David Swindle has entered the ongoing discussion on altruism, religion and politics here at PJLifestyle. In doing so, he’s issued a number of great questions I’ve been wrestling with over the past few weeks. Jumping back in, I’d like to address them one by one, beginning with:
Walter, Susan, Lisa, and anyone else who’d like to join the discussion: am I going too far when I say that for a good number of people “Conservatism” is a form of idolatry?
No. I’ve had a hard, sad reminder of that through some of the commentary I’ve received on a numberof articlesin the past few weeks. There are some wonderful, insightful people out there who I’d love to have dinner with some day. And then there’s the passionate base who has time to issue verbose rants: Contradict popular line and you can “F-off”. You know this segment of the population; they are the reason stereotypes exist. But, they also prove the point that there are people out there who worship Conservatism above all else. Ironically, they’re as abusively passionate as those “liberals” they are taught to hate.
It’s increasingly clear that we are entering a new era of political correctness. Recently, we’ve seen the calls to #CancelColbert because of something outrageous said by Stephen Colbert’s blowhard alter ego, who has been saying outrageous things regularly for nine years. Then there’s the sudden demand for “trigger warnings” on college syllabi, meant to protect students from encountering ideas or images that may traumatize them; an Oberlin faculty document even suggests jettisoning “triggering material when it does not contribute directly to the course learning goals.” At Wellesley, students have petitioned to have an outdoor statue of a lifelike sleepwalking man removed because it was causing them “undue stress.” As I wrote in The Nation, there’s pressure in some circles not to use the word “vagina” in connection with reproductive rights, lest it offend trans people.
Radicals thrive on crisis. The crises they are generating are evidence of how truly free we are as a nation. Panicking over statuary is as #FirstWorldProblem as you can get. Yet we should not be fooled: The chaos of radicals always has a serious motive.
Nor is this just happening here. In England’s left-wing New Statesman, Sarah Ditum wrote of the spread of no-platforming—essentially stopping people whose ideas are deemed offensive from speaking publicly. She cites the shouting down of an opponent of the BDS movement at Galway University and the threats and intimidation leveled at the radical feminist Julie Bindel, who has said cruel things about trans people. “No platform now uses the pretext of opposing hate speech to justify outrageously dehumanising language, and sets up an ideal of ‘safe spaces’ within which certain individuals can be harassed,” wrote Ditum. “A tool that was once intended to protect democracy from undemocratic movements has become a weapon used by the undemocratic against democracy.”
Whether it is in a public forum or a private business (as with last week’s case of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich) “no-platforming” is the desired outcome of the radical-induced chaos. Whether it is used against the presumed liberal (feminism) or conservative (anti-BDS) cause, the outcome is the same: a clampdown on free speech and individual expression, marketed as kind-hearted, feel-good social legislation. Orwell would not be surprised.
Thursday, March 27th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
The hypocrisy of the intellectual elite is finally being called onto the cultural carpet. This past Tuesday, Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Postobserved: “There has been so much political turmoil among Republicans that it is easy to lose sight of the intellectual disarray on the left.” PJM’s Ed Driscoll quotedThe Daily Beast‘s Lloyd Grove speaking of modern liberals: ”…Think aesthetics as politics, and academic credentials as peerage. Think of a latter-day Americanized version of Downton Abbey—where everyone knows his or her place, and our betters look best.”
It is amazing to see how quickly the liberal/socialist/Marxist wing of the political spectrum has imploded. Only one generation ago they donned tie-dye and preached “Damn The Man.” Today, their Gen-X children (Barack and Michelle included) have embodied The Man to their own damnation and that of the middle class, the working poor, and all those for whom they claim to care so much (at least during election season).
Driscoll cited Grove’s observation that contemporary liberals are living
…a world away from job-craving America, and light years from the mid-twentieth century Democratic Party.
Indeed, this gap gives added credence to Professor Fred Siegel’s critique that “today’s liberal gentry see the untamed middle classes as the true enemy,” …It’s not that the Democrats don’t know that they have a problem with the non-government employee middle class, but it’s just that they really are not bothered by it. As the New York Times framed the issue, “many in the party pay so little attention to white working-class men that it suggests they have effectively given up on converting them.”
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in September of 2013. It is being reprinted as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists. Where will this great piece end up on the list? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months…
The phenomenon occurs among activists on the Left and the Right. Regardless of their ideological perspective or particular cause, amateur activists sabotage their own effort at every turn. Whether due to ignorance of processes or – more likely – stubborn defiance of reality, citizen activists focus too much on grinding their axe and not enough on achieving a goal.
Three recent examples warrant consideration. First, in Maine, a group of libertarian Republicans including a National Committeeman authored an open letter to the state party secretary tendering their resignation from the GOP following a rules fight which didn’t go their way at a meeting of the RNC. Dave Nalle, former national chair of the Republican Liberty Caucus, an organization working within the party to steer it toward greater advocacy of individual rights, called the mass exodus a “betrayal” in a public Facebook post:
After years of working to gain those positions of influence and as a key component of a liberty coalition which controls the state party, they have thrown everything away because of losing one battle over the rules with the RNC leadership.
Did they go into this thinking it was going to be easy to change the Republican Party? I respect their efforts and commitment up to this point, but what they have done puts liberty movement control of their state party in jeopardy and hands additional victories to the malefactors who run the national party. It weakens the movement nationwide and sets a terrible example for others.
In Minnesota, the Occupy movement has splintered as Occupy MN announced that it was cutting ties with a spin-off organization called Occupy Homes MN on account of the latter becoming “commercialized” and “profitable.” City Pagesreports on the schism, citing a public statement from Occupy MN:
Many of us helped create, volunteered with and were arrested with Occupy Homes, until unethical tactics serving the goal of evolution into a profitable Non-Governmental Organization achieved dominance.
Last but not least, activists made a stink following an incident at the Republican Party booth at the Minnesota State Fair. Volunteers arrived to work a shift at the booth wearing campaign t-shirts supporting a libertarian challenger to Congressman John Kline. The state party chair, fulfilling his fiduciary responsibility to protect the party brand, required the volunteers to turn their shirts inside-out while representing the party in an official capacity. The move sparked a firestorm of protest from liberty activists within the party. A former candidate for the state chair position rallied support on Facebook by noting:
Neither Kline nor Mr. [David] Gerson [the challenger] is endorsed for the 2014 race to keep MN CD 2 in GOP hands.
Apparently, political parties have no vested interest in promoting their elected officials or protecting their brand by not associating it with non-endorsed challengers. So goes the protesters’ argument.
Each of these examples and many more which could be cited indicate an activist mindset which I refer to as anti-activism. Like a gerbil running on its wheel, anti-activists expend tremendous energy toward getting nowhere. That becomes problematic for more thoughtful activists who focus on affecting public policy rather than protest for its own sake. Let’s consider 6 ways activists sabotage their cause.
