» Ed Driscoll

Ed Driscoll

Blogging since 2002, affiliated with PJM since 2005, where he is currently a columnist, San Jose Editor, and founder of PJM’s Lifestyle blog. Over the past 15 years, Ed has contributed articles to National Review Online, the Weekly Standard.com, Right Wing News, the New Individualist, Blogcritics, Modernism, Videomaker, Servo, Audio/Video Interiors, Electronic House, PC World, Computer Music, Vintage Guitar, and Guitar World.

Join PJTV Stars at ‘Bullets and Bourbon’ in December!

Click the link for more information and for reservations: http://bullets-and-bourbon.com

You have the right to own a gun in the United States. Unfortunately, there is a push to take away your second amendment rights. Co-host of PJTV’s Trifecta, Stephen Green and author Kevin Williamson join host Glenn Reynolds to talk about gun rights in America. You’ll also learn about a special event taking place in December at Rough Creek Lodge near Dallas, Texas. It’s Bullets & Bourbon — a weekend long retreat dedicated to the second amendment and fine bourbon, which in addition to Glenn, Steve, and Kevin, will also feature PJ Media’s CEO Emeritus Roger L. Simon, Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey, Dana Loesch of Glenn Beck’s The Blaze network, strength training expert Mark Rippetoe, and Dr. Helen Smith. (And I’ll be there as well, of course.)

Be sure to make a reservation to join your favorite PJTV stars in December.

Posted at 1:46 pm on August 17th, 2015 by Ed Driscoll

Bullets & Bourbon News

Nina Yablok (aka PJM’s attorney, aka Mrs. Ed Driscoll) who’s been organizing the Bullets & Bourbon event in the Dallas Fort Worth area coming this December featuring Glenn, Dana Loesch, Ed Morrissey, Kevin D. Williamson, Roger L. Simon, Steve Green and Mark Rippetoe is scheduled to appear on Michael Graham’s radio show at 10:45 eastern/7:45 pacific tomorrow morning on Atlanta’s News Radio 106.7 FM. Tune in here to listen online; for more on Bullets & Bourbon (we’d love to see you attend), click here.

Posted at 3:25 pm on August 4th, 2015 by Ed Driscoll

Why Yes, I am Insta-Posting These Days

I know there are some regular readers of PJM who don’t also frequently scan Instapundit.com to get the latest headlines. If you’re one of them and wondering where I’ve been lately, I’m over there posting links to breaking stories. Ed Driscoll.com was one of many blogs that started in the wake of 9/11 inspired by Glenn Reynolds’ early use of blogging software to aggregate news, and when, after his recent vacation, Glenn asked his regular co-bloggers to stay on posting, I was happy to take up the call.

As you’ve seen over the past couple of weeks, my wife has been running our regular series on our planned escape from the policies of Sacramento  to Texas, and I’ll keep using this space for longer articles, podcasts, interviews, etc. But until Glenn and/or the Powers That Be at PJM come to their senses, you can catch me every day at Instapundit. (And also on Twitter – follow me here.)

As someone once said, read the whole thing.

(And if you can make plans to be in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in December, you’re invited to hang out with Glenn, Roger L. Simon, Steve Green, Dana Loesch, Ed Morrissey, Kevin D. Williamson, Mark Rippetoe — and me, by attending here.)

Posted at 7:05 pm on July 20th, 2015 by Ed Driscoll

Daniel Hannan: Fascism and Communism: Sister Ideologies (Video)

Of course. But as Hannan wrote last year in the London Telegraph, “The greatest cultural victory of the Left has been to disregard the Nazi-Soviet Pact:”

Why do we downplay that memory? Largely because it doesn’t fit with what happened later. When Hitler attacked the USSR – to the utter astonishment of Stalin, who initially ordered his soldiers not to shoot back – it was in everyone’s interest to forget the earlier phase of the war. Western Communists, who had performed extraordinary acrobatics to justify their entente with fascism, now carried out another somersault and claimed that the Nazi-Soviet Pact had only ever been a tactical pause, a moment when Stalin brilliantly stalled while building up his military capacity. Even today, the historiographical imprint of that propaganda lingers.

To the modern reader, George Orwell’s depiction of how enmity alternates between Eurasia and Eastasia seems far-fetched; but when he published his great novel in 1948, such things were a recent memory. It suited Western Leftists, during and after the War, to argue that Hitler had been uniquely evil, certainly wickeder than Stalin. It was thus necessary to forget the enthusiasm with which the two tyrants had collaborated.

If you need a refresher, read the whole thing.

(Via Small Dead Animals.)

Posted at 4:12 pm on June 20th, 2015 by Ed Driscoll

It’s Official: Barack Emo Obama Disappointed By Entire World

Forget John Kerry’s 2004 insinuation that America has failed “the global test.” The entire world has failed the Obama test. Everyone. Probably beings on other planets, too, given the media’s now-hilarious “President Spock” claims as the honeymoon was wearing off the hopenchange era to explain away his prickly, aloof nature.

As Moe Lane writes, “Like all people who are… perhaps not up for the job… Barack Obama rigorously maintains a firm distinction between ‘I’ and ‘we.’ When good things happen, it’s ‘i;’ when bad things do, it’s ‘we.’ Pretty straightforward, really.”

Posted at 2:30 pm on June 20th, 2015 by Ed Driscoll

The Unbearable Whiteness of Being

“The Horror,” as spotted by InstaPundit:

THE HORROR: HuffPo Blogger Describes ‘The Pain Of Realizing I’m White.’

So, do you wanna go to The Gap?

Plus, the real takeaway:

Michael hated her own “Whiteness,” but admitted she “disliked the Whiteness of other White people more.”

“I felt like the way to really end racism was to feel guilty for it, and to make other White people feel guilty for it too,” she stressed.

Uh huh.

Just replace “White” with “Jewish” in these sorts of stories and “Progressive” headlines, and it all makes sense. (It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be angry that this is the left’s latest obsession, but it does make sense. Fish gotta fish, birds gotta be, and the left needs an Emmanuel Goldstein to explain away why socialist nirvana never arrives.)

Related: “CBS, NBC Hype ‘Increasing Mistrust Between Blacks and Whites; ‘Virus’ of Racism from ‘60s ‘Never Died.’”

Well, since 2008, NBC has certainly been doing their damnedest to gin up the race hatred via their spin-off channel, “better described as Jim Crow TV,” as Jeffrey Lord of the American Spectator accurately described it last year.

Posted at 11:29 am on June 20th, 2015 by Ed Driscoll

‘Someone at the New Yorker Just Discovered the Web, Everybody!’

In 1977′s Annie Hall, Woody Allen memorably satirized the differences between the cultures of Los Angeles and New York, tropes that exist to this day. And while New Yorkers look down upon L.A. culture with a certain amount of justified bemusement, high tech residents of Silicon Valley observe the patched-together technological infrastructure of New York with a wry grin as well. My wife once compared New York to those scenes in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil or the Max Headroom TV series where vast banks of computers exist side by side with telephone and electrical systems that look like they’re out of 1930s Berlin. (Mike Bloomberg’s obsession with bike lanes only increased the Blade Runner-like atmosphere of the place.)

