
“I don’t believe in astrology; I’m a Sagittarius and we’re skeptical.”
~ Sir Arthur C. Clarke
A writer, published author, novelist, literary critic and political observer for a quarter of a quarter-century more than a quarter-century, Hart Williams has lived in the American West for his entire life. Having grown up in Wyoming, Kansas and New Mexico, a survivor of Texas and a veteran of Hollywood, Mr. Williams currently lives in Oregon, along with an astonishing amount of pollen. He has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog