— Project Pat Sajak (@ParisBurned) January 25, 2015
A few days ago a friend of mine who loves and lives vintage shared this gem from HuffPo showing a series of modern-day “pin-up” pics paired with the argument that “every body is gorgeous.” The pin-ups, all retro-themed, featured a varying number of body shapes and types in clever poses and even cleverer clothing designed to hint at sex. Because sex, good sex, ultimately relies on stimulating the human imagination. Bad sex, on the other hand, has everything to do with telling the mind what to think instead of letting it take the hint. Which is why sex today, quite frankly, stinks.
Play the body-positive feminist angle of the photos all you want. What really makes these photos awesome is that they are a reminder of a time when sex was a hint and women were in control of exactly how far they went with the nudge, the wink, the euphemism, and the nudity. Contemporary feminists love to argue that being completely naked in public is the ultimate proclamation of sexual power, because they cannot comprehend the unspoken language of sex. Anything that isn’t laid out clearly in a multi-part contract is somehow an inconclusive sexual assault. No wonder they love gays and lust after drag queens. These are the only demographics still allowed to speak the unspoken language of glamour and inference. The shaggy-haired, pantsuited crew wishes they could be that comfortable in a sparkling evening gown and heels.
The truth is, contemporary feminists don’t know how to handle the power that comes with the clothes. Naked they get. Naked comes with a contract and court protection. The resulting shock value, best left to celebrities on red carpets protected by the lens of the camera, is especially defended and praised. Second-wave theorists once decried cinema’s voyeuristic male gaze. Now they taunt it openly, flashing breasts and bottoms to the point of sheer boredom, arguing that familiarity with the naked figure will somehow both grant women ownership of their bodies and tame evil male lust. (Tell that one to the booming porn industry.)
No one is more adept at the naked game than Miley Cyrus, Disney’s good girl-gone-bad who has apparently decided to challenge Lena Dunham at her own flesh-revealing game. Her latest shoot for V magazine wasn’t a shoot, per se, as much as a catalog of naked Polaroids (the Insta-variety no doubt) snapped by a friend while on her latest tour. Compare her nude antics to original Disney bad girl Annette Funicello, who ignored Disney’s advice and dared to bare her navel in a two-piece for a series of bikini beach movies in the 1960s. Funicello’s legacy is that of teen sex symbol. Miley’s on the other hand is that of teen slut.
— Nora (@nora_da_xplora) November 1, 2014
In the Slut Walk era, Miley is just another bare-breasted woman in the crowd of feminists bent on denying psychology and biology through visual over-stimulation and court-protected denial of responsibility for inevitable consequences. As Camille Paglia so smartly comments to the pro-slut crowd:
Don’t call yourself a slut unless you are prepared to live and defend yourself like one. My creed is street-smart feminism, alert, wary, and militant—the harsh survival code of streetwalkers and drag queens. Sex is a force of nature, not just a social construct. Monsters stalk its midnight realm. Too many overprotected middle-class girls have a dangerously naive view of the world. They fail to see the animality and primitivism of sex, historically controlled by traditions of religion and morality now steadily dissolving in the West.
The sexual revolution won by my 1960s generation was a two-edged sword. Our liberation has burdened our successors with too many sexual choices too early. Their flesh-baring daily dress is a sex mime to whose arousing signals they seem blind. Only in a police state, and not even there, will women be totally safe on the streets. Honorable men do not rape. But protests and parades cannot create honor.
Contemporary feminism isn’t just about nudity. Its ancient, paganesque obsession with body image puts more demands on a woman’s body than the simple shedding of attire. Ancient Jews who desired to fit in with their Greek overlords painfully reversed their circumcisions. Today’s women go to great lengths to emasculate their otherwise feminine figures to do what, exactly? Pursue a level of strength biologically and psychologically associated with the male gender? Or carve a comfortable trans-niche of their own, not quite glam like the drag divas but not nearly as boring as the Hillaryesque powersuit crowd?
Whether it’s female body building or superhero chic, flat abs, four-packed and more, are now the ultimate pursuit in female happiness. Women once considered themselves liberated from the forced flat abs of the corset generation. Now they’re demanding their own bodies do the work of the whale bones. Cinched in tight, these picture-perfect bodies eliminate the belly pouch made famous in elegant female art for centuries. (The un-tightened belly pouch that also makes the round ligament pain common in an expanding pregnant belly easier to bear.) Goodbye, Botticelli’s bellies and all the promise of fertility within, hello flat abs and the emasculated figures that come with them.
