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From: Joachim K6/20/2021 6:53:21 PM
1 Recommendation   of 7385
Contact - - -

An alien-made artefact or just interstellar debris? What ?

Oumuamua says about how science works when data is scarce

Matthew Bothwell

is the public astronomer at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of The Invisible Universe: Why There’s More to Reality than Meets the Eye (forthcoming 2021).

There’s an iconic moment, filmed in the shadow of the Very Large Array in New Mexico, that many people who visit this giant telescope try to duplicate. A young astronomer sits cross-legged on the bonnet of her car, the towering line of radio dishes vanishing into the distance behind her. With her laptop in front of her, she’s listening intently to a giant pair of headphones, held upside down so that the strap hangs below her chin. The shot is from the film Contact (1997), and the astronomer, Dr Eleanor Arroway (played by Jodie Foster), is listening, awestruck, to the first signal from an extraterrestrial intelligence. Having worked as a professional astronomer for more than a decade, I’ve met a number of colleagues for whom the film was an important part of their childhood. Many modern astronomers are driven by the ideals that Contact speaks to: the awe of discovery, and the search for company somewhere in this vast and empty Universe.

On 19 October 2017, the astronomer Robert Weryk spotted something rather extraordinary: a splinter of rock, just a few hundred metres across, tumbling through our inner solar system. Not much to write home about, you might think: there are more than 750,000 known asteroids and comets in our cosmic backyard, and countless millions more waiting to be discovered. But this object was very, very special. As his team would soon discover, this piece of flying cosmic debris could only have come from outside of our own solar system. The human race had found its first ever interstellar traveller.

The object was soon named Oumuamua: Hawaiian for ‘first distant messenger’ or ‘scout’ (and pronounced the way one might write an ode to a cow: ‘Oh, moo-er, moo-er’). More than three years later, the debate over Oumuamua’s true nature has spilled beyond the borders of academic astronomy and into the popular imagination. One reason why is obvious: a visitor from the stars – not in any metaphorical sense, but a real, tangible object right here, in our cosmic backyard – forces us to see ourselves as a small part of a wider Universe that exists far beyond our imaginative shores. There’s another reason, too: in our current space-faring culture, just as we’re launching missions to the planets and dreaming of visiting the stars, it’s inevitable that a tantalising question would arise – what if Oumuamua is more than a simple inanimate object?

The existence of extraterrestrial life is one of humanity’s great driving questions. The ancient Greek philosophers before Socrates debated the ‘plurality of worlds’, and who among us hasn’t looked up at the stars at some point and wondered if there wasn’t someone, somewhere, looking back? In the latter half of the 20th century, this enduring fascination crystallised into a systematic scientific search effort, known as SETI: the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. But after more than six decades of hunting for radio signals from nearby stars, we’re as alone as we ever were. When we speculate about life elsewhere in the Universe, we’re doing that most dangerous of things, from a scientific perspective: extrapolating from a single data point, that of human existence. This combination of a profound and universal yearning, undercut by a total absence of evidence, has allowed the question of extraterrestrials to become a cosmic blank canvas, onto which it’s possible to project our hopes and our fears, our deepest insecurities and our loftiest desires. Our answer to the question of whether or not extraterrestrial intelligence might exist often tells us more about the baggage we bring than anything about the Universe as it really is.

Victorians of the late 19th century, living in the era of ambitious engineering, looked at Mars and saw globe-spanning canals – evidence, they believed, of a grand industrial civilisation mirroring their own. In the Cold War 1960s, as millions lived under the shadow of potential nuclear annihilation, ‘neocatastrophism’ – the theory that extraterrestrial civilisations are inevitably wiped out by violent events – emerged as an explanation for our apparent cosmic solitude. The Argentinian Trotskyist J Posadas was convinced that advanced aliens would be socialists; more recently, the Vatican’s then-chief astronomer José Gabriel Funes suggested in 2008 that extraterrestrials might share a close relationship with God. We scientists tend to believe that intelligent extraterrestrials will be builders of technology, fluent in the universal language of mathematics. In Contact, the aliens announce their presence by beaming prime numbers at us, and many of our messages broadcast to the stars consist of physics and mathematics wrapped up in binary code. This perspective on aliens as scientific rationalists underlies most of modern SETI. It’s a viewpoint that I happen to agree with. Then again, I’m a scientist: of course I do.

These labours of imagination aren’t intrinsically bad for science. Indeed, when faced with a new intellectual frontier, lacking in evidence but with plenty of tantalising questions, speculation is inevitable. It allows us to consider ideas that populate an intellectual landscape beyond our evidential horizons. Without speculation, our thinking would never develop and science would be stagnant. Many established scientific theories started out as pure conjecture: the Arabic intellectual Ibn al-Khatib made his suggestion that plagues result from contagion by minute bodies in c1362 CE, hundreds of years before microscopes provided evidence for his ideas. The ancient Greek philosopher Democritus proposed that matter was made of tiny ‘atoms’ more than 2,000 years before any proof arrived. Nicolaus Copernicus’s theory that Earth orbits the Sun was made in 1543, decades before Galileo used his new telescope to show that Copernicus was correct. Speculation and imagination are very much the creative force driving the advancement of scientific knowledge.

The number that caused the uproar was 1.2: this perfectly innocuous number had deeply cosmic implications

But scientists are human, and our flights of imaginative fancy are inevitably influenced by our existing ideas, our politics and our ideologies. Nowhere is this clearer than the topic of extraterrestrial life: when we wonder about the other minds with whom we might share our Universe, we’ve always tended to conjure up reflections of ourselves. And Oumuamua, a cosmic traveller flung out from some distant star system, has sparked the latest chapter of this long-running saga.

The discovery that made history came in late 2017. The Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) spotted a faint speck in the sky that didn’t correspond to anything in the near-Earth object catalogues. Astronomers soon realised that this object was in the process of leaving our solar system: it had already swung around the Sun, and would soon pass Mars’s orbit on the way out. The speck – initially given the memorable moniker ‘P10Ee5V’ – was moving fast, flying away from the Sun at around 100,000 kilometres per hour. Over the course of six days, astronomers around the world used telescopes to carefully track its motion: by combining these observations with some basic knowledge of gravity, it was possible to re-trace the object’s steps, mapping out its entire orbit around the Sun. A message circulated around the astronomical world on 25 October 2017, describing the object – by now given the slightly improved name ‘COMET C/2017 U1 (PANSTARRS)’ – as ‘very weird’, and listing a few numbers that described the size and shape of its orbital path. The number that caused the uproar was something called the ‘orbital eccentricity’, measured to be around 1.2. This perfectly innocuous number had deeply cosmic implications.

