Motivated reasoning

If I had to name only one thing I have learned in my many years of making arguments, it would be this: You cannot convince people of anything that they sense it’s in their interest not to know. I thought about this often as I was reading Alex Morris’s Rolling Stone story about American evangelicals’ love of Trump.

… It is very much in the interest of Morris’s aunt, and in the interest of millions and millions of other people, not to know that we are, through our economic choices, bringing ruin to the planet that we’re supposed to be the stewards of. And so she doesn’t know. Like so many others, she makes a point of not knowing.

But I think the problem of motivated not-knowing isn’t found only on the conservative evangelical side of things. Here’s one passage from Morris’s essay that seems to be drawing a lot of attention:

“The white nationalism of fundamentalism was sleeping there like a latent gene, and it just came roaring back with a vengeance,” says [Greg] Thornbury. In Trump’s America, “‘religious liberty’ is code for protection of white, Western cultural heritage.”

In that second sentence, the clause “In Trump’s America” is a problem. What does it mean? In one sense, the entire nation is “Trump’s America” right now, whether we like it or not; but maybe Morris means something like “Americans who enthusiastically support Trump,” or “the parts of the country that are strongly supportive of Trump.” Impossible to tell. Thornbury didn’t use the phrase, but presumably he said something that led into his line about “religious liberty” as code for something else.

So the passage is unclear, but I’d like to know what Thornbury means. I’ve written a good deal about the importance of religious freedom on this blog and elsewhere — just see the tag at the bottom of this post — so does that mean that I am using that topic as “code for protection of white, Western cultural heritage”? If so: explain that to me, please.

Maybe there’s something that Greg Thornbury and Alex Morris have an interest in not knowing: that even if millions of white Americans abuse the concept of religious liberty, religious liberty could nevertheless be in some danger.

Alan Jacobs, who has much more than this to say, including ways in which fundamentalist Christian cranks are motivated to ignore environmental damage.

Seriously, read it all.

But Jacobs omits something: anyone who thinks Rolling Stone is prima facie a reliable interlocutor of Christianity, and especially of the religious right, deserves all the false certaintly and motivated ignorance he gains there. Rod Dreher kinda hits that, too.

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Sailing on the sea of this present life, I think of the ocean of my many offenses; and not having a pilot for my thoughts, I call to Thee with the cry of Peter, save me, O Christ! Save me, O God! For Thou art the lover of mankind.

(From A Psalter for Prayer)

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

God bless the socialists

Something extraordinary has happened.

On August 19, the New York Times published its “1619 Project” — a conscious re-writing of the arc of American history so radical that they had to completely ignore the top experts on American history to come up with something so tendentious.

They’re printing hundreds of thousands of reprints for school use, and some school districts are going to use it.

Consservatives responded with “stupid liberals, promoting identity politics again” and left it at that. No conservative publication seemed to think of actually talking to the top experts on American history that the Times ignored.

So far, dog bites man.

But now the Times is coming under attack from its left, as the World Socialist Web Site objects that by falsifying history to create a purely racial narrative, the Times is consciously trying to help the Democrat party and is suppressing the importance of class, so as to make almost impossible the formation of a multi-racial coalition of proletariat victims of capitalism.

That’s the ax they have to grind, but they ground it by interviewing the top experts on American history that everyone else had overlooked (as well as writing some pointed critiques of their own):

I’m indebted to Rod Dreher for calling this extraordinary set of articles to my attention, but we’re all more deeply in debt to the cantakerous socialists for doing the work nobody else thought, or cared, to do.

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Sailing on the sea of this present life, I think of the ocean of my many offenses; and not having a pilot for my thoughts, I call to Thee with the cry of Peter, save me, O Christ! Save me, O God! For Thou art the lover of mankind.

(From A Psalter for Prayer)

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

Hold them in tension

Can I hold in my mind simultaneously these two realities?

I need to try. I’ve been so appalled by Trump that I have unduly resisted recognizing another vital part of the story.

That [Trump] was insincere and full of it and irresponsible, at first at least, when he attacked the “deep state” and the “fake news media,” doesn’t change the reality of what’s happened since. Even paranoiacs have enemies, and even Donald “Deep State” Trump is a legitimately elected president whose ouster is being actively sought by the intelligence community … [W]hile Donald Trump conducting foreign policy based on what he sees on Fox and Friends is troubling, it’s not in the same ballpark as CNN, MSNBC, the Washington Post and the New York Times engaging in de facto coverage partnerships with the FBI and CIA to push highly politicized, phony narratives like Russiagate.

I owe Matt Taibbi a debt of gratitude, and strongly recommend his article. (Andrew C. McCarthy* tried to tell me many of the same things, but I wasn’t yet in the mood to buy a book, by a card-carrying conservative who might just be carrying water for the Orange One.)

I’m not sure this materially changes my voting calculus for 2020. It may take some time to navigate through that.

* UPDATE: How could I have forgotten? James Howard Kunstler also tried to tell me many of the same things.

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The Lord is King, be the peoples never so impatient; He that sitteth upon the Cherubim, be the earth never so unquiet.

(Psalm 98:1, Adapted from the Miles Coverdale Translation, from A Psalter for Prayer)

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

Cokie Roberts

Cokie Roberts died today. That’s a bigger deal to me than any of the recent Rock’n’Roll deaths.

NPR did a long feature on it, of course. One bit of it  (her remark on how hugely politics has changed) prompted this thought: maybe today’s news is so stultifying because events themselves, especially in government, keep getting stupider and stupider. Just how does one cover Donald Trump intelligently?

Combined with the theory that we get the government we deserve, that’s a bit depressing, no?

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I sought to understand, but it was too hard for me, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.

(Psalm 72:15-17, Adapted from the Miles Coverdale Translation, from A Psalter for Prayer)

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just looking to get your stuff “out there” and not pick fights).

Trump in Evangelical Texas

Wahington Post’s Elizabeth Breunig went to Texas around Easter to visit Evangelical family and try to figure out the Trump-Evangelical bond.

“I give to everybody,” [Trump] declared in 2015, during the first Republican primary debate. “When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them. They are there for me.” For a frustrated conservative wondering why Republican presidents had never seemed to make good on their promises to evangelicals while their cultural cachet continued to slip, Trump’s blatant indictment of corrupt, money-driven politics must have seemed refreshingly honest — even if part of his admission was that he himself participated in it.

“I really think one of the things that’s changed since I did my fieldwork at the very end of the Bush administration is a rejection of politics in general as a means to advance the common good, even in a conservative vein.” In that case, politics “becomes a bloodsport, where you’re punishing and striking back at people you don’t like” without much hope of changing anything.

(Quoting Lydia Bean, a researcher who devoted her graduate sociological work at Harvard to studying the comparative politics of evangelicals in the United States and Canada.)

“We’re deplorables,” the [Baptist] Collinses intoned in unison, when I asked them what messages they had heard from Democrats. “We cling to our religion and our guns,” Coleman said, mocking the famous Barack Obama remark from 2008. “I don’t think there’s much room in the Democratic Party for evangelicals like me,” [Pastor] Barber added.

Is there a way to reverse hostilities between the two cultures in a way that might provoke a truce? It is hard to see. Is it even possible to return to a style of evangelical politics that favored “family values” candidates and a Billy Graham-like engagement with the world, all with an eye toward revival and persuasion? It is hard to imagine.

Or was a truly evangelical politics — with an eye toward cultural transformation — less effective than the defensive evangelical politics of today, which seems focused on achieving protective accommodations against a broader, more liberal national culture? Was the former always destined to collapse into the latter? And will the evangelical politics of the post-Bush era continue to favor the rise of figures such as Trump, who are willing to dispense with any hint of personal Christian virtue while promising to pause the decline of evangelical fortunes — whatever it takes? And if hostilities can’t be reduced and a detente can’t be reached, are the evangelicals who foretell the apocalypse really wrong?

Elizabeth Breunig, In God’s country, where she asks “Evangelicals view Trump as their protector. Will they stand by him in 2020?” and does an outstanding job of qualifying her answer. Someone at the Post, though, thought her answer was “Yes, they will,” and that tipoff crept into the page title in my browser.