Hyper-muscular demands on a feminine physique can have more than just an aesthetic effect on their womanhood:
A Norwegian population-based survey of nearly 4,000 women under 45 found a clear link between exercise intensity and fertility. Women who were active most days were more than three times more likely to have fertility problems than inactive women. And those who exercised to the point of exhaustion were more than twice as likely to be infertile than those who engaged in less strenuous activities, according to results published in Human Reproduction.
It is the great irony of flat abs and nude figures that women, who claim to possess a greater hold over their own sexuality, are in fact rendering themselves powerless over their own sex. Whether they are work-out freaks who reduce their chances of becoming mothers or women insisting that baring it all isn’t an invitation to a dangerous sexual encounter, contemporary feminism has crafted a cadre of goddesses willing to sacrifice themselves on the altar of so-called liberation. The only thing they’ve been liberated from is the one thing they’re after: Being thought of as sexy.
“Black” has become an idol. Oddly enough we learned that lesson through the making of Selma, a film focused on the accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who boldly declared, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Director Ava DuVernay defended the rewriting of history into what amounts to a black power narrative (mythical kneeling blacks before white cops and all), stating, “This is art; this is a movie; this is a film. I’m not a historian. I’m not a documentarian.” The mainstream media jumped on the bait thrown out by the film’s star David Oyelowo, who declared that ”parallels between Selma and Ferguson are indisputable.” The fact that neither the Academy nor filmgoers fell march-step in line only acted as further proof of the conspiracy against “black and brown people” in Hollywood.
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) December 7, 2014
The race war fomented in the rise of the Black Power movement (the nasty “alternative” to King’s civil rights movement) continues unabated. In fact, it has opened on a new front, one that ties racial strife with national security and even international relations. Playing on strong ties to the Nation of Islam, Black Power now has its eye set on the Palestinian territories and places like Ferguson, Missouri, and the like are set to become the next battleground in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, making way for the planting of hotbeds of radical Islamic terror.
But, to tell the story of Ferguson and Florida’s black activists traveling on solidarity missions to the Palestinian territories is to exact the same kind of indecent omissions as DuVernay. There are blacks out there who support Israel and who, in fact, draw inspiration from the civil rights movement in doing so. The primary difference between these black Zionists and their Black Power counterparts: They are motivated by Jesus, not Islam.
…in 2006, Cornetta Lane an African American at Wayne State University, even went as far as expressing this support by singing Hatikvah in front of an anti-Israel protester who claimed that Israel was a racist state.When Jewish students asked at the time why she sang Hatikvah, Cornetta replied that her pastor, Glen Plummer, explained that Jews significantly helped out African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement, and that Jews contributed significantly to both the NAACP and the Urban League, and were advisers to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Thus, when she saw that there was going to be an anti-Israel rally, Cornetta decided to take this step.
Much like Cornetta Lane, Chloe Valdary has drawn on her uniquely Biblical Christian upbringing and study of the civil rights movement to develop her own brand of Zionist activism. Dubbed “the Lioness of Zion,” Valdary started a pro-Israel student group on her college campus that garnered national attention, turning the college student into a speaker for a variety of Zionist organizations, including CAMERA and CUFI:
The parallels’ between the black struggle during the civil rights movement and the Jewish people today insofar as the legitimacy of Zionism is concerned is staggering. Martin Luther King Jr. [was] a Zionist but more importantly he realized that we must advance our duty when advancing the cause of human rights today. If he were alive today, he would surely be pro-Israel. This is one of the reasons why I am such a staunch Zionist.
Valdary is not alone. Dumisani Washington, a pastor and music teacher in Northern California, has formed the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel, an organization “dedicated to strengthening the relationship between Israel and the Jewish people, and people of African descent through education and advocacy.” Raised a Christian, Washington had a strong interest in the Old Testament and Hebrew history at a young age. Growing up in the segregated south, he drew inspiration from the Exodus as well as Martin Luther King:
Dr. King was a staunch supporter of the State of Israel and a friend of the Jewish people. Many who know of his legacy know of his close relationship with Rabbi [Avraham] Joshua Heschel as well as the Jewish support for the Black civil rights struggle. Many are unaware, however, of the negative push back Dr. King got from some people. Particularly after the 1967 war in Israel, international criticism against the Jewish State began to rise. Dr. King remained a loyal friend, and made his most powerful case for Israel almost 1 year after the Six Day War – and 10 days before his death.