Animation of ?Oumuamua passing through the Solar System. Courtesy Wikipedia

The shape of a planet’s orbit around a star is something called an ‘ellipse’, a sort of squashed circle. The amount that a planet’s orbit deviates from a perfect circle is called its ‘orbital eccentricity’. Earth’s orbit is only very slightly squashed, with an eccentricity of 0.017. You’d have to look very closely to see that we don’t orbit around the Sun in a perfect circle. Pluto’s orbit, on the other hand, is very squashed indeed: it looks egg-shaped and, at times, Pluto is closer to the Sun than Neptune is. Pluto’s obviously wonky orbit has an eccentricity of 0.25. These numbers can go higher: Eris, the second largest dwarf planet in our solar system has an orbital eccentricity of 0.44, and little Sedna, three times further out than Neptune, comes in at 0.85. Comets have some of the most eccentric orbits of all, spending most of their life out in the far frozen reaches of the solar system and only occasionally dipping close to the Sun. Halley’s Comet has an orbital eccentricity of 0.97, and NEOWISE (which lit up the skies in the summer of 2020) is almost as eccentric as they come, at 0.999.

At this point, you’ll have noticed something. All of these objects, which are part of our solar system, have orbital eccentricities lower than 1. When it comes to orbital eccentricity, 1 is the magic number. Once your orbit hits an eccentricity of 1 (or higher), you’re no longer gravitationally bound to the thing you’re orbiting: strictly speaking, you aren’t ‘orbiting’ at all, and are destined to fly off into the interstellar darkness.

So – back to our weird speck, COMET C/2017 U1 (PANSTARRS). An orbital eccentricity of 1.2 meant that there was no way that this object was in orbit around our Sun. It could only have come from outside our solar system: from interstellar space. What we had found was a visitor from another star system. A more dignified name was in order: it was soon dubbed 1I/Oumuamua.

As you might imagine, all this got the world’s attention. Within hours of the announcement, telescopes around the globe were pointed at Oumuamua, hoping to learn as much as possible about our visitor before it vanished forever into the dark. We quickly learned that the light reflecting from ?Oumuamua was reddish, similar to some asteroids in our own solar system that are covered in organic silicates, carbon and ice. Any sense of normality stopped there, however.

The first oddity was the light curve – that is, the way Oumuamua changed brightness over time. Repeating every eight hours or so, Oumuamua got brighter, then dimmed, and then brightened again. This meant that Oumuamua must be a spinning asymmetrical object: it looked brightest when its largest surface was pointing towards us, and vice versa. What was surprising was the extreme difference between these two states. Normal, slightly misshapen asteroids get maybe 20 or 30 per cent brighter and dimmer as they spin. The light from Oumuamua, on the other hand, was varying by a factor of 10. Oumuamua had to be something very long and thin: a cigar-shape, or maybe a flat pancake, a few hundred metres wide but just tens of metres across. Completely different, in other words, from the mostly spherical (or dumpily potato-shaped) asteroids that populate our inner solar system. Oumuamua, our first interstellar visitor, was like nothing we’d seen before.

Was Oumuamua a chunk of frozen hydrogen, perhaps chipped off a distant star’s equivalent of Pluto?

This is the point at which many people – including some astronomers – started using the ‘A’-word. Artificial. The comparison to a discarded rocket or a science-fiction flying saucer was inescapable: the rocket that took astronauts to the Moon, Saturn V, measured 110m by 10m – eerily similar to our interstellar visitor. Things got weirder still just a few months later. In the summer of 2018, the astronomer Marco Micheli published a paper in Nature announcing that his team had tracked Oumuamua’s motion more accurately than ever before. Their headline finding was simple: Oumuamua was speeding up. The effect was subtle – they weren’t seeing Oumuamua blasting off to the stars – but there was clearly something non-gravitational afoot. Something was pushing Oumuamua faster and faster. It wasn’t long before SETI swung into action, and some of the best alien-hunting machines on the planet were turning their attention towards ?Oumuamua. Several radio telescopes focused on the object, hunting for any possible electronic chatter it might be putting out. The result, however, was silence.

The astronomical community rose to the challenge of explaining Oumuamua, with more than 200 papers to date discussing our interstellar visitor. Explanations have ranged from the mundane (Oumuamua is the middle of a comet) to the esoteric (Oumuamua is a nugget of dark matter). Some groups proposed that the acceleration might be due to excess heat radiation: due to its unusual shape, Oumuamua could be radiating most of its heat behind it as it travelled. Such ‘radiative anisotropy’ has been known to push things around in deep space (most notably the Pioneer probe, the strange acceleration of which was a mystery for years). Other papers suggested Oumuamua’s motion could be explained by ‘outgassing’ – the Sun boiling ice under the surface, producing gas that spurted out like a rocket engine. Comets – and even some asteroids – in our own solar system do this all the time. Observations indicated that Oumuamua had no coma – a nebulous envelope of gas – but this excluded only gasses that we can see. If Oumuamua was a chunk of frozen hydrogen, perhaps chipped off a distant star’s equivalent of Pluto, all of the weird behaviour gets explained rather neatly.

The problem is that Oumuamua is gone. By now it’s billions of kilometres from Earth, and getting farther away all the time. Unless a very expensive chase mission is launched very soon, Oumuamua might remain shrouded in mystery forever.

There’s a name that, by now, has become conspicuous by its absence. If you’ve read even one story about Oumuamua over the past four years, you’ll almost certainly have come across it: Abraham ‘Avi’ Loeb, professor of science at Harvard University, and his claim that Oumuamua is an alien artefact.

Together with his Harvard colleague, Shmuel Bialy, Loeb published the paper ‘Could Solar Radiation Pressure Explain Oumuamua’s Peculiar Acceleration?’ (2018). In other words, could the acceleration be caused by the pressure of sunlight? This innocuous hook was the precursor to a startling conclusion: the pressure from sunlight could work, but not if Oumuamua was a lump of rock. The strange acceleration could be chalked up to solar radiation pressure if Oumuamua was an artificial construction: a solar sail, built to traverse the galaxy on a wind of light.

Loeb has done more than engage in purely dispassionate scientific theorising. What has led to him hitting headlines around the world is his evangelical mission to convince the public that aliens have visited. Loeb has written a long string of popular articles arguing that the best explanation for Oumuamua is an alien solar sail. He followed these up with a book, Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth (2021), in which he’s even more vehement: in it, he writes ‘Oumuamua must have been designed, built, and launched by an extraterrestrial intelligence.’ In a recent interview promoting the book (headlined ‘Astronomer Avi Loeb Says Aliens Have Visited, And He’s Not Kidding’), Loeb highlights what he calls a ‘crisis’ in science, saying that his colleagues in the astronomical community are ‘not using common sense’, and castigating his most vocal critics as ‘mediocre scientists’. In late June 2021, Loeb is scheduled to speak at Contact in the Desert, which describes itself as the ‘world’s largest UFO conference’, where he’ll share a stage with speakers discussing psychic remote viewing, crop circles and alien abduction.