Saturday, March 8th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
Good and evil do exist, just not in the realm of political conversation — in America, that is.
Thursday, Crimean parliament member Refat Chubarov posted his outrage over the vote of 78 out of 100 of his fellow parliamentarians to secede from Ukraine and reunify with Russia. Even the failures of Google Translate can’t bungle the shocking truth out of his statement:
Those of my colleagues – Deputies of the Verkhovna Rada of the ARC who voted just crazy!
clear that they do the will of others …
Mind left them!
Only an expert intelligence agent, like Vladimir Putin, could have staged such a successful political takeover. First, he sends in armed, masked gunmen, then follows them with Russian troops who supposedly arrive to save the day. As a result, “Crimean lawmakers unseated the provincial government Feb. 28 under the eye of armed Russian soldiers and appointed pro-Russian politician Sergei Aksyonov, whose party got four percent of the vote at the last election in 2010, prime minister.”
True to his KGB roots, Putin’s disinformation campaign is well underfoot on both sides of the Atlantic thanks to Kremlin-backed Russian news media. Too bad for the dictator, not all of his subjects are loyal. In a bold move that took the Internet by storm, Russia Today news anchor Liz Wahl submitted her resignation from the state-controlled news show live on air, stating: ”I am proud to be an American and believe in disseminating the truth and that is why after this newscast I’m resigning.”
The best the American president can do, however, is paint a picture of moral equivalency while calling on the UN to mediate Putin’s illegal land grab. In a statement that included an acknowledgement of Russia retaining its “basing rights in Crimea,” President Obama placed the new Ukranian government on the same level as Putin’s Russia, urging, “Let international monitors into all of Ukraine, including Crimea, to ensure the rights of all Ukrainians are being respected, including ethnic Russians.”
Thursday, February 27th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
In this day and age, why would you be stupid enough to use your religious beliefs as an excuse to deny someone services?
There are plenty of ways to avoid entering into a business transaction without having to appear discriminatory at all. When I worked for a private repair shop and encountered a client who seemed to be more trouble than they were worth for whatever reason, we used to simply say, “I am sorry, but we cannot provide service.” If people questioned why (which they did, very often and with plenty of attitude), we just kept repeating the same phrase: “I’m sorry, we cannot provide the service.” No one interpreted us as being discriminatory, or went as far as attempting legal action. We were simply annoying, so they moved onto a business that was willing to enter into the transaction. No harm, no foul.
That is the beauty of the free market: You have choices. If a bakery simply said “I am sorry, we can’t provide that service,” and left it at that, a gay couple denied service might interpret the owner’s choice as being discriminatory, but they wouldn’t have a leg to stand on in court. You can’t sue based on an inference. Progressives, however, rely on the courts to push their agenda because Big Government is their god. So the minute you breathe a hint of something that could be misconstrued as an opportunity for a lawsuit, they gain home-court advantage.
By simply saying, “I am sorry, we can’t provide that service,” you may be opening yourself up to some annoying picketing and internet memes, but what’s the worst that will do? Throw you in the same court as Chick fil-A? We all know how well that protest worked out. The bottom line is, you’re letting the free market decide your fate, not the courts.
“Ask yourself the question: Why isn’t anyone talking about this? This is one of the most disturbing stories I have ever heard in my entire broadcast career,” Glenn said on radio this morning. “The FCC has now decided that they need to monitor the newsrooms. They need to figure out how story selection works in the newsroom.”
The renegade broadcaster’s vitriol comes in response to a Fox News story (covered by PJ Tatler’s Bryan Preston) on the Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs (CIN) proposed by the FCC last May that was supposed to commence this week in Columbia, South Carolina:
The FCC explained that it wanted information from television and radio broadcasters “to ascertain the process by which stories are selected, station priorities (for content production quality, and populations served), perceived station bias, perceived percent of news dedicated to each of the eight CIN’s and perceived responsiveness to underserved populations.”
The FCC has identified eight CINs, or key topics that the government believes should be covered.
1. emergencies and risks, both immediate and long term;
2. health and welfare, including specifically local health information as well as group
specific health information where it exists;
3. education, including the quality of local schools and choices available to parents;
4. transportation, including available alternatives, costs, and schedules;
5. economic opportunities, including job information, job training, and small business
6. the environment, including air and water quality and access to recreation;
7. civic information, including the availability of civic institutions and opportunities to
associate with others;
8. political information, including information about candidates at all relevant levels of local governance, and about relevant public policy initiatives affecting communities and neighborhoods.
It is a story so bizarrely ridden with bureaucratic newspeak that it reads like a spoof from the pages of The People’s Cube. If only we were so lucky.
The FCC says the study is merely an objective fact-finding mission. The results will inform a report that the FCC must submit to Congress every three years on eliminating barriers to entry for entrepreneurs and small businesses in the communications industry.
This claim is peculiar. How can the news judgments made by editors and station managers impede small businesses from entering the broadcast industry? And why does the CIN study include newspapers when the FCC has no authority to regulate print media?
Monday, February 17th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
Bethany Mandel’s article on the irony of permitted homophobia in the African-American rap community rightly highlighted the Left’s patronizing racism towards both African and Hispanic Americans. She smartly pointed out pop culture’s double standard when it comes to reacting to anti-gay statements from Christian whites versus blacks or Hispanics. But the argument needs to be pushed further, lest we fall into the Progressive Left’s divisive Minority trap.
The underlying racism of the Progressive Left is the kind of upper-class willful ignorance rooted in eugenic supremacist theory that’s currently being swept under the rug of “progressivism,” a fanciful term for 21st century Marxism. No one could possibly believe that the same people who promote marriage equality, affirmative action, and amnesty are subconsciously racist. Unless, of course, they looked at the philosophy underlying those seemingly righteous political beliefs.
One need look no further than the Grammys for proof. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, white boys with bad rapping skills being lathered up with awards by an audience righteously congratulating themselves for marrying gays on stage to the tune of Same Love. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, the white messiahs saving rap from its inherent anti-gay nature with cornball lyrics referring to his beloved genre as “a culture founded from oppression.” What next? Rapping about the ironies of 40 acres and a mule with a prop carpetbag?
This week Ann Coulter “defended” Chris Christie. The governor is not a bully, as the papers suggest; he is only a weak-willed politician:
The gravamen of the media’s case against Christie on Bridgegate seems to be that he is a “bully” — which I painstakingly gleaned from the fact that the governor is called a “bully” 1 million times a night on MSNBC and in hundreds of blog postings and New York Times reports.
Christie is not a bully. If anything, he’s a pansy, a man terrified of the liberal media, of Wall Street, of Silicon Valley, of Obama, of Bruce Springsteen, of Mark Zuckerberg, of Chuck Schumer. It’s a good bet he’s afraid of his own shadow.
