Shame Culture and lesser things

In twenty minutes or so, the Saints and the Bucaneers, Brees and Brady, will be competing. 85 total years of quarterback. And they’re both still really good. So I’m done websurfing today.

Someone pointed out that according to the prophecies of Q, in turn according to the consensus of Q scholars (since Q is reportedly pretty cryptic), President Trump is to sweep up the evil, cannibalistic, pizza-pedophile Democrats and RINOs. I confess that I’m no Q scholar, but his days are prima facie dwindling down to a precious few.

I’d bet a modest amount that, rather than admitting their delusion, QAnon scholars will reinterpret things. My money is on some version of “this will all come to pass at the great and glorious second coming of The Donald in 2024. It is prophesied.”

This will be the proof, for those in the real world, that Q goes beyond politics, beyond conspiracy theory, and is in fact a new pagan religion (and one that’s less rational than worshipping nature) even if (this being America), it’s a paganism with some distracting Christianish cammo.

Shame culture

David French is trying to analyze some fundamental things, and not being a Southerner, I don’t quickly grasp it. But my absolute favorite Orthodox Priest-Blogger, Fr. Stephen Freeman, writes much of the crushing weight of shame, and he writes from southern culture, so French has my attention.

[W]hat we’re watching right now in much of our nation’s Christian politics is an explosion not of godly Christian passion, but rather of ancient southern shame/honor rage.

There’s an enormous amount of literature describing shame/honor culture in the South and shame/honor culture generally, but I like this succinct description from David Brooks:

> In a guilt culture you know you are good or bad by what your conscience feels. In a shame culture you know you are good or bad by what your community says about you, by whether it honors or excludes you. In a guilt culture people sometimes feel they do bad things; in a shame culture social exclusion makes people feel they are bad.

Shame/honor cultures are very focused on group reputation and group identity. Again, here’s Brooks:

> People are extremely anxious that their group might be condemned or denigrated. They demand instant respect and recognition for their group. They feel some moral wrong has been perpetrated when their group has been disrespected, and react with the most violent intensity.

Brooks was writing about the general growth of shame culture in America, including in left-wing circles on campus. But doesn’t this sound familiar on the right? Have you noticed how much of the GOP, the party of white Evangelicals, is often positively obsessed with grievance, how it marinates in anger at the insults of the “elite” or the “ruling class”?

Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son, has done an immense amount of good through his organization, Samaritan’s Purse. He and his legion of Christian employees and volunteers have sacrificially served the sickest and most vulnerable members of society. But when it comes to politics, Graham’s voice is radically angry and viciously tribal.

David French, Where Does the South End and Christianity Begin?

This is of concern to me in part because my Christian tradition has by some accounts grown faster in the south than elsewhere, but angry tribalism contradicts the Orthodox faith profoundly.

Trump’s Big Lie

[I]t was striking that President-elect Joe Biden chose the term [“big lie”] when he slammed two Republican senators — Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley — who have amplified Trump’s falsehood.

“I think the American public has a real good, clear look at who they are,” Biden told reporters two days after the Capitol was attacked. “They’re part of the big lie, the big lie.”

Biden nodded to the term’s origin in Nazi Germany, as embodied in Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.

“We’re told that, you know, Goebbels and the great lie. You keep repeating the lie, repeating the lie,” Biden said. “The degree to which it becomes corrosive is in direct proportion to the number of people who say it.”

A big lie has singular potency, says Timothy Snyder, the Levin Professor of History at Yale University, whose books include studies of Hitler, Josef Stalin, the Holocaust and tyranny.

“There are lies that, if you believe in them, rearrange everything,” he says.

“Hannah Arendt, the political thinker, talked about the fabric of reality,” Snyder says. “And a big lie is a lie which is big enough that it tears the fabric of reality.”

In his cover story for The New York Times Magazine this week, Snyder calls Trump “the high priest of the big lie.”

As for where big lies lead, Snyder writes: “Post-truth is pre-fascism, and Trump has been our post-truth president.”

Can The Forces Unleashed By Trump’s Big Election Lie Be Undone?

Flight 93 (still)

Somewhere along the line, the “Flight 93 Election” proponents decided that their insane gamble with the country had paid off in a fabulously successful Presidency, and that was that, in saecula saeculorum. After January 6, they’re trying to change the subject:

[Laura] Ingraham says that the idea that character and norms don’t mean anything to people like her is a “straw man argument,” while always only being willing to criticize Trump’s “tone” and “style” and praising Trump for “fighting for others.” Is that what he was doing when he lied about having won the election and encouraged an angry mob of wayward souls to march on the legislative branch and his own vice president? Who was doing the fighting that day? Who was fighting for whom? And how many ultimately died? Ingraham says that the rioters were not intent on overthrowing the republic, but were just “desperate people.” Who, exactly, made them feel so desperate? Who told them their country was being “stolen” from them? It wasn’t Mitt Romney, and it wasn’t National Review.

Enter Anton, who took a brief victory lap on “predicting” that the Left would get crazier before asking if National Review’s subscribers knew that its editor had made the case for supporting Hillary Clinton in 2016 (he didn’t), and blasting Lowry for publishing his column in Politico where they couldn’t see it. Of course, Lowry’s column is now up here at National Review, where all of his Politico pieces eventually go up, but even if it wasn’t, he has not exactly hidden the ball on this site.

That Anton and Ingraham disregard the truth so blatantly and resort to such tinny arguments is probably a sign that they know that their Flight 93 presidency is ending very badly, that the project that they invested in so fully and threw away every standard to support is coming apart at the seams.

They’re letting their desperation show.

Isaac Schorr, Ingraham and Anton vs. Lowry: The Sad Descent of the Flight 93 Apologists | National Review

Cruz’s and Hawley’s Infamy

Some Republicans are hurtin’ because of what their party did over their objections. Not one pair — who are involved not romantically, but as rivals for Trump’s shitty mantle:

After the fact, the White House very quickly found itself in a supercharged version of the situation that Cruz and Hawley are also in. They presumed they could cynically ride this movement for their own ends. They gleefully lit match after match, and eventually to their horror they managed to set themselves on fire along with everyone else. They clearly incited these events. They saw them spin rapidly out of control. They ended Wednesday afternoon with five people dead, the Capitol defiled, and the country stunned. They definitely wanted to overturn the election, which by itself is a subversion of representative government. Their efforts produced a messy putsch into the bargain, and got people killed. They should be punished for it as severely as the law permits, and they should never be allowed to live down their responsibility for what happened.

Kieran Healy, What Happened? H/T Conor Friedersdorf, Recommended Reading (a paid Mailchimp weekly email)

The Falkirk Center — Liberty University’s continuing shame

Helfenbein has stated that the goal of the Falkirk Center is to have “massive cultural influence,” and I believe him after watching 12 hours of Falkirk’s nonsense podcast episodes, reading months’ worth of its articles, and scrolling through its near-endless social media feeds. “This is not your dad’s or granddad’s think tank,” says Helfenbein. Yeah, well it’s not your dad’s or granddad’s critical thinking either.

Much of Falkirk’s content is facially ridiculous, deceptive, or easily debunked. But that’s because Falkirk is not selling truth. Like any propaganda outlet, Falkirk melds partial truths with distortions to create a coherent worldview—one that comforts the audience while misleading it. There is no other way to explain the debunked claims of election fraud that Falkirk treats seriously, or the consistently shoddy interpretations of the Bible and history that would be considered sophomoric in Liberty’s own undergraduate classes. The Falkirk Center doesn’t even do a good job at creating alternate realities. Everything falls apart under the barest level of scrutiny—that is, if you can steel yourself to actually engage with all the mind-numbing content.

The Falkirk Center: Liberty University’s Slime Factory – The Bulwark

Antifa? Yeah, that’s the ticket!

One of the organizers of the Trump boat parade that sank a family’s boat in Portland, Oregon, in August was arrested Wednesday in the attempted coup on the Capitol.

Kristina Malimon, 28, was arrested on charges of unlawful entry and violating curfew. Her mother, Yevgeniya Malimon, 54, was also arrested on the same charges.

Malimon is the vice chair for the Young Republicans of Oregon. According to her bio on the organization’s website, she is also an ambassador to Turning Point USA and Liberty University’s pro-Trump think tank, the Falkirk Center. She is also listed as a delegate for the Multnomah County Republican Party.

Julia Reinstein, Kristina Malimon, Organizer Of A Trump Boat Parade, Arrested (Buzzfeed).

Yeah. It was all Antifa false flag stuff. That’s the ticket.

TOS

We talked about why we need more social media bans earlier this week and a friend who works in a tech-adjacent sector sent along something great. My buddy drafted the “Terms of Service” agreement he would use in the event he created a social network. Here they are:

> This social network is like a party I’m throwing at my house, and you’re all invited. So here’s the deal. I’m not gonna write a whole list of rules on a chalkboard like I’m your third-grade substitute teacher. I don’t mind you being rowdy because this is a fun party in my house. But if you cross the line, I’ll kick you out on your ass. Where is the line? I’m not going to try to explain it to you, so just keep yourself in check so you don’t cross it.
>
> But I’m not going to make any pretense here that I’m “fair” or “objective”. If I like you, I’ll probably let you get away with more. If I don’t like you but you’re still making the party cool, I’ll probably cut you some slack. You might get a warning, or you might not. Look, I’m partying too, and I don’t always have time to do warnings. Sometimes there will be a misunderstanding and I’ll kick you out when I should not have, and maybe I’ll regret it later. But probably not.
>
> But if you’re a real ass, you’ll be kicked out so hard that you’ll be staggering your drunken way down the street, mumbling to yourself about how unfair it was, and hearing the loud music from my amazing party which will be going on without you. And we won’t even miss you.
>
> So don’t complain to me about my party. Behave yourself and know that I am arbitrary and capricious in defense of the rocking time we are having. And don’t ask me to be “fair” because I’m just not.

This is exactly right. A TOS is not Hammurabi’s Code. It’s a set of guidelines subject to change at any minute that exist not to protect any individual “rights” but to make the product the company owns function better.

And people who pretend that this isn’t the case are either lying. Or socialists.

Jonathan V. Last, This Cult Is Ruining People’s Lives – The Triad

This, too, needs to be said:

I am insisting upon a different sort of consistency, one that rejects easy explanations and accepts that occurrences like the breaching of the Capitol on January 6 are as complex as any other part of human life. What I refuse to concede is the inhumanity of the costumed hundreds — a fraction of the total number of those who had traveled to Washington to hear President Trump speak. It is absurd, as Dickens once put it, to talk of such an event

> as if it were the only harvest ever known under the skies that had not been sown—as if nothing had ever been done, or omitted to be done, that had led to it—as if observers of the wretched millions … and of the misused and perverted resources that should have made them prosperous, had not seen it inevitably coming, years before, and had not in plain words recorded what they saw.

Last year I recognized the unmistakable signs of coming violence, and not only of the sort we are used to regarding as “political,” the surge in crime rates, drug addiction, sexual exploitation of children, and so-called deaths of despair. I for one do not understand how it is that people accustomed to talking about the very real consequences of unemployment, who take mental health seriously and understand the relationship between crime, education, poverty, and civil unrest, were able to wave away the cost of our lockdown measures.

… Washington, D.C., is under martial law, which means thousands of National Guardsmen reading Atlas Shrugged or sleeping under the same statues protesters would have been allowed to destroy only a few weary months ago. Joe Biden’s inauguration will become what President Trump once fantasized about: a military event, a quasi-fascistic spectacle of raw power, like the proclamation of a new emperor by a detail of leering praetorians.

This is the sort of thing people usually protest.

Matthew Walther, Where do riots come from?.

Not all January 6 demonstrators are criminals in any sense, insofar as not all entered the Capitol.

Not all January 6 demonstrators who entered the Capitol are guilty of the same seditious crimes.

For Civic Hygiene and deterrence, we need to hammer the worse offenders with the most serious charges the evidence supports. I don’t know how many of those there are, but I wouldn’t be surprised by hundreds of 10+ year sentences.

But I’ll be disappointed if some who entered the Capitol, if convincingly chastened, don’t get something like probation with low felonies reduced to high misdemeanors if the probationary period is completed without violation of any conditions.

Lie down with dogs, rise up with fleas

This isn’t about, anymore, the Electoral College, this is about the future of the party, and whether you’re going to ostracize and excommunicate President Trump from the party. Well, guess what? Millions of his fans will leave as well.

Rand Paul, quoted by Zachary Evans, Rand Paul: Senator Warns Republicans Will Leave Party if GOP Senators Back Impeachment | National Review

He’s probably right, which is what makes doing the right thing for the country so hard now that Trump has taken the GOP from Zombie Reaganism to the main host of QAnon.


The Four Caucuses of the GOP.

Here’s where we are: the GOP (at least in the House) broke down into four broad groups: The Profiles in Courage; the Sedition Caucus; the Mugwumps; and the Terrified.

I. The Profiles in Courage Caucus

The 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump

II. The Mugwump Caucus

This consisted of representatives who seemed to fully understand the enormity of Trump’s conduct… but still voted against impeachment.

III. The Sedition Caucus

We know their names: the 138 GOP reps who voted to overturn the presidential election, even after the failed insurrection attempt. Many of them had also signed a letter of support for the absurd and mendacious Texas lawsuit that sought to disenfranchise tens of millions of voters, and overturn the presidential election.

They make up nearly 2/3 of the House GOP Conference.

IV. The Terrified.

We don’t know how many Republicans were simply too afraid to vote yes, but fear was definitely a factor.

Charlie Sykes, Defeated, Disgraced, Twice Impeached – Morning Shots


When Trump leaves office, my party faces a choice: We can dedicate ourselves to defending the Constitution and perpetuating our best American institutions and traditions, or we can be a party of conspiracy theories, cable-news fantasies, and the ruin that comes with them. We can be the party of Eisenhower, or the party of the conspiracist Alex Jones. We can applaud Officer Goodman or side with the mob he outwitted. We cannot do both.

In 1922, G. K. Chesterton called America “a nation with the soul of a church.” But according to a recent study of dozens of countries, none has ditched religious belief faster since 2007 than the U.S. Without going into the causes, we can at least acknowledge one cost: For generations, most Americans understood themselves as children of a loving God, and all had a role to play in loving their neighbors. But today, many Americans have no role in any common story.

Conspiracy theories are a substitute. Support Donald Trump and you are not merely participating in a mundane political process—that’s boring. Rather, you are waging war on a global sex-trafficking conspiracy! No one should be surprised that QAnon has found a partner in the empty, hypocritical, made-for-TV deviant strain of evangelicalism that runs on dopey apocalypse-mongering. (I still consider myself an evangelical, even though so many of my nominal co-religionists have emptied the term of all historic and theological meaning.)

Senator Ben Sasse (emphasis added) did not willingly lie down with the Orange dog, but his party did. He really grasps the nettle here. Highly recommended unless you shun politics entirely.

Back by Popular Demand

As a retired attorney Never Trumper, I picked a lousy time, January 4 or 5, to damage my first-string computer so badly that it had to be decommissioned and hospitalized. My second-string computer lacks a smooth process for WordPress blogging, since the WordPress block editor strikes me as profoundly stupid and unusable. 

On the bright side, first-stringer has been released from medical care, and I was able to make notes all along the momentous way from Wednesday afternoon the 6th to date. So without further ado, my curated “best-of” notes of the last ten days.

January 6

After the riots began, I was mostly devoted to watching things develop on Television, looking for the least stupid coverage available. I believe I concluded that CNN fit that bill. I also noted:

  • The late 1990s, my wife’s car bore a bumper sticker saying “My Disgust With the Current Administration Cannot Be Expressed Here.” I wish I had one of those bumper stickers now.
  • I wish the press would stop talking about Congress being prevented from discharging its “sacred” duty. I will settle for solemn duty.

January 7

Donald Trump has been deformed and deranged for much of his life. It has been the pattern of his life to lie and to cheat, to intimidate and hurt others, to act without conscience, to show no remorse, and to make everything about himself. None of this was a secret when he ran for president, and certainly none of it was a secret once he became president. His viciousness, volatility, and nihilism were on display almost from the moment he took office. As president, he has acted just as one would have expected. He has never deviated from who he is.

Peter Werner, Republicans Own This Insurrection – The Atlantic


There is no excuse for political violence, and Trump, admittedly, did not ask anyone to engage in violence. However, if you tell people that their votes didn’t count, that the election was a sham, that the election you lost wasn’t even close but in fact a landslide in your favor, it’s only natural to expect that some people will be inclined to resort to violence, because the whole point of elections is to settle political matters without violence. If the election process is a total fraud, then violence is to be expected.

Even in the face of the violence yesterday, Trump, while telling the rioters to go home, also continued to insist that he really won in a landslide, thus continuing to foment violence. He is unfit to be president.

When Are We Going to Admit that Trump is Unfit to be President? – Reason.com


David French
@DavidAFrench

Tell me again that character doesn’t matter.

Tell me again that the only concern about Trump is with his “manners.”

You monumental hypocrites and cowards. Look what you’ve done.


Trump goosed his own mob of supporters in DC this morning, saying in a speech:

> “All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened radical Democrats. We will never give up. We will never concede. It will never happen. You don’t concede when there’s death involved. Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore.”

He said: “We will never take back our country with weakness.”

And then they went in and invaded the Capitol …

Rod Dreher, Trump’s Weimar America


Unlike so many other disturbances over the years, the events at the Capitol yesterday did not represent a policy dispute, a disagreement about a foreign war or the behavior of police. They were part of an argument over the validity of democracy itself: A violent mob declared that it should decide who becomes the next president, and Trump encouraged its members. So did his allies in Congress, and so did the far-right propagandists who support him. For a few hours, they prevailed.

Anne Applebaum, What Trump and His Mob Taught the World About America – The Atlantic


18 USC §2384—Seditious Conspiracy
If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.(Emphases added)

What Is Seditious Conspiracy? – Reason.com

This was not simple trespass. Some of those people need the full 20 years, starting with Q Shaman, a QAnon leader/celebrity.


The problem here is that it’s Trump’s job to prevent and stop rioting, especially rioting against federal institutions. He’s supposed to prevent and stop such behavior even when it’s promoted by total strangers to him. He has a special responsibility to prevent and stop such behavior by people who are on his side, since those are the ones whom he can most effectively try to calm even when they’re already in a rioting mood.

He most certainly isn’t supposed to say things—even constitutionally protected things—that are pretty likely to cause harms of the sort that we hired him to stop. The incitement test, which applies equally to all speakers, doesn’t capture this factor, nor should it. This factor is all about the special responsibilities of government officials (Presidents, governors, mayors, police chiefs, legislators, and the like). Such officials are supposed to be politically savvy enough to know what’s likely to produce (even contrary to their intentions) criminal conduct, and are supposed to organize their speech and action in a way that minimizes this, rather than making it especially likely.

Trump’s failure was a failure not as a speaker, of the sort that strips speakers of First Amendment protection. It was a failure, a massive and unjustifiable failure, as a public servant.

Incitement and Ordinary Speakers; Duty and Political Leaders – Reason.com

Especially shameful by Trump and his little leg-humpin’ friends:

  • Trump immediately went after the most loyal ally he’s had the past four years: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.” Marc Short, a top aide to Pence, confirmed that he was denied entry into the White House last night because Trump blamed him for Pence’s “betrayal.”
  • These walkbacks are, without question, a welcome development. But they are also evidence that the legislators’ planned objections were never really about correcting widespread voter fraud—they were about political expediency. Theoretically, nothing that transpired on Wednesday should have changed anybody’s mind about the existence of voter fraud. But it sure heightened the political ramifications of continuing to go along with the mob.

The Morning Dispatch: A Dark Day on Capitol Hill (emphasis added)


“This isn’t who we are as Americans,” the president-elect insisted. Yes, old men are entitled to their delusions, but the rest of us are not obliged to share them. Biden could not be any more wrong: This is exactly who we are.

“We must not normalize Donald Trump!” A hundred thousand variations on that sentence have been published in the past four years. It is a stupid sentence. Donald Trump does not require normalization. He is as normal as diabetes, as all-American as shooting up your high school.

The Trump presidency began in shame and dishonesty. It ends in shame, dishonesty, cowardice, and rebellion against the Constitution. For the past few weeks, the right-wing media, including the big talk-radio shows, has been coyly calling for a revolution. Of course they never thought they’d actually get one: That kind of talk is good for business — keep the rubes riled up and they won’t change the channel when the commercials come around on the half-hour. I never had much hope for the likes of Sean Hannity, tragically born too late to be a 1970s game-show host, but to watch Senator Ted Cruz descend into this kind of dangerous demagoguery as he jockeys to get out in front of the Trump parade as its new grand marshal has induced despair.

On May 4, 2016, I posted a little note to the Corner, headlined: “Pre-Planning My ‘I Told You So.’” It reads, in part: “Republicans, remember: You asked for this.” The path that the Republican Party and the conservative movement have taken in the past four years is not one that was forced on them — it is the product of choices that were made and of compromises that were entered into too willingly by self-interested men and women seeking money, celebrity, and power.

Of course it ends in violence — this is, after all, America.

Kevin D. Williamson


None of his policy achievements outweigh the paranoid extremism he has directed like a missile at the constitutional order. Pointing to his “enemies” does not excuse his behavior.

Matthew Continetti, Capitol Hill Protests: Trump Must Pay | National Review

In other words, we’ve become a bunch of damned ideologues who can’t see past our issue checklists to meta-issues, such as “This candidate ticks all the right boxes, but he’s a toxic narcissist, lifelong philanderer, cheat and con man. No way.”

There will be time to sort through the wreckage of the conservative movement and the Republican Party. There is not as much time — a little less than 14 days — to constrain the president before he plunges the nation’s capital into havoc again. Incitement to trespass, harassment, and destruction cannot go unanswered. The Constitution offers remedies. Pursue them — for no other reason than to deter the president from escalation. There must be a costS for reckless endangerment of the United States government. Trump must pay.

Matthew Continetti, Capitol Hill Protests: Trump Must Pay | National Review


This attack wasn’t just foreseeable, it was foreseen. At The Dispatch, we have been warning about the possibility of serious political violence for months. The president and many of his supporters have falsely claimed that the presidential election was stolen and have trafficked in transparently ridiculous conspiracy theories. They have told bizarre tales about false and even impossible schemes to corrupt the vote. And they’ve done this while speaking in apocalyptic terms about the fate of the nation.

Impeach Donald Trump, Remove Him, and Bar Him From Holding Office Ever Again – The Dispatch. Note the “bar him from holding office again” part.

This is from a conservative publication whose purpose is not “Never Trump” but whose sanity and decency has pretty well rooted it in that camp even as it casts its issue nets more widely.

January 8

Trump doesn’t care or doesn’t understand that he lost the election. He doesn’t care or doesn’t understand that his legal challenges, hindered in part by the stubborn facts on the ground and in part by the characteristic half-assedness of most of his endeavors, failed miserably. He doesn’t care about the idea of due process or any process at all, really, except to the extent that it can benefit him. He has consistently called for lawbreaking behavior to be deployed against journalists and activists he dislikes. He thinks he has a right to unleash constant, unhinged conspiracy theories against his enemies, but readily threatens his own critics with lawsuits. This is all deeply ingrained habit for him.

Before there was a single moment of violence yesterday, we were already in unprecedented territory: an outgoing president addressing his most deranged fans, continuing to insist that he had won an election that he had in fact lost by a significant margin (306 votes constituted a ‘landslide’ in 2016, according to the man himself), riling them up in a way that almost certainly led directly to what followed.

Yesterday was also about resentment in its rawest, least focused form. Trump was elected in 2016 in part because he was able to capitalize off a growing sense among many Americans that they have been “left behind.” There are elements of this sentiment that are well-founded and elements that are misguided, and it’s too big a subject to unpack here, but the point is that these feelings have manifested, in Trumpism, more as a general confused populist lashing-out and desire for a heroic figure than as the embrace of any specific politics or policies per se. Sure, in theory Trump voters are against illegal immigration and against China “screwing us” and for “American business” and against “thugs and looters,” but really, their political commitments start and stop at listening to Trump say mean things about the things they dislike and nice things about the things they like. They like Trump because he gives voice to their fuzzy resentments, fuzzily.

A Perfect Ending To The Trump Presidency – Singal-Minded


For roughly the past three decades, right-wing media personalities have enriched themselves by cultivating and encouraging a virulent anti-liberalism among a segment of Republican voters. As the ranks of these voters have grown and they’ve been networked together into virtual communities through social media, increasing numbers of elected officials have begun to chase them, seeking their support, by validating the increasingly deranged views they are fed by media profit-seekers.

Donald Trump’s primary and general-election victories in 2016 massively enhanced the power and intensity of this anti-liberal feedback loop. What we’ve witnessed since the November election has been its fullest flowering yet: the president, right-wing media, and dozens of members of Congress spreading and validating conspiratorial lies among a segment of the electorate — and then doing its bidding in the name of democratic representation.

Why did Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and the others flatter the delusions of those who stormed the Capitol building and cheer them on by casting their symbolic votes to reject the outcome of the election? They did so because, as a YouGov poll conducted on Wednesday made clear, roughly 45 percent of Republican voters approved of what happened in Washington that afternoon.

The insurrectionists are their constituents.

Damon Linker, The bloody power of symbolic gestures


For years now, my central thesis about American public life has been that it is fundamentally unreal, a kind of live action role-playing game augmented by digital technology.

The competing participatory narratives by which we experience politics have almost no connection to the banal reality of a sclerotic two-party system that primarily exists in order to increase the gross domestic product and the share prices of publicly traded corporations. Even at their respective partisan extremes — QAnon, Russiagate conspiracies, “Abolish the family” lunacy — the stories we tell ourselves about the perfidy of our leaders are a kind of ideological fan fiction.

On Wednesday we saw the limits of LARPing. The longed-for irruption of what Marxist intellectuals call “the real” — an actual attempt at the destruction of one of the most enduring symbols of the American civic order — happened. Supporters of a president who only moments before had been insisting that the recent election was illegitimate took him at his word and stormed the U.S. Capitol, smashing windows, occupying the floors of both chambers, vandalizing offices, skirmishing with police officers.

What did Wednesday’s events show us? I wish I could believe that the response would be a collective feeling that something has gone too far, that our tacit encouragement of a lunatic and conspiratorial politics has taken us to a dark place far beyond the comfortable ports of liberal capitalist decadence.
This does not seem to me likely. Instead I expect that in the weeks and months to come all the competing meta-narratives will be reinforced by Wednesday’s violence. The basic epistemic disjuncture in American society will be strengthened. Fifty percent of the country is not going to change its mind about the results of the election. A senile president incapable of maintaining order in the capital of the republic will continue to be regarded as an essentially Hitlerian figure rather than Wall Street’s second choice for the enrichment of our ruling class.

Matthew Walther, The limits of LARPing


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Thursday the company was banning President Trump from its platform “indefinitely,” at least through the end of his term. “We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great,” Zuckerberg wrote. Snapchat and Twitch made similar decisions, while Twitter reinstated the president’s account following a short suspension.

[O]ne group at least seems to be unshaken by the shocking events: The core Trump base. How has the Trump movement avoided soul-searching following a day on which some of its most committed members stormed Congress by force? Simply by rewriting the facts of the event into something consistent with their worldview, in which America’s only violent political insurrectionists come from the radical left.

Mere minutes after the motley crew of Proud Boys, militia members, and other MAGA faithful were evicted from the Capitol Wednesday, a false narrative had already begun going viral among Trump supporters on social media. The people who stormed police barricades by force at the Capitol, the story ran, had actually been Antifa interlopers posing as supporters of the president.

Never mind that the crowd had come to D.C. and marched to Congress at Trump’s explicit request; never mind that some of those filmed trashing the place were well-known alt-right personalities; never mind that others interviewed inside were perfectly chatty about who they were and why they were there; never mind that the only “evidence” provided for this theory was a couple screenshots of misidentified faces and tattoos. Boosted by credulous and sloppy right-wing web media, loose-cannon MAGA celebrities, Fox News hosts “just asking questions,” and even members of Congress, the theory that the Capitol insurrection had been instigated by false-flag leftists almost immediately took over the pro-Trump internet.

Startlingly, even Trump supporters who had been physically present at the riot—who had personally stepped across crumpled barricades, pushed through smoke and tear gas over the Capitol lawn and onto the steps of the building itself, and seen the breach with their own eyes—had come around to this narrative by the following day. On Thursday, your Morning Dispatchers interviewed more than a dozen who had returned to the National Mall for a second consecutive day. Nearly all insisted—without any prompting—that the only people who had been truly violent the day before had been covert Antifa operators.

“The whole thing was set up,” said one South Carolina woman who declined to give her name. “They wanted the people to get pumped up and do that. … The picture of the guy sitting on Pelosi’s desk or whatever? I guarantee you he was working for Antifa—or whoever it is, whatever organization.” (It was, in fact, Richard Barnett from Gravette, Arkansas. The FBI reportedly visited his house yesterday.) 

“There was, you know, a window was broken,” said Christian, a protester who had driven up from Texas earlier this week and said he had witnessed the break-in but not entered the Capitol himself. “Some people were kind of doing it—either they were overzealous or there were some agitators within. It looks like some people have identified a few likely Antifa members based on their tattoos and stuff … For the people who were genuine Trump supporters, which there probably were a few, I don’t know if they were the first in—maybe they just tagged along.”

The Morning Dispatch: Aftermath


In my reflections on Donald Trump when he was running for President in 2016, I made one significant error: I didn’t think he would nominate responsible judges and Justices. I thought he would hand out judicial appointments like candy to friends and toadies. But it turned out that the judiciary couldn’t capture his attention, so he farmed out the decisions to others who acted on sound conservative principles. (Given how many of the very judges he appointed ruled against his recent frivolous lawsuits, precisely because they were honest conservative jurists rather than toadies, I wonder if he’s belatedly reassessing his priorities.)

looking backward


Trump is now and always has been delusional. He lives in an imaginary world. His insistence that he won the last election in a “landslide” is psychologically indistinguishable from his declaration on his first day that his Inaugural crowd was larger than his predecessor’s. For four years, the actual evidence did not matter. It still doesn’t. Any rumor that helps him, however ludicrous, is true; every cold fact that hurts him, however trivial or banal, doesn’t exist. For four years as president, any advisor who told him the truth, rather than perpetuating his delusions, had an immediate expiration date. For four years, an army of volunteer propagandists knowingly disseminated his insane, cascading torrent of lies.

And Trump really believes these fantasies. He is not a calculating man. He is a creature of total impulse. As I wrote almost five years ago now, quoting Plato, a tyrant is a man “not having control of himself [who] attempts to rule others”; a man flooded with fear and love and passion, while having little or no ability to restrain or moderate them; a “real slave to the greatest fawning,” a man who “throughout his entire life … is full of fear, overflowing with convulsions and pains.” For the ancients, a tyrant represented the human whose appetites and fantasies had no form of rational control.

Quotes For The Week
“After this [rally], we’re going to walk down [to the Capitol] and I’ll be there with you. … We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of [the senators] because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong,” – insurrectionist leader Donald J. Trump, just before the violent assault on the Capitol.
“I do not believe that the founders of our country intended to invest in the vice president the unilateral authority to decide which electoral votes should be counted,” – Mike Pence.
“I can’t imagine that the president wanted this,” – Rick Santorum, deluding himself again.
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done,” – Trump.
“We love you. You are very special,” – Trump, in a taped statement addressing the seditionists who attacked the Capitol.
“Arrest everyone who has violated the fencing. Prosecute [the] trespassers [to] the fullest extent of the law for any crime beyond the simple trespass. Conclude the proceeding and confirm the election of President-elect Biden. Rule of law conservatives cannot be silent about this,” – Hugh Hewitt, the right-wing radio host of the old eponymous Dish award “given for the most egregious attempts to label Barack Obama as un-American, alien, treasonous,” on Wednesday.
“The other day, because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States senator,” – Raphael Warnock, the first black senator from Georgia.
“It turns out telling voters the election is rigged is not a good way to turn out your voters,” – Mitt Romney, on the Democratic triumph in Georgia.
“The Oklahoma City bombing killed the momentum of the small government movement. This is likely to do the same thing to the Trumpian right,” – Charles Murray, author of Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010. God I hope so.
“Media: quit labeling DC protestors ‘Conservatives, Republicans, Tea Partiers, Trump Supporters, etc’ LOOK IN TO WHO THESE PEOPLE ARE who’d choose an apparent leaderless insane swarm to create a perception of condoned violence. KNOCK IT OFF. And to any insincere, fake DC ‘patriots’ used as PLANTS — you will be found out,” – 2008 veep nominee Sarah Palin, implying that the deadly attempted coup at the Capitol was a false flag operation.
“If our capable floor staff hadn’t grabbed them [the electoral college ballots rescued from the Senate floor], they would have been burned by the mob,” – Senator Jeff Merkley, tweeting a photo of the ballot chests.
“We’re storming the Capitol! It’s a revolution!” – a Trump-cult member from Knoxville, Tennessee, on camera.
“This [storming of the Capitol] didn’t happen during the U.S. Civil War,” – Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League.
“It is a sickening and heartbreaking sight. This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic — not our democratic republic,” – George W. Bush.
“Today, the United States Capitol — the world’s greatest symbol of self-government — was ransacked while the leader of the free world cowered behind his keyboard — tweeting against his Vice President for fulfilling the duties of his oath to the Constitution,” – Republican Senator Ben Sasse.
“Destroying property, which can be replaced, is not violence,” – Nikole Hannah-Jones, on the rioting and looting this past summer.
“Right now, Republican leaders have a choice made clear in the desecrated chambers of democracy. They can continue down this road and keep stoking the raging fires. Or they can choose reality and take the first steps toward extinguishing the flames. They can choose America,” – Barack Obama.
“What’s the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time?”- a senior Republican official quoted in the WaPo on November 9, two months before the deadly attempted coup at the Capitol.

Andrew Sullivan, This Is The Face Of The GOP Now – The Weekly Dish (emphasis added)


[T]here’s virtually no popular support for the idea that social media companies should permit insurrectionists (of any ideological stripe) to use their platform to plan or incite violent unrest.
 
But what if the president of the United States is the insurrectionist-in-chief?

When Donald Trump was elevated to the presidency, his core supporters pursued a fundamentally unsustainable course. They simultaneously celebrated his norm-breaking while furiously demanding that the response to Trump follow all applicable norms. Only Trump could be the bull in the china shop. Only Trump could be the horse in the hospital.

Well, the bull has broken a lot of china. And on Wednesday, the nation’s very ability to secure the liberty that’s the lifeblood of the republic wavered and cracked. A Trump mob achieved what the Confederacy could not. It launched a violent, deadly, and sustained occupation of the Capitol. It halted for a time the vital process of counting electoral votes, a process essential to the peaceful transition of power.

Why did this happen? There were many causes, but one cause—perhaps the principal cause—was the president of the United States using private platforms to spew an avalanche of grotesque lies and inflammatory rhetoric into the body politic. He triggered an actual insurrection.

So the advice I gave more than a year ago—advice I thought applied only to unstable countries in the developing world—applies here. It applies now. Should social media companies continue to provide a platform to Trump? No. They should not.

David French, Toss Trump Off Twitter


77 percent of Trump’s voters—77 percent—say he was the rightful winner and that the election was stolen from him.

I don’t think that most of the people in the mainstream of American culture, who have viewed this week with horror, have any idea what they’re up against.

It Could Have Been Worse. – The Triad

January 9

I found myself focusing on things other than our political woes, but made on note:

“People were willing to die for this man and he just threw them all under the bus. That’s the only thing that’s shameful about the events of the past 36 hours,” Nick Fuentes, the host of the America First podcast and the unofficial leader of the white nationalist Groyper Army, angrily tweeted, shortly after Trump released a video Thursday night in which he conceded that Biden would be the next president and called for political reconciliation.

Cassandra Fairbanks, a prominent MAGA activist, tweeted: “[He] tells angry people to march to the capitol [and then] proceeds to throw his supporters under the bus.”

Politico

Had these people really not noticed yet that loyalty for Trump is entirely, utterly, a one-way street? (Not that I think “threw under the bus” is a very good description of what Donald Trump did after Congress finished counting electoral votes, but it speaks to the deluded mindset of people who thought Trump cared.)

January 10

As befits Sunday, I pretty much gave it a rest.

A Jewish publication blames Wednesday’s riot on post-Christian pagans.
Christian David French blames it on sorely misguided Christians.
I’m going to have to chew on this one a while.

January 11

The Atlantic’s Caitlyn Flanagan gave me some guilty pleasure lampooning the insurrectionists:

Here they were, a coalition of the willing: deadbeat dads, YouPorn enthusiasts, slow students, and MMA fans. They had heard the rebel yell, packed up their Confederate flags and Trump banners, and GPS-ed their way to Washington. After a few wrong turns, they had pulled into the swamp with bellies full of beer and Sausage McMuffins, maybe a little high on Adderall, ready to get it done. Like Rush Limbaugh before them, they were in search of their own Presidential Medals of Freedom, and like Donald Trump himself, they were ready to relieve themselves on the withering soul of the nation and the marble floors of the Capitol building. Out of darkness we were born and into darkness we were returning.