What’s disturbing to many of Loeb’s (many) critics isn’t the ideas themselves, but the distinctly unscientific certainty with which he presents them to the public. He’s said that the alien hypothesis is ‘much more likely’, and that his ideas are ‘not speculative at all’. But as is so often the case, Loeb’s speculations – which is what they are – are informed by his existing ideas and politics. Loeb is heavily involved with the project Breakthrough Starshot, an engineering initiative founded in 2016 by the billionaire Yuri Milner with one goal: to build a solar sail, and send a probe to another star system. Loeb chairs the project’s advisory committee and, as a result, since 2016 has been a vocal public advocate for solar-sail technology. Around a year later, ?Oumuamua came through our solar system, and ever since Loeb has been on a one-man mission to convince the world that we picked up the trail of an alien solar sail.

Zuckerman’s long-term opposition to immigration and his SETI scepticism are two sides of the same coin

Loeb isn’t the only scientist to fall prey to ideologically motivated speculation: in fact, we can see the same dynamic in the arguments of some of his detractors. In February 2021, the astrophysicist Benjamin Zuckerman of the University of California, Los Angeles published the paper ‘Oumuamua Is Not a Probe Sent to our Solar System by an Alien Civilization’. Zuckerman’s overarching theory is simple: Oumuamua can’t be an alien spaceship, because aliens simply don’t exist. Zuckerman is an ardent SETI sceptic, and the author of the paper ‘Why SETI Will Fail’ (2002), in which he argues that extraterrestrial intelligence must at least be exceedingly rare, because otherwise they would have come to visit us.

Zuckerman is a controversial figure, for reasons that go beyond the astronomical. As well as being a professor emeritus of astronomy, Zuckerman is an ardent and lifelong anti-immigration activist. There’s a clear philosophical thread running through all of Zuckerman’s ideas: his long-term opposition to immigration and his SETI scepticism are two sides of the same coin. This is made clear in a paper Zuckerman wrote in his book Extraterrestrials: Where Are They? (2nd ed, 1995), a book he co-edited with Michael Hart, a white nationalist who openly advocates for partitioning the United States along racial lines. The paper, ‘Stellar Evolution: Motivation for Mass Interstellar Migrations’ (1985), argues that extraterrestrial civilisations, facing the death of their star, will inevitably end up fleeing their home systems for greener pastures. ‘Massive migration seems the most likely possibility,’ he writes. He also worries about the effect these migrant populations might have on our pristine corner of the Universe: at the end of his paper, he concludes ‘in a crisis such as the death of one’s beloved home star, would the affected society worry about preserving “wilderness areas”?’

The link to Zuckerman’s extreme environmentalist anti-immigration sentiments is obvious. His motivating presumption is simple: the place we live is special, and incoming migrant populations will colonise and pollute it. Applying this principle to his native California, he opposes immigration. Applying it to the stars, it guides the way he imagines other beings. Zuckerman doesn’t conceive of extraterrestrials as wise benefactors coming in peace, or even a warlike force hellbent on destruction. For Zuckerman, extraterrestrials are migrants fleeing tragedy, who will permanently and irreversibly colonise our homeland. And so we reach Zuckerman’s philosophical opposition to SETI: because our solar system remains uncolonized, extraterrestrials must therefore not exist.

The wider astronomical community, it’s fair to say, hasn’t responded warmly to Loeb’s ideas. Sceptical opinions began to roll in soon after Oumuamua’s discovery. ‘It’s not a spacecraft,’ said Michele Bannister, an astronomer at Queen’s University Belfast, in a late-2017 interview for WIRED magazine. More up-to-date papers have continued this theme: Jonathan Katz, professor of physics at Washington University in St Louis, published a paper in March 2021, the title of which speaks for itself: ‘Oumuamua Is Not Artificial’. Scientists on Twitter were less measured: Benjamin Weiner, an astronomer at the University of Arizona, accused Loeb of ‘bad behaviour’ and ‘misleading the public’.

This critique was thrown into sharp relief earlier this year, during an online discussion hosted by the Instituto de Astrofísica in Chile. The astronomer Jill Tarter of the SETI Institute in California objected to Loeb’s sensationalising, pointing out that he’s bringing the field into disrepute, and accusing him of ‘throwing the entire scientific culture under the bus’. It’s worth noting that Tarter is a legendary SETI pioneer, who’s probably done more to further the search for extraterrestrial intelligence than any other astronomer on Earth. Over her 40-year career, she has tirelessly promoted the quest to find alien life, spending more than a decade as the director of the Center for SETI Research. She was even – in part – the inspiration for Dr Arroway in Contact. All this makes what followed in February 2021 particularly shocking: in a Zoom webinar for the general public on astrophysics, Loeb launched into an attack on Tarter, shouting over the top of her and accusing her of not being supportive enough of his SETI efforts (a field in which she is a veteran, and Loeb a relative newcomer). Loeb’s behaviour drew widespread condemnation, after which he offered a somewhat half-hearted apology.

Loeb’s critics have provided a range of counterpoints to his evangelical advocacy. Oumuamua didn’t attempt to slow down to get a better look at us, and was utterly radio-silent. The modest telescope you could fit inside Oumuamua would be outclassed by even a modest network of dishes in the alien’s home system, making the 100,000-year (minimum) journey to our solar system rather pointless. Many astronomers have pointed out that these interstellar objects are likely very common in our Milky Way, with some estimating that there could be more than a trillion trillion such travellers spread throughout our galaxy. Several of them probably pass through our solar system every year: if this is the case, then Oumuamua suddenly starts to look a lot less special. Indeed, in August 2019 a second interstellar object was spotted in our solar system, a comet that was subsequently named 2I/Borisov.

At some point the speculative dust settles and the hard data arrive

This pushback from the scientific community allows us to zoom out a little, and see the role of speculation in better context. Speculation might well be the creative engine of science, but it’s only when flights of imagination are followed up by intellectually honest, rigorous critique that we have a chance of learning more about our world. Many good ideas started off as wild speculation, but so did countless bad ones. Many ancient Greeks believed that light beams originated from our eyes and, in the late 17th century, the astronomer Edmond Halley thought that Earth might be hollow. The critical thing, and the key to the scientific process, is the ability to sift the good ideas from the bad.

This scientific tug-of-war is just the latest chapter in a long-running dynamic – an argument that has happened before, and will happen again. Look back to a century or so ago, when the origin of our Universe was the biggest question in astronomy. In the late 1920s, the astronomical world was shaken by one of the most surprising discoveries of all time: the Universe is expanding. The prevailing cosmology of the era was that the Universe was unchanging and infinitely old, so to suddenly find themselves in a growing, evolving cosmos was a shock to the system for most astronomers. The expanding Universe seemed to suggest some kind of beginning point when everything kicked off – but what that might look like was anyone’s guess. In the absence of evidence, speculation took flight. The Belgian astronomer and Catholic priest Georges Lemaître in 1927 proposed that the Universe was born from a ‘primeval atom’; in 1948, Fred Hoyle, based in Cambridge, proposed a ‘steady-state model’, where new matter is continuously created as space expands, which allowed the Universe to be infinitely old after all.

