A story about two old Jewish ladies is making the rounds in the Jewish press, but not for the reasons you may think. Sure, they’re bubbes. They’re children of a Holocaust survivor to boot. But, the real reason they’re attracting so much attention is that they happen to be retired professional whores.
Dutch twins Louise and Martine Fokkens (probably not their real last name, since “Fokken” is a Dutch term for “old whore”) have become international celebrities since the 2011 release of their biographical documentary Meet the Fokkens. Women’s magazines like Cosmo picked up on their story shortly after the film’s release, publishing quick little details like:
Louise and Martine (mothers of four and three respectively), became prostitutes before the age of 20 in order to escape violent relationships.
It’s an interpretation that, at best, qualifies as a half-truth. Louise was forced into the sex trade by an abusive husband. Martine, however, became a prostitute out of spite:
Martine followed her sister into the trade, working first as a cleaning lady at brothels before she began turning tricks herself. “I was angry at how everybody around us shunned Louise,” Martine said. “I did it out of spite, really.”
Both women eventually divorced their husbands, whom they now describe as “a couple of pimps.” But they continued working in the district “because that had become our lives,” Louise said.
“Our life in the business became a source of pride, a sport of sorts,” Louise added.
In retrospect, both women say they regret becoming prostitutes.
Reading their story, one can’t help but wonder if mainstream feminist advocates for slut walks and “Yes Means Yes” legislation would condemn the pair for regretting the life they chose. After all, their body, their choice, right? They took control of their bad marriages, divorced the husbands they referred to as “pimps” and chose, fully of their own volition, to remain in the sex trade after their exes were fully out of the picture. Martine and Louise, it would seem, are the originators of the Slut Walk.
Conservative columnist Ross Douthat has declared his love for Lena Dunham. It hardly comes as a surprise that a New York Times writer, even one who dwells to the right of the aisle, would find the Girls prodigy appealing. What makes Douthat’s devotion disturbing is that he has managed to transform a goddess chained to a slew of liberal causes into a sacrificial lamb for conservative culture. In his struggle to do so, his misses the mark in what could have been one of the most culturally relevant critiques of Girls to date.
The critic defends Dunham’s showpiece Girls, writing,
She’s making a show for liberals that, merely by being realistic, sharp-edge, complicated, almost gives cultural conservatism its due.
It’s a seemingly ironic observation, based in the idea that Girls “often portrays young-liberal-urbanite life the way, well, many reactionaries see it…” That is, a subculture on the verge of self-destruction due to excessive amounts of what sociologist Robert Bellah dubbed, “the view that the key to the good life lies almost exclusively in self-discovery, self-actualization, the cultivation of the unique and holy You.”
In other words, as Gawker so simply put it:
He likes watching the show because it allows him to feel superior to Dunham and her fellow sluts.
By employing a rote, traditionalist perspective, Douthat argued himself into a hole, turning his love into judgement and burying his point in poorly-worded theory and equally bad theology.
Over the last few weeks we’ve looked at how Disney and its productions reflected, and sometimes influenced, the times. We’ve seen how Disney mirrored the can-do spirit of the ’30s, how the studio overcame the challenges of World War II in the ’40s, and how Disney changed with the times in the ’50s.
By the time the 1960s rolled around, Walt Disney appeared to have done it all. He had elevated the cartoon from an opening-act short to a feature-film art form. He had conquered live-action movies and embraced television, and he even revolutionized the theme-park experience. But Walt wasn’t done — in fact, it looks like he saved his most radical and powerful ideas for the last years of his life. And here are seven examples to prove it.
7. Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (1961-1969)
After a seven season run for Disneyland on ABC, Walt wanted to explore different options. His greatest desire was to broadcast a show in color. Even though ABC had broadcast the show in black and white, Walt insisted on filming most of the segments in full color because he believed color would add long-term value to his productions. Rival network NBC had begun to promote color series heavily since parent company RCA made color television sets, and, after a brilliant sales pitch from Walt, the network bit.
Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color ran for eight seasons before undergoing a retooling and title change. During those seasons, Walt took advantage of the new and exciting world of color programming when few producers were willing to branch out, especially in the earlier years. Once again, Walt willingly blazed a trail, and once again his pioneering spirit paid off.
Click here to start reading Part I of this list-letter to the CEO of Liberty Island with ideas for his team of creative counter-culture writers drawn from my years practicing “pop culture polytheism,” the worship of the images in mass media today.
Dear Adam Bellow,
As this series of films continues I’ll expand the opening index to include links to each of the films that have come before it. Here are links to the first titles I discussed, establishing the paradigm of celebrating both mainstream, big budget films and also more obscure titles that more traditionally conjure up the idea of counter-culture:
48. Yellow Submarine
47. Dark City
45. Dog Star Man
41. The Two Towers
38. The Avengers
I was nervous when publishing the first installment of this series, knowing that I was leaping off into the unknown again and certainly not going as detailed as I’ll need to when explaining these ideas in my book someday. A few commenters pushed back, with criticisms I anticipated — too long, all over the place, titles insufficiently “counter-culture” — and that are partially justified:
How do I defend such a broad understanding of “counter-culture” that the term can include both experimental shorts with moth wings taped to the film and hundred-million-dollar blockbusters? The fourth title from my list of ”23 Books for Counter-Culture Conservatives, Tea Party Occultists, and Capitalist Wizards” remains my favorite definition and general history:
4. Counterculture Through the Ages: From Abraham to Acid House by Ken Goffman and Dan Joy
Publication Date: September 13, 2005
As long as there has been culture, there has been counterculture. At times it moves deep below the surface of things, a stealth mode of being all but invisible to the dominant paradigm; at other times it’s in plain sight, challenging the status quo; and at still other times it erupts in a fiery burst of creative–or destructive–energy to change the world forever.
But until now the countercultural phenomenon has been one of history’s great blind spots. Individual countercultures have been explored, but never before has a book set out to demonstrate the recurring nature of counterculturalism across all times and societies, and to illustrate its dynamic role in the continuous evolution of human values and cultures.
Countercultural pundit and cyberguru R. U. Sirius brilliantly sets the record straight in this colorful, anecdotal, and wide-ranging study based on ideas developed by the late Timothy Leary with Dan Joy. With a distinctive mix of scholarly erudition and gonzo passion, Sirius and Joy identify the distinguishing characteristics of countercultures, delving into history and myth to establish beyond doubt that, for all their surface differences, countercultures share important underlying principles: individualism, anti-authoritarianism, and a belief in the possibility of personal and social transformation.
Ranging from the Socratic counterculture of ancient Athens and the outsider movements of Judaism, which left indelible marks on Western culture, to the Taoist, Sufi, and Zen Buddhist countercultures, which were equally influential in the East, to the famous countercultural moments of the last century–Paris in the twenties, Haight-Ashbury in the sixties, Tropicalismo, women’s liberation, punk rock–to the cutting-edge countercultures of the twenty-first century, which combine science, art, music, technology, politics, and religion in astonishing (and sometimes disturbing) new ways, Counterculture Through the Ages is an indispensable guidebook to where we’ve been . . . and where we’re going.
Why Counterculture Conservatives Should Read It:
The key insight in reconciling counterculture and conservatism comes when we define the term historically, beyond just the caricature of the 60s hippie counterculture.
A counterculture is just any group of people who choose to reject some aspect of a dominant culture and then live peacefully in opposition to it. The Jews were a counterculture. So were Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. So were the Christians in ancient Rome. So were the Pilgrims. And the Transcendentalists. And the Mormons.
