Is there an un-Civil Society?

OK, I’m reading a semi-paranoid link that’s interesting and juicy and just FULL of conspiratorial fun, and run across something that is typically seen on the Loony Side Of Left rather than off in this other land of strange… and I’ve decided to just “fess up” and see if folks can help me “get it”…

First off, the link was one about China and Pakistan that I got to from another link posted by R. de Haan. While I don’t agree with his conspiratorial links, they are great fun to read. (And sometimes it takes a jump or two to get to the really fun and more “out there” stuff in a link too far ;-)

Besides, frankly, I don’t really have any evidence to be able to show them wrong anyway. (How do you show that a False Flag operation was in fact such if it was done well? How do you know that UBL was in Pakistan? Really? We take a great deal on faith, and a TLA – Three Letter Agency – arriving with a script for NBC to read on the air will not have a lot of ‘push back’ from the guys running the place, whose licence depends on being cooperative). So I enjoy the occasional “dip” in the conspiracy pool as much as the next guy. I just have a general rule to never embrace a skullduggery conspiracy explanation if the cover story holds up well enough. Not a great “razor” but one that keeps me more “centered”.

The link is here:

and in it is the phrase:

civil society organizations

Now there are a lot of words and phrases that I’ve picked up from context, or some I’ve had to look up and learn. Others are self evident. But every so often there is a phrase that my “BS-O-Meter” just flat out rejects. It’s just not “sane” enough to make the passage.

When I run into one of those and it is so tagged, there is little I can do to “get past it”. Basically it takes a very good, reasonable, and clearly valid explanation to get me “over the hump”.

So for a few years now I’ve seen folks on Link TV talk about “civil society” and folks in various “Progressive” contexts talk about “civil society” and it just goes THUNK on the floor.

I keep thinking: Is there an Un-Civil Society?

Or do they mean Civilian Society, as though there is a Military Society that is not made of “just folks”?

It just is a big Non-Op in my head.

So what is it?

I’ve done a couple of web searches and gotten “no joy”.
I’m just not “getting it”.

So I throw myself on the mercy of the audience. What the hell is a “civil society” and what makes it different from an “Un-Civil Society” or from a “society” unadorned?

Don’t we just have a ‘society’ of the people? Whatever clothes they are wearing on a given day?

Or perhaps it distinguishes the “peons” from the “High Society”?

Government run “society” from that which “just growed” in a hodgepodge way in small towns and churches?

Or is it the non-Religious Society as opposed to the theocratic?

I’m tired of just skipping over “civil” and having no idea what “code word” it is and what bit of propaganda notion it is supposed to be shoving into me. Yes, you can basically just leave it out and every sentence with it still makes sense (often better sense); but I’d like to know what “wink-wink nudge-nudge” the users of the phrase are giving to each other.

So, what’s it mean to you?

And where did it come from?

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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43 Responses to Is there an un-Civil Society?

  1. xyzlatin says:

    What does it mean to me?
    A civil society is one where the rule of law prevails over everyone without favouritism, not the whim of the king or despot. ie every adult is equal under the law. The law however must also have some factor of freedom of the individual to go about his business without harassment or coercement by others including the goverments.

    This leads to an extension whereby then you can have a civil society where manners prevail, and people generally have consideration for their neighbours.

    For instance, any country under islamic sharia law does not qualify as a civil society, because women are not equal, and neither are anyone not of that religion.
    Also a communist country does not qualify because freedom of the individual is lost under the idea of the collective good.

    I don’t think there has ever been a completely civil society ever because there is always conflict between those at the top and the governed at the bottom. Balance is constantly being pushed backwards and forwards.
    There are just societies more or less civil than others.
    Freedom is a fragile flower that easily wilts.

  2. David says:

    “Civil Society” Whatever it is, we are not there yet. But we are getting better. What would the middle ages or dark ages have done with atomic weapons? Such jungle logic would of course only restore the earth to a jungle.

    What do progressives mean by civil society? I think they mean socialism in a democratic framework. Of course when central authority runs everything, then who is elected means less and less. For instance America is, to progressives, barbaric in their health care system, whereas Europe is “civilized”. What conspiracy nuts mean by civil society, I have no idea.

    I think a society is civil when its charity is culturally and conscience driven, not government driven. (why do not all progressives give more tax now to government, what is it that makes them say I will not do the “right thing” until everyone else does) “Civil society” to me requires there to be a clear path to property rights, when common senses is not overwhelmed by regulations and unnecessary costs, where failure is allowed, where enabling is not institutionalized, where the individual is protected from the majority, and yes where charity, compassion and giving are a part of the culture and it is understood that service to others is a virtual requirement for individual happiness. (Many , many studies demonstrate this as a fact, and it is ok for facts to be taught, but better yet lived as examples) Speaking of examples, strong families are necessary for “civil societies” families where the Mother and Father demonstrate respect love loyalty and compromise to each other, families where a balance of reason and feeling is demonstrated, and yes it is more likely for the mother to demonstrate unconditional love and forgiveness, and the father to demonstrate discipline, and together they create a balance.