Both Valdary and Washington have raised the ire of pro-Palestinian organizations like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), an organization that misappropriates black history and depicts black supporters of Israel as the Uncle Toms of the 21st century. Contrary to the Black Power impetus forging the Ferguson-Palestine relationship, Washington has outlined the differences between the Palestinian liberation and civil rights movements, and in an open letter to SJP, Valdary condemned the organization, writing:
You do not have the right to invoke my people’s struggle for your shoddy purposes and you do not get to feign victimhood in our name. You do not have the right to slander my people’s good name and link your cause to that of Dr. King’s. Our two causes are diametrically opposed to each other.
Americans remain blind to these modern day civil rights/Zionist activists because, contrary to the preaching of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we have been made into a color-centric society by the Black Power movement and its contemporary descendants. Race has become an idol. Black Power has created the mythical “black and brown faces” to be honored through tokens of affirmative action while sacrificing living human beings on the altar of ghetto culture because of the color of their skin. To remain blind to the idolatry of race is to remain blind to the real struggle for civil rights in America, the struggle to be viewed as a human being instead of a race-based demographic or a color-based “minority.” This is the struggle that unites rather than divides us on issues of economy, quality of life, and yes, even national security and the threat of terrorism.
Editor’s Note: This is a much longer-than-usual essay than we normally publish, but it’s a very thorough dissection of Marxist ideology well-worth your time. To make it more accessible we’ve decided to experiment with publishing it “Netflix style,” meaning as the streaming internet TV service has developed the practice of releasing whole seasons of its new shows at once, allowing viewers to consumer at their own pace, we’ll publish this first as one long article before serializing its points daily over the next 2 weeks.
1. In its essence Marxism, the core ideology of modern Socialism, is an irrational, utopian and coercive perversion of human equality.
Marxism seeks equality where equality does not exist, demanding legal enforcement of equal social outcomes, including those related to economics, higher education, athletics, religion and human sexuality. This ideology even extends to international relationships whereby no nation is allowed to excessively prosper or achieve greatness, i.e.: all nations must be “equal.” Never mind that when people are free their human nature leads to inequality of outcomes – some are hard-working and some are lazy – some are more intelligent and some are less intelligent – some are stronger and some are weaker – some are tall and some are short. Unequal results occur naturally without force when people possess rightful liberty. Based on their degree of truly Free Enterprise nations similarly divide themselves unequally into various degrees of prosperity or depravity.
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.
Why the disconnect between conservative electoral wins these last thirty-five years, and how leftward American culture and law has slithered? How did it come to this?
Thought being the father of action, ineffective efforts spring from flawed worldviews. Our ballot box wins having proven at best delaying actions against the Left’s Borg-like assimilation of the United States, it is time for conservatives to take a hard look at how conservatism views itself and the Left.
Ultimately, much of the problem results from certain conceptual metaphors inherent in modern conservatism. Change those metaphors, and different, more effective actions will result.
The Importance of Conceptual Metaphor
A conceptual metaphor means understanding one idea in terms of another—for instance, argument is war or life is a journey. What metaphor we use affects how we act on or towards the idea.
As George Lakoff and Mark Johnson discuss in their groundbreaking work on the subject, Metaphors We Live By, we see markers of conceptual metaphors scattered throughout our language. Because our culture views argument as war, we seek to win debates, attack our opponent’s position, claim their position is indefensible, and probe for weak points in the other side’s argument. With such a metaphor, it is not surprising that arguments are often very charged in our culture.
To demonstrate how profoundly different conceptual metaphors can affect views and actions towards the same subject, Lakoff and Johnson mused on how a society that likened argument not to war but to a dance might approach debate:
[T]he participants are seen as performers, and the goal is to perform in a balanced and aesthetically pleasing way. In such a culture, people would view arguments differently, experience them differently, carry them out differently, and talk about them differently [than in a culture where argument is war]. But we would probably not view them as arguing at all: they would simply be doing something different. It would seem strange even to call what they were doing “arguing.”