The Viking guy was frightening, until it turned out that he’s a notorious ham who shows up at lots of Trump events and loves publicity. Last May, in Phoenix, he was pounding his drum and yelling, “Thank you, President Trump!” and “Thank you, Q!” until a reporter approached him to ask for an interview, and in an instant he turned into Beto O’Rourke. “My name is Jake Angeli,” he said smoothly. “That’s J-A-K-E and A-N-G-E-L-I. Angel with an i.”

The comedian Norm MacDonald has observed that the second-worst job in the world is Crack Whore and that the worst job in the world is Assistant Crack Whore. So let us cast our lonely eyes on the specter of Assistant Viking, Aaron Mostofsky, who was dressed in pelts and carried a police riot shield and who—in a rare Viking flourish—was bespectacled. Can you tell us what you’re doing here today? a reporter asked him. “What I’m doing here today is,” he began, but here the words began to fail him. He looked around and then said he was there to “express my opinion as a free American, my beliefs that this election was stolen. Um—we were cheated.” He adjusted one of his pelts and said that certain blue states—“like New York”—had once been red, and “were stolen.”

Why had she come to Washington? “We’re storming the Capitol!” she whined. “It’s a revolution!” Patty Hearst was more up to speed on the philosophy and goals of the Symbionese Liberation Army before she got out of the trunk. These people were dressed like cartoon characters, they believe that the country is under attack from pedophiles and “globalists,” and they are certain that Donald Trump won the election. In other words, the Founders’ worst fear—that a bunch of dumbasses would elect a tyrant—had come to pass.

All things are born, live, and then die. We can remember who we are, and keep going—maybe even moving forward. Or we can make a mockery of ourselves and die in filth.

Caitlyn Flanagan, Worst Revolution Ever – The Atlantic]

Thanks, Caitlyn. That (especially the first paragraph) was cathartic in a guilty pleasure sort of way.


  • Ronna McDaniel and Tommy Hicks were reelected chair and co-chair of the Republican National Committee, respectively. The pair—who are both close allies of President Trump—will serve through the 2022 midterm elections.
  • Alt-right activist Ali Alexander claimed in a video posted before the protest that he was working with three House Republicans—Reps. Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs and Mo Brooks—to organize the event. Alexander said he consulted the lawmakers as he “schemed up putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting…”
  • Alex Jones, the InfoWars conspiracy theorist who claimed the Sandy Hook shootings were faked and has been publicly praised by President Trump, claimed in a video that the White House asked him three days before the event to lead the march to the Capitol.
  • And sources familiar with the investigation tell The Dispatch that there are indications some of the militia groups involved had plans that included harming lawmakers and harming or capturing Vice President Mike Pence.
  • Who should be held accountable for Wednesday’s siege on the Capitol? According to conservative columnist George Will, President Trump, Sen. Josh Hawley, and Sen. Ted Cruz. “The three repulsive architects of Wednesday’s heartbreaking spectacle—mobs desecrating the Republic’s noblest building and preventing the completion of a constitutional process—must be named and forevermore shunned,” he writes in his latest column. Even though Trump “lit the fuse for the riot in the weeks before the election,” the president’s conspiratorial antics were enabled by Hawley and Cruz and their refusal to certify the Electoral College vote on Wednesday, Will writes. While Trump is gone in just over a week, it will take longer to “scrub” Hawley and Cruz from public life. “Until that hygienic outcome is accomplished, from this day forward, everything they say or do or advocate should be disregarded as patent attempts to distract attention from the lurid fact of what they have become. Each will wear a scarlet ‘S’ as a seditionist.”

The Morning Dispatch: It Could Have Been So Much Worse

January 12

Republican Attorney General Official Resigns Over Group’s Role in Capitol March
Adam Piper was executive director of Republican Attorneys General Association, which sent robocalls asking people to join rally that turned into deadly riot

The executive director of the Republican Attorneys General Association resigned after the group was criticized for soliciting thousands of Trump supporters to march on the Capitol last week and fight to support President Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud.

The Republican Attorneys General Association’s policy arm, the Rule of Law Defense Fund, authorized robocall messages urging “patriots” to join last Wednesday’s march to “fight to protect the integrity of our elections.”

… Within the organization, however, Mr. Marshall has called for an internal investigation into the robocall messages. “We are engaging in a vigorous review,” he told reporters in Montgomery, Ala., Monday. “I was completely unaware of our connection to this rally,” he said.

Other Republican attorneys general have also distanced themselves from last week’s violence.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, former chair of the Rule of Law Defense Fund, disavowed involvement.

“AG Reyes was not involved in organizing the rally in Washington DC,” his office said in a statement Friday, noting that “under his tenure, RLDF was not involved in any political rallies.”

What does a rally have to do with the (nonexistent) legal merits of “stop the steal”? None. Then why would AGs push a political rally?

January 13

What do you call it when rightwingnuts do something horrible and then pretend it was leftwingnuts conducting a “false flag” operation? Is that a “false flag false flag” operation?


Pence Says He Won’t Invoke 25th Amendment, Setting Stage for Impeachment Vote
Some Republican lawmakers say they would vote to impeach Trump in the wake of Capitol riot. House Democrats passed a resolution Tuesday demanding that Pence and a majority of the cabinet invoke the 25th Amendment.

Pence had no good options. Or, to put it another way, “lie down with dogs, rise up with fleas” is a cosmic law, and he lay down with a dog in 2016.


One of the chief reasons I couldn’t vote for Donald Trump is the ugly way he talks about human beings. That said, I underestimated how many people may have voted for him because of his rough, threatening, even violent talk, rather than despite. I never thought we would see what we saw in the Capitol. I do think it reached a whole new level post-election, but as I said in my syndicated column this week, people such as Jonah Goldberg, Jay Nordlinger, and David French were right to constantly sound alarms.

This is a time for humility and repentance, and for the Left, too. We’ve been too polarized and ideologically driven with a religious-like fervor on both sides. Hurt people are hurting hurt people. We need a president who honestly wants to be president of all Americans. Including peaceful ones at the Trump rally last Wednesday.

Kathryn Jean Lopez, A Mea Culpa


Don’t skim this too lightly. It’s wicked good.

At a joint press conference, a dozen or more of the most prominent figures in the “Stop the Steal” movement gather. There’s Kevin McCarthy, Rep. Steve Scalise, Newt Gingrich, and a claque of Fox News primetime anchors. (Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley are at a separate table, because no one will agree to sit with them.)

“We are here to ‘revise and extend our remarks,’” McCarthy begins in an attempt at congressional wit.

“Joe Biden is president-elect. He won. Donald Trump lost. This has been the case since a few days after election night. There was no fraud worth speaking of; the courts from one end of the country to the other have thrown out every claim of irregularity. To our eternal regret, many in my party, out of ignorance, delusion, mendacity, or fear of our own constituents, endlessly repeated outright lies emanating from the fevered mind of our delusional president, whom we never should have nominated in the first place. This helped create the climate for the most violent assault on the Capitol in 200 years. I am ashamed personally, and for my party.”

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell is next.

“While I urged my colleagues to accept the electoral vote count, I bear heavy responsibility in spending the last four years ignoring the increasingly lunatic actions and rhetoric of the president. As long as he gave me my judges, I turned away from the behavior that culminated in a presidentially triggered riot. In the interest of unity, I am asking the various committee chairs to move swiftly to put President-elect Biden’s economic and national security team in place as close to January 20th as possible.

Newt Gingrich rises—slowly, with great difficulty—to acknowledge that “as a world-class historian, I knew better than to embrace the mad-as-a-hatter fantasies of the president. It’s not as if I have the mental acuity of Louie ‘Bag of Hammers’ Gohmert. But I was too busy selling my books, CDs, and commemorative coins to think about the harm I was doing to the country. I am now offering a ‘Collector’s Item’ special of videos and pen holders in honor of Joe Biden’s inaugural, just call this toll-free—”

When Gingrich has returned—slowly, painfully—to his seat, Senators Hawley and Cruz take the podium together.

“Of course we know the truth,” they recite together. “We are two of the smartest, best-credentialed senators ever: Stanford and Princeton, Yale Law and Harvard Law. But our joint lust for the presidential nomination unmoored us from any sense of decency. We are resigning our seats and—like the British politician John Profumo, who left in scandal and spent the rest of his life doing charity work—we intend to spend the coming years doing menial labor for the Little Sisters of the Poor, while engaging in prayerful meditation so that we might somehow become less reprehensible human beings.”

A few moments later, after the Fox News primetime team pledges a vow of silence, the gathering ends. And peace and tranquility settle upon our divided land.

Jeff Greenfield, Yes, by All Means, Let the Healing Begin


I hadn’t thought, before sometime in the last year, about the connotation of “impunity.” The real “tells” in last week’s riots at the U.S. Capital were the maskless rioters, smirking and taking selfies, obviously thinking that Trump and sundry Congressrats had their backs and that they were acting with impunity.

Dumbasses. Some of them are going to prison for long terms.

And, by the way, after some initial hesitation about calling the riots a “coup attempt,” because the rioters did not want personally to govern, I’m now entirely comfortable with calling a “coup attempt” the effort to disrupt the peaceful transition of power to the duly elected President so that your demagogue can remain in power.


If the price of winning your next primary is remaining silent on the question of Trump and his post-election behavior, which culminated in the storming of the Capitol by a “Hang Mike Pence!” mob, then you have lost your priorities. If you cannot explain to voters why they are wrong to give a pass to a president who behaved as Trump has done, and what it means to have a president who fouls American democracy by rousing the rabble to break down the doors of the Capitol and shout for lynching the vice president, then why are you in public service? If that’s what it takes to keep your job, why would you even want a job like that? Honestly, I do not get it.

I had an extremely frustrating conversation this evening with a friend who believes all of this was invented by the Left to discredit the president. The narrative is unfalsifiable. It’s not a question of a political disagreement; it’s about living outside of reality. All day long I’ve been getting e-mails from people who are really suffering because beloved friends and family members — even elderly parents — are completely lost in this toxic unreality of paranoia and conspiracy. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life, aside from woke militants. Something demonic is in the air. We might not need an impeachment and conviction so much as we need an exorcism.

Rod Dreher, * Impeachment As Exorcism*


The conservative Catholic writer John Jalsevac explains why he’s so angry right now. Excerpts:

> Nothing, absolutely nothing, has disturbed me more over the past four years, than the weird misuse of Christian religious language, spirituality and mysticism in service of the Trumpist political agenda ….

Rod Dreher, * Impeachment As Exorcism*


Conservative writer and radio host Erick Erickson expanded upon some of the themes we touched on above in his newsletter yesterday. Cancel culture exists, and it is a threat, he writes. But that’s not what we’re seeing in the wake of last week’s insurrection. “No, I am not sympathetic to you over major corporations deciding not to give you a penny. No, I am not sympathetic to you getting your internet social media accounts canceled. No, I am not sympathetic to you having your rising career in politics ruined,” he writes of those facing repercussions for their role in Wednesday’s events. “This was bound to happen because you overplayed your hand and your action is causing a reaction. It is an equal and opposite reaction. Trying to cancel a presidential election causes a cancelation rebound.”

The Morning Dispatch


If you asked today “what’s an evangelical?” to most people, I would want them to say: someone who believes Jesus died on the cross for our sin and in our place and we’re supposed to tell everyone about it. But for most people they’d say, “Oh, those are those people who are really super supportive of the president no matter what he does.”

Ed Stetzer interviewed in ‘How Did We Get Here?’ A Call For An Evangelical Reckoning On Trump


A related argument, lent weight by the president himself yesterday, is to suggest, hint, insinuate, or outright proclaim that impeachment could lead to violence. It could tear apart the country. Yada, yada, yada.

> “This impeachment is causing tremendous anger and you’re doing it and it’s really a terrible thing that they’re doing,” he added, in his first public comments since the deadly assault on the Capitol.
>
> “For Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to continue on this path, I think it’s causing tremendous danger to our country and it’s causing tremendous anger. I want no violence,” Mr. Trump concluded before heading across the South Lawn to Marine One.

Maybe it could spark violence—and even if that were the case, since when do conservatives argue that we should appease potential rioters? I’ve been writing about the pernicious “riot ideology” of the 1960s left for 20 years. Lo and behold, the right has now embraced it. Moreover, the mere fact that it is plausible that Trump’s second impeachment could spark violence is an argument for why he should be impeached. Forget that he’s threatening Congress with the possibility of violence; the fact that the threat is plausible is testament to the environment he deliberately created.

But here’s my point: If Trump actually believes this stuff, the incandescently obvious moral choice is for him to resign, to spare America even greater turmoil and strife. That would be a display of Trump putting the interests of America first. The only reason for him to stick around is vanity. It’s not like there’s anything more he can do policy-wise, save issue a bunch of easily rescinded executive orders or hand out more pardons.

Jonah Goldberg

January 14

  • President Trump issued a statement yesterday (which was also texted to campaign supporters) calling for calm leading up to and on Inauguration Day. “I urge that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind,” he said. “This is not what I stand for, and it is not what America stands for.” He expanded upon this message in a pre-recorded video as well. “Mob violence goes against everything I believe in, and everything our movement stands for,” he said. “No true supporter of mine could ever endorse political violence.” (The New illustrative case of the No True Scotsman fallacy.)
  • … ten Republicans broke ranks—sufficient to make it the most bipartisan impeachment vote in American history.
  • Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy … said the president bore responsibility for the attack … [but] argued … that the most prudent course of action would not be impeachment, but rather a “fact-finding commission and a censure resolution.” … McCarthy conditioned his comments on President Trump “accept[ing] his share of responsibility” for last week’s violence and “quell[ing] the brewing unrest.” While the former will almost assuredly never happen (at least in public) ….
  • “I had a lot of conversations with my Republican colleagues last night, and a couple of them broke down in tears, talking to me and saying that they are afraid for their lives if they vote for this impeachment.” (Rep. Jason Crow)
  • The Freedom Caucus, founded to promote limited government and reducing spending, has become in recent years little more than an enforcer of Trump loyalty ….
  • The Republican Party has a choice to make: Does it want leaders who bury their convictions for public political gain, or leaders who act on their conscience even at the risk of short-term political loss? Using Reps. Kevin McCarthy and Liz Cheney as examples of the two paths, Steve argues for the latter in a piece on the site. “I suspect in two years, in five years, in 10 years, the overwhelming majority of the country and even the majority of Republicans will look back on this moment and wonder how anyone could have voted against impeaching the president on substantive grounds,” he writes. “And the procedural arguments against doing so—there’s no time, the Senate isn’t in session, his presidency is almost finished—will feel even smaller than they feel today.”

The Morning Dispatch


Lucky are the foreign ministers of very small, very consensus-driven countries, for those who play their cards right sometimes get to hold office for many years. One of the luckiest card players out there is Jean Asselborn, the amusing polyglot who has been the foreign minister of Luxembourg since 2004. Although his country is tiny (population 613,000), the longevity of Luxembourg’s top diplomat gives him the confidence to say what he thinks—even if it is, well, undiplomatic. Last week, following the insurrection in Washington, D.C., Asselborn did exactly that: “Trump is a criminal,” he told RTL, his country’s leading broadcaster.* “A political pyromaniac who should be sent to criminal court. He’s a person who was elected democratically but who isn’t interested in democracy in the slightest.”

Anne Applebaum


It certainly was not one of those “Tell your grandchildren” moments. For the second time in a year, Donald Trump was impeached on Wednesday afternoon in the House of Representatives by a vote of 232-197, which included 10 members of his own party, after a few hours of unmemorable speechifying. The most shocking thing about it was not not being able to read Trump’s own reaction.

Matthew Walther. The remainder of Walther’s tendentious column confirms that when he’s bad, he’s dumber than a box of rocks.


The days since last Wednesday’s insurrection against the legislative branch of the United States have felt extremely odd and quite out of keeping with much of the past four years.

There’s also a different feeling in the political air — one that might best be described as being snapped back to wakefulness from a semi-conscious dream state. Or maybe a feeling of rubber hitting road after a long, drawn out sideways skid on civic black ice. We may not right our course before we crash, but at least it feels like we might have a brief window and a chance to regain control over our direction.

For the moment, at least, there’s a sense in our public life that we’ve returned to reality after four interminable years of psychological torture and abuse — a time during which the president of the United States has systematically and repeatedly used a bully pulpit amplified with powerful new communication technologies to lie to us extravagantly and constantly about nearly everything. He has conjured an alternative reality of words into which millions of our fellow citizens have gladly retreated. But the rest of us have been captured by them, too, like epistemic hostages confined to a virtual world that was imagined into existence by a narcissistic sociopath.

Damon Linker


Hypothesis: Evangelical susceptibility to QAnon is a natural extension of Evangelicalism’s steady diet of prophecy porn over more than 50 years. New Apostolic Reformation may have been an intermediate step. Hal Lindsey is a primary offender, but a teacher at my Evangelical boarding school warned us in 1964 that if Lyndon Johnson beat Barry Goldwater, the Communists planned an immediate takeover.

This crap isn’t brand new.


Insurrection and impeachment, yesterday’s All the President’s Lawyers podcast, is an extremely good discussion of the criminal law consequences and prosecutorial strategy surrounding last Wednesday’s insurrectionary Capitol riots. More than fun banter this week.


Of reports that insurrectionists are on DC dating apps, providing pictures and videos of themselves to women they’re trying to impress – some of whom are only pretending to be conservative and are sending the evidence to the FBI:

Progressive women catfishing conservative men to turn them in to the FBI. They think it’s a game. Politics justifies everything, right? What could possibly go wrong?

Rod Dreher.

Sorry, Rod, but I support those women even if they do think it’s a game. It is important that the insurrectionists and their friends understand that there are consequences – really bad ones – for following Trump into insurrection.


At 7 p.m. Eastern on Newsmax, Kelly said that there’s “overwhelming” evidence that Trump “did nothing wrong” on the day of the attack. At 8 p.m. on One America News, host Dan Ball said the Republicans who spoke out against the “political theater” of impeachment were “brave patriots.” At 9 p.m. on Fox, Sean Hannity bashed the “ten swamp Republicans” that “went along with the stunt.” Oh, and QAnon-promoting congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene said on Newsmax that she will file articles of impeachment against Biden on January 21.

CNN


Why would we listen to my friend Joe, who says he’s a Christian and who’s telling me about Jesus, if he also thinks that Communists are taking over America and operating a pedophile ring out of some pizza restaurant?

Ari Shapiro, * How QAnon Conspiracy Is Spreading In Christian Communities Across The U.S.*, quoting a Texas pastor who’s trying to fight QAnon.

More, and very important, stuff:

SHAPIRO: I guess one question is, if these pastors are the voices of authority within the church community, why aren’t they able to talk their parishioners out of this false belief?

BEATY: The pastors that I spoke with talked about a crisis of authority that they feel acutely as spiritual leaders. They perceive that we’re in this time when traditional forms of credibility, of verifying truth, of looking at authoritative figures as holding truth – we’re in a time when there’s a lot of mistrust of traditional sources of authority and truth. And they feel that themselves as church leaders. So they’re concerned that if they try to take on QAnon directly and speak truth instead of falsehood, that they just – they won’t be trusted. They won’t be believed.