So it’s not surprising that New Yorkers don’t quite seem to get the Internet in the same way as we Silicon Valley residents. (Yes, I’m stereotyping wildly here. See also: observations of Allan Stewart Konigsberg on L.A.) Legendary technology expert Sen. Ted Stevens, the Marshall McLuhan of the 21st century, famously referred to the Internet as “a series of tubes” in 2006. Long before the birth of the Internet, New York had its own series of tubes — the subway, and its use by millions of commuters is a big reason why the city can sustain five major newspapers. And while the New York Times is these days, a scrappy underdog struggling for survival (as Iowahawk would say) when compared to the much larger readership of the Wall Street Journal (and on the Web, the London Daily Mail), you’d think its editors wouldn’t be so provincial as to allow the following passage about NBC and Brian Williams into print:

NBC’s handling of Mr. Williams suggests that the network is still clinging to an increasingly anachronistic vision of the anchor’s chair as a sacred throne, and the anchor as the voice of moral authority. It’s a response that seems in many ways tone-deaf to the striking changes in the way we consume information — changes that are reshaping the relationship between newscasters and consumers. The news anchor is no longer the embodiment of reason and truth; his voice is now just one of many. And network TV is just another platform.

Who is “we” in the above passage? Those of us on the Internet don’t watch TV news anymore, except when held hostage in airport departure lounges or when a breaking horror story on the magnitude of 9/11 or a Space Shuttle exploding occurs.  (Or in the case of the Ferguson and Baltimore riots, not for the news, but to grimly observe CNN and MSNBC stoking the flames with evil abandon.) The only people left watching the nightly news on a regular basis are those dwindling number of elderly citizens too scared to go online. (Just check the target audience of the commercials that run.) When Tom Brokaw retired in 2004, paving the way for Williams’ succession, Thomas Sowell wrote:

During his long tenure as NBC News anchorman, Tom Brokaw took that program from last place among the big three broadcast networks to first place. But he had more viewers when he was in last place, more than 20 years ago, than he had in first place this year. That is because fewer people now watch NBC, ABC, or CBS News. Good!

Today, those numbers are at ten million or less for each of the Big Three networks’ nightly news broadcasts. The other day, Kathy Shaidle spotted a similarly antediluvian tone from the New Yorker. In response, she quipped, “Someone at The New Yorker just discovered the Web, everybody!”, specifically social media such as Twitter, blog comments, and Internet forums, causing the magazine to sniff:

It’s comments all the way down. Social media, at any rate, and Twitter in particular, are a continually metastasizing accretion of marginalia. A tweet is a comment implicitly calibrated to provoke further comment, by way of replies or retweets or favorites: it is a form of text produced in order not just to be read but to generate the production of further text. (Almost every time I compose a tweet and click send, I become discomfitingly aware that I just made the Internet slightly longer than it already was, which was way too long in the first place.)

Who knew! Other than everyone (with the exception of Brian Williams viewers) in the vast empty area between New York and L.A. in the New Yorker’s classic 1976 “View of the World from 9th Avenue” cover, that is. As Kathy told interviewer Mary Lou Ambrogio last year, “Read the paper upside down:”

Q: When you post articles about controversial subjects, you often introduce the article by saying, “As always, the real story is in the comment section”. That really resonates with me because I’m always struck by this phenomenon myself whereby, you’ll read a very milquetoast article on a touchy subject and then see that in the comment sections, readers let loose and talk like real people. Is it just the anonymity that makes people feel safe about expressing themselves honestly? And what, if anything, does that say about how we are being served by the main stream press when it seems like people aren’t satisfied with the kind of coverage touchy subjects get? 

A: One place you’ll really see that phenomenon in action is in daily papers covering a “controversial” local story. For instance, a few years ago, there was a “racist” incident at a high school basketball game in the States; allegedly some white players had called the Hispanic players names. In the comments, however, people on the scene argued that the Hispanic players had started the name calling, but that the naive reporter didn’t realize that what they were saying was an anti-white phrase – or knew but didn’t want to report that, because that would ruin the liberal narrative. So while the comments are often full of cranks, you can also see a lot of Average Joe wisdom and insight (and fact checking) in there. That’s why I often say, “Read the paper upside down.”

Over 20 years ago, libertarian computer scientist John Gilmore famously said, “The ‘Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.” Having constructed a fantasyland view of America that only exists in a handful of TV networks and newsrooms, the New York-dominated legacy media was caught utterly flat-footed both when Matt Drudge appeared on the scene in 1998, and a few years later, when the technology of the Blogosphere allowed anyone to self-publish news and opinion. No wonder they’re terrified of a vast army of Internet commenters critiquing their work. As Pauline Kael, the New Yorker’s film critic  once said of Republicans, “I live in a rather special world…They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.”

Of course, there is one group that all of us, Democrats and Republicans alike, whether we work in old media like the New Yorker and New York Times, or in new media can look down upon with equal derision — YouTube commenters:


Posted at 3:25 pm on June 19th, 2015 by Ed Driscoll

Today’s College Campuses, Where the Will to Power Derives from Victimhood

Back in April, during one of their GLoP podcasts on Ricochet.com, Jonah Goldberg, Rob Long and John Podhoretz explored the fables of the Rolling Stone rape article, Columbia’s Mattress Girl, and the general tendency of college campuses to be hotbeds of false accusations of rape, racism, and other fever swamp delusions:

PODHORETZ: But it doesn’t have to be everybody; that’s partially, I think Jonah’s point. It can be two people, it can be three people, on a campus of 4,000 or 25,000, or 50,000, who can turn the place upside-down. Somebody paints a swastika on his own door, and the entire place revolved around this fact for an entire week. It is very empowering of dangerously deluded or fallacious behavior.

GOLDBERG: We’re in a weird Nietzschian transition moment where victimhood is the way you assert your will to power.

I found that to be an intriguing concept, given that Nietzsche lit the fuse for so much of the bloodshed of the 20th century in Europe. On this side of the pond, he also empowered much of the “Progressive” and anti-American movement of the first half of the 20th century. On the left, this included Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno of the infamous Frankfurt School, transplanted to America after a rival form of Nietzsche-worshipping socialism won the day in post-Weimar Germany. And (more or less) on the right, famed journalist H.L. Mencken, who was the first to translate Nietzsche in English in 1907 and whose later polemics are chockablock full of Nietzsche-inspired attacks on traditional American culture, democracy and religion. (Including, in a much more benign form Ayn Rand — whatever her later protestations, Objectivism shares a lot in common with Nietzsche’s Will to Power. And eventually Stanley Kubrick; it’s no coincidence that 2001: A Space Odyssey’s central leitmotif is  Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra.)

Partially as a result of Nietzsche’s influence, think of the polar opposites that the American student is taught throughout his young life: with all of the self-esteem and “you can change the world!” rhetoric pumped into his psyche since kindergarten, by the time he gets into college, today’s student is caught between believing on the one hand, he’s the second coming of the Nietzschian Superman (no relation to famed journalist Clark Kent). And on the other, with all of the left’s obsessions with the notion that everyone is a victim, he’s concurrently Nietzsche’s Last Man, “who makes everything small” — micro, you might say, as in an obsession with “micro-aggressions.”

