Curated just for you, whoever you are

Legalia

Why would a conservative want to serve on SCOTUS?

I can’t fathom why anyone would want to serve on the Supreme Court. To be more precise, I can’t fathom why any conservative would want to serve on the Supreme Court. Liberal jurists are feted with honors at every juncture. But conservative jurists are excoriated and personally attacked. I wonder, in hindsight, if Kavanaugh still would have pursued a position on the Supreme Court, knowing what we know now: the first confirmation hearing, baseball tickets, Spartacus, Christine Blasey Ford, Michael Avenatti, Ronan Farrow, the second confirmation hearing, yearbook, beer, Klobuchar, Saturday Night Live, Matt Damon, the Dobbs leak, and now an assassination attempt outside of his home. During this time, Kavanaugh and his family have been dragged through such painful experiences, one after the other. Was it all worth it? And to what end?

Eugene Volokh

303 Creative

Creative professionals routinely express their politics in their art—through the art they choose or refuse to create. Famously, for example, shortly after the election of Donald Trump, a number of fashion designers (artists, to be sure) declared that they would, under no circumstances, “dress” Melania or Ivanka Trump –this despite the fact that dresses themselves rarely (if ever) contain a political or cultural message as explicit as the words or image a web designer creates. Merely doing business with the Trumps was an intolerable notion to creative professionals who abhorred the Trump family’s political methods and messages.

In an open letter rejecting the idea of working with the Trumps, designer Sophie Theallet said, “We value our artistic freedom, and always humbly seek to contribute to a more humane, conscious, and ethical way to create in this world.” She said, “As an independent fashion brand, we consider our voice an expression of our artistic and philosophical ideas.” And another designer, Naeem Khan, asserted: “A designer is an artist, and should have the choice of who they want to dress or not.”

In reporting on the designer choices, the Washington Post’s Robin Givhan explained well how artists view their work:

Like other creative individuals, Theallet sees fashion as a way of expressing her views about beauty and the way women are perceived in society. Fashion is her tool for communicating her world vision. In the same way that a poet’s words or a musician’s lyrics are a deeply personal reflection of the person who wrote them, a fashion designer’s work can be equally as intimate. In many ways, it’s why we are drawn to them. We feel a one-to one connection.

A web designer’s work is similarly intimate ….

Brief of 15 Family Policy Organizations as Amici Curiae in Support of Petitioners in the 303 Creative case (internal citations omitted).

If you don’t know the case, you should get to know it.

Colorado, with the help of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appealsl, has mounted the worst, and most explicit, attack on freedom from compelled speech since West Virginia v. Barnette in World War II (when West Virginia required recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance by schoolchildren on pain of expulsion).

Colorado claimed that even though 303 Creative was engaged in pure speech (a key legal category; Masterpiece Cakehop, in contrast, had a creative element but in the end produced not speech, but cake), it could be compelled to create a website for a same-sex wedding because none of the other wedding website creators had exactly the talents of 303 Creative, so 303 was effectively a monopoly and could be forced to create the desired site:

In its decision below, the 10th circuit noted that the petitioners’ artistry created something like a “monopoly,” a market where only the petitioners exist.

Id. Only madness-induced blindness could distinguish the relevant facts of this case from those in West Virginia v. Barnette to the detriment of 303 Creative. Read and enjoy the whole Amicus brief.

Understated

The problem is a reflection of a badly broken political culture and it won’t be easily fixed. But, in the meantime, the House should probably go ahead and pass that SCOTUS protection bill.

The Morning Dispatch on increasing political violence, prompted specifically by the plot against Justice Kavanaugh.

More generally, the Morning Dispatch’s coverage of the successful recall of San Francisco Prosecuting Attorney Chesa Boudin confirms its trustworthiness as a news source: It has more points in Boudin’s favor than I’ve noticed anywhere else, and they aren’t insubstantial.

Sexualia

Incoherent Pride

[I]t is interesting that the American Embassy to the Vatican is flying the rainbow flag for Pride month. Commentators have pointed out the obvious intent to cause offense to the Catholic Church. But the embassy’s decision also sends a message to the American people: Another flag has government endorsement. The message of “inclusion” that it represents signals to those Americans who might dissent from the LGBTQ+ movement that in these interesting times their membership in the republic for which the real national flag stands is more a matter of tolerance than full-blooded affirmation.

The problems with LGBTQ+ inclusion are, of course, manifold. First, there is the logical problem that any movement deploying the rhetoric of inclusion has to face: If everyone is included and nobody is excluded, then the movement is meaningless. Thus, the language of “inclusion” here is really a code word for precisely the opposite: It actually means exclusion and the delegitimizing of any person or group that dissents from what the movement’s movers and shakers deem to be acceptable opinion. Acceptable thought will typically tend toward a view of reality that regards such dissenters as mentally deficient, sub-human, or simply evil.

Carl R. Trueman

Succinct

There are masculine girls. There are feminine boys. What are we going to do? Carve them up?

Jordan Peterson on the Official Trailer for the Matt Walsh documentary (prank-a-thon?) What is a Woman?.

Politics

Relatively successful

Purdue University president Mitch Daniels is retiring at the end of the year. Consistent with his maverick ways over the last 10 years, his successor was announced concurrently with his retirement announcement. There was no public Presidential search, and we will doubtless be treated to days of complaints, petty and serious, about that.

His successor will be the professor and Dean, Dr. Mung Chiang, who served as his Executive Vice President for Strategic Initiatives, of which Purdue has formed a great many over the last 10 years, with some of the biggest corporate names in the world.

I’m very proud of Purdue, my neighbor just across the Wabash, but I would prefer that my loved ones not attend there.

First, like most major universities today, the streets of the campus flow with alcohol, which endangers students of both sexes with the ambiguities of sexual interactions between drunks.

Second, I prefer undergraduate liberal arts education to enlisting in the Technocracy fresh out of high school.

But it seems to me that Mitch Daniels has been a tremendously successful Ginormous Research University President, and I wish him well.

"A Crucial Element of Fascism"

The American militia movement is small, but in the early days of 2021, it nonetheless came to the aid of a lawless president seeking to use force to keep himself in power. It did so by attacking the national legislature and threatening to kill elected representatives of the American people. And when this happened, the president himself stood back and stood by, watching expectantly, refusing to call off the armed mob, hoping the violence might empower him to remain in the White House despite losing the election two months earlier. In doing so, Trump ended up injecting a crucial element of fascism into the country’s political system.

I don’t use the F-word lightly. Trump winning the presidency while losing the popular vote by three million isn’t fascism. Trump appointing a record number of judges and three Supreme Court justices who appear poised to overturn Roe v. Wade isn’t fascism. Trump attempting to close the southern border to immigrants and refugees isn’t fascism. Trump’s verbal attacks on the media aren’t fascism (though they could be said to lay the groundwork for it by stoking popular rage against a free press). Trump engaging in the politics of bullshit by lying constantly to the American people isn’t fascism (though it, too, can prepare the way for it by leading voters to despair of firmly distinguishing between fact and falsehood).

But groups of organized, armed thugs allied with the president acting at his request to prevent the peaceful and lawful transfer of power to his successor is absolutely a fascist act. We’ve seen nothing remotely like it elsewhere in the democratic world, no matter how bad the illiberal policies and rhetoric of newly emboldened right-wing populists in other countries have been.

Damon Linker

Holding up that hateful mirror

Republicans are the co-creators of Trump’s corrupt and unconstitutional enterprise. The great majority of them are still afraid to break fully with him. They consider those who have, like Liz Cheney, to be traitors to the party. They hate Cheney because she continues to hold up a mirror to them. They want to look away. She won’t let them.

Peter Wehner

Is racism a public health crisis?

My fair city has approved a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis.