And, also, if they try to point their church members to credible news sources, to mainstream media, that none of that will come through because, of course, according to the QAnon conspiracy theory, the mainstream media is part of the cover-up. So I think a lot of the pastors felt that their hands are tied in this time, and they’re concerned that members of their church are not only accepting falsehood and kind of believing in these falsehoods but also spreading falsehood to other people in the church. And that’s especially problematic when QAnon is being espoused by other pastors in a denomination or by leaders in a particular church.

SHAPIRO: Do you think we would find a growing belief in QAnon in any community that includes a lot of Trump supporters, or is there something specific to the white evangelical church that makes it susceptible to these messages?

BEATY: That’s a great question. I think about a poll conducted by the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, a prominent evangelical institution in the Chicago suburbs. This was a poll conducted in 2018 that found that over half of evangelicals, as defined by belief, are strongly convinced that the mainstream media produced fake news. And Ed Stetzer, the executive director of the Billy Graham Center, noted that that distrust in mainstream media and that willingness to write off mainstream media information as fake news opens the door for a lot of evangelicals to turn to alternative and fringe news sources, including those that traffic in conspiracy theories. So I certainly think there’s a connection there.

But, also, again, it’s that QAnon uses this explicitly spiritual language that sounds Christian. You know, there’s a clear battle between good and evil. There’s the promise of this great awakening. More people are going to wake up to these prophecies, if you will, that’s coming from Q. And so it’s easy for many white evangelicals to read their Bibles and connect the dots between what they read there and what they’re hearing from QAnon sources.

(Emphasis added)

I feel a bit of schadenfreude at the emphasized part, because bog standard American Evangelicalism is rooted in schismatic rebelliousness, and was seen as an extension of democracy in the U.S. 190-240 years ago.

I’m not even talking about guys like the Methodist Wesleys, the heirs of rebellion against Roman Catholicism (a rebellion I understand, but that’s a long story); no, sober voices like the Wesleys were the ones being rejected in favor of fire-breathers like Asbury, and innumerable individual judgments, and almost-innumerable sects and cults being born.

So it feels as if “Christian” America is reaping the whirlwind of Evangelical Protestantism’s fissiparousness. Every man is now his own pope. Pastors are, at best, facilitators or advisors. (Evanglicalism is too incoherent for this to be the whole story, but it’s a part of the story I think I know well enough to opine.)

America’s Third Great Awakening needs to be a repentant return to the Orthodox Christian faith from which Western Christendom split a thousand years ago. With God, it’s possible, but I’m not so sure it will happen until we’ve sunk even further, if then. We’re not God’s special pet.


The impeachment vote will be a vote on the president and these things. But it’ll also tell us a lot about the kinds of leaders Republicans want. Do they want leaders willing to amplify lies and deceive their constituents in the interest of political expediency? Or do they want leaders who will act out of conviction, who will do the right thing and try to persuade others, even when the short-term politics are daunting?

Any party that chooses the former doesn’t deserve to survive.

Steve Hayes, * What Kind of Leaders Do Republicans Want?*


[T]he president of the United States has systematically and repeatedly used a bully pulpit amplified with powerful new communication technologies to lie to us extravagantly and constantly about nearly everything. He has conjured an alternative reality of words into which millions of our fellow citizens have gladly retreated. But the rest of us have been captured by them, too, like epistemic hostages confined to a virtual world that was imagined into existence by a narcissistic sociopath.

What we’ve confronted at long last this past week, as shock from the events on Capitol Hill have sunk in and reverberated throughout the nation, is that lies can have dire consequences — that if enough people believe enough of them, the result can be an all-too-real disaster. That has had the salutary effect of inspiring genuine concern in some of those who, until now, have been perfectly content to play along with the game, convinced that they benefitted from the transformation of our public life into a lunatic asylum.

… [There is] a growing realization that turning our politics into an unhinged reality show has turned reality itself into a madhouse — that the president and his party piling lie upon lie upon lie has had terrible consequences, transforming a segment of the American public into lunatics convinced they must burn down American democracy in order to save it.

“What Trump taught the right is that if you are completely shameless all the time, you gain a sort of political superpower. You can get away with (almost) anything.” The advantage of telling lies all day, every day is that nothing real — no outrage, no crime, no act of cruelty or incompetence — can gain traction in the world. Instead, truth, lies, evidence, and substantive policy goals dissolve “in a stew of culture war grievance, resentment, and lunacy,” allowing free reign for every corrupt bad actor around.

Damon Linker, * America’s rendezvous with reality*


Liz Cheney’s was a moment of real stature. Standing alone in the well of the House, the third-ranking member of the Republican leadership said, of the events of Jan. 6: “The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the president. The president could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

And so she would vote to impeach. Her remarks implicitly urged others in her party to do so, and the bluntness and power of what she said offered them cover: They could be tough too. But most couldn’t. They were stupid and cowardly.

They claimed high-minded concern for the nation’s well-being, but they didn’t seem to believe their own arguments; some rushed through their statements, some gestured wildly as if hoping their arms could convince their brains they were sincere.

Impeachment is needlessly divisive. They weren’t concerned about division when they refused to accept the Electoral College result …

The distinguishing characteristic of the House Republican Caucus right now is that whenever you say, “Could they be that stupid?” the answer—always—is, “Oh yes!”

… This week, before the vote, Mr. Jordan was awarded the Medal of Freedom. I am not sure that great honor will ever recover. No press were allowed, but I’m sure the ceremony was elevated, like P.T. Barnum knighting Tom Thumb with a wooden sword in the center ring of the circus.

Peggy Noonan

January 15

“I spent the last couple of days looking at what happened that day and what the president was doing while it was happening,” [South Carolina Rep. Tom Rice] said in an interview Thursday. “And the more I looked at it, the madder I got.”

Mr. Rice said that for him, the question of whether Mr. Trump had incited the crowd wasn’t the most important question. Rather, it was whether he had done enough to try to stop it, or later, to take any responsibility.

“When people are in the Capitol, ransacking the Capitol and trying to get to the Senate chamber and House chamber, and Vice President Mike Pence is in the Capitol and the president is tweeting the vice president lacks courage, I just cannot abide that,” Mr. Rice said. “It was a vote I felt I didn’t have a choice on. The path was clear.”

“I’ll be surprised if I don’t get one,” Mr. Rice said of a primary challenge. He said he had already heard plenty of both positive and negative feedback in the less than 24 hours since he cast his vote.

“I hope I get re-elected,” Mr. Rice said. “If they decide based on this vote, which I know was the right vote, that they don’t want me to be their representative, so be it.”

(Wall Street Journal, 1/15/21)


Wall Street Journal has a Guest Opinion, How to Make the Islamic World Less Radical, by Yahya Cholil Staquf.

I’m not mad at them for running it, but news I could use is How to Make Notorious Swaths of American Evangelicalism Less Radical.


The incitement case against [Donald Trump] isn’t just the use of a few words he uttered before the assault by his followers on the Capitol but the conduct over an extended period leading up to his rally before the assault on the Capitol.

Context matters. President Trump had repetitively falsely stated, as he did again at his rally on Jan. 6, that the electoral results were fraudulent and that he (and therefore his followers) had been robbed of a legitimately elected presidency. He had urged his followers to come to Washington on Jan. 6 for a “wild” day. At the Trump rally itself, his lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, called on his followers to engage in “trial by combat,” and the president himself called on his followers to accompany him to the Capitol to combat the supposed “election theft” that he was “not going to let . . . happen” and for them “to show strength,” and “to be strong.” And as his supporters yelled out “fight for Trump,” his response was “we will not take it anymore . . . we will stop the steal.”

All this is the equivalent of waving a flock of red flags before a bull. The Supreme Court has admirably defined incitement narrowly to avoid stifling free speech, but like Mr. Shapiro it has never had an incitement case involving Donald Trump or Trump-like speech before it. We may yet hear from the court.

FLOYD ABRAMS
New York

(Source: Wall Street Journal). When Floyd Abrams thinks you’ve crossed a free speech line, you probably have crossed it.


  • An internal FBI bulletin earlier this week warned that additional armed demonstrations will likely take place in Washington, D.C. and all 50 state capitals this Sunday, ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday. FBI Director Chris Wray warned of an “extensive amount of concerning online chatter” yesterday in a joint press conference with Vice President Mike Pence, who, for all intents and purposes, has been carrying out the bulk of executive branch responsibilities in recent days.
  • In the wake of last week’s events, Rich Lowry revisited Michael Anton’s (in)famous 2016 “Flight 93 Election” essay, in which Anton urged Republicans to “charge the cockpit” (vote for Trump), or risk “dying” under a Clinton presidency. “Donald Trump finally did exactly what the foremost metaphor associated with his political rise would have suggested,” Lowry writes. “He plowed his plane straight into the ground.” Anton, Lowry continues, “wrote as if the end of the republic were upon us, and there’s nothing like a rabble storming a citadel of American democracy—assaulting police officers, ransacking the place and disrupting a constitutional procedure—to shake confidence in the stability of our system. Of course, it was the man Anton believed could be our savior who whipped up and urged on this crowd. The mob didn’t charge the cockpit metaphorically, but charged the Capitol literally, in the grip of a more extreme, rough-hewn version of Anton’s logic and narrative.”
  • Missing from a lot of the conversation about whether President Trump should have been impeached, and whether he should be convicted in the Senate, is the simple fact that the vast majority of Republican voters still like the guy … [E]lected officials who believe Trump to have been reckless—like freshman GOP Rep. Nancy Mace—are attempting to bridge the divide. “It’s clear that people, some people, have been brainwashed,” Mace said. “And I’m grappling with: How do we carefully and honestly pull these people out of it and bring them back into reality?”

The Morning Dispatch


Jeong is falling for the fundamental attribution error. When those guys over there do something bad, it’s because they are bad. When our side does something bad, we just got temporarily out of hand, perhaps because we were so upset about genuine injustice (which is not something the other side, stupid and evil as they are, cares about). Our bad acts don’t reflect our essential character; their bad acts do.

But there’s no such thing as “essential character” in anything but the most zonked-out hippie sense. All there are are actions. The marks we leave on the world, the bruises and flower patches. And while I understand that people want to focus on right-wing violence at the moment — it does pose the most imminent threat — it should disturb us that so many people are willing to excuse so much violence and destruction because they think that when ‘our’ side does it, it’s warranted. This is how things really and truly degenerate — this is how more people die.

Jesse Singal


Item 1

Dear Republican Party,

Tax cuts and economic stimulus are good for business.

Lying about elections as part of a plot to overthrow US constitutional democracy that causes violent insurrection is bad for business.

Plan accordingly.

Item 2

One way to understand the partisan divide is “everyone’s entitled to healthcare (even if they can’t afford it)” vs. “everyone’s entitled to social media (even if they violate terms of service).”

Item 3

Not trying to overturn election:
Congress follows Constitutional procedures to hold POTUS accountable for actions in office.

Trying to overturn election:
Pressure state election officials to reverse results based on debunked lies, violently attack Congress to stop certification.

Item 4

If you want to attack the United States, you need the element of surprise.
In war: Japan.
Terrorism: Al Qaeda.
Information warfare: Russia.
Insurrection: Dead-end Trumpists, QAnon, far right militias.
You get one shot. After that, defenses and countermeasures ramp up.

Item 5

Who cares that violent insurrectionists will be mad if we treat their violent insurrection like a violent insurrection?
They’re already mad. That’s why they attacked America. Coddling their feelings is not our primary concern.

Love,
Corporate America

Prior five items from Nicholas Grossman on Twitter. I now Follow.


Hawley didn’t just own the libs, he gave permission to dark forces he is too childish, privileged and self-absorbed to understand.

David Brooks


Donald Trump is, of course, a class-A strange-o, a man whose youngest son is named after the imaginary friend he invented to lie to the New York gossip pages about who he was cheating on his wife with. His gold-plated plumbing fixtures are about No. 1,883,441 on the list of weird things about Donald J. Trump, possessor of a Liberace-meets-Caligula sense of taste that can only be produced by the confluence of vast inherited wealth, neurotic masculine insecurity, and an IQ of 85.

But, seriously, what is it with these people and toilets?

In 2019, Trump made an impassioned, detailed — detailed in his daft way — case for a national program to build big, beautiful, perfect toilets, complaining that, after years of misgovernment under Barack Obama et al., Americans are forced to flush too many times. In the nearest thing Trump has ever offered to a Gettysburg Address, he declared: “We have a situation where we’re looking very strongly at sinks and showers and other elements of bathrooms where you turn the faucet on, and in areas where there’s tremendous amounts of water, where the water rushes out to sea because you could never handle it, and you don’t get any water. You turn on the faucet, and you don’t get any water. They take a shower. And water comes dripping out. Just dripping out. Very quietly. Dripping out.”

The result? Americans are forced to flush “ten times, 15 times, as opposed to once.”

Funny thing about that. Nancy Pelosi has flushed twice, but there he floats.

Kevin D. Williamson, Trump & Toilets: Family Obsession | National Review


Politico’s Tim Alberta …:

> Crow is right. Numerous House Rs have received death threats in the past week, and I know for a fact several members want to impeach but fear casting that vote could get them or their families murdered. Not spinning or covering for anyone. Just stating the chilling reality.
>
> This is why, as I’ve written/said before, Republicans should have asserted themselves and held Trump accountable from Day One. Their silence in the face of his manifest abuses contributed to the formation of a cult that now threatens their lives. Never should have come to this.
>
> And yes: Trump’s rhetoric the last 5 years has stirred constant threats of violence against immigrants, journalists, Democratic lawmakers and others. Republicans are not the only ones being terrorized here. All the more reason for Americans to band together and say never again.

The bottom-line: threats and intimidation have become — and are likely to remain — an essential feature of Republican politics.

Charlie Sykes, Defeated, Disgraced, Twice Impeached – Morning Shots. I am astonished at the number of death threats to conservatives coming from somewhere conventionally called “far right.” The threatened credit the threats.


No unity until his morally bankrupt defenders get over him and repent

Tom Nichols in USA Today:

The president’s supporters, however, now plead for understanding and inclusion, for lowering the temperature, for moving on. In speech after speech Wednesday on the floor of the House, the same Republicans who had no objections to the president’s incitement to insurrection now have deep concerns about parliamentary process, the rule of law and national unity.

This is moral charlatanism and I say to hell with it.

It is almost impossible to comprehend the sheer moral poverty of the people calling now for unity. Elected Republicans now admit they fear for their physical safety from their own constituents, but instead of thunderous defenses of the Constitution, we have soft mewling from people like Sen. Marco Rubio and his Bible-Verse-A-Day tweets, or the head-spinning duplicity of Sen. Lindsey Graham, who within days of saying “count me out” of any further sedition was jollying it up with the president on Air Force One.

Via Charlie Sykes, Defeated, Disgraced, Twice Impeached – Morning Shots. I am astonished at the number of death threats to conservatives coming from somewhere conventionally called “far right.” The threatened credit the threats.


This is really a helluva lede.

> Ted Cruz has long had a public reputation as an unctuous asshole. Even so, his staffers have tended to hold him in high regard as a kind and geeky man who treated his underlings well even while his fellow senators loathed him. Now though “most of Cruzworld is pretty disgusted” with the senator for choosing to back Donald Trump’s absurd claims of widespread election fraud, in the words of one former aide. As another former aide put it, “everyone is upset with the direction things have gone, and the longer they’ve been with the senator, the more distaste they are expressing.”

January 16

Shortly after becoming the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice, President Trump summoned political advisers and demanded to know more about the 10 Republicans who had voted against him.

Mr. Trump, who had feared an even larger number of defections, wanted to know who the lawmakers were and whether he had ever done anything for them, according to people familiar with the meeting. He also inquired who might run against them when they face re-election in two years, the people said.

Even some of his close allies say his handling of his election loss has created an entirely avoidable crisis that will overshadow his accomplishments in office and complicate his future business and political aims.

The Trump Organization has already faced some fallout from the riot, including PGA of America’s decision to terminate an agreement to hold the 2022 PGA Championship at the Trump New Jersey golf club, a move that left Mr. Trump fuming, according to a person familiar with his reaction.

As he prepares to depart, advisers describe the president as sullen and regretful about the events of the last week, though he says he is not responsible for prompting them …

the president sought to reach a detente with Mr. Pence, whom he invited to a meeting on Monday after the two men didn’t speak for five days in the wake of the riot, during which the president attacked Mr. Pence on Twitter for not helping him overturn the election.

The president, who has often turned on allies over the last four years, was taken aback by the level of loyalty to Mr. Pence in the White House, one adviser said.

Trump Spends Final Days Focused on GOP Defectors, Senate Defense – WSJ


Decent people who think Facebook and Twitter censor too much presumably have not seen Gab and Parler, the two leading open-sewer examples of what goes on when there’s no threat of censorship.


It has always bugged me that dirty money guys like Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson were enthusiastic Republican Party supporters.


TO PARAPHRASE Samuel Johnson, nothing concentrates the mind like the prospect of being hanged. And so it has proved inside the Republican leadership. A week after Donald Trump’s MAGA mob erected a gallows besides the Capitol reflecting pool then invaded the building, the president’s party is for the first time seriously reviewing its loyalty to him …

It is hard to exaggerate how dramatic a turnaround this already is. Although inciting the attack itself was worse than anything Mr Trump has done, it revealed nothing fundamentally new about his character. And his newly emboldened Republican critics did not merely stomach his earlier abuses—of ethics rules, migrant children, and so on—but vociferously defended them.

Lexington – The conscience of some conservatives | United States | The Economist


Ever since Donald Trump came down the escalator on June 14, 2015, his rise has been aided and abetted by the reluctance to do the hard thing and take him on directly. Instead, always and forever people hoped that he’d destroy himself, that “this time” he’d go too far.

There is no easy path to ridding our nation of Donald Trump or the movement he inspired. As Jonah has always said, this ends in tears. This ends in anguish. Republicans in the Senate have a choice: Take the risk to end it now, or appease the mob, appease talk radio and Fox, and hope and pray it ends later. There is only one responsible answer. Do the hard thing. Convict Donald Trump.

David French, GOP Senators Must Take the Hard Path – The French Press


If God tells you something:

  1. Keep it to yourself.
  2. If you share it, understand that I’m going to respond somewhere between utter indifference and active contempt.

Private revelations are private.

E.g., this Economist story


Thinking about this one tells you a lot about social media complicity in our woes:

On November 5, Facebook removed one of the first “Stop the Steal” groups, which had grown to 350,000 members—but only after the platform’s own algorithms “drove 100 new people to join [that] group every 10 seconds,” according to research from Ryerson University.