I cannot disagree. Other than preferring she left out the fat jokes, I only wonder why she would write about Christie at all at this point. Christie hasn’t been a serious interest since that lukewarm GOP convention speech, which Coulter skewers well. Why is anyone outside of New Jersey talking about him anymore?
I don’t think this is Coulter’s fault. She is following the news. Last week that led her to immigration and this week Christie—these are topics the legacy media and the GOP smart set want to debate, not topics right-leaning voters are actually concerned about right now. We expect, and the research Jonathan Haidt gave us some supporting data, that the left doesn’t understand our concerns. But the larger problem is that the GOP smart set doesn’t understand us, either.
Chris Christie fell into the untrustworthy-pol pothole months ago. Move along already.
The so-called social issues continue to vex the Republican Party and the conservative movement, so I appreciate the robust and respectful discussion that we’ve had here, spurred by Roger L. Simon’s article, “How Social Conservatives are Saving Liberalism (Barely).” I don’t think anyone would disagree with his observation that the left will attempt to use the issue of same sex marriage as a “wedge to sabotage a whole lot of change at a time when it couldn’t be more necessary. It dovetails perfectly with the mythological ‘war on women,’ which we all will be sure to hear about incessantly.” The left excels at using both marriage and women’s issues to paint conservatives as evil, bigoted misogynists.
As a card-carrying social conservative and member of my county Republican Executive Committee, I understand that these are more than academic debates. It’s not overly dramatic to say that the future of the Republican Party may depend upon how we resolve these issues in the coming months and years. Bryan Preston explains the seriousness of the situation:
The fact is, telling us social cons to shut up is a recipe for demoralizing and destroying the GOP at its base. It would take the cornerstone of the Right out of the movement. Coastal libertarians are not the base of the Republican Party. They don’t man phone banks (sorry for being gender normative there), they don’t conduct block walks, they don’t even usually run for office. They can’t even build a viable movement in their own states.
Many in the Republican Party (and the conservative/libertarian movement) think that the answer is to jettison social issues — or worse, to adopt the left’s positions on them — while banishing social conservatives to dank phone bank rooms (and assuming they will continue to support the approved, well-scripted, non-ideological candidates). But Andrew McCarthy explains that Republicans cannot win elections if they lose the support of conservatives, “including those animated by social issues,” who, by the way, notes Preston, “aren’t actually pushing anything forward, at least not in the cultural arena.”
I stand as guilty as the next guy of using the words “conservative” and “libertarian” interchangeably. Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of either term. When used, they conjure up whatever baggage a given mind associates with them, rather than what was intended. In the realm of politics, these terms get mushed together in an effort to rally coalition. Whatever a conservative and a libertarian are respectively, it would seem there aren’t enough of either for each to work alone.
That said, certain issues bring to the fore fundamental differences which exist between conservatives and libertarians. In the wake of Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana, drug prohibition gains fresh prominence as one such issue.
Prolific conservative author, editor, and publisher John Hawkins, who also contributes to PJ Media, provides fodder for discerning those differences in a recent piece at Townhall. “5 Reasons Marijuana Should Remain Illegal” lays out arguments which fall into three categories distinguishing conservatives from libertarians.
Understanding these differences requires some working definitions. Broadly speaking, a conservative seeks to maintain existing institutions and uphold or restore traditions. A libertarian prioritizes individual rights above all else, even at the expense of institutions and traditions. One can be a “conservative-libertarian” by supporting an institution like the family or the church without condoning the use of force to that end. The philosophical line of demarcation separates collectivism from individualism. With that said, let’s explore 3 ways marijuana sorts conservatives from libertarians.
Thursday, January 23rd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
She is an unabashed liberal. In a culture increasingly governed by Marxist Nomenklatura masking itself as “liberal”, conservatives should be bold enough to reclaim that much maligned political descriptor as one of our own. We are, after all, the ideological descendants of classical liberals, making the outspoken once Liberal Democrat, now Libertarian Camille Paglia the perfect match for contemporary politically conservative feminists.
Can’t possibly imagine the lady who, even when she smiles, gives you a look that says, “I know you’re full of s**t,” could possibly fit in the ranks of the right wing? Here are 10 reasons why you need to throw out the stereotypical baby with your lukewarm bathwater thinking and get hot for the fast-talking, heavy thinking, pop culture-loving Camille Paglia.
“The entire elite class now, in finance, in politics and so on, none of them have military service—hardly anyone, there are a few. But there is no prestige attached to it anymore. That is a recipe for disaster,” she says. “These people don’t think in military ways, so there’s this illusion out there that people are basically nice, people are basically kind, if we’re just nice and benevolent to everyone they’ll be nice too. They literally don’t have any sense of evil or criminality.”
“We need a revalorization of the trades that would allow students to enter [manual trades] without social prejudice (which often emanates from parents eager for the false cachet of an Ivy League sticker on the car). Among my students at art schools, for example, have been virtuoso woodworkers who were already earning income as craft furniture-makers. Artists should learn to see themselves as entrepreneurs.”
“…it is capitalism that ended the stranglehold of the hereditary aristocracies, raised the standard of living for most of the world and enabled the emancipation of women. The routine defamation of capitalism by armchair leftists in academe and the mainstream media has cut young artists and thinkers off from the authentic cultural energies of our time.”
“In my view, comparing the evidence of the 20th century, that socialism in a nation ultimately does lead to economic stagnation and eventually of the creative impulse, in terms of new technology and other things.”
“… the fact is that the modern teenager is a modern phenomenon, and teenagers in previous eras were far more responsible — and far more integrated into society as a whole.” - page 69
During my miserable junior high and high school years I just knew in my bones that the factory-like school system was an anti-American aberration designed to create efficient drones to serve in the hive. Now Glenn’s book confirms it and lays bare the flaws at the base of this model imported from Germany during the Industrial Revolution.
A question for debate and discussion (particularly amongst my PJ Lifestyle co-conspirators): in declaring war against the false gods of pop culture polytheism and the educational establishment should we also reject the very idea of the “teenager” and the “adolescent”? For children with the aptitude to skip over the made-up, in-between period of tolerated, coddled irresponsibility, why not start treating them like genuine young adults as soon as they’re able?
On page 87 Glenn cuts to the essence of how an America 3.0-style libertarian-conservatism seeks to solve problems:
Slater reported that the truth is far more complicated than Davis’ origins story. Davis divorced at 21, not 19. She only lived in the trailer for a few months. She was able to get her Harvard education thanks to her second husband, Jeff Davis, whom she left the day after he made the final payment on her tuition. He had cashed his 401(k) savings and taken out a loan to pay for her education.