The statistics on racial disparities are stark. But unless the reporting is botched — a very real possibility considering that our Gannett paper hovers near death — the response is one of those "OMG! WE’VE GOT TO DO SOMETHING!" responses, and implicitly accepts the dogma that all racial disparities are caused by racism.

My point would be mere pedantry were it not for the likelihood that a vague diagnosis of "racism" as the cause is likely to lead to errant treatment.

Stochastic Terrorism

I’m kind of a sucker for portentous names given to commonsense observations. My new one is "stochastic terrorism," introduced by David French with a link to Todd Morley.

As French puts the commonsensical translation:

The concept is both common-sense and controversial. The common-sense element is easy to explain. If you’re a normal person and five people hate you, what are the odds you’ll face targeted violence? Unless you’re engaged in criminal activity yourself (and the five people who hate you are other criminals), then the odds are almost impossibly low.

But what if 50,000 people hate you? Or five million? Then the odds change considerably, until they reach a virtual certainty that you’ll face a threat of some kind.

Why did the Californian last week go after Justice Kavanaugh instead of Justice Alito? How many million people hate Brett Kavanaugh? How did there come to be so many who hate him? D’ya think it might have something to do with the over-the-top attacks during his confirmation hearings?

That’s how you build a frenzy from which someone emerges to exact just retribution on some putative fiend. Todd Morely names a few names.

(FWIW: I cooled about 20 degrees on Kavanaugh as soon as it emerged that he has been a heavy recreational beer-drinker since years before he could drink legally. Call me extreme — and on this topic, I clearly am far out of the American mainstream — but I think a Supreme Court Justice should have a history of abiding even by annoying little laws like minimum drinking age, and of sobriety both literal and figurative. Drunken frat boys are a turnoff even when they don’t grope co-eds.)

Well, anyway, back to stochastic terrorism. French again:

Of course the ultimate recent example of hatred and fury spawning violence is the attack on the Capitol on January 6. It was perhaps the most predictable spasm of violence in recent American history. One cannot tell tens of millions of Americans that an election is stolen and that the very fate of the country hangs in the balance without some of those people actually acting like the election was stolen and the nation is at stake.

But if the concept of stochastic terrorism is so obviously connected to human experience, why is it controversial? In part because it aims responsibility upward, and it places at least some degree of moral responsibility for violent acts on passionate nonviolent people. While criminal responsibility may rest exclusively with the person who carries the gun (or his close conspirators), moral responsibility is not so easy to escape.

(Emphasis added).

Too long I have blithely and exclusively "blamed the person who carries the gun", discounting (if not ignoring) incitements that stop short of criminality. I remain a free speech advocate, and I detest the idea that any truth is too dangerous to be uttered lawfully. But it is becoming too, too obvious politicians and pundits who make careers of vilifying specific opponents, and internet jackasses who doxx the scapegoat du jour, are playing with fire, and at the very least should face political, social and commercial* sanctions.

And to the extent that I have dehumanizingly vilified Donald Trump over the last three years, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!

(* I have in mind commercial sanctions like boycotting Tucker Carlson’s advertisers, but I don’t want to watch him to find out who they are.)

UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg alludes to who Tucker’s advertisers are:

Seb Gorka dron[ing] on about Relief Factor (a fish oil supplement that all super-patriots take before they put their heads on Mike Lindell’s pillows)

No chance for boycotting there.

Religion

Normally, I’d consider putting Religion in first position, but the following are not the kinds of dogma or dogma-adjacent things that cry out for that.

Here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson

In David & Bathsheba, we see a man in the act of either removing—or replacing—a jacket from a woman’s shoulders. Is this the moment before or after King David has committed adultery with the wife of his general? Mrs. Potiphar presents us not with a cartoonish harridan panting after the biblical Joseph, but an attractive, middle-aged woman staring pensively at her reflection in a mirror. McCleary treats the incident not in terms of mere lust, but in a larger psychological and spiritual context of loneliness and fear of death.