    Sharia law is an opposite to civil society.

  3. Level_Head says:

    Wikipedia has an entry on the topic:

    My own first thought was one governed by the rule of law — but Wikipedia adds a bit to this and specifies “voluntary” as a key element.

    It occurs to me that a dictatorship can be civil, even if rigid. Not my preference, vehemently so! But the concept of “voluntary” is a little fuzzy here, and is vaguely suggestive of something — republicanism? Anarchy? It’s not clear.

    I am reminded, though, of one of Heinlein’s maxims: “An armed society is a polite society.”

    It is true — but only among people who value life. Infamously, jihadists do not.

    Conan disagreed with Heinlein, noting that civilized people can be rude in ways that barbarians cannot without getting their heads bashed in.

    ===|==============/ Level Head

  4. Michael Havron says:

    When a Progressive-Liberal (Collectivist) bleats that you are “uncivil,” that is “code” for “you and your ideas/questions/arguments are bad (incivility has a negative connotation), and you are to sit down, shut up, and let the Progressive run things.”

    Mike H.

  5. Gary says:

    “Civilized” as opposed to “barbaric”, perhaps, is what is being implied by the term. I’d agree with the rule-of-law metric where the proportion of citizen participation is a component. Of course, you have to look at the political motivations of who is using the term and decide how much of it is code words for some other meaning.

  6. dearieme says:

    “An Essay on the History of Civil Society”, Adam Ferguson, 1767.

  7. If one accepts the definition of ‘civil’ to be something like – getting along; respectful; not too selfish; not particularly domineering; government of the people, by the people, for the people; efficient public services :-) ; effective and fair welfare systems; restrictions of monopolies; minimal corruption in private and government organizations; acceptance of racial differences; equal rights and civil liberties; real employment; balance of overseas exchanges; only a controllable amount of violence and criminal behaviour; [you will have got my picture]; then this is a good description of a civil, or civilized, country or society, IMHO.

    Reduction of these parameters takes you towards an ‘un-civil’ society.
    So it becomes a matter of degrees.

    A society that enters into actions of aggression against another country/society and abuses its citizens rights and welfare would be the extreme example of ‘un-civil’.

    Most societies would be a mixture, a compromise. A great deal of variation hovering between the two levels.

    Responding in defence could be seen as a civil action. But it would have to be appropriate action, ie., sufficient to repel the threat, not more.

    Individuals will have their own assessments and there will be innumerable versions. I offer you mine as an idealistic visualization, unlikely to be practical in the real world, but nice to think about.

    Getting serious and provocative, I add that, on the whole, again IMHO, the behaviour of the US, inside and out of the country, puts it into a highly un-civil bracket.

    Mind you, there are other examples of extreme un-civility as well, but each country needs to take responsibility for its behaviour and be judged accordingly.

  8. P.G. Sharrow says:

    Unlike other commentors, I read the linked post twice to find the passage,
    “Brookings suggests fostering a popular revolution. It brazenly admits the role of the “civil society organizations” in accomplishing this and suggests massive increases in funding for subversive activities in Iran.”
    Which in this case denotes an “NGO” such as those that have been working to “remake America” and are funded by background sources and manned by locals. pg

  9. R. de Haan says:

    Here is a good example:

    But on the other hand here is another:


    To me it seems we now live in a world of idiocracies.

    Especially those from the West are cloaked by the ‘civil society sauce’ which contains an overdose of ‘correct politics’, hence the recipe of any idiocracy.

  10. David says:

    P.G. Sharrow
    Unlike other commentors, I read the linked post twice to find the passage,
    “Brookings suggests fostering a popular revolution. It brazenly admits the role of the “civil society organizations” in accomplishing this and suggests massive increases in funding for subversive activities in Iran.”

    Yep, I find such writing hard to read. I guess that “civil society organizations” are kind of like community organizers, which we now have on a global scale in R2P.

  11. Chuckles says:

    Just another term that has been co-opted by the PoMo politically correct crowd, I’d say. as per Wikipedia –

    ‘The post-modern way of understanding civil society was first developed by political opposition in the former Soviet block East European countries in the 1980s. From that time stems a practice within the political field of using the idea of civil society instead of political society. However, in the 1990s with the emergence of the nongovernmental organizations and the New Social Movements (NSMs) on a global scale, civil society as a third sector became a key terrain of strategic action to construct ‘an alternative social and world order.’ Henceforth, postmodern usage of the idea of civil society became divided into two main : as political society and as the third sector – apart from plethora of definitions.’

    Probably safe to assume that anything referred to in the context is probably extremely uncivil.

  12. PhilJourdan says:

    The comments by others are interesting, but I share your quandry. But in reading the posts of others it is apparent that what constitutes a “civil society” depends upon one’s perspective. Some would say that England cannot be civil as it has a monarchy – while many others would disagree.

    Perhaps “civil society” is a redundant phrase. In other words, if you have a society, it is civil. If it is not, it is not a society, but rather a collection of people sharing only a common location.