In his latest syndicated column, Jonah attempts to square the circle:

In 2015, our society is shot through with Nietzschean ressentiment. Today it is a great sin on college campuses — and elsewhere! — to make anyone other than the “privileged” feel uncomfortable, challenged, or otherwise psychologically threatened by the use of the wrong words or concepts.

The University of California recently issued a set of guidelines about the terrible danger of “microaggressions” — small, usually unintended slights that allegedly hurt the feelings of the newly anointed classes of victims. One must no longer say that America is a “melting pot,” for to do so is to suggest that minorities should “assimilate to the dominant culture,” according to the new moralists at the University of California.

And one mustn’t say anything that advances “the Myth of Meritocracy.” Saying “America is the land of opportunity” or “everyone can succeed in this society if they work hard enough” is now a form of bigotry.

Of course, the surest way to guarantee that America is not a meritocracy is to teach young people not only that it isn’t one, but that it’s evil to say it is, or should be, one.

Read the whole thing, which connects Nietzschean ressentiment to not just today’s campus insanities but to Rachel Dolezal (the spray-on tanned posterchild for the Will to Power through victimhood) and Hillary Clinton as well.

Posted at 12:31 pm on June 19th, 2015 by Ed Driscoll

Quotes of the Day

What is the role of art? Is it, as Lenin and his fellow thinkers believe, a tool to shape minds? Must we reject art that is impure, that comes from sources we hate or preaches messages we find distasteful? I cannot support this; indeed, I strongly reject it. It is a variation on the politicized life, that deeply harmful worldview that demands we consider all aspects of our being by some ever-shifting political standard. I can’t help but think of Kingsley Amis’ snubbing of this view in “Girl, 20.” In that 1971 novel, the narrator, a music critic, is confronted by an editor angry with him for “advertis[ing] these bastards” — “these” being the East Germans.

“You do realize, don’t you, that this chap’s only allowed abroad because he’s a loyal and trusted servant of that bloody awful regime?” the editor asks.

“Whether I do or I don’t doesn’t come into what I’m supposed to be at,” our hero replies. “The job you hired me for was to cover the most important events, and important judged by musical standards.”

Intriguingly, this fictional defense of the right to cover a communist who made beautiful music came even as Amis was drifting rightward. A few years previously, Amis had published an essay entitled “Why Lucky Jim Turned Right.” In it, he jokingly complains of being “driven into grudging tolerance of the Conservative Party because it is the part of non-politics, of resistance to politics. I have seen how many of the evils of life — failure, loneliness, fear, boredom, inability to communicate — are ineradicable by political means, and that attempts so to eradicate them are disastrous.”

—Sonny Bunch, “We’re losing sight of what art is really for,” the Washington Post, today.

“If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

George Orwell, via Terry Teachout.

Posted at 5:01 pm on June 18th, 2015 by Ed Driscoll

Totalitarian State Famed for Its Central Planning Obsession Blames Man-made Drought on Bad Luck

California? No, in this case, it’s North Korea, Walter Russell Mead writes at the American Interest. After linking to a BBC report on the Hermit State’s H20 woes, as equally avoidable as California’s, Mead responds:

The North Korean state will likely do what it normally does: pass blame while glorifying itself and continuing to subjugate its people. But the bad luck of natural phenomena like droughts merely throws the failures and incompetence of state policy into relief. As the great science-fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein once wrote:

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as ‘bad luck.’

North Korea’s ills aren’t bad luck. When societies don’t govern themselves well, the conditions aren’t right for the people who could think through an issue like how to manage mass industrial farming. The Kim regime is so repressive that it makes the emergence of effective institutions and or individual problem solvers impossible. The North Korean would-be geniuses are mostly in gulags or starving or marching in a military parade.

After comparing Saudi Arabia’s totalitarian regime with California, Steve Green concludes:

Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy based on Islamic sharia law, which forbids drinking alcohol, oppresses women and unbelievers, and protects its borders.

California is a single-party state based on modern progressivism, which forbids smoking tobacco, oppresses the middle class and unbelievers, and protects “the environment.”

I’m not saying I prefer Saudi Arabia to California — not by a longshot. But unlike California’s Democrats, at least the Saudi Royal Family makes the toilets flush on time.


Posted at 3:16 pm on June 18th, 2015 by Ed Driscoll

Apologizing for Losing Audience’s Trust, Brian Williams Moves to MSNBC


“It’s official: Brian Williams is moving to MSNBC and Lester Holt will formally replace him as ‘NBC Nightly News’ anchor, NBC News and MSNBC chairman Andrew Lack announced today,” showbiz bible Variety reports; an appropriate source considering both the Orwellian nature of the Big Three’s TV news operations, and Williams’ desire to transform himself from a more-or-less trusted newsreader to the second coming of Jon Stewart or David Letterman:

Holt, who joined NBC in 2000, has been serving as the “Nightly News” anchor since Williams was suspended in February after allegations surfaced that he misrepresented his involvement in a 1993 reporting trip to Iraq.

“I’m sorry. I said things that weren’t true,” said Williams. “I let down my NBC colleagues and our viewers, and I’m determined to earn back their trust. I will greatly miss working with the team on ‘Nightly News,’ but I know the broadcast will be in excellent hands with Lester Holt as anchor. I will support him 100% as he has always supported me. I am grateful for the chance to return to covering the news. My new role will allow me to focus on important issues and events in our country and around the world, and I look forward to it.”

Lack and Steve Burke, CEO of NBCU, have decided that Williams will return to MSNBC — where he worked from 1996 to 2004 — as anchor of breaking news and special reports. He will work with Mark Lukasiewicz, SVP of Special Reports for NBCU News Group.

When you reverse the two phrases in Variety’s headline on the Williams story, “Brian Williams Moves to MSNBC, Apologizes for Losing Audience’s Trust,” as I did for my headline above, it all makes sense, doesn’t it? As Ed Morrissey writes today, “Media analysts wonder: What does Williams move say about MSNBC?”

It confirms an argument long made about MSNBC by conservatives, which is that it has no credibility as a news bureau, even while operating under the supervision of NBC News. In fact, assigning an anchor exposed as a serial fabulist to a position of the cable channel’s “face” of news coverage almost looks like an admission that MSNBC operates at a much lower level of credibility.

Ed quotes Bloomberg’s veteran media analyst Jack Shafer, who tweets, “Not good enough for NBC but good enough for MSNBC. How does that work?”

Well, MSNBC has long served as both NBC’s farm team, where, as Variety notes, Williams began his career with the network, but it’s also the place where NBC reporters can go to really let their biases hang out for all to see (QED: Andrea Mitchell, Chuck Todd) and where the network can dump fabulists such as Al Sharpton but still keep them on the payroll. (And in the case of Sharpton, pay him protection money to reduce the odds he’ll destroy one of their own again, as Sharpton did in 2007 to former MSNBC star Don Imus.) As I wrote last night, perhaps quietly tossing Williams down into the bowels of MSNBC makes more sense than a long-protracted tabloid fodder lawsuit between Williams and the network if they terminated his contract.

