Belmont Club

Crazy Talk

There’s a saying that the surest way to go crazy is to keep the company of the insane.  Glenn Reynolds links to an account of a male gender studies  graduate telling every stranger he could find at a party to admit their “privilege”.   The man who may or may not have been invited, “moved throughout the party, unleashing the fundamental concepts of his undergraduate major at every opportunity. ‘It was kind of weird to get lectured about the patriarchy by, y’know, a member of the patriarchy,’ one victim commented. ‘He called me an Uncle Tom for wearing bras.’”


“Privilege” is the word du jour. Have you checked your privilege lately?

Recently there were two dueling articles in the Israeli press. The first, wrote Benjy Cannon of J Street,  argued that Jewishness could not excuse the crime of  “whiteness”. “While I do not often think, write about, or actively engage with my whiteness, it is an omnipresent force in my life”.  This was challenged by Hila Hershkovitz in the Times of Israel, who asserts “Ashkenazi Jews are not white” or at least there was a time when real white people, guys with names like Himmler, didn’t think so.

She has a point.  Things are no longer what they seem.  Ward Churchill is Native American, as is Elizabeth Warren.  Nikki Haley is definitely not white, even though she’s checked the box.  And the whitest man in America, though he may not look it, is George Zimmerman.

A name is not a name either.  Lena Dunham  has responded to a threatened libel suit by admitting that the Republican called Barry who she says raped her in college wasn’t really called Barry. Random House is adding disclaimers warning readers not to take this book of nonfiction too literally.  Interestingly digital copies of Dunham’s autobiography are going to be redacted to fit Dunham’s new storyline.  So if you are reading a book hosted on the cloud and find the letters rearranging themselves before your very eyes, don’t worry, it’s not you that is going nuts, but the world.


The world of Rolling Stone has come to a universe near you. Rolling Stone you will recall, is a magazine which alleged that a woman had been gang-raped by men at a Greek letter fraternity party at the University of Virginia, only to subsequently discover that none of the facts checked out.

Rolling Stone belatedly retracted their account, but not before the Greek letter fraternities and and sororities were suspended pending investigation. Perhaps the ultimate though unintended irony on the matter was by Zerlina Maxwell writing in the Washington Post.  She argues that so matters are so serious we should presume guilt until innocence is proven.

Even if Jackie fabricated her account, U-Va. should have taken her word for it during the period while they endeavored to prove or disprove the accusation. … Someone is out here raping 1 in 5 American women and yes, it could be someone that you know and love. It could be the boy at the frat party.

That almost sounds like a line from Plan 9 From Outer Space. “Perhaps, on your way home, someone will pass you in the dark, and you will never know it… for they will be from outer space.” The difference is that Criswell knew his lines were hokey. The modern inquisition is entirely conducted in earnest.

Proposition: subjective opinion may be inaccurate but should trump the objective facts. Like the digital copies of Dunham’s memoir the truth depends on the last edit.


Recently retired ABC journalist Ann Compton recounted how “Barack Obama launches into “profanity-laced” tirades against the press in off-the-record meetings with reporters. … Both were off-the-record times. One, profanity-laced where he thought the press was making too much of scandals that he did not think were scandals.”

So that’s the real Barry. But maybe ‘Barry’ doesn’t exist not in Lena Dunham’s universe nor any other.  The wider point, the larger truth is:  get with the narrative, if you can figure it out.

Sharyl Attkisson “responded to former ABC News correspondent Ann Compton’s claim that President Barack Obama and his officials routinely direct profanity-laced tirades at reporters.” Just like the gender studies graduate at the party, just like the activist from J Street, Obama went around telling reporters what to think.

Attkisson told Malzberg she has been on the receiving end of those conversations in the past, and others, specifically The Associated Press, have been subject to scorn at the hands of Obama officials. …

“There have been profanity-laced discussions on their part with members of the Obama administration that they’ve talked to me about similar things, thinking that a cover story…was not warranted or fair.”

“They haven’t just done this with me, but with reporters at The Associated Press and other colleagues,” said Attkisson. “This is a tactic and a strategy.”


The amazing thing was these tirades worked. They silenced not just one, but whole bureaus of journalists.  They just sat there and took it. Steve Whitlock noted that Ann Compton remained silent on the tirades even to her  last day at work. “Interestingly, on Compton’s last day in August, the President called on her for a final question. She chose to ask about the police shooting in Ferguson, not the concerns she expressed to C-SPAN.”

The reason civilians go along with crazy people is because they are well aware that challenging their claims to being Napoleon or Alexander the Great may result in agitation or unpredictable behavior.  A regular civilian avoids confrontation while the proof activist seeks it out. Getting in your face works. That explains how one gate-crashing gender studies male graduate could terrorize a party of women into silence.

“He came out of nowhere,” says hostess Sarah Casey. Casey believes he is somehow connected to one of her “idiot” coworkers, though none of her invited party guests would admit to knowing the perpetrator. “It all happened in slow motion. I just hid under the table until he left.”

Avoidance is pretty much what everyone is doing with respect to the administration. By tacit assent, impeachment is off the table. Even answering back has been ruled out in most cases — because it makes you feel crazy somehow.  People are simply going to hide under the table and hope he goes away.


What happens narratives conflict? The world is a complicated place and sometimes the lines aren’t so clear. Watch the man sobbing at 4:45.

[jwplayer mediaid=”40800″]

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