Joan Donovan, MAGA Isn’t a Typical Protest Movement – The Atlantic

Potpourri 12/19/20

The easy way for me to say this would be to cut-and-paste material I’ve already collected, but it would be inordinately long, imposing on intelligent readers, for me to do so. So let me summarize:

  • Donald Trump’s post-election lawsuits are all crap, with the exception of one he could and should have brought before the election if he was concerned about that state’s new election rules.
  • Trump and his team have been lying shamelessly about fraud in front of the cameras and on social media. The proof is that they don’t follow through by trying to prove it in court. The clearest example is that it admitted in Wisconsin federal court that the case was about little details of the means whereby administrators conducted the election, not about vote fraud. See this Andy McCarthy column (McCarthy supported Trump in the election).

It is a bitter disappointment that eight days after a snarky Wall Street Journal Op-Ed questioning Jill Biden’s insistence on the title “Doctor,” the pissing contest back and forth continues, with National Review descending into stuff like reading Dr. Biden’s dissertation and branding it “garbage.” See here, here and here.

I’m glad I’ve cut back on news consumption because it’s mostly manufactured controversies like this any more (and the Wall Street Journal knowingly manufactured it).

For what it’s worth, my late father referred to each of the Purdue professors in our Church as “Doc” — Doc Mott, Doc Remple, Doc Stanley, etc.


What’s even worse is First Things publishing a column that solemnly weighs the evidence of fraud, every instance of which has been thoroughly debunked if the author would pull his eyes out of his navel, his ears out the echo chamber, for a few minutes. See An Unstable System | John William O’Sullivan | First Things.

This is the sort of refutation that’s readily available:

Sure, it is easy to look at Biden and ask, “How could we possibly lose to this guy?” But Democrats are at least equally baffled that 63 million Americans voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and, after four years of watching him in office, that 74 million did in 2020. The candidates on offer in both 2016 and 2020 were deeply distressing to a lot of Americans, many of whom no longer understand their neigh bors and most of whom decided to choose what they saw as a lesser evil. Trump, in particular, spent four years inflaming his critics’ loathing of him. He made the infuriating of liberals (“owning the libs,” in Internet-speak) central to his brand. Should we be surprised that liberals turned out in droves, if not to support Biden, then simply to stop being infuriated by Trump?

Yes, Biden held few in-person events, and drew far fewer in-person votes. But Bi den’s supporters were disproportionately people who preferred to err on the side of caution. For months, Democrats preached that in-person voting was unsafe; for months, Republicans preached that mail-in voting was untrustworthy. It should sur prise nobody that the two parties’ voters behaved in starkly different fashion.

… the timeline of vote counts was so predictable in 2020 that it had a name before Election Day: the “red mirage.” Because Democrats were more likely to vote by mail, and because the most heavily Democratic cities already tend to be the last counters owing to urban inefficiency, it was widely predicted that in those cities the counting of mail-in ballots would delay the most Democratic portion of the vote tally until the end. This did not happen everywhere: States such as Florida and Texas allowed mail-in ballots to be tabulated before Election Day. But Republican legislatures in the Midwest blocked early counting, and the result was in fact a high concen tration of Democratic ballots at the end. Everybody who was paying attention saw this coming a mile away.

Dan Mclaughlin, Presidential Election: ‘It Must Have Been Stolen’ | National Review


O sacred monarch, do not leave us. But if you do, we your faithful people will await your coming again in glory in 2024.

Alan Jacobs, The Return of the King (Snakes and Ladders)


On a much brighter note:

What’s especially striking to me is the reversal of the long historical pattern of the Rs representing the well-off and the Ds representing the struggling working people. That has reversed here just as it has nationally: The wealthier someone is around here, the more likely they are to be D … The Democratic Party that I knew and supported for 40 years was on the side of the working people, but that just isn’t true now, either legislatively or culturally … I cannot emphasize this strongly enough: If Democrats want to ‘unify’ the country—and I frankly don’t believe that they do—they’d get off their god damned high horses for once, and ditch their overweening, self-declared superiority, and join the human race.

Charlie Wilson, quoted by Tim Alberta in 20 Americans Who Explain the 2020 Election – POLITICO.

All other things aside, Trump’s basic lack of competency disqualifies him. I’m pretty sure a lot of people who voted for him wouldn’t want him for a boss, co-worker, or subordinate, yet they vote for him the way they might vote for a contestant on a TV reality show.

Stephen Rosenthal, quoted by Tim Alberta in 20 Americans Who Explain the 2020 Election – POLITICO

I’ve lived in SE Michigan my entire life, and have always been a Republican—part of the Evangelical-Republican alliance, back when it was, I believe, honorable. But Evangelicals as a whole lost their way many years ago when the alliance became a religious cause in itself, a cause larger than our former convictions … We became so enamored with power, it should have been no surprise to me (though it was) that evangelicals were and are willing to sacrifice our moral reputations for the sake of ‘winning.’ … I’ve hated every moment of Trump’s presidency, because of what I fear it’s done to the Gospel, and the reputations of those who claim to believe it.

Pastor Ken Brown, quoted by Tim Alberta in 20 Americans Who Explain the 2020 Election – POLITICO.

(But perhaps Pastor Brown has conflated charismatic flakes with traditional Evangelicals. See my recantation. The more I look, the more these New Apostolic Reformation theocrats seem clearly outside the commonest accepted boundaries of Evangelicalism. See, too, this Evangelical source that’s trying to be careful about NAR.)

“As with many if not most of our large institutions, these two parties are hollowed out … We saw in 2016, two outsiders, Sanders and Trump—not even historical members of the parties—were arguably the only candidates who brought any real dynamism to the race, whereas if these organizations were strong and highly functional, they wouldn’t even have permitted them to run under their party’s banners.”

In this regard, Rosenthal is a man after my own heart: I’m a firm believer that no conversation about institutional decline in America can be had without examining the deterioration of both major parties as gatekeepers to separate serious people from sideshows ….

Stephen Rosenthal, quoted (with approval) by Tim Alberta in 20 Americans Who Explain the 2020 Election – POLITICO

The whole Tim Alberta ‘splainer is worth your time if you want to hate your countrymen less.


You’ll notice we are not having a national debate about paying off poor people’s mortgages. We could do that just as easily if the self-declared champions of the poor had any interest in anything other than their own status and their own appetites. They don’t.

Kevin Williamson

The only explanation I’ve heard from the Democrats is that while the middle- and upper-classes have more student debt, student loan forgiveness would improve the net worth of poor debtors more.

Nice try. I do believe that Oren Cass’s campaign to make the GOP a union-friendly worker’s party has got real merit.


I proposed to my husband, Chasten, in an airport terminal.

Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, joking about his qualifications after being nominated for Transportation Secretary by President-elect Joe Biden.

(Knowhere News)

It’s nice to know that there may be a sense of playfulness on Team Biden, but this (out of context, as it came to me) goes beyond playful to flippant or defiant. I trust that the Senate will wipe any smirk off his face in confirmation hearings.


America’s constitutional order, the political scientist Gregory Weiner argues, depends on a style of politics that the conservative political philosopher Michael Oakeshott called “nomocratic.” Nomocratic regimes hold themselves accountable to public processes (such as voting) whose outcome no one can be sure of in advance. They commit themselves to the rule of law and democratic decision making, even if the other side wins. Teleocratic politics, by contrast, is accountable to particular outcomes. Legitimacy comes not from following the agreed-upon rules but from obtaining the desired result. In other words, the election is valid—provided our side wins.

Trump has placed himself explicitly in the teleocratic camp. Teleocracy is incompatible with democracy and the rule of law; Trump’s position would once have horrified Republicans.

… Until Trump, no American politician had ever imagined running a fire-hose-of-falsehood campaign against the American public, much less had figured out how to do it. Trump saw the possibilities and capitalized on them. He opened the disinformation spigot on the first day of his presidency, with a blatant lie about the size of his inauguration crowd, and then spewed falsehoods at a rate that defied fact-checking—in October, more than 50 falsehoods a day.

… Trump’s development of an American model for mass disinformation may prove to be his most important and pernicious legacy.

Jonathan Rausch, What Trump Is Doing to the Country Right Now – The Atlantic


I called Klain the other day to ask him how he knew, to such a granular degree, that the Trump-Fauci relationship would go sideways. “We knew already that Trump has a style of governing that rejects facts and that demands that people see the world his way, that they live in his counterfactual reality,” he said. “He also has a tendency to downplay threats, whatever kind of threats they are. I knew Dr. Fauci well enough to know that he was going to tell the truth and speak out and that sooner or later that would run afoul of the Trump approach to governance.”

Klain was in a unique position to make predictions about COVID-19. As the coordinator of Obama’s successful fight against Ebola, he had developed important knowledge about infectious disease. But he also gained an understanding of Trump’s destructive impact on public health.

“One thing people forget is that after ‘birtherism’ blew up on Trump, he faded from view for a little while and only emerged back into our politics around Ebola,” Klain said. “He was the leading public voice attacking Obama’s Ebola response. His tweets—there are studies that show this—were a main cause of the fear that galvanized around Ebola. He tweeted that the efforts to fight Ebola in West Africa were a mistake, that bringing home the doctor who had contracted Ebola in West Africa was a mistake—he said he should be left to die. Trump was completely unhinged from science, and this had a significant impact on the public psyche. It gave me an early indication of how he would handle a pandemic.”

Jeffrey Goldberg, Ron Klain on Donald Trump and the Coronavirus Outbreak – The Atlantic


Last, but sadly not least:

Every time that the science clashed with the messaging, messaging won.

Kyle McGowan, quoted by Noah Weiland, ‘Like a Hand Grasping’: Trump Appointees Describe the Crushing of the C.D.C.. I was afraid I was seeing that in “real time.”

Wherein Tipsy Repents his snarkiness about “Evangelicals”

As a highly distilled stage-setting, I left the Evangelicalism in which I was raised 40-45 years ago and left my Evangelical-adjacent Calvinist Church 23 years ago.

Still, I thought my reading was broad enough that I had a pretty good handle on American Evangelicalism. When I didn’t recognize names of people identified as Evangelical leaders, I chalked it up to the passage of the decades, with inevitable deaths, apostasies, new arrivals and such.

But Julia Duin, one of our very top religion reporters, has convinced me: I really should STFU (if you know what I mean). I really should have stopped generalizing about Evangelicals quite a long time ago, because folks I never considered full-fledged Evangelicals — the charismatics/pentecostals — are typically being lumped in with other Evangelicals in mainstream media stories.

That’s a big deal, and I didn’t know it. I don’t know anything about any of their leaders with the possible exception of the odious Pat Robertson, who I think is more-or-less in their camp. Not only that, but the charismatics/pentecostals are becoming increasingly delusional and authoritarian. They no longer just believe that some people have the “gift of prophesy,” but they posit that some have the “Office of Prophet,” and that other Christians are obliged to heed them. There’s blanket name for this stuff: “New Apostolic Reformation,” which is established enough to have the shorthand NAR.

Now I flirted briefly with charismatic Christianity in the late 60s (i.e., attended an Assemblies of God Church a lot during one summer break and rejected an overture to become a Campus Crusade for Christ staffer because Crusade forbade glossolalia), but while I liked some of the people in it, I never bought the doctrines and practices that accompanied them. I then considered them at best equivocally Evangelical, with the caveat that Evangelical is deucedly hard to define or delimit.

But as for the NAR and their supposed Prophets: screw them. I don’t care if they’ve gotten some things right. They’ve also gotten a lot of things wrong (starting around 1054 A.D., but that’s a very long story about the spiritual ancestors of maybe 98% of American Christians) including last Saturday’s “Jericho March” in D.C.

How can I say the Jericho March was wrong? Setting aside countless other indicia, it was a “Christian” rally that featured the bottomest of the bottom-feeders — a humanoid whose very name beslimes all advocates of robustly free speech — Alex Jones of Infowars, who waved his meaty arms and bellowed stuff about “King Jesus.”

Q.E.D.

I do not believe that we have Apostles or Prophets in the uppercase sense today. I’m inclined to mark those who insist we do as sub-Christian cultists, and I certainly refuse to follow any Tom, Dick, Harry or Paula White just because they say they’re an Apostle or a Prophet and God told them something-or-other. And I dare say a lot of non-charismatic/non-pentecostal Evangelicals agree with me.

So I hereby retract every exasperated generalization I’ve made about Evangelicals over the last 23 year. I can’t count them or track them all down, so I can’t say I repudiate them, but they were presumptuous and unreliable.

I won’t go prattling on, but I will give my highest recommendation to the two stories by Julia Duin that convinced me that I didn’t know what I was talking about when talking about “Evangelicals”:


Saturday’s Jericho March, distilled:

“next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims’ and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn’s early my
country ’tis of centuries come and go
and are no more. what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?”

He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water

E. E. Cummings – Next to of course god america i | Genius

Church and State, but not Church/State

Where religion and politics meet

David French is not happy with his co-religionists, who he provincially calls “the Church”:

… core biblical values are contingent, but support for Donald Trump is not …

We’re way, way past concerns for the church’s “public witness.” We’re way past concerns over whether the “reputation” of the church will survive this wave of insanity. There is no other way to say this. A significant movement of American Christians—encouraged by the president himself—is now directly threatening the rule of law, the Constitution, and the peace and unity of the American republic.

It’s clear now that when many of those people declared Trump to be “God’s anointed” they did not mean that his presidency was “instituted by God” in the same manner as other governing authorities, as described in Romans 13. (By conventional Christian reasoning, Joe Biden’s upcoming presidency is also instituted by God.)

No, they believe that Trump had a special purpose and a special calling, and that this election defeat is nothing less than a manifestation of a Satanic effort to disrupt God’s plan for this nation. They were not “holding their nose” to support him. They were deeply, spiritually, and personally invested in his political success.

We know that mainstream American Christian leaders can unite to condemn secular and progressive movements and ideas they find biblically problematic. For example, late last month the presidents of Southern Baptist seminaries united to declare that “affirmation of Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality and any version of Critical Theory is incompatible with the Baptist Faith & Message.”

As I’ve written, critical race theory has its uses and its flaws, but I wonder—how many critical race theorists are in conservative Christian pews? But how many more election conspiracy theorists and Christian nationalists are sitting right there, including in my own denomination, fervently believing lies and fervently praying for actions and outcomes that are fundamentally unjust?

Simply put, there should be at least as much concern about injustice and sin from the religious right as from the secular left.

David French, The Dangerous Idolatry of Christian Trumpism

French’s column (along with Damon Linker’s gimlet-eyed identification of Trump as “demonic”) has me musing about whether Donald Trump qualifies for the title “AntiChrist” according to the standards of those who obsess over identifying AntiChrist.

And French’s labeling of Christianish Trumpists as part of “the church” reinforces my skepticism about Evangelical ecclesiology (French is Evangelical or at least Evangelical-adjacent; I think he’d choose the former) — about the possibility of Christ’s Church being so expansive as to take in delusional political freaks whose main interest in Christ seems to be His political utility.

Sigh! It’s none of my business to stake out the boundaries of the Church, but I can understand the reflex “if this is Christianity, I want no part of it.” I wish I could say “this is not, in any sense, Christianity,” but I can’t. I can (and do below) say something else that’s just as decisive for me.


Evangelicalism has figured out how to avoid the numerical decline besetting many religions: become so identified with Republican politics that people whose Lord and Savior is the GOP will self-identify as “Evangelical,” albeit without darkening the doors of church. For instance,

for 2008, 2012, and 2016 low attending evangelicals all start in basically the same spot – 35–40% conservative. But look at the solid pink line representing the data from 2019. Nearly half of self-identified evangelicals who never go to church identified as conservative (a jump of basically ten points).

the most religiously devout evangelical in 2019 is a bit less likely to be conservative than a devout evangelical from 2008.

Ryan P. Burge, So, Why is Evangelicalism Not Declining? Because Non-Attenders Are Taking On the Label (Religion in Public).

Burge, by the way, is becoming huge in social scientific scrutiny of American religion.


I left frank Evangelicalism in my late 20s over the issue of dispensationalism, which I perceived as so pervasive as to almost define Evangelicalism. (I left basically as soon as I discovered that my skepticism about dispensationalist prophecy porn — “Rapture crap” — was shared by others, serious Calvinists, who were not compromising with unbelief.)

At age 49, I was Orthodox, no longer Calvinist, and thus not even “Evangelical-adjacent.”

So I cannot begin to persuade Evangelical Trumpists to repent their folly.

So why do I rail against them as if I could change their minds?

Partly because I persist in the increasingly-implausible instinct that some of them are sane and sincere. But probably a bigger part is performative: I want the world to know that I am not an Evangelical, that Evangelicalsm is well out of the historic Christian mainstream (in its prophecy obsession, yes, but more in its rejection of liturgy and sacrament), and that disgust with Evangelicalism (and Roman Catholic clergy sexual abuse, for that matter) does not necessitate rejection of Christianity or adoption of some sort of me-and-Jesus-who-needs-Church delusion.

I other words, when all else fails, consider Orthodoxy. If there’s no Orthodox Church nearby, that’s curable in many cases.


I include this from Evangelical-leaning Anglican Alan Jacobs because he identifies an ascendant Evangelical vice:

There is no infallible means for discerning when a religious believer has been spoken to, directly and personally, by God. However, there is a reliable way to disconfirm such a claim. When a person demands that other people immediately accept that he has been spoken to by God, and treats with insult and contempt those who do not acknowledge his claim to unique revelation, then we can be sure that no genuine message has been received, and that the voice echoing in that person’s mind is not that of God but that of his own ego.

Alan Jacobs again, testing the spirits.

I suspect this has to do with Saturday’s “Jericho Marches,” which started with some guy who claimed that God told him to do it. I don’t recall whether he claimed that God told him that all Real Christians® must join him.


Evangelicals aren’t the only ones mucking about in political matters.

With America facing a bitterly divisive election, Episcopal Church leaders did what they do in tense times — they held a National Cathedral service rallying the Washington, D.C., establishment.

This online “Holding onto Hope” service featured a Sikh filmmaker, a female rabbi from Chicago, the Islamic Society of North America’s former interfaith relations director, the female presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a Jesuit priest known for promoting LGBTQ tolerance and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

“Our ideals, values, principles and dreams of beloved community matter,” said Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, the church’s first African-American leader. “They matter to our life as a nation and as a world. Our values matter!”

This was the kind of rite – think National Public Radio at prayer – a church can offer when its history includes 11 U.S. presidents and countless legislators and judges from coast to coast.