Breunig opens with an implied question and the four frankly condescending theories/answers she knows:

Theories about Trump’s connection with evangelical voters have long been dubiously elegant. The simplest, and perhaps most comfortable for Trump’s bewildered and furious opposition, is that evangelicals are and always were hypocrites, demanding moral rectitude from their enemies that they don’t expect from their friends. Others held that evangelicals must simply be ignorant, taken in by a campaign narrative that attempted to depict Trump as privately devoted to Christ, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Some argued that evangelicals just wanted an invincible champion to fight the culture wars, even if he didn’t share their vision of the good life. And then there was the transactional theory: Their votes were just about the Supreme Court.

I ended up thinking the “invincible champion” theory, condescending or not, was the most plausible of the theories (though I’m not sure any of the four suffices) based on a couple of portions of the article that surprised me:

  • “‘It’s spiritual warfare,’ Dale Ivy added, emphasizing Trump is the only man in the field who seems strong enough to confront it.” My first reaction was “You’ve got to be kidding! Donald Trump as Spiritual Champion!?”
  • But then there was this second synthesis: “By voting for Trump — even over more identifiably Christian candidates — evangelicals seem to have found a way to outsource their fears and instead reserve a strictly spiritual space for themselves inside politics without placing evangelical politicians themselves in power. In that sense, they can be both active political agents and a semi-cloistered religious minority, both of the world and removed from it, advancing their values while retreating to their own societies.”

The idea of sending up an adulterous pagan to do spiritual warfare in your stead really is unhinged. Evil spirits would chew him out an spit him out faster than the eye could follow. But if “spiritual warfare” is hyperbole, as I suspect it is, the theory of “invincible champion” becomes more plausible.

Rod Dreher had to bring this to my attention because I deliberately allowed my Washington Post subscription to expire. If my experience holds for you, you can get a year of digital-only access to the Post, which has the best religion coverage of any major newspaper I know, for $40. I couldn’t resist that offer. Just sayin’.

 

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You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

I highly recommend blot.im as a crazy-easy alternative to Twitter (if you’re just looking to get your stuff “out there” and not pick fights).

Joe Biden and the Crackers

I had vaguely registered some backlash against Joe Biden’s comments about James Eastland and Herman Talmadge, and I couldn’t help but wonder (1) was there some malapropism in Biden’s comments that wasn’t being reported and (2) is there anything at all to commend in the backlash?

The answer to both my questions appears to be “no.” This is not just an instance where the younger generation has apprehended some truth my generation has trouble seeing. It is an instance where my generation is right and young progressive pearl-clutchers are out of their right minds.*

I base this opinion on Bret Stephens’ Saturday OpEd in the New York Times, which completely vindicates my antecedent bias.

I cheerfully admit that I haven’t read Biden’s critics on this point, and I cheerfully admit it because life is too short to explore every rabbit trail, or, as my late father once said, “you don’t have to dig through garbage to find food in this country.”

Here is the key passage in Stephens, in my estimation:

All of this is evidence of what psychologist Pamela Paresky calls the “apocalyptic” approach to politics that increasingly typifies today’s progressivism. “It is an apocalyptic view, not a liberal one, that rejects redemption and forgiveness in favor of condemnation and excommunication,” she writes in Psychology Today. “It is an apocalyptic perspective, not a liberal one, that sees the world as needing to be destroyed and replaced rather than improved and perfected.”

Paresky contrasts that to what’s been called the “prophetic culture” in American politics, which takes human nature as it is and gladly goes to work with its crooked timber. Abraham Lincoln was a part of this prophetic culture, as was Martin Luther King Jr. John Brown was part of the apocalyptic one — as is, in its way, the new “cancel culture” of the left.

The irony here is that the left’s apocalyptic tendencies have everything in common with the behavior of the Trumpian right: the smash-mouth partisanship; the loathing for moderates on its own side; the conviction that its opponents are unbelievably stupid as well as irredeemably evil; the belief that the only political victories worth gaining are total ones.

The apocalyptic view (remember “The Flight 93 Election”?) does not bode well for political peace any time soon. I can only hope that the press has amplified it a hundredfold for commercial reasons, and that its prevalence in the electorate at large is negligible.

* Update: Okay, okay, okay. “He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son’” was a malapropism, and since Biden never is Mr. Malaprope, he must have meant something totally toxic and un-American by it.

Potpourri 2/22/19

1

“We’re in a cage match,” said Rob Renfroe, a conservative pastor in Texas who believes the denomination should break up. “The loser can’t get up off the mat. The winner is beaten up, bloody, battered.”

Frank Schaefer, a Methodist pastor who was defrocked and then reinstated after officiating his son’s same-sex wedding, is in full agreement. “It’s better for our LGBTQ community if we split,” he said.

… [M]any congregations object to allowing such differences on an issue they consider central to their faith, and are preparing for divorce—and for the disputes over church property that will inevitably follow.

“All of this comes down to money,” said Mandy McDow, the pastor of Los Angeles First United Methodist Church and a supporter of LGBT rights. “If people wanted to leave, they would have left a long time ago, but they would have had to give up their buildings and their pensions.”

Ms. McDow said she would be in St. Louis to see “the great divorce of my denomination. It’s going to be awful.”

Ian Lovett for the Wall Street Journal on United Methodists.

It boggles my mind, and should serve as a cautionary tale about Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, that both sides think the deep integrity of the Christian faith is at stake — especially when one side is thus tacitly condemning 20 centuries of its spirtual ancestors to the status of inferior pseudo-Christians.

But I agree with Mandy McDow. I’ve seen quite a few clergy who waited until retirement to follow their changed convictions into different Christian traditions, and had personal communication with one who was frank about the financial straits earlier “conversion” would put on his family.

I’m thankful that I did not have direct financial ties to the Christian Reformed Church (of course, one tends to do business with people one knows from Church) when, unbidden, my investigation into the falsity of a new Orthodox Church in town persuaded me of Orthodoxy’s truth.

2

Mr. Smollett deserves to be punished for his hoax to deter others. The media’s punishment will be its continuing loss of public credibility.

Wall Street Journal Editorial Board

Yes, but what of us putatively innocent bystanders, who’d like reliable news? Are we deluded about what we really want? Or have the appetites of our countrymen for sensational confirmation of their biases driven legitimate news out of the market?

I caught a few minutes of the CBS national news last night and quickly caught them eliding legitimate issues to fit complex stories into their narrative and their time-per-story constraints.

For instance, they tried to make sure that viewers would “see” a rifle’s crosshairs, oddly placed in the corner of a picture motormouth Roger Stone posted of Judge Amy Berman Jackson, when the lines were way too thick and too long, the placement was certifiably weird if a threat was intended, and the accompanying tweet was a plea for defense funds:

DzthWx-VAAAaYtR

Had I not listened to a legal podcast, All The President’s Lawyers, I probably would have fallen for that spin, for spin it was, becoming one of the semi- and mis-informed with a cartoonish notion of what’s going on, and who the good guys and the bad guys are.

And that’s probably what I am.

It’s impossible to read/view/hear and evaluate all world news at length. The sweet spot is knowing what matters, and that’s probably mostly local news, even as local media sink into insolvency that not even sensationalism can fix.

It may become necessary for local news to get its funding from patrons, not just from readers and advertisers, perhaps on the public radio model. We’re on terra incognita.

3

Should corporations, especially big, megarich ones, be given tax benefits for locating in a city or state? No, actually. They should come in simply as grateful and eager new citizens, especially in a place like New York, since there’s nothing like us. But that is not the world in which we live. In this world politicians are desperate to expand the tax base and brag about creating jobs. Companies can and do press every advantage.

Here is the truth: New York’s progressives weren’t tough, they were weak. They don’t know how to play this game.

You want to be tough and mean, get what you want, and keep those jobs for your constituents? Here was the play:

You don’t unleash the furies and hold hearings where crowds jeer, hiss and chant “GTFO, Amazon has got to go.” You don’t put stickers on every lamp pole saying “Amazon crime.” You don’t insult and belittle their representatives. You don’t become Tweeting Trotsky.

You quietly vote yes, go to the groundbreaking, and welcome our new partner in prosperity. Then you wait. And as soon as the new headquarters is fully built and staffed, you shake them down like a boss.

Peggy Noonan

4

A tax preparer in Russiaville, Indiana declined to do a repeat customer’s return when she showed up with her new “spouse,” also a “she.”