A more individual example of how conceptual metaphors can affect thought and so action is to imagine two men. One thinks of life as a gift. The other thinks of life as struggle. Who’s more likely to have a happier life?
I lit Shabbat candles this past Friday night for the first in a very long time. I made the decision somewhere between learning that the Grand Synagogue of Paris had closed its doors on Shabbat for the first time since the end of World War 2 and the starling fact that 15 Jewish patrons of the kosher supermarket in Paris huddled in a storage freezer to avoid being executed by terrorists.
Roger L. Simon wrote a compelling piece in the wake of last week’s barbaric attacks perpetrated by radical Islamists in Paris. Reading his article I observed with irony that he writes about America’s need for a Churchill. Perhaps, pray to God in His mercy we have one, as we are now surely England with a Neville Chamberlain at the helm. Europe, on the other hand, does not have a Churchill in sight. Europe’s Churchills and their children have fled and are fleeing, some at a breakneck pace. The only Churchill I see on the world horizon is Bibi Netanyahu, which is why he will no doubt be elected to another term as prime minister in Israel, regardless of the deals he may or may not cut with the ultra-religious. Internal politics have to be placed on the back burner when international enemies are this bloodthirsty.
— Magnificent (@Ironyisfunny8) January 8, 2015
Ahmed Merabet, the police officer who first responded to the terror attack at the Charlie Hebdo offices only to get shot to death at point-blank range by the attackers, will inevitably become the poster boy for both sides of the Muslim debate. His truth was that of a Muslim who integrated into French society and professionally defended Western values resulting in his untimely murder at the hands of Islamic radicals. That truth is already being manipulated by multiculturalist news outlets bent on defending universalism despite its deathly consequences.
The Atlantic is using Merabet’s story to drum up what they believe to be obvious anti-Muslim sentiment in France, obvious only because news agencies scrambling to cover the Charlie Hebdo story didn’t jump on Merabet’s paragraph to defend Islam against radical Islamic terrorists. (Priorities, people.) Joining with The Atlantic crowd, Max Fisher opines at Vox:
Here is what Muslims and Muslim organizations are expected to say: “As a Muslim, I condemn this attack and terrorism in any form.”
This expectation we place on Muslims, to be absolutely clear, is Islamophobic and bigoted. The denunciation is a form of apology: an apology for Islam and for Muslims. The implication is that every Muslim is under suspicion of being sympathetic to terrorism unless he or she explicitly says otherwise. The implication is also that any crime committed by a Muslim is the responsibility of all Muslims simply by virtue of their shared religion.
The 1984 speech at the Democratic Convention.
Amongst those commemorating former New York governor Mario Cuomo, who passed away this weekend, nothing receives as much praise as that speech, a piece of oratory that many thought would sweep him towards the presidency.
In the passing of a man, analysis often naturally turns into hagiography. However, something that has not been praised is Cuomo’s honesty.
Cuomo sought to make a counterpoint to Ronald Reagan’s soaring rhetoric of America as a shining city on the hill.
Where Reagan’s word harkened back to John Winthrop and America’s hopeful founding, Cuomo told a tale of two cities. One was that shining city but another was darker, squalid. Cuomo focused on the second city, a focus brought about by a strikingly flawed premise: one man’s success comes at the expense of others.
Some optimists like to say that Left and Right focus on the same goal, simply seeking to accomplish it in different ways. These Pollyannas argue that common vision paves the way to compromise. Of course, in our mainstream political culture, this compromise means conservatives ceding ever more ground to the Left.
However, in his honest passion, Cuomo committed what could only be called a Kinsley gaffe. That is, he honestly defined the premise of modern liberalism: a terribly flawed America must be transformed.
I have no interest in seeing Ridley Scott’s epic IMAX 3-D meisterwerk Exodus: Gods and Kings. Why would I want to spend money on a “gloriously junky” movie that turns my history into a collection of high-tech special effects laced together by a biased, biblically-inaccurate script? Yet, for however lousy the movie itself might be, it has inspired some interesting commentary on Jewish peoplehood from Emma Green over at the Atlantic. For Green, the film inspired a polemic that highlights the seemingly eternal struggle Jews have with the idea of being called out, that is to say “chosen” by God.
I’ve always found this to be rather asinine as far as ideological burdens go. Most people struggle to find their purpose in life. Jews are born into it. We are here to bring God’s teachings into the world in order to make this earth a better place. This chosen status, this calling doesn’t make us any better than anyone else. It simply gives us a job to do, a role that manifests itself through every aspect of existence, every academic discipline, every profession we’ve ever encountered. Whether we’re religious or not, or politically Left or Right, we (for the most part) are bent on doing our part to make the world a better place. Which is probably why those who hate us the most love to rub our chosenness in our face, intimidating the Emma Greens among us into second guessing our God-given responsibility.
Here was the list from last year:
10. Ross Douthat
9. Frank Gaffney
8. Daniel Pipes
7. Rich Lowry
6. Jonah Goldberg
5. Mark Steyn
4. Dennis Prager
3. Ben Shapiro
2. Thomas Sowell
1. Ann Coulter
And here’s where I explained why Charles Krauthammer wasn’t on it (and why he won’t be on this year’s either, so don’t even bother asking): “3 Basic Differences Between Conservatism and Neoconservatism.” Also remember: I’m strict about this list being A) a list of regular columnists who write articles — not bloggers, tweeters, journalists, radio hosts, or TV pundits. B) not including anyone that I currently edit here at PJM, and C) a way to define the values, principles, and stylistic techniques of Conservatism 3.0.
I still need to finish my review of all their columns, but I’m not aware yet of anything that any of the previous year’s 10 columnists would have done or written to warrant an exclusion from this year’s list. Are you? There might be a little shuffling of the rankings, though, and it’s entirely possible that someone could jump into the top 10 or even top 5…
image illustration via shutterstock / moneymaker11
I’ve been writing on political subjects since 9/11—three polemical books and 400 articles worth. But I’ve done my utmost to keep my poetry free of political themes and pleading, generally the poet’s kiss of death. The classical world made room for politically oriented poetry (cf. the invectives of Archilochus and Alcaeus among the Greeks, Horace and Juvenal among the Romans) but this sprang from a completely different cultural context, and lapsed with time into obscurity. Samuel Butler’s 17th century book-length satiric extravaganza Hudibras dealt with both religious and political subjects—clever and funny, but hardly great poetry. The 18th century loved political/satirical squibs, though with apologies to Dryden, Pope and Swift (and even Peter Pindar), these are scarcely remembered today.
Of course, the political category can be stretched indefinitely—is Yevtushenko’s scathingly tender elegy Babi Yar, for example, “political” or not? I would maintain that it is more a bitter denunciation of human savagery and a memorial to the suffering Jewish people than a political statement. The war poems of Wilfred Owen have an acrid political edge to them, but Owen writes as a humanist under fire, not as a political observer or critic. Admittedly, from time to time some modern poets have managed to align political subjects and poetic excellence (e.g., William Butler Yeats, W.H. Auden); however, a successful conflation of this nature is exceedingly rare and prudently to be avoided.
Editor’s Note: see the previous reflection in this series on country music and American values: “3 Reasons Why I Like Country Music“
Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?” (“on that September day”) is a loving and poignant tribute to the victims of the 9/11 atrocity. Debuting at the CMA Awards festival two months after the terrorist attack, it is country’s version of Billy Collins’s poetic memorial “The Names.” Like Collins (“Yesterday I lay awake in the palm of the night”), Jackson is modest and understated (“I’m just a singer of simple songs/I’m not a real political man”), but the political and communal messages are powerful. Listing the reactions of ordinary Americans, Jackson charts a range of caring responses to the terror attack. These include patriotism, gratitude to heroes, the turn to God for answers, and a reassessment of what matters most in life:
Did you burst out with pride for the red, white and blue
And the heroes who died just doin’ what they do?
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself and what really matters?
“I didn’t want to write a patriotic song,” Jackson told his interviewer Linda Owen at Today’s Christian. “And I didn’t want it to be vengeful, either,” he explained, “but I didn’t want to forget about how I felt and how I knew other people felt that day.”
Whether he intended to or not, Jackson did end up writing a patriotic song filled with solicitude for his country and its people. There is one potentially vengeful, or realistically self-protective, response mentioned (“Did you go out and buy you a gun?”), but most of the emphasis is on holding loved ones close and affirming membership in community: phoning one’s mother with a message of love, standing in line to give blood, speaking to a stranger on the street. Nowhere, of course, does Jackson imagine that ordinary Americans might have felt satisfaction at the thought of America being so wounded, or that their first impulse would have been to blame America and glorify the terrorists.