  13. E.M.Smith says:


    A quote from that link:

    What is civil society?

    The IMF uses the term “civil society organization” to refer to the wide range of citizens’ associations that exists in virtually all member countries to provide benefits, services, or political influence to specific groups within society. CSOs include: business forums, faith-based associations, labor unions, local community groups, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), philanthropic foundations, and think tanks. Usually excluded are not only the branches of government (government agencies and legislators) but also individual businesses, political parties, and the media.

    Is probably close to what the Progressives et. al. mean when using the term, in that it fits the context.


    I’m still trying to see what does NOT fit. The “negative space” of the term is very muddy. Perhaps as others have pointed out it’s the non-coerced nature of the “citizens associations”? And as noted at the end, government.

    But how can you exclude political parties? “Media”? Are we here not part of “civil society” because we voluntarily meet in a blog media context? Or do they just mean “big media corporations”? And individual businesses? If I have an ice cream company that promotes decent health codes for safe ice cream from all competitors; then that is “beyond the pale”?

    While it leaves in “think tanks” paid for by individual businesses and / or political parties? And allows NGO’s (like a host of UN manipulative bodies and, one presumes, the quasi-government non-agencies like The Fed, W.H.O., and Centers For Disease Control) to be in?

    OK, it’s a bit sloppy. I suppose I can live with that.

    The foggy notion I’m getting is that it’s “society” with the political / government left out and with individual business power centers left out, and with the military left out. But with leftist promoted agencies, like NGOs and “think tanks” left in.

    Sort of a “left overs” after the “big boys” are set aside?


    The “civil society” as “polite society” was what I first thought it meant; but it doesn’t “fit” in the way folks use it. It is not used in contrast to “bad” societies, but it is used in contrast to some sorts of government agencies or power structures.

    I think where I keep getting stuck is that to me, given what I was taught as a kid, our government is supposed to be a voluntary extension of our society. Not a thing apart. It’s not like a Monarchy where you have the royal family over there and the rest of us over here.

    So to me, choosing to run for office is voluntary. Attending public hearings is voluntary. Assemblies are supposed to reflect the population at large. Etc. So the very core of “us vs them” that is implicit in the “civil society” vs “goverment and power brokers” divide is just not how I divide the world.


    So folks who naturally use “civil society organizations” have a mental devide between “big power” and “everyone else”? At least as the IMF uses the term?

    And a lot of us have a very different view of what the heck they are saying when they say it…

    @P.G. Sharrow:

    Connecting your point to the IMF definition, we would have that Brookings is part of “civil society” as a “think tank” and that it is advocating for more funding for it and similar “Civil Society Organizations” to achieve the goals it has set for the rest of society…

    OK, I think I’m starting to ‘get the picture’…

    It is largely code words for “the citizens groups at large, but also those non-government power bodies and influence pedlers who indirectly control things”… but with business and “media” left out…

    Still a “mushy” concept, but I think I’m starting to “get it”…

    Though it does look to me like you could just as easily, and more clearly, call them “social organizations” and be done with it…

  14. Richard Ilfeld says:

    Too Complicated. In most usage, substitute “a society the way I would run it” for “Civil Society” and the meaning will be clarified. Argument by appeal to authority, on the grounds that the listener will automaticaly reject an “uncivil” society and therefore accept the good of a “civil society” without question. One can be uncouth but not couth…one can be uncivil without the ability to be civil.

  15. E.M.Smith says:


    Found it:

    Now looks like I have a few more days of reading …

    Very brief description:

    Another version of it:

    So, OK, I’ll start into it… (wonder if there’s a “Cliff Notes” version laying about…)

    Interesting that at “first skim” it looks more like the “polite / rude” dicotomy of most folks comments and much less like the warped “government vs non-govt” code word Progressive form.. That too has interesting implications. Have “they” been busy corrupting another key bit of the languange? Answer to arrive after a bunch more reading, I fear…

  16. E.M.Smith says:

    OK, having sampled a few parts of it, it is clear that “Essay on the History of Civil Societies” is on the must read list.

    It’s a bit of a slow read (as it is both older language and written in a detailed way that also takes some ‘thinking about’ after careful attention to the details) but it’s also clearly a work by someone who has thought things through with a very Tidy Mind and after reading a great deal of history…

    I’m going to put one “teaser” here for folks to get a sense of it. It’s also very clear to me that the “civil society” meaning has been warped and distorted from this prior (and to me, very clear form… he contrasts civil societies with rude societies; rude in the older broader sense) and turned into a kind of code phrase for ‘organizations of non-governmental control’ often those influenced by Progressives.

    At any rate, the ‘teaser’ from near the end:


    Section VI.
    Of the Progress and Termination of Despotism

    Mankind, when they degenerate, and tend to their ruin, as well as when they improve, and gain real advantages, frequently proceed by slow,and almost insensible,steps. If,during ages of activity and vigour, they fill up the measure of national greatness to a height which no human wisdom could at a distance foresee; they actually incur, in ages of relaxation and weakness, many evils which their fears did not suggest, and which, perhaps, they had thought far removed by the tide of success and prosperity.