But at some point the speculative dust settles and the hard data arrive. In 1964, two researchers detected the ‘echo’ of the Big Bang, and the rest is history. These days, we live in an era of ‘precision cosmology’, in which the age, size and shape of the Universe can be measured to a staggering level of accuracy. Territory that was once a playground for the imagination has been mapped in exquisite detail. Our speculative efforts have moved on to the next set of unknowns: the multiverse, dark matter and dark energy are all beyond the current frontier of knowledge, and finding answers will require our imaginations as much as our telescopes.

On the question of extraterrestrial intelligence, and Oumuamua in particular, firm proof has not yet arrived. So what of Loeb, the scientist who cried ‘alien’? As most other astronomers have pointed out, he’s very likely to be wrong. The balance of evidence just isn’t on his side. The strength of science, as a method for learning about our world, is the ability to self-correct when the data come in. But this self-correction often applies only to the field as a whole: individual scientists, when their speculations are not borne out by the evidence, sometimes fail to change their minds.

Hoyle remained staunchly opposed to the Big Bang theory until his death in 2001. If he’d lived in the age of Twitter, he would have been front-page news: ‘Cambridge professor denies the Big Bang’ would make for clickbait just as appealing as ‘Harvard professor says aliens have visited’. But Hoyle was wrong, just as Loeb is probably wrong. Ultimately, here’s the lesson we might draw from all this: because the back-and-forth between speculation and self-critique is the heartbeat of science, it’s misleading when only the first half of that dynamic makes headlines. A media landscape that truthfully represented how science works would champion Tarter more than Loeb.

The deepest questions that SETI has set out to answer might never be solved. If we’re truly alone in the Universe, our destiny might well be to search and search and come up empty-handed. But when it comes to Oumuamua, some real data could be close. Oumuamua itself might be long gone, but it won’t be long until astronomers have an unprecedented ability to scan the sky for other rogue objects. The Vera C Rubin Observatory in Chile is a futuristic and much more advanced version of Pan-STARRS, and is set to open its eyes to the sky around 2022-23. If it turns out that Oumuamua was a one-off, a unique visitor unlike anything else out there, then it might be time to fire up our imaginations once again.

But if, as most theories suggest, Oumuamua turns out to be just one of many interstellar visitors that regularly pass through our cosmic neighbourhood, then we can be pretty confident that it was indeed just a lump of inert material. This won’t be the end of the story: it will open up a new frontier of knowledge, as astronomers begin the careful process of studying these interstellar visitors, and discovering what secrets they might hold about their distant homes.

This Essay was made possible through the support of a grant to Aeon from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation. Funders to Aeon Magazine are not involved in editorial decision-making.

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From: Joachim K6/23/2021 8:44:36 PM
1 Recommendation   of 7385
Ikea Juneteenth menu with watermelon, fried chicken sparks outrage

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To: Joachim K who wrote (7155)6/26/2021 6:05:37 AM
From: Tom Clarke
1 Recommendation   of 7385
The angry IKEA guy

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To: Joachim K who wrote (7152)6/26/2021 6:09:06 AM
From: Tom Clarke
1 Recommendation   of 7385

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To: Tom Clarke who wrote (7156)6/26/2021 12:05:46 PM
From: Joachim K
2 Recommendations   of 7385
JUNE 24, 2021

Police kick out group holding exorcism 'for the dead trees' at Pennsylvania Home DepotThe incident, described as 'a séance type of thing,' happened at a store in Lackawanna County

PhillyVoice Staff

ODD NEWS Religion

STREET VIEW/GOOGLEA Home Depot store on Commerce Boulevard in Dickson City, Pa. became the site of an exorcism on June 21, according to police.

There are places to hold an exorcism and places to maybe avoid holding an exorcism.

Any guess where the lumber aisle of a Home Depot falls?

A police report from Dickson City in Lackawanna County raised eyebrows this week for its =AZV7IKDokqNgRIZ0jq5jIgMdOZ1lAkkBnCMJyvvfANN9Qfw9NQm1ome4FsmXQHyIDaFE4t_Pegbafzk7hdvqtooBff6KrqgvIvzDn7VBqGnpS1S6hJgfrup1G3YQq8IqzKRDFPwG-8cyI51Tq9G2NOiD&__tn__=%2CO%2CP-R]bizarre description of an incident that happened Monday.

MORE NEWS New Jersey dog, missing for two weeks, found swimming in Barnegat Bay Pennsylvania, New Jersey ranked in top 10 worst states to live in during a zombie apocalypse New England man swallowed by whale, lives to tell the tale

"3:26pm: Commerce Blvd. @ Home Depot for disorderly people having an exorcism in the lumber isle (sic) for the dead trees," authorities wrote. "They were escorted out of the building."

A call placed to Dickson City police elicited a chuckle from one officer.

"There were two people hanging out in the lumber department doing their little exorcism thing," the officer said. "Some people at the store started picking up that something was happening that was not necessarily normal. Police were called to the store and they were escorted out of the building."

The individuals involved will not be charged, the officer said.

"It was a séance type of thing for the dead," he said.

An employee who answered the phone at Home Depot said the store had no comment on the incident.

The real shame is that in this day and age, when every unwelcome encounter at a business is filmed and shared online, no one seems to have had the good sense to get footage of what happened.

Exorcisms are scary business, whether it's the stuff you see in fictionalized accounts of true stories, like in "The Conjuring" series, or in documentaries that explore demonic possession, such as " The Devil and Father Amorth" on Netflix.

Can trees be possessed, though? Can they be used for spiritual healing and punishment? M. Night Shyamalan explored this a bit in his 2008 eco-slasher "The Happening," but that was pure fiction.

Strange as it sounds, Benjamin Franklin and Antione Lavoiser conducted placebo-controlled medical experiments in 1784 to debunk the healing practices devised by Franz Mesmer. The study was at the behest of Louis XVI, who formed a royal commission to get to the bottom of it, given the sordid history of devil controversies in Europe in prior centuries.

Mesmerism was derived from an effort to demonstrate "animal magnetism" — a natural energy transference between living beings and inanimate objects — that could be summoned and engaged without religion as the bedrock. The study Franklin worked on aimed to determine whether Mesmer had discovered a new physical force, or "fluid," in Mesmer's vocabulary.

One of the patients in the experiments was sensitive to the presence of "mesmerized" trees and passed out when he came into contact with one he had been told was "treated," even though it wasn't. Earlier, the patient had no reaction to a tree that had been secretly mesmerized, according to Mesmer's healing practices. The royal commission concluded Mesmer's "fluid" was bogus, but the experiments didn't seriously examine the question of whether mesmerism could heal people.