Counterculture Through the Ages presents an alternative way of understanding the West: what if “Western Civilization” was actually just the compilation of all the best countercultural ideas that worked? What if Western Civilization wasn’t really about places or people or things but about a process to understand ourselves, one another, and our purpose in the world? And how do we figure out what that purpose is?
So yes, I admit it — my list was a mess, and so it shall be going forward. (I can only un-messify Aleister Crowley and Robert Anton Wilson and their basis in Kabbalah and Tarot so much! Learning how to jump from mess to mess is kind of the point. God hides in the spaces between the letters and in the connections between the cards, in the invisible gap between my mind and yours.) Counter-culture is messy — it’s a big muck mixing and gurgling together. But that’s no excuse. I’ll employ the new media tool highlighted in the last segment in an effort to cut down on the word count in this and future installments. Here’s a basic start, as I’ve progressed through writing the list I’ve begun exploring new ways to utilize Instagram, Hyperlapse and other tools:
(I will try to improve the handwriting in future hyperlapses. Over the course of this list I experiment with a number of different configurations improving on that early one. I think for the next round I’ll pick up a white board and dry erase markers…)
In trying to define Western Civilization in broad we have to confront that WE are a mess. Americanism, the idea of the West — we are a mess of conflicting ethnic, religious, and philosophical traditions all crammed together.
But we must overcome our primitive tribal nature. Unfortunately some of film’s most glorified filmmakers rose to prominence through glamorizing and glorifying their tribal identity, building whole careers on mythologizing their tribe, obscuring the ugly truth of their primitive ideologies. The next three titles on the list are by filmmakers I once idolized, though now look at with skepticism. However, each still has a film in their canon that runs counter to their usual output and offer useful lessons for counter-culture crusaders.
Back in April I assembled this collection featuring “10 of Kathy Shaidle’s Greatest Hits.” Now today I present this collection organizing more broadly my favorites of her articles and blog posts by subject.
A realization dawned today: Kathy is the writer I’ve worked with the longest. We’ve had occasional breaks here and there as projects have shifted but it’s been five years now, with the last 3 at PJ. And Kathy has consistently churned out one memorable piece after another in service of a very substantive media and cultural critique. She’s become one of my biggest influences and inspirations on new media and culture. When young writers ask for suggestions in developing a writing career in today’s new media world I hold her up as a prime example. Her articles and her approach are filled with wisdom.
- Make Way for Movies for Grown-Ups
- Movies for Grown-Ups, Part 2: Dodsworth and the Shame of Age
- Movies for Grown-Ups: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
- Movies for Grown Ups: Seconds (1966)
- Art, Lust, and Doing the Dishes: The Controversy of Scarlet Street
- 5 Reasons Star Wars Actually Sucks
- God Bless America? Remembering 1993′s Falling Down
- Talk Sixties, Act Fifties: The Ice Storm
- 4 Ways My Moviegoing Habits Changed After I Grew Up
- Nurse Ratched, My Hero: 4 Female Movie Villains I Love
- The 3 Most Poisonous Movie Clichés of the 60s and 70s
- I Liked Scrooge Better Before: 3 Christmas Movies I Hate
- Special Effects Unplugged: Movie Magic Before Computers
- Yippie-Kay-25th-Birthday Die Hard
- I Was a Communist for the FBI a Half-Century Later
- Will Roger Ebert Biopic Be a Big Bust?
- 10 Movies Millennials Must See to Understand the 1970s
- 6 Reasons The Who Is Better Than That Stupid Band You Like
- Vengeance Is Mine: The 5 Best Revenge Songs
- 6 Classic Recordings That Have No Business Existing (Part One)
- 6 Classic Recordings That Have No Business Existing (Part Two)
- The 5 Most Overrated Male Musicians, Part One
- The 5 Most Overrated Male Musicians, Part Two
- The 3 Most Overrated Female Musicians
- The Other Bono: Remembering Sonny (and the Pre-Crazy Cher)
- Keep Cat Stevens Out of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
- Give ‘Em Enough Rope Turns 35 (Part One)
- Give ‘Em Enough Rope Turns 35 (Part Two)
- The Once-Unimaginable Occurs: David Bowie Turns 67
- Neil Young Doubles Down on the Crazy
- Never Mind the Beatles: America Met the Clash 35 Years Ago This Week
- The Top 3 Myths About Beatlemania
- Rock Around the Clock: How 2 Movies Made Musical History
- 10 Obscure Songs That Should Have Been Hits
- Why David Letterman Has (Almost) Always Creeped Me Out
- The 3 Best Monty Python Sketches (Aren’t Necessarily the Funniest)
- Lessons on Being a Grown-Up from… Vincent Price?
- Murdoch Mysteries: The Un-Breaking Bad
- Michael Palin: Monty Python Would Never Mock Islam
- TV’s 3 Most Admirable Post-Modern Cartoon Characters
- Grown Men Don’t Read Comic Books: Here’s an Alternative (That Might Just Save America)
- Grown Women Don’t Read Twilight: Here’s an Alternative (That Just Might Save America)
- 3 Reasons Higher Education Is Broken — and How To Fix It
- ‘That’s the Ultimate Race, Poor People’: In Praise of Adam Carolla’s Brutal Honesty
- Ann Coulter’s Mugged: A (Mostly) Frank Monologue About Race — Part 1
- Mugged and Ann Coulter Derangement Syndrome, Part 2
- 5 Controversial Ways to Enjoy the Decline of America
- Conrad Black Still Loves You, America (In Spite of Everything)
- Conrad Black Still Loves FDR (In Spite of Amity Shlaes)
- Conrad Black, Nixon, and the Red Scare: The Flight of the Eagle Concludes
- The 11 Best Ideas in Adam Carolla’s Hilarious New Book
Punk Rock and Counterculture
- Kinkos Goes To College: University of Iowa Acquires Zine Collection
- The BBC Sex Scandals and the Birth of Punk
- Farewell, Pussycat: Remembering Cult Movie Actress Haji
- Takin’ the Freight Elevator to the Incinerator: Joe Strummer and 9/11
- Vampira: Beatnik, Goth, Punk
- Altamont: When the Hippies Were Expelled From the Garden
- Miley Cyrus: Punk of the Year? Almost. (Seriously.)
- Patti Smith: The Paula Deen of Punk?
- When John and Yoko Took Over the Mike Douglas Show
- Hitchcock’s Rope and Gay ‘Rights’
- Happy 59th Birthday, Nina Hagen
- What Is Your Damage, Heathers?
- A Life Based on ‘Crossing the Street’
Crime and Death
- Mommie Dearest, Brothers Grimm: Thinking about Cleveland’s House of Horrors
- Raining on the Nelson Mandela Parade
- Sound Familiar? Rapist-Murderer Complains He’s Misunderstood
- Is Death Still a Great Career Move?
- Dead Celebrities Pitch Beer, Chocolate, and Bad Taste
- ‘Hurricane’ Carter: Fact vs. Fiction
- If Jack the Ripper Was Jewish, Does It Matter?
- ‘This Would Be Heaven For Me’: An Evening with Dennis Prager and Adam Carolla
- Catholic Nuns: An Idea Whose Time Has Gone?
- The Imaginary Rabbi and the Dead End Kid: Another Evening with Dennis Prager and Adam Carolla
- Yelling at Each Other About Robin Williams, Ann Coulter, Death, and God
- George Carlin Wasn’t Funny: The Top Five Most Overrated Liberal Comedians
- ‘Long Story Short’: Colin Quinn’s 75-Minute History of the World
- That’s Not Funny: The 5 Biggest Comedy Taboos
- Del Close Marathon Ignores Improv Guru’s Occult Obsessions
- Carolla vs. Kindler: When Jealous Losers Attack
- Sam Kinison Biopic Back on Track With New Star
- Stand-Up Comic vs. Air Force Colonel: Who’s the Real Joker?
- Behind the Scenes: Jerry Lewis’ ‘Holocaust Clown’ Movie
- Dave Chappelle and Heckling as the New ‘Racism’
- ‘Comedy Gives Back’ Proves People Can Make a Difference — But Not the Way They Expected
- Dean Martin Roasts: Remembrance of Zings Past
- Finally: A Comedian Who Refuses to Apologize
- BREAKING: Stand-Up Comedians Are Crazy
Relationships and Gender
- Mean Girls: Why Are Women Turning Against Tina Fey?
- How Women Ruin Romance by Talking Too Much
- 3 (Conservative) Reasons to Admire Helen Gurley Brown
- Shoes, Sheetrock, and the Skipper: 3 Surprising Things That Make a Man Sexy
- Meet Matt Graber, Your New Leftwing Heartthrob!
- Confessions of a Failed Slut
- How to Be the Perfect Wife in 3 Easy Steps
Life Reflections and Career Advice:
- Why Skipping College Was One of the Smartest Decisions of My Life
- Talent Isn’t Everything: 5 Secrets to Freelance Success
- In the Future Will Everyone Really ‘Have To Become an Entrepreneur’?
- I Kid You Not: The Top 4 Reasons I Don’t Have Children
- No One Is Ever ‘Just Kidding’
- If I Were Queen: My First 3 Acts Upon Becoming Your Beloved Empress For Life
- The Poor Get Poorer: 3 Character Traits That Undermine Prosperity
- The 47% Solution: Yes, If You’re Poor, It Really May Be Your Fault
- Jobs Are for Suckers: How to Be the Boss of You
- No One Who Works Indoors Needs a Union
- We All Wondered What Happened
- 50 Is the New Crappy
- 3 Things Getting Lupus Taught Me
Tips on Writing, Technology, the Internet, and New Media Success
- Steve Jobs: The Other Man in My Marriage
- 3 Rules for Handling the Online Trolls, Bullies, and Crackpots
- 3 Turning Points in the History of Blogging
- Gravity Doesn’t ‘Card’: Cyber Bullys and the Laws of the Universe
- The ‘Me’ in Social Media: The ONLY Online Etiquette Rule You’ll Ever Need
- 3 Tips for ‘Owning’ Your Name on Google’s First-Page Results
- How To Boost Your Blog By Going ‘Under the Hood’
- Know Your (Copy)rights: Tips for Writers and Bloggers
- The Chestnut Diet: How To Cut Cliches Out of Your Writing
- The 5 Best Security and Privacy Tools for Your Mac
- 3 Pro Secrets to Double Your Freelance Writing Income in 2 Years
- 3 Weird Things About the U.S. This Pro-American Canadian Doesn’t Get
- Dispatch from Canada: 146th Birthday Edition
- Justin Trudeau: Canada’s (Future) Pothead PM?
- Canada Asks Muslims: When Will You Stop Beating Your Wives?
- An Unlikely Canadian Hero’s Tale of Non-Violent Defiance
- So I Guess I Have to Talk About Rob Ford, Huh?
- Economic Freedom: Canadian Province Beats Out All 50 States
- Father of the Canadian Flag Dies, Aged 96
- Is Canada Becoming the Proving Ground for Eco-Terrorism?
- The Truth About The Greatest Generation
- The 3 Most Destructive Members of the ‘Greatest Generation’
- The 3 Biggest Myths About Generation X
- Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation: 6 Gen-Xers I Can Actually Stand (Part One)
- Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation: 6 Gen-Xers I Can Actually Stand (Part Two)
- Gen X Dream Girl Phoebe Cates Turns 50
Dear Adam Bellow,
I’d like to congratulate you on building and launching Liberty Island. You’ve assembled an extraordinary team of writers — 25 so far profiled at PJ Lifestyle – with several of them beginning to contribute blog posts and freelance articles here. I’ll call them out, these are some really great writers and fascinating people: many thanks to Pierre Comtois, Jamie Wilson, Roy M. “Griff” Griffis, Michael Sheldon, Clay Waters, David Churchill Barrow, and David S. Bernstein. And Karina Fabian too is about to make her debut shortly with a wonderful piece that I’m scheduling for tomorrow. Updated: don’t miss “10 Excuses For Why We Don’t Get More Done (And Why They Are Excuses).”
I can’t wait to get to know more of the Liberty Island writers and continue collaborations.
I appreciated your recent manifesto, “Let Your Right Brain Run Free,” at National Review and really only took mild issue with what seemed to me your overemphasis on the novel and pooh-poohing of film’s greater power to hypnotize viewers:
What about Hollywood? Many conservatives talk about the need to get into movie production. I agree this is very important, but it requires a massive investment of capital, and more to the point, I think people on the right are over-impressed with the power of film. To hear some conservatives talk you’d think movies were the Holy Grail, the golden passkey to the collective unconscious. This gets things precisely backwards. Sure, a successful Hollywood movie can have a major impact. But as a vehicle for political ideas and moral lessons, movies are simplistic and crude compared with the novels on which many are based.
Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the Narnia books by C. S. Lewis both produced big-budget movies that reached millions of people with what most of us would probably agree is a subtly conservative message. Yet both of these successful movie franchises ultimately pale in comparison with the impact of the books. Even at their best, movies are essentially cartoons and their effects are superficial and fleeting. Books engage the reader much more deeply, at a level of identification with the characters and plot that can instruct the soul and edify the mind. A hundred years from now, moreover, these classic books will still be read all over the world in dozens of languages when the films on which they are based are long forgotten or superseded by new forms of entertainment.
In short, conservatives should remember that mainstream popular culture is still largely driven by books. Fiction therefore is and will remain the beating heart of the new counterculture. This is not just my bias as a publisher. It is a practical reality — and a fortunate one for us, since there are hundreds if not thousands of conservative and libertarian writers out there today producing politically themed fiction. The conservative right brain has woken up from its enchanted sleep and it is thriving. Instead of banging on Hollywood’s front door, a better approach is to go in the back by publishing popular conservative fiction and then turning those books into films.
I will write novels someday. And I still enjoy reading good ones. Recently my wife pushed on me her newest obsession, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:
The vivid narrative is a fictionalization of the author’s life and tells the story of a young Nigerian woman who immigrates to America and develops a career blogging about her discoveries among races and cultures. A wise excerpt from Page 273:
The movie rights have, of course, been acquired, with Lupita Nyong’o and Brad Pitt starring. I can’t wait to see it.
So real life inspires blogging, blogging inspires a novel — the highlights of which are the blog posts in it — which in turn inspires a movie. I wonder how they’ll depict blogging in the film. Maybe they’ll update it and make her a vlogger on YouTube instead? Part of my wife’s enthusiasm for the novel was because the character was also part of the online “natural hair community,” black and mixed race women who share YouTube tutorials about methods for giving up straightening their hair with destructive chemicals and switching to natural styles and products instead. From page 13:
My wife in her art has called them a counterculture:
My interdisciplinary work concentrates on the Ebony woman, Gen-X leaning Millennials, and our hair. Social media and video-based tutorials have influenced many Millennial women to embrace natural representations of their ethnic hair. These young women have become pioneers of the Millennial Natural Hair Movement, an expanding and informed counterculture responding to painful trends that date back to the early twentieth century.
Here’s an example of a video she made depicting the kinds of tips that circulate on YouTube amongst Natural Hair vloggers (she gave it an artsier spin):
I think this is an expression of the paradigm for today — that the various mediums of novels, film, and online media are blending back and forth together and the line between fiction and non-fiction blurs more too.
Recently when April and I made our move to South LA this summer in our packing and unpacking I had the opportunity to go through the DVD collection I’d accumulated over the last 15 years and assess the titles that still had the most value to me. As we’ve discussed and you know I’ve written about, so many of the movies and filmmakers that I once loved as a nihilistic postmodern college leftist I now regard with varying levels of disdain, disgust, and embarrassment.
But these are ones that I continue to regard with affection, that I still return to, and that I think can offer inspiration for your growing team of counterculture crusaders looking to change the world with their art. Some of them I’m a little bit more critical of than I once was, but they all still have some usefulness in some capacity or another…
(Note: this is a version 1.0 of this list, future editions will incorporate newly discovered films and suggestions from readers…)
Editor’s Note: Since March, PJ Lifestyle has been highlighting some of the most innovative fiction writers at the recently-launched new media publishing platform Liberty Island, featuring interviews and story excerpts. Click here to see our collection of 24 so far. We’re going to continue periodically introducing new contributors but now we continue a new series featuring many of these writers talking about their upcoming books and dialoguing about this question:
“Liberty Island has identified itself as the home of the new counterculture. In what ways does your book exemplify this?”
To learn more check out this interview Sarah Hoyt conducted with CEO Adam Bellow: “It also has a unique mission: to serve as the platform and gathering-place for the new right-of-center counterculture.” Also see COO David S. Bernstein’s recent essay here in which he defines Liberty Island as, “an imaginative playground where brilliant and creative people can test their ideas without being harassed or threatened by the new breed of ‘community activists’ who police thought and speech in the media.” Bellow’s new cover story at National Review, is also out this month: “Let Your Right Brain Run Free.” Finally and importantly, support Liberty Island’s crowd-funding efforts here where you can pre-order the upcoming novels and learn about other incentives.
See Part 1 with Michael Sheldon’s answer here.
With daily examples of a once great culture circling the drain, it becomes increasingly hard to imagine that things could be different. But let’s try. What might a society that celebrated beauty, excellence, and community instead of slowly strangling those things look like? How would it feel to live in a society whose people were worthy of one’s best efforts? And what would such people be like?
I envision such a society in Steam Pointe, a series of linked stories that Liberty Island will soon be publishing. Technology can’t hide any decline in the island nation of Steam Pointe. It’s a place that has taken 19th Century industrialism to its steampunk zenith, even as the rest of the world has forsworn airships, Tesla coils, and steam engines for airplanes, computers, and internal combustion.
When international terrorism arrives on his country’s shores and Steam Pointe’s own domestic supervillains begin staging attacks in America, detective Hiram Speer finds himself partnered with FBI agent Mackenzie Hoff. Yet chasing killers beneath Steam Pointe’s zeppelin-blotted skies, the two find their cultures in conflict: manly versus feminized, confident versus declining.
The Pointers’ manners, machines and esthetics are like something out of a Jules Verne-fever dream. Yet this is only the outward manifestation of their alienation from the contemporary United States — the nation their ancestors fled. For its part, America increasingly regards this bizarre place of technological apartheid and traditional gender roles as little better than a rogue regime.
With both their nations and their world views in opposition, will Speer and Mackenzie be able to work together to stop a common threat? Does either one of them even want to save the other’s homeland? And what are their respective nations’ agendas in this cultural cold war?
The fictional Steam Pointe is a culture counter to our own. The Steam Pointe series then is part of a growing counterculture that looks at the present order and asks, “Does it have to be like this?”
It doesn’t. And it won’t always be. As we look forward to the prospect of a re-forged society, come to Steam Pointe and get a feel for what it might be like to live someplace built on beauty, excellence, and community. Enjoy a terrific adventure while taking added pleasure in committing an act of cultural sedition.
See Stephen’s PJ Lifestyle post:
And his political posts at the PJ Tatler:
And his interview and story excerpt at PJ Lifestyle:
image illustration via shutterstock / Kiselev Andrey Valerevich
Editor’s Note: Since March, PJ Lifestyle has been highlighting some of the most innovative fiction writers at the recently-launched new media publishing platform Liberty Island, featuring interviews and story excerpts. Click here to see our collection of 24 so far. We’re going to continue periodically introducing new contributors but today we start a new series featuring many of these writers talking about their upcoming books and dialoguing about this question:
“Liberty Island has identified itself as the home of the new counterculture. In what ways does your book exemplify this?”
To learn more check out this interview Sarah Hoyt conducted with CEO Adam Bellow: “It also has a unique mission: to serve as the platform and gathering-place for the new right-of-center counterculture.” Also see COO David S. Bernstein’s recent essay here in which he defines Liberty Island as, “an imaginative playground where brilliant and creative people can test their ideas without being harassed or threatened by the new breed of ‘community activists’ who police thought and speech in the media.” Bellow’s new cover story at National Review, is also out today: “Let Your Right Brain Run Free.” Finally and importantly, support Liberty Island’s crowd-funding efforts here where you can pre-order the upcoming novels and learn about other incentives.
Before completing The Violet Crow, I was having dinner with a woman who teaches English lit at a branch of University of Washington. When I told her my novel was a detective story, she dismissed it in four words: “Detective stories are normative.” I had never heard this choice bit of academic wisdom before, but, before we get to that, let me describe the premise of my normative tale.
The Violet Crow begins when the students of Gardenfield Friends School enter the Quaker Meetinghouse for their weekly half hour of silence. They find instead the lifeless body of a ten-year-old girl. Because there are no clues, and no grieving parents come forward to claim their daughter, the police are pressured into taking an unusual step: They hire a psychic detective.
The idea is to show the press and the politicians that the Gardenfield cops are seriously trying to find the murderer and restore order to this normally safe and self-satisfied community. However, Bruno X, aka Joey Kaplan, is a bit more than anyone bargained for. He has genuine psychic talent, but it’s inconsistent. People always assume that psychics are fakes. And when confronted with suspicions, Bruno counters with Mad-Magazine-Yiddish invectives and recycled Borsht Belt routines.
The Violet Crow offers readers a tight plot, lots of suspects, weird science, and some surprising historical connections. There are also elements of magical realism as Bruno’s psychic ability moves up and down a scale that ranges from coincidence to intuition, luck, and the occasional bit of sorcery. Finally, if you dig deep into genre categories, The Violet Crow is technically a “caper,” because it’s a crime story that’s also humorous.
If you love movies and everything about them, you owe it to yourself to follow AMC Movie Talk, a daily web show headlined by AMC Movie News editor John Campea and a rotating cadre of entertainment experts. As marketing moves go, you would be hard pressed to come up with a better way to develop brand loyalty for a theater chain than feeding fans a steady stream of incisive commentary about every movie news tidbit that comes across the wire.
More than that, what I really appreciate about AMC Movie Talk is the insight consistently offered into the business side of the industry. Campea and company are fans like you and me, and that comes across in how they regard the films they discuss. But they are also industry professionals, and therefore bring a perspective to the process that most people lack.
The above clip highlights one such moment. A viewer writes in to ask the AMC Movie Talk crew why celebrities charge fans for personal appearances, autographs, pictures, and the like. The emailer writes:
Most of them have millions of dollars already from their work. I don’t see why they charge their fans to meet them, because it seems like it’s done out of pure greed. [Punctuation added.]
The response from around the AMC table lands right on point. Campea cuts to the chase, noting that actors and other celebrities take time and attention away from other activities which they value in order to meet fans at public appearances. “Everybody who’s not a millionaire thinks that people who have money should do everything for free… But if we’re really rational about it, I don’t think that’s the case.”
Film director Jon Schnepp points out the folly of assuming that every celebrity must be a millionaire. Even considering the few that are, does their wealth grant fans some claim upon their time and attention?
Commentator Miri Jedeikin adds that these public appearances where celebrities interact with fans factor into their job. It’s an aspect of their profession for which they ought to be compensated, provided the demand exists to pay for their time. In fact, charging for meet and greets helps control the demand. “Imagine if it were free,” Jedeikin says. “The line would be five days long.”
It’s one of those interchanges which demonstrates that Hollywood proves far more conservative and rights-affirming in their daily practices than in the fashion of their expressed politics. The emailer’s angst at celebrities getting paid for meet and greets jives well with the rhetoric of the radical left who believe people with ability ought to work for free in the service of perceived need.
If you watch AMC Movie Talk long enough, you’ll encounter this kind of stealthy, countercultural conservatism on a regular basis. It may not be intended as such by Campea and company. But it proves immensely satisfying nonetheless.
This week Walter Hudson joined the pop culture debate and expressed his concerns about DC’s attempt to catch up with Marvel on the movie front, concluding in “DC Vs. Marvel: Why This DC Fanboy Believes Marvel Already Won“:
After Man of Steel’s 143 minute run time, I’m left with little idea of who any of these people are or why I should care. The project rarely stops for breath, has scant humor, and takes itself far too seriously. The Nolan narrative style, skipping back and forth through time, works better when utilized by Nolan himself than by the frantic and unfocused Zack Snyder.
If that’s how we’re going to get introduced to all these characters, to Batman and Wonder Woman and Cyborg, than I fear a Justice League adventure will never be as fun as The Avengers. And that’s sad. Because it easily could be. DC has a rich history to draw from with decades of stories to mine and refresh. These characters deserve the same focused, nuanced, yet lighthearted treatment that Marvel Studios has given its mightiest heroes.
Hannah Sternberg also joined the discussion, declaring her allegiances in the pop culture debate to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly as superior franchises to Star Trek and Star Wars in her post “The Bible of Buffy“:
I’m going to bounce this one back to the committee. Dave, Walter, other PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island writers, — did Joss Whedon change your life, or simply stunt it?
Perhaps this wasn’t the answer that Hannah was anticipating but Whedon’s impact on my life is very different from hers. I never “got into” Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, or Serenity. While recognizing their significance to geek culture and respecting the fact that Whedon operates at a level of sophistication well above most creators in the sci-fi/fantasy world, it was another of the writer-director’s works that resonated with me.
Back in January of 2013 I published “10 Secret Reasons Why The Avengers Is the Best Superhero Film.” In the piece — which I’ve decided to republish today — I argued that the movie’s success came from its ability to reinvent classic mythological themes and archetypes.
What do you think? Is The Avengers as good as I claim it is? Should it stand as a model for those aspiring to make big, bold, profitable, mainstream popular culture infused with good values? Would DC striving for a Justice League film end up just a pale imitation of what Whedon already mastered?
The Introduction to Pacepa’s Seeds of Knowledge: Starting Down the Yellow Brick Road…
Part 1: The Mask of Marxism
Part 3: Who Needs a Brain?
Part 4: Are Conservatives Cowards?
“The August 1991 coup in Moscow collapsed three days after it had started, providing the ultimate, ironic proof that nothing, not even a coup, could succeed any more in a society whose vital arteries had been calcified by 70 years of disinformation and dismal feudalism. The main loser was the Communist Party.”
– Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa
Both the Democrat and Republican parties have been disinformed by Marxism. The Liberal wing of the Democrat Party has been duped into putting their faith in Marxism’s many forms (socialism, economic determinism, progressivism), while the Republican Party has legitimized Marxism as a form of party politics instead of a murderous, atheistic religion that empowers despots. The Conservative movement, by and large, is slow to recognize Marxism’s true nature, because we are a nation that has been drugged by Disinformation. Pacepa continues:
At the end of the 2001 summit meeting held in Slovenia, President George W. Bush said: “I looked the man [Putin] in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy.” Unfortunately, even President Bush was deceived by disinformation. Putin consolidated Russia into an intelligence dictatorship, not a democracy. During the Cold War, the KGB was a state within a state. Under Putin, the KGB, rechristened the FSB, is the state. Three years after Putin enthroned himself in the Kremlin, some 6,000 former officers of the KGB—that organization responsible for having slaughtered at least 20 million people in the Soviet Union alone—were running Russia’s federal and local governments.
…Is it too far-fetched to suggest that this new Russia calls up the hypothetical image of a postwar Germany being run by former Gestapo officers, who reinstate Hitler’s “Deutschland Über Alles” as national anthem, call the demise of Nazi Germany a “national tragedy on an enormous scale,” and invade a neighboring country, perhaps Poland, the way Hitler set off World War II?
That is the secret power of disinformation.
Pacepa share these thoughts with me mere weeks before the Ukranian revolution and secession of the Crimea to Putin’s Russia. Disinformation is wielding its power on the American homefront as well. In his critique of Thomas Piketty’s new book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, David Brooks embraces Piketty’s idea of a tax on the wealthy’s investment capital in order to create intellectual equality among the classes:
Think of how much more affordable fine art would be. Think of how much more equal the upper class would be.
His musings aren’t that far off from those of Russian intellectuals, who are “making do” with their government’s clampdown on free media and the right to protest. In exchange for their rights, these Russians whose intellectual arteries have been “calcified by disinformation” are being doted upon by their increasingly despotic government:
All sorts of entertainment is being lavished on Russia’s hipsters. Their favorite public parks have splashy, beautifully designed restaurants and clubs, comfortable biking areas and luxurious places to chill. Sanctions or not, Fedoseyev’s friends can still dine out at restaurants full of expats, take shopping trips to Milan, or buy their electronic gadgets online. Fashion Week this weekend was another party blooming with charming models and celebrities; the usual hipsters clubs, Solianka, Simachev, Oldich Dress and Drink or Strelka, felt as cuddly and crowded as ever.
To paraphrase Brooks, it would seem that the fine art is quite affordable in Russia these days. Like junkies seeking a quick fix, Russian intellectuals pursue disinformation at the expense of their freedom. Is Brooks suggesting we do the same, or have we already succumbed to the addiction? In either case, what we need to know now is: What is the antidote to disinformation?
In an entry titled, “Christian women: feminism is not your friend” published on his popular Matt Walsh Blog in April, the conservative Christian commentator concluded that Christian “women (and men)” needed to stop identifying with feminism because the movement is essentially all about abortion.
Embracing the stereotypical liberal definition of feminism as a movement dedicated to starting and waging the War on Women, Walsh discussed the feminist fight for equality:
This is a pretty convincing indication that feminism has, at the very least, outlived its good. There is nothing surprising about that, because feminism, unlike Christianity, is a human construct. It’s an ideology. It’s a political theory. It’s a label. It is not eternal, it is not perfect (there’s the understatement of the decade), and it is not indispensable.
Feminism, like ‘liberalism,’ like ‘conservativism,’ like the Republican Party, like the Democrat Party, is a finite thing that exists and serves a certain purpose in a certain set of circumstances. When the times change, and the circumstances change, it will either die or its purpose will change.
Walsh then dug into medieval history, noting that women were given “equal standing” in certain English trade guilds in the Middle Ages, contrary to the following:
“The fact that guilds seldom permitted women to become masters did in the end relegate them to the least-skilled and certainly least-remunerative aspects of the trade”. This statement shows that the fact that women were not openly admitted to the professional guilds led to the downfall of the woman’s status as a worker during this time period. Since “[m]ale masters displayed no eagerness to train young women, and with few or no women recognized as masters, the guilds did contribute to the narrowing opportunity for women”.
Along with neglecting these facts, Walsh also did not note that neither the Christian Church, nor political leaders who identified with Christianity, demanded that equal professional or political rights be given to women (let alone non-Christians) on either side of the Atlantic.
The Introduction to Pacepa’s Seeds of Knowledge: Starting Down the Yellow Brick Road…
Part 1: The Mask of Marxism
Part 3: Who Needs a Brain?
Our well-meaning conservatives do not seem to know that today’s socialism is just an undercover form of Marxism.
Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa
Our ongoing conversation focused on the Right Wing reaction, or lack thereof, to Marxism on the Left, to which Pacepa commented:
A few conservative commentators, like Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, and PJ Media writers who deeply understand Marxism (Roger Simon, Ron Radosh, Michael Ledeen and Victor Hanson are just a few) have warned that Marxism is infecting the country and the Whistleblower, a small but courageous magazine, dedicated a whole issue to “Marxism in America .” But neither the Republican Party nor the Tea Party has even mentioned the danger of Marxism. Why?
Many people, even some on the right – especially those with something to lose, such as re-election or position, or popularity, or money – are simply intimidated by the left, and especially by our idiotic and treacherous “mainstream” news media.
While Ann Coulter would probably agree, at least to a certain extent, with Kupelian’s explanation, fear of being Palin’d (or is it Couric’d?) isn’t enough of an explanation. We still live in a free market economy with free access to alternative media outlets. The problem isn’t just ego, as Pacepa explains, it’s also ineffective P.R.:
…I would only mention that most American youths are fascinated by Marx’s utopian ”to each according to his need.” They are also galvanized by the prospect that the Democratic Party can force rich Americans to pay a part of their own health care, mortgages, loans and school tuition, and it seems that the Republican Party does not know how to handle this new generation.
This is partly because the Republican Party approaches Marxist channels as legitimate political entities instead of fronts being used to launder dangerously corrupt ideology:
Soviet communism has been regarded, both in the West and within its own borders, as a form of government that, although dictatorial, ruled the country through a political party and based its decisions on a political ideology. Only a handful of people working in extremely close proximity to the Soviet and East European rulers knew that after Lenin died his Communist Party gradually became irrelevant.
To the Soviet intelligence bigwigs of Pacepa’s era, “the Communist Party was nothing but a ‘yakkity-yak,’ a place where people sat around beating their gums.” The same goes for many of the pro-Marxist outlets today. How many on the Right of the political spectrum have found their comfort zone in the “yakkity-yak” of party politics? Not that long ago I observed:
Politics may be a popularity contest, but pundits like Glenn Beck shouldn’t have to tell the American public about Cloward and Piven, nor would they have to if you’d stop giving into lunatic liberal logic in favor of a seat at the cool table in the Capitol cafeteria.
Pairing that observation with Pacepa’s knowledge leads to the question: Has the Right (Republicans/Conservatives/Tea Partiers/et. al.), along with the rest of America, been collectively drugged into political irrelevance by generations of Marxist Disinformation?
Warning: Not Safe for Work (profanity)
In his new HBO series Silicon Valley, Mike Judge turns his cutting sarcasm on the wunderkind of Silicon Valley, issuing awesome commentary on 21st century masculinity.
Thomas Middleditch portrays Richard Hendricks, a developer who creates a miracle algorithm with revolutionary file compression capabilities. He is the anti-Don Draper: a skinny, nervous twenty-something dressed in cargo pants and a hoodie; Hendricks is the lost member of the Big Bang Theory click. He lives with two other computer geeks in “the incubator,” a house owned by the overtly obnoxious yet humorous Erlich Bachmann (hysterically portrayed by T.J. Miller), whose app, Aviato, has turned him into one of the many tech venture capitalists in Palo Alto.
Hendricks turns down a 10 million dollar offer from his tech guru boss Gavin Belson, owner of the fictional Google-ripoff “Hooli,” who is anxious to purchase the miracle algorithm. Instead, Hendricks elects to accept eccentric investor Peter Gregory’s offer of $200,000 for 5% of his start-up company, Pied Piper. It’s the best argument for capitalism and small business being made on television today. In electing to start his own business instead of running with the cash, Hendricks inspires his fellow nerds and is forced into maturity. Within the first three episodes he transitions from panic attacks to developing a business plan and entering his first series of negotiations.
With his 1999 hit Office Space, Judge issued a powerful statement about the death of masculinity in the corporate world. With Silicon Valley, his declaration is refined into a statement about how the free market can be used to empower men — primarily nerdy white guys and the Asians who hang with them. In the first episode, Hendricks declares:
Look guys, for thousands of years, guys like us have gotten the sh*t kicked out of us. But now, for the first time, we are living in an era where we can be in charge and build empires. We could be the Vikings of our day.
Judge also takes sharp jabs at the men who propagate corporate culture. Hooli’s Gavin Belson is a “global”-minded laughable yuppie with a Messiah complex who is “committed to social justice” and keeps a “guru” around to remind him how wonderful and unique he is. “If we can make your audio and video files smaller, we can make cancer smaller,” he proclaims as he races to compete with Pied Piper’s formidable nerds.
It will be interesting to see how women are treated within the show. In episode 3, Bachmann (who wears a shirt that reads “I know H.T.M.L.: How To Meet Ladies”) orders up an exotic dancer as a “gift” to reward the Pied Piper crew. The guys retreat to the kitchen, anxious to avoid an awkward scene. The one guy who she manages to trap declares his love for her, and is later found hanging out at the dancer’s home… playing video games with her children.
The series is peppered with Judge’s raunchy humor, but unlike Family Guy it is relatively sparse and works to advance instead of interrupt the story. The Big Bang Theory may have ushered in the era of the nerd, but Silicon Valley is taking America’s love affair with geeky guys and masculinity to a newer, deeper, and much-needed level of respect.
Hiding the ugly face of Marxism has become a real science.
– Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa
We get it: Intellectuals who fall to the Left of the political spectrum dig Marx. Cultural critics like Ben Shapiro and Ben Stein have already made the excellent argument that academia is ideologically corrupted by said intellectuals, arguments that can be backed up by practically every conservative college graduate in the country. Now the focus has turned to public education, specifically the battle over Common Core Curriculum Standards (CCCS). You know what I’m talking about: Those crazy grammar assignments or math problems-cum-memes that pepper your Facebook and Twitter feed, usually accompanied by sarcastic comments like “Common Core is making me stupider.”
From a governmental point of view, Obama’s CCCS look like Bush’s No Child Left Behind on steroids: high-impact grant funding legislation that increases federal influence at the local level. Public school districts must report boatloads of data showing quantifiable achievements if they are to be rewarded with government funds. Many Americans doubt that a quality education can be quantified, but as Stalin was fond of saying: “Bureaucracy is the price we pay for impartiality.”
Which brings to mind Pacepa’s remark:
After the Kremlin expelled Romania’s King and declared the country a Popular Republic, the new government nationalized the school system, and decided to create its own type of intellectual — the “new man”.
Romania had its intellectuals before the Revolution. Most fled to Western Europe with death sentences hanging over their heads, still more wound up in gulags, and yet others elected to support the communist regime. A new generation of intellectuals would grow up behind the Iron Curtain, cultivating a subculture all their own filled with bootleg records and western media. They’d take menial bureaucratic jobs that would give them enough time to think and write – secretly of course – and maintain the culture their government denied them. Today’s Russian intellectuals have inherited the complacency of their parents’ generation, willing to “make do” as the government clamps down on free speech. It would seem, as Pacepa puts it, that their “vital arteries [have] been calcified by 70 years of disinformation and dismal feudalism.”
The harsh reality is that most citizens of the former Soviet Union do not know how to defend freedom because they’ve been educated to live without it. As the Wizard so kindly explained, the Scarecrow didn’t need a brain; he needed his intelligence to be quantified through a degree conferred by an authoritative source. This doesn’t mean that public education is a sham; on the contrary, this should illustrate how powerful an education can be in the hands of the educators as well as the minds of the educated.
We’ve discussed Marxist influences in our contemporary culture, but do we have the courage to confront Marxism in our daily discourse? Stay tuned for the next installment of Pacepa’s Seeds of Knowledge.
Most East European governments concealed their road to Communism by posting innocuous nameplates at the door, such as People’s Republic or Popular Republic.
Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa
“People’s Republic” is such a chummy term. In fact, Marxism in general, with all it’s “redistribution of wealth” sounds so compassionate, at least to a Western, Judeo-Christianized mind. A Chinese mind familiar with Mao’s Great Leap Forward, for instance, may have a different take on the benevolent-sounding idea of a “People’s Republic” given the facts:
“State retribution for tiny thefts, such as stealing a potato, even by a child, would include being tied up and thrown into a pond; parents were forced to bury their children alive or were doused in excrement and urine, others were set alight, or had a nose or ear cut off. One record shows how a man was branded with hot metal. People were forced to work naked in the middle of winter; 80 per cent of all the villagers in one region of a quarter of a million Chinese were banned from the official canteen because they were too old or ill to be effective workers, so were deliberately starved to death.”
Mao couldn’t lie his way past a free press in the West. Nor could Khruschev, as Pacepa explains,
The 1963 missile crisis generated by socialist Cuba gave the socialist mask of Marxism a dirty name in the West, and few Marxists wanted to be openly associated with socialism anymore.
But, socialism is still hot. China is still The People’s Republic and “we’re all socialists now,” right? The last installment ended with the question: How have intellectual Wizards manipulated Marxism to acculturate the American mind leftward? Pacepa answers:
[Marxists] therefore began hiding their Marxism under a new cover called “economic determinism,” …a theory of survival rooted in Marx’s Manifesto (another theory of survival), but it pretends that the economic organization of a society, not the socialist class war and the socialist redistribution of wealth, determines the nature of all other aspects of its life.
When economic determinism lost credibility because of the devastating economic crisis in Greece, our Democratic Party began replacing it with “progressivism,” which has become the latest cover name for Marxism. …Today’s Progressive Movement was born in New York’s Zuccotti Park. It was first known as the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, which advocated the abolition of “capitalist America.”
Marxists in the West successfully propagate progressivism under the guise of “social justice“ that demands the redistribution of wealth to the less fortunate. Ironically, most people of the Judeo-Christian West accept this Marxist notion out of the goodness of their hearts. However, putting faith in the Marxist lie that human beings don’t have a heart (and therefore are incapable of compassionate decision making) requires handing over all financial power to the Marxist Wizards who proceed to dole out your funds as they see fit.
This speaks to the heart of the question, but how have the Marxist Wizards rendered us so seemingly brainless?
Pilot Episode, Scarecrow & Mrs. King (1983)
I dig spy movies. TV shows, too. Most kids growing up in the last decade before the fall of the Berlin Wall have fond memories of their first TV heroine being Jem or She-Ra. Mine was Amanda King. At 8 years old I wanted to partner up with an ultra-cool spy like Scarecrow (code named as a member of the Oz Network - as in Wizard of) and take down the Evil Empire in our midst. So, of course, when my editor Dave Swindle approached me with the opportunity to partner up with KGB defector Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa for a little intelligence gathering, how could I refuse?
Pacepa’s latest book, Disinformation reads like a Russian epic. The chronicle of facts detailing the Soviet disinformation campaign that disarmed American intellectual, political and academic circles over the course of the 20th century should be a must-read in any conservative’s common core. Having relied on it heavily for my PJ Lifestyle series on the Intellectual Love Affair with Marxism, I finished the book wanting to understand exactly where America is at on the road to socialism, and if the facts fit, why so many conservative outlets hesitated to give Pacepa’s book the time of day. So, I began my interview with 15 questions; a few weeks later Pacepa sent me a 12 page reply to the first question on the list. Tolstoy would’ve been proud. ”I’m out of touch with this generation… you speak their language,” he commented rather poetically. He also gave me an assignment: to decode his knowledge into what the Dude would call “the parlance of our times.”
Like Jay Carney, I have an affinity for the Soviet spectrum. Unlike Jay Carney, the goal of my interest is to avoid becoming a citizen of the next socialist empire to tear apart the globe. So, in the interest of achieving that goal, I seek out primary sources who can give me real information on the warning signs that appear within a culture whose political and popular leadership are driving them dangerously close to the brink of socialism with the goal of autocracy in mind.
The prophet said, “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.” God has designed a path; we choose to walk down it and eventually realize what we’ve been preparing for all along. My path began in front of a TV and wound up here, in front of a screen that connects millions today with seemingly ancient truths. I invite you now to walk this yellow brick road with me as we study Pacepa’s seeds of truth and, perhaps, get a chance to plant a few of our own so that we can all find the rest we so desperately need.
Editor’s Note: “Part 1: The Mask of Marxism” is scheduled for Monday at 8:00 PST.
David Swindle has entered the ongoing discussion on altruism, religion and politics here at PJLifestyle. In doing so, he’s issued a number of great questions I’ve been wrestling with over the past few weeks. Jumping back in, I’d like to address them one by one, beginning with:
Walter, Susan, Lisa, and anyone else who’d like to join the discussion: am I going too far when I say that for a good number of people “Conservatism” is a form of idolatry?
No. I’ve had a hard, sad reminder of that through some of the commentary I’ve received on a number of articles in the past few weeks. There are some wonderful, insightful people out there who I’d love to have dinner with some day. And then there’s the passionate base who has time to issue verbose rants: Contradict popular line and you can “F-off”. You know this segment of the population; they are the reason stereotypes exist. But, they also prove the point that there are people out there who worship Conservatism above all else. Ironically, they’re as abusively passionate as those “liberals” they are taught to hate.
For those of you unfortunate enough to not have grown up Gen-X, today is #RexManningDay, the day in the fictional world of the film Empire Records during which pretty boy “pop star Rex Manning was scheduled to do a CD signing at Empire Records, one of the last vestiges of what has come to be known as “independent rock”.
Released in 1995, Empire Records celebrates the small independent music store, planting the seed for what would eventually become Record Store Day. A Breakfast Club-esque group of staffers celebrates alt rock and all things un-pop while ex-Hippie store manager Joe Reaves (Anthony LaPaglia) struggles to keep his uptight yuppie brother from selling out to a chain music store. All sorts of drama ensues as Liv Tyler and Renee Zellweger fight over guys, Robin Tunney dabbles with suicide, and Ethan Embry gets accidentally high to Gwar. A lot of great music is played, culminating in a rooftop concert that raises enough funds to keep the store open, proving there is a good side to community organizing after all.
Of course, there’s an official website for Rex Manning Day, but if you’d like to travel even further down memory lane, check out 13 Favorite Empire Records Memories, get 9 Fashion Lessons from the movie, or read 5 Fun Facts about the film. Better yet, head on over to your local record store and celebrate the things that make America great: small business, independent music, and a healthy dose of snark.
Michelle Goldberg over at the Nation published an excellent article on the #CancelColbert controversy arising out of what she has dubbed the “New Political Correctness”:
It’s increasingly clear that we are entering a new era of political correctness. Recently, we’ve seen the calls to #CancelColbert because of something outrageous said by Stephen Colbert’s blowhard alter ego, who has been saying outrageous things regularly for nine years. Then there’s the sudden demand for “trigger warnings” on college syllabi, meant to protect students from encountering ideas or images that may traumatize them; an Oberlin faculty document even suggests jettisoning “triggering material when it does not contribute directly to the course learning goals.” At Wellesley, students have petitioned to have an outdoor statue of a lifelike sleepwalking man removed because it was causing them “undue stress.” As I wrote in The Nation, there’s pressure in some circles not to use the word “vagina” in connection with reproductive rights, lest it offend trans people.
Radicals thrive on crisis. The crises they are generating are evidence of how truly free we are as a nation. Panicking over statuary is as #FirstWorldProblem as you can get. Yet we should not be fooled: The chaos of radicals always has a serious motive.
Nor is this just happening here. In England’s left-wing New Statesman, Sarah Ditum wrote of the spread of no-platforming—essentially stopping people whose ideas are deemed offensive from speaking publicly. She cites the shouting down of an opponent of the BDS movement at Galway University and the threats and intimidation leveled at the radical feminist Julie Bindel, who has said cruel things about trans people. “No platform now uses the pretext of opposing hate speech to justify outrageously dehumanising language, and sets up an ideal of ‘safe spaces’ within which certain individuals can be harassed,” wrote Ditum. “A tool that was once intended to protect democracy from undemocratic movements has become a weapon used by the undemocratic against democracy.”
Whether it is in a public forum or a private business (as with last week’s case of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich) “no-platforming” is the desired outcome of the radical-induced chaos. Whether it is used against the presumed liberal (feminism) or conservative (anti-BDS) cause, the outcome is the same: a clampdown on free speech and individual expression, marketed as kind-hearted, feel-good social legislation. Orwell would not be surprised.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in in March of 2013 as “5 Controversial Ways to Enjoy the Decline of America“ It is being reprinted as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists. Where will this great piece end up on the list? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months… Click here to see the top 40 so far and to advocate for your favorites in the comments.
Is America in decline?
I’ve been hearing the United States compared to the Roman Empire since around the 1970s, and I’m sure those apocalyptic sentiments were being expressed long before I was born.
However, it’s difficult to read and watch all the depressing stuff posted here on PJ Media and elsewhere and not conclude that, this time, it’s on.
America’s going Gibbon.
Some books propose possible ways to avert this catastrophe.
Aaron Clarey’s Enjoy the Decline isn’t one of them.
As his subtitle suggests, this book is about “accepting and living with the death of the United States.”
It’s full of counterintuitive, amusing, and sometimes infuriating advice:
What country should I move to?
What should I pack in a bug-out bag?
Why don’t black people go to national parks?
This book features something to offend everyone.
…no one who doesn’t already believe in God will go see Son of God. And many who do believe in God and who do go see it are, like me, plopping down $14 or $15 purely from a sense of solidarity with the well-intentioned creators of such projects. There are other, better “Jesus movies.” A dramatic reading of some of the more risqué and exciting parts of the Bible by the likes of Morgan Freeman would interest me more than sitting through Son of God again.
And while neither option likely interests your secular, non-religious co-worker, neighbor, or relative, all of them will go see something like Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. This is why I, as a Christian, am infinitely more excited about Noah than any other “faith-based” film in a long time – regardless of the theology or worldview found in it. I can actually talk to my non-Christian friends about it because they will actually pay U.S. currency (or BitCoin) to go see it.
…what I am suggesting is that while we work to inspire and equip new generations of artists who share our values to boldly venture into the pop-culture fray, we must not miss opportunities to introduce our worldview into the cultural conversation. … Art has the power to transcend and speak to the soul. But it must be able to meet people on their level before pointing them upward.
Upon first read I knew Moeller went out on a limb with his commentary, precisely because what he says is the truth. And truth doesn’t always gel with religious dogma; I’m a Jew, I should know. One advantage I do have over my Christian brothers when it comes to faith is that my Jewish culture encourages — and is built on — wrestling with God’s word. These matches stray far from the polite scenarios common to gentile Christian faith. However, they have resulted in a similarity between us, in that they have developed and sustained a religious culture that reveres commentary as much as the actual Word of God.
The hypocrisy of the intellectual elite is finally being called onto the cultural carpet. This past Tuesday, Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post observed: “There has been so much political turmoil among Republicans that it is easy to lose sight of the intellectual disarray on the left.” PJM’s Ed Driscoll quoted The Daily Beast‘s Lloyd Grove speaking of modern liberals: ”…Think aesthetics as politics, and academic credentials as peerage. Think of a latter-day Americanized version of Downton Abbey—where everyone knows his or her place, and our betters look best.”
It is amazing to see how quickly the liberal/socialist/Marxist wing of the political spectrum has imploded. Only one generation ago they donned tie-dye and preached “Damn The Man.” Today, their Gen-X children (Barack and Michelle included) have embodied The Man to their own damnation and that of the middle class, the working poor, and all those for whom they claim to care so much (at least during election season).
Driscoll cited Grove’s observation that contemporary liberals are living
…a world away from job-craving America, and light years from the mid-twentieth century Democratic Party.
Indeed, this gap gives added credence to Professor Fred Siegel’s critique that “today’s liberal gentry see the untamed middle classes as the true enemy,” …It’s not that the Democrats don’t know that they have a problem with the non-government employee middle class, but it’s just that they really are not bothered by it. As the New York Times framed the issue, “many in the party pay so little attention to white working-class men that it suggests they have effectively given up on converting them.”
Last week, alternative media mogul Glenn Beck announced that he was going to focus on “taking back” American culture through the power of nostalgia:
In the future, Glenn Beck’s focus is going to be more on influencing culture and less on politics and news. After all, news is only “what the culture allows,” he said in a recent interview with National Review’s Eliana Johnson.
…“Beck is nostalgic for an America of decades past, and his cultural projects will aim to resurrect and revive it,” Johnson writes. “It’s an America where duty trumped desire and Americans were bound together by a sort of civic religion created by that sense of duty. ‘I want to impact the culture in the way that people see good again,’ [Glenn] says.”
Beck’s goal is admirable, to a fault. The period he seeks to resurrect was one in which concepts like “good” and “duty” were defined by a Biblical religion, not a civic one. Any history student will tell you that Marx had his own take on the American Revolution; you can show someone Frank Capra movies until you’re blue in the face and they’re still going to see Mr. Smith as the ultimate community organizer if that’s their moral outlook.
As Amy Kenyon notes, there are pitfalls to what passes for nostalgia these days:
…the historical meanings and usages associated with nostalgia were finally mangled beyond recognition until its chief purpose became the performance of sentimentalism, the parceling out of discount memory via television, advertising, heritage theme parks, and souvenir markets, all aspects of what we might call the “nostalgia industry.” As such, nostalgia became kitsch, trivial and reactionary: hardly the stuff of a meaningful engagement with the past or the workings of memory.
Simply put: Glenn Beck needs to do more than embrace the facade of America, circa 1940. Beck needs to dig deeper, to America’s Biblical heritage, to understand what re-taking the culture truly means.