I hope Davis continues to be held up as an icon of 3rd wave postmodern Marxist feminism. A woman who rose to media-fueled prominence defending late term abortion gained her Harvard education through abandoning her children and husband. And HE got the kids afterward, citing infidelity!
That’s what ideology does to people: it inspires them to sacrifice their family in pursuit of something they value as more important. You know, like defending a woman’s right to an abortion after 20 weeks.
The universities were the great backbone of the West, from the Academy and Lyceum to medieval Pisa and Oxbridge to the great 18th- and 19th-century founding of American campuses. Not necessarily any longer. Too many are bankrupt morally, economically, politically, and culturally.
The symptoms are terrifying: one trillion dollars in student debt (many of these loans accruing at higher than average interest rates and even before students have graduated); a small Eloi class of rarefied elites who teach little and write in runes that no one can decipher; a large Morlock class of part-timers and oppressed lecturers who subsidize the fat and waste of the tenured and administrative classes; graduates who are arrogant but ignorant, nursed on –studies ideology without the liberal arts foundations to back up their zeal; and a BA/BS brand that no longer ensures better-paying jobs, if any jobs at all.
In sum, apart from the sciences and medicine, most of the university coarsens rather than enlightens American life.
The current campus is unsustainable and we are beginning to see its decline, as online courses and for-profit tech schools usurp its students. The liberal arts are not nurtured and protected for another generation in the university. Instead, their umbilical cords have become cut with the cleaver of race/class/gender no-nothingism. Again the theme: the more bloated, exploitive, and costly the university, the more it lashes out it that it is short-changed, the victim of philistine budget cuts, and the last bastion of civilized life.
Each day when I drive to work I try to look at the surrounding communities, and count how many are working and how many of the able-bodied are not. I listen to the car radio and tally up how many stories, both in their subject matter and method of presentation, seem to preserve civilization, or how many seem to tear it down. I try to assess how many drivers stay between the lines, how many weave while texting or zoom in and out of traffic at 90mph or honk and flip off drivers.
Today, as the reader can note from the tone of this apocalyptic essay, civilization seemed to be losing.
There are many solutions to our problems out there. There just isn’t one single absolute answer. (And in fact it’s the pursuit of the belief that there is — what Bennett and Lotus define as America 2.0 — that has largely led America to many of these problems in the first place.)
While we see few occasions of consciousness–and certainly few publicly expressed–from Arab and Muslim intellectuals of what is really going on, they still do take place. For example, in a December 30, 2013, interview that aired on CBC TV, Egyptian novelist Youssef Ziedan said:
We should reconsider our notions regarding the Jewish question. We are not even aware how much this affects us. [Antisemitism] has become a common trade, benefiting all our politicians. Any politician who wants to gain popularity curses Israel, but when he comes to power, he has no problem with Israel.
That’s stupidity. That’s stupidity which is connected to the ignorance of the people. We should reconsider this. Nobody looks out for our interests. We should be aware of this.
In other words, Ziedan shows keen consciousness of political movements and how leaders manipulate them.
Former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover feared Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so much he sent the civil rights leader an anonymous letter urging him to commit suicide, it has emerged.
A new book has chronicled how the FBI under Hoover classified King as ‘the most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country’ and went to extreme lengths – including breaking in and bugging his home, office and hotel rooms – to destroy him and his work to bring about racial equality.
After delivering his ‘I Have A Dream Speech’ at the 1963 March on Washington, the government’s interest in the leader intensified and Hoover allocated significant resources to monitoring King’s movements and eavesdropping on his conversations, according to ‘The Burglary: the Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI.’
I wonder what Hoover would think of an NSA that has the capability of delivering reports on every single computer user’s porn preferences?
Spend a little while on Twitter or in Internet comment sections and you’ll see a significant number of people who think that the NSA may have been relaying intelligence about the Mitt Romney campaign to Obama operatives, or that Chief Justice John Roberts’ sudden about-face in the Obamacare case might have been driven by some sort of NSA-facilitated blackmail.
A year ago, these kinds of comments would have been dismissable as paranoid conspiracy theory. But now, while I still don’t think they’re true, they’re no longer obviously crazy. And that’s Obama’s legacy: a government that makes paranoid conspiracy theories seem possibly sane.
What are the potential solutions to the NSA spying on all internet traffic and making backup copies of everyone’s email inboxes and g-chats? There really isn’t one, from what I can tell. Even if some law is passed saying the NSA needs to stop providing the ability to spy on your keystrokes to the 29-year-old Edward Snowden nutjobs they hire then abuses will still happen. And BTW, do you think Vladimir Putin has similar capabilities?
How about this: the genie’s out of the bottle here and there are bigger fights to have. Anytime you do something digitally, online you should just accept the fact that someone could be spying on you or could recover the data about what you did later. And then live your life accordingly. Want privacy? Write by hand in a journal or how about *gasp* on a computer or something that isn’t hooked up to the internet?
The Washington Post today announced a partnership with The Volokh Conspiracy, a blog that covers law, public policy, politics, culture and other topics.
Eugene Volokh, a law professor at UCLA, founded the blog in April 2002, and it quickly became a regular destination for Supreme Court junkies, academics, and anyone interested in law and national issues. Most of the contributors are law professors, and include some of the top legal scholars in the nation.
Great for them! I’ll make a point to start featuring more of their posts in my link round-ups.
A 28-year-old woman has posted online a video of her confronting the female teacher who allegedly molested her as a 12-year-old girl.
The shocking clip, which was uploaded to YouTube last Friday, shows a woman who identifies herself by the name Jamie X, talking about abuse that she allegedly suffered at the hands of a teacher at Chemawa Middle School in Riverside, California.
Jamie X calls Alhambra Unified School District where she claims that her attacker is now an assistant principal. In the call, she tells the woman, whose name is not being released by MailOnline, that she did something terribly wrong.
It can sometimes be very difficult trying to find the line between internet justice and internet vengeance. Not so much in this case here. Just watch the video. The assistant principal has since resigned. See this interview of Jamie X:
Question: was this the best way to make sure that this assistant principal can no longer be in a position of power? What was the other, better solution? And as Jamie points out in the interview, she now expects others to come forward. Perhaps someone whose crimes were committed more recently so charges can be filed?
All of this speaks to Davis’ honesty and integrity. If she cannot be counted on to accurately report her own history, she’s likely to run a slipshod governorship that remains at arm’s length with the truth. Asking legitimate questions about her veracity is not a personal attack, but the vetting that political candidates should expect to undergo when they seek high office and the power that comes with it. Her reaction to the publication of this story suggests that her skin hasn’t gotten any thicker since she blamed the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for her first political defeat and sued the paper for endorsing her opponent, back in 1996.
Basically, Facebook users will lose interest in Facebook over time as their peers lose interest — if the model is correct. ”Ideas, like diseases, have been shown to spread infectiously between people before eventually dying out, and have been successfully described with epidemiological models,” write the researchers.