Continuing its recent trends, “relevance” isn’t working for the ECUSA much better in 2020 than in other recent decades — witness the title Terrifying statistics from 2019 offer another Groundhog Day jolt for Episcopalians — GetReligion

Law and politics, straight up

When conservatives defend their fight to overturn the election as an answer to the way Democrats reacted to Donald Trump’s victory in 2016, they are correct in the sense that most of their arguments and proposed tactics have antecedents on the liberal side …

The difference, though, is that the right’s fantasy has been embraced from the start by a Republican president (Hillary Clinton was a follower rather than a leader in calling Trump “illegitimate”), and it has penetrated much faster and further into the apparatus of Republican politics. In January 2017, only a handful of Democratic backbenchers objected to Congress’s certification of Trump’s election. But you can find the name of the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, on a brief supporting the ridiculous Texas lawsuit.

The Texas lawsuit didn’t torch any city blocks, but all those congressional signatures on the amicus brief did make it feel like something more than just another meme. The crucial question it raises is whether people can be fed on fantasies forever — or whether once enough politicians have endorsed dreampolitik, the pressure to make the dream into reality will inexorably build.

Ross Douthat, The Texas Lawsuit and the Age of Dreampolitik


On Saturday, a federal district court judge in Wisconsin issued an opinion explaining why, on the merits, Texas’s substantive arguments were without merit. And, as occurred on the Supreme Court, a judge appointed by President Trump, Brett Ludwig, ruled against him.

Some Trump supporters are inclined to suggest the campaign’s court losses are the result of progressive judicial activism or #Resistance judging. This is nonsense. Dozens of election suits have been filed, and dozens of judges of all political stripes and judicial philosophies have ruled against the claims put forward by the Trump campaign and its allies. In this case, the opinion was written by a judge appointed by President Trump in September. Trump and his allies claim they want their legal claims heard by judges who will apply the law. They have been.

Jonathan Adler, Another Court Loss for Trump Campaign in Wisconsin


Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.

Immanuel Kant

You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.

W.H. Auden

The worst judge of all is the man now most ready with his judgements; the ill-educated Christian turning gradually into the ill-tempered agnostic, entangled in the end of a feud of which he never understood the beginning, blighted with a sort of hereditary boredom with he knows not what, and already weary of hearing what he has never heard.

G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here or join me and others on micro.blog. You won’t find me on Facebook any more, and I don’t post on Twitter (though I do have an account for occasional gawking).

Amusing Ourselves to Death

In 1985, Neil Postman published, to immediate critical acclaim, Amusing Ourselves to Death. For some reason, I did not read it at the time, but it has endured if not grown in value — so say all my friends in cyberspace (about which more later) — so I read it Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

I would be remiss if I didn’t share some highlights with you, or if I shared all my highlights (though that is technically easier to do), because phrases I found arresting in context might well be boring in isolation. So here goes.

First, Postman is at great pains to distance himself from the Luddites. He acknowledges major communicative changes in the past, with some of what was lost and gained in each, before exploring how television is toxically different.

  • Regarding the Commandment against idols, “The God of the Jews was to exist in the Word and through the Word, an unprecedented conception requiring the highest order of abstract thinking.”
  • “Although one would not know it from consulting various recent proposals on how to mend the educational system, this point — that reading books and watching television differ entirely in what they imply about learning — is the primary educational issue in America today. America is, in fact, the leading case in point of what may be thought of as the third great crisis of Western education. The first occurred in the fifth century BC, when Athens underwent change from an oral culture to an alphabet-writing culture. To understand what this meant, we must read Plato. The second occurred in the 16th century when Europe underwent a radical transformation as a result of the printing press. To understand what this meant, we must read John Locke. The third is happening now, in America, as a result of electronic revolution, particularly the invention of television. To understand what this means, we must read Marshall McLuhan.”
  • “Each medium, like language itself, makes possible a unique mode of discourse by providing a new orientation for thought, for expression, for sensibility. Which, of course, is what McLuhan meant in saying that the medium is the message. His aphorism, however, is in need of amendment because, as it stands, it may lead one to confuse a message with a metaphor. A message denotes a specific, concrete statement about the world. But the forms of our media, including the symbols to which they permit conversation, do not make such statements. They are rather like metaphors, working by unobtrusive but powerful implication to enforce their special definitions of reality.”
  • “It is my intention in this book to show a great media-metaphor shift has taken place in America, with the result that the content of much of our public discourse has become dangerous nonsense.”
  • “[W]e do not measure a culture by its output of undisguised trivialities, but by what it claims as significant. Therein is our problem, for television is at its most trivial and, therefore, most dangerous when its aspirations are high, when it presents itself as a carrier of important cultural conversations.”

There were waystations en route to television land, telegraphy featuring prominently (perhaps as synecdoche), for its obliteration of distance:

  • “Telegraphy … destroyed the prevailing definition of information, and in doing so gave a new meaning to public discourse. Among the few who understood this consequence was Henry David Thoreau, who remarked in Walden that ‘We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.… We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the old world some weeks nearer to the new; but perchance the first news that will leak through the end of the broad flapping American ear will be that Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough.’ … Only four years after Morse opened the nation’s first telegraph line on May 24, 1844, the Associated Press was founded, and news from nowhere, addressed to no one in particular, began to crisscrossing the nation. Wars, crimes, crashes, fires, floods — much of it the social and political equivalent of Adelaide’s whooping cough — became the content of what people called ‘the news of the day.'”

Now that we’re in television land, Postman also is insistent about not floating conspiracy theories about commies or lizard people deliberately using TV to make us stupid. For instance:

  • “The single most important fact about television is that people watch it. Which is why it is called “television.” And what they watch, and like to watch, are moving pictures — millions of them, of short duration and dynamic variety. It is in the nature of the medium that it must suppress the contact of ideas in order to accommodate the requirements of visual interest; that is to say, to accommodate the values of show business.”
  • “What is happening here is the television is altering the meaning of “being informed” by creating a species of information that might properly be called disinformation. I am using this word almost in the precise sense in which it is used by spies in the CIA or KGB. This information does not mean false information. It means misleading information — misplaced, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information — information that creates the illusion of knowing something but which in fact leads one away from knowing. In saying this, I did not mean to imply that television news deliberately aims to deprive Americans have a coherent, contextual understanding of their world. I mean to say this when the news is packaged as entertainment, that is the inevitable result.”

It is a commonplace in Evangelical Protestantism that mediums (I know the plural is properly “media,” but that has accumulated distracting connotations) are neutral. Christianity being something I care about very much, Postman’s Chapter Shuffle off to Bethlehem really hit me:

Though it may be unAmerican to say it, not everything is televisible. Or to put it more precisely, what is televised is transformed from what it was into something else, which may or may not preserve its former essence. For the most part, television preachers have not seriously addressed this matter. They have assumed that what had formally been done at a church or a tent, and face-to-face, can be done on television without loss of meaning, without changing the quality of the religious experience. Perhaps their failure to address the translation issue has its origin in the hubris engendered by the dazzling number of people to whom the television gives them access.
“Television,“ Billy Graham has written, “is the most powerful tool of communication ever devised by man. Each of my primetime specials is now carried by nearly 300 stations across the US and Canada, so that in a single telecast I preach to millions more than Christ did in his lifetime.“ To this, Pat Robertson adds: “To say that the church shouldn’t be involved with television is utter folly. The needs are the same, the message is the same, but the delivery can change.… It would be folly for the church not to get involved with the most formative force in America.“
This is gross technological naïveté. If the delivery is not the same, then the message, quite likely, is not the same. And if the context in which the messages experienced is altogether different from what it was in Jesus’ time, we may assume that it’s social and psychological meaning is different as well.

I believe that I am not mistaken in saying that Christianity is a demanding and serious religion. When it is delivered as easy and amusing, it is another kind of religion altogether.

I’ve long not been a fan of televangelists, but I hadn’t thought it through as Postman did. I can’t even say “Aha! He put my intuition into words!”, as I so often feel, because I tacitly bought the idea that mediums are neutral. Maybe the single most important lesson of this book, for me if not for everyone, is that “neutral medium” is rubbish.

And I should have known better all along. Every sick-Sunday or Covidtide streamed Divine Liturgy screamed at me “I am inadequate!” Each was inadequate as “television” and as Christian worship. Every medium shapes all messages it mediates.

To a slightly lesser extent, I care about education. Postman sets forth three commandments of televised education, which I distill:

The three Commandments that form the philosophy of the education which television offers:
– Thou shalt have no prerequisites.
– Thou shalt induce no perplexity.
– Thou shalt avoid exposition like the ten plagues visited upon Egypt.
The name we may properly give to an education without prerequisites, perplexity and exposition is entertainment.

Postman’s concluding chapter not only brings back a lot of stuff for a curtain call, but summarizes colorfully:

An Orwellian world is much easier to recognize, and to oppose, than a Huxleyan. Everything in our background has prepared us to know and resist the prison when the gates begin to close around us. We are not likely, for example, to be indifferent to the voices of the Sakharovs and the Timmermans and the Walesas. We take arms against such a sea of troubles, buttressed by the spirit of Milton, Bacon, Voltaire, Göethe and Jefferson. But what if there are no cries of anguish to be heard? Who is prepared to take arms against a sea of amusement. To whom do we complain, and when, and in what tone of voice, when serious discourse dissolves into giggles? What is the antidote to a culture’s being drained by laughter?

What I suggest here is a solution is what all does Huxley suggested as well. And I can do no better than he. He believed with H.G. Wells that we are in a race between education and disaster, and he wrote continuously about the necessity of our understanding the politics and epistemology of media. For in the end, he was trying to tell us that what afflicted the people in brave New World was not that they were laughing instead of thinking, but that they did not know what they were laughing about and why they had stopped thinking.

Now for a bit of critique.

Television is still with us, but with a fourth broadcast network (Fox, which I recall being announced on NPR in April 1988 — recalled because (a) I was driving a rented Camry around San Francisco and down Highway 1, and (b) I thought it was a stupid idea for which Rupert Murdoch would pay dearly) and countless cable offerings. I don’t think this changes anything. The news is as stupid or stupider than ever, and has us broken into tribes to boot. So much for a peaceful Huxleyan world — and for my ability to spot a good money-making idea when I see it.

But we also can control television, which means relying on it for entertainment — which is all it’s good for — and nothing else. We can only do it at the family level, though, which means we still swim in polluted waters when we step out into the work-world.

Computers, however, Postman underestimated — perhaps because he did not foresee the “technology” of ARPANET expanding to the public and becoming virtually its own “medium.” I am aware of its potential for harm, pornography having become ubiquitous, for instance (and the emergence of “ethically-source porn” and the happy “sex workers” to replace unhappy, exploited “prostitutes”, both to make sensitive wankers feel better about their vice), but I dare say, from personal experience and experiment, that it is concurrently a great power for good. I have Anglophone “friends” around the world as a result, for instance.

Dare I say that the world awaits a treatment of the internet equal in stature to Postman’s treatment of television? Or perhaps it’s here and I just haven’t read it. There are definitely efforts being made to write it.


Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.

Immanuel Kant

You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.

W.H. Auden, As I Walked Out One Evening, November 1937

The worst judge of all is the man now most ready with his judgements; the ill-educated Christian turning gradually into the ill-tempered agnostic, entangled in the end of a feud of which he never understood the beginning, blighted with a sort of hereditary boredom with he knows not what, and already weary of hearing what he has never heard.

G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here or join me and others on micro.blog. You won’t find me on Facebook any more, and I don’t post on Twitter (though I do have an account for occasional gawking).

Catch-up collation, 11/22/20

She deserves to be confirmed—not least because of the ugly campaign against her.

Judy Shelton’s Heresy – WSJ

Sorry, guys, but this is the kind of dumbass argument that would have resulted in Trump’s re-election because he, too, vile though he be, suffered ugly, delusional and obsessive Resistance.

“Owning the Libs” isn’t a good enough reason to confirm her if she is a flake.


With the country’s polarization deepening and Congress likely gridlocked, presidents on both sides of the aisle have relied on executive orders (EOs) to push key parts of their agendas. According to the American Presidency Project, President Bill Clinton averaged 46 executive orders per year during his term. President George W. Bush averaged 36, Obama 35, and Trump 51. (All of these figures are down dramatically from the mid-20th century, when President Herbert Hoover averaged 242 EOs per year and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt averaged 307.)

The Morning Dispatch

That Presidents are using fewer Executive Orders than in the past surprises me quite a lot.


As of Tuesday night, the Trump campaign and its allies were—by Democratic election lawyer Marc Elias’ count—1 for 26 in their post-election lawsuits; the vast, vast majority of their claims of widespread voting irregularities or fraud have been rejected or dismissed by judges across the country.

The president’s main problem? He’s got his order of operations backward. Typically in litigation, plaintiffs will carefully and thoroughly collect evidence and build a compelling narrative that supports their case. Trump, conversely, started with the conclusion—that the election was stolen from him—and now his (dwindling supply of) lawyers are scrambling to backfill that claim with evidence that, thus far, does not exist.

One Pennsylvania lawsuit looking to stop the certification of results in the state, for example, was filed with only the promise of unearthing evidence of massive amounts of voter fraud at some point in the future. “Voters are currently compiling analytical evidence of illegal voting from data they already have and are in the process of obtaining,” the plaintiffs write. “They intend to produce this evidence at the evidentiary hearing to establish that sufficient illegal ballots were included in the results to change or place in doubt the November 3 presidential election results.”

Because Trump and his allies are working backward from his “stolen election” claim, no amount of evidence to the contrary will shake them. On November 12, Trump asserted that, once Georgia underwent a recount, he would win the state. Well, Georgia election officials ordered a recount, and Biden is still going to win the state. So now Trump is adamant that the “Fake recount going on in Georgia means nothing” and the real problem is a consent decree about ballot signatures that both parties agreed to back in March. Once that inevitably fizzles, it’ll be something else.

At some level, Trump’s self-deception is both entirely expected and entirely meaningless. Joe Biden will be sworn in on January 20 and the world will move on.

But the president’s refusal to budge from his conspiratorial alternate reality is wreaking havoc in its wake—and not just by grinding the transition process to a halt. Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt, a Republican, said on November 8 that his office has received death threats for not buying into widespread election fraud conspiracies. Trump targeted him on Twitter three days later. After Trump—and GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue—went after Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, he and his wife have been dealing with death threats, too.

And on Tuesday night, one of the most widely respected members of the Trump administration—CISA Director Chris Krebs—got the axe for doing his job: Protecting the integrity of the election and debunking misinformation about the electoral process, both foreign and domestic. The “Rumor Control” and “#Protect2020” websites his agency spearheaded have, by all accounts, been nothing but successful. “The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history,” a joint statement from the Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council Executive Committee read last week.

Krebs’ reward? “Effective immediately, Chris Krebs has been terminated as Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency,” Trump tweeted just after 7 p.m. Tuesday. Krebs’ deputy reportedly resigned after the move as well, leaving Brandon Wales—a Krebs ally—as likely acting director.

The Morning Dispatch


[C]anceling student loan debt would be a massive unforced error for the newly minted Biden administration. It would show that one of the new Democratic president’s highest priorities during a pandemic and a destabilizing economic shock is to provide a bailout to people who are overwhelmingly likely to end up as members of the upper-middle class. It would amount to a transfer payment from contractors and service workers to high-earning knowledge workers and other white-collar employees. As such, it would also accelerate trends in the Democratic Party that would leave it vulnerable to a Republican Party increasingly trying to rebrand itself as a champion of the working class.

As economist Thomas Piketty and others have pointed out in recent years, center-left political parties suffer at the ballot-box when they come to represent the interests of the upper-middle class at the expense of the working class, allowing the nationalist-populist right to make inroads with the latter. This has happened in a series of European countries in recent years, and it’s happening in the U.S. as well, with the Democrats enjoying surging support in inner-ring suburbs but losing ground in working-class, exurban, and rural areas.

Damon Linker, The class folly of canceling student loans

I cannot endorse Linker’s view heartily enough. The Democrats need not only to avoid too hard a swerve leftward, but they need to avoid clamorous calls like this that will more securely lock workers into an increasingly insane GOP. But considering how little of the progrressive left is “POC”, how much white college grads, I may be repeating myself.


The fact that such a proposal would disproportionately benefit high-earning professionals does not make it a bad one. But it should be expanded into a debt jubilee that would cancel all obligations up to the same five-figure sum proposed by Schumer: credit cards, auto loans, remaining mortgage balances, and, especially, medical debts, which should be discharged without any limit.

Matthew Walther, America needs a real debt jubilee

I haven’t kept score, but it seems to me that, like Babe Ruth, Walther always swings for the fence and thus whiffs a lot.


It would take a heart of stone not to laugh as Trump finally turns on the real Judas in his eyes: Fox News (where I’m a contributor). The network, Trump tweeted, “forgot what made them successful, what got them there. They forgot the Golden Goose. The biggest difference between the 2016 Election, and 2020, was @FoxNews!”

Never mind that Fox was No. 1 in every time slot more than a decade before Trump descended that escalator in 2015. Never mind that for four years, Trump began his day with his Presidential Daily Brief—Fox and Friends—and ended it with the primetime gang. And never mind that Trump and the opinion side of the network remain in a deeply codependent relationship.

Trump didn’t get the unwavering, full-throated praise he needed, so now he’s thinking about creating a competing network, one without all the obvious anti-Trump bias!

[T]he one thing we won’t ever feel about the Trump presidency is nostalgia—not least because he won’t really be gone. Even after he leaves the White House, he’ll be fighting for himself—and making sure we hear him—for the rest of his days.

Jonah Goldberg, Donald Trump Will Never Stop Fighting—For Himself – The Dispatch (emphasis added)


Since 2016, America’s international reputation has been transformed. No longer the world’s most admired democracy, our political system is more often perceived as uniquely dysfunctional, and our leaders as notably dangerous. Poll after poll shows that respect for America is not just plummeting, but also turning into something very different. Some 70 percent of South Koreans and more than 60 percent of Japanese—two nations whose friendship America needs in order to push back against Chinese influence in Asia—view the U.S. as a “major threat.” In Germany, our key ally in Europe, far more people fear Trump than fear Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, or North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

Anne Applebaum, The Post-Trump World Will Never Go Back to Normal – The Atlantic

How sad is that.

Related topic: As we once surpassed Great Britain, so China appears destined to surpass us economically. What are we going to do to maintain leadership in other realms?


I keep forgetting to acknowledge that the “Evangelicals” who deeply drank the Trump Kool-Aid would not even have been considered Evangelicals in my youth. They are Prosperity Gospel pentecostals, arguably heretics, the closest analogy in my youth being Oral Roberts — who we did not then consider Evangelical in my circles.

This is not, of course, an endorsement of what I consider true Evangelicals. American Evangelicalism at its very, very best — far better than I experienced growing up — was described by the late Tom Howard in his spiritual biography, Evangelical is Not Enough: Worship of God in Liturgy and Sacrament. Though Howard walked the Roman road, I  to Constantinople (Orthodoxy), the arguments for either are almost indistinguishable when it comes to the superiority of liturgy and sacrament over Evangelical worship variations.