Gregory Wolfe, Beauty Will Save the World.

The "Mrs. Potiphar" Wolfe refers to is presumably this:

Mrs. Potiphar

If you don’t know the allusion, read Genesis 39. If you don’t know what Genesis 39 is, may God have mercy on your ignorant soul.

A Dangerous Inversion

To justify Christianity because it provides a foundation of morality, instead of showing the necessity of Christian morality from the truth of Christianity, is a very dangerous inversion; and we may reflect, that a good deal of the attention of totalitarian states has been devoted, with a steadiness of purpose not always found in democracies, to providing their national life with a foundation of morality — the wrong kind perhaps, but a good deal more of it. It is not enthusiasm, but dogma, that differentiates a Christian from a pagan society.

T.S. Eliot via Kevin D. Williamson, who continues:

Eliot’s “dangerous inversion” is very much the model for the intersection of religion with politics in our time: Religion is, and is almost universally assumed to be, the junior partner.

American Evangelicals as Cultural Christians

What has happened is that the Christian sense of collective identity has persisted even among those hollowed-out Christians who have abandoned Christian orthodoxy, reducing the Christian confession to a demographic box to check, one of many constituent parts of an American “national identity.” Never mind, for the moment, that one of the hallmarks of the authentic American identity is approaching Christian orthodoxy and Christian observance with a seriousness that brushes up against fanaticism: The story of the United States does not begin with the arrival of the first slave, as the 1619 Project would argue, but with the arrival of the first Separatist.

For a century or so, Americans have had friends and countrymen who are “culturally Jewish.” We know what that means: a Jewish sense of communal identity bound to that vague American religious sensibility that sits somewhere between Protestant and agnostic — not atheistic, but operatively secular. I have not heard many Catholics call themselves “culturally Catholic” — Catholics who have given up Catholicism mostly just continue to call themselves “Catholic,” with the “cultural” qualifier being understood. In the case of Catholics, the communal identity is not in the end religious at all but is instead only the detritus of immigrant ethnic identities that have been dissolved in the hot soup of modernity. Conservatives used to be the ones who preferred the “melting pot” model of communal life to ethnic and religious particularism, but the rightist element Hochman writes about has, to some considerable degree, abandoned that. And so we have that new thing, the “cultural Christian.” I believe the first time I ever heard the term used was by Richard Spencer, the white nationalist, who found his parents’ Episcopalianism insufficiently invigorating.

Evangelicals, particularly white Evangelicals, are an important part of the new coalition that was formed around the campaign and cult of Donald Trump, but Christian thinking per se plays almost no role in that cult. Indeed, it would be very difficult for these Christians if it were otherwise: Donald Trump is an idolator and a heretic, a blasphemer and a perpetrator of sacrilege, and much more ….

Kevin D. Williamson


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Monday collation

Politics

The Irreligious Right

I used to say "If you don’t like the Religious Right, just wait till you see the nonreligious Right." The nonreligious Right is here, and now dominates the grassroots GOP.

Frankly, it’s not (yet) as bad as we feared for varying reasons (but it’s trending worse, I think).

A fantastically good overview, ‌Republicans Are Now the Party of the Nonreligious Right appeared Thursday in, of all places, the New York Times, written by one Nate Hochman of National Review. It is long and deep, and I’m going to need to read it again to sort out what this means for me personally; Hochman already brilliantly identified why the GOP now gives me the willies (as do the Democrats, but then they always have).

I don’t know if I picked up the moniker in the Hochman article, but it appears to me that what he describes may be closely related to what others have calle "Barstool conservatism":

What could unite free-market libertarians, revanchist Catholics, Southern evangelicals, and working-class Reagan Democrats but their shared hatred of… actual Democrats?

Derek Robertson, How Republicans Became the ‘Barstool’ Party.