Meanwhile, “Washington Post media blogger Erik Wemple sounds distraught over CNN reporter Brian Stelter’s reporting that speculation around how NBC will use disgraced anchor Brian Williams is centering on MSNBC,” NewsBusters’ Tim Graham writes, spotting Wemple pleading in his headline, “Do not foist Brian Williams on MSNBC.”  As Graham writes, “Doesn’t MSNBC have enough problems?”

Putting aside the structural problem that liberals are splintered in their brand loyalties, MSNBC has caused a great deal of its struggles. Lifeless programming, tepid panel discussions, excessive liberal agreeing and the occasional nasty comment followed by an excellent apology — these are the dynamics that help to account for the cable channel’s worm-level ratings.

One problem it doesn’t need is Brian Williams. By one count, this is the guy who’s been busted by an internal investigation for 11 quite outrageous embellishments regarding his past. At the same time, Williams is a smooth news delivery vehicle with a high name recognition: If he is unloaded on MSNBC, how much worse can things get?

Considerably. MSNBC’s critics are a motivated bunch and are already busy enough with Ed Schultz, Chris Matthews & Co. Just watch what happens when Williams pilots a report having to do with Iraq or helicopters or Israel. Then again, there really aren’t a lot of places to hide a liability like Williams, whose six-month suspension is up in August. Newsrooms don’t designate set-asides for embellishers.

Now who’s being naive, Erik? As Graham writes in response, “Actually, CBS did let Dan Rather anchor the evening news for a few months after he disgraced himself in 2004, and didn’t dump him until the summer of 2006. It can be joked that every interview for Bill and Hillary Clinton is a ‘set-aside for embellishers.’ Remember ‘I dodged sniper fire in Bosnia?’” And Walter Cronkite had more than his share of “embellishments” during his two decades as CBS anchor, but the sites like NewsBusters, Hot Air and our own didn’t exist to call him out on his lies and biases during that era of monolithic mass media. More recently, ABC doesn’t seem to mind at all that George Stephanopoulos is a Hillary stalking horse posing as a journalist.

Regarding Williams, Ed Morrissey asks, “So [NBC's Andrew Lack] has chosen a fabulist to lead MSNBC to the Promised Land of journalistic integrity and objectivity?”

 That would make for a hilarious joke under other circumstances, and actually is pretty amusing in this context, too. Consider this: NBC News has a stable full of talent to help them make that transition, ranging from foreign correspondents like Richard Engel to political analysts like Chuck Todd. For that matter, they could look outside the organization to woo upcoming talent away from competitors who have established credibility outside the NBC/MSNBC organization.

Rather than do that, they’ve decided to make Brian Williams the face of objective credibility at a cable channel so poorly considered that it’s become a joke in the industry. There’s only one possible reason for this decision, and that’s the money that it would take to shove Williams out the door.

In response to Erik Wemple’s cri de coeur at the Washington Post (home for several years for juiceVox ringleader Ezra Klein, self-admitted fabulist Matt Yglesias, and leftist posing as a conservative/libertarian Dave Weigel), Ed concludes, “if the plan is to hide Williams for the duration of his contract, there really isn’t any better place to put him.”

Heh, indeed — read the whole thing, as Ed’s co-speaker at the upcoming Bullets and Bourbon event in December would say.

Update: This is also equally heh-worthy:

And elsewhere at Hot Air, Jazz Shaw adds, “As for Williams himself, it’s surprising to me that he’d even consider this move:”

Back in the nineties he started out with the company working an evening gig on MSNBC. After that he moved up to NBC News and and finally landed in the big chair. Going to Griffin’s operation has got to feel like being sent back to the kids’ table for someone who has stood on top of the mountain. But who knows? Maybe Williams just has the need to be doing the news on television engrained so deeply in his blood that he’d rather take anything than go home and retreat to obscurity with a big asterisk next to his name in the annals of journalism.

Like Dan Rather joining HDNet, Mark Cuban’s comparatively obscure cable network in 2006 after the disgrace of RatherGate, or like an aging athlete who just wants a bit more time on the field and in the locker room with the lads (Unitas’ last season with the Chargers, Namath’s with the Rams, and Emmitt Smith’s last years with the Cardinals all come immediately to mind), what else did you expect him to do?

Not every disgraced public figure can be John Profumo.

Posted at 12:51 pm on June 18th, 2015 by Ed Driscoll

I Called It In February: NYT Reports Brian Williams Transfers to MSNBC


“Williams to Stay at NBC, but Not as News Anchor,” the New York Times claims tonight:

NBC is planning to announce on Thursday that Brian Williams will not return to his position as the anchor of its “Nightly News” show, four months after the network suspended him for exaggerating his role in a helicopter incident in Iraq, according to two people briefed on the discussions.

Mr. Williams is expected to move to a new role primarily at the cable news network MSNBC, probably in a breaking-news capacity in the beginning, according to one of the people.

Lester Holt, who has been filling in for Mr. Williams as anchor, will take on the position permanently, one person said.

NBC could not be reached for comment. Mr. Williams’s lawyer, Robert Barnett, declined to comment. News of the decision was first reported by CNN.com.

The new role is a humbling comedown for Mr. Williams, who before the controversy was one of the country’s most prominent and respected broadcast journalists.

Prominent? Sure. Respected? Williams’ only real advantage was that he had done or said nothing serious enough to harm NBC’s brand with low information voters; he was simply there to deliver the news with a pleasant voice, decent enough hair, and a Savile Row suit.

Having sullied his reputation, but still under contract with NBC, sending him to their bargain basement outlet brand is the best way to allow both sides to ride out their employment obligations without a messy lawsuit, and give their Animal House* cable network the closest thing to someone who at least looks like a grownup.

On February 11th (around the time I did the above Photoshop), I asked “Where Does Brian Williams Resurface Next?”; among the eight choices I had gamed out, MSNBC was number two on the list:

1. Back to NBC News: Here’s a possible scenario: The ratings of Williams’ successor flat-line. Jon Stewart doesn’t want the gig. Williams does the celebrity talk show as therapy grand tour, and goes over like gangbusters. NBC does polls and focus groups, and decide what the heck, let’s give him another shot. As Dylan Byers writes at Politico, this is unlikely, but far stranger things have happened in network TV.

2. Down to NBC’s bargain basement spin-off, MSNBC: After it was discovered in 2010 that Dave Weigel, who was promoted by the Washington Post as their man reporting from “inside the conservative movement,” rather viscerally loathed those whom he was covering, the Post suspended him for about a month or so, and then simply transferred him down the hall to their openly leftwing spinoff, Slate. As Daniel Foster quipped at the time at NRO, “One wonders if he has to fill out new W-4s.” Perhaps Williams could bring some of his NBC audience to the network’s flailing and failing hard left spin-off. Credibility issues? Imaginary stories? Likely not much of a concern to the network that keeps Al Sharpton on its payroll.

And there you have it, at least according to the New York Times. Only thing that could make this better: Rachel Dolezal joins him as co-anchor — and since she’s shopping for TV gigs (albeit of the reality show variety, not surprisingly) make that powerhouse of a show happen, NBC!

* Yes, comparing MSNBC to the Delta House that’s an insult to to that fictional august fraternity that would give us all the comparatively illustrious future Sen. Blutarsky. But I had already used up the Star Wars cantina analogy earlier today in the post on the New York Times.

