John-Paul Pagano was born in upstate New York and grew up in a western suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. He studied English and American Literature at Tufts University. Finding this was no route to gainful employment, he shunted into systems engineering, relocating in 1998 to Brooklyn, NY. Now he runs the infrastructural engineering group at a large media company. Otherwise, he writes. Mainly he analyzes utopian and totalitarian ideas, often as they find expression in anti-Semitic reaction to Israel and modernity. John-Paul blogs at The Socialism of Fools and eponymously.
Why do you blog? > To develop and stage ideas for longer-form writing. To explore the intersection of anti-Semitism and revolutionary thought. To critically analyze left-liberal responses to illiberal ideas, actors, movements and events.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Being scouted to appear on a Sirius Satellite Radio show as a featured blowhard.
What are your favourite blogs? > Oliver Kamm's, now in purdah behind a paywall, is the one I enjoyed most.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Christopher Hitchens and Paul Berman. I'm very interested in exploring Sidney Hook, Peter Viereck, Karl Popper and Leszek Kołakowski.
What are you reading at the moment? > The Image by Daniel J. Boorstin.
Who are your cultural heroes? > Vladimir Nabokov, Eddie Van Halen.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Moby Dick.
What is your favourite poem? > e e cummings's 'Buffalo Bill's defunct...'
What is your favourite movie? > The Godfather.
What is your favourite song? > Mahler's 'Urlicht'.
Who is your favourite composer? > Dmitri Shostakovich, Henryk Górecki.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I had a fairly monochromatic view in favour of capital punishment for certain crimes, but over time my sense of the range of crimes for which capital punishment is appropriate has diminished, and my faith in government fairly applying the ultimate justice has diminished considerably.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > Weakness does not create virtue.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Plato's eugenics, Aristotle and Schopenhauer's misogyny, Rousseau's primitivism, Darwinism as anything but the germ of our understanding of evolution, Nietzsche's macho nonsense, pop Marxism in which class is supplanted by race, deus ex machina societal explanations for personal shortcomings, collectivist surrender to state or system, determinism applied to history and any system - Right, Left, or religious - that seeks to fix us in time. Though for me the worst is not a thesis, but a tendency - the tendency of revolutionary thought toward anti-Semitism.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Paul Berman's Terror and Liberalism made for me the case that radical Islam is a totalitarian system, like Nazism and Soviet communism. What's interesting is its exponents are far less materially empowered, but far more dangerous in their religious-millenarian aspect.
Who are your political heroes? > Tony Blair, Bernard Kouchner.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > Reworking our cultural responses, policies and laws relating to drugs and drug abuse would be incredibly salutary. This includes demystifying alcohol and eventually ratcheting down the drinking age from 21 to 18.
If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be President, who would you choose? > Someone genetically-engineered to feature the DNA of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Conor Cruise O'Brien and David Lee Roth.
What would you do with the UN? > Without regard for realism: I'd like to bar countries other than liberal democracies from sitting on the Security Council.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Authoritarian, totalitarian and millenarian systems in the Third World.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > I'm not sure I credit the historical 'Idea of Progress'. While my personal response to a dental problem would be quite different in the US today versus in England in the 15th century, who's to say our psychology doesn't relativize 'happiness' across place and time? There are, of course, many other metrics on which I could base an answer to this question.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > The mode of thought that produces conspiracy theories.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > I sleep way too late.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > I would have become a full-time journalist and/or academic.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Eating in mom-and-pop ethnic restaurants in the five boroughs of NYC; drinking scotch and combing bibliographies; photographing open-air markets and food in Asia.
What talent would you most like to have? > I would like to be able to play two musical instruments at once, synchronously and with complete improvisational independence.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Writer.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > George Carlin, '80s Eddie Murphy, Dennis Miller, Doug Stanhope.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > I would like to have a wealthy patron who would unshackle me from corporate serfdom. Now see 'What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job?'
What animal would you most like to be? > I am a proud cat lady.
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