    We have already observed, that where men are remiss or corrupted, the virtue of their leaders, or the good intention of their magistrates, will not always secure them in the possession of political freedom. Implicit submission to any leader, or the uncontrouled exercise of any power, even when it is intended to operate for the good of mankind, may frequently end in the subversion of legal establishments. This fatal revolution, by whatever means it is accomplished, terminates in military government; and this, though the simplest of all governments, is rendered complete by degrees. In the first period of its exercise over men who have acted as members of a free community, it can have only laid the foundation, not completed the fabric, of a despotical policy. The usurper, who has possessed, with an army, the centre of a great empire, sees around him, perhaps, the shattered remains of a former constitution; he may hear the murmurs of a reluctant and unwilling submission; he may even see danger in the aspect of many, from whose hands he may have wrested the sword, but whose minds he has not subdued, nor reconciled to his power.

    The sense of personal rights, or the pretension to privilege and honours, which remain among certain orders of men, are so many bars in the way of a recent usurpation. If they are not suffered to decay with age, and to wear away in the progress of a growing corruption, they must be broken with violence, and the entrance to every new accession of power must be stained with blood. The effect, even in this case, is frequently tardy. The Roman spirit, we know, was not entirely extinguished under a succession of masters, and under a repeated application of bloodshed and poison. The noble and respectable family still aspired to its original honours: The history of the republic, the writings of former times, the monuments of illustrious men, and the lessons of a philosophy fraught with heroic conceptions, continued to nourish the soul in retirement, and formed those eminent characters, whose elevation, and whose fate, are, perhaps, the most affecting subjects of human story. Though unable to oppose the general bent to servility, they became, on account of their supposed inclinations, objects of distrust and aversion; and were made to pay with their blood, the price of a sentiment which they fostered in silence, and which glowed only in the heart.

    While despotism proceeds in its progress, by what principle is the sovereign conducted in the choice of measures that tend to establish his government? By a mistaken apprehension of his own good, sometimes even of that of his people, and by the desire which he feels on every particular occasion, to remove the obstructions which impede the execution of his will. When he has fixed a resolution, whoever reasons or demonstrates against it is an enemy; when his mind is elated, whoever pretends to eminence, and is disposed to act for himself, is a rival. He would leave no dignity in the state, but what is dependent on himself; no active power, but what carries the expression of his momentary pleasure. Guided by a perception as unerring as that of instinct, he never fails to select the proper objects of his antipathy or of his favour. The aspect of independence repels him; that of servility attracts. The tendency of his administration is to quiet every restless spirit, and to assume every function of government to himself.10 When the power is adequate to the end, it operates as much in the hands of those who do not perceive the termination, as it does in the hands of others by whom it is best understood: the mandates of either, when just, should not be disputed; when erroneous or wrong, they are supported by force.

    You must die, was the answer of Octavius to every suit, from a people that implored his mercy. It was the sentence which some of his successors pronounced against every citizen that was eminent for his birth or his virtues. But are the evils of despotism confined to the cruel and sanguinary methods, by which a recent dominion over a refractory and a turbulent people is established or maintained? And is death the greatest calamity which can afflict mankind under an establishment by which they are divested of all their rights? They are, indeed, frequently suffered to live; but distrust, and jealousy, the sense of personal meanness, and the anxieties which arise from the care of a wretched interest, are made to possess the soul; every citizen is reduced to a slave; and every charm by which the community engaged its members, has ceased to exist. Obedience is the only duty that remains, and this is exacted by force. If under such an establishment, it be necessary to witness scenes of debasement and horror, at the hazard of catching the infection, death becomes a relief. and the libation which Thrasea was made to pour from his arteries, is to be considered as a proper sacrifice of gratitude to Jove the Deliverer.11

    Oppression and cruelty are not always necessary to despotical government; and even when present, are but a part of its evils. It is founded on corruption, and on the suppression of all the civil and the political virtues; it requires its subjects to act from motives of fear; it would asswage the passions of a few men at the expence of mankind; and would erect the peace of society itself on the ruins of that freedom and confidence from which alone the enjoyment, the force, and the elevation of the human mind, are found to arise.

  17. PA says:

    ‘Rude’ itself has many definitions, one of which is ‘uncivilized’, another which is rough and unfinished. Somewhat the way ‘vulgar’ also means common, and the only insult that lay in the words is bound up in the idea that a rude and vulgar person is an uncivilized boor…from the point of view of the refined. The rude person is not necessarily actually rude, but could be just ‘not up to standards’ according to someone else. That form of ‘civil vs. rude’ strikes me as belonging on a continuum similar to the way you have described the continuum of ‘Right’ and ‘Left’. They are not meaningless terms, but as a yardstick, not worth that much.

    For myself, I understand civil society to mean the society governed by man-made laws, where a business can have rights naturally had by people. The rights of a citizen my be different from what some consider the rights of the very same person. A person will always be a person regardless of whether or not they are recognized as a citizen, but a citizen cannot be anything without a person to wear the title.