Posted at 7:31 pm on June 17th, 2015 by Ed Driscoll

Quotes of the Day


Every month another story emerges from California that makes out-of-staters think, “Now will those Democrat voters get it?” Then the state sends another batch of leftists to Sacramento to pass more job-killing, life-denying restrictions on their everyday activities. But the current crisis isn’t merely bad economic theory or social justice activism; a state filled with rivers, lakes and bordering an ocean is running out of water.

I ask again: Now will they get it?

Jon Gabriel of Ricochet.

I drive on the 99 freeway past Kingsburg on the way to Visalia. It is a road-warrior maze of construction and detours. The construction hazards are of the sort that would earn any private contractor a lawsuit. (How do you sue Caltrans — and why is it that four or five men always seem to be standing around one who is working?) Only recently has the state decided to upgrade the fossilized two-lane 99 into an interstate freeway of three lanes. But the construction is slow and seemingly endless. Could we not have a simple state rule: “no high-speed rail corridors until the 101, 99, and I-5 are three-lane freeways, and the neglected Amtrak line achieves profitable ridership?” It is almost as if California answers back: “I am too bewildered by your premodern challenges, so I will take psychological refuge in my postmodern fantasies.”

—Victor Davis Hanson, “Goodnight, California.

“If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand.”

Milton Friedman.

That last quote actually does worry the left; a local Bay Area “artisanal” glassblower advertises on her storefront window that her products are “sustainably made” — as if the planet is facing a looming sand shortage.

Posted at 4:48 pm on June 17th, 2015 by Ed Driscoll

The New York Times Rejects Your Reality and Substitutes Its Own

“I don’t know that I’ve ever read a book quite as eye-opening as Michael Oren’s Ally, the bestselling historian’s stunning new memoir of his four years as Israel’s ambassador to the United States,” John Podhoretz writes at Commentary. “For what Oren has written is an account of serving as a diplomat during a Cold War — the Cold War the Obama administration launched against Israel upon coming into office.” And then there are Mr. Obama operatives with bylines:

[Oren] called the New York Times editorial-page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, after the paper published an op-ed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in which Abbas startlingly claimed the Arabs had accepted the UN Partition Plan of 1947. The conversation went thus:

“When I write for the Times, fact checkers examine every word I write,” I began. “Did anybody check that Abbas has his facts exactly backward?”

“That’s your opinion,” Rosenthal replied.

“I’m an historian, Andy, and there are opinions and there are facts. That the Arabs rejected partition and the Jews accepted it is an irrefutable fact.”

“In your view.”

“Tell me, on June 6, 1944, did Allied forces land or did they not land on Normandy Beach?”

Rosenthal…replied, “Some might say so.”

As the kids say on Twitter, “SMH,” short for shaking my head.

So just to place the above moment into context, speaking of clueless teenagers with computer keyboards: The Times is owned by a man who in his 2os wanted to see American soldiers shot in Vietnam. Its editorial columnists include a former Enron advisor obsessed with alien invasions. (Of the little green man variety, needless to say. Illegal aliens coming over the border into Texas don’t concern Krugman the slightest.) A woman who flew into Denver and ate an entire marijuana-laced candy bar for her big investigative piece on Colorado’s new pot laws and had William S. Burroughs-level drug hallucinations as a result. A man who advised Mitt Romney in 2012 to “Stick that in your magic underwear.” A 60 year old former editor who immediately after being fired last year posed for a New York Daily News cover standing next to a punching bag while wearing boxing gloves, a ironic trucker’s cap, a visible tattoo and a Les Misérables tank top.  Her successor, current editor “Dean Baquet called an associate professor at the USC Annenberg School an ‘asshole’ on Facebook [in January] after the professor took a shot at Baquet for not running Charlie Hebdo’s Muhammed cartoons.” And an alleged conservative who told Mr. Obama that one day he’d be president because of his awesome trouser creases.

As Matthew Continetti wrote last year in the Washington Free Beacon in response to Jill Abramson’s posed photo as the distaff Rocky Balboa, the Times is a daily Saved By the Bell rerun, a high school bereft of grownup supervision. But even at this late date, with all of the paper’s Star Wars-cantina level characters who fancy themselves as  being Masters of the Journalistic Universe, it’s still astonishing to read just how far round the bend this one great newspaper has gone.

Posted at 3:24 pm on June 17th, 2015 by Ed Driscoll

Video: Come to Bullets & Bourbon in December

As I mentioned at the start of the month, I was out at Rough Creek Lodge near the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex videotaping the vast resort with an aerial drone to help promote our upcoming Bullets & Bourbon event in December. With a major assist from my friend Steve Green on narration, I’ve incorporated the best of the aerial footage into a two minute video that also highlights Rough Creek’s yuuuuge (as The Donald would say) two-story dining room, its luxury suites, and its shooting facilities.

Join Glenn Reynolds, Dana Loesch, Ed Morrissey, Kevin D. Williamson, Mark Rippetoe, Roger L. Simon, Steve and myself in December — click here for all of the details.

Posted at 1:35 pm on June 17th, 2015 by Ed Driscoll

The Progressive Death of Comedy

“Everything comes down to power: who has it, who defines it, who wants it,” Anthony Sacramone writes in a potent essay at Intercollegiate Review:

In the ’60s, “political” comics shared a wink and a nod with fans as to who was due a beat-down, a comeuppance, a reversal of fortune. The power was Johnson or Nixon, the big chemical companies that manufactured napalm, the military-industrial complex, the KKK and its think-alikes—even the networks themselves. When the Smothers Brothers (whose writers included Steve Martin and Rob Reiner) started doing sly political humor, stinging critiques of the Vietnam War, guns, and even censorship, CBS canceled the Emmy-winning variety show.

But now the one perceived as having the power—even as much as the one-percenters, the banks, the NSA—is the celebrity comic himself. He must audition for the right to deliver a pointed opinion as if it were just one more entitlement. Big names like Seinfeld, Rock, and Maher—rich, famous—have to prove they’re worthy of their privilege before their observations on the economy, civil rights, domestic spying, dating, marriage, you name it, are given a fair hearing.

The comic is barely performer anymore; he is more the audience. It’s his or her job to applaud the people in the seats for being exactly who they are, the evolutionary high-water mark of sensitivity to other people’s powerlessness, which is just a projection of their own inner insecurities and dissatisfactions. Like the poor kid whose immunity is shot and must live in a plastic bubble for fear of an errant sneeze, our college kids fear microaggressions and so construct bubbles of their own. Approach at your own peril.

In short, the students of 2015 are not the rightful heirs of hip ’60s audiences, willing to let the latter-day Bruces pull them—for good or for ill—they know not where, but of their grandparents’ sensibilities, only with the world as their living room. They expect to have their self-image reflected back to them, they tut-tut “abusive” language, they become outraged at wrong attitudes. Don’t you know what we suffered through in the Depression, World War II, heteronormative patriarchy? Instead of calling the networks or writing a letter to the editor, this generation takes to social media to vent spleen as to what’s wrong with these kids today.

What’s lost in all this talk is what’s funny.