There's also The Devil's Tree in New Jersey, where various legends tell of an unholy oak in a large field in Bernards Township. Readers of Weird NJ shared some accounts of their paranormal experiences at the tree. They all sound pretty ridiculous.

We're probably going out on a limb even attempting to explain this behavior. The only lesson to take from it is that you can get practically anything at Home Depot, but the lumber is not there for the benefit of your exorcisms.

PhillyVoice Staff

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From: Tom Clarke6/26/2021 1:12:29 PM
   of 7385

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To: Joachim K who wrote (7158)6/26/2021 1:12:58 PM
From: Tom Clarke
1 Recommendation   of 7385
I heard it's racist against trees to choose plastic over paper.

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To: Tom Clarke who wrote (7160)7/3/2021 1:00:00 AM
From: Joachim K
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A Rollicking Novel for an Age of Absurdity


My latest in PJ Media:

Harking back to the not-too-distant past when education didn’t entirely consist of learning how racist and evil our forefathers were, H. W. Crocker III heads up his latest and arguably most riotous picaresque novel, Armstrong Rides Again!, with the Latin inscription Numquam concedere. That’s “Never concede,” kids, and after Covid-19, the 2020 election, the exaltation of perversion and insanity, the Reichstag Fire incident of January 6, and six months of Biden’s handlers stirring up war, inflation, invasion, and more, it’s a good motto for dissidents to keep in mind. In Armstrong Rides Again!, the chief refuser to concede is none other than George Armstrong Custer himself, who in the novel was not killed in the Battle of Little Big Horn, and is instead making his way through a post-Civil War world that is absurd enough to make our own almost look sane. Custer teams up with another real-life character, the nineteenth-century satirist Ambrose Bierce, and undertakes his travels with help from an Indian scout, Billy Jack, whose name is taken from the eponymous 1971 guilt-manipulation Western, one of the first of a long line of major motion pictures that spread the now all-pervasive mythology of saintly Indians suffering within a rapacious and unfeeling larger American culture.Armstrong Rides Again! is a marvelous antidote to such politically correct fantasies. In this world (as in the real one, though the fact is largely forgotten now), no group has a monopoly on good or evil, and even the most altruistic act is shot through with self-seeking. At the same time, the book is filled with sly social commentary, particularly when Custer makes his way to the fictional Latin American republic of Neustraguano (I’ll leave you to figure out what that one means).

Custer is there to come to the aid of El Caudillo, who lives in “el Palacio Blanco” and is “the hereditary soldier-emperor of Neustraguano; a defender of our nation and its faith,” whose enemies (including “a strange, spiky, herky-jerky figure,” a woman who “looked like a stage witch, perhaps touched with fever”) see him as “an exploiter of its people; defended by superstition!” This woman “works with the Indians on the borderlands. They suffer from a plague. The people wear bags as protection from it.”

A protest against El Caudillo is described by one of its supporters as “a protest for science—and against ignorance as represented by El Caudillo and that cathedral. Our nation’s square should not be dominated by a Church or represented by a monarchy—both relics of a dark, unenlightened past.” The foes of El Caudillo are found even within his government, for when the leader tells Custer how sorry he is that “the most attractive people in Neustraguano never have children,” such that his people, “over time, become uglier and uglier,” Custer notices that “the cabinet officers were rolling their eyes or burying their faces behind their hands.”

Is this beginning to sound familiar?

There is more. Read the rest here.

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From: Joachim K7/3/2021 11:16:32 PM
2 Recommendations   of 7385
The True-Life Horror That Inspired Moby-DickThe whaler ‘Essex’ was indeed sunk by a whale—and that’s only the beginning.

Smithsonian Magazine

Gilbert King

The Deadliest Disaster at Sea Killed Thousands, Yet Its Story Is Little-Known. Why?

The Worst Shark Attack in History

Three Centuries After His Beheading, a Kinder, Gentler Blackbeard Emerges

Herman Melville drew inspiration for Moby-Dick from the 1820 whale attack on the Essex. Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain.

In July of 1852, a 32-year-old novelist named Herman Melville had high hopes for his new novel, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, despite the book’s mixed reviews and tepid sales. That month he took a steamer to Nantucket for his first visit to the Massachusetts island, home port of his novel’s mythic protagonist, Captain Ahab, and his ship, the Pequod. Like a tourist, Melville met local dignitaries, dined out and took in the sights of the village he had previously only imagined.

And on his last day on Nantucket he met the broken-down 60-year-old man who had captained the Essex, the ship that had been attacked and sunk by a sperm whale in an 1820 incident that had inspired Melville’s novel. Captain George Pollard Jr. was just 29 years old when the Essex went down, and he survived and returned to Nantucket to captain a second whaling ship, Two Brothers. But when that ship wrecked on a coral reef two years later, the captain was marked as unlucky at sea—a “Jonah”—and no owner would trust a ship to him again. Pollard lived out his remaining years on land, as the village night watchman.

Melville had written about Pollard briefly in Moby-Dick, and only with regard to the whale sinking his ship. During his visit, Melville later wrote, the two merely “exchanged some words.” But Melville knew Pollard’s ordeal at sea did not end with the sinking of the Essex, and he was not about to evoke the horrific memories that the captain surely carried with him. “To the islanders he was a nobody,” Melville wrote, “to me, the most impressive man, tho’ wholly unassuming, even humble—that I ever encountered.”

Pollard had told the full story to fellow captains over a dinner shortly after his rescue from the Essex ordeal, and to a missionary named George Bennet. To Bennet, the tale was like a confession. Certainly, it was grim: 92 days and sleepless nights at sea in a leaking boat with no food, his surviving crew going mad beneath the unforgiving sun, eventual cannibalism and the harrowing fate of two teenage boys, including Pollard’s first cousin, Owen Coffin. “But I can tell you no more—my head is on fire at the recollection,” Pollard told the missionary. “I hardly know what I say.”

The trouble for Essex began, as Melville knew, on August 14, 1819, just two days after it left Nantucket on a whaling voyage that was supposed to last two and a half years. The 87-foot-long ship was hit by a squall that destroyed its topgallant sail and nearly sank it. Still, Pollard continued, making it to Cape Horn five weeks later. But the 20-man crew found the waters off South America nearly fished out, so they decided to sail for distant whaling grounds in the South Pacific, far from any shores.

To restock, the Essex anchored at Charles Island in the Galapagos, where the crew collected sixty 100-pound tortoises. As a prank, one of the crew set a fire, which, in the dry season, quickly spread. Pollard’s men barely escaped, having to run through flames, and a day after they set sail, they could still see smoke from the burning island. Pollard was furious, and swore vengeance on whoever set the fire. Many years later Charles Island was still a blackened wasteland, and the fire was believed to have caused the extinction of both the Floreana Tortoise and the Floreana Mockingbird.

Essex First Mate Owen Chase, later in life. Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Getty Images.