    Jaywalking does not make a person bad, but it might make a citizen a criminal depending on the location and if there are laws in place regarding it.

    [ replaced square brackets with angle brackets on italics markup text. -MOD]

  18. E.M.Smith says:

    @PA: Yes, that ‘uncivilized’ meaning is the “older” one that I hinted toward. As opposed to the now common “insulting behaviour” meaning…

    In many ways I like the older English much better… The even let you capitalize odd words, as I’m wont to do…

    The ‘civil vs rude’ that is used in the article, and that seems to be what most folks think “civil society” means, is at odds with the IMF definition AND at odds with how the term is often used (expecially by folks who are Progressives).

    It’s that “disconnect” that has stymied me. I, too, expected “civil society” to mean, in essence, “polite and civilized society” but it was very clear that one could not substitute that phrase in the usage and have it “work”.

    There was something else going on.

    So for a couple of years I’ve watched Progressive shows on Link TV, and I’ve watch “Looney Side Of Left” talking heads on various TV infotainment-happy-talk shows (which includes many of the Fox TV not-news-but-opinion shows…) and they would say something about “civil society” and if you tried to fit in “polite society” it just didnt’ work. Clearly there was something else going one…

    And I think the key is that “Civil Society Organization” definition at the IMF.

    It basically is saying “Leave out all the kings, queens, republics, and governments of all types. Leave out the military. Leave out businesses, and the ‘media’ they are presumed to control. BUT keep in our ‘think tanks’ and agencies that are not an elected government, like the IMF, WHO, UN-NGOs, various foundations run by our selected board members packed onto them, and all the other places we’ve taken power and control. THOSE are what matter. THEY are ‘civil society'”

    When you stick that into some statement like “The Bush Administration needs to listen more to Civil Society members.” it now “makes a fit”…

    Look at a list of “foundations” funding National Public Radio or The National Broadcasting Corporation. Look at the list of “Progressive NGOs”. That’s what’s “important” to “civil society” in that Progressive view of things.

    At least, that’s the best fit I’ve got so far. We’ll see how the discussion develops and if there is a better interpretation yet to be surfaced.

  19. Chuckles says:

    E.M. Yes, that last take looks good to me in terms of the Post Modern PC sense of the term. As in other areas you have touched on in various posts, it is almost diagnostic of the genre to re-define the meaning of ‘common’ terms; in my jaundiced opinion precisely so that the message is obscured to the heathen and unworthy, and dissenters can be attacked for being against ‘civil’ society. Think ‘So you deny global warming?’

    As I posted above –

    “However, in the 1990s with the emergence of the nongovernmental organizations and the New Social Movements (NSMs) on a global scale, civil society as a third sector became a key terrain of strategic action to construct ‘an alternative social and world order.’ ”

    Probably more about it than anyone wants to know about it here –

  20. Don Matias says:

    The politically correct members of society constitute the “civil society”.

  21. oMan says:

    Chiefio: By George, I think you’ve got it. That was my original suspicion of a meaning; I looked at GregP’s suggested link to IMF and it made sense (a “superset” around the NGO concept); your finding of Adam Ferguson is a treasure (now on my required reading list as well); and in general this thread has converged very quickly on a robust definition.

    “Grant-scavenging bien-pensant busybodies” might work?

    The key is that they be accountable to almost nobody for almost anything. Businesses must answer to shareholders, customers, regulators, et al. Unions must answer to members. Political parties, to voters and donors. But the NGO’s and the CSO superset? The accountability is much more attenuated. To whom does Ford Foundation or Rockefeller Foundation or Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation really have to give an account? Or the many quasi-government entities within/under/near the UN? Think Progress? Media Matters? Etc etc? Within their mission statements and budgets, they can stir up a great deal of trouble in the name of “good work.” Consider also the GSE’s (government sponsored entities) like Freddie and Fannie. Nobody really had a good conceptual grip on them; they occupied a shadowy in-between legal area; they didn’t answer to government or to regulators or to the market, hiding their gigantic moral hazards in a half-light of ambiguity over who would ultimately pay. They did all this originally for a “good cause” but over time the wrong people took control and blew them up, and our economy with them.

    Maybe they don’t fit the definition but I’d like to know why not.

  22. Level_Head says:

    @E. M. Smith:

    Be careful, sir. You are using “civil society organizations” as synonymous with “civil society” — but in this case the IMF seems to be using it as a modifier to “organizations.”

    Lighting bugs are not lightning. Organizations intended to promote and expand (in their view) civil society are not the only components of such a society.

    An analogy — non-government organizations are not the only things outside of government. There are still some individuals in the US who do not work for government. (Among those of us who work at all.)

    Unquestionably, the progressive notions of such a society are wrong-headed and dangerous, and “progressive” readily translates to “the insensible steps” by which freedoms and prosperity and individual worth are lost. But the problem is not the IMF’s definition, it seems to me.