But in a way, the comedians that Sacramone names above, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Bill Maher, and others of their ilk, have only themselves to blame for not knowing that it is the nature of their ideology to devour the host organism. The original “Progressives” at the start of the 20th century devoured puritan America. When the New Deal-era left became the dominant culture in Washington, Hollywood and New York by the mid-1960s, they too were devoured by the radical upstart New Left.*

In the early 1990s, journalists and critics ranging from John Leo at US News & World Report all the way to Siskel & Ebert on their TV film review series warned of the looming dangers of political correctness, and were largely ignored, likely because of how crazy the stories then emerging from campuses across America sounded. I realize that the left tends to ignore its own history, but the more astute among them should have anticipated this moment, if only because similar headlines were emerging about 15 years ago out of England, a socialist hothouse due to its much smaller size. Perhaps, as with the the left and Islam, leftist comedians presumed that if they kept quiet, they’d be devoured last by their audiences. Well, “last” has now arrived at last.

* Other than Barry Goldwater’s Pyrrhic run for the White House, the entire history of America in the 1960s is blue on blue on blue, all the way to Nixon’s White House, which governed domestically as an extension of LBJ’s Great Society.

Update: Of course, part of what made the comedian’s job easier in the old days was that if society as a whole was relatively functional, all he needed to do was to hold its perceived excesses up for ridicule. In contrast, as Mark Steyn writes today, “I try to stay chipper about Rachel Dolezal and the rest of this stuff, but it’s not really funny, is it? More and more levers of civilization appear to be in the hands of the clinically insane.”

Posted at 1:08 pm on June 17th, 2015 by Ed Driscoll

Moonbat Tat Spat Falls Flat

The Left’s cycle of victimhood appears to be in freefall and accelerating towards the abyss rapidly these days, doesn’t it? Let’s review: The Rolling Stone campus rape case that wasn’t. Oppressed Mattress Girl who doubles down by releasing a sex tape. Rachel Dolezal reliving James Whitmore’s Black Like Me B-movie.

Finally, it’s come to this: Far Left Socialist Justice Warrior at Jezebel demands a neck tattoo for one of her first tats and throws a fit screaming — but of course! — sexism and oppression when the tattoo artist very sensibly refuses. Or as Ace writes today, linking to this post at InstaPundit, “Jezebel Blogger: Don’t Tell Me What Tattoos I Can and Cannot Get, Dad. I’m an Adult Now, Dad. And I’ve Got Ideas, Dad. Good Ideas! You’ll See When I Run Off to Rome to Become a Gritty Fashion Photog, Dad!

Anyway, so, this Jezebel blogger is, get this, unreasonably angry owing to a sense of infuriated entitlement, in this particular circumstance, over the fact that a tattoo artist refused to give her a neck tattoo.

Why? Tattooist ethics, and no, I’m not making that up. It turns out tattoo artists have a code: they will not give highly visible “game changer” tattoos to persons who are not already well-marked with ink. They actually look out for their customers, and have much more experience with tattoos than their customers, and know what the customer does not: A neck tattoo is a tribal marker of potency that the occasional tattoo-wearer (the cute little barbed wire around the ankle, how darling!) doesn’t understand.

That it can keep you from getting jobs. Or something even more valuable: marriage proposals. (I went there, I really did! You been #Mansplained!)

Like sex-reassignment surgeons who demand you “live as a woman” for a year before they surgically maim you, they want to make sure you know what it really is to be Marked By Tattoos before getting one on your neck.

Apparently this is very common — and this particular unreasonably-angry Jezebel diatribist had been warned by multiple people and several tattoo artists that most artists would simply refuse to give a relatively-unmarked person a neck tattoo.

And we’re off to the races:

Dan: “And then you want your daughter’s name… on your neck?” Shakes head left to right.Me: “What.”

Dan: “Not gonna happen.”

Me: “Wait, what? Why?’

Dan: “It’ll look tacky. It’s just tacky.”

Me: “Wait, you’re telling me what will look tacky on me? Don’t I get to decide that?”

Dan: “A neck tattoo on someone without a lot of tattoos is like lighting a birthday candle on an unbaked cake.”

Stunning analogy, right? I wonder: Does Dan know what an analogy even is?

As Ace responds, “Actually, it’s the perfect analogy:”

Bake me a cake, bigot. You’re a lower-class hand-worker. I make the rules, because I am paying you, and therefore you surrender all rights to self-expression to me, your Noble Lady ruler.

And then suddenly I’m fighting back tears because, as Dan has already correctly assessed, I’m just a feeble-minded, hysterical girl.

Not just Dan. We all assessed it.

I understand perfectly well that the identity politics obsessive must always be on the prowl for something new to be offended about. (Insert Alvy Singer’s “Dead Shark” allusion here.) But just as the racial grievance industry never stops to ponder the incredible strides that minorities have made destroying what were once institutionalized forms of racial oppression when they’re down to screaming that the words “niggardly,” “chink in the armor” and “black holes” are racist (let alone “golf” and “Chicago”), when the PC police are now going on search and destroy missions in tattoo parlors, they might want to take a moment to assess just how much ground they’ve captured in the culture war before throwing their next hissy fit.

Other than possibly invitations to Lawrence Welk revival concerts, I doubt there are many things a tattooist will say no to. When he comes across as the calm, reasoned grownup in your story, it just might be time reevaluate your worldview. It’s a bit like the person in Chris Rock’s brilliant little “How to avoid getting your ass kicked by the police” sketch telling someone “I wouldn’t do that sh** if I were you,” before they get an ass kicking, except that unlike a tattoo, bruises from a policeman’s truncheon eventually go away:

Posted at 2:21 pm on June 16th, 2015 by Ed Driscoll

Donald Trump is America

P.J. O’Rourke at the Daily Beast: “Garish Tastes, Awful Hair: Donald Trump Is America” — or at least America after the left had their way with it in the 20th century. If the 1970s was the Me Decade — i.e., “Let’s Talk About Meeeee!” there’s no bigger “Meeee!” than Donald J. Farging Trump:

And in this era of inflated self-esteem, which has become so fundamental to Americanism that it’s taught in our schools, we can all match Trump’s opinion of his own worth. Trump claims to be worth billions—seven of them as of 2012.

In 2004 Forbes magazine estimated Trump’s net worth to be $2.6 billion. New York Times reporter Timothy O’Brien looked into the numbers and came up with a net worth figure between $150 and $250 million. Trump sued O’Brien and lost.

Many a candidate for president has fibbed on the subject of his or her economic circumstances—William Henry “born in a log cabin” Harrison and Hillary “dead broke” Clinton. But Trump will be the first candidate to—like the American legend that he is—tell tall tales about all the money he’s got. Trump is a financial Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed, and Davey Crockett rolled into one, according to Trump.

If Trump’s critics don’t think this is typical of modern Americans, they haven’t looked at our online dating profiles.

Also typical of modern Americans is Trump’s bad taste. True, he doesn’t dress the way the rest of us do—like a nine-year-old in twee T-shirt, bulbous shorts, boob shoes, and league-skunked sports team cap. And Trump doesn’t weigh 300 pounds or have multiple piercings or visible ink. He puts his own individual stamp on gaucherie. And we like it. We’re a country that cherishes being individuals as much as we cherish being gauche.