By November of 1820, after months of a prosperous voyage and a thousand miles from the nearest land, whaleboats from the Essex had harpooned whales that dragged them out toward the horizon in what the crew called “Nantucket sleigh rides.” Owen Chase, the 23-year-old first mate, had stayed aboard the Essex to make repairs while Pollard went whaling. It was Chase who spotted a very big whale—85 feet in length, he estimated—lying quietly in the distance, its head facing the ship. Then, after two or three spouts, the giant made straight for the Essex, “coming down for us at great celerity,” Chase would recall—at about three knots. The whale smashed head-on into the ship with “such an appalling and tremendous jar, as nearly threw us all on our faces.”

The whale passed underneath the ship and began thrashing in the water. “I could distinctly see him smite his jaws together, as if distracted with rage and fury,” Chase recalled. Then the whale disappeared. The crew was addressing the hole in the ship and getting the pumps working when one man cried out, “Here he is—he is making for us again.” Chase spotted the whale, his head half out of water, bearing down at great speed—this time at six knots, Chase thought. This time it hit the bow directly under the cathead and disappeared for good.

The water rushed into the ship so fast, the only thing the crew could do was lower the boats and try fill them with navigational instruments, bread, water and supplies before the Essex turned over on its side.

Pollard saw his ship in distress from a distance, then returned to see the Essex in ruin. Dumbfounded, he asked, “My God, Mr. Chase, what is the matter?”

“We have been stove by a whale,” his first mate answered.

Another boat returned, and the men sat in silence, their captain still pale and speechless. Some, Chase observed, “had no idea of the extent of their deplorable situation.”

The men were unwilling to leave the doomed Essex as it slowly foundered, and Pollard tried to come up with a plan. In all, there were three boats and 20 men. They calculated that the closest land was the Marquesas Islands and the Society Islands, and Pollard wanted to set off for them—but in one of the most ironic decisions in nautical history, Chase and the crew convinced him that those islands were peopled with cannibals and that the crew’s best chance for survival would be to sail south. The distance to land would be far greater, but they might catch the trade winds or be spotted by another whaling ship. Only Pollard seemed to understand the implications of steering clear of the islands. (According to Nathaniel Philbrick, in his book In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, although rumors of cannibalism persisted, traders had been visiting the islands without incident.)

Thus they left the Essex aboard their 20-foot boats. They were challenged almost from the start. Saltwater saturated the bread, and the men began to dehydrate as they ate their daily rations. The sun was ravaging. Pollard’s boat was attacked by a killer whale. They spotted land—Henderson Island—two weeks later, but it was barren. After another week the men began to run out of supplies. Still, three of them decided they’d rather take their chances on land than climb back into a boat. No one could blame them. And besides, it would stretch the provisions for the men in the boats.

By mid-December, after weeks at sea, the boats began to take on water, more whales menaced the men at night, and by January, the paltry rations began to take their toll. On Chase’s boat, one man went mad, stood up and demanded a dinner napkin and water, then fell into “most horrid and frightful convulsions” before perishing the next morning. “Humanity must shudder at the dreadful recital” of what came next, Chase wrote. The crew “separated limbs from his body, and cut all the flesh from the bones; after which, we opened the body, took out the heart, and then closed it again—sewed it up as decently as we could, and committed it to the sea.” They then roasted the man’s organs on a flat stone and ate them.

Over the coming week, three more sailors died, and their bodies were cooked and eaten. One boat disappeared, and then Chase’s and Pollard’s boats lost sight of each other. The rations of human flesh did not last long, and the more the survivors ate, the hungrier they felt. On both boats the men became too weak to talk. The four men on Pollard’s boat reasoned that without more food, they would die. On February 6, 1821—nine weeks after they’d bidden farewell to the Essex—Charles Ramsdell, a teenager, proposed they draw lots to determine who would be eaten next. It was the custom of the sea, dating back, at least in recorded instance, to the first half of the 17th century. The men in Pollard’s boat accepted Ramsdell’s suggestion, and the lot fell to young Owen Coffin, the captain’s first cousin.

Pollard had promised the boy’s mother he’d look out for him. “My lad, my lad!” the captain now shouted, “if you don’t like your lot, I’ll shoot the first man that touches you.” Pollard even offered to step in for the boy, but Coffin would have none of it. “I like it as well as any other,” he said.

Ramsdell drew the lot that required him to shoot his friend. He paused a long time. But then Coffin rested his head on the boat’s gunwale and Ramsdell pulled the trigger.

“He was soon dispatched,” Pollard would say, “and nothing of him left.”

By February 18, after 89 days at sea, the last three men on Chase’s boat spotted a sail in the distance. After a frantic chase, they managed to catch the English ship Indian and were rescued.

Three hundred miles away, Pollard’s boat carried only its captain and Charles Ramsdell. They had only the bones of the last crewmen to perish, which they smashed on the bottom of the boat so that they could eat the marrow. As the days passed the two men obsessed over the bones scattered on the boat’s floor. Almost a week after Chase and his men had been rescued, a crewman aboard the American ship Dauphin spotted Pollard’s boat. Wretched and confused, Pollard and Ramsdell did not rejoice at their rescue, but simply turned to the bottom of their boat and stuffed bones into their pockets. Safely aboard the Dauphin, the two delirious men were seen “sucking the bones of their dead mess mates, which they were loath to part with.”

The five Essex survivors were reunited in Valparaiso, where they recuperated before sailing back for Nantucket. As Philbrick writes, Pollard had recovered enough to join several captains for dinner, and he told them the entire story of the Essex wreck and his three harrowing months at sea. One of the captains present returned to his room and wrote everything down, calling Pollard’s account “the most distressing narrative that ever came to my knowledge.”

Years later, the third boat was discovered on Ducie Island; three skeletons were aboard. Miraculously, the three men who chose to stay on Henderson Island survived for nearly four months, mostly on shellfish and bird eggs, until an Australian ship rescued them.

Once they arrived in Nantucket, the surviving crewmen of the Essex were welcomed, largely without judgment. Cannibalism in the most dire of circumstances, it was reasoned, was a custom of the sea. (In similar incidents, survivors declined to eat the flesh of the dead but used it as bait for fish. But Philbrick notes that the men of the Essex were in waters largely devoid of marine life at the surface.)

Captain Pollard, however, was not as easily forgiven, because he had eaten his cousin. (One scholar later referred to the act as “gastronomic incest.”) Owen Coffin’s mother could not abide being in the captain’s presence. Once his days at sea were over, Pollard spent the rest of his life in Nantucket. Once a year, on the anniversary of the wreck of the Essex, he was said to have locked himself in his room and fasted in honor of his lost crewmen.