    ===|==============/ Level Head

  23. E.M.Smith says:


    Like I said, I’m just trying to figure out how these particular code words work… and, IMHO, a fair number of the “uses” that I’ve seen have fit the pattern of using the “civil society organizations” meaning when using only the words “civil society” in an untidy way.

    In other words, it isn’t about me using the term wrongly, it’s about me figuring out how someone else is using it in a very untidy way…

    So where I’m ending up at is a definition map that has, roughly:

    1) Primary: A polite, civil, and non-rude society (antiquated among Progressives, common among conservatives).
    2) Modifier on “organizations” (as above) meaning a selected sub-set of largely Progressive influenced parts of the society.
    3) Informal: A confounding of usage 2 with form 1. (Most common among Progressives).

    At least, that’s the “working map” as of now…

    #1: The USA is a Civil Society while North Korea is not.
    #2: The Masonic Lodge is a Civil Society organization.
    #3: Civil Society frowns on Rumsfeld and Bush and their evil doctrine of preemption.

    I would use 1, sometimes 2; never 3 but will now have a clue how to decode it.

  24. The discussion is getting deep but I am not sure ‘meaningful’.
    I think we are getting a bit carried away by the ‘exuberance of our verbosity’.
    I suggested and a couple of others seem to have agreed that each of us has a different concept and I think that may be due the ‘terms of reference’ being virtually open wide.

    The ‘essay’ is great, what I see of it, but it is a history, bringing with it yet another’s views. I ask, where does it lead us in our reality here?

    Trying to bring some relevance into the discussion, this extract from the essay, cited above by EM:
    “Oppression and cruelty are not always necessary to despotical government; and even when present, are but a part of its evils. It is founded on corruption, and on the suppression of all the civil and the political virtues; it requires its subjects to act from motives of fear; it would asswage the passions of a few men at the expence of mankind; and would erect the peace of society itself on the ruins of that freedom and confidence from which alone the enjoyment, the force, and the elevation of the human mind, are found to arise.”
    presents an opportunity to look at ourselves right here and now.
    Does this not have relevance to the direction that the US is currently following?

  25. Former President Eisenhower saw the danger that government science posed to the most cherished rights of our free society in his farewell address to the nation on 17 January 1961:

    Climategate and the whitewash “investigations” confirmed how tyrannical and uncivil our society has become.

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

  26. dearieme says:

    If Ferguson’s English seems a wee bit clumsy, you might like to make allowances. It was his fourth language, after Scots, Gaelic and Latin. Clever bugger though: ended up with a Chair at Edinburgh.

  27. Jim says:

    Here’s a clue from George Soros’ Open Society site.

    “Civil society as a player
    In the century of globalisation, civil society is considered a dominant player on a par with governments and
    businesses. Civil society (NGOs, think tanks, trade unions, religious associations, among others) is defined as “the
    totality of groups and individuals in a country, who show a regular concern for the social and political context in that
    country, without fulfilling the function of political parties, who are autonomous from the government, and to whose
    goals also belongs to monitor the activity of the government or certain specific consequences of it, as well as to
    resist by legitimate means any unlawful, dangerous or abusive government activity.” [3]
    There are several reasons why civil society is indispensable in carrying out war on corruption. First, civil society
    ranks the improvement of peoples’ lives as the top priority and an end in itself. Second, civil society organisations
    are usually independent – and therefore presumptively objective – watchdogs, monitoring implementation of
    governmental commitments to combat corruption. Third, civil society can fill the legislative and policy gap by, on
    the one hand, advancing anti-corruption proposals that may not be normally supported by political parties, and, on
    the other hand, assessing potentially negative consequences of measures proposed by other political actors. For
    example, civil society organizations can oppose dubious legislative bills and/or advocate rights of vulnerable groups
    that are numerically too small to have political weight vis-à-vis economic interest groups.
    The last but not least factor speaking in favour of an autonomous civil society as a counter-force to corruption is the
    fact that it operates primarily on the basis of ideas, rather than prestige, power, or money. Public interest
    associations rarely if ever have at their disposal – or under their control – financial resources matching the wealth of
    businesses and other economic groups. However, civil society associations attract altruistically inclined people,
    ready to dedicate their energy and talents to noble causes, and work hard to promote their ideals for very modest
    compensation. Such human resources confer on civil society strong moral appeal and immunity to corruption.
    Not surprisingly, it was civil society that initiated in the Czech Republic the peaceful shift from the old to new
    regime, the “Velvet Revolution.” [4]
    Challenges to civil society
    However, the real picture ”

    Click to access civil-society-authoritarianism-20030701.pdf

    More on that …

  28. Jim says:

    So, what components of this “civil society” are getting the most money from the government? What is Soros’ definition of government “corruption?”