I have been an engaged Christian for over half my life now, but I have never once tried to evangelize directly. Some people have that gift; I do not. I have not ever been offended when someone tried to share their faith with me, but I have also resisted those conversations. Why? Because fair or not, I have always regarded them as people trying to befriend me for instrumental reasons. They’re not interested in me as I am; they are only interested in me as a potential convert. It’s like they’re trying to secure my vote for Jesus, or something.

Again, I have never held it against them; how else would you evangelize if you didn’t take the risk of coming off that way? But I was also not the slightest bit interested in what they had to say. Had we become friends first, and I had come to trust in their care for me, then I might have been open to hearing them out. Not before, though.

A reader e-mailed the other day to say he is not a Christian, but asked why I became one … I seem to recall that he wasn’t asking me to tell my conversion story …, but rather to say why I think he should become a Christian.

I don’t want to make an apologetic argument. There are many of those, done by people far better at that than I am. The reader’s query has bobbed to the surface in my mind over the past few days, and made me think more deeply about what it was that made me feel that if I was going to live in truth, I had to become a Christian — and not just a Christian, but the kind of Christian I became. What I’ll say here is not intended to be an apologetic, but just some musing on what seized my imagination, and compelled me to convert. I’m not interested in offering propositions and syllogisms. I only want to talk about the core experience that opened my eyes, and then my heart, to God.

It begins in awe. That is the primordial experience of religion: becoming intensely aware of the numinous realm, and one’s need to establish a relationship to it …

“When I saw God, as religions seemed to want me to see God, as an all-seeing supernatural entity with a great personal interest in my life and behaviour, laying down laws, demanding worship and promising me an afterlife in return, I had no interest, and still don’t. I don’t believe it. But when, later, I began to see that perhaps this was a common human interpretation of an experience of something greater than the individual ego – when I began to understand that all religions and all spiritual traditions have their mystics who had interpreted this great spirit, this Dao, this experience of the divine, very differently – then I began to see that perhaps it was something I could understand after all. I began to see that perhaps what some people call God, or the sacred, or the divine, was what I experienced as some power, some strange greatness, immanent in the wild world around me.

“In other words, perhaps I do after all understand the perpetual human search for the sacred, whether I can adequately explain it or not, and I think I may know why it still matters, despite my culture’s frantic attempts to convince me otherwise. I have experienced the feelings that charge the concept with so much electricity. It’s just that I have never experienced them in places that people designate as holy.”

The Rose Window & The Labyrinth – Daily Dreher (embedded quote by Paul Kingsnorth)

I addressed Evangelicalism above, but it now occurs to me that it rarely “begins in awe … the primordial experience of religion: becoming intensely aware of the numinous realm, and one’s need to establish a relationship to it.” Evangelical conversions are almost always directed more toward eternal self-preservation, since there’s little awesome or numinous in Evangelical life.


When I speak to former colleagues of mine who are—or were—in the Republican sphere that includes Graham, the conversation about “what happened to Lindsey Graham?” usually ends with the conclusion that he is scared to death of what life would be like if he wasn’t a U.S. senator.

In an interview in February 2019, Graham was asked why he had such a dramatic shift of allegiance towards Donald Trump. His answer: “From my point of view, if you know anything about me, it’d be odd not to do this.” When asked what “this ” meant, he said “try to be relevant.”

It seems that for Graham, changing one’s operational code to fit the political climate so as to stay close to power is not just acceptable—it’s part of his inherent identity ….

Nicholas Connors, Lindsey Graham Is the Worst – The Bulwark


The true threat for the Church … comes … from the universal dictatorship of apparently humanistic ideologies. Anyone who contradicts this dictatorship is excluded from the basic consensus of society. One hundred years ago, anyone would have thought it absurd to speak of homosexual matrimony. Today those who oppose it are socially excommunicated. The same holds true for abortion and the production of human beings in the laboratory ….

Antonio Socci, Benedict XVI Warns of a New Totalitarianism (OnePeterFive)


What we are witnessing is a power grab carried out chiefly by some white Americans against other white Americans. The goal of the new woke national establishment, the successor to the old Northeastern mainline Protestant establishment that was temporarily displaced by the neo-Jacksonian New Deal Democratic coalition, is to stigmatize, humiliate and disempower recalcitrant Southern, Catholic, and Jewish whites, along with members of ethnic and racial minorities who refuse to be assimilated into the new national orthodoxy disseminated from New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and the prestigious private universities of New England. Properly understood, the Great Awokening is the revenge of the Yankees.

Michael Lind, The Revenge of the Yankees – Tablet Magazine


Another claim Mr. Giuliani referenced related to the delivery, in the middle of the night after Election Day, of boxes of ballots to the counting headquarters—several affidavits in the state lawsuit claimed these boxes were unmarked and unsealed. Judge Kenny dismissed those allegations as “generalized speculation.”

Mr. Giuliani was joined at the news conference by Sidney Powell, an attorney who has represented Michael Flynn, the former Trump administration national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is now trying to reverse the plea.

Ms. Powell aired accusations of foreign interference in the election, which she also claimed had been rigged by “communist money” from Cuba and China and through a plot concocted by Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan leader who died in 2013, and the financier George Soros.

Mr. Giuliani said he had viewed hundreds of affidavits in Michigan and Pennsylvania that proved fraud, though he said he couldn’t reveal most of them because the accusers wanted to remain anonymous.

Trump Legal Team Claims Broad Conspiracy to Manipulate Election – WSJ


No hard evidence of widespread fraud, no success in the courts or prospect of it. You can have a theory that a bad thing was done, but only facts will establish it. You need to do more than what Rudy Giuliani did at his news conference Thursday, which was throw out huge, barely comprehensible allegations and call people “crooks.” You need to do more than Sidney Powell, who, at the same news conference, charged that “communist money” is behind an international conspiracy to rig the U.S. election. There was drama, hyperbole, perhaps madness. But the wilder the charges, the more insubstantial the case appeared.

More than two weeks after the election, it’s clear where this is going. The winner will be certified and acknowledged; Joe Biden will be inaugurated. But it’s right to worry about the damage being done on the journey.

What would have happened if the John Birch Society had been online, if it had existed in the internet age when accusations, dark warnings and violent talk can rip through a country in a millisecond and anonymous voices can whip things up for profit or pleasure?

It wouldn’t have faded. It would have prospered.

Peggy Noonan, A Bogus Dispute Is Doing Real Damage – WSJ


Thursday morning, President Trump teased an “Important News Conference” happening later in the afternoon in which his lawyers would lay out a “clear and viable path to victory” because the “pieces are very nicely falling into place.” The only accurate part of the tweet was that a news conference did, indeed, occur. It was just under two hours, and the Trump administration’s recently fired CISA Director Chris Krebs called it “the most dangerous 1hr 45 minutes of television in American history.”

In a statement provided to The Dispatch, Sen. Ben Sasse said that “based on what I’ve read in their filings, when Trump campaign lawyers have stood before courts …, they have repeatedly refused to actually allege grand fraud—because there are legal consequences for lying to judges.”

The Morning Dispatch: Farcical (But Dangerous) Conspiracies From Trump’s Legal Team – The Morning Dispatch


The substitution of the word pendentem for ascendentem occurs only in the later medieval devotional texts of the prayer, and it transforms its whole theological resonance. The Crucifixion is now something which happens to Christ, rather than his triumphal act: he does not ascend the cross, he hangs upon it ….

Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars


I strongly believe that George W. Bush was a worse president than Donald Trump, even if we restrict our analysis to his first term. While Trump is more chaotic, Bush was more ideological, was better able to surround himself with staffers competent enough to carry out his worst policy wishes, and simply did considerably more harm to considerably more people.

Many, many people I respect and care about disagree with me about this, quite strongly. In my view, they have a tendency to overweight the importance of mean words and breaches of etiquette relative to actual policy. And surely Bush is better than Trump if the metric is rudeness.

On Donald Trump, George W. Bush, And Moral Luck – Singal-Minded

Count me among those who disagree, though it was Bush’s conversion from “walk humbly” conservatism to hawkish and utopian democracy-spending that led to my leaving the GOP.


We may think that we prefer that the royals can be more informal, more human, what we may get is someone as vulgar as Prince Andrew, with his womanizing and gallivanting with the odious Jeffrey Epstein. Or, to switch to another monarchy, consider Pope Francis, who brought marked informality to the papacy, which, if you ask me, was doing just fine with the papal pomp.

[H]aving made unwise vows, ought [Charles and Diana] both have kept them, at the expense of their happiness[?] I think yes. It is more important that they live out their duty to be what they promised to be, rather than to be what they wanted to be. What if that meant they were miserable together? No one wants a couple to suffer, and certainly no spouse should suffer abuse, including repeated and unrepentant infidelity. But following Dante’s wisdom, if people are not willing to suffer to be faithful to their vows (marital and otherwise), society will disintegrate.

One of the most stunning things anyone ever said to me came a few years ago when I traveled to a Christian college to give a talk about one of my books. I was talking over a meal with some professors, and asked, as is my habit, what are the greatest challenges they see facing their students. I’ll never forget what the professor sitting on my left said: that he did not think many of his students would be able to form stable families.

“Why on earth not?” I asked.

“Because they have never seen one,” he replied. Nods all around the table.

That floored me. These were students at an Evangelical Christian college, yet most of them, according to their teachers, came from broken families. The professors went on to explain that most of the students they talk to about it want to marry and have children, but they are filled with radical doubt about their ability to sustain marriage and family. And why not? Most of the adults in their lives have failed to live up to their marriage vows. They did not believe it was possible.

Rod Dreher, The Pity Of The Royal Marriage – Daily Dreher (commenting on the new season of The Crown on Netflix).


In his interview with Dreher, Vance warned — prophetically — that while Trumpism offered a cheap thrill, the man himself offered nothing to treat the root causes of American despair. He’s the OxyContin of Presidents. At best, he made people understand that their pain was economic as much as cultural. But Vance’s real disappointment with Trump — “the tragedy of his presidency” — is that he encouraged white working class voters to blame others for their problems … But the fact that Vance only made it out by the skin of his teeth — and hillbilly [venture capitalists] remain a rare breed — suggests that merely exhorting the people of Middletown, Ohio, to make better choices isn’t going to do much. As his book makes clear, a poor kid only needs to make a handful of bad choices to fail and 100 good choices to become a success. The opposite is true for rich kids: three of four decent choices all-but guarantee success; you need to continually mess up to truly mess up.

Hillbilly Elegy resents ‘white trash’ – UnHerd


Many readers outside of California will not have heard of Governor Gavin Newsom. But if you need to summon up a mental image, imagine Marie Antoinette without that late Queen’s sense of self-awareness.

That Douglas Murray sure knows how to write an opening paragraph.


the CIA’s “most endangered employee for much of the past year” was the whistleblower who helped launch the impeachment proceedings against the president.

I’ve … never seen anything like the atmosphere of fear and intimidation that’s reigned on the right from the moment that Donald Trump seized the commanding heights of the GOP. I strongly believe this reality explains a great deal of public Republican silence and compliance in the face of even obvious and egregious Trump deceptions, incompetence, and misdeeds. The Trumpist wing of the GOP wields a big stick even as it also offers a rather tasty carrot … if you yield.

… “only cowards don’t conform” is an odd way to define bravery.

Let’s Talk About Fear – The French Press


What I see, and Muñoz seems not to see is that the threat to fundamental American values is not an exclusively radical-left enterprise. A right captured by cruelty and illiberalism is not building a better America, and it’s certainly not building a governing majority. Moreover, it is curious to see Muñoz blithely assert that the radical left is overtaking the Democratic party when large segments of the Democratic party are not only in open revolt against the radical left, the moderate faction soundly defeated the radicals in the Democratic presidential primary—and the radicals know it.

Who represents the greater departure from American political norms? Joe Biden or Donald Trump?

Let’s Talk About Fear – The French Press


I’ve enjoyed the NYT The Argument podcast for a couple of years, but it seems to me that Michelle Goldberg is getting loonier and loonier since Frank Bruni left.


Similarly, Jim Wallis, a patriarch of the Religious Left, was cancelled this year because he declined to publish in Sojourners a hysterical piece accusing the Catholic Church of white supremacy. All of Wallis’s work meant nothing to these zealots. He’s just another old white male who is insufficiently woke.

‘Triumph Of The Hillbilly’ | The American Conservative

Jim Wallis not woke enough for Sojourners?! We are doomed.


The most surprising thing about Liberty’s dream season, however, may be the string of scandals that form the foundation for the school’s success. McCaw resigned from his last job at Baylor amid allegations that his department mishandled sexual-assault allegations involving football players. Head coach Hugh Freeze came to Liberty after resigning at Mississippi over “conduct in his personal life” involving escort services.

Both men were brought to Lynchburg, Va., by Jerry Falwell Jr., the former Liberty president who resigned earlier this year amid a series of scandals that included allegations, which Falwell denied, that he for years watched his wife have sex with another man.

College Football’s Biggest Upset: Liberty University Is Undefeated – WSJ

And fundamentalist parents pay money to send their kids to this fundamentalist school! Any resemblance between postmodern Protestant fundamentalism and “the faith once delivered” is purely coincidental.


Sorry, Jonathan Rausch. You’re a good writer, but Trump’s Firehose of Falsehood is just Steve Bannon’s “flood the zone with shit” cleaned up for family consumption.


One nice thing about the current situation is that it’s making the difference between extremely partisan but fundamentally honest folks like Dreher and Erickson and utter hacks like Metaxas extra clear.

Andrew Egger on Twitter, after Rod Dreher called out Eric Metaxas for breathlessly Tweeting a link to an “actual newspaper” with details of the “election fraud” — a newspaper Dreher knew to be a grocery-store-giveaway from a GOP hack.

There’s a lot, by the way, I don’t like about many of Dreher’s postings at his American Conservative blog, but I don’t think he qualifies as “extremely partisan.” He has worn his ambivalence about the GOP on his sleeve for more than a decade. In the back-and-forth on this Tweet, Egger eventually concedes that.

I also don’t think he’s “far right,” but as (1) that’s the zeitgeist and (2) it’s almost as meaningless as “poopy-head,” I’m not going to die on that hill.


A week ago, we got a complementary copy of an unfamiliar newspaper, the Epoch Times. It seemed conservative in orientation, a bit eccentric in story selection, and anachronistically anti-Communist. I was considering a 3-month subscription as a trial.

Googled it and found that it’s a Falun Gong operation.

I have nothing in particular against Falun Gong, but I refuse to fall into the thought-pattern that the dissidents within an adversary are ipso facto friends. I also don’t seek out the Christian Science Monitor or trust the Washington Times, an operation of the Unification Church.


Republicans are united in the idea that it’s intolerant to attempt to exclude traditional conservative Christians from public office because of their religious beliefs—or even to condemn them as extremists or immoral. To turn around a demand that a Christian pastor of a different church with different beliefs withdraw from politics because of his theology and his sermons are outside of the mainstream in a way that favors the GOP is indeed hypocritical.

But that’s not the end of the inquiry. There still remains the rather important reality that religious beliefs can drive both policy and conduct in office. We all ground our policies and conduct in a particular world view, whether it’s located in a secular philosophy or a religious theology. So if there are unfair ways of evaluating a person’s faith, there are also fair questions we can ask.

So yes, ask Pastor Warnock about American military spending, American military policy or about support for veterans. Ask him if his beliefs would require him to vote against military intervention no matter the stakes. But don’t assume you know the answer to those questions based on 26 seconds of a single sermon—especially when those 26 seconds easily match with conventional Christian beliefs.

It’s a simple reality that religious beliefs often seem strange or inexplicable to those outside the faith (or even outside a specific denomination). And when you’re not steeped in a specific theology, you often have no idea how it will play out in political philosophy. I’m a Christian in the Calvinist reformed tradition, for example, yet I have vigorous public policy disagreements with many of my Calvinist friends.

David French, ‘America, Nobody Can Serve God and the Military’, calling out Republican bullshit like this contemptible Marco Rubio tweet.


Dog bites man isn’t news. Man bites dog is news.

University gets free speech right, even when it’s speech of Republicans, is also news.


The worst judge of all is the man now most ready with his judgements; the ill-educated Christian turning gradually into the ill-tempered agnostic, entangled in the end of a feud of which he never understood the beginning, blighted with a sort of hereditary boredom with he knows not what, and already weary of hearing what he has never heard.

G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here or join me and others on micro.blog. You won’t find me on Facebook any more, and I don’t post on Twitter (though I do have an account for occasional gawking).

Miscellany 11/17/20

It is nothing short of horrifying, but sadly also completely unsurprising, to see an ACLU lawyer proclaim his devotion to “stopping the circulation of [a] book” because he regards its ideas as wrong and dangerous. There are, always have been, and always will be people who want to stop books from being circulated: by banning them, burning them, pressuring publishing houses to rescind publishing contracts or demanding corporations refuse to sell them. But why would someone with such censorious attitudes, with a goal of suppressing ideas with which they disagree, choose to go to work for the ACLU of all places?

Glenn Greenwald, The Ongoing Death of Free Speech: Prominent ACLU Lawyer Cheers Suppression of a New Book – Glenn Greenwald


Again, I don’t blame anybody for being put off of Christianity because their church has become preoccupied with politics (liberal or conservative). But to turn away from Christianity because of contemporary politics is like deciding you will never listen to music again because what’s on the radio is trite and offensive. What does Bach or Count Basie have to do with Cardi B? I imagine that some young people who do this think they are striking a blow for cosmopolitan broad-mindedness, but in fact they may well be just as narrow and parochial as those they criticize.

Christianity Beyond Here & Now – Daily Dreher (emphasis added)

I have lamented many times that thee avatars of Christianity in the U.S. are Evangelicalism and Roman Catholicism, neither of which accurately represents my faith. But Dreher has a point: mainstream Protestantism and Orthodoxy are not secret, and leaving Christianity because of priests buggering boys or Evangelical MAGA is lazy and parochial.


I knew that Bari [Weiss] and I could be friends and allies when I read her resignation letter from The New York Times opinion page. As a professional journalist of over 30 years, I can tell you that nobody quits The New York Times. It is the pinnacle of the profession, and Bari Weiss had reached it at a shockingly young age. But she told them to go to hell because she couldn’t stand the culture of lynch-mob leftism within the newspaper, and the way her fellow liberals were capitulating to it. To make that kind of sacrifice — leaving the Times for an uncertain future — is an act of courage and principle. I wrote her to tell her so, and how proud I was of her. And so we became allies.

You find that moral courage does not follow ideological or religious lines. On the Zoom call, I told a story about how I learned this lesson at the start of the Catholic abuse scandal, in early 2002, when the story broke big out of Boston. I spoke at a Catholic journalism conference in Washington, and argued that Catholic journalists had a responsibility as Catholics to tell the truth about what was happening in the Church.

