» The Newspeak Dictionary

Ed Driscoll

The Newspeak Dictionary

We Came in Peace, for All Humankind

April 16th, 2015 - 12:37 pm


Everything’s a Problem, the satirical blog written by Sonny Bunch of the Washington Free Beacon, has some fun going into faux-outrage mode over “Calling People ‘Guys,’” and quotes as his “problematic” example, David Gelernter’s March 2008 article in the Weekly Standard on “Feminism and the English Language,” in which Gelernter writes:

How can I teach my students to write decently when the English language has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Academic-Industrial Complex? Our language used to belong to all its speakers and readers and writers. But in the 1970s and ’80s, arrogant ideologues began recasting English into heavy artillery to defend the borders of the New Feminist state. In consequence we have all got used to sentences where puffed-up words like “chairperson” and “humankind” strut and preen, where he-or-she’s keep bashing into surrounding phrases like bumper cars and related deformities blossom like blisters; they are all markers of an epoch-making victory of propaganda over common sense.

We have allowed ideologues to pocket a priceless property and walk away with it. Today, as college students and full-fledged young English teachers emerge from the feminist incubator in which they have spent their whole lives, this victory of brainless ideology is on the brink of becoming institutionalized. If we mean to put things right, we can’t wait much longer.

Our ability to write and read good, clear English connects us to one another and to our common past. The prime rule of writing is to keep it simple, concrete, concise. Shakespeare’s most perfect phrases are miraculously simple and terse. (“Thou art the thing itself.” “A plague o’ both your houses.” “Can one desire too much of a good thing?”) The young Jane Austen is praised by her descendants for having written “pure simple English.” Meanwhile, in everyday prose, a word with useless syllables or a sentence with useless words is a house fancied-up with fake dormers and chimneys. It is ugly and boring and cheap, and impossible to take seriously.

As I said, that was from early 2008. Flash-forward to six years of Hopenchange and the growing influence of the socialist justice warriors, as in this example, as spotted by Kathy Shaidle earlier this week, of a cri de coeur at Medium.com titled “Social Justice Bullies: The Authoritarianism of Millennial Social Justice,” written by someone who describes himself as possessing a “liberal heart,” and who “grew up in a liberal town, learned US history from a capital-S Socialist, and/or went to one of the most liberal universities in the country,” but, like Jonathan Chait of New York magazine, apparently thought he’d be devoured last by the revolution:

[M]illennials are grown up now — and they’re angry. As children, they were told that they could be anything, do anything, and that they were special. As adults, they have formed a unique brand of Identity Politics wherein the groups with which one identifies is paramount. With such a strong narrative that focuses on which group one belongs to, there has been an increasing balkanization of identities. In an attempt to be open-minded toward other groups and to address social justice issues through a lens of intersectionality, clear and distinct lines have been drawn between people. One’s words and actions are inextricable from one’s identities. For example: this is not an article, but an article written by a straight, white, middle-class (etc.) male (and for this reason will be discounted by many on account of how my privilege blinds me — more on this later).

* * * * * * * *

The Newspeak of the millennial social justice advocate is an intricately and powerfully designed mechanism that seeks to eradicate and socially criminalize dissent.

Let’s talk about racism. The mantra of the movement is thus: It is impossible to be racist against white people because racism is the equivalent of prejudice and power. Since white people have social and economic institutional power and privilege (in America), those who are racially oppressed cannot be racist toward whites since those who are racially oppressed do not have power.

Why can’t I simply rebut this with a trip to the dictionary? Because this is laughed at by social justice types. The image of a white person walking to the dictionary to define racism is literally a trope at this point because the millennial social justice advocate finds it so entertaining that a dictionary, constructed by those in power for those who speak the language of power, can possibly give an accurate definition of a word. [It's a link to a Website called DiversityInc (sic) titled, "Ask the White Guy: Is the Oxford Dictionary Definition of Racism Too White for You?" -- Ed]

Do you see where I’m going with this? It is now possible to absolve yourself of guilt by working enough academic nuance into a word to fundamentally change it — in your favor.


You’re never going to change the mind of someone this far gone; but there are ways to, as a wise president once said, “punch back twice as hard,” which we’ll explore right after the page break.

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‘We Have Reached Peak Problematic’

March 10th, 2015 - 5:51 pm

I find this article by Daniel Payne of the Federalist to be problematic. So very, very problematic:

In the great boiling stew of social justice discourse, we have reached what could convincingly be termed “peak problematic.” There is quite literally nothing that the Left cannot construe as “problematic.” Modern feminism, in particular, is obsessed with “problematic language,” which can roughly be defined as any language that does not slavishly adhere to modern feminist sensibilities.

Because academic progressivism is intellectually exhausted and out of ideas, it had to invest in a kind of catch-all word that would serve as a useful vilification device. “Problematic” was that word. Now, instead of thinking about and discussing mildly complex issues, you can just call things “problematic” and act as if you’ve said something intelligent. But you haven’t. You’ve just parroted a stupid leftist talking point.

So, in conclusion: “problematic” is almost always a nonsense qualifier, one that’s used to avoid actual thought. We should confine it to the linguistic and political dust-heap of history. In the meantime, feel free to enjoy pop culture phenomena like Taylor Swift. It’s fun! Life is supposed to be fun; contra the Left, we do not have to trudge through our earthly existence in a constantly dour and self-critical frame of mind.

I find that last assertion in particular contains within it so very many nested problematics, to build on a recent leitmotif of Sonny Bunch at the Washington Free Beacon.

Seriously though, isn’t declaring something “problematic,” particularly with little or no reason as to why, simply a milder version of using an isolated “I’m offended” as an arguing point?


Huh — I remember that it wasn’t all that long ago when Christian Websites were pilloried over such things by the Washington Post:

The American Family Association obviously didn’t foresee the problems that might arise with its strict policy to always replace the word “gay” with “homosexual” on the Web site of its Christian news outlet, OneNewsNow. The group’s automated system for changing the forbidden word wound up publishing a story about a world-class sprinter named “Tyson Homosexual” who qualified this week for the Beijing Olympics.

The problem: Tyson’s real last name is Gay. Therefore, OneNewsNow’s reliable software changed the Associated Press story about Tyson Gay’s amazing Olympic qualifying trial to read this way:

Tyson Homosexual was a blur in blue, sprinting 100 meters faster than anyone ever has.

His time of 9.68 seconds at the U.S. Olympic trials Sunday doesn’t count as a world record, because it was run with the help of a too-strong tailwind. Here’s what does matter: Homosexual qualified for his first Summer Games team and served notice he’s certainly someone to watch in Beijing.

“It means a lot to me,” the 25-year-old Homosexual said. “I’m glad my body could do it, because now I know I have it in me.”

You might think it’s a joke, until you read the original AP story, which begins this way:

Tyson Gay was a blur in blue, sprinting 100 meters faster than anyone ever has.

His time of 9.68 seconds at the U.S. Olympic trials Sunday doesn’t count as a world record, because it was run with the help of a too-strong tailwind. Here’s what does matter: Gay qualified for his first Summer Games team and served notice he’s certainly someone to watch in Beijing.

“It means a lot to me,” the 25-year-old Gay said. “I’m glad my body could do it, because now I know I have it in me.”

Read the whole thing, in which the Post had loads of fun in 2008 with Christian Websites inventing the brilliant Olympic athlete “Tyson Homosexual,” without pondering how quickly the left would create their own applets to replace words that they find “problematic” causing “trigger warnings” among their own sensitive souls. (Can we use that phrase? Perhaps “Sensitive chakras” is more appropriate.)

I can’t wait to read a Post article denouncing the Chrome extension using similar language — or is this another case of, as Kathy Shaidle likes to describe the left’s motto, “It’s different when we do it!”

In any case, I’m old enough to remember a time before such applets were available:

Update: Eveleth is also eager to create applets that limit fashion choices as well; recall she was the “science” writer who hit the fainting couch over the shirt worn by the man who landed an unmamanned spacecraft on a comet. (Via the readers of the Insta-man.)

Reframing the Enemy, At Home and Abroad

January 19th, 2015 - 2:09 pm

“Why Obama Can’t Say ‘Radical Islam,’” as discussed by Eli Lake at Bloomberg News, who places BHO’s Orwellian euphemisms into context with the Mother of Them All, GWB original use of the phrase “War on Terror” after 9/11 instead of a war against radical Islamism. As Daniel Pipes noted as early as 2002, calling such an existential struggle a “War on Terror” is like calling World War I a War on Trenches or World War II a War on Submarines. But today, Lake writes:

Elliott Abrams, who served in senior National Security Council positions throughout the Bush administration, told me, “We were invading two Muslim countries and we were being accused of being at war with Islam. So the administration wanted to make it very clear that we are not at war with Islam and every Muslim in the world.”

All of this gets to a paradox of the war on terror. It has never been a war on the tactic of terrorism, and it has always been a war against networks of radical Islamists. But in order to wage that war, the U.S. has had to ally with Muslim countries and people, many of whom believe the state should punish apostates, adulterers and blasphemers.

Sadly, large pluralities of Muslims in countries allied with the U.S. in the war on terror disavow the tactics of terrorism but endorse the aims of radical Islam. For example, 74 percent of Muslims in Egypt feel that sharia should be the “country’s official legal code,” and an equal majority say it should apply to non-Muslims as well as Muslims, according to a 2013 Pew Survey. Three-quarters of Pakistani Muslims support laws banning blasphemy. A majority of Muslim Iraqis said they supported “honor killings” of women who engage in premarital sex or adultery.

Given these popular attitudes, even the governments in the Muslim world most actively aiding in the fight against al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have to tread a fine line over fundamentalist religion, and Washington doesn’t want to make that task harder.

At the Times of Israel though, Jeffrey Herf, the author of the brilliant 2006 book, The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda During World War II and the Holocaust, explores “Reframing the enemy after France’s 9/11:”

Today, it is a commonplace among historians of the Nazi regime that Hitler drew on a distorted and selective reading of the Christian tradition to justify his hatreds. Just as historians would not say that Christianity led to the Holocaust, so too we would not say that it had nothing to do with it at all. A very different understanding of Christianity inspired Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt to fight against the Nazis. Yet however distorted the Nazis’ selective reading of Christianity was, accusations against the Jews were a part of its religious teachings for centuries. The Koran did not lead to 9/11, Al Qaeda, Hamas or the Paris murders, but neither does a selective reading of some of its passages by young, impressionable minds have “nothing to do” with them either. The same standards of critique and selective reading that have been applied to Christianity and Judaism should be applied to Islam, no more and no less. Until this past week, when French Prime Minister Manuel Valls spoke so frankly in Paris, it has been primarily Israeli leaders who have been willing to publicly state the obvious about the impact of Islamism on the terrorism of recent decades.

Now that Valls has stated clearly that France is, in fact, at war with radical Islam, with the terrorism and anti-Semitism it inspires, the contrast with the euphemisms and avoidance coming from the United States since 9/11 is apparent. Three million people have just bought the first post-massacre edition of Charlie Hebdo. The French National Assembly sang the Marseillaise for the first time since 1918. Valls has said that if 100,000 Jews leave France, the Republic would be judged to be a failure. The candid talk in France is coming from left-of-center politicians. These days in France remind me of autumn of 2001, when minds opened in the midst of mourning and anger. Yet within a year or two, a conventional wisdom and a refusal to speak frankly came to dominate American public discourse and continues to today. With the American experience after 9/11 in mind, one wonders how long Valls’ willingness to speak frankly about radical Islam will persist, or whether the conventional wisdom many decades in the making will lead again to new forms of euphemism and avoidance.

In his latest USA Today column, on “France’s demographic bad luck,” Glenn Reynolds slips a phrase from Robert Heinlein into his title and conclusion. Heinlein 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.”

This is France’s moment to determine whether their “spell of bad luck” is temporary or permanent. I’m hoping they choose wisely, but their past decisions don’t inspire much long-term confidence, alas.

* Of course, the modern-day EU has their own Orwellian euphemisms for World War II, but that’s a whole other post.

Update: Victor Davis Hanson on “Untrue Truisms In The War On Terror.”

Communist Propaganda Writ Small

December 13th, 2014 - 10:40 am

Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.

—Theodore Dalrymple, as quoted by Mark Steyn yesterday in the wake of Rolling Stone’s meltdown over its collapsing University of Virginia rape story. Along a similar line, Ann Althouse spots a New York Times columnist on Thursday drafting a column which posits, “What if every kid on every college campus was given new language — a phrase whose meaning could not be mistaken, that signaled peril for both sides, that might be more easily uttered?”

A doubleplus good rip off of George Orwell’s “Newspeak,” Althouse notes, the dumbed-down, Soviet and Nazi-inspired socialist proto-PC language spoken by the Inner and Outer Party controlling England in 1984:

His sexual life, for example, was entirely regulated by the two Newspeak words sexcrime (sexual immorality) and goodsex (chastity). Sexcrime covered all sexual misdeeds whatever. It covered fornication, adultery, homosexuality and other perversions, and, in addition, normal intercourse practised for its own sake. There was no need to enumerate them separately, since they were all equally culpable, and, in principle, all punishable by death. In the C vocabulary, which consisted of scientific and technical words, it might be necessary to give specialised names to certain sexual aberrations, but the ordinary citizen had no need of them. He knew what was meant by goodsex— that is to say, normal intercourse between man and wife, for the sole purpose of begetting children, and without physical pleasure on the part of the woman: all else was sexcrime. In Newspeak it was seldom possible to follow a heretical thought further than the perception that it was heretical: beyond that point the necessary words were non-existent.

Yet another reminder that consciously or otherwise, the left views 1984 as a how-to guide, and not Orwell’s warning of wear socialism invariably leads.

Related: “‘I could cry right now’: Al Sharpton’s DC protest blasted for VIP section, threats to call security.” Hey, all violent socialist revolutions end with an Outer Party performing all the actual manual labor and an Inner Party reaping their spoils — why would Al’s be the exception?

Today’s edition of Ed Driscoll.com is brought to you by the word “Man-spreading.” Or as Rich Cromwell writes at the Federalist, “The Rabid Equality Crowd Finally Outright Admits They Hate Testicles:”

They’re not called the family jewels because they are ordinary. They’re not referred to as stones because they’re impervious to injury. No, they are both extraordinary and surprisingly fragile. So, sorry notsorry if we give them some breathing room when we sit, if we don’t smash them betwixt our legs on public transit. But as the horizon of “male privilege” is constantly expanding, giving the old wedding tackle ample space is now a crime against humanity.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) announced on Monday that a new campaign addressing courtesy on public transportation will come into effect by January. One of the targeted behaviors is ‘man-spreading’ — the act of spreading one’s legs so far apart that other passengers are forced to squish their own together.

Or, if you prefer a more nuanced description, one of the most infuriating and outright ridiculous display of male privilege and machismo in existence today. As Mic’s Derrick Clifton succinctly put it, ‘Hey, bro, you’re not that well-endowed.’

Maybe. You don’t know.

Granted, I don’t use public transit. I luxuriate in a nicely padded captain’s chair without panhandlers and formidable smells. If I lived in a dense urban area, I would likely take advantage of the added reading time that public transit offers. For now, though, I don’t have that option, so I crank the tunes and spread my legs far and wide. But as a member in good standing of the patriarchy, I have to stand up for my brethren who live in constant fear of oppression.

Not the least of which being this fellow, who’s rather well-known for capping off his eight years in office by man-spreading on the cover of a well-known men’s magazine:


Stacy McCain describes the sort of person who’s a Socialist Justice Warrior obsessed with ending “man-spreading” as being one of the “Nowhere People:”

It’s important to remember that, although these people exist in real life — that is to say, there are actual human beings running those batshit crazy troll accounts — they are as altogether artificial in their politics as they are in their online personas. They themselves have never done a goddamned thing for “social justice.” They simply enjoy mouthing these slogans about “oppression” and “patriarchy,” etc., because posing as Our Moral Superiors is an emotional compensation for their own obscurity and worthlessness.

They are the Nowhere People — rootless, without loyalty to family, community or religious tradition, and thus “free” to create for themselves imagined identities and idiosyncratic belief systems. Although they usually think of themselves as unique individuals, they are really sheep in a herd, predictable and therefore ultimately boring. Any politics, as long as it’s not conservative politics; any religion as long as it’s not Christian religion; any sexuality as long as it’s not normal sexuality. One notices that the Nowhere People are seldom husbands and wives, fathers and mothers. Idle narcissism is incompatible with the dutiful commitments of marriage and motherhood.


Hey, those six figure salaries that college professors earn for classes on lesbian deconstructionist poetry aren’t going to pay for themselves, you know.

In addition to getting the vapors over scientist Matt Taylor’s shirt(!) last week, “the social media outrage machine,” went on quite a virulent wilding spree last week, as Mollie Hemingway writes at the Federalist:

A review of [Atlantic reporter Rose] Eveleth’s outrage-tweets over a shirt someone wore might make you embarrassed to be human.

When University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds simply wrote an op-ed for USA Today criticizing the feminist bullying, he was accused by feminists of egregious behavior, including “doxxing” — the practice of revealing a person’s private information for the purpose of intimidation. When people pointed out that there was literally not one shred of evidence to support the claim that Reynolds had done any such thing, claims were revised to (falsely) say he’d encouraged “his flying monkeys” to misbehave. Feminists tried to suggest that Reynolds’ employer should be upset about what he wrote.

And when Nancy Pelosi was asked by Nancy Cordes of CBS News if she’d given any thought to stepping down on account of how she’d just overseen yet another drubbing of Democrats in the House, she accused the assembled press corps of misogyny, claiming they’d never asked male leaders such questions. Even the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank — I repeat, even Dana Milbank — couldn’t take the idiocy, since of course male leaders are asked such questions all the time.

That’s it. Enough already. Enough. Enough. Enough. Whether we want to or not, we have to deal with our feminist bullying problem.

Indeed; read the whole thing.™ The apology from Time magazine is a curious moment as well, Ashe Schow writes at the Washington Examiner:

Congratulations, feminists, you just reminded everyone why you have a stigma attached to your movement.

On Saturday, Time Magazine Managing Editor Nancy Gibbs added an apology to the news website’s poll asking readers what word they want to ban. At the time, the word “feminist” was winning the poll with over 50 percent of the vote.

“Editor’s Note: TIME apologizes for the execution of this poll; the word ‘feminist’ should not have been included in a list of words to ban,” Gibbs wrote. “While we meant to invite debate about some ways the word was used this year, that nuance was lost, and we regret that its inclusion has become a distraction from the important debate over equality and justice.”

* * * * * * * *

After Time’s banishment poll was released, feminists went apoplectic. Feminist Majority called on Time to remove the word from the list and encouraged supporters to e-mail Gibbs directly with their outrage.

The bullying campaign worked.

This could have been a moment for radical feminists to rethink their tactics, but no, they confirmed everyone’s worst conceptions about the movement and thus set women back yet again.

But why was Time trying to get words removed from the English language? I thought the left didn’t believe…

….Wait, what am I saying? Last week was yet another reminder that George Orwell’s 1984 continues to remain the classic unconscious how-to guide for the left.

Related: “Shorter version: ‘If I scream and act like Rosie O’Donnell, will I look like Rosie O’Donnell?’ Why take that chance?”

Update: It’s Orwell all the way down:

Well, That Didn’t Take Long

October 4th, 2014 - 11:52 am

This is the satiric Photoshop I did back in April for Roger Simon’s post titled, “College: The Sixty-Five Thousand Dollar Misunderstanding,” which referenced the Obama administration and Columbia University’s fixation on “gender-neutral bathrooms,” combined with the then-recent Facebook freakout that led to them adding 56(!) gender choices for users to pick from.

As Britain’s Malcolm Muggeridge observed a half century ago, there is no way for any satirist to outpace reality.

Of course these days, reality and Harvard are on increasingly chilly terms:

The Twitter account for Harvard Divinity School published a photograph of a sign outside a campus restroom. The restroom is labeled an “all gender restroom” and the sign adds that “anyone can use this restroom, regardless of gender identity or expression.”

Here’s the tweet:

So what will arrive next at the crossroads of gender and socialism? As often is the case in these matters, Britain leads the way


Lean forward:

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY: I would be remised not to bring up the story out of Oklahoma. It is a story that I read as a workplace violence story. But I want to play just a little bit of the sound from the press conference that followed a gentleman who beheaded a woman in the context of his having been fired then he goes back to the plant. He stabs several people. One of the women, her head is severed. But then this gets said at the conference. Let’s listen for a moment.

JEREMY LEWIS: conducting interviews with co-workers of Nolen information was obtained that he recently started trying to convert some of his coworkers to the Muslim religion.

HARRIS-PERRY: And then that’s it. And now this is somehow about Islam.

DEAN OBEIDALLAH: You know what’s funny. Just so it is clear to everyone, there is nothing in the Quran that says if you get fired go back to your workplace and kill people. I want everyone to know that. No it is not in the Quran. You know, anything that is bad, a bad crime, I don’t know about you, but my reaction is please don’t let them be Muslim.

I have to go now Dean, because I’m due back on planet earth.

Or as Twitchy notes, rounding up a smattering of outrage from Twitter users, “Don’t try to make sense of it. The conclusions that liberals come to in their own fantasy world are void of reality and logic.”

Speaking of which, George Orwell, call your office.

“Via Weasel Zippers, we learned the Los Angeles Times has a new term for illegal aliens in the work force: they’re ‘informal workers,’ and that doesn’t mean they don’t arrive on the job in a tuxedo,” Tim Graham quips at NewsBusters:

Times reporter Tiffany Hsu (a “UC Berkeley grad”) began her Saturday story with the new I-word (and illegal immigrants also “labored unofficially” in “gray employment”):

Informal workers are growing part of California’s economy — a shift keenly felt in the construction industry, where 1 in 6 workers is either off the books or misreported, new research has found.

Construction businesses in the state employ roughly 895,000 workers, according to a report by downtown Los Angeles research group Economic Roundtable that was released Sunday. In 2011, 143,900 of those workers labored unofficially

In specialty trades such as drywall and flooring, a quarter of laborers are considered informal, according to the Economic Roundtable.

The L.A. Times was the newspaper that helped popularize the term “funemployment” back in 2009 to describe the “benefits” of their boss’s economic policy (which includes adding plenty of “informal workers” to help spread additional “funemployment” across the nation formerly known as America), so it’s not at all surprising to see Mr. Obama’s fellow Democrat operatives with bylines continue their creation of politically correct Orwellian euphemisms.

Related: “DHS Lost Track of 6,000 informal workers Foreign Nationals Overstaying Visas While Our Govt. Ignores Border Security.”

Antithought: Barack Obama’s Whig History

March 25th, 2014 - 12:08 pm

“The pathetic ‘wrong side of history’ plea,” as explored by Jonah Goldberg in the New York Post:

The right side of history is bunk.

In domestic politics, people (mostly liberals) tend to say, “You’re on the wrong side of history” about social issues that are breaking their way. It’s a handy phrase, loosely translated as, “You’re going to lose eventually, so why don’t you give up now?”

Philosophically, the expression is abhorrent because of its “Marxist twang” (to borrow historian Robert Conquest’s phrase). Marx popularized the idea that opposition to the inevitability of socialism was anti-intellectual and anti-scientific. The progression of history is scientifically knowable, quoth the Marxists, and so we need not listen to those who object to our program.

Later, Lenin, Stalin, Mao and others would use this reasoning to justify murdering millions of inconvenient people. It was a “God is on our side” argument, minus God.

In fairness, I doubt President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have Marx on the brain when they prattle on about the right and wrong sides of history. They more properly belong in what some call the “Whig school” of history, coined in 1931 by historian Herbert Butterfield. The Whiggish tendency in history says that the world progresses toward the inevitable victory of liberal democracy and social enlightenment.

Again, I doubt Obama and Kerry have ever cracked the spine of Butterfield’s book. Still, this administration has used the “wrong side of history” phrase more than any I can remember.

They particularly like to use it in foreign policy. In his first inaugural, Obama declared, “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Which seems distinctly non-postmodern — and un-multicultural, to boot. After all, as Mr. Obama said in a very Clintonian, “it depends on the meaning of ‘is’” phrasing shortly upon taking office, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”

A decade ago, when Obama’s fellow Democrat, former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevy resigned in disgrace, he went out on quite a similarly postmodern note, as Mark Steyn noted back then:

“My truth is that I am a gay American,” announced Gov. James McGreevey to the people of New Jersey last Thursday.

That’s such an exquisitely contemporary formulation: ”my” truth. Once upon a time, there was only ”the” truth. Now everyone gets his own — or, as the governor put it, ”One has to look deeply into the mirror of one’s soul and decide one’s unique truth in the world.” For Jim McGreevey, his truth is that he’s a gay American; for others in the Garden State, the truth about McGreevey is that he’s a corrupt sexual harasser who put his lover on the state payroll in a critical homeland security post, and whose I-am-what-I-am confessional is a tactical feint that distracts the media sob sisters from the fact that, as his final service to the Democratic Party, he’s resigned in such a way as to deny the people an early vote on his successor.

We’ll see whose truth prevails in the fullness of time.

The Middle East, Vladimir Putin, as Jonah goes on to note, and even the EU don’t share the same sense of “the right side of history” with Mr. Obama, and it seems awfully reactionary of him, all of a sudden, to deny their multicultural viewpoints in favor of his own, rather suddenly unilateral worldview. But then, “the right side of history” is a perfect example, of what Kevin D. Williamson described yesterday at NRO, of what he calls “Antithought:”

George Orwell gave us some invaluable words: Newspeak, doublethink, thoughtcrime. Given the generosity of his gift to us, it is probably ungrateful to desire that he had given us a little more, but we could use a term for what he described as the use of “language as an instrument for concealing or preventing thought.” For lack of a genuine Orwellian coinage, I’ll use the word “antithought,” by which I mean a phrase or expression that is intended to prevent understanding rather than to enable it. Antithought includes elements of the linguistic meme, question-begging, and attempts to change the subject.

The great example of our time is the phrase “voting against their own interests,” popularized by Thomas Frank in What’s the Matter with Kansas? Those words, or nearly identical ones, turn up everywhere: the beef-witted columns of Robert Reich, the Guardian, the Huffington Post, the Daily Kos, the Bangor Daily News, Alternet, the BBC, The New York Review of Books. Robert Schenkkan even put the phrase into the mouth of Bryan Cranston’s Lyndon Baines Johnson in his new play, All the Way.

As a phrase, “voting against their own interests” clearly has taken on a contagious life of its own, a genuine linguistic meme. But what is its function? Its ostensible function is to communicate the idea that conservative people of modest means, particularly in relatively poor Republican-leaning states, vote for candidates who are in fact hostile to their economic interests, having been beguiled into voting thus by the so-called social issues, by religion, by racism, by Fox News, or by whatever attendant boogeyman will do to swell progressivism, start a tweet or two. But its ostensible function is not its authentic function, nor can it be, because the antithought is engineered to foreclose discussion of the facts that it assumes, those being: (1) that conservative economic policies ill serve lower-income people, notably those in rural and agrarian areas; (2) that economic concerns should, as a matter of self-evident rationality, supersede non-economic concerns; and (3) that people in “Kansas” — that greater Kansas whose borders are not contiguous with those of the 34th state — would concede No. 1 and No. 2 if not for the nefarious operations of certain wicked social and political forces.

Have yourself an enjoyable little thoughtcrime, and read both articles.

‘Political Correctness Is Dead’

March 19th, 2014 - 6:37 pm

“It’s official,” Gavin McInnes writes. “On Sunday, March 9th, 2014, political correctness breathed its last breath:”

It had been careening out of control since trannies took over the controls, but the moment that Beyoncé starred in a PSA to ban the word “bossy,” PC lost its last shred of credibility.

Beyoncé is the songstress who warbles such sweet lines as, “I fill the tub up halfway then I ride it with my surfboard, surfboard/Grinding on that wood, grinding, grinding on that wood.” Her husband loves her very much and has made it clear that he has “99 problems, but a bitch ain’t one.” This dumb bitch, who spends thousands of dollars weaving white women’s hair into her own, is telling young girls to be themselves. Did you know “bossy” is a sexist term used to prevent girls from becoming themselves? Me neither. I don’t think anybody did. When the NAACP had a funeral for the N-word, it seemed silly, but at least the word “n****r” had a built-in pejorative taint. But now the PC Squad has resorted to opening the dictionary and pointing at whatever words their fingers touch first.

I’m all for banning bossy — as long as we start at the source:


Related: Violent, potentially murderous hate-filled eliminationist rhetoric from anti-choice reactionaries.

More: “Marxism is, in general, cleverness for stupid people. You get to use words like ‘hegemony’ and analyse the world, albeit in unusually fatuous terms.”

Imagine you’re a backroom boffin in Vladimir Putin’s Russia assigned to monitor all of the news media out of the West that references Russia and your boss. Imagine the chuckle you know Putin’s going to get when you show him the following screen capture from CNN:

“Well, that’s it,” Putin is surely thinking. “It’s hands off the Ukraine, now, lest anyone think that I would bully that nice Barry Obama fella! It’s a good thing Stalin isn’t still alive to see this. I know he’d be ever-so-shocked if he were accused of bullying anyone.”

For reasons known only to themselves, “bullying” is one of those words that burrowed itself deep into the collective psyche of those working at CNN, in much the same way that words such as “tolerance” and “diversity” were omnipresent amongst those on the left in 1990s. I’m not sure if “bullying” appears in Jonah Goldberg’s 2012 book The Tyranny of Cliches, but surely the etymology of how “bullying” and its “we’re all victims now” mindset became a popular trope among the left in recent years should be added to a later edition. CNN’s Anderson Cooper was particularly enamored of the word in 2011, running shows titled “The Roots of Bullying,” even as his fellow anchors such as Piers Morgan delighted in bullying their guests, hence the title of Ben Shapiro’s book last year on the topic.

It’s probably for the best though that CNN wasn’t around during World War II; we were spared the following Chyron graphic:


And while the American television networks were in their infancy during the early days of the Cold War, liberalism was made of much sterner stuff back then, which is why we never saw this graphic either:


As John Nolte writes, “NEVER change, CNN. Don’t ever g**damn change.” Personally though, I’d love to see CNN change, but that would require growing a spine — and a cranium capable of acquiring a set of morals atop it, which isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, as a once great TV network continues to auger further into the ground.

The Obama Administration Declares War

February 28th, 2014 - 5:04 pm

Against Vladimir Putin? Don’t be silly. But the Obama administration is fully prepared to wage maximum war against the enemy within, as Peggy Noonan writes in her latest column:

We are suffering in great part from the politicization of everything and the spread of government not in a useful way but a destructive one. Everyone wants to help the poor, the old and the sick; the safety net exists because we want it. But voters and taxpayers feel bullied, burdened and jerked around, which again is not new but feels more intense every day. Common sense and native wit tell them America is losing the most vital part of itself in the continuing shift of power from private to public. Rules, regulations, many of them stupid, from all the agencies—local, state, federal—on the building of a house, or the starting of a business. You can only employ so many before the new insurance rules kick in so don’t employ too many, don’t take a chance! Which means: Don’t grow. It takes the utmost commitment to start a school or improve an existing one because you’ll come up against the unions, which own the politicians.

It’s all part of the malaise, the sclerosis. So is the eroding end of the idea that religious scruples and beliefs have a high place that must culturally and politically be respected. The political-media complex is bravely coming down on florists with unfashionable views. On Twitter Thursday the freedom-fighter who tweets as @FriedrichHayek asked: “Can the government compel a Jewish baker to deliver a wedding cake on a Saturday? If not why not.” Why not indeed. Because the truly tolerant give each other a little space? On an optimistic note, the Little Sisters of the Poor haven’t been put out of business and patiently await their day in court.

I think a lot of people right now, certainly Republicans and conservatives, feel like a guy in a batting cage taking ball after ball from an automatic pitching machine. He’s hitting the ball and keeping up and suddenly the machine starts going berserk. It’s firing five balls a second, then 10. At first he tries to hit a few. Then he’s just trying to duck, trying not to get hurt.

That’s how people feel about the demands and dictates. The balls keep coming at them politically, locally, culturally. Republicans and conservatives comprise at least half the country. That’s a lot of people.

But they’re the wrong kind of people from the left’s perspective — and as Bertolt Brecht suggested 60 years ago, “would it not be simpler if the government simply dissolved the people and elected another?”

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Today’s Update to the Newspeak Dictionary

February 4th, 2014 - 10:37 am

“Sotomayor: Labeling Illegal Immigrants Criminals Is Insulting,” the CBS branch in -Oceana DC reports:

Sotomayor was asked at a talk at Yale Law School later in the day about her use of the term “undocumented immigrants” rather than the traditional illegal alien. Sotomayor characterized the issue as a regulatory problem and said labeling immigrants criminals seemed insulting to her.

“I think people then paint those individuals as something less than worthy human beings and it changes the conversation,” Sotomayor said.

But it’s Sotomayor who wishes to change the conversation — or better yet, not have it all, by declaring someone committing an illegal act is not a criminal, and committing a microagression on reality. As George Orwell wrote in “Politics and the English language,” the goal is “to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind” — the latter half of that equation presciently summing up the Obama administration quite nicely:

Oh, and CBS adds, “Sotomayor was interviewed by Judith Resnik, a Yale law professor, in front of a large audience and later by Linda Greenhouse, a journalist-in residence and lecturer at the law school.”

As John Podhoretz wrote at the Corner in 2006, “Holy jamoley:”

Holy jamoley. Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times — the paper of record’s beat reporter on the Supreme Court — just gave a talk at Harvard in which she basically said, “Hello. My name is Linda, and I make The Nation look like the John Birch Society.” Every single time anyone tells you the New York Times isn’t a left-wing organ from its news columns to its wedding pages, just send him this link.

Related: From Tom Blumer at Newsbusters: “Mind-Boggling Stats on Illegal Immigrants With Criminal Records the Press Rarely If Ever Publishes.”

That wouldn’t be fit to print, to coin a phrase.

Now is the time when we employ doubleplus crimethink juxtaposition, Animals, Small Dead-style:

As a group of students begins studying for a calculus exam, a white student turns to an Asian peer and says, “Hey, would you mind helping me solve this problem? It’s really difficult, but you can probably do it.” The Asian student agrees to help, but for some reason feels uncomfortable with the way the question was asked.

Is the Asian student being oversensitive? Was the white student subtly and subconsciously displaying racial prejudice against Asians? Could both be true?

According to Dr. Derald Sue, a professor of psychology at Columbia University, the Asian student may have been the victim of a microaggression — an “everyday slight, putdown, indignity, or invalidation unintentionally directed toward a marginalized group.”

Sue has been researching microaggression since 2007 and has written two books on the subject. According to him, the person delivering the microaggression often does not know he’s doing it and might even think he is complimenting the other individual.

“When you try to bring the issue of microaggressions to the attention of people who are completely unaware that they have delivered a microaggression, they get defensive and deny it and tend to say that you’re being paranoid or you’re being oversensitive,” Sue tells me. “Many microaggressions are so subtle that neither target nor perpetrator may entirely understand what is going on.”

According to Sue, there are many types of microaggressions, based on race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or any other factor that can make a group “socially marginalized.” These microaggressions can be expressed verbally (as with the white and Asian students), nonverbally (as with a woman clutching her purse when a black man walks by), and environmentally (as with an educational curriculum containing few books by female authors).

“Microaggression — Never heard of it? You may be guilty of it,” Alec Torres, NRO, today.

Whether he wrote DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER, or whether he refrained from writing it, made no difference. Whether he went on with the diary, or whether he did not go on with it, made no difference. The Thought Police would get him just the same. He had committed — would still have committed, even if he had never set pen to paper — the essential crime that contained all others in itself. Thoughtcrime, they called it. Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed for ever. You might dodge successfully for a while, even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you.

* * * * * * * * *

His mind slid away into the labyrinthine world of doublethink. To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully-constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them; to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy; to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again: and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself. That was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the world ‘doublethink’ involved the use of doublethink.

* * * * * * * * *

‘What are the stars?’ said O’Brien indifferently. ‘They are bits of fire a few kilometres away. We could reach them if we wanted to. Or we could blot them out. The earth is the centre of the universe. The sun and the stars go round it.’

Winston made another convulsive movement. This time he did not say anything. O’Brien continued as though answering a spoken objection:

‘For certain purposes, of course, that is not true. When we navigate the ocean, or when we predict an eclipse, we often find it convenient to assume that the earth goes round the sun and that the stars are millions upon millions of kilometres away. But what of it? Do you suppose it is beyond us to produce a dual system of astronomy? The stars can be near or distant, according as we need them. Do you suppose our mathematicians are unequal to that? Have you forgotten doublethink?’

— Orwell, George, 1984, written in 1949.

Fortunately, several doors offering multiple exit paths from the Ministry of Love do exist — and the doors will swing wider even further as this form macro-socialist-insanity continues to implode upon itself.

Update: While I quoted from Orwell’s 1984, it occurred to me afterwards this passage from Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism also juxtaposes well the concept of “microagression:”

This is not to say that there are no racist conservatives. But at the philosophical level, liberalism is battling a straw man. This is why liberals must constantly assert that conservatives use code words—because there’s nothing obviously racist about conservatism per se. Indeed, the constant manipulation of the language to keep conservatives—and other non-liberals—on the defensive is a necessary tactic for liberal politics. The Washington, D.C., bureaucrat who was fired for using the word “niggardly” correctly in a sentence is a case in point. The ground must be constantly shifted to maintain a climate of grievance. Fascists famously ruled by terror. Political correctness isn’t literally terroristic, but it does govern through fear. No serious person can deny that the grievance politics of the American left keeps decent people in a constant state of fright—they are afraid to say the wrong word, utter the wrong thought, offend the wrong constituency.

Which I had quoted back in 2012, when another lefty academician had her own form of microagression — by noting that the lunch you packed for your kid’s noontime cafeteria break could also be racist.

Two National Journals in One!

February 3rd, 2014 - 6:16 pm

Past performance is no guarantee of future results:

“National Journal’s Hirsh: Time for a moral sanction against gun metaphors similar to the ‘N’ word.”

—Headline, the Daily Caller, January 21st, 2011.


The National Journal, today: “The Obama Administration Is on T-Mobile’s Porch With a Shotgun.” Note the photo they chose to accompany their headline, screencapped above.

Hey, I have no problem with imagery and headline*, but then, it wasn’t my side of the aisle who in the wake of the shooting of Democrat Gabrielle Giffords, Republican-appointed Federal Judge John M. Roll, and over a dozen others by a random apolitical lunatic was trying to shutdown the First Amendment, shrink the Newspeak Dictionary down even further, and pretending to get the vapors over gun metaphors and clip art in January of 2011, either. But I will point that if you’re going to play by Saul Alinsky’s rules, Rule Four will apply to you as well.

* Though I’m far less sanguine about the Obama administration attempting to intercede between two corporation who have every right to merge, for better or worse. But that’s an entirely different topic.

How the L-Word Was Won

January 19th, 2014 - 7:43 pm


In the introduction to his new book, The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class, Fred Siegel of the Manhattan Institute writes:

The best short credo of liberalism came from the pen of the once canonical left-wing literary historian Vernon Parrington in the late 1920s. “Rid society of the dictatorship of the middle class,” Parrington insisted, referring to both democracy and capitalism, “and the artist and the scientist will erect in America a civilization that may become, what civilization was in earlier days, a thing to be respected.” Alienated from middle-class American life, liberalism drew on an idealized image of “organic” pre-modern folkways and rhapsodized about a future harmony that would reestablish the proper hierarchy of virtue in a post-bourgeois, post-democratic world.

Ninety years later, and as this self-mocking Salon article titled “Let’s nationalize Fox News” highlights, very little has changed amongst that portion of the left’s goals.

If you enjoyed Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism, James Piereson’s Camelot and the Cultural Revolution, and Daniel J. Flynn’s A Conservative History of the American Left, you will certainly enjoy Siegel’s new book. His early chapters chart the end of the early “Progressives” of the late 19th and early 20th century, such as Teddy Roosevelt, whom Tim Stanley of the London Telegraph describes today as a “Racist, imperialist, power-hungry megalomaniac,” and Woodrow Wilson, the man who was a big fan of the Klan (and vice versa). As Jonah noted in Liberal Fascism, Wilson’s brutal term in office during World War I (which Wilson had promised to keep America out of) has largely been airbrushed out of history — two guesses as to why. But it was during that period, Siegel writes, that “Progressives” stole a huge base from the laissez-faire conservative right, and began to describe themselves as “Liberal”:

In the standard accounts of American liberalism, both left and right argue that after the 1920s, Progressivism faced the Great Depression and as a result matured into the fully flowered liberalism of the New Deal. As I suggested in the previous chapter, this is fundamentally mistaken. While “winning the war abroad,” the Progressives “lost their war at home,” notes historian Michael McGerr. “Amid race riots, strikes, high inflation, and a frenzied Red Scare, Americans turned against the Progressive blueprint for the nation. The climax of Progressivism, World War I, was also its death knell.” Modern Republicanism — as incarnated in the 1920s by Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover — and modern liberalism were both reactions to the excesses of Progressivism. Modern liberalism was born of discontinuity, a rejection of Progressivism — a wrenching betrayal and a shift in sensibility so profound that it still resonates today. More precisely, the cultural tone of modern liberalism was, in significant measure, set by a political love affair gone horribly wrong between Woodrow Wilson and a liberal left unable to grapple with the realities of power politics. For Progressives, reformers, and Socialists, the years from 1918 through 1920 were traumatic. During the presidential election of 1916, many leftists had embraced Woodrow Wilson as a thaumaturgical leader of near messianic promise, but in the wake of repression at home and revolution and diplomatic disappointment abroad, he came to be seen as a Judas, and his numinous rhetoric was despised as mere mummery.

For the ardent Progressive Frederick Howe, who had been Wilson’s Commissioner of Immigration, the pre-war promise of the benign state built on reasoned reform had turned to ashes. “I hated,” he wrote, “the new state that had arisen” from the war. “I hated its brutalities, its ignorance, its unpatriotic patriotism that made profit from our sacrifices and used it to suppress criticism of its acts. . . . I wanted to protest against the destruction of my government, my democracy, my America.” As part of his protest, the thoroughly alienated Howe distanced himself from Progressivism. Liberals were those Progressives who had renamed themselves so as to repudiate Wilson. “The word liberalism,” wrote Walter Lippmann in 1919, “was introduced into the jargon of American politics by that group who were Progressives in 1912 and Wilson Democrats from 1916 to 1918.” The new liberalism was a decisive cultural break with Wilson and Progressivism. While the Progressives had been inspired by a faith in democratic reforms as a salve for the wounds of both industrial civilization and power politics, liberals saw the American democratic ethos as a danger to freedom at home and abroad.

I interviewed Siegel for PJM’s old Sirius-XM radio show back in 2009, when he had just published a tremendous piece for City Journal on H.G. Wells, “The Godfather of American Liberalism,” material from which is incorporated into Revolt Against the Masses. Take a listen:

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(Ten minutes long, 9.09 MB file size. Click here to download MP3 file directly.)

As Siegel notes in his new book:

Wells was appalled by the decentralized nature of America’s locally oriented party and country-courthouse politics. He was aghast at the flamboyantly corrupt political machines of the big cities, unchecked by a gentry that might uphold civilized standards. He thought American democracy went too far in providing leeway to the poltroons who ran the political machines and the “fools” who supported them. The “immigrants are being given votes,” but “that does not free them, it only enslaves the country,” he said. In the North, he complained, even “the negroes were given votes.”

Yet another reminder that, as Kevin D. Williamson recently wrote in What Doomed Detroit, “It is an irony of our history that the political home of black racism in American politics is also the historical political home of white racism: the Democratic Party.”

Speaking of which, here’s our obligatory Allahpundit-style Exit Question: If “Progressives” dubbed themselves “Liberal” in 1919 to distance themselves from the debacle of an inept heavy-handed leftwing administration run amok, and then ran away from the L-Word after the Carter administration, only to eventually return to the P-Word in time for Obama, what word will they choose to describe themselves in the next few years? In the meantime, as Steve Hayward of Power Line recently asked, “Now That Hillary Clinton Has Dismissed ‘Liberalism’, Can Conservatives Take It Back?”

It’s a Wonderful Fountainhead

December 16th, 2013 - 12:20 am

From now until December 25th (and perhaps January 1st), Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life will be playing somewhere. It’s available on Blu-Ray. There’s currently a sharp-looking copy on YouTube. It will be on TV, where the film’s reputation was made during its many annual repeats; it was unexpectedly flat at the box office during its initial 1946 big screen run. And it will likely also be playing at a revival theater near you. My wife and I caught one such showing at the movie theater in San Jose’s Santana Row yesterday, which was actually the first time I had seen it on the big screen, in a beautifully remastered digital version. It was a vivid reminder that as popular as It’s a Wonderful Life is on TV, this was a film made to be seen by a large audience in a theater, and their knowing laughter during the film’s best moments — and likely, their weeping by the end of the film as we were — adds immeasurably to its impact.

The film is now a double piece of nostalgia, something not intended by its makers. Certainly Capra and company viewed its initial flashback scenes to the early 20th century, the 1928 high school dance and the 1932-era bank run, as nostalgia. But the film’s contemporary setting of post-World War II America is now almost 70 years in the rearview mirror, as are the morals of the people who made the film.

You certainly can get a sense of that merely from reading the film’s Wikipedia page, when you come to the section on how the film is viewed by leftwing urban critics today, particularly the scenes set in “Pottersville,” the segment in which small town Bedford Falls is transformed into Reno on the Hudson:

In a 2010 Salon.com piece, Richard Cohen described It’s a Wonderful Life as “the most terrifying Hollywood film ever made”. In the “Pottersville” sequence, he wrote, George is not “seeing the world that would exist had he never been born”, but rather “the world as it does exist, in his time and also in our own.”] Nine years earlier, another Salon writer, Gary Kamiya, had expressed the opposing view that “Pottersville rocks!”, adding, “The gauzy, Currier-and-Ives veil Capra drapes over Bedford Falls has prevented viewers from grasping what a tiresome and, frankly, toxic environment it is… We all live in Pottersville now.”*

The film’s elevation to the status of a beloved classic came decades after its initial release, when it became a television staple during Christmas season in the late 1970s. This came as a welcome surprise to Frank Capra and others involved with its production. “It’s the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen,” Capra told the Wall Street Journal in 1984. “The film has a life of its own now, and I can look at it like I had nothing to do with it. I’m like a parent whose kid grows up to be president. I’m proud… but it’s the kid who did the work. I didn’t even think of it as a Christmas story when I first ran across it. I just liked the idea.”In a 1946 interview, Capra described the film’s theme as “the individual’s belief in himself” and that he made it “to combat a modern trend toward atheism”.

Of course, atheism doesn’t necessarily mean socialism — even if that’s how it invariably works out (more on that later); and after the page break, allow me to reprint my 2010 post titled “It’s a Wonderful Fountainhead,” which compares Capra’s 1946 film with its very different contemporary, which was based on Ayn Rand’s novel about a young man who dreams of going to the big city, becoming an architect and building giant phallic symbols, and, unlike George Bailey, who has to reconcile never leaving his small town, succeeds on his own terms. Followed by some further thoughts and links from 2013, and a jaw-dropping moment at Wikipedia.

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“Obama/Cameron Selfie Photographer to TNR: I’m Ashamed of Mankind,” the New Republic reports today:

Roberto Schmidt is the AFP photographer, currently the agency’s chief photographer for South Asia, who captured that infamous snap. Reached by phone in South Africa, he sighed heavily. “Why do people care about a selfie?” he said. “This is a sad reflection of our society.” He’d gone to photograph the memorial with a team of ten photographers. They moved some 500 images on the wire. “Good images, nice, strong images,” he said. “Images of South Africans dancing, smiling, chanting, which is the way they express mourning for a man they consider to be their father.” It was a long ceremony; he took many photographs of world leaders giving speeches and South Africans grieving. And suddenly he saw the Danish prime minister lift her phone to take a photo of her face alongside seatmates Obama and Cameron. Schmidt dutifully clicked away. “They’re in front of you, this happens, you take the picture,” he said. “But I saw so many good images from that memorial. And the picture that’s getting played is the president in a selfie. That’s kind of a bummer.”

“That’s kind of a bummer.” Let’s translate that from MSM to English: I broke news — I’m a successful wire service photog! But I broke news that made Mr. Obama look bad. I’ll never hear the end of this from my peers standing around the Monsieur Coffee machine in the AFP break room in their Paris HQ. I am a failure of a photographer. I’ll never be stupid enough to break news again. Mon Dieu! Where did it all go wrong?

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