August 23, 2007

The Decline of Skull & Bones

My informant (who is not a member of the Yale secret society, but has reliable inside info) writes:


First, you observe that 5 of the last 10 major party candidates were bonespersons. Four of those five, however, were Bushes. It is more likely that Bones has benefited from the Bush dynasty than that the Bush dynasty has benefited from Bones. In fact, George H.W. Bush has complained that Bones was if anything a liability for him as a politician, and I would tend to believe him. As for Kerry, Bones membership may have conferred some modest benefit, but his rise to prominence in the early 1970s was largely his own doing. His also had helpful family connections and a talent for marrying rich women. I doubt that Bones was much of a factor in his career – although it probably didn’t have as much of a downside for him, as a Democrat, as it may have had for the Bushes.

Finally, on the current influence of the society, it has very little. The admission of women in the early 1990s was disastrous for the Skull & Bones and undermined the cohesion required to make secret organizations work. The relatively high degree of loyalty which the society once inspired depended on members’ ability trust one another, which in turn was based on members being encouraged to divulge their every secret.


Tom Wolfe wrote in his famous 1976 article "The 'Me' Decade and the Third Great Awakening:"


At Yale the students on the outside wondered for 80 years what went on inside the fabled secret senior societies, such as Skull and Bones. On Thursday nights one would see the secretsociety members walking silently and single file, in black flannel suits, white shirts, and black knit ties with gold pins on them, toward their great Greek Revival temples on the campus, buildings whose mystery was doubled by the fact that they had no windows. What in the name of God or Mammon went on in those 30-odd Thursday nights during the senior years of these happy few?

What went on was... lemon sessions!-a regularly scheduled series of lemon sessions, just like the ones that occurred informally in girls' finishing schools. In the girls' schools these lemon sessions tended to take place at random in nights when a dozen or so girls might end up in someone's dormitory room. One girl would become "it," and the others would light into her personality, pulling it to pieces to analyze every defect... her spitefulness, her awkwardness, her bad breath, embarrassing clothes, ridiculous laugh, her suck-up fawning, latent lesbianism, or whatever. The poor creature might be reduced to tears. She might blurt out the most terrible confessions, hatreds, and primordial fears. But, it was presumed, she would be the stronger for it afterward. She would be on her way toward a new personality.

Likewise, in the secret societies: They held lemon sessions for boys. …And Thursday night after Thursday night the awful truths would out, as he who was It stood up before them and answered the most horrible questions. … But out of the fire and the heap of ashes would come a better man, a brother, of good blood and good bone, for the American race guerrière. And what was more... they loved it. No matter how dreary the soap opera, the star was Me.


My informant continues:


"Well, no guy is going to reveal the most shameful details of his life to any girl, even if she is a fellow bonesperson, nor is any girl going to reveal hers to any guy. As I understand it, the society’s current institutional self-understanding is not that of an exclusive brotherhood; instead, the society emphasizes the light-hearted fun they have together and how nice it is that such different people can share something in common. Thin is as the current Bones ideology is, it’s probably the only way to keep everyone together with offending each other.

Which brings us to the other threat (besides coeducation) to the society’s cohesiveness, namely, multiculturalism. About half the “taps” these days come from the ethnic organizations on campus (the Af-Am house, the Hispanic fraternity, &c). Each ethnic group tries to ensure that next tap comes from the same ethnic group. Their primary loyalty is thus to their ethnic group and not to Bones. In fact, after the “The Skulls” movie came out, the Hispanic members of the society starting to call themselves “skulls” (after the movie) rather than “bonesmen.” Needless to say, when society members get their cues about the society from pop culture rather than the society itself, the society can’t claim to have much influence over its members.

Finally, Bones is perpetually short of money and it has proven to be increasingly difficult to get alumni(ae) to donate anything. Bonespersons/”skulls” simply don’t have much loyalty to the institution.


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Secret societies are basically irrelevant nowadays.

Starting around the late 1840's with the rise of telegraphy coupled with newspapers, the problem has been ...

Too much information.

There is so much information around, that sorting through it is just about impossible. Add radio, television, and the internet to newspapers and magazines and you have information overload.

This is why a particular secret plot like 9/11's operational details may be launched, but the broader effort was hardly a conspiracy with Osama declaring War on us in excruciating detail in 1996, and just for good measure, all over AGAIN in 1998. With detailed discussions of US "crimes" and "weakness" and various exhortations for all Muslims to kill us everywhere.

Operations of various groups, jihadists, elites, whatever take place mostly out in the open, protected from any questioning in detail by the roar of the information crowd.

That's the other side to the correspondent's bit on the Skull and Bones. Note btw how personal connections and particularly relations become more and more important in information overload.

KSM, Ramzi Yusef, various 1993 and 2001 WTC plotters were all related or knew each other.

Bill said...

Finally, on the current influence of the society, it has very little. The admission of women in the early 1990s was disastrous for the Skull & Bones and undermined the cohesion required to make secret organizations work[...]

Which brings us to the other threat (besides coeducation) to the society’s cohesiveness, namely, multiculturalism. About half the “taps” these days come from the ethnic organizations on campus (the Af-Am house, the Hispanic fraternity, &c). Each ethnic group tries to ensure that next tap comes from the same ethnic group. Their primary loyalty is thus to their ethnic group and not to Bones.


Aha! I called it. Someone please give me props.

Successful "secret" societies cannot survive multiculturalism, or chicks, who can be guaranteed to both gossip and set up house.

Anonymous said...

What?????? They let Women in Skull & Bones? That would be hilarious if it weren't so sad. I would have pegged a group like that to be one of the last in the country to ruin themselves over PCness. A lone holdout of unashamed white male success while the rest of the country disintegrates around them. But now they're already long gone? The end is nigh.

James Kabala said...

"It is more likely that Bones has benefited from the Bush dynasty than that the Bush dynasty has benefited from Bones."
See, that's what I was trying to say below.

For what it's worth, here (from Alexandra Robbins's book) is an interesting description of an ideal Skull and Bones class as semi-sarcastically described by the 1968 Yale yearbook (Bush's year, although, as Robbins notes, he doesn't really seem to fit any of these categories):
"[A] football captain; a Chairman of the Yale Daily News; a conspicuous radical; a Whiffenpoof; a swimming captain; a notorious drunk with a 94 average; a film-maker; a political columnist; a religious group leader; a Chairman of the Lit [stands for literary magazine, I guess]; a foreigner; a ladies' man with two motorcycles; an ex-service man; a negro, if there are enough to go around; a guy nobody else in the group had heard of, ever."

Anonymous said...

Tom Wolfe wrote in his famous 1976 article

In keeping with the evolution of the Ivy League: looking back now it is painfully obvious that Wolfe never could keep up with his competition out of the Manhattan salons. Yunooo Steve, the best of America's Cognitive Elite. For Wolfe, the historical record is truly embarrassing. Give the man a gentleman C and put him in the dustbin of history. The Jewish/Asian tandem fills the important niches as "regular" white guys never could hope to do. I'd say that we'll keep truck driving jobs available for the "regular" guys, but I'd be lying.

Mexican rigs ready to roll

Anonymous said...

Where have all the lemon sessions gone?

"One girl would become "it," and the others would light into her personality, pulling it to pieces to analyze every defect... her spitefulness, her awkwardness, her bad breath, embarrassing clothes, ridiculous laugh, her suck-up fawning, latent lesbianism, or whatever. The poor creature might be reduced to tears. She might blurt out the most terrible confessions, hatreds, and primordial fears. But, it was presumed, she would be the stronger for it afterward. She would be on her way toward a new personality."

This is done on a mass scale nowadays. When studying communism we call it the cultural purification rite. In popular American culture, what happened to Imus is a good example. The talk show seems to have opened the cultural door to this phenomenon: think Jerry Springer to Dr. Phil. A slightly milder version is the intervention for drug addicts and alcoholics where only family members and close friends are invited to dig in.

I hope you were being facetious about the benefit to the personality of the victim. If G.W. Bush endured this, his fellow Bonesmen must have been largely Hispanic. Then again maybe this was the vehicle for indoctrinating Bush into becoming the most destructive president in American history. I have noted before that he seems to be repressing his true thoughts and that his tangled statements often reflect a mixture of what a sane human being would think about the outrageous policies of the Bush administration and what his handlers have programmed him to say.

Anonymous said...

It's possible that Skull & Bones is in decline; however, it's also possible that the negative pr is engineered by the group in response to its creeping entry over the last few years into the mainstream consciousness, media, movies, etc. some items suggesting decline, such as inclusion of hispanics and women, probably are non-issues. it just doesn't seem socially tenable to line up a bunch of white males in flannel suits, etc., etc. The token minorities or women presumably play the traditional token role, while the white males maintain more or less their same relations with each other, no longer lightning rods for pc ire.

A broader question involves the value of east coast institutions, networks, etc. to those in the halls of power. In some spheres it seems like a nexus of private college bred east coasters can be a tough nut to crack.

ricpic said...

Undone by feminism. Like everything else sacred.

SFG said...

Personality my ass. The point is to allow Bonesmen to blackmail each other, knitting the fraternity tighter. It's a bonding ritual.

I still can't believe they let chicks in. Still, the decline of Skull and Bones doesn't mean there's no WASP Power Elite. The Masons may be holding membership drives, but there's still an old-boy network that holds most of the cards. The locus of power has just moved elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Does the whole American frat-house thing have something to do with constructing 'unity' from diversity?

Mark said...

My father, after a twenty year Air Force enlisted career (nuke weapons, but he'll never admit it: all he will say is "special assets of the Air Force") became a truck driver and later a trainer of truck drivers for the largest truckload carrier in the US at the time. He wound up becoming a company VP before retiring.

He used to claim that there were some people who were literally too smart to drive a truck. A fair proportion of high IQ trainees-of which there were, and are, more than one would suspect-simply can't do all the things necessary to maneuver a tractor trailer through cities and docks without thinking about each variable too much and having problems as soon as their concentration is momentarily broken. Conversely, the genuinely dumb could usually drive the truck fine: they would have problems in adhering to regulations, dealing with shippers, and so forth.

Anonymous said...

I know an Asian woman tapped for S&B about a decade ago. She was from a hardworking immigrant family and is as nice as she is content with life - e.g. in no way desperate set the world on fire nor networked to do so.

I didn't understand what S&B was trying to redefine itself as by this selection. It just seemed a blind two-fer affirmative action move. She turned them down.

"He was into that whole Yale thing." - Patrick Bateman

- JAN

Anonymous said...

The decline of Skull and Bones just means the shift of influence networks to the old-fashioned alliances of blood, family, and marriage.

And non-WASP types exploit that kinship/nepotism network skillfully. Long time Lefty author (and heiress) Barbara Ehrenreich has a son who is a PBS exec. Dan Rather's daughter is a Dem staffer in Texas. In California the Latino Eastside Mafia of Villaraigosa, Padilla, and Nunez even share the same mistress (Mirthala Salinas).

In order for influence to work, each party to the bargain needs assurance the bargain will be kept. That was the whole point of the "brotherhood" stuff that the secret societies try to create. Members can "trust" each other because they hold each other's secrets and can rely on a bargain once made, to be kept.

Women in such a society means that the often degrading rituals designed to bond men together get scrapped. At a minimum the women complicate the whole point of secret societies which is trust-assurance among male members. Since women are not men and don't operate from the same set of sexual and cultural norms.

David said...

sfg said:

the decline of Skull and Bones doesn't mean there's no WASP Power Elite.[...]an old-boy network that holds most of the cards. The locus of power has just moved elsewhere.

It's apparently permissible nowadays to speak of WASPs as nefarious secret conspirators; while the same suggested of Jews brands one a "Nazi lunatic" who deals in "canards."

David's Principle: All conspiracy theories are plausible except those involving Jews.

After all, only WASP males - aka White men - can be evil. Jews are only innocent kindly lights unto the world. I wonder who put this meme about?

Well, sfg, care to hazard a guess as to the new location of the White conspirators who "hold most of the cards"? The White House basement, perhaps? (Devilishly clever!) The North Pole? A fortified underground bunker in Kansas? Salt Lake City?

Gee, if there is a WASP conspiracy, they sure never invited me to the meetings. Haw haw haw. (Been waiting to spring that one for years.)

David Davenport said...

Does the whole American frat-house thing have something to do with constructing 'unity' from diversity?

No, not at all, the opposite, at least prior to the forced and enforced diversity era.

You already know that, mais non? Yours is some kind of joke question, I suspect, but I don't get the punch line. Or perhaps a case of a furriner who speaks colloqial American well, while having only the most tenuous grasp of the culture?

The whole idea of a real frat or sorority is to "rush" and/or "tap" people just like the current members, so as to perpetuate the homogeneity and essence of the brotherhood or sisterhood.

I understand that Japanese corporations are basically fraternities, by the way.

James Kabala said...

About the blackmail theory: It sounds like a plausible idea, but, on the other hand, the Bonesmen supposedly have taken an oath never to reveal each other's secrets, so the blackmailer is himself in a tight spot: If the blackmailee calls his bluff and says, "Go ahead and expose me," the blackmailer must choose between either exposing the secret, which could theoretically result in his own (the blackmailer's) expulsion from the society, or decling to expose the secret and therefore losing his blackmailing opportunity. Certainly the secrets of the Bushes seem to have stayed hidden; I think the older Bonesmen likely take their oaths seriously.
David: He wasn't saying all WASPs are part of an old boy network; he was saying that upper-class Ivy Leaguers (who are generally WASPs, or were in the old days) have one and that if Skull and Bones is no longer part of the network, the network lives on.

Anonymous said...

This whole Skull and Bones discussion brings up an interesting question. Will the Ivies continue to have such a stranglehold over producing top national candidates and captains of industry (if we have any by then) 20 or 30 years from now, at least among conservatives? Looking at their ethnic composition, they will likely continue producing candidates for the democrats, though they will likely be Latinos, Asians, blacks and Jews as opposed to white (nominal) Christians a la Kerry, Gore or the Clintons. They do seem to be short of white Christians these days (most of the schools are 70% white or less and nearly half the whites are jewish). Furthermore, if you look at their sports teams, which take a fairly large chunk of the student body to staff for such small schools, they are almost completely stocked with white gentiles, who, while not stupid, are usually not merit scholar types. Also, although they try to scough up the few in each generation with off the charts scientific aptitude, I get that impression that a lot of the non-athlete whites are there as much for their political ideas and activism as for being extraordinarily intelligent. It seems that many smart white gentiles, not coming from a culture that places as much value on a prestigous name as smart Asians' or Jews' cultures (note, the relatively small number of old-line NE Protestants would be more like Jews in this respect), and not receiving preference and financial incentives like "underperforming minorities," opt for a free ride to a state school honors program rather than going massively in debt for an Ivy league name. I grew up in an area around a major US city that had recently become suburban, but previously had been a rural German farming community and there were still some of these types rural living there, though they were swamped by us newcommers from the city and nearer suburbs. Two of these rural types got a 1510 and 1410 (pre-recentering) on their SATs and went college at local state schools. They never even considered looking at the Ivies. I predict that you will see a lot more of the prominent white gentile Americans comming from State honors programs in the future.

SFG said...

Connections, connections, connections. I don't care how smart these guys are (and as Steve has said, brains isn't everything and too much may be a bad thing), they are not going to get into that clique without an Ivy pedigree. There are other cliques that have power, of course, especially outside the East Coast.

David: Of course most WASPs aren't members of the WASP power elite any more than most Jews are Arthur Sulzberger. And I'll freely admit there is a Jewish power elite too, more concentrated in media and in New York, that advances its interests. Sometimes these two act in concert, sometimes they don't. Any society has multiple loci of power that sometimes fight among themselves. I'd actually argue the Republicans and Democrats leadership are two separate agglomerations of elites, with the Republicans representing more heavy industry and the Democrats more media. The Wall Street bankers seem to go both ways, and if there was an ethnic split I wouldn't be surprised, but I don't know enough about those people to say.

You tend to be more annoyed by the mostly Jewish media elite because they favor things like immigration and multiculturalism; having grown up on the East, I'm a lot more worried about the oil industry elite's not wanting to pay to prevent global warming. (Not that I think it would be so great for the Midwest if it got warmer; changing climate patterns can't be good for agriculture.)

Mark said...

Long time Lefty author (and heiress) Barbara Ehrenreich has a son who is a PBS exec.

And a daughter, Rosa Brooks, who is a syndicated columnist.

The real problem though isn't with individuals using ties to get jobs for their kids - it's with ties of ethnic/religious loyalty that are allowed if you're Jewish, Hispanic, Muslim, Asian, black, or whatever - anything but white and/or Christian.

A WASP businessmen is damn well expected to hire based on merit (or often not, to satisfy quota requirements). White overrepresentation is de facto proof of racism in favor of whites. Jewish or Asian overrepresentation is never regarded - CAN NEVER be regarded - as proof of racism in favor of Jews or Asians.

For decades the Jewish dominated media has been implicitly using its power to destroy the validity of ethnic solidarity amongst WASPs while keeping Jewish ethnic networks above criticism.

Jewish synagogues and temples are fairly mono-ethnic, while formerly WASP churches are expected to be open and welcoming to all. (Note the PR flak the Mormon Church received - still receives - for barring blacks from the priesthood until 1978.)

Anonymous said...

Mark,

Asian "over representation" in the US is not pointed to as a sign of racism for two reasons:

(1) Asians are so few in number and most relatively newcomers that they don't have widespread, high-level decision-making power to institute a Yellow-Racism.

(2) Asians are actually underrepresented if you believe in a merit-based society. They are the Jews of the early 20th century where it's OK to discriminate against them and hold them to a higher standard because they do too well.

Now the PRC/Taiwan/HK Chinese are very ethnocentric and even racists. They are a real threat and accumulating power over the US. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next 50-100yrs.

- JAN

David said...

To SFG:

Will the scary "Global Warming" hit before or after the scary "New Ice Age"?

Climate fluctuations have nothing to with the oil industry's "refusal to pay" a bunch of leftish politicians.

Yet you consider (or do you really?) such chimera "much more" important than the deliberate policy of displacing and destroying the white race (aka limitless "immigration" plus "multiculturalism")? Well, to each his own.