For many if not most Americans, the assumption of inviolability and non-involvement had crumbled with the Towers. The feeling of immunity or even apathy toward the possible irruption of terror on American soil had been replaced in the minds and hearts of decent people by an unexpected conviction of responsibility, coupled with a deep sense of anger, sorrow and resilience. “No man is an island, entire of itself,” John Donne wrote in the 17th Devotion, “every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” Wherever many of us were on that September day, we were also in New York. I was marooned (no boats, no planes) on the tiny Greek island of Tilos, but rapidly understood that Tilos was a part of the North American continent.
Lately my editor, David Swindle, has been encouraging me to develop a series describing my own out-of-the-box Jewish faith. It’s this mish-mosh of biblical proverbs, Torah adages, stories and songs tightly woven together by my American colonial heritage and intense Zionist pride. There is no one perfect word to describe my Jewishness beyond biblical in nature. Orthodox, Conservative, even Reform I am not. Reconstructionist or Renewal? Forget it. But I find commentary from all denominations (“streams” we call them in Judaism) interesting and acceptable in a “with malice towards none, with charity towards all” kind of way that gives me the liberty to define my Judaism in a way most of my compatriots are simply afraid to do. Which is probably why David finds my approach so fascinating. It’s rare to find a Jew who isn’t somehow fettered by the chains of guilt.
So I begin at the beginning, with Thanksgiving, the quintessential Jewish and American holiday. Traditionally Jews celebrate the idea roughly 1-2 months earlier during Sukkot, a festive fall harvest holiday in which we humble ourselves before the God who brought us out of bondage, not because we are perfect, but because He loves us and wanted to dwell with us. (Sukkahs, as in “tabernacles,” as in “the Lord tabernacles with us.”) When you understand the story of God and Israel as a passionate love story, the struggles are contextualized as are the prophecies, into tough tales with happy endings. When you understand the metaphor of God and Israel as a greater metaphor of God’s love for humanity (we’re just the physical reminders) you open your heart to the immense, overwhelming love of God. And there is nothing more you can do as a human being than reflect on that truth with awe-filled gratitude.
You may remember my experience last week where I received the strange basket of apples with a cryptic note from Valerie. I ate one of the apples and fell into a deep sleep, after which I received the strangest ideas for how to improve Walt Disney World. So I wrote them down, and my editor posted them here.
Well, I decided to try a second apple from the basket. One bite of this next apple, and I passed out again. I woke up with the inspiration to rank some of Disney’s best cartoons. Get ready, because I guarantee you that you’ve never seen Disney’s films in this light…
8. Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
Just picture it: a large, virile character roams the world, and though people see him as a bad guy, he’s really good inside, and in the end, he saves the day!
Am I talking about Wreck-It Ralph? Of course I am, but in reality I’m talking about the man whose life I’m convinced the movie is a metaphor for: our wonderful ally Vladimir Putin. Just think about it.
The basket of apples appeared on my door step. At first I wasn’t sure where they came from until I saw the note card that read VJ’s Organic Co-Op, Washington, DC. The note inside the envelope read:
Try these apples. I guarantee you’ve never tasted anything like them.
Valerie? I wasn’t sure who this Valerie was, but I figured organic apples couldn’t be all that bad. I made sure to wash one of them thoroughly, and I took a bite.
Whoever Valerie was, she was right. It didn’t taste like any apple I’d ever eaten, and soon after the first bite, I fell asleep, right there on the kitchen floor!
When I woke, I had all these ideas in my head on how to improve my favorite place on the planet — Walt Disney World. So I wrote them down, and here they are:
7. An Updated CircleVision 360 Film For China At Epcot
Epcot’s China pavilion does a wonderful job celebrating the rich history of its home country, but there’s very little mention of the successes of the last sixty or so years. Wonderful triumphs like the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and defeating those pesky students in Tiananmen Square don’t get the mention they deserve at Epcot.
To remedy that problem, I propose that Disney replace the current Reflections of China film with an informative and interesting documentary I’ll call Forward: China from Mao to Now. The film will look back at the great history of the People’s Republic of China from the earliest days of the revolution to China’s bright future.