Trump’s suits have a cut and sheen as if they came from the trunk sale of a visiting Bombay tailor staying in a cheap hotel in Trump’s native Queens and taking a nip between fittings. Trump wears neckties in Outer Borough colors. And, Donald, the end of your necktie belongs up around your belt buckle, not between your knees and your nuts. Trump’s haircut makes Kim Jong Un laugh.

And America loves voting for candidates with Hindenburg-sized egos making impossible campaign boasts, so The Donald has that going for him as well. Particularly O’Rourke’s editor at the Daily Beast:

Financial chicanery? The MSM has no problem with that, either:

Invented narrative? No problem there, either:

And the saddest reality of all? America could do far worse. And we have:

Posted at 12:41 pm on June 16th, 2015 by Ed Driscoll

Trading Places

“Good question! Laura Ingraham wonders what Rachel Dolezal has in store for her Today Show interview,” Twitchy notes.

I really don’t care what sort of train wreck pyschobabble emerges from Dolezal’s mouth at this late date tomorrow. What I’ll be curious to study, after NewsBusters, Mediaite or another Website that monitors the MSM has the transcript and video, is how she’s treated by NBC. This is the network that’s to Obama as ABC and the House of Stephanopoulos is to the Clintons, and as needed, they’ve done much to advance his own highly, err, improvised narrative, and memory hole the details when necessary. (Recall Tom Brokaw’s goofy “I know nothing — nuuuuuthingggg!!!” remarks about Obama on the eve of the 2008 election and immediately after Dan Rather was caught cooking the books to advance the DNC narrative in 2004.) The tone of Dolezal’s interview and the questions she asked will speak volumes about what the DNC-MSM overculture as a whole thinks about Dolezal and others after they’re caught pedaling a phony identity politics narrative.

Err, like NBC’s own Al Sharpton and Brian Williams, come to think of it.

Related: Found via InstaPundit, a former NBC employee had Dolezal’s number almost 20 years ago.

And from the Insta Twitter feed, two NBCs in One! In addition to appearing on the Today Show,  Dolezal is also booked tomorrow for MSNBC’s uber-Marxist identity politics obsessed — and that’s something considering the rest of the crowd she shares network time with — Melissa Harris-Perry, who asked this weekend, “is it possible that [Dolezal] might actually be black…I wonder can it be that one would be cis-black and trans-black, that there is actually a different category of blackness, about the achievement of blackness, despite one’s parentage?”

Oh the fun those two should have together tomorrow — pass the popcorn.

Update: In his Friday G-File, Jonah Goldberg wrote, “America’s Progressive Autoimmune Crisis Continues Apace:”

The progressive vision sees all of mankind as clay to be molded, sheep to be herded, a third-grade diorama to be diorama’d. There are no safe harbors from politics because the personal is political.

The problem with saying “the personal is political” is twofold: You politicize what is personal (“Everyone must celebrate my lifestyle!”) and you personalize the political (“Your opposition to the minimum wage hurts my feelings!”).

This is how you un-think yourself out of a civilization; When politics becomes a fashion choice and fashion becomes political. If you wear your politics on your sleeve, it usually means you don’t keep them in your brain where they belong.

But as Mark Steyn writes today in “The New Minstrelsy,” from the far left’s perspective, that’s a feature:

Senator Warren walks like a white, quacks like a white, looks whiter than white. As I like to say, she’s the whitest white since Frosty the Snowman fell in a vat of White-Out. And yet The Fordham Law Review hailed her as Harvard Law School’s “first woman of color”, and good for them. Why do we impose outmoded stereotypes and demand that black women be black? Why can’t a woman of color retain her pallor? After all, as The New York Post informed us, “Caitlyn Jenner Still Has Her Penis“.

Is that the first American newspaper headline to use the phrase “her penis”? If so, it won’t be the last. Caitlyn Jenner still has her penis, Elizabeth Warren still has her pallor, Jeb Bush still has his pad at Kennebunkport, Rashaqua’nishia Brunnhilde von Dolezal still has her swastika. But all of them have recognized that it’s last orders at the White Privilege saloon. So too have all those so-called “allies” of the LGBTQWERTY crowd, the straight end of the high-school “gay-straight alliance” groups. Is there anything more totally fagulous than being an “ally”? It’s way gayer than gay: You go along to the meetings with all the gays, but you don’t get any of that great anal sex, you just get to take the minutes. Even in the Republic of Paperwork, you’d have thought that would be a tough sell. But no: all the cool heteros – okay, not cool, but the least uncool — are lining up to take it.

But that’s the left’s genius. If the personal is political, why can’t it still be political even when it’s not personal? In contemporary America, race and sexuality are no longer confined to personal identity but to professional status markers — so why not be professionally black, professionally gay, professionally Cherokee?

As Steyn writes, “sometimes a society becomes too stupid to survive” — and our elite “intellectuals” retired their intellects long ago.

Posted at 10:39 pm on June 15th, 2015 by Ed Driscoll

Apollo 13 and DNC-MSM-Hollywood 1995

Terry Teachout watches Ron Howard’s 1995 Apollo 13 film and ponders how much has changed in America since the epoch-defining NASA moon landings depicted in the movie. As he writes, “In the opening scene, we see a roomful of astronauts and their families celebrating in Houston as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin land on the moon. The TV that they’re watching is tuned to CBS, and Walter Cronkite, who was anchoring the network’s coverage of the flight of Apollo 11, makes no secret of his delight at the mission’s success. ‘Oh, boy!’ he cries in a tone that is not ‘objective’ but unabashedly admiring.”

There were very few issues that could have resonated approvingly with the perilously left-leaning Cronkite and pioneering libertarian Ayn Rand, but the Apollo program was one of them. Teachout adds that he also watched Cronkite on CBS as a “a thirteen-year-old boy unaware that he was witnessing a sea change in our national self-understanding:”

Having been a space buff throughout my childhood, it stood to reason that I should have been excited. But we were all on the same side on July 20, 1969, myself and my family and virtually the whole of America. Yes, the ties that bound us had been stretched to the breaking point by the assassinations of 1963 and 1968, and the Vietnam War was well on its way to snapping them. Yet we were still “we” on the night that Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon, just as we were “we” when, a few months later, the crew of Apollo 13 faced the imminent prospect of death in the silent chill of space. We believed in heroes then, just as we believed every word spoken on the air by Walter Cronkite, whose newscast my family watched each night after dinner.

This unanimity of national spirit is part of the point of Apollo 13, and I can’t help but wonder how it plays with younger viewers today, assuming they’ve seen the film. That’s not a safe assumption, seeing as how Apollo 13 was released in 1995. If you’re thirty years old, you weren’t yet born when Walter Cronkite retired, and you may well not even know his name, much less recognize his voice. You grew up in a very different country from the America of my youth, a land in which the phrase “common culture” was not in common use only because everybody took its existence for granted.

I’ve written a lot, here and elsewhere, about what it was like to grow up under the aspect of a common national culture. Now Charles Murray has published an extremely interesting essay in Commentary called “The United States of Diversity” in which he argues that America’s postwar cultural unanimity was an aberration from the historical norm:

Movies were ubiquitous by the beginning of World War I, and most American homes had a radio by the end of the 1920s. These new mass media introduced a nationally shared popular culture, and one to which almost all Americans were exposed. Given a list of the top movie stars, the top singers, and the top radio personalities, just about everybody younger than 60 would not only have recognized all their names but have been familiar with them and their work.