Are you someone who has given up Facebook recently in search of better solutions for keeping in touch with your friends and family? What are better social networking options? I’ve been upping my Twitter and Instagram usage lately.
On October 10, 2012, PJ Media and The New Criterion combined forces to give the first annual Walter Duranty Prize for journalistic mendacity, named after Walter Duranty, the New York Times Moscow bureau chief between 1922 and 1936. Duranty is notorious for having whitewashed Stalin’s atrocities, notably the forced starvation of millions of Ukrainians known as the Holodomor. Duranty’s cleansed reports were further responsible for encouraging Franklin Roosevelt to recognize the Soviet Union.
That last sentence there is the big, painful truth: American history for the 20th century was transformed because FDR, misled by disinformation in The New York Times, chose to recognize the Soviet Union, an evil criminal state built on torture, murder, and lies. That was when the floodgate broke down for the Marxist assault on America’s institutions.
With just three years left in office and a possible Republican landslide in the fall’s midterm elections, Obama must be in something close to panic mode. His health care plan seems like it’s imploding, his foreign policy and civil liberties record is awful, and the economy is still barely stumbling forward into an uncertain future. Enthusiastically winding down the federal war on pot would be popular with voters and, as important, wouldn’t require immediate cooperation from Congress.
Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin tells Remnick that in 2007, Obama explained, “I have no desire to be one of those presidents who are just on the list—you see their pictures lined up on the wall. … I really want to be a President who makes a difference.” But Obama’s approval ratings are mired in the low 40s, a reality he partially—and unconvincingly—attributes to racism: “There’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black president.” As HotAir’s Ed Morrissey notes, the existence of rump racists completely fail to explain Obama’s two electoral victories and his 60 percent-plus approval ratings at the start of his presidency. A far better explanation is simply that he’s failed to accomplish much of anything the public likes.
Would it honestly surprise anyone if President Valerie Jarrett decided to do this? It’s kind of her Hail Mary Jane last resort, isn’t it? One final big, feel good invocation of the goddess to distract people while Iran goes nuclear. Is there a more important issue in the final years of Obama’s presidency than preventing the further rise of Iran as the world’s most dangerous global terror state?
Oh yeah, making sure you can buy cheap pot at Wal-Mart. Should marijuana be legal at the federal level, thus allowing individual states to regulate as their voters see fit? Of course, but let’s be sure and call it exactly what it is should Jarrett puppet Obama onto this path: an unneeded, wholly hypocritical act designed just to distract stupid people. Bread and circuses, as VDH would say.
Like my PJ colleague, Victor Davis Hanson, I too am pessimistic about the future of our country. Like many of us, I fell into the trap of thinking that, during the election of 2012, the country would somehow come to its senses and evict from the White House an obviously unqualified charlatan with a threadbare act, and that we would begin the slow restoration of Foundational values to the Republic. Andy McCarthy, Roger Simon, Victor, Roger Kimball, Dr. Helen, J. Christian Adams — all wrong. And these are not stupid people; neither is Michael Barone, who also fell on his face.
Sitting here on this Sunday morning before the election, the Sun now up, reflecting back on these years scouring through dusty old Marxist books, trying to understand a president who built his career on a mountain of lies, I confess a peace with either electoral result on Tuesday. A part of me almost wishes that Obama steals wins reelection (as I anticipate he will). The thought of him quietly retiring to a mansion in Hawaii in January to live out the rest of his life in comfort and adoration should inspire nausea. Only if Obama wins reelection do conservatives have a chance to hold him accountable for Benghazi, Fast and Furious, and all the crimes we don’t even know about yet. The man has blood on his hands and we can’t let him get away with it.
An ancient dictum popularized in recent years by the late Christopher Hitchens on the path forward, should Tuesday disappoint:
From now on conspiracy theorists will no longer be receiving their memorandums, instructions, and dispatches (including “red meat” and “dog whistles”) via listservs, talk radio, blogs, or newsletters. Neither will rumors or conspiracy theories be whispered to them at the secret cabal meetings, effective immediately. All members of the vast right-wing conspiracy, the bitter clingers, the “conspiracy nuts” and tea party members have been informed that they will hitherto be apprised of important subversive announcements, apocalyptic instructions, and other missives via the Harvard Law Review.
Yes, you read that correctly.
According to Ben Jacobs at The Daily Beast, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is now using the Harvard Law Review, “bastion of liberal elitism,” to communicate with ”those on the far right concerned about Agenda 21, NAFTA superhighways, or any of a range of other conspiracy theories.” Cruz has apparently signaled this shift in right-wing strategy by penning a 10,000 word essay titled “Limits on the Treaty Power,” inspired by the Supreme Court’s consideration this term of Bond v. United States, a Tenth Amendment case. Jacobs seems baffled that Cruz somehow managed to convince the editors of the esteemed publication to give him space to make the case for limits on the powers of treaties, and implies that there must be some nefarious secret message buried within the essay “replete with 181 footnotes, against the scale and scope of the modern federal government.”
The phraseology Cruz uses, according to Jacobs, “serves as red meat to those on the right concerned about the United Nations, especially those who believe that Agenda 21, a non-binding plan for sustainable development is a Trojan horse for instituting world government.”
[Note: At least the left is now acknowledging that those on the right are literate.]
In the essay, Cruz argues that, “The president cannot make a treaty that displaces the sovereign powers reserved to the states.” Citing Missouri v. Holland, a 1920 Supreme Court case dealing with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, Cruz warns that, “if Justice Holmes was correct [that Congress has plenary power to implement any treaty], then the president and Senate could agree with a foreign nation to undo the checks and balances created by the people who founded our nation.”
Such language is pure “red meat” for the right, according to Jacobs.
And then there are these secret code words embedded in Cruz’s essay: “We must jealously guard the separation of powers and state sovereignty if we are to preserve the constitutional structure our Framers gave us.”
Cruz is blowing a “dog whistle for conspiracy nuts” with this constitutional crazy talk, says Jacobs.
Sunday, January 12th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
It’s the economy, stupid.
So says Rachel Burger, who believes that the current economy is to blame for the demise of masculinity, not those darned feminists:
The reality is that the economy–that men themselves created–is far more to blame for the sorry state of American men. The Internet Age, along with global trade and the mass outsourcing of low-skill labor has brought forth in the West a people-based and knowledge-based economy which emphasizes social intelligence. Young women are now outpacing men across the board, from education to employment, and men should take a hint. If men want to pursue their roles as providers and achievers, they’re going to have to woman up.
It’s not the girls’ fault. “After all, it was men who invented the Internet, who created and sold mass-produced computers, who shipped jobs overseas and who even fashioned social media.” Thanks, Mark Zuckerberg.
Burger’s is a thinly veiled response to Camille Paglia’s praise of the “modern economy as a male epic” published last month in Time. Unlike Paglia, Burger comes to the table lacking an understanding of the relationship between economy and gender. With a millennial’s narrow perspective on American history, Burger manages great insight into the post-dot-com world of social intelligence-based tech companies while completely skipping over the debacle of NAFTA with the grossly prejudicial term “low-skill labor.”
In that primordial decade known as the ’90s, America’s manual labor industry was eviscerated by the North American Free Trade Agreement. Seventeen years after the agreement was signed, studies showed a loss of 682,900 American jobs, 60% of which were lost in the manufacturing industry. That doesn’t include the jobs that would be necessary without the imports from NAFTA — a whopping 1.47 million. Those jobs, and the financial boost that would’ve come with them, sure would’ve come in handy in 2008 when, as a result of the recession, the U.S. lost 2.6 million jobs. Mexico, the nation that continues to profit from NAFTA, does not defame nor downplay the benefits of so-called “low-skill labor.”
Many are beginning to recognize that there is more to the so-called “culture war” issues than mere disagreements over abortion and gay marriage. It’s becoming increasingly clear that something more basic is afoot. In many cases our most treasured American rights — freedom of speech and freedom of religion — have been diminished as the czars of political correctness desire to create a nation where tolerance is redefined to mean tolerance only of culturally acceptable viewpoints. Those of us on the outside of this new cultural orthodoxy find ourselves not only marginalized from the public square of ideas, but increasingly, on the wrong side of the law. We’re warned to keep our religion in our churches as many attempt to make a distinction between freedom of worship and freedom of religion, the former allowing only for private expressions of faith.
Liberals — I like to call them illiberal liberals — are often the most vocal perpetrators of intolerance against unpopular viewpoints, but a fair number of those who profess to be of the libertarian persuasion also have a penchant for trying to silence those with whom they disagree on certain issues. The justification for this squelching of speech is usually some version of “sticks and stones may break my bones…and your words are mean, so you have forfeited your right to speak in public.” The libertarian version of this is (paradoxically), “You’re embarrassing us and making our side unelectable. Knock it off.”
It’s not uncommon in our modern political discourse for ridicule to replace dialogue and open hostility to replace genuine debate, to the detriment of our country and our humanity. Those who demand silence from those with whom they disagree dishonor the principles of liberty upon which our republic was founded. Those who use the courts or who pass laws to force Americans to violate their religious principles trample on the graves of those who fought to defend our liberty through the ages.
Sunday, January 5th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
Here is what I’ve learned from my study of the Intellectual love affair with Marxism, along with one simple solution for winning the war against the Nomenklatura, the intellectual Marxist elite within our government, mass media, and public education systems.
Concurrent to the Russian Revolution, Liberalism in America became Marxism. Based on my research it would appear that the Victorian social justice movement and an increasingly European-influenced intellectual movement, with the help of Soviet spies and American commie traitors, gave birth to the Liberal Marxist hybrid. Its fate as a movement wasn’t sealed until the 60′s, when anti-Stalinist liberals like the Trillings were washed away by the rising tide of Soviet disinformation that conquered liberalism and began framing American culture for the takeover.
Charles Blow over at the New York Times editorial page has his knickers all in a twist over a new survey from the Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project that found many Americans still reject the atheistic view of evolution. Blow called the results of the survey “sad” and said “it’s embarrassing.” The December 30th survey found that ”six-in-ten Americans (60%) say that “humans and other living things have evolved over time,” while a third (33%) reject the idea of evolution, saying that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.”
Rejecting out of hand the notion that 33% of Americans might actually be able to think for themselves, Blow resurrects the vast right-wing conspiracy to account for the fact that Americans still reject evolution, despite the fact that virtually every public school child and every student attending college is taught as fact that they evolved from a common ancestor and that life on earth came about as a result of some sort of “highly energetic chemistry” that produced a self-replicating molecule rather than by the design of an intelligent Creator. Blow says,
But I believe that something else is also at play here, something more cynical. I believe this is a natural result of a long-running ploy by Republican party leaders to play on the most base convictions of conservative voters in order to solidify their support. Convince people that they’re fighting a religious war for religious freedom, a war in which passion and devotion are one’s weapons against doubt and confusion, and you make loyal soldiers.
So it’s those scheming Republicans who are to blame for this embarrassing display of ignorance, as Blow sees it. Probably Karl Rove, too. And the Koch brothers along with George Bush.
Charles Blow calls the views of a third of Americans — the 33% — ”extreme religiosity” and “a form of dysfunction” and then turns around and mocks those who claim there is hostility toward religion in this country. He writes, ”This is a tactic to keep the Republican rank-and-file riled up.”
Friday, January 3rd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
My colleague Leslie Loftis makes some excellent points in her latest response in our ongoing dialogue about revamping the feminist movement in America. Regarding the Lean In wing of the movement, Leslie is humorously spot on in her comment, “We ape men and then claim that we do it better.” However, I do take some issue with a few of Leslie’s conclusions: ”That’s what reproductive control absolutism is about, negating biology so we can live like men,” and “ there is nothing that we on the Right can do about this culture war bullhorn problem.”
Leslie’s observations are illustrative of the Right’s ability to focus on the battles within the culture war (or, as Whittaker Chambers so aptly referred to them, symptoms of our cultural crisis) while completely losing focus on the war itself. My position is simple: We must focus, loudly, on the war itself and use the battles within to promote the facts bolstering the truth. To illustrate, I’ll begin by addressing Leslie’s comment, “So in Susan’s “brains, not boobs” terms, I submit a more inclusive and realistic, brains and boobs.”
The greatest challenge we face is the fact that American women, by virtue of the “War on Women” battle, believe themselves to be stuck in their gender. They can’t see themselves as anything but an on-screen goddess or, as Leslie pointed out in her original argument, a real-life slave to a corporation, to a marriage, to children, or to all of the above. Which is why I question her use of the fact that Mary Wollstonecraft died in childbirth. In this case I’m not exactly sure how that relates to rebuilding feminism as much as it plays into the left’s ideology of the ills of womanhood. Embrace your endocrinology for all it is worth, but don’t fall into the trap of believing that your body is a prison cell for which death is the only escape.
This is where the Right must acknowledge that the nomenklatura of cultural Marxists have done an amazing job of framing of the body as a human being’s only object of worth. We must also reason that truthfully, when you have no God and reject the concept of a soul and eternal life, you have nothing else to fall back on but the body. This demoralization has led to a variety of ideological misnomers, including the ultimate lie of the War on Women: the framing of the female body as a prison to be manipulated, abused, and ultimately destroyed.
