Ed Driscoll

At Sea in an Alien Culture, Where ‘Normal’ Is Defined as ‘Deviant’

As we saw yesterday, the DNC-MSM can’t check on who the two men are standing behind Rick Perry during his presidential run announcement before rushing to ask, as one “Think” “Progress” contributor cluelessly pondered on Twitter, “Who are the 2 dudes standing behind Perry? Are they related? Why so glum?” (Hint: They’re both Navy SEALS, who tend to be rather serious men, unlike happy-go-lucky Think Progress and Media Matters “senior fellows.” Oh and one of the two men “was portrayed by Mark Wahlberg in the blockbuster hit Lone Survivor,” Sean Davis wrote at the Federalist yesterday, rounding up numerous examples of far left media failures to do a little research before rushing to Twitter.)

But simultaneously, we must all utter the proper bellyfeel duckspeak regarding Bruce Jenner’s new incarnation as “Caitlyn Jenner,” lest we suffer the wrath of the Washington Post’s young socialist justice warrior and Democrat-activist with a byline Caitlin Dewey, who created a bot on Twitter to “to shame anyone who referred to Bruce Jenner as a ‘he’ on Twitter during the gushy ‘God, I admire you’ wave of Vanity Fair coverage,” Tim Graham writes at NewsBusters. (Considering how ubiquitous Amazon is, it’s an interesting Mobius Loop, isn’t it? We’re buying goods from Jeff Bezos, which allows Dewey to be paid by him to insult his customers one removed.)

Placing the two moments into context, Bloomberg’s Dave Weigel joked on Twitter, “It’s Perry’s fault for not standing to real, recognizable heroes, like the Olympics guy who got breast implants.” Naturally, Weigel later deleted his own crimethink, but not before Hot Air’s Allahpundit included it in his post on Perry’s debut on the 2015 national stage.

All of this MSM cognitive dissonance can play a heavy toll on the rest of society.  “Some of us now struggle to recognize the culture we live in. We are profoundly baffled and greatly disturbed by what seems like a complete inversion of values,” Quin Hillyer wrote last week at NRO. “If nearly half the culture acts and believes in ways that are alien to us, but they are backed by the establishment media hordes, then we in the other half feel utterly adrift — or, as the Robert Heinlein title put it, strangers in a strange land.” Hillyer was writing about the Clinton, Obama and Tom Brady scandals, but this passage works pretty well to describe yesterday’s MSM funhouse mirror experience as well:

These are somewhat random examples, but the theme is consistent: Behavior that once would have earned near-universal opprobrium or, in the case of the Clintons’ uranium deal, white-hot anger, now barely raises an eyebrow.

Behavior that once would have earned near-universal opprobrium or, in the case of the Clintons’ uranium deal, white-hot anger, now barely raises an eyebrow.

And this isn’t even to delve into the general coarseness of the culture that positively celebrates depravities — and splashes them across the glossy pages of, say, People magazine — among elites of Hollywood, the music industry, and other walks of life. (Literally as I was writing this, a commercial aired on my TV advertising the third season of the ABC show Mistresses. In prime time. Enough said.) It’s Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s “defining deviancy down” to a degree Moynihan himself may have found astonishing.

Yet at the same time that we old-school types are bombarded by cultural rot of every kind, we also are hounded by what Charles Krauthammer called “defining deviancy up.” He wrote:

There is a complimentary social phenomenon that goes with defining deviancy down. As part of the vast social project of moral leveling, it is not enough for the deviant to be normalized, the normal must be found to be deviant. Large areas of ordinary behavior hitherto considered benign have had their threshold radically redefined up, so that once-innocent behavior now stands condemned as deviant. Normal middle-class life then stands exposed as the true home of violence, abuse, misogyny, a whole category of deviant acting and thinking.

So we see, for example, college professors all over the country being disciplined or even fired for innocuous statements in class that random students find offensive. We see owners of various artistic businesses fined into oblivion for refusing to sell their artistic skills for ceremonies that violate their beliefs. We see ordinary words such as “arrogant,” “haughty,” and “thug” being denounced as racist (or sexist, or whatever). We see people taking offense at “micro-aggressions” that are neither aggressive nor even visible under ordinary social microscopes. We see parents sanctioned by the state for allowing their children to enjoy playgrounds unsupervised (oh, the horror, the horror). We see stories of verbal pleading leading to consensual sex that is later reclassified as rape. (Who knew that Bruce Springsteen in “Jungleland” was describing not romance but rape when he sang of “whispers of soft refusal, and then surrender”?)

We’re now told that we can’t spank a misbehaving child; that we can’t read Huckleberry Finn because it features the “n” word; that we can’t name sports teams in honor of Indians; that syllogistic or “linear” logic is culturally oppressive; that it’s offensive if we pray in public or say “Merry Christmas”; and that we can’t allow our own 20-year-olds to drink a glass of wine with us in our own homes as a civilizing part of a holiday meal, but that we’re disastrously prudish if we don’t give them condoms for the sex we should be glad they are engaging in as a necessary form of self-expression.

In short, we’re told that so much of what we know is good and normal is actually bad, while so much that’s objectively awful is actually no big deal or even something worth admiring.

Nothing looks the same. The values, the culture, the standards, the frames of reference: All are skewed, tumped over, deconstructed, disorienting. We feel like we’re in a phantasmagoria, a Moody Blues lament in which “red is gray and yellow, white” — except that, unlike in the song, we are actually powerless “to decide which is right,” and the new cultural construct, unfortunately, is no illusion.

In the chilling conclusion to his take on “Caitlyn Jenner” and “The Sex-and-Gender Interregnum” in the latest issue of National Review on Dead Tree (subscription required), Daniel Foster describes Jenner as looking these days like “a third-place finisher in a Rene Russo lookalike contest — and I’m honestly confused about whether I mean that as a compliment,” and wonders what happens next — not to the publicity-hungry Jenner and his (sorry, Caitlyn and Caitlin!) nether regions, but to all of us:

I — we all, no doubt — have had more occasion to think about this front in the culture war of late. That’s because, I’m convinced, we’re living in an interregnum between master cultural narratives, the punctuation of a punctuated equilibrium, and I don’t think any of us really has any idea what the next epoch will look like. Some slopes are slippery and others are not, which is why they named a logical fallacy after them.

Look, I have no interest in what anyone does in the boudoir, and I will call Caitlyn Jenner by whatever noun, pro- or proper, she likes. But what I do know is this: Like all evolutionary processes, this interregnum is producing grotesqueries, neither fish nor fowl, that cannot coherently endure — from the schizophrenia, if you’ll forgive the term, over the medicalization of identity, to a sexual culture whiplashing from the libertinism of “free love” to the new Victorianism of “affirmative consent.”

Functional liberal societies can tolerate just about anything. But they can’t tolerate absurdities — not forever, and maybe not for long. I don’t know what the new regime will look like.

Next stop, Brave New World, or maybe the equally high tech top-down controlled stasism of the “It’s a Takes a Village” world of last year’s conservative sleeper film, The Giver.

But first, Jonathan Last of the Weekly Standard offers a grimly amusing detour through Oceania’s Ministry of Truth: Begun, the Olympic Transgender Wiki Wars have.