My first thought was that the culprit drew a dubious line. But then I thought back to the days after the Supreme Court littered same-sex marriage onto the nation’s legal landscape. I believe there were pledges circulating to “never recognize same-sex marriage in any way,” which was a tempting bit of proposed civil disobedience and which might fit doing a joint tax return.

The pair was able to get it’s “married filing jointly” return done elsewhere, of course.

In Indiana, there’s no law against what he tax preparer did.

Because her beliefs warrant respect, too, I’m content with Indiana’s status quo, the only argument against which is that it’s vitally important to Corporate America (and some United Methodists, but I digress) that sex trump all countervailing considerations and that we’ll be on its “naughty list” until our laws say so.

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I left Twitter and I’m leaving Facebook, but you can read other stuff at Micro.blog (mirrored at microblog.intellectualoid.com) and, as of February 20, 2019, at blot.im, at both of which I blog shorter items. Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly.

Spinning narratives

I’ve recently encountered two disturbing (but stimulating and, ultimately, helpful — I think) items about journalistic “narratives” spun from sometimes-scant facts.

First, both chronologically and because there’s no paywall, Caitlin Johnstone (whose name I’ve been habitually misspelling), a pretty radical progressive daily blogger journalist from down under: Dissidents Must Understand The Difference Between Fact And Narrative:

Do you know the difference between fact and narrative? Are you sure? The ability to be as lucid as possible about the difference between raw data and the story that is spun about it is absolutely essential to understanding and fighting the establishment propaganda machine.

Let’s look at Russiagate for an easy example. The narrative is that Donald Trump is secretly conspiring with the Russian government to subvert American interests to advance the agendas of the Kremlin. But what are the facts? The facts are that a few people who were associated with Trump during his presidential campaign have been convicted and pled guilty to process crimes and some underhanded dealings with nations that aren’t Russia, while Trump has been staging a regime change intervention against Venezuela, bombing Syria, arming Ukraine, implementing a Nuclear Posture Review with a more aggressive stance toward Russia, withdrawing from the INF Treaty, throwing out Russian diplomats, sanctioning Russian oligarchs, expanding NATO and securing it more funding. The narrative and the facts couldn’t be more different.

But that hasn’t mattered, has it? The propagandists have been able to get everyone worked up about the idea that Putin has managed to influence the very highest levels of the US government, despite there being no facts whatsoever to substantiate that idea. It’s pure narrative, yet it’s been used to manufacture a conceptual framework which allows anyone challenging the unipolar world order to be undermined as a Kremlin crony, from Jill Stein to Tulsi Gabbard to Glenn Greenwald to Rand Paul. There is nothing but insinuation and innuendo backing up those narratives, but that’s all they need.

Second, Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. (whose name I usually shorten to Holman Jenkins), from the putatively conservative Wall Street Journal and thus behind a paywall, I fear: Suddenly, Bezos Is Media’s Hero:

Mr. Bezos and his associates deliberately promoted a Hollywood-sized misdirection, with spies and political conspiracy extending all the way to the White House and Saudi Arabia … [through] Mr. Bezos’ own Washington Post. Never mind that the only real lead Mr. Bezos’ agent provided to the paper concerned the possible role of Ms. Sanchez’s pro-Trump brother. If so, means and motive were complete: It was unnecessary to speculate about Donald Trump and the Saudis—a filigree spun on top of the tawdry facts to distract and excite the media.

Mr. Bezos’ interest seems self-evident to me: Injecting the Trump-Saudi red herring draws attention away from his own carelessness and that of Ms. Sanchez. After all, being a hero of the anti-Trump resistance, especially when Amazon lately has been vilified from the left, is better than being the chump starring in a garden-variety case of rich-guy infidelity.

… Our press seems increasingly helpless in the face of evidence-free red herrings aimed at its erogenous zones. See the widely circulated email in which Bob Woodward uncritically associates himself with Mr. Bezos’ narrative. The incentive to participate in other people’s idealized self-images is well-known in psychology. Journalists should guard against it. But, in truth, exhibiting compliance with the self-images of their sources is how many journalists do their jobs.

Which is why I strongly favor one part of what’s unfolding here: the media genuinely interesting itself in how such stories based on anonymous sources and leaks come to be published.