At that same conference, though, a Catholic priest who was publisher of a major Catholic newspaper congratulated himself for running a paper that was not going to descend to the gutter to write about such filth. Imagine that: a newspaper publisher who thinks of himself as morally virtuous for having no curiosity about certain truths. A well-known Catholic journalist accused me publicly of airing the Church’s dirty laundry to advance my career in the secular world. I respected him greatly before that statement, but after it, I knew the kind of man he was.

Rod Dreher, Coffee, Kristin, Courage – Daily Dreher


These people, these leftists in charge of journalistic institutions, are so sold out to their narrow vision of the world that they make it impossible for anyone who doesn’t share their ideology to work in a newsroom — and then they fault the talented writers who can make a go of it on their own for doing so, because it’s racist?!

I read The New York Times and The Washington Post for the same reason a Kremlinologist would have read Pravda and Izvestia: for insights into how the ruling class thinks. I don’t read them for accurate and insightful information about the way the world is.

Rod Dreher, The Substack Threat | The American Conservative


[T]he Danish mink episode is just one more proof that factory farms are ticking time-bombs of zoonotic disease — those which leap from animals to humans — and petri-dishes of bacterial infections.

Humans are meant to be wise — indeed, so wise that we called ourselves sapiens twice — but you do wonder. We elevate ourselves over animals, consider them as Other, when biologically the species barrier between us is thin. Even non-existent. Take the common-or-garden pink pig, for instance: the pig so physiologically resembles humans that it has been used in medical research for over 30 years as a translational model. That is, if it works in a pig it is likely to work in humans.

John Lewis-Stempel, Factory farming will kill us all – UnHerd.

Corollary: If it makes pig sick …


Think of the Philip Reiff quote – “men used to go to church to have their misery explained to them. Now they go to church to be made happy”.

These kids have inherited their parents’ anxieties about comfort and status. They were also told by their parents that the most important thing in life was to Go To College and Get A Good Job. Well guess what? Both of those things offer comfort and status but are hostile to traditional Christianity. So guess what gets left behind?

A reader to Rod Dreher, explaining the Evangelical Crisis (that many think arrived November 3-7, roughly).


I don’t blame them at all for being alienated from a church that is essentially MAGA At Prayer, but the idea that white conservative American Evangelicalism represents the fullness of Christianity is simply bizarre — so strange that I find it hard to accept that MAGA is why they have left the faith.

Rod Dreher, The Evangelical Crisis | The American Conservative.

Lie down with dogs, rise up with fleas — and expect people to give you a wide berth.


Another Bulwark writer said that although the prospect of Biden losing Pennsylvania was not what “we wanted,” the Democratic nominee could still win the presidency if he won Arizona, plus two electoral votes in Maine and two in Nebraska. At that point, Charen lost the rest of her chill.

“Right now, we are facing the possibility of not only not getting that, but having that fucker in office for four years!” Charen cried …

I went to Charen’s house on Election Night because she once considered herself too conservative for George H. W. Bush, yet she committed herself so wholeheartedly to booting Trump out of office that she even voted for Democrats in down-ballot races this year.

“I want the Republican Party to feel spanked, so that it reforms and makes a U-turn,” she told me. She struggled to name the one thing that most disgusts her about Trump and his Republican enablers. It came down to “Are you a decent human being? Do you mostly tell the truth instead of mostly not?”

In 2018, she appeared on a panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference. When asked about feminism, she attacked her own tribe, saying, “I’m disappointed in people on our side for being hypocrites on sexual harassers and abusers of women who are in our party, who are in the White House, who brag about their extramarital affairs, who brag about mistreating women. And because he happens to have an R after his name, we look the other way; we don’t complain.”

The crowd erupted in jeers and shouts of “Not true!” Charen had been a speechwriter for Nancy Reagan! This was CPAC, Republican prom! Security guards escorted her out for her own protection.

The incident didn’t seem to shake her. “There is nothing more freeing than telling the truth,” Charen later wrote in a New York Times op-ed.

Bill Kristol, The Bulwark, and Republicans for Biden – The Atlantic

I have admired Mona Charen for many decades. I never imagined I’d still be admiring her after we’d both come to despise the GOP, our former party.


“These men and women sign up to take a bullet for the president if necessary and he won’t even wear a mask to protect them,” said Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill).

Knowhere News

Covid aside, I wonder how Secret Service agents feel about “taking a bullet” for Trump if necessary.


Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.

You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.

W.H. Auden

The worst judge of all is the man now most ready with his judgements; the ill-educated Christian turning gradually into the ill-tempered agnostic, entangled in the end of a feud of which he never understood the beginning, blighted with a sort of hereditary boredom with he knows not what, and already weary of hearing what he has never heard.

G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here or join me and others on micro.blog. You won’t find me on Facebook any more, and I don’t post on Twitter (though I do have an account for occasional gawking).

Election, Justices and Sanity

The Election

From “Our choice is Joe Biden*,” an editorial in the New Hampshire Union Leader, Oct. 25:

> Our endorsement for President of these United States goes to Joe Biden.
>
> While Joe Biden is the clear choice for president, it would be a disservice to the country to send him to the White House without a backstop. We suggest splitting the ballot and electing a healthy dose of GOP senators and representatives. The best governance often comes through compromise. The civility of the Biden administration will help foster such compromise, but a blue wave would be nearly as disastrous for this country as four more years of Trump. It would result in a quagmire of big government programs that will take decades to overcome.

Notable & Quotable: A Footnote to a Biden Endorsement – WSJ

Yes, I agree, but I don’t think for a moment that’s what will happen next Tuesday.


For the people closest to me in terms of education (graduate degree), socioeconomic status (upper-middle-class suburban), region (the northeastern megalopolis stretching from Washington to Boston), and race (white), Donald Trump is an appalling human being in just about every respect. He’s corrupt. He’s cruel. He’s a bigot. He’s ignorant. He’s mendacious. He’s a narcissist. And he’s a jerk. Unlike many previous presidents, there is nothing admirable about him at all. He’s a kind anti-role-model, showing how a person shouldn’t behave in the world — the kind of person about whom you might say to your children, “Whatever you do, don’t be like him.”

But for people who write angry responses to my most critical columns about the president — most of them men, many of them from other parts of the country, quite often with military backgrounds — he looks very different. For them, Trump is a man of strength, of courage. He’s a fighter and a patriot. Even if he’s not particularly admirable as a person overall, he has qualities that we should want to have in a leader, and that are under threat in our country. They are qualities that Americans, and especially boys, should be raised to look up to and emulate, including a refusal to back down, a toughness and tenacity, and a willingness to insist that masculine strength be revered and inculcated.

I suspect this difference is a source of many of our political disputes, and the sense that we now reside in very different countries. That’s because the dispute has to do with an important and deeply significant disagreement about what type of human being, oriented to certain kinds of ideals and rooted in a certain kind of emotional life, we want our country to produce.

As a pundit, I usually shy away from issuing armchair psychological diagnoses of public figures, including our president. Unlike some columnists, I’ve never written that Trump is mentally “unwell.” Yet I have nonetheless become convinced by those who speculate that a good part of his worst behavior — the cruelty, the neediness, the craving for approval, the distinctive combination of comic bravado and paralyzing insecurity — could well be a function of him trying to make up or compensate for a childhood almost totally lacking in parental, and especially paternal, love.

Damon Linker, The very different emotional lives of Trump and Biden voters


[The] fears that religious conservatives feel are real and ought not be brushed off lightly. Losing our shaping and beloved institutions is a grievous loss. But I do not think our fears can ultimately be answered politically … Laws and policies that protect religious liberty are important, but we, as a Christian community, cannot seek those laws at any cost. If we do, we will lose our own souls in the process of preserving our freedoms.

If shoring up religious freedom requires us to champion someone whose administration is responsible for making more than 545 children orphans, someone who in Sen. Ben Sasse’s words “flirts with White supremacy,” who bullies and denigrates others and constantly engages in misogyny, arrogance and divisiveness, then we cannot preserve religious liberty while remaining faithful to the ethical call of Jesus. Self-protectiveness on the part of religious people is understandable, but … [t]he church exists to glorify God by loving and serving our neighbor. If our own institutional preservation trumps all other ethical commitments, then we have already lost what is most dear.

Given the Trump administration’s shutdown of the asylum system and so-called “Muslim ban,” it is debatable if his presidency has actually benefitted the cause of religious liberty … The root of religious freedom amid pluralism is love for our neighbors, especially our ideological or political enemies. We cannot spend eight years supporting a president whose basic modus operandi is meanness and cruelty– who vocally disagrees with the call to love one’s enemy–and then expect anyone to take us seriously when we ask them to respect our religious freedom.

“But wait!” I can hear traditional religious people cry, “Even if we are kind, respectful and honoring of our neighbor’s dignity, they will not be respectful of ours. We can be as ‘winsome’ as can be, and we will still be marginalized as bigots.” I think this may be true, but this objection assumes that kindness, respectfulness and the self-giving love of Jesus is useful [only – implied, I think] insofar as it is a successful cultural strategy. Christian discipleship calls us to radical love for our neighbor and to honor the dignity of those around us. We are called to work for the common good. We are called to witness to a different kind of King and a different kind of Kingdom. These ethical mandates are not contingent upon—nor a guarantee of—any particular outcome. They are a means to no other end other than to know and glorify God.

Tish Harrison Warren, Don’t vote Trump for religious liberty (emphasis added)


“The chief value proposition of Donald Trump’s presidency is appointees,” Noah Rothman, an editor at Commentary, told me. Barrett’s confirmation may be “the last act of this presidency,” and if Trump loses next week, “Republicans will look back on [it] fondly.”

Emma Green, Republicans Confirm Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court – The Atlantic

“Chief value proposition”: Nice phrase, which being interpreted is “otherwise, he was and is pretty worthless.”


Reading The American Conservative 2020 Presidential Symposium, I’m disappointed how many are voting for Trump, but heartened that three are voting for the American Solidarity Party candidate Brian Carroll.


Amy Coney Barrett

“In a less political time than we find ourselves today, I suspect [Amy Coney Barrett] would have the unanimous support of this body,” said Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.)

Knowhere News


[T]here is no precedent for judges or justices recusing because a case implicates the interests of the President who nominated them. Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh did not recuse in Trump v. Vance and Trump v. Mazars, and Justices Ginsburg and Breyer did not recuse in Clinton v. Jones. Likewise, the only one of President Nixon’s appointees to recuse in United v. Nixon was William Rehnquist, who recused because of his work in the Office of Legal Counsel, not because he was a Nixon appointee.

Jonathan A. Adler, * Should Justice Barrett Recuse from 2020 Election Litigation?*


A fine irony: after spending ~150 years proving that Roman Catholics are good liberal democratic Americans, we get yet another Catholic Justice just as Catholic scholars Deneen, Vermeule, Pappin argue against liberalism.


General Sanity

According to Michael Casey’s description, lectio divina has four stages—lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio—that roughly correspond to the different senses of Scripture—literal, Christological, behavioral, and mystical. Though you need not move through these four stages chronologically, one could move through them in the following way. First, in the lectio stage, read and re-read the text, marking key passages where the author’s argument is clearest. Write in your own words the key ideas, concepts, and arguments. In the meditatio stage, think about the context in which the text was written. What was happening in the world or the author’s life when the book was written? What was the author’s motivation, and to whom does the author write? Third, in the oratio stage, pay attention to how these ideas speak to your conscience and make you reflect on your behavior, habits, and dispositions. Fourth, in the contemplatio stage, think about what these texts say about your relationship with God, either directly or indirectly.

Lectio divina helps us slow down.

Margarita A. Mooney, Lectio Divina and Online Learning | First Things


Yet another pet peeve: consequentialist arguments for Christianity (or “religion” if you must). See Tish Harrison Warren above for repudiation of one such bad argument: “that kindness, respectfulness and the self-giving love of Jesus is useful [only] insofar as it is a successful cultural strategy.”


I was leaning toward Supreme Court Term Limits (18-year term, one justice out every two years) until I read this from the son of my late Constitutional Law prof (and himself a ConLaw heavy-hitter). Too many big problems even if you assume a Constitutional Amendment would pass.


Words I hope never to hear in an Orthodox Church: Director of Paintball Ministry. (David French, bless his heart, filled this role at his heterodox church).


I believe we are far advanced down and past the destruction of the republic … [but] maybe Frodo and Sam are, even now, on their way to Mordor to throw the ring of power into Mount Doom.

Andrew Kern, Why We Couldn’t Keep it (I) | Circe Institute

Georgia May 2019

In May 2019, I spent a bit over a week in Georgia, in the Caucasus, east of the Black Sea and bordering Russia, Turkey and Armenia. I went under the auspices of First Things Foundation, an Orthodox economic development charity, which raises a little money taking people to places where they have (or in this case, were placing) field workers.

I had to wait until after the Spring Concert of a group I sing in, but then off to Chicago, on to Lufthansa, and Tbilisi about 16 hours later after a Frankfurt transfer. Most of my mates had already been knocking around a few days.

First Things Foundation isn’t a travel agency or tour guide and it was not a fancy tour. We stayed in no proper hotels, and one of our places was up four flights, no elevator.

2019 05 11 19 38 11+0400

May 11, overlooking ‎⁨Tbilisi⁩, ⁨Georgia⁩, from Turtle Lake Ascent, where we …

2019 05 11 19 41 24+0400

2019 05 11 19 41 30+0400

2019 05 11 19 41 35+0400

… feasted at our first “Supra,” where tradition calls for 16 (I think) toasts. I was fewer than 4 hours on the ground at this point, after a long flight, and am not a big drinker anyway. But I survived pretty well.

2019 05 11 22 06 05+0400 1

These Kool-Aid pitchers are wine. There were many of them …

2019 05 11 22 36 31+0400

2019 05 11 22 59 47+0400

… and they lasted into the night — but not too late to keep me from Church on Metekhi ascent, where (alas!) I have only a video which won’t embed, apparently.

Later, we made our way toward Stepantsminda, but stopped, too close to Tbilisi for the geotagging to specify, for this old church:

IMG 0801 IMG 0805

IMG 0806

IMG 0808 IMG 0811

IMG 0812 IMG 0814

It’s a long, long way to Stepandsminda, on the Russian border, but for one thing we didn’t need our guides, as it sported the World’s Best Ideogram (zoom in if necessary):

IMG 0834

Spring in this region comes late.

IMG 0835

Our destination was Qazbegi, which I think is probably a regional name, which includes Stepantsminda (named for St. Stephen). Georgia is northern neighbor of Armenia, the oldest Christian nation, and became Christian soon after Armenia – in the early 4th Century. It is reportedly (but you know how those Chambers of Commerce are) the birthplace of wine. We have it on greater authority that it is the birthplace of Stalin, but never mind.

We were in Stepantsminda two nights, to attend a wedding and reception for one of the First Things Foundation fieldworkers. He was marrying a Russian doctor, who he met in Central America, and they chose Georgia to minimize visas and other hassles for Russian and American friends and family.

The wedding was in a monastic church, up the mountain, a mere stone’s throw from Russia.

IMG 0848 IMG 0850 IMG 0852 IMG 0854 IMG 0857 IMG 0858

The bride was late, coming from Tbilisi in bad weather, with the vocal ensemble that sang sacred Georgia Chant for the wedding, popular songs (even Hotel California) at the reception, so we had ample chance to look around, and the breaking weather made for a spectacular photo of the couple.

IMG 0861 IMG 0864

Area scenery. The monastery church is visible near the top of the near mountain in the first photo:

IMG 0841 IMG 0844
IMG 0865 IMG 0867

IMG 0870

IMG 0879

That was my boarding house to the right in the last photo.

Breakfast place (Shorena’s Bar in Stepantsminda) and company, I’m on the right.

IMG 0881

IMG 0846

The day after the wedding, we made our way to Svetitskhoveli in Mtskheta, the old capital of Georgia. Our Boarding house was a durn siight nicer than the one in Stepantsminda …

IMG 0903 IMG 0905 IMG 0939 IMG 0941

… but the highlight for me —not just of Mtskheta but of the whole trip — was the old cathedral (where I believe Patriarch Ilya still resides on the grounds) and making the acquaintance of St. Gabriel, a Fool for Christ, who reposed in Christ in 1995.

Saint first (I couldn’t resist buying this icon), Cathedral photos follow. There are many more I didn’t publish here and many more on the web, some better than any of mine.

:IMG 1016IMG 0885IMG 0889 IMG 0891

IMG 0887

IMG 0906 IMG 0908 IMG 0909 IMG 0910 IMG 0915 IMG 0916

Two very Georgian-style icons:

IMG 0923 IMG 0924

IMG 0934

We hung around Mtskheta and environs for much of a day, including a nice alfresco lunch.

IMG 0984

IMG 0985

Georgia seems to have churches everywhere you turn, many of them a thousand or fifteen hundred years old. I could not keep track and geotagging isn’t very specific in rural Georgia. So here’s a little scenery and a lot of church from later in the trip.

IMG 0989 IMG 0990 IMG 0992 IMG 0994 IMG 0995 IMG 0996 IMG 0998 IMG 1004 IMG 1006

IMG 1038 IMG 1046

IMG 1047

IMG 1048

IMG 1050

IMG 1052

St. Nino, a woman, is virtually the founder of Georgia’s Church, and is venerated quite highly. Her distinctive cross is a Georgian marker:

IMG 1078

Back in Tbilisi, more sightseeing, including a Georgian Family Day celebration on the plaza of the new Cathedral.

A haberdashery for monks and clergy.

IMG 1185

IMG 1214

IMG 1231IMG 1233

Family Day festivities:

IMG 1240 IMG 1241 IMG 1242 IMG 1247 IMG 1249

Careful color-coordination:

IMG 1257

A luscious dish we should cook here: “Madame Bovary.”

IMG 1236

I was plenty ready for home after almost 8 days in Georgia, mostly passively going where I was driven, but getting some solo Tbilisi walking in at the end. (By the way: I recommend Lufthansa very highly.)

I was raised Evangelical by parents who got their adult-convert Christian formation in a fundamentalist baptist church. In the 50s and 60s, our kind of Evangelicals followed the fundamentalist taboos: smoking, drinking, dancing, playing cards, and secret societies.

I say that to put in perspective my discomfort with Georgian-level drinking — not just the wines but a sort of moonshine brandy they call Cha-cha. A lot of my pleasure in this trip was attenuated by that discomfort, which involves some collateral stories best left untold.

My overall impression of Georgia and the Georgians is an ancient people and culture, deeply and historically Christian, but in a manner that confounds Church and nation to an extent unknown in the U.S. Similar confounding is found in Greece and Russia. Oh: they don’t do Fundamentalist/Evangelical taboos — for better or worse.

It’s above my pay grade to judge whether the Christianity suffers in the amalgam, but it certainly is different from being in a minority Christian tradition in the U.S.