By 1852, Melville and Moby-Dick had begun their own slide into obscurity. Despite the author’s hopes, his book sold but a few thousand copies in his lifetime, and Melville, after a few more failed attempts at novels, settled into a reclusive life and spent 19 years as a customs inspector in New York City. He drank and suffered the death of his two sons. Depressed, he abandoned novels for poetry. But George Pollard’s fate was never far from his mind. In his poem Clarel he writes of

A night patrolman on the quay

Watching the bales till morning hour

Through fair and foul. Never he smiled;

Call him, and he would come; not sour

In spirit, but meek and reconciled:

Patient he was, he none withstood;

Oft on some secret thing would brood.

Gilbert King is a contributing writer in history for His book Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013.


Books: Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; Or, The Whale, 1851, Harper & Brothers Publishers. Nathaniel Philbrick, In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, 2000, Penguin Books. Thomas Nickerson, The Loss of the Ship Essex, Sunk by a Whale, 2000, Penguin Classics. Owen Chase, Narrative of the Whale-Ship Essex of Nantucket, 2006, A RIA Press Edition. Alex MacCormick, The Mammoth Book of Maneaters, 2003, Carroll & Graf Publishers. Joseph S. Cummins, Cannibals: Shocking True Tales of the Last Taboo on Land and at Sea, 2001, The Lyons Press. Evan L. Balkan, Shipwrecked: Deadly Adventures and Disasters at Sea, 2008, Menasha Ridge Press.

Articles: “The Whale and the Horror,” by Nathaniel Philbrick, Vanity Fair, May, 2000. “Herman Melville: Nantucket’s First Tourist?” by Susan Beegel, The Nantucket Historical Association, ”Herman Melville and Nantucket,” The Nantucket Historical Association, Into the Deep: America, Whaling & the World, “Biography: Herman Melville,” American Experience,, “No Moby-Dick: A Real Captain, Twice Doomed,” by Jesse McKinley, New York Times, February 11, 2011. “The Essex Disaster,” by Walter Karp, American Heritage, April/May, 1983, Volume 34, Issue 3. “Essex (whaleship),” Wikipedia, ”Account of the Ship Essex Sinking, 1819-1821., Thomas Nickerson,

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To: Tom Clarke who wrote (7160)7/7/2021 6:45:13 PM
From: Joachim K
1 Recommendation   of 7385
The Worst Emperor in History

Posted on July 5, 2021 by Baron Bodissey

Our Dutch correspondent H. Numan presents a historical overview of the man who did so much to usher in the Great War.

The worst emperor in history

by H. Numan

Who’s that? Though one to answer, what? So many choices. Was it Nero? Caligula? Perhaps a Chinese emperor? Nope. None of those. The very worst emperor in history was German. It was the last German emperor, Wilhelm II. He inherited a stable empire, well on its way to becoming a dominant economic power of Europe. When he was forced to abdicate, his empire lay in tatters. Not only his own empire, mind you. His fall was accompanied and preceded by the empires of Russia, Austria and the Ottomans. His rule influenced current world affairs enormously. Because of his actions the British empire fell a few decades later. And we can thank him for the demise of Western civilization. Due to his actions Hitler was able to rise to power, and in the east Lenin was put in charge. The latter was on his direct orders. Without his personal support Lenin could never have gained power in Russia. Without a communist Russia the People’s Republic of China was not possible.

It all began so well. When Wilhelm ascended his throne, Germany was a well-respected country. The world was (mostly) at peace. Germany was managed very capably by Bismarck. It was allied with Austria and Russia in the Three Emperors’ League. The three countries had a lot in common: none of them was democratic. All of them were ruled by autocrats, and they all were extremely conservative. If one political league was a natural one, this was it. When Austria couldn’t control socialist uprisings in 1848, the Russian Empire sent troops to its aid. Not because they had to. Not because they could grab some Austrian territories. But because the czar felt he was morally obliged to help his colleague ward off evil.

France was recovering from the Franco-Prussian war, but in no position to do something about it. There was no Franco-British alliance. More the opposite: France and England fought for centuries against one another. England’s position on Germany was somewhat indifferent: it wasn’t a naval superpower, that was all that mattered to England. They saw Wilhelm as a sort of clown, who excelled in one thing only: gigantic gaffes. The German foreign affairs department had to work overtime to defuse them.

Broadly speaking, the world was at peace. Colonialism worked. Yes, there were some uprisings here and there, but no national liberation movements. Some colonies became self governing countries (Australia, New Zealand, Canada) within the British empire.

That more or less peaceful world changed completely when Wilhelm II took control. His first act was to get rid of Bismarck. Who needs a competent if not the best chancellor Germany ever had? Certainly not Wilhelm II. Who needs a league of emperors? So he got rid of that too. Wilhelm II was related to every monarch in Europe. Let’s keep it all in the family!

Wilhelm II fancied yachting. Then and now, a sport for the very rich. That made him an admiral, or so he thought. He read the book by Alfred Mahan, and decided Germany should become a naval superpower. Being Willy 2, he didn’t fancy becoming a naval super power, but of course the naval superpower.

He was in luck. The British made the same mistake as the French before them. The French built La Gloire, the first ocean-going all-steel warship. “Jolly good,” said the British, “we can do that too!” The French capacity to produce steel and warships was not nearly as developed as the British, so they didn’t even bother to try to compete. They knew they were beaten.

Later, the British built the first modern real battleship, HMS Dreadnought. Just as revolutionary as La Gloire, if not a good deal more so. At a stroke, all capital ships of every navy were obsolete, including those of the Royal Navy. Hey, said the emperor. Here’s our (= my) chance. Let’s build a lot of dreadnoughts. We’re gonna be the world’s naval superpower! Yes, openly. It was Germany’s destiny, after all. You don’t make friends that way. There was only one tiny little problem. Like France, Germany lacked the capability to outproduce Britain. Unlike France, Willy 2 refused to accept that fact. He tried to out-build the Royal Navy. In vain and at great cost to his nation.

There was something else, too: at that time, Germany had not one but two separate fleets. The Baltic fleet, obviously patrolling the Baltic Sea. And the North Sea fleet doing likewise in the North Sea. The Royal Navy could easily blockade the Danish passage with a couple of ships, if need be. Until Germany decided to connect the North Sea with the Baltic Sea by digging the Kiel Canal, or in German: the Nord-Ostsee Kanal. Now they could easily maneuver either fleet to become one much bigger fleet. That got Britain’s immediate attention.

The British had three options. They could try to negotiate reasonable fleet numbers, diplomatically asking not to begin an arms race that couldn’t be won by Germany, and finally negotiate a treaty with France. They did all three. Negotiations didn’t work. Perhaps it’s in the nature of Germany to refuse to negotiate anything if they think they can win. Mr. Mustachio (a.k.a. Hitler) did exactly the same a generation later. And he was as trustworthy as his imperial predecessor. Likewise, not much that one could convey diplomatically to the emperor. So, with utter reluctance, Britain negotiated a treaty with France. The feud of a nearly millennium (!) was finally over. All because of one man: Wilhelm II.