Of course, such a short film would not have time to delve too deeply into certain aspects of the nation, so concepts like human rights and economic freedom would probably have to go by the wayside. But I think a CircleVision 360 movie dispelling the myths about the People’s Republic would be worth seeing, don’t you?
On November 9, 2006, as the free world celebrated the seventeenth anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s demise, an 83-year-old man died in a peaceful slumber at his home in the German capital city. The man was Markus Wolf, who during the Cold War led the foreign-intelligence section of East Germany’s secret-police apparatus: the Ministry for State Security (Ministerium fuer Staatssicherheit), known colloquially as “the Stasi.” The Stasi’s most renowned spymaster, he controlled thousands of agents, whose purpose was to infiltrate important Western institutions and government positions. Often mistaken as the inspiration for John le Carre’s shadowy Karla character, Wolf for years remained a mystery to Western intelligence services, who didn’t even have a picture of him until the late 1970s—several decades into his career. Historians have marveled at his success in leading the Stasi’s foreign wing, known as the HVA, or Hauptverwaltung Aufklaerung. Perhaps his most well known accomplishment is having one of his agents, Gunter Guillaume, become a trusted aide to Willy Brandt, the West German chancellor.
Seven years after Wolf’s death and twenty-five years after the Wall’s, the West still doesn’t appreciate the breadth and depth of the Stasi’s brutality. (The KGB still reigns in the popular imagination as the ultimate secret-police force.) Formed after the Second World War in the Soviet occupation zone of Germany, the Stasi grew to become the most potently effective Eastern bloc intelligence organization. They possessed a more impressive informant network than even the KGB. When East Germany crumbled, the Stasi employed upwards of 190,000 unofficial informants. By 1989, approximately one out of every 90 East German citizens was a Stasi informant. Referred to as inoffizielle Mitarbeiter (“unofficial collaborators”), most were simply ordinary German citizens, tasked with reporting everything they could about possible (real or imagined) anti-regime activity, as well as details about family and friends. Even children were involved in spying on their parents.
My editor, David Swindle, has a penchant for assigning me to review what I’d consider some pretty nasty stuff. It started with HBO, Girls in particular. He tried getting me into Game of Thrones, but after the whole Red Wedding thing I just couldn’t take it. Now, David has me watching Scandal. It’s more palatable in the network sense (nowhere near the gratuitous nudity and graphic sex levels of HBO), but it’s still as dark. Nothing beats watching a show about a team of lawyers who don’t care a whit about the law. In fact, they go to great lengths to break the law in order to serve the gods of public opinion.
Only four episodes in, I consulted with my PJ colleague April Bey, a big fan of the show, for her opinion. “Everyone is evil, but that’s okay because we’re all evil,” she explained. Her observation was ironic, disturbing, and thought-provoking. Despite an apparent thread of cynicism regarding religion and morality, the struggle between good and evil remains the stuff of blockbuster hits like Scandal. Because our stories reflect our cultural psyche, it should come as no surprise that the word “evil” is beginning to carry serious weight in intellectual circles. Ascribed with more power than a petty adjective (i.e. early 2000′s “evil” George W. Bush), evil is now being discussed as a theory and a reason for contemporary political, legal, military and indeed cultural failings.
The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan made his conservative leanings clear in that film and in The Dark Knight Rises, which earned the sobriquet of “reactionary vision” from the leftist newspaper The Guardian. Is Interstellar as unabashed in its conservatism? No, but there is a political subtext to the film that’s visible to the discerning. It may not be showy about being conservative, but it’s conservative just the same. Let’s look at five ways the film aligns with conservative philosophy and values.
1. Human beings are not just another animal.
Once this proposition would have been uncontroversial, but not anymore. Today liberals hasten to remind us that we’re just one among many species. “Human beings are no more special than a butterfly, a gazelle or a paramecium,” opined a onetime senior White House science policy analyst at the Huffington Post. “Our species is nothing but a normal consequence of natural selection, and certainly not the pinnacle of evolution. We are nothing special. God is just not that into us.” Nonsense, says Interstellar: the hero of the film, a pilot played by Matthew McConaughey, says humans have a special gift for adjusting and overcoming the sometimes dire circumstances of nature. Man is unique.
To know where you’re going, it helps to know where you’ve come from. We’re all the result of decisions made by previous generations. But everything has to start somewhere, even political arguments.