When the press gets done with Mr. Bezos’ private messages, let’s find out who leaked decades-old private Trump family tax documents to the New York Times. Let’s inquire into the source or sources who misrepresented to CNN, MSNBC and CBS the date on an email to make it look like the Trump campaign was in cahoots with WikiLeaks.

I could go on. How some stories come to be written strikes me as a lot more newsworthy than the stories themselves ….

If you can get through the paywall, Jenkins is a good read on l’affaire Bezos, including much that I didn’t think I could include and still be “fair use” rather than “ripoff.”

Of course, Mr. Jenkins’ “interest seems self-evident to me.” It builds the image of the Wall Street Journal’s pay-for-what-we-write model (think Apple) at the expense of the Washington Post and New York Times (think Google and Facebook, relatively speaking – or so goes Jenkins’ narrative).

Indeed, I would not be stunned were I to learn that my clicks at the Washington Post feed back into Amazon.com so it can target ads. And I’ve got as much evidence for that as the Post has for Trump and Saudi Arable being entangled with the Enquirer on this.

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Follow me on Micro.blog Follow me on Micro.blog, too, where I blog tweet-like shorter items. Frankly, it’s kind of becoming my main blog. If you prefer, those micro.blog items also appear now at microblog.intellectualoid.com. Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly.

Potpourri, 2/11/19

1

So since I know that [government or other establishment] infiltration and manipulation [of dissident media and movements] happens, but I don’t find other people’s whisperings about “controlled opposition” useful, how do I figure out who’s trustworthy and who isn’t? How do I figure out who it’s safe to cite in my work and who to avoid? How do I separate the fool’s gold from the genuine article? The shit from the Shinola?

Here is my answer: I don’t.

I spend no mental energy whatsoever concerning myself with who may or may not be a secret pro-establishment influencer, and for good reason. There’s no way to know for sure if an individual is secretly scheming to sheep dog the populace into support for the status quo, and as long as government agencies remain opaque and unaccountable there will never be a way to know who might be secretly working for them. What I can know is (A) what I’ve learned about the world, (B) the ways the political/media class is lying about what I know about the world, and (C) when someone says something which highlights those lies. I therefore pay attention solely to the message, and no attention to what may or may not be the hidden underlying agenda of the messenger.

In other words, if someone says something which disrupts establishment narratives, I help elevate what they’re saying in that specific instance. I do this not because I know that the speaker is legit and uncorrupted, but because their message in that moment is worthy of elevation. You can navigate the entire political/media landscape in this way.

Since society is made of narrative and power ultimately rests in the hands of those who are able to control those narratives, it makes no sense to fixate on individuals and it makes perfect sense to focus on narrative. What narratives are being pushed by those in power? How are those narratives being disrupted, undermined and debunked by things that are being said by dissident voices? This is the most effective lens through which to view the battle against the unelected power establishment which is crushing us all to death, not some childish fixation on who should or shouldn’t be our hero.

There’s no reason to worry about what journalists, activists and politicians are coming from a place of authenticity if you know yourself to be coming from a place of authenticity.

Caitlyn Johnstone. A very sensible answer, from a writer who might be controlled or manipulated for all I know, though under criteria (A), (B) & (C), I find her pretty reliable.

2

Wilders regularly refers to a supposedly tolerant set of “Christian values” that contrast with allegedly savage Islamic ideals, but in reality, Islam and Christianity, like Judaism, derive from the same Abrahamic roots and draw on similar Greek philosophical traditions.

Khaled Diab, A far-right politician converted to Islam. It’s not as surprising as it sounds.

Yeah, it’s not totally surprising, but that sentence is sheer blather:

Wilders regularly refers to the unreliability of Yugos, but in reality, Yugos derive from seminal 19th Century inventions and are manufactured similarly to Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and Lexus.

I don’t know whether Diab was obliged by his employer to mute any criticism of Islam or if he did it free gratis, but he fails Caitlyn Johnstone’s criterion (C).

3

From the Enquirer’s perspective, Mr. Bezos’ pockets are superhumanly deep. He controls the Washington Post. Mr. Pecker, already in legal trouble over Trump dealings, might well find it worrying to have someone of Mr. Bezos’ heft pounding away at the narrative that the Enquirer was not doing what it always does, and is legally entitled to do, shamelessly trafficking in the scandals of the rich and famous. Instead, it was conducting a character assassination on behalf of Mr. Trump or the Saudis, possibly in cahoots with official hackers of Mr. Bezos’ phone or message traffic.