You see, British policy has always been to prevent one dominant European superpower. That used to be France, but now Germany tried to dominate the continent. Today is no different. It is no accident Britain left the EU.

On the other side of Germany, Wilhelm’s foreign policy didn’t work, either. The emperor of Russia didn’t like to be spoken to like a little dimwitted boy by his big bright nephew. Yes, he was somewhat slow in the mental department. Even so, he resented Wilhelm’s “big nephew knows best” attitude. So much so that Russia negotiated a treaty of mutual assistance with… France!

At that time, France was the proverbial democracy with a thriving economy. Russia was the most autocratic empire in the world, with a stagnant economy. Politically and economically they couldn’t be further apart. Translated to today: North Korea signing a mutual assistance treaty with the USA, to defend against China. That unlikely. Wilhelm was often nicknamed Willy. It takes a big willy (or a very small one) to accomplish both feats. France and England were unlikely partners, and Russia with France even more so.

We’re not done yet. We have to look at how the Germans waged war. Everybody knows about Blitzkrieg. But that isn’t a German word. The Germans call it Bewegungskrieg or war of movement. The word was created by British journalists during World War 2. The doctrine of Bewegungskrieg is centuries old. Nathan Bedford Forrest summed it up rather nicely: “Get there first with the most.”

It was the only way Prussia, and later Germany, could hold out against highly aggressive neighbors surrounding it. To the east, Russia. To the south, Austria. To the west, France. All of them much bigger than Prussia. And all of them very aggressive. To counter that Prussia professionalized their military and only fought short, fast and ferocious wars. The entire military and economic system of Prussia and Germany was build around that principle. Blitzkrieg wasn’t anything new at all.

It worked, and worked well. But it came at a price. The Bewegungskrieg doctrine requires as many troops as possible surrounding and destroying the enemy army. That automatically means as few as possible occupation troops garrisoned in occupied territories. Every army in history commits atrocities. That’s a given in war. But some commit a lot more than others. The Prussian and German armies fall into that category. Even von Clausewitz teaches that the occupation must be ruthless. He advises to put the fear of God into occupied territories. He doesn’t go into detail, nor does he have to. You get the drift.

There is another price to pay: trustworthiness. Belgium was a strictly neutral country, guaranteed by France, Britain and Germany. Willy with his innumerable gaffes offered Belgium Burgundy if they would allow German troops to pass through Belgium. After the war, and after they had decided to leave Belgium. If that were to happen, something which both kings Leopold and Albert very much doubted. And, of course, he repeated his solemn promise to respect Belgium’s neutrality many times. Hitler didn’t behave any differently, later.

Even during the Franco-Prussian War the German troops misbehaved badly. On purpose, mind you. They needed every capable soldier in the field, and couldn’t afford to waste any with occupational duties. Shoot a few angry looking men, burn some villages, carry a lot of farmers off to do harvesting work in Germany. Your own farmers are now under arms. It’s only natural to draft slave labor. Those fields don’t harvest themselves, you know. And it keeps the peasants from rising up against you. You can’t revolt if you’re dead or harvesting in Germany.

Under Willy the Second it became much, much, MUCH worse. The almost sacred von Schlieffen plan demanded far more troops moving much faster than was actually possible. Add to that the fierce resistance of the Belgian army, which wasn’t expected at all. The Germany army raped, pillaged, looted and executed itself through Belgium and northern France. Visit the areas under German occupation during WW1. You’ll see countless war memorials honoring the thousands of civilians executed by the German army.

What you won’t see are memorials for many more people who were carried off into slavery. Thousands of people were executed as franc-tireurs, tens or even hundreds of thousands of people were carried of into slavery. They were sent to Germany to work in the fields and factories. To keep the war production going. Like WW2 slavery, conditions were harsh. Perhaps not as harsh as in WW2, but nothing to sneer at. Not out of mercy or empathy. It simply wasn’t in Germany’s interest to work those slaves to death. They were worth far more alive.

Wir haben es nicht gewusst (we did not know) is not a line Willy 2 can use. Atrocities were reported by German officers (they weren’t all bad) and many neutral diplomats and reporters to the Oberste Heeresleitung. That was the supreme command of the German armed forces, and for the first half of the war, that included the emperor himself as well. He knew everything. In fact, he applauded the culprits, and basically encouraged them to do much worse. How? All he did was not promote or decorate them. Not immediately after the fact, that is. He never punished an officer for breaking the Geneva Convention. Being accused of atrocities wasn’t even a black mark on your resume. More the opposite.

The Germans were very keen on the Geneva Convention. But only when it suited them. If it didn’t, you could find the Geneva Convention in the outhouse. And yes, that is a direct consequence of what Willy allowed his troops to do.

That behavior opened the very gates of hell. I’ll grant WW1 Germans not setting up concentration camps. And that they didn’t have SS troops in the field. Simply because they didn’t need them. Not because they were incapable of it, or had any moral qualms. It wasn’t the most effective use of manpower, that was all.

During the later stages of the war, the German army decided to allow Lenin to return to Russia, to foment his revolution. By then the power of Willy was as big as his … willy, but nevertheless, it was a decision he and nobody else had to take. He did so with little hesitation.

I’ll happily admit Lenin did far worse than the Germans could wished for. But it was emperor Wilhelm who made everything possible. The same goes for Mr. Mustachio (Hitler). He didn’t come up with the stab-in-the-back-myth. German army officers after WW1 did. Willy never denied it, and actively promoted that idea. Of course, he didn’t admit guilt over anything at all. What else can you expect from a man who had his private war bulletins printed in gold ink? At the same time, his subjects were eating turnips — provided they had some. Most didn’t. Starvation was very real in Germany and Austria during WW1.

Could he foresee the fall of the British empire, colonialism, Western civilization and nihilism today? Of course not. We can, looking back with hindsight. At the time, nobody could. Least of all Willy with the bird brain he had. He was extremely ambitious and utterly ruthless. Much more than other emperors. Not himself personally, but in what he allowed other to do. He opened Pandora’s box. We can’t blame him for the consequences, but can blame him for opening the box in the first place.

The Russian Revolution would have happened anyway, but not the Bolshevik revolution. World War One probably would have happened, too, perhaps a bit later for a different reason. Austrian troops behaved just as atrociously in the Balkans and on their eastern front. But it was the methodical scale of German atrocities that made it possible. Later during World War Two it got much worse. Under Hitler methodical became industrial. Even there they were beaten by the sheer scale of Japanese and later communist Chinese atrocities. But you have to begin somewhere first.

Quite understandably the colonies (India, Africa) wanted to have a lot more to say about their governance, after their enormous sacrifices. National liberation movements began after WW1 almost everywhere. The horrors of war disillusioned not just a generation, but it still disillusions us now, today. Today’s nihilism can be attributed directly to World War One.

Those first modest beginnings were simply because of the actions of one man: Emperor Wilhelm II. No other ruler in history influenced the entire world that much and that bad.

— H. Numan

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