I imagine that the appalling Victor Davis Hanson is to blame for most of this. I simply don’t see how one can read Thucydides without coming away with some quite emphatic lessons about the long term costs of imperial arrogance towards one’s political allies, how unnecessary military adventures turn into disasters, und so weiter. Not to mention Thucydides’ depiction of the dangers of cheap jingoism and pro-war demagoguery at home (it would be unfair to describe Glenn Reynolds and company as tinpot Kleons, if only because Kleon actually went out to fight the war that he had touted for). ~Henry Farrell, Crooked Timber
The quote from Thucydides included in Mr. Farrell’s post reminded me of a similar quote from Chateaubriand on the age of “Buonaparte”:
Words changed meaning. A people who fights for its legitimate sovereign is a rebellious people. A traitor is a loyal subject. France was an Empire of lies: journals, pamphlets, discourses, prose, and verse all disguised the truth. If it rained, we were assured it was sunny. If the tyrant walked among the silent people, it was said that he advanced among the acclamations of the crowd. The prince was all that mattered: morality consisted of devoting oneself to his caprice; duty was to praise him. Above all it was necessary to praise the administration when it made a mistake or committed a crime.
It is no wonder that the most fanatical of Bonapartists was Nicolas Chauvin, the man who gave his name to chauvinisme, which at the time originally meant a fanatical attachment to the cause of a particular political figure, in this case Bonaparte, as well as hyper-nationalism. It is fitting then that our neo-Bonapartists with all their distortions of language should also be astonishingly virulent national chauvinists.