I tried to preempt this criticism with my second ground rule:
- I’m likewise being strict with the “conservative” title – other various right-of-center ideologies (neoconservatism, libertarianism, Christian theocrats, and paleo-con conspiracists) warrant their own lists.
But apparently some object to the idea that there are distinct ideologies within the conservative movement. Here’s “New MarcH” in the comments:
David – Bravo for opening a discussion of intellectual trends in on the Right. Still, I have some issues as well as some thoughts for further discussion regarding your use of the term, “neoconservative”.
Ben Shapiro but no Krauthammer? You had to twist yourself into a pretzel not to mention Krauthammer.
Also, why the cheers for the NYT not including the “neoconservative” William Kristol but then whooping it up for the less well known Frank Gaffney? Gaffney began as a protégé of Scoop Jackson and Richard Perle. How he is less of a “neo-con” than Kristol (BTW, I have a high opinion of Jackson, Perle, Kristol and Gaffney)?
If you want a deeper topic, consider this: what is the current significance of the term “neoconservative (‘new conservative’)”? As you know, the term was coined in the 70s to describe former FDR/JFK Democratic party intellectuals who were dismayed by the leftward shift of the Democratic party and the failure of its defense, social and economic policies. These folks formed a big part of the brain trust of the Reagan campaign and White House. Neo-Conservatism is often caricatured (not entirely unfairly but ultimately incorrectly) as a movement of New York Jewish intellectuals, but its leaders and founders included Jack Kemp, William Bennett, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, George Gilder, Charles Murray, etc., and, of course, Ronald Reagan.
But what does it mean today? William Kristol may be a lot of things but he took in Reaganite conservatism with his tinker toys so he can’t be accurately described as a “new”-conservative.
During the Iraq war the Left brilliantly grabbed the word and morped it to suggest ‘”chicken-hawk” Jew or Jewish dupe who wants to trick the US into fighting a war for Israel and make money off oil, etc’. Some on the Right were not uncomfortable with grabbing this twisted use of the word and “demagogue-ing” it to try to create a post Reagan isolationist conservative movement. Pat Buchanan was an early adopter of this strategy and it was always funny to watch this Vietnam War avoider suggest others were “chicken hawks”.
So David, is the term you used “neoconservative” relevant to contemporary political analysis? I would say not. It is out of date and serves mostly as a slur word for the Left.
I very strongly disagree. And so did Irving Kristol, the founder of neoconservatism, who in August 2003 defined some of the basic assumptions and tendencies of what he characterized as a “persuasion” rather than an outright movement. There are a number of differences between conservatives operating in the William F. Buckley Jr./Ronald Reagan tradition and neoconservatives operating in the Irving Kristol/George W. Bush tradition. Here are three, and I’ll use Kristol’s own words to explain it.
Neal Boortz, subbing for Sean Hannity on his radio show on the day after Christmas, took the opportunity to unload a heap of libertarian wrath upon social conservatives, saying that Republicans will not win another election if they continue ”screaming and yelling about abortion, about gay rights, about prayer in school.” Boortz spat the words “social conservative Republicans” into the airwaves as he railed against (some unnamed) Republicans who, apparently “obsessed” with social issues, are running around the country raging against the forces trying to take prayer out of school. Boortz seemed particularly upset with Republicans who want to peer into everyone’s bedrooms to find out who is sleeping with whom.
During the three-hour show, Boortz dragged out nearly every straw man that the left uses to waylay Republicans in elections, using a few isolated cases as the exemplars of social conservatism in the GOP.
Perhaps Boortz has missed this development, but Rick Santorum is no longer the face of the Republican Party and he’s not even the face of social conservatism. For that matter, even during the course of his presidential campaign, Santorum was not much of a social crusader. The left and their collaborators in the media are the ones who are “obsessed” with social issues, having put them on the front lines of the 2012 campaign, including their contrived War on Women. Santorum could hardly stick to name, rank, and serial number when he was relentlessly badgered about abortion, gay marriage, and contraception on the campaign trail. At least he had the decency to be intellectually honest about his views rather than taking the politically expedient route.
But social conservatives have, by and large, moved on. If you look at the list of supposed presidential contenders (according to a recent Fox News poll), none are “screaming” about social issues. Leaving Christie out of this discussion because he seems to be evolving at the moment, all of the others on the list have professed, to one degree or another, support for the social conservative agenda. But which one of those potential candidates is running around the country “screaming” about them?
Instead, most social conservatives have shifted the debate to the issue of liberty. There is every reason to believe that it’s a winning strategy for Republicans to defend freedom and liberty — freedom of speech, religious liberty, the right to life. Even many on the left are beginning to reject the absurd and illiberal trajectory of what Mark Steyn has called the Bureau of Conformity Enforcement. When even liberal feminist Camille Paglia describes the fisking of a 67-year-old Christian grandfather from Louisiana as ”punitive PC, utterly fascist, utterly Stalinist,” we know that support for this battle for freedom of conscience is growing by the hour. Though social issues are necessarily rooted in religious and moral questions, that’s not the only way to discuss them in the public square, as many conservatives are learning.
Thursday, December 26th, 2013 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
Unless you’re fortunate enough to prefer reading or still be avoiding the Facebook trend, you’ve been bombarded with arguments over Duck Dynasty‘s Phil Robertson’s statements regarding homosexuality published in the most recent edition of GQ magazine. For the record, here’s what the guy actually said after being prompted by the GQ reporter with the question, “What, in your mind, is sinful?”
“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
… “We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus—whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ’em out later, you see what I’m saying?”
“I speak with authority here because I was openly gay before the ‘Stonewall Rebellion,’ when it cost you something to be so,” she said. “And I personally feel as a libertarian that people have the right to free thought and free speech. In a democratic country, people have the right to be homophobic as they have the right to support homosexuality — as I 100 percent do. If people are basing their views against gays on the Bible, again they have a right to religious freedom there … to express yourself in a magazine in an interview -– this is the level of punitive PC, utterly fascist, utterly Stalinist, OK, that my liberal colleagues in the Democratic party and on college campuses have supported and promoted over the last several decades. It’s the whole legacy of the free speech 1960′s that have been lost by my own party.”
In the ultimate example of framing, the American nomeklatura is using one man’s words as a weapon against him in the war over what is constitutionally permitted versus what is nomenklaturally popular. Interestingly, this battle in the culture war is illustrating what history has already proven true: The best weapon to defeat the Stalinist nomenklatura is the free market.
What is the future of conservatism? Which voices should define the priorities of the movement in the coming decades? Who are its most skilled proponents today? How should the movement evolve to face the threats most endangering America?
This list is my effort to advocate for both my favorite writers contributing to answering these questions and the ideas they champion.
5 quick ground rules first:
- I’m being strict with the “columnist” title – no bloggers, journalists, or feature writers. A “columnist” is one who writes a 700-1400+ word polemical article on a regular basis for an established publication or syndication.