Yuval Levin has done a great service to political junkies everywhere, then, with his recent book The Great Debate. It’s an attempt to trace today’s liberal vs. conservative divide back to its origins. As he explains in the subtitle, Levin finds the roots in the differences between Thomas Paine and Edmund Burke.
The only problem is that, while Burke is certainly a suitable (and often celebrated) figure on the right, Paine’s ideas don’t translate well into modern liberalism.
To begin, consider Paine’s views on intergenerational relationships. “Every human individual in every generation has the same relation to society as every other person in every other generation,” he thought, according to Levin. “The political actions, decisions, rules, and achievements of past generations do not constrain the present or define it.”
Well, that’s actually the very opposite of modern liberal thought.
Halloween was always a point of contention in our house growing up. Naturally theatrical, I loved dressing up and relished in making my own costumes. And what kid turns down free candy? Sure, Jewish kids have Purim for these things and more, but when you’re in a mainly gentile neck of the woods, it’s a struggle not to be allowed to join in the party. As I grew into adulthood and took a deeper look at Halloween, however, I began to understand my parents’ objections quite clearly. There are definite reasons why Jews and Christians who base their faith in the Bible should re-think introducing and encouraging their child’s participation in this, the most pagan of American holidays.
Sometimes I like to ironically retweet Communist, anarchist, and other varieties of far left slogans. Often times the sentiments are anachronistic or conflict with the more prominent, popular progressive sentiments of the day. Occasionally some truth manages to get out. This one really provoked a smile in its honesty:
The capitalist system controls your life thus it is idiotic to blame yourself for your misery.
— Ann Landers (@Ann__Landers) October 25, 2014
No matter what’s going on in your life or what decisions you’ve made that have gotten you there, there’s always someone else to blame! How is any ideology with this at its core not appealing?
Editor’s note: this is part 3 in an ongoing series exploring the history of dictators and their evil ideologies. See the previous installments: Part 1:”Why It’s OK to Be Intrigued by Evil Dictators“ and Part 2: “Does Everybody Want Freedom?” Have ideas for who you’d like to see Robert explore next? Get in touch on Twitter: @RobertWargas and @DaveSwindle
Celebrating its centennial, The New Republic recently mined its archive and republished an intriguing piece from its February 27, 1965, issue: an exclusive interview with Mao Zedong by the American journalist Edgar Snow. As TNR correctly notes, as far as interviews go this would be analogous to a Western journalist today being granted exclusive access to Kim Jong Un. The sit-down took place almost seven years before Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger arrived in Peking to re-establish relations with China.
Though the interview has value as a journalistic artifact, it isn’t the most satisfying piece of reportage when it comes to Mao the man. Snow, who was not exactly Red China’s greatest critic, wasn’t allowed to quote the Great Helmsman directly, and most of the discussion concerns issues of policy and military strategy. These are big subjects, and big subjects always make for big answers laden with propaganda.
Mao comes across as intensely theoretical; he seems genuinely infatuated with Marxist theory and its rigorous application to world affairs. When asked about the Vietnam War, for instance, Snow writes that Mao “repeatedly thanked foreign invaders for speeding up the Chinese revolution and for bestowing similar favors in Southeast Asia today.” He ”observed that the more American weapons and troops brought into Saigon, the faster the South Vietnamese liberation forces would become armed and educated to win victory.”
One lamentable feature of the contemporary West is the ruthless efficiency of the nanny state. It works overnight. You wake up, slouch over your coffee and corn flakes, and read of the new Bad Thing that must be stopped Right Now. In Britain, the latest activity slated for oblivion is smoking in public parks. Readers, I’m sure, do not need to be reminded that parks are outdoor places; the traditional excuse of “secondhand smoke” does not appear to apply (although it is possible to find “studies” on the dangers of “thirdhand smoke”).
Nevertheless, British officials moved quickly. In September 2013, the mayor of London, alleged conservative Boris Johnson, ordered a “major review of health in the capital,” according to The Independent. The results are already in: Lord Darzi, Britain’s former health minister and the appointed chair of Johnson’s special commission, has said smoking needs to be banned in London’s parks and public squares. There is news that ”councils throughout England are also understood to be analysing how the proposals could be applied locally, paving the way for potentially the biggest crackdown on smoking since the Smoke Free legislation of 2007.”