After the war, television spread the national popular culture even more pervasively. Television viewers had only a few channels to choose from, so everyone’s television-viewing overlapped with everyone else’s. Even if you didn’t watch, you were part of it—last night’s episode of I Love Lucy was a major source of conversation around the water cooler.

In these and many other ways, the cultural variations that had been so prominent at the time of World War I were less obvious by the time the 1960s rolled around. A few cities remained culturally distinct, and the different regions continued to have some different folkways, but only the South stood out as a part of the country that marched to a different drummer, and the foundation of that distinctiveness, the South’s version of racial segregation, had been cracked by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In December 1964, Lyndon Johnson evoked his mentor Sam Rayburn’s dream, expressed in 1913, of an America “that knows no East, no West, no North, no South.” Johnson was giving voice to a sentiment that seemed not only an aspiration but something that the nation could achieve once the civil-rights movement’s triumph was complete….

Half a century after Johnson’s dream of a geographically and culturally homogeneous America, the United States is at least as culturally diverse as it was at the beginning of World War I and in some respects more thoroughly segregated than it has ever been. Today’s America is once again a patchwork of cultures that are different from one another and often in tension.

But in addition to looking back at the near-unanimous national approval of the moon landings in 1969 and ’70 even as the left’s culture war was about to accelerate to escape velocity, 1995′s Apollo 13 also reflects the era in which it was made. The Cold War was over — or at least undergoing an extended time out, and it was also concurrently a strange interregnum in the left’s culture war, when our “liberal” betters in Hollywood and in New York gave their enthusiastic blessings to an America that narrowly rejected moderate liberal George H.W. Bush and replaced him with moderate liberal Bill Clinton. As Jonah Goldberg has written, during that period David Brooks, then of the Weekly Standard and in the process of writing Bobos in Paradise happened to completely misread the tenor of the times in far left Burlington, Vermont during the Clinton era:

In his Weekly Standard article, entitled “The Rise of the Latte Town,” Brooks highlighted Burlington, Vermont as Exhibit A in what he identified as a profound transformation of American liberalism and American society in general. Brooks declared, “One of the striking things about Burlington is that it is relatively apolitical.” He noted how the bookstores downplayed overtly partisan books in favor of tomes which explained how individual citizens could help the homeless. “Bulletin boards are everywhere,” he reported, “but most of the fliers advertise rock bands, not rallies.” He saw only three political bumper stickers there: two simply said “Bernie” (a reference to Vermont’s only congressman, an Independent in the House and a socialist in his heart) and the third was a sticker for Rush–which he found on the outskirts of town on a pickup truck, so maybe the owner was an out-of-towner making a delivery.

All in all, Brooks discovered, Leftists didn’t care much about national or international politics. They wanted to be left with their expensive-but-necessary homes, cars, and clothes. “So these upscale liberals have retreated from national and urban politics and instead concentrated their energies on the local politics and small-scale activism to be found in the Latte Towns.” Moreover, while this retreat may be literal for those who voted with their feet and moved to Burlington, Austin, Texas, and Portland, Oregon, there has been a broader psychological retreat by the Left in general. “In this sense, Latte Towns represent a fundamental transformation in the American Left, the shift from the adversary culture to the alternative culture.”

Visiting Burlington in 2003 one discovers a very different Latte Town, and not just because Brooks seemed not to notice all of the drug addicts and facially pierced ne’er-do-wells. Oh, by the way, Latte Towns (Alan Ehrenhalt coined the term) are exactly what you’d think. I describe them in my forthcoming NRODT piece as one of those clever, crunchy, condescending college burgs crammed with students–and professors–with open-toed shoes and closed minds. The kids can name 50 different espresso drinks but not one reason to cut a tax, a tree, or their hair.

Anyway, Burlington is hardly the “apolitical” hamlet Brooks encountered. These days the bookstores front a lot more Noam Chomsky and Al Franken. You can still find flyers for bands–if you’re willing to peel off the ones advertising trips to Cuba. Political bumper stickers are everywhere. “Impeach Bush” is particularly popular, but my favorite was one I saw while driving along the campus of the University of Vermont: “The Road to Hell is Paved with Republicans.” You can also find it for sale at the “Peace & Justice Center & Store” on Church street in the heart of downtown Burlington.

So what changed? Well, some very important things have changed and others have stayed the same.

When Brooks visited Burlington, Bill Clinton was at the height of his popularity, just a couple of months before the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke. The ’90s economy was booming and for whatever reason liberals believed that, unlike the 1980s, Wall Street-generated “excess and greed” under a Democratic president were hunky-dory. If terrorists attacked, Leftists tended to blame America for forcing the delicate hands of peace-loving al Qaeda. And while most Leftists didn’t like it when we responded with force, at least President Clinton did so “proportionately” (refusing to highlight our military advantages too much, which might harm the self-esteem of backward countries and the leftists who infantilize them).

Now George W. Bush is president. And as numerous folks have noted, the Left hates George W. Bush. (See Jonathan Chait’s and Ramesh Ponnuru’s debate, for example.) President Bush doesn’t mind demonstrating that when it comes to things military the third world isn’t ready for adult swim. He cuts taxes. He talks funny–and not Garrison Keilor funny or Al Franken funny either. He mentions God in a non-kitschy way without using quotation marks or a lowercase “q.” You get it. The fact is upscale and downscale liberals alike loathe the man.

And, like the savages who riot when you leave the toilet seat up, they have no problem making that known. I flatly refuse to believe that if Brooks visited Burlington today–or any other Latte Town–he would still think the locals are “apolitical.”

On the other side of the country during the 1990s, Hollywood rode out that era making films that celebrated America’s achievements (as in the case of Apollo 13, which if I’m remembering it correctly, contains only one churlish comment about Richard Nixon) and portraying that decade’s American president as a heroic man of action. In 1997, Nick Gillespie of Reason surveyed the glut of Hollywood’s pro-POTUS product and concluded:

Why the filmic landslide? Director Ivan Reitman, who shot 1993′s Dave, chalks it up to baby boomer solidarity, telling Time that Clinton “is just like me….He’s my age. There are a lot of commonalities.” That might explain the sympathetic portrayals, but it fails to account for the sheer quantity (or the nasty takes). Part of the reason lies with those election results: Without a clear mandate, both supporters and detractors are more likely to go on the offensive. Then there’s the chief executive’s well-known penchant to be all things to all people. That may not be possible in Washington, but judging from the presidential filmography to date, it’s a dream come true in Hollywood.

There were two films of that era that in retrospect are particularly of note: 1997′s Air Force One, which starred Harrison Ford as a 50-something American president who knew his way around the cockpit of a jet aircraft, refused to take any guff from terrorists, and had a woman as a vice president to boot. And 1999′s Three Kings, which starred George Clooney, and denigrated George H.W. Bush for not toppling Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

No wonder Hollywood has been so miserable after 9/11; they got everything they has previously wished for in a president and as a result, thoroughly hated his guts.

Posted at 7:09 pm on June 15th, 2015 by Ed Driscoll