- I’m likewise being strict with the “conservative” title – other various right-of-center ideologies (neoconservatism, libertarianism, Christian theocrats, and paleo-con conspiracists) warrant their own lists. (Which perhaps they might get next year as I continue mapping out today’s most important ideological advocates in the contests of politics, ideas, and culture…)
- In selecting these individuals, I am including them and the ideas they champion in what I’m calling Conservatism 3.0. This isn’t just a stand-alone list, it’s part of the bigger, ongoing project of my attempt to encourage ideological debate and dialogue. The columnists on this list each write books too and I’m adding their titles to my reading lists at the Freedom Academy Book Club. In next year’s installment of my “radical reading regimen” I’ll blog through their titles too.
- I’m excluding writers that I edit. All of PJM’s columnists and freelancers have been going on a separate list of my favorite writers, which I’ve been accumulating over the last six months and you can read on the last page of this post. And as an extra mention I have to go out of my way to recommend Instapundit Glenn Reynolds’s USA Today columns too. Blogging isn’t the only medium that Glenn’s mastered.
- I’m including excerpts from some of my favorite columns. Fair warning: this article today is over 13,000 words, highlighting some of the year’s best op/eds. (UPDATE: And apparently that means it’s too big for the view-as-single-page or print-this-post feature to work. I’m sorry. I assure you that was not intentional.) It’s really more of a free online e-book — a late Christmas present to all the readers, writers, activists, and patriots who have inspired and encouraged me in my own journey across the political spectrum…
10. Ross Douthat
Back in 2009 the New York Times editorial page made the very rare great decision. They replaced corporatist neoconservative baby boomer William Kristol (born December 23, 1952) with cultural conservative millennial-leaning Gen-Xer Ross Douthat (born November 28, 1979.)
Gone was the D.C.-insider establishment man, symbolic of — and in some ways a contributor to — the Republican Party’s and conservatism’s failures todays, and in was a sunny National Review writer with a film critic background and religious interests to reinvent center-right arguments with a fresh, optimistic voice. A few highlights from this year, on Reza Aslan’s Jesus recycling, the celebration of tribal criminality in Breaking Bad, and lessons for the JFK cult:
The fact that Aslan’s take on Jesus is not original doesn’t mean it’s necessarily wrong. But it has the same problem that bedevils most of his competitors in the “real Jesus” industry. In the quest to make Jesus more comprehensible, it makes Christianity’s origins more mysterious.
Part of the lure of the New Testament is the complexity of its central character — the mix of gentleness and zeal, strident moralism and extraordinary compassion, the down-to-earth and the supernatural.
Most “real Jesus” efforts, though, assume that these complexities are accretions, to be whittled away to reach the historical core. Thus instead of a Jesus who contains multitudes, we get Jesus the nationalist or Jesus the apocalyptic prophet or Jesus the sage or Jesus the philosopher and so on down the list.
There’s enough gospel material to make any of these portraits credible. But they also tend to be rather, well, boring, and to raise the question of how a pedestrian figure — one zealot among many, one mystic in a Mediterranean full of them — inspired a global faith.
The knights on the conservative chessboard are writers, editors, bloggers, and activists capable of moving in creative and versatile directions.
The allure for Team Walt is not ultimately the pull of nihilism, or the harmless thrill of rooting for asupervillain. It’s the pull of an alternative moral code, neither liberal nor Judeo-Christian, with an internal logic all its own. As James Bowman wrote in The New Atlantis, embracing Walt doesn’t requiring embracing “individual savagery” and a world without moral rules. It just requires a return to “old rules” — to “the tribal, family-oriented society and the honor culture that actually did precede the Enlightenment’s commitment to universal values.”
Those rules seem cruel by the lights of both cosmopolitanism and Christianity, but they are not irrational or necessarily false. Their Darwinian logic is clear enough, and where the show takes place — in the shadow of cancer, the shadow of death — the kindlier alternatives can seem softheaded, pointless, naïve.
Nor can this tribal morality be refuted in a laboratory. Indeed, by making Walt a chemistry genius, the show offers an implicit rebuke to the persistent modern conceit that a scientific worldview logically implies liberalism, humanism and a widening circle of concern. On “Breaking Bad,” that worldview just makes Walt a better kingpin, and the beautiful equations of chemistry are deployed to addict, poison, decompose.
What exhausts skeptics of the Kennedy cult, both its elegiac and paranoid forms, is the way it makes a saint out of a reckless adulterer, a Camelot out of a sordid political operation, a world-historical figure out of a president whose fate was tragic but whose record was not terribly impressive.
But in many ways the impulses driving the Kennedy nostalgists are the same ones animating Lewis’s Puddleglum and Huxley’s Savage — the desire for grace and beauty, for icons and heroes, for a high-stakes dimension to human affairs that a consumerist, materialist civilization can flatten and exclude.
And one can believe J.F.K. is a poor vessel for these desires, and presidential politics the wrong place to satisfy them, without wishing they would disappear.
“It is a serious thing,” Lewis wrote, describing the implications of his religious worldview, “to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would strongly be tempted to worship.”
It is obviously a serious mistake, from this perspective, to deify someone prematurely or naively, as too many of Kennedy’s admirers have done.
”To deify someone prematurely or naively…” – in continuing on this list, picking writers, activists, and thinkers who have influenced my thinking for years, I want to emphasize that this is not a list of conservative heroes. These are not the gods of right-wing writing circa 2013, but rather something more mundane: a chessboard. Both in specific arguments and in tactics they each simply model the methods for how to do battle.
Douthat is a knight. His approach of leading with deeper discussions of religion and culture then eschewing cliche ideological talking points is a great way to begin the discussion with skeptical or even hostile non-conservative friends and family. As the dialogue gets deeper into specifics — as you make progress in provoking others to rattle their chains in Plato’s cage by taking politically incorrect ideas seriously — it’s time to get focused on the facts about the nature of the enemies who most threaten our ability to have these free debates about God and life. I suspect that over the coming years more will make the journey from Left to Right as I and many other post-9/11 conservatives did: through recognizing the nature of the jihad declared against us and then responding in the same way that previous generations vanquished Nazism and fascism.
Zuckerman’s gripping tale is a story of men who risked everything they had, and in many cases won (or lost) fortunes betting against the conventional wisdom: That perfecting fracking would be a revolutionary improvement in the means of harvesting more fossil fuel (not the wind/solar/geothermal sources the best and brightest tell us are the future) that would do more for the American energy business than anyone could have foreseen even 15 years ago.
“Creative destruction can render public policies irrelevant, as seems to be the case with several decades of conventional-wisdom energy policy,” noted Michael Barone in National Review. “It reminds us that people with ingenuity and daring can reshape the world in ways few can imagine.”