… The paper’s story about Mr. Bezos’ philandering and sexting …, compared with a lot of what’s published as “news” these days, [is] extremely well supported with documentary evidence. Whereas the narrative Mr. Bezos is promoting is speculative. Even if the pro-Trump brother was involved, the story would have been delicious to the Enquirer if there had been no Trump connection. Every story has a source, and sources have motives.

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., Bezos vs. the Enquirer Could Be a Watershed

4

When a society rejects the Christian account of who we are, it doesn’t become less moralistic but far more so, because it retains an inchoate sense of justice but has no means of offering and receiving forgiveness. The great moral crisis of our time is not, as many of my fellow Christians believe, sexual licentiousness, but rather vindictiveness. Social media serve as crack for moralists: there’s no high like the high you get from punishing malefactors. But like every addiction, this one suffers from the inexorable law of diminishing returns. The mania for punishment will therefore get worse before it gets better.

Alan Jacobs, about 19 months ago. He returns to it now, which prompted me to think about the Democrats’ Dilemma.

I was puzzled by the nearly unanimous Democrat demands that Democrat Ralph Northram resign as Governor of Virginia, but The Daily podcast helped me make sense of it (and gave me a bad case of schadenfreude).

You see, they wanted to put an impassible gulf between their party, the patent sleaze of Donald Trump and the alleged super-creepy mall-trolling of young Roy Moore. So they set a zero tolerance policy, expelling Al Franken and others (from safe Democrat seats). Now it seems that they’re discovering the ubiquity of sin: not every Democrat sinner is in a safe seat.

I don’t know which is worse: the usual hypocrisy or a foolish consistency. But the foolish consistency feels more consistent with our damnable callout culture — which ironically puts the heroic caller-outers in bed with Donald Trump, who like them never asked God for forgiveness because he never did anything wrong.

5

Another very slick technology I won’t use because it’s from one of the companies that most flagrantly monetizes me: It’s the Real World—With Google Maps Layered on Top.

(No, now that you mention it: I can’t get over the death of privacy.)

6

Three months getting a new Tesla 3 bumper to the body shop:

The upstart car company has created a coveted luxury brand but is still learning some of the basics of the auto business.

Thou shalt not covet.

(“Thou also shalt not smirk about not drinking Elon Musk’s Kool-Aid,” he reminded the mirror).

7

The self-proclaimed socialists are actually seeing the world through a rear-view mirror. What they are really talking about is divvying up the previously-accumulated wealth, soon to be bygone. Entropy is having its wicked way with that wealth, first by transmogrifying it into ever more abstract forms, and then by dissipating it as waste all over the planet. In short, the next time socialism is enlisted as a tool for redistributing wealth, we will make the unhappy discovery that most of that wealth is gone.

The process will be uncomfortably sharp and disorientating. The West especially will not know what hit it as it emergently self-reorganizes back into something that resembles the old-time feudalism ….

I almost don’t need to say who wrote that, do I? It’s JHK.

8

Speaking of socialism, I may be parting ways with Rod Dreher for a while, as he is writing a new book:

The gist of the book will be a warning to the West about the re-emergence of socialism and the totalitarian mindset that accompanies it. The warning will be in the form of “lessons” told by people who lived under Soviet-bloc socialism, and who are alarmed by what they see happening now in the West. An American college professor who grew up in the USSR told me last week that it shocks her and her emigre parents to see the same mindset that they ran away from manifesting itself in US academia. It will not stay confined to the academy, either.

That sounds much better than some of the foreshadowings in his blog, which seem blind to how equivocal the term “socialism” is today.

By the time I read his Benedict Option, with which I substantially agree, the arguments and anecdotes were very familiar to me — almost stale — from his blog, which for many month felt like a test kitchen.

I’m skeptical enough of the emerging “socialist” demonizing (I think Dreher even will say “cultural Marxism” unironically) that I may have to check out for a while — while continuing to pray for Rod and some others who are on the polemical front lines of the culture wars.

Hey! Maybe Rod is a secret pro-establishment influencer!

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