  29. E.M.Smith says:

    @Ken McMurtrie:

    IMHO, yes, it does. That’s why I included that bit…

    I found it incredibly hard to pick out a ‘sample’ that would work; that would be enough to entice… It’s all so good…


    I d’nay find it clumsy! Tis the depth and brace of it I find giveth the pause… Savoring such a rich broth is what taketh the time and causes the sips to be but wee ones…

    Then comes the deep draught, once the sprit is braced for the body of the mellow rich tartness of a sharp aged tidy mind…

    (Or, in present terms: “You have to kinda be in the moment”… Yeah, I like the older mindset better…)

    @Oliver K. Manuel:

    I have always had a deep admiration of Ike. As time wears one, I find myself thinking him a genius…


    Nice “catch” on an example of the #3 form. That’s a great example of the kind of thing that has, until now, caused me to “boggle” over “civil society”. But now I can clearly see it as the “civil society organisations as Progressivley influenced” code phrase from such a POV. Now it “clicks”…

    Oh, and until recently, ACORN was getting a load… and as near as I can tell, the Soros definition of “corruption” is “influence by companies or non-progressive rich people”.

  30. Jim says:

    E.M. – So, is that paranoid conspiracy article you began with looking more credible? Just curious because I try not to buy into those, either, and don’t want to get “bilked” by one. OTOH, I am reading a book called ‘The Shadow Party,’ and it is getting kind of scary. There appears to be a deep relationship between Hillary Clinton, and both Saul Alinsky and George Soros. I have read only about a quarter of the book, but that is why upon reading your post, I immediately thought to go to Soros’ web site and search on ‘civil.’ I hit the mother load! In fact, the “Shadow Party” is exactly equal to “civil society.” Good book!!

  31. Without providing details, this comment might seem unfounded. If details are required I will have to do some research and spend time on a comment.
    ‘Be warned, Soros is an enemy of the state, of civil society’.

  32. E.M.Smith says:


    There are conspriacies. A great many folks are arrested each year on “Conspiracy to {foo}” as it is very common.

    At the same time, folks have crazy ideas. So to accuse someone of a “conspriacy” that may just be “a crazy idea” and talking with friends; well, it just isn’t the most tidy thing to do.

    So, taking those two together:

    1) I generally heavily discount any “conspriacy theory” that comes with a political overtone. If there is a rational non-conspiratorial explanation, that’s the one that gets first position.

    2) I generally accept that a lot of folks “conspire” to achieve their agendas.

    So I’m quite certain that folks like The Clintons have conspired with George Soros. I’m also quite certain that Cheney conspired with George Bush. I’m also quite certain that those conspiracies are what would be called “collaboration” more properly.

    So in the end, a lot of it just comes down to “name calling”. It’s just another one of those “Irregular verbs” in English:

    I Plan.
    You / we Collaborate.
    They Conspire.


    So take the whole Obama didn’t kill Osama conspriacy theory: It’s much more direct to just say “Nope, the Seals did get him and it was at Obama’s direction”. To accept the “conspiracy theory” will require one heck of a lot more verifiable evidence to the contrary. That’s just the way I run my mind. Assume the “top story” is valid until there is sufficient evidence to the contrary. (But it IS still possible that some of the ‘nutter stories’ have some truth, and they are fun to read ;-)

    So I guess the “bottom line” is that I’m quite comfortable with the idea that there is a “shadow party”. On BOTH sides. With a load of back room deals and petty conspiracies. Or collaborations…

  33. Jim says:

    E.M. – The goals of the collaborations matters, to me at least. The progressive “shadow party” embraces a socialistic end. That’s the problem I see. They use a complex web of NGO’s and other organizations to do it and they try to do it ‘under the radar’ using terms like ‘civil society.’ As you have experienced, terms like that don’t make sense to you and on the surface sound innocuous. I’m not saying it’s illegal, just not what I have in mind as a USA I want to see.

    I didn’t realize your original article dealt with OBL. Personally, I think the Seals killed him with Barry’s approval. But I do give Bush credit for getting the ball rolling in that direction.

  34. I have to say something!
    @EM @Jim.
    “So take the whole Obama didn’t kill Osama conspriacy theory: It’s much more direct to just say “Nope, the Seals did get him and it was at Obama’s direction”. To accept the “conspiracy theory” will require one heck of a lot more verifiable evidence to the contrary. That’s just the way I run my mind. Assume the “top story” is valid until there is sufficient evidence to the contrary. (But it IS still possible that some of the ‘nutter stories’ have some truth, and they are fun to read ;-)”
    “It may be more direct to accept the ‘official story/top story'”.

    The serious risk here is that you are accepting either the MSM or in this case the POTUS at face value, as a valid information source. How can you justify this when the stories keep changing and are so often wrong?

    I agree verifiable evidence is really essential if one is to adopt the story as the truth. But NONE of the sources are supplying verifiable evidence.
    I have admitted cynicism before and have a hang-up about expecting the truth from people having vested interests.
    It is usually the safest bet.

    Whatever the slant one may have, it is wise to wait for the verifiable evidence before accepting something as the truth. Until then we are really only talking about the likely, possible or probable truth.

    “Nutters”? I am slightly offended by this remark because it might apply to me. (Tongue in cheek)!
    BTW, is there an abbrev. for that? TIC maybe?
    With respect, Ken.
    PS. In any case, the strongest ‘nutter’, theory opposing the official story is that OBL has been dead for years and it wasn’t his body. Not who killed him?