Drain those brains

In the Washington Post, Josh Rogin argues some congressional Republicans are forgetting one of the key takeaways from the Cold War: that exploiting brain drain from autocratic societies is a “smart and righteous” strategy. “The whole world is competing for the talents of those who are fleeing from Hong Kong and Putin’s Russia,” Rogin writes, noting Republicans have blocked efforts to ease visa restrictions for high-skilled workers from those regions. “Cruz claimed that accepting Hong Kongers was the first step to opening our borders and that the Chinese Communist Party could exploit the program to send spies to the United States. This ignores the fact that China has much easier ways to get spies into our country and that the CCP is trying to stop Hong Kongers from leaving because Beijing knows the brain-drain risk for China is real. … Republicans’ excessive fear of immigration should not waste a strategic opportunity for the United States to strengthen itself and weaken its rivals at the same time. Congress should work to ensure that China’s and Russia’s losses are America’s gains.”

The Morning Dispatch.

Surely Rogin is right, right?

Justin Trudeau

One of the oddities of Canadian politics is that its Liberal Party politicians so often sound like they’re running for office in the U.S. And, right on time this week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that he wants to ban the sale of handguns and confiscate so-called assault weapons via a mandatory buyback.

The timing is no coincidence, as Mr. Trudeau is responding to the U.S. debate over guns and mass shootings. Apparently Canadian politics is too boring, or parochial, or something, because he also vowed to defend abortion rights after the draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked. He even made a show of kneeling at a Black Lives Matter rally in June 2020.

Wall Street Journal Editorial Board. I generally avoid Editorial Board offerings on the basis that the King James Bible is the only work of art ever created by a committee, but the title "Justin Trudeau Runs for Congress" was powerful bait.

Answer me this …

This battle has been lost, and I see no hope of reversal. I even suspect, as do others, that reversal would be worse than letting it be. But I don’t think questions like this were ever answered:

Assuming a general policy of recognizing committed dyads, should the benefits that Oscar and Alfred [applicants for a hypothetical marriage license] receive depend on whether their relationship is or can be presumed to be sexual?

Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson and Robert P. George, What Is Marriage?, Kindle Location 295.

If the benefits received depend on whether the relationship is presumed sexual, then aren’t we leaving a lot of lifelong friends out of the more Platonic benefits that were thrust front and center in rationalizing same-sex marriage?

Damon Linker

Another bright light moves to Substack from legacy media: Damon Linker leaving The Week. His focus, reflected in the Substack title, is the Right.

I’m a Linker fan, but his first three postings seemed a bit underwhelming.

Legalia

Yes, I’m going to (gag!) say something (retch!) about THAT case

The jury in The Case That Kept Gossipy Television Gossiping has decide that she defamed him $15 millionsworth while he only defamed her $2 millionsworth.

It kind of has the feel of a suicide pact from what I could tell in the glimpses I got on TV.

Apparently, the jury verdict identified the three Heard statements they considered defamatory:

The jury was forced to examine three separate statements from the editorial, starting with the headline: “I spoke up against sexual violence—and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.”

The second involved Heard’s description of herself as a public figure representing domestic abuse, and the last statement at issue involved the public’s response: “I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse.”

(Johnny Depp Wins U.S. Defamation Lawsuit Against Amber Heard)

I could easily imagine an appeals court ruling as a matter of law that the second and third were not defamatory. Note, too, that the first technically doesn’t say that she was herself a victim of sexual violence, only that she spoke up against it.

Stay tuned. I don’t think this is over yet, though appeals won’t be blanket-covered like the trial was.

An open letter to SCOTUS Clerks

Very smart blogger David Lat has an open letter to the current Supreme Court clerks — the guilty and the innocent. I think it’s of interest even if you’re not a retired lawyer who still follows Indiana and Federal Courts.

So who’s stupid now?

Man pleads guilty to felony charge in riot at US Capitol

PHILADELPHIA – A suburban Philadelphia man charged in the January 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol after he was turned in by an ex-girlfriend after reportedly insulting her intelligence for not believing the election had been stolen has pleaded guilty to a felony count. Richard Michetti, 29, of Ridley Park pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Washington to a charge of aiding and abetting obstruction of an official proceeding. Officials said photos showed him inside the Capitol Rotunda. He is to be sentenced Sept. 1.

Wire Service Reports (emphasis added)

Sexual fad du jour

The author provides a high-point estimate of an 11-point increase in LGBT identity between 2008 and 2021 among Americans under 30. Of that, around 4 points can be explained by an increase in same-sex behavior. The majority of the increase in LGBT identity can be traced to how those who only engage in heterosexual behavior describe themselves.

Born This Way? The Rise of LGBT as a Social and Political Identity – CSPI Center (H/T Nellie Bowles)

Meanwhile, it’s hard to overestimate the goofiness and downright offensiveness of U.S. efforts to promote Pride Month.

Abortion

An odd, but telling, tid-bit: When the draft Dobbs opinion leaked, the Washington Post opined that reversing Roe would put us out of step with Western Europe. This myopic bit of mythology was so patently wrong that they had to retract or amend: reversing Roe almost certainly would bring us into better alignment with Europe, where legal abortion is more limited than in the U.S. under our juristocracy.

(Sorry I can’t give a link:

  • I heard it on a reliable podcast, but …
  • I’m persona non grata at WaPo; I suspect that never-subscribers can see more free stuff than former-subscribers.)

Guns

For the Record: 10 Cases in Past Year Where Law-Abiding Defenders "Have Stopped Likely Mass Public Shootings" With Guns

Wordplay

the rainforests of the ocean

The Economist’s poetic description of coral reefs.


When you skip the news, life is a lot more like Anne of Green Gables or The House at Pooh Corner.

Garrison Keillor


They were powerful until they were powerless. They lived on probation their entire lives.

Andrew Sullivan on gay life in Washington, DC for about 2/3 of the last century.

I sometimes second-guess my support (Caution: Ancient history ahead! Youngsters may be shocked!) for decriminalizing consensual adult sodomy in the late 60s and thereafter, since the ensuing 50+ years have brought more dubious demands. It’s good to be reminded of why a decision was right, even if it may have, in some sense, "set a bad precedent."


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Holy Week gleanings

This is Orthodox Holy Week. For me as the parish cantor, it’s pretty grueling (tonight’s service runs almost three hours, for instance, and we had 90 minutes this morning) — and with that, rewarding.

I haven’t foresworn all news for the week, but I’m continuing to reduce news consumption, and find that I’m less interested in most of what I do see.

So here, with minimal commentary, is some of what I found a bit interesting.

All versions of things usually suck

Classical Educator Joshua Gibbs writes some pretty sharp quasi-Socratic dialogues, and his most recent was a dandy:

Student: I know how you feel about the matter, but I’m thinking about going to a secular college next year.

Gibbs: How come?

Student: I don’t want to live in a bubble. If I don’t go to a secular college, I’m worried I’ll go through my whole life without ever knowing anything about other people’s views.

Gibbs: Huh. You think college is your last chance to encounter “other people’s views”?

Student: Sort of.

Gibbs: What a strange life you must have planned for yourself after college …

[After enough dialog to establish that the student’s reason doesn’t hold water]:

Student: I’m dying for you to tell me what I’m thinking, old man. What’s my real reason?

Gibbs: You don’t want to go to a Christian university because the Christian version of things usually sucks.

Student: Wrong, that’s not… Aw, who am I kidding? Yes, that’s it.

Gibbs: Respectable. But wrong.

Student: What are you talking about? I know you. You listen to Radiohead and Brian Eno. You like Sofia Coppola movies. You’re not into Casting Crowns and Kirk Cameron and all that trash. You know the Christian version always sucks.

Gibbs: Not exactly. When you think of “the Christian version” of anything, you think of Castings Crowns and Kirk Cameron, but I think of Dante, John Milton, Constantine, Charlemagne, Jane Austen, Boethius, