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Was the Sinking of the Titanic 103 Years Ago a Conspiracy?

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 - by Robert Wargas

The Titanic sank precisely 103 years ago today. A huge ship made out of iron and steel strikes an iceberg and therefore sinks—a fairly straightforward scenario, one would think. During a casual stroll through Wikipedia, however, I came across a page called “RMS Titanic alternative theories.” One of these theories concerns—of course!—the Federal Reserve:

Several of Titanic’s passengers including John Jacob Astor, Benjamin Guggenheim, Isador Strauss, and George Dunton Widener were among the richest men in America. Some conspiracy theorists claim that these wealthy individuals were opposed to the creation of the Federal Reserve Bank and that financier J.P. Morgan saw the opportunity eliminate them by convincing them to sail with him on the maiden voyage of the new Titanic which was really the badly damaged Olympic that he planned sink in an insurance scam. As victims of a maritime disaster nobody would suspect that they had really been murdered to prevent them from opposing the Federal Reserve Act. In addition to Morgan, several of his close friends and associates are known to have cancelled their plans to sail on Titanic at the last minute, as did the wife of J. Bruce Ismay. Morgan also had several bronze statues he had planned to transport to America removed from the ship a few hours before she sailed leading to speculation that he knew her fate.

The writer of this passage provides no citations, but this sounded like something that members of the Ron Paul cult would believe. So I searched a bit more and found this 2013 post from—surprise!—The Daily Paul, titled “Did the Federal Reserve Sink the Titanic?”

Some people are just desperate to be rebels. In their quest to believe nothing, they’re willing to believe anything. Cynicism is the ultimate naiveté.

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The Most Spectacular 1960s Sci-Fi Stories

Thursday, April 9th, 2015 - by Pierre Comtois

After many decades, the steam in the SF train that had left the station in the earlier part of the century, finally began to run out.

It wasn’t something that happened right away or even a trend that could be recognized at the time, but in conjunction with the spirit of the times, a younger set of writers, more interested in aspects of social development, moved the field more in the direction of “soft” SF rather than the more traditional “hard” science fiction of the golden age.

This movement, or “new wave,” spearheaded by the likes of Harlan Ellison, Michael Moorcock, and Judith Merril, concerned as it was with sexual mores, politics, psychology, environmentalism, drug use, and social breakdown, might have been considered a maturing of science fiction with its more “adult” interests and disdain for pulp-era SF, but it came at a cost in excitement and wonder that had contributed mightily to the rise of SF as a literary genre in the first place.

As a result, the field would become increasingly marginalized in the decades beyond the 1960s, infiltrated by fantasy and watered down to a handful of sub-genres such as cyberpunk, military fiction, and alternate history.

Hard, science-oriented stories of space opera, nuclear power, and alien civilizations would give way to soft science stories that, as new-wave guru J.G. Ballard put it, focused on “inner space” rather than outer space.

In short, science fiction would become less and less interesting to young readers. The same age group that had been so fascinated by the work of Jack Williamson and Edmond Hamilton in previous years would begin to abandon the field over the course of the 1960s and more so in following years.

In short, science fiction wasn’t much fun anymore.

Which is not to say there still weren’t a lot of good stories out there. They just became harder to find and further in between. After all, this was the decade when such writers as Gene Wolfe, R.A. Lafferty, Ben Bova, Fred Saberhagen, and Larry Niven made their first appearances in print.

Ironically, SF-based movies were also growing in popularity and in maturity of content with decent adaptations of The Day of the Triffids, Fahrenheit 451, Fail Safe, and 2001: A Space Odyssey all appearing over the course of the decade.

Furthermore, television was also getting into the act with shows like The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, and The Outer Limits available for adult consumption while Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel, and Land of the Giants still managed to convey that old sense of wonder to the younger set.

But on the literary scene, it was veteran author Robert A. Heinlein who kicked off the decade with his 1961 novel Stranger in a Strange Land. About a man raised by Martians who comes to Earth and becomes the guru of a religious cult, the book became a forerunner of the new wave and required reading among the cognoscenti of a growing counterculture movement.

Another early progenitor of the new wave was Polish SF author Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris, a novel about an expedition to a living planet that taps into the dreams, aspirations, and regrets of the human astronauts. Adding to the story’s brooding strangeness is Lem’s sometimes psychedelic prose, a term that would come into common usage as the decade wore on.

Mainstream author Anthony Burgess made his own contribution to the genre and to the new wave, with 1962′s A Clockwork Orange, the story of a juvenile delinquent named Alex who inhabits a dystopian future where gangs of roving youth practice extreme violence. Though the state attempts to force reform on Alex, it fails and he returns to his criminal ways. In the end, however, there are hints that youthful anti-social attitudes eventually burn themselves out and the instinct towards domestication ultimately triumphs.

Having begun his career in the 1950s as one of the most promising of new writers, Philip K. Dick would eventually abandon his near-perfect string of SF short stories for the novel format, including that of 1962′s The Man in the High Castle, an early alternate history novel that postulates an Axis victory in World War II. Although Dick manages to tell a coherent story here (despite referring to the I Ching for plotting assists), The Man in the High Castle points the way to the author’s later, more self-indulgent work that, while seemingly in tune with new wave sensibilities, was actually unreadable.

Reflecting the spirit of the times to come wherein Western civilization would become rife with self-loathing, Pierre Boulle’s 1963 novel Planet of the Apes postulates a world turned upside down where simians instead of humans have become the dominant species on Earth. In the story, Boulle cleverly uses the reversed circumstances to highlight the contradictions and hypocrisies of mankind, a subversive attitude that would prove perfect for the coming social upheaval of the later 1960s.

Also in 1963, Frank Herbert’s “Dune World” was published, the first installment of what would be retooled as a novel in the next decade titled simply Dune. Tapping into the zeitgeist, Herbert managed to create a conservationist manifesto wrapped in traditional SF themes of galactic empire and space opera with a touch of drug use.

A champion of the new wave, J.G. Ballard’s interest in exploring inner space is evident in 1966′s The Crystal World, which on the surface resembles a typical disaster novel of the period but, with its concentration on the emotional and philosophical turmoil among the characters, betrays the author’s true interests. Adding to the stylization, Ballard’s description of the spreading crystallization creates a setting of delicate beauty and color that would also become a hallmark of the new wave.

Michael Moorcock, today known more for his sword & sorcery character Elric of Melnibone, spearheaded the new wave with his influential magazine New Worlds. Not to be outdone by the authors he cultivated, Moorcock made his own contribution to the movement’s growing body of literature with the controversial “Behold the Man” in 1966. Striking at the foundations of Western civilization, Moorcock tells the story of Karl Glogauer as he travels back in time to meet Jesus of Nazareth and ends up replacing him on the cross.

While Moorcock worked from England, in the United States author Harlan Ellison was editing a groundbreaking anthology called Dangerous Visions. Published in 1967, the book contained a mix of golden age authors and newcomers who were instructed to come up with stories that broke taboos both in content and in stylization. They succeeded, and Dangerous Visions became a legend in the SF field and a touchstone for the new wave.

The 1960s ended with John Brunner‘s Stand on Zanzibar, the last great contribution to SF of the era. In it, the reader is presented with a dystopian future world whose nihilistic, chaotic nature is reflected in the book’s unique format in which different characters and ongoing events are tracked in short, bite-sized segments. The novel was a perfect metaphor for a real world that at the time seemed to be spinning out of control and whose future promised no more than did Brunner’s novel of the year 2010.

Despite the heated battles between enthusiasts and traditionalists, the new wave would peter out by the end of the 1970s, leaving behind only a vague sense that science fiction had to meet the literary standards of mainstream fiction. Whether such a standard had helped or harmed the genre is for posterity to judge; but in a world where reading as a pastime is fast disappearing, how much will it matter?

Or does SF need to return to the fevered prose of the 1930s or the technical wonder of the golden age in order to once more attract young, questing minds? You decide.

******

Editor’s Note: Check out the previous installments in Pierre’s series exploring the development of science fiction by decade: The 10 Most Influential Science Fiction Stories of the 1910sThe 10 Most Influential Science Fiction Stories of the 1920s,  The Most Important, Visionary Science Fiction Stories of the 1930sWhat Were the Most Significant Science Fiction Stories of the 1940s?, and What Are The Greatest Science Fiction Stories of the 1950s?

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Is It Time Women Start Apologizing for Being Feminists?

Friday, April 3rd, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

With her song “Sorry Babe, You’re a Feminist” comedian and songwriter Katie Goodman reacts to the onslaught of millennial celebrities who refuse to take on the title of “feminist” with reasons ranging from the practical (“like voting, like driving?”) to the politically stereotypical rants about online conservatives (perhaps she has yet to encounter Christina “Factual Feminist” Hoff Sommers via AEI?) and obnoxious commentary about math being “hard.”

Where’s her line about being sexually subservient like Queen Bey, going on a local Slut Walk, or falsely accusing a male college student of rape? What about the needs of women in the Islamic and third worlds? She mentions education, but never bothers to acknowledge the anti-feminist mentalities that lead to generations of women growing up ignorant, sexually mutilated, or forced into marriages or sex slavery.

After hearing her rhyming rant of a tune, would you want to call yourself a feminist, or is Goodman merely personifying the many reasons why women are turning away from the feminist movement today?

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Music Trivia Today: Who Was the First Act To Sign Onto the Concert at Woodstock?

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 - by Allston

Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Fortunate Son”:

Answer: Creedence Clearwater Revival was the first major act to sign onto the concert at Woodstock, but (by their own request) do not appear in the film?

Recent “Superstars,” Creedence inspired numerous others to do so as well. However, they found themselves scheduled to appear beginning at 3 AM! They were more than a bit put out by that.

“We were ready to rock out and we waited and waited and finally it was our turn … there  were a half million people asleep. These people were out. It was sort of like a painting of a Dante scene, just bodies from hell, all intertwined and asleep, covered with mud. And this is the moment I will never forget as long as I live: A quarter mile away in the darkness, on the other edge of this bowl, there was some guy flicking his Bic, and in the night I hear, ‘Don’t worry about it, John. We’re with you.’ I played the rest of the show for that guy.” – John Fogerty

Sources: WikipediaMusic History Calendar

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Why Jewish Women Scare Lena Dunham (and the Rest of Hollywood)

Monday, March 30th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Jewish women are fierce. We carry many arrows in our quiver including love for life, command of the situation, determined opinions, and freedom of expression. We are not lithe and unfettered. We do not “go with the flow.” We don’t wait until we are on our deathbeds to express our emotions, resolve hurt feelings, or pursue our passions.

Ultra-Orthodox men pray thanks to God that they were not created a woman. This is only because they don’t have ovaries enough to take on our mantle.We are mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, prophetesses, administrators, investors, and the greatest security blanket men will ever know. But perhaps what shocks these religious men the most is that we regret none of it. This is why they need to hide behind sheets to protect themselves from their own animal lust for us, that is precisely how powerful we are. 

Thank God we are women; someone has to be in charge of this mess. And that is precisely why we are the objects of fear and scorn. Because what you cannot control, you try to contain and what you cannot contain you either love or hate with reckless abandon.

Hence, Jewish women are constantly the brunt of jokes in the entertainment world. Whether it’s yet another good Jewish boy succumbing to shiksappeal or Lena Dunham berating her Jewish boyfriend’s mother, Hebrew women just can’t win.  Our intellect becomes neurosis, our love becomes smothering, our agility becomes goofiness, our sexiness our comedy. In Freudian terms we are the mother from which no man can escape. In pop culture terms we’re the JAP, Jewish American Princess, to whom guilty Jewish men are obligated to commit in misery forever. When God commanded circumcision we’re the ones who didn’t stand in the way and now we’re doomed to forever pay the price for our holy allegiance.

But, don’t be fooled for one second into thinking we’re slaves. Dunham blames her boyfriend’s failings on his mother’s supposed cultural weaknesses:

…he comes from a culture in which mothers focus every ounce of their attention on their offspring and don’t acknowledge their own need for independence as women. They are sucked dry by their children, who ultimately leave them as soon as they find suitable mates. …As a result of this dynamic, he expects to be waited on hand and foot by the women in his life, and anything less than that makes him whiny and distant.

She offers the asinine complaint of feminism, the pagan belief that a woman cannot ever be truly independent because she is umbilically tethered to fostering life. It is a bizarre notion, one that makes no sense if we’re talking power and authority. A child cannot survive without its mother. Said mother not only nurtures and carries life within her body, she is the primary influence on that child from the moment they are born until the day they die. For better or worse, a mother’s relationship with her child has the greatest impact on their social, emotional and character development. Dunham acknowledges this concept in the negative only because she rejects her own womb as a burden instead of the greatest source of a woman’s power on earth.

Statistically Jewish women enjoy having children. Stereotypically, we have lovingly been dubbed “smothers.” Weaklings like Dunham who reject their womb power find humor in these stereotypes because their own egos are a poor substitute for the authority intrinsic to motherhood. They must constantly jab under the guise of humor in order to recharge their power source. Real women thrive on building up the ones they love. Lost women who have surrendered their biological power to political leadership are left seeking to offend. In the end, it is their only reward.

So if you ever wonder why feminists are stereotyped as bitter hags, look no further than the angst-ridden humor of Lena Dunham, feminism’s pop goddess who has sacrificed her wedding on the altar of gay marriage, her womb on the altar of Planned Parenthood. She has not chosen life, therefore death becomes her.

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Are We Enslaved by Politics This Passover?

Sunday, March 29th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Recently I engaged in an interesting Twitter conversation on the ability to confirm a religion’s biblical veracity. My editor, David Swindle, had been approached by Mormons a few days prior and was seeking out further explanation to understand how the Book of Mormon confirmed or contradicted the Word of God. The gentleman he engaged could not answer his question, so I stepped in with Deuteronomy 18:17-22: The Spirit of God does not contradict the Word of God. That is the test of any faith, religion, or spiritual leader claiming to represent the God of the Bible. God is One, He cannot contradict Himself. If a person claims to speak for God, their words better match His, plain and simple.

This concept has been tailored over time in Judaism due to the horrors of diasporas, invasions, and Temple destructions. The scholarly culture that began codifying the oral law that would become the Talmud eventually proclaimed themselves the inheritors of the gift of prophetic interpretation. In a bureaucratic coup, these ancestors of today’s rabbis took command of the prophetic role from God’s hands. Hence, today’s Judaism is informed by the concepts that the biblical manifestation of the prophet died with the second Temple, and the Talmud (Rabbinic oral law) is the equivalent of the Torah, leaving religious authority within the realm of the rabbis.

Yet, Torah teaches us that all human beings fail and that spiritual leaders schooled in this truth are held to a higher standard of behavior, because of their willful acknowledgement of and commitment to this truth. Knowing this, we are to be even more vigilant when it comes to scrutinizing our teachers and their teachings. That doesn’t mean, however, that we are free to judge each other in the process. Being human, we are far too susceptible to getting caught up in the cult of leader-worship, leaving us vulnerable to criticism when our leader fails.

Take, for example, the Forward’s Jay Michaelson questioning why adherents of disgraced Rabbi Barry Freundel didn’t come forward with their suspicions sooner:

How can some of our community’s leading (if self-appointed) cultural sages lionize and valorize someone who, in fact, they didn’t really know that well? …I also wonder what criteria we use to evaluate our spiritual leaders when a serial sex offender can sneak past them. …There are questions that should have been asked, suspicions that should have been raised. But the self-reinforcing loops of elite power — X likes him, X is powerful, therefore I should like him — blinded those entrusted to keep watch.

One of Freundel’s converts, Bethany Mandel, treats Michaelson’s observation as a criticism of her own ability to judge Freundel’s character, while illustrating that as a convert she was the one being judged in turn:

To be clear, Freundel had a great deal of power over us, but while he could sometimes be controlling and manipulative, he could also be our greatest defender. I will never forget the evening when my then-boyfriend and I agreed to host another couple for a meal…. Upon learning of my status as a convert-in-process, the couple refused to eat my food without hearing directly from the rabbi that it was safe according to the laws of kashrut. My then-boyfriend, a friend and the husband literally ran from Dupont Circle to Georgetown to knock on Freundel’s door to ask about the status of my food.

This dangerous cycle of judgment and blame makes us all victims of one another instead of family, friends, or event compatriots. We become so caught up in the opinions of others, whether they be rabbis or fellow Jews, that we lose sight of who God is and our true purpose in being a part of the Jewish world.

In the wake of Israel’s elections we are being baited once again by this cycle of judgment and blame. Rabbis now feel compelled to preach politics from the bench to congregants pressured to question their allegiance to the concluding line of the Passover Seder: “Next year in Jerusalem!” Instead of finding unity in our eternal freedom as Jews, we’re squabbling over political leaders who will come and go. Instead of taking joy in one another, we’re seeking authoritative approval of our political opinions. Instead of rejoicing in our freedom, we are being bound by the threat of destruction. And when we succumb to the fear we transition from freedom to slavery. This victimhood propels our judgment of and separation from one another.

The rabbinic claim to prophecy should motivate us as a community to engage with the Word of God firsthand, not with the goal of disproving one another, but with the aim of being the people God has chosen us to be. When it comes to religious leadership, it is our prerogative to “trust, but verify.” We cannot be blamed for the failings of others. But we are answerable to God for our own actions, and judging one another is not in His playbook.

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Can Feminism Exist Without Institutions of Higher Education?

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Anita Sarkeesian, self-dubbed “social justice activist,” details that, had she not engaged with the sphere of contemporary feminist academia, she would not have become a feminist. A convert to the faith, it was only by adopting the “systemic and institutional framework” depicted by modern feminist writers that Sarkeesian was able to “see how oppression manifests in many subtle ways under the systems of what bell hooks calls white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy.”

Sarkeesian’s feminism wouldn’t exist without this systemic framework, a mode of thinking that has caused her to question the individualism she sees inherent within the “neo-liberal worldview.” Therefore, “choice feminism” empowers oppression, because a choice good for one woman isn’t necessarily good for all women.

Sarkeesian believes that “choice feminism obscures the reality that women don’t have a choice.” The real question is, if women refuse to believe in the “systemic and institutional framework” preached by feminist academics, are they free to embrace the reality of having more choices than they’ve previously been led to believe? What would a feminism free of oppression look like? Could it function outside the walls of the academic temple?

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VIDEO: Would You Enroll in Preschool for Adults?

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

The Wall Street Journal is covering the latest trend in rejuveniling among the Millennial set: preschool for adults, where “play is serious business.” Six adults pay anywhere from $300 to $1000 to crowd into a Brooklyn duplex on Tuesday nights from 7 – 10 p.m. and participate in everything from nap time to envisioning themselves as superheroes.

Student Amanda Devereux detailed her reasons for enrolling in the Pre-K at Cosmo:

The self-help and goal-setting aspects were new, but welcome. I can use all the help I can get in making it to the gym, even if it means creating a superhero to get me there. I’m looking forward to seeing whether the preschool experience changes me over the next month, and I’m excited to see where Miss Joni and Miss CanCan take us on our class field trip. Mostly though, I’m excited about the snacks.

Is this latest trend in seeking eternal youth another glorified self-help program, or a sign that our traditional cultural institutions aren’t filled with hope and change? Is there a solution to be found in regressive creativity, or is this just another attempt at blissful ignorance? If you enrolled in preschool today, what would you learn?

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VIDEO: Feminism Needs This Disney Princess Power

Monday, March 23rd, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Lily James and Kenneth Branagh provided truly thoughtful, eloquent answers to the question of how Disney’s newest Cinderella embodies the reinvention of the princess in a 21st century feminist light.

Contrary to popular culture’s interpretation of sex as power through the crowning of figures like Queen Bey, the star and director of Cinderella each proffer the concept of a feminism that draws its power from a woman’s spirit rather than her body. It is Cinderella’s graceful attitude and her desire to treat others with goodness that is the source of both her beauty and ultimately her power as a woman.

The real question is, in a world full of Dunhams and Kardashians, is feminism ready to go spiritual to find the purpose it so desperately needs?

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The Real Problem with American Coffee Isn’t the Beans, but the Culture

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

I’m far more of a wine connoisseur than a coffee drinker. Years ago I cut back to half decaf in order to cut back on migraines and stomach trouble. The hi-test sludge my editor prefers could never cross my lips for fear of bodily damage. The one thing I associate with brutal American coffee is brutal American stress: the need to meet a deadline, please a boss, do more, say more, be more with vim and vigor. Just as any alcoholic uses cheap trash, downing brutally burnt beans has become a lousy, albeit necessary way to get a much-needed fix. And that’s where we get coffee wrong in America.

Tel Aviv is littered with cafes and kiosks serving Euro-style coffee. I never got the hang of what to order to balance out my pathetically minimum caffeine requirement, but at Cafe Nachmani I not only learned how to order the right tasting brew, I learned how to enjoy it. I’ve never seen a windowsill in Starbucks lined with art magazines. Not Cosmo or People, literal professional art magazines you’d see in big city galleries and be afraid to touch. The Barnes & Noble cafes are filled with geeks on their laptops, chugging down brew in order to use the free WiFi. At Cafe Nachmani, patrons sipped on cappuccinos and the Israeli favorite, espresso, while lingering over literary mags heavier than half the books lining our chain’s clearance aisle.

Tel Avivans work like mad in a city that never sleeps. They’ve just learned how to enjoy a frenetic pace better than we ever could. It’s amazing how much more you enjoy life when you view it as a pleasure to be lived instead of an obligation to be fueled through.To better answer the question of what you’re drinking, you need to start with why you’re drinking it.

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VIDEO: Track Your #RaceTogether Status with iNotRacist

Friday, March 20th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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VIDEO: Camille Paglia Dubs Contemporary Feminists ‘Stalinists, Fascists’

Thursday, March 19th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Camille Paglia sits with Reason TV’s Nick Gillespie to discuss the failings of contemporary feminism, specifically in relation to the contemporary feminist obsession with gender politics which Paglia dubs “gender myopia.” Tagging the culture’s current obsession with viewing the world through the lenses of “race, class and gender” (what Gillespie titles “the holy trinity”) as a “distortion of the 1960s,” Paglia, a self-described atheist, explains that “Marxism is not sufficient as a metaphysical system for explaining the cosmos.”

The powerful dialogue should be required viewing for all college freshmen and women, of course. A general in the culture wars, Paglia continues to be the only academic unafraid to conquer Marxist ideology and its subsequent theoretical fields on its own turf.

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Today’s Question: Are We All Sociopaths in Our Own Special Ways?

Thursday, March 19th, 2015 - by Frank J. Fleming

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Empathy. It sure is annoying at times. There’s a lot of pain and suffering out there in the world, and frankly, we just don’t have time to share in it all. We all know caring is good, but it’s just not something we can keep up all day in all situations. You may share in a coworker’s devastation when he shatters his iPhone screen but barely bat an eye when hearing news that thousands have died in a mudslide in some faraway country. Does that make you a monster?

Probably.

That’s my question for today: Are we all sociopaths in our own special ways? In my novel, Superego, I explore what it’s like to have no empathy for anyone. The main character in the story, Rico, was simply born (well, made) lacking the ability to internalize morality. Tying his shoe and killing a person are both simply actions that have no moral weight for Rico. And one thing I found surprising while writing that character was that it’s not that hard to get into that mindset. And I’m a nice guy. I don’t kick puppies, even if that would be hilarious. Still, at least for the purpose of fiction, it was rather easy to turn off empathy and look at everything from a utilitarian viewpoint. And it makes me wonder how much really separates us from being psychopaths.

Of course, if you look at a lot of the internet, it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch at all. Just read Twitter or the comments on news articles or YouTube videos — any place people can write anonymously — and it looks like the internet is filled with millions of sociopaths completely immune to the feelings of others.

Oh, I’m not talking about the commenters at PJ Media, of course. You guys are the salt of the earth. But other places, it’s awful.

And the thing is, these people aren’t all weirdos in real life. It’s just that so little separates us from being uncaring monsters that all many people need is the little buffer of the internet to stop seeing others as real people. I’ve never cared about the thoughts or dreams of the virtual Nazis I gun down in video games (or at least I hadn’t until now), and it’s just so easy to have that same dead attitude toward the ostensibly real people you see online through the filter of ones and zeroes.

And then there’s politics, which seems to be almost fueled by sociopathy. We frequently stop looking at people who disagree with us as fellow human beings. Look at how the Tea Party has been portrayed by many: Basically the Left took all the dark corners of their id and projected them upon their political enemies. And people on the Right sometimes talk about those they disagree with as “hippies” and talk about “punching” them, and it’s crazy. Also, just look at the quality of people we elect; it’s like our whole election system is designed to sort out the worst sociopaths in society and put them in charge.

If you think nothing of lying and manipulating people to your own ends, we can probably get a fundraiser going for you. Yes we can!

So is the solution to treasure empathy more? Absolutely not. That’s led to some of the most insufferable sociopaths of all: the “caring” sociopaths. Look at the Social Justice Warriors. They claim their actions are about empathizing with all the people society has victimized, yet all the SJWs ever seem to do is demonize people they label as “uncaring.” It’s like they’ve taken the otherization of the worst racists of the past and just reapplied it in new and inventive ways against people they love to dismissively label as sexists, racists, homophobes, or transphobes (and there are lots of good reasons to dislike Michael Bay’s Transformer movies, so I don’t get the need for the negative label).

It’s like the ability for a human to feel empathy is so limited that by focusing so much empathy on certain groups they’ve lost it for everyone else. Thus by having people focus on empathy, we simply have sociopaths wielding caring like a club.

And maybe that’s the problem: Humans are just limited in how much we can care. If we care intensely for some things, we become near-sociopaths about other things. So I’d say the antidote to being a sociopath isn’t empathy — which is arrogant in its own way by the whole presumption that you could really understand another person. Instead, we need more humility. When you’re humble, you don’t presume to know how someone else feels, but you also don’t tell them how you think they should feel.

And watch out for politicians who think they have empathy. That’s how we got trillions in entitlements we can’t afford and have them treating us like children, passing laws that tell us what size sodas we can drink. A humble politician, on the other hand, wouldn’t presume to tell us what to do, or think he could spend our money better than we can. Humble politicians would be awesome — if our election system weren’t specifically designed to prevent anyone humble from ever getting into office.

So, while you can’t feel empathy for everyone, the way to keep from being a sociopath is to be humble enough to know your limitations. So while you don’t have to always care, at least care that you don’t care.

******

Please join the discussion on Twitter. The essay above is the twenty-seventh in volume 2 of the cultural discussions between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island exploring the history of counter-cultures, the future of conservatism and the role of new, emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. Want to contribute? Check out the articles below, reach out, and lets brainstorm: @DaveSwindle

Volume II

  1. Frank J. Fleming on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Government? Why It Won’t Look Like Star Trek 
  2. Aaron C. Smith on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Superheroes? Why They Need To Start Killing Super-Villains
  3. Mark Ellis on February 26, 2016: What Is the Future of Gen-X Manhood? Adam Carolla Vs Chuck Palahniuk?
  4. David S. Bernstein on February 26, 2015: What is the Future of Fiction? You’ll Be Shocked Who’s Fighting the New Conservative Counter-Culture
  5. Aaron C. Smith on March 2, 2015: The House Loses: Why Season 3 of House of Cards Utterly Disappoints
  6. Michael Walsh on March 2: What the Left Doesn’t Get About Robert A. Heinlein
  7. Frank J. Fleming on March 3: 8 Frank Rules For How Not to Tweet
  8. Susan L.M. Goldberg on March 4: 7 Reasons Why Backstrom Is Perfect Counter-Culture Conservative TV
  9. Frank J. Fleming on March 5: What Is the Future of Religion?
  10. Aaron C. Smith on March 5: The Future of Religion: Why Judeo-Christian Values Are More Important Than Science
  11. Spencer Klavan on March 5: Not Religion’s Future: ISIS and the Art of Destruction
  12. Chris Queen on March 7: 5 Reasons Why Big Hero 6 Belongs Among The Pantheon Of Disney Classics
  13. Jon Bishop on March 8: Why I Am Catholic
  14. Frank J. Fleming on March 11: 6 Frank Tips For Being Funny On the Internet
  15. Becky Graebner on March 11: 5 Things I Learned In My First 6 Months As a Small Business Owner
  16. Frank J. Fleming on March 12: This Is Today’s Question: What Does It Mean To Be ‘Civilized’?
  17. Mark Ellis on March 12: The Future of Civilized Society: One World
  18. Aaron C. Smith on March 12: Why Civilization Is a Gift to Bullies
  19. David S. Bernstein on March 12: Nihilism & Feminism for Girls: Has Judd Apatow Let Lena Dunham Self-Destruct Intentionally?
  20. Susan L.M. Goldberg on March 15: Why I Am Jewish
  21. Chris Queen on March 15: Why I Am Non-Denominational Christian
  22. Allston on March 16: Counter-Culture Wars, Part 1: Why the Fellow Travelers Hijacked Folk Music
  23. Ronald R. Cherry on March 17: How To Untangle Orwellian Doublethink: 4 Secrets To Help You Spot BS
  24. Dave Swindle on March 18: Do Fairy Tales & Scary Stories Hide Secrets For Defeating Evil?
  25. Walter Hudson on March 18: The Case Against Freedom, Part I: What Are ‘Externalities’?
  26. Chris Queen on March 18: Can Conservatives & Libertarians Unify? A Review of The Conservatarian Manifesto

See the first volume of articles from 2014 and January and February 2015 below:

2014 – Starting the Discussion…

  1. Sarah Hoyt, March 22 2014: Interview: Adam Bellow Unveils New Media Publishing Platform Liberty Island
  2. David S. Bernstein, June 20 2014: What Is Liberty Island?
  3. Adam Bellow at National Review, June 30 2014 kicking off the discussion: Let Your Right Brain Run Free
  4. Dave Swindle on September 7, 2014: Why Culture Warriors Should Understand the 10 Astounding Eras of Disney Animation’s Evolution
  5. Dave Swindle on September 9, 2014: The 50 Greatest Counter-Culture Films of All Time, Part I
  6. Dave Swindle on September 19, 2014: The 50 Greatest Counter-Culture Films of All Time, Part II
  7. David S. Bernstein on November 19, 2014: 5 Leaders of the New Conservative Counter-Culture
  8. Liberty Island on November 22nd, 2014: A Unique Team of 33 Creative Writers
  9. Dave Swindle on November 25, 2014: 7 Reasons Why Thanksgiving Will Be My Last Day on Facebook
  10. Kathy Shaidle on November 25, 2014: Is America Overdue for a Satanic Revival? (Part One)
  11. Dave Swindle on December 2, 2014: My Growing List of 65 Read-ALL-Their-Books Authors
  12. Kathy Shaidle on December 3, 2014: Is America Overdue for a Satanic Revival? (Part Two)
  13. Mark Elllis on December 9, 2014: Ozzy Osbourne and the Conservative Tent: Is He In?
  14. Aaron C. Smith on December 22, 2014: The Villains You Choose

January-February 2015 – Volume I

  1. Paula Bolyard on January 1, 2015: 7 New Year’s Resolutions for Conservatives
  2. Susan L.M. Goldberg on January 1, 2015: The Plan to Take Back Feminism in 2015
  3. Kathy Shaidle on January 4, 2015: Did the 1960s Really Happen? (Part One)
  4. Andrew Klavan on January 5, 2015: In 2015 The New Counter-Culture Needs to Be Offensive!
  5. Clay Waters on January 5, 2015: The Decline and Fall of Russell Brand
  6. Mark Ellis on January 5, 2015: How Conservatives Can Counter the Likable Liberal
  7. Audie Cockings on January 5, 2015: Entertainers Have Shorter Lifespans
  8. Aaron C. Smith on January 6, 2015: How Mario Cuomo Honestly Defined Zero-Sum Liberalism
  9. Stephen McDonald on January 10, 2015: Why the New Counter-Culture Should Make Strength Central to Its Identity
  10. Stephen McDonald on January 16, 2015: The Metaphorical War
  11. Kathy Shaidle on January 19, 2015: Did the 1960s Really Happen? (Part Two)
  12. Frank J. Fleming on January 20, 2015: What if Red Dawn Happened, But It Was Islamic Terrorists Instead of Communists?
  13. Mark Ellis on January 21, 2015: Adam Carolla: The Quintessential Counterculture Conservative?
  14. Aaron C. Smith on January 29, 2015: Objection! Why TV’s The Good Wife Isn’t Good Law
  15. David Solway on February 2, 2015: For a Song To Be Good, Must It Tell The Truth?
  16. Mark Ellis on February 6, 2015: President Me: Adam Carolla Vs. the Scourge of Narcissism
  17. David Solway on February 6, 2015: ‘Imagine’ a World Without the Brotherhood
  18. Kathy Shaidle on February 9, 2015: Was Rod McKuen the Secret Godfather of Punk Rock?
  19. Aaron C. Smith on February 10, 2015: Kick NBC While It’s Down: Use The Williams Scandal to Set the Terms of the 2016 Debates
  20. Spencer Klavan on February 12, 2015: How to Apologize for Your Thought Crimes
  21. Kathy Shaidle on February 16, 2015: David Byrne: Creepy Liberal Hypocrite
  22. David P. Goldman on February 18, 2015: Understanding This Bloody Truth About the Bible Will Save Your Life
  23. Lisa De Pasquale on February 20, 2015: Why American Sniper Is a Much Better Love Story Than Fifty Shades of Grey
  24. Spencer Klavan on February 24, 2015: How Bad Ideology Destroys Good TV: Why Glee Crashed and Burned

Image illustration via shutterstock /  

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How To Untangle Orwellian Doublethink: 4 Secrets To Help You Spot BS

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015 - by Ronald R. Cherry

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In order to control millions of people, totalitarian or proto-totalitarian governments find it necessary to somehow prod their subjects into accepting that which is not true. Intelligent people will naturally see the truth and thereby comprehend when government lies to them – and so that’s the rub – how does totalitarian government deal with intelligent people when they must be lied to?

George Orwell provides the answer: intelligent people must be conditioned to reject self-evident truth, to reject the sanity of common sense, to accept the insanity of Orwellian Doublethink, to accept the lie and the truth in their minds simultaneously: “with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.”

How do Dictatorships lie to intelligent people and get away with it?

1. In the early stages of totalitarianism the use of Orwellian Newspeak is preferred to blatant, in-your-face lies because Newspeak (otherwise known as Doublespeak) is the clever manipulation of words which mean one thing to the speaker and something very different or its opposite to the listener, thus one may plant a false idea into another’s head by lying to them directly, or by using the tricky technique of Doublespeak.

For example, a politician utters support for a woman’s “right to choose” – Orwellian Doublespeak for supporting a woman’s right to kill.

Another politician is an advocate of “climate change” – Orwellian Doublespeak for belief in man-caused global warming  and a denial of solar-driven climate change which results in both global warming and global cooling. In the mind of a co-believer the words “climate change” evoke an image of man-made global warming. In the mind of a naive man the words “climate change” evoke an image of the natural changes that occur in weather – both warming and cooling. Mission accomplished – simply by uttering the incantation “climate change” the politician may win the approval of both – each with opposite mental images, one false and one true – hopefully gaining the vote of both.

The politician does not advocate natural, solar-driven climate change, but the naive man now thinks he does because that is the image painted in his mind by the Orwellian Doublespeak words “climate change.” This rhetorical technique is superior (in the wrongful sense) to the direct lie because, at the end of the day, the naive man will possess the same false idea that would occur had the politician lied to him directly. Through the use of Orwellian Doublespeak there is the advantage of plausible deniability regarding the implantation of a false idea.

The naive man may be intelligent enough to figure it all out (that the politician does not advocate natural solar-driven climate change), but the politician hopes the man has been conditioned by Orwellian Doublethink into acceptance of the lie and the truth simultaneously, and still have his vote.

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2. Doublespeak lies tend to confuse or escape the notice of unsuspecting people.

For example, a government which confiscates middle class property through excessive taxation, while lining its own pockets and redistributing the stolen property to a lazy, so-called proletariat class in return for votes is deemed to be a provider of “Equity” and “Social Justice.” Never mind that forced equal property outcome destroys the work ethic of both the middle class and the so-called proletariat class leading to economic collapse.

And never mind that forced equal property outcome is a big Orwellian lie because, like the Pigs of Animal Farm, the self-serving government class empowered to take (collectivize) the people’s property always ends up with the lion’s share of the people’s property – the worst form of inequity and social injustice. Greed and theft by the people who administer totalitarian government cannot be publicly identified as greed and theft, so the injustice is called “Social Justice” – Orwellian Doublespeak for government greed and theft.

Another example of Doublespeak is the term “Affirmative Action” – words used to describe the destruction of a student’s right to gain graduate school admission based on being part of an out-of-favor ethnic group or skin color, rather than admission based purely on academic achievement and studious preparation. Thus “Affirmative Action” is a politically correct Doublespeak term for affirmation of wrong action.

We also have the phrase “Living Constitution” – Orwellian Doublespeak for Dead Constitution. The “Living Constitution” is law which is not derived from We the People, law not derived from the American majority, but law arbitrarily derived from a small judicial or administrative minority. The so-called “Living Constitution” does not take its breath of life from the people’s amendment process (the real life and breath of our Constitution) but from the minds of a small effete class of “Philosopher Kings.” Constitutional law derived exclusively from a small governing minority means the Constitution is living for them – but dead for the rest of us – the opposite of what our Founding Fathers intended.

 “Laws are made for men of ordinary understanding and should, therefore, be construed by the ordinary rules of common sense.  Their meaning is not to be sought for in metaphysical subtleties which may make anything mean everything or nothing at pleasure… If ‘the judiciary is the last resort in relation to the other departments of the government,’ … then indeed is our Constitution a complete felo de so… The Constitution, on this hypothesis, is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they may please ['Living Constitution'].”

– Thomas Jefferson

Doublespeak government lies are cleverly disguised in rhetoric – lies which can be received and accepted by otherwise intelligent people via the insanity of Orwellian Doublethink – a simultaneous and irrational mental acceptance of both the lie and the truth. Taken together, Doublespeak lies of totalitarian government, and Doublethink insanity on the part of their subjects, the rejection of truth within human minds can occur on a colossal scale.

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3. Insanity (or psychosis) is the mental state where reality (the truth) cannot be separated from falsehood (the lie). Since totalitarian states lie to their intelligent subjects using Doublespeak, and since such government requires them to accept the lie and the truth simultaneously via Doublethink (with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth), totalitarian government becomes engaged in the business of “Controlled Insanity.”

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously [the lie and the truth], and accepting both of them [Insanity]… with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth… Those who have the best knowledge of what is happening are also those who are furthest from seeing the world as it is; in general the greater the understanding the greater the delusion; the more intelligent the less sane… If one is to rule, and to continue ruling, one must be able to dislocate the sense of reality… If human equality is to be forever averted; if the “high,” as we have called them, are to keep their places permanently; then the prevailing mental condition must be controlled insanity.”

– George Orwell, 1984

The lies of totalitarian government must also be accepted by the less intelligent – no problem.

George Orwell realized this was a much simpler dilemma to solve.

4. This segment of society can be made to accept “the most flagrant violations of reality” without too much trouble – just expose them to 8-12 years of foolishness in government schools – and simply lie to them – even flagrantly – through an out-of-mainstream mass media – our new versions of Soviet Pravda and Izvestia.

Since the out-of-MSM passes along disinformation without question, the lies of a totalitarian government can be taken in and digested by dumbed-down, gullible fools. Doublethink insanity is a requirement for the intelligent while the sanity of stupidity is needed for the rest:

“Crimestop…includes the power of not grasping analogies; of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc [Socialist Principles of Oceania], and of being bored or rebelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. Crimestop in short means protective stupidity… The world view of the Party imposed its self most successfully on people incapable of understanding it. They could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening. By lack of understanding they remained sane. They simply swallowed everything, and what they swallowed did them no harm because it left no residue behind; just as a grain of corn will pass undigested through the body of a bird.”

– George Orwell, 1984

Totalitarian government can only exist through a clever or blatant use of lies which must be accepted through the controlled insanity of Orwellian Doublethink or the controlled sanity of Crimestop stupidity.

Orwell’s 1984 character Julia, an enemy of Big Brother’s totalitarian government, “did not feel the abyss opening beneath her feet at the thought of lies becoming truth” where “the heresy of heresies was common sense.”

One way free people can remain free is to think, to recognize and accept self-evident truth, to reject the labyrinthine world of Orwellian Doublespeak and Doublethink, to reject the depraved world of Orwellian Crimestop stupidity, to exercise the sanity and intelligence of common sense. Common sense means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously (the truth and the lie), and accepting only the truth, with the truth always one leap ahead of the lie.

*****

Please join the discussion with us on Twitter. The essay above is the twenty-third in volume 2 of the cultural discussions between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island exploring the history of counter-cultures, the future of conservatism and the role of new, emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. Want to contribute? Check out the articles below, reach out, and lets brainstorm: @DaveSwindle

Volume II

  1. Frank J. Fleming on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Government? Why It Won’t Look Like Star Trek 
  2. Aaron C. Smith on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Superheroes? Why They Need To Start Killing Super-Villains
  3. Mark Ellis on February 26, 2016: What Is the Future of Gen-X Manhood? Adam Carolla Vs Chuck Palahniuk?
  4. David S. Bernstein on February 26, 2015: What is the Future of Fiction? You’ll Be Shocked Who’s Fighting the New Conservative Counter-Culture
  5. Aaron C. Smith on March 2, 2015: The House Loses: Why Season 3 of House of Cards Utterly Disappoints
  6. Michael Walsh on March 2: What the Left Doesn’t Get About Robert A. Heinlein
  7. Frank J. Fleming on March 3: 8 Frank Rules For How Not to Tweet
  8. Susan L.M. Goldberg on March 4: 7 Reasons Why Backstrom Is Perfect Counter-Culture Conservative TV
  9. Frank J. Fleming on March 5: What Is the Future of Religion?
  10. Aaron C. Smith on March 5: The Future of Religion: Why Judeo-Christian Values Are More Important Than Science
  11. Spencer Klavan on March 5: Not Religion’s Future: ISIS and the Art of Destruction
  12. Chris Queen on March 7: 5 Reasons Why Big Hero 6 Belongs Among The Pantheon Of Disney Classics
  13. Jon Bishop on March 8: Why I Am Catholic
  14. Frank J. Fleming on March 11: 6 Frank Tips For Being Funny On the Internet
  15. Becky Graebner on March 11: 5 Things I Learned In My First 6 Months As a Small Business Owner
  16. Frank J. Fleming on March 12: This Is Today’s Question: What Does It Mean To Be ‘Civilized’?
  17. Mark Ellis on March 12: The Future of Civilized Society: One World
  18. Aaron C. Smith on March 12: Why Civilization Is a Gift to Bullies
  19. David S. Bernstein on March 12: Nihilism & Feminism for Girls: Has Judd Apatow Let Lena Dunham Self-Destruct Intentionally?
  20. Susan L.M. Goldberg on March 15: Why I Am Jewish
  21. Chris Queen on March 15: Why I Am Non-Denominational Christian
  22. Allston on March 16: Counter-Culture Wars, Part 1: Why the Fellow Travelers Hijacked Folk Music

See the first volume of articles from 2014 and January and February 2015 below:

2014 – Starting the Discussion…

January 2015 – Volume I

February 2015

image illustrations via shutterstock /   /  / 

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Why Civilization Is a Gift to Bullies

Thursday, March 12th, 2015 - by Aaron C. Smith

See Frank J. Fleming opening the discussion: “ And Mark Ellis: “The Future of Civilized Society: One World

Most people use the word “civilization” as a sign of progress, something to which we should aspire. We’ve slowly worked our way out of the muck, pulling ourselves towards enlightenment. Someday, we will all be shiny and happy. History will end.

That’s bunk.

The dirty little secret that people don’t want to admit is that hard men and women built our society. The soft could not conquer the New World or rise in the industrial revolution. The great conflicts of the twentieth century – two hot wars and a half-century of cold war – required men and women with steel in their bones and ice in their blood to fight.

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We’ve tried to polish off those sharp edges and call it improvement.

And in doing so, we allow bullies to flourish.

Cruel prey upon the weak.

We act civilized. We pass rules, tell kids to talk to adults. I got bullied as a kid. And let me tell you something. Adults are useless. Rules are crap. The most well-meaning adults trying to enforce rules can’t be everywhere.

And when you fight back, zero-tolerance policies punish prey the same as predator. And it goes on. More rules get passed. “Civilization” isn’t the answer.

Violently making sure everyone on the playground knows you will not be a victim is the answer. Celebrating your son or daughter when they come home with a bloody nose and split lip is the answer.

Think back a couple centuries ago. People used to duel over slights to their honor.

Has “civilization” and departing from this tradition changed anything? Are our kids any safer with “zero-tolerance” rules that treat the predator and prey the same?

Can we honestly call that civilization?

We know it’s wrong. Our television shows, the windows into our cultural subconscious, prove that we hate how rules bind the good and empower the vicious.

My parents grew up in a “less civilized age,” when society possessed less formal rules but ran on unwritten consensus and understanding. They understood the system and watched Dragnet and The FBI, stories about hardworking men in gray suits working within the system to enforce the law.

Today, with all of our rules and regulations, we cheer for the anti-heroes.

I just watched Bosch this weekend. Aside from being a great adaptation of Michael Connelly’s series, LAPD detective Harry Bosch gives us a great example of a good man trying to find justice in a civilized world.

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Does American Jewish Survival Rely on the Holocaust?

Sunday, February 8th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

For a while now, my editor David Swindle has been plaguing me to start a series on Jewish identity. Like any good family we disagree with each other about practically everything, cultural and religious identification included. I can’t think of one Jewish setting in which I wasn’t directly or indirectly accused by fellow Jews of being a “bad Jew” for some mundane reason or another. One incident involved the infamous “pepperoni pizza at a Hillel event, for or against” argument. (Truly the greatest Jewish American struggle of our time.) Joseph’s brothers beat him up, threw him in a ditch, and not much has changed since, attitude-wise. Need further proof? Check out the latest argument over how Jewish Americans relate to the Holocaust.

Apparently 73% of us rank the Holocaust as our top-rated “essential” to being Jewish. This disturbs renowned academic Jacob Neusner who’s made a career out of entwining himself into the vines of the Ivy League. Neusner’s argument boils down to the concept that American Jews have no real sense of or connection to their own identity. Therefore, they need to go outside the geographical box to find themselves, either through the Holocaust or Zionism.

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5 ‘Creative’ Tricks To Raise A Bratty Kid

Saturday, February 7th, 2015 - by Rhonda Robinson

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First there was the father that called the police to supervise as he spanked his 12 year-old daughter, then Megan Fox revealed how many parents are being arrested for allowing their children a bit of independence. A sobering thought emerged: parental authority is no longer trusted or honored.

Today’s parents feel the cultural sword of Damocles hanging over their heads.

What we are seeing is a form of progressive parenting. The social current sweeping parents off their feet treats children like a class of oppressed people dominated by adults, then makes sure they are coddled and protected by the state from any would-be offense or danger.

Take spanking for example. It is legal. However, it’s now considered a moral crime. Letting a child play outside without the watchful eye of an adult is considered neglect and endangerment. While allowing children to become obnoxious brats without the ability interact with adults is now an acceptable norm. 

Over at Parenting.com, the current wisdom is on display as “Creative” discipline. Tricks, apparently have replaced parental authority.

I call it ineffective manipulation.

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President Me: Adam Carolla Vs. the Scourge of Narcissism

Friday, February 6th, 2015 - by Mark Ellis

In President Me, Adam Carolla takes the pulse of the social contract, a pulse that is slackening. Narcissism is the sapping beast.

Carolla sees an insidious minority that has turned out to be “assholes.” Predictably, the trait has infiltrated what is now known anachronistically as “the fabric of society.”

The death of God, absent fathers, subversive pop culture, unassimilated immigration, and infantilizing, cradle/grave government all factor as threats to destroy from within America’s exceptionalist sovereignty.

Carolla’s admonition is about a stratum of quasi-pathological narcissism breeding within our culture.

The following formulization often comes up in discussions about Islamic extremism: even if only one percent of Muslims are radicalized, that means 16 million people are in solidarity on some level with jihad.

In Carolla’s equation, even if only one per cent of our nation’s population is at least borderline pathologically narcissistic, that’s approximately three million, one hundred and sixty thousand assholes.

Unfortunately, these figures are probably low.

PJ Lifestyle’s Kathy Shaidle previously laid out Carolla’s organizational outline for the book, a collection of indictments handed down for each department of the federal government, plus random, related take-downs of entities like the United Nations. Shaidle’s mention of the explicit language that peppers the narrative will serve here as well.

President Me serves as both grand thesis and field guide. The comedian and author, who started funny and grows ever more trenchant in his observations, brings to the phenomenon of narcissism on the march a noteworthy specificity; readers will find themselves adding personal worsts to his gallery of self-centered rogues and counterintuitively manifested government entities.

Narcissism is not the only target of Carolla’s brawling cultural assessment, but it’s the metastasizing thread that holds the book together. Often laugh out loud, the larger context of the work has humorless implications for Western societies under threat from virulent ideologies and belief systems, and the madness inherent in a refracted society disassociated from rigorous self-appraisal.

In his third book, Carolla—though scarcely the first to call out cultural narcissism—makes narcissism his bitch, pardon the vernacular, roughing-up by decree everything from big-boxes to the airline industry, bumper stickers to the Department of Homeland Security.

The question becomes, how best can conservative counterculture counter the galloping solipsism of our times?

One answer may be to join the rugged individualism of American conservatism with conservative valuation of the social contract. These components of an individual and/or group ethos must oppose on all fronts an electronics-generated, nanny-statist, broken home-enabled reanimation of the “Me Decade.”

Reading Carolla suggests that contemporary narcissism’s sweep makes the ’70s Me Decade look like the “Mother Teresa Decade.”

A culture beset by multitudes afflicted with narcissistic personality disorders is weakened by over-association with the “me” orientation, and a disassociation from the “we.”  Such a flaccid culture is threatened by cultures in which the “we” construct is established, and the guiding motivation is negative.

In Islamic extremism and its terror component, ideas of self esteem and individual rights are violently abrogated.

In the United States, untrammeled immigration breeds narcissism both from the standpoint of the trespassers who think the laws don’t apply to them and come expecting to share the benefits of a nation for which they hold no modern claim, and from the standpoint of progressive segments of we the people, who are so narcissistic as to think that we can absorb the globe’s unwashed masses, that we’ve got it under control enough to pick up a gigantic tab in perpetuity. We can’t.

Country clubbers and chambers of commerce who want to open the floodgates to cheap labor out of greed are among the most virulent progenitors of the narcissism plague.

It is a counterculture’s job to be vigilant.

Narcissism reflected reveals the triumph of equalitarianism over merit, entitlement over responsibility, immigration (both cultural and quantitative) over sovereignty, and raises the chillingly retrograde specter of globally administered social justice.

Our current administration propagates the idea that America is no better or worse than any other country, a position that would seem to be the opposite of nationalized narcissism. Dig deeper and the truth is that for those who loathe our capitalist republic and everything it stands for, dismantlement becomes the ultimate objective. For any person, administration, or movement to think they have the right to transform the country by any other means than the consensus of the governed represents narcissism gone over the edge.

If traditionalists and conservatives don’t adamantly conceptualize and defend who we are as a culture, our children and grandchildren will absorb the message that narcissistic obsession, and a corollary disregard for the principle of societal cohesion—a disregard clothed in shallow adherence to political correctness and empty homilies about inclusiveness and diversity—is the stuff of post-millennial life.

However micro his targets, or amusing his characterizations, Carolla’s prognosis might best be distilled by appropriating an infamous lyric which surfaced in 1999’s debut by the heavy rock band Disturbed.

Our culture may be “Down with the Sickness,” but conservatives must not be.

It is the job of the conservative counterculture’s rugged individualists to indentify rends in a social contract that upholds freedom, independence, and personal responsibility, and ride into the breach wherever and however they appear.

To join societal critics like Carolla in calling out the corrosive influence of individuals and entities which threaten our way of life with the whirlwind of self, and the vortex of decadence.

*****

This essay is part of an ongoing dialogue between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island regarding the future of conservatism and the role of emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. See the previous installments in the series and join the discussion (email DaveSwindlePJM AT Gmail.com if you would like to respond):

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Did the 1960s Really Happen? (Part Two)

Monday, January 19th, 2015 - by Kathy Shaidle

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As last week’s epically embarrassing “James Taylor” fiasco demonstrated, the Western establishment acts like the Sixties never ended.

But as I’ve been insisting for some time, in many respects, that “Sixties” never really happened.

All that “peace and love,” “soixant-huitard” stuff comprised but a slender slice of the 1960s, and much of that was bogus, a cynical scam that ruined millions of lives.

“OK,” some of you have said in the comments, “but at least that decade had a hell of a soundtrack!”

Yeah, about that…

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Not All Religions Are Peaceful: Charlie Hebdo and Cultural Relativism

Friday, January 16th, 2015 - by Spencer Klavan

See Chapter 1 in this new series here: How to Outwit a Radical Feminist

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, let’s talk about cultural relativism. Can we do that, for a second? Because it seems relevant.

If you’re new to the tortured logic of modern progressivism, you might be surprised to see college campuses and media outlets across America trembling with doe-eyed concern for the safety of Muslims in Paris. After yet more innocent civilians were gunned down in cold blood by Islamist extremists, it might seem more natural to you to worry about, oh, I don’t know, the safety of innocent civilians being gunned down in cold blood by Islamist extremists. Perhaps, in your naïve opinion, it seemed odd to watch well-coiffed intellectuals wringing their manicured hands over the West’s virulent islamophobia.These things might appear strange to you. Well then, my tender little sugar muffin, it’s time to talk about cultural relativism.

And how to destroy it.

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Why the New Counter-Culture Should Make Strength Central to Its Identity

Saturday, January 10th, 2015 - by Stephen McDonald

If Rippetoe is right, then a good way to push back is by making more big, strong men. Let’s talk about what we could achieve by making physical strength part of the counterculture’s core identity.

Strong Body, Dangerous Mind

To a certain extent, what I’m suggesting is a natural fit—men’s upper body strength even correlates with more conservative views against government-enforced redistribution. Evolutionary psychology aside, lifting changes one’s mindset because it demonstrates that, with persistent effort, greater things are possible:

If I can control and affect something as gradual as my body, I can exert more influence over every aspect of my life. I’ve never really identified as a victim of anything, but my patience for those who do has decreased drastically as I’ve learned more and more how to developed a central locus of control.

The blogger being quoted above did not mean to be political, yet his statement has political implications. Having less patience for excuses contrasts starkly to a prevailing culture in which almost any degeneracy will be celebrated, or at least excused. If you are able to transform yourself (borrowing from Chuck Palahniuk) from cookie dough into something more like carved wood, why should the inane fat-acceptance movement get any respect from you? For that matter, why should other self-pitying grievance identities?

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Christian Parents Blamed for Joshua (Leelah) Alcorn’s Suicide

Thursday, January 8th, 2015 - by Rhonda Robinson

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Another tragic death of a teenager has ignited a cultural firestorm. Once again, angry voices drape their political agenda over a coffin. Although this time it’s different. The deceased’s mother is not getting the empathy and support of the mainstream media. 

A confused and depressed 17-year-old young man walked four miles from his home in Ohio to a highway, where he stepped in front of an oncoming tractor-trailer. Joshua Alcorn died at the scene. When he didn’t show up to delete a scheduled post on Tumblr, it surfaced as a public suicide note.

He wrote that his life was not worth living as transgender. He also wrote of his loneliness and his parents’ refusal to get him gender-reassignment surgery. Instead, he lamented, they would only take him to “biased” Christian therapists.

As you might expect, the “proud” and “tolerant” community are rubbing a grieving mother’s face in her dead son’s troubled life. Without a second thought, their bony fingers of blame point to the parents for the child’s suicide and they scream murder. The purveyors of progressive ideology are doing their best to smear the blood of this precious child on the face and hands of his family and their Christian religion.

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How Conservatives Can Counter the Likable Liberal

Monday, January 5th, 2015 - by Mark Ellis

I-Must-Say-My-Life-Humble-Comedy-Legend

It’s understandable when conservatives go on offense against leftist celebrities who get nasty with blanket disparagement of conservatism. Names like Rosie O’Donnell, Janeane Garofalo, and David Letterman at his most pointed come to mind, but there are ubiquitous instances and individuals.

When the attacks are mean-spirited, it’s easy to respond in kind. But what about the likable liberal? The entertainment icon we know is a committed progressive Democrat, but whose contribution to the arts objectively transcends the unceasing wrangle of a divided country?

In the comedy of Martin Short, an occasionally outspoken Hollywood-by-way-of-Canada liberal, we experience an evocation of the heartbreak and joyfulness of show business. Though an obvious prodigy talent, the comedian has always walked between the dichotomous pillars of persevering success and flop-sweat failure. It’s part of what makes him so hysterically funny.

He steers clear of overt political ideology in I Must Say, but in the past has made known his affiliations, which raises the question: Should there always be a socio-political angle when conservative cultural arbiters review or analyze a mainstream culture permeated with progressive ideology?

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The Decline and Fall of Russell Brand

Monday, January 5th, 2015 - by Clay Waters

“Russell Brand, what a c*nt.” Those immortal words were issued by Boomtown Rats singer and savior of starving Africans Bob Geldof at a UK 2006 music awards ceremony, after the British comedian Brand had made cutting cracks at the stars in attendance. (Geldof’s four-letter insult is much less offensive in Britain than America, and used mostly as an insult among men.)

Many conservatives – at least those who have heard of comedian Brand – would agree. Brand, who   starred in the hit Get Him to the Greek and the flop remake of Arthur, has been popping up on right-wing radar of late for his upstart elevation into the political realm, thanks to a few tangy tussles with the British media and his politically tinged semi-autobiography (his third at the ripe old age of 39) Revolution.

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