  35. E.M.Smith says:


    I make a distinction between a “conspriacy” and an act for “illegal or immoral purposes”. Most folks lump them together and they use the “smear” to cover any folks working together that they don’t like as a ‘conspiracy’… But by making that distiction clear (i.e. isolating motive from act) it’s easier to keep it tidy…

    The OBL / UBL posting is this one:

    but since we’d had a posting on it, I used it as an example “conspiracy” here.

    @Ken McMurtrie:

    It’s most likely because I store more things as “shades of grey” than as “ground truths”.

    That means that, for me, the UBL / OBL being killed story gets stored with a “provisionally valid” flag and the rest of the stuff that shows up gets dangled off of it as “evidence” (with their own veracity metrics). The conspiracy theory gets stored with a “provisionally invalid” flag (and a similar evidence chain forms on it). If at some time the preponderance points to a need to change the flags, they get changed. Nothing is set in stone as “Truth”.

    So I’m quite happy to use “It was likely true that the seals got him” while still being uncommited to the fundamental story. (FWIW, the stuff being shown on TV today of him and video captures lends credence to him being there and done-in by the Seals… )

    It’s like this: I’ve got to accept what is said and file it somehow. It can’t wait for truth to be determined before that act (as things just get remembered regardless) so it gets a “quality flag” and a “probably truth” flag.

    I was using the “nutter stories” as a flag not for the OBL / UBL story but for other even more extreme ones. (And note it was not “Nutter’s Stories” – not ‘to the person’ but to the story… ;-) Trying to make the point (and distinction) that I even like to read the “way crazy” stories and handle them the same way too. Things like Elvis was a CIA spy and is retired in Florida. The Pharoes of Egypt were really space aliens. Space Aliens run the world government. etc. etc.

    They ARE great fun. They also get stored with “almost certainly crazy wrong” flags… (But I could see a case for Space Aliens running congress, given how they vote ;-)

    Don’t know of an abbreviation for it, but there is an emoticon:

    If I wish to indicate that a particular sentence is meant
    with tongue-in-cheek, I would write it so:

    “Of course you know I agree with all the current
    administration’s policies -).”

    The “-)” indicates tongue-in-cheek.

    This idea is not mine, but stolen from a Reader’s Digest article
    I read long ago on a completely different subject. I’m sure there
    are many other, better ways to improve our punctuation.

    Though these guys have 3 different variations:

    and you can find more with a web search.

    FWIW, thanks to the great work of Hollywood and the digital film industry, it has become essentially impossible to trust any evidence presented in a vidio or film format…

    That makes it much harder to have a flat out “True” flag these days. Heck, we all know exactly what a Klingon and Romulan look like and they simply don’t exist. We’ve all seen space battles that are “physically correct”, but they never happened. We even have flying birds and fur that moves “right” on animations…

    It is because of stuff like that, that even if they had live action video of the UBL raid I’d still be filing it with a “True with reservations” flag and leaving a tiny wedge open for the conspiracy option. Simply because that is all the data can support these digital days…

  36. @EM. Thanks for your comments/reply.
    I haven’t seen the TV info you refer to, so can only say that the official comments the other day were to the effect that they lost transmission whilst monitoring the raid.
    I hope I get to see what you are referring to.
    Regards, Ken

  37. I have now seen the video I think you referred to.
    If ‘they’ confiscated a lot of video/PC data, it is strange that this is the best indication that it was bL living in this house. We don’t get to see him. He was left-handed but perhaps suffering left arm damage. Yet in the video,he was able to touch his face with the left hand.
    I know this is not a post on ‘conspiracy theories’ or Bin Laden but it seems to be going there. Certainly ‘civil’-related if one views propaganda as an example of uncivil behaviour.
    With apologies for perpetuating this thread, you will get some interesting “nutter” claims here:

  38. Sorry EM. Just found that this linked video was already available on your ‘BinLaden is dead’ post.
    Maybe not the text though, I didn’t even look at those videos.

  39. tckev says:

    If not a civil society, is it –
    Uncivil society?
    Civil nonsociety?
    Uncivil nonsociety?

    Are these all possible? Maybe investigating these other options could shed light on what should be meant by ‘a civil society’.

  40. Jim says:

    tckev – Civil Society is a code word used by socialists in reference to NGOs, unions, and other non-governmental organizations that attempt to influence a government to bow to the will of the socialists who are in a minority and are attempting to use these organizations to impose their political will on the majority who don’t want socialism and more limited individual freedom. Since socialism pretty much defines away moral principles, they believe it is just fine to lie and cheat to pull the wool over the eyes of citizens and convert our republic to a socialistic state. Read “Rules for Radicals” by Saul Alinsky. That’s what it is about.

  41. P.G. Sharrow says:

    It is unbelievable how much money these people have to spend to further their aims. pg

  42. Jim says:

    PGS- If they were up front they would run as socialists, but they tried that and got nowhere. So instead they are trying to shove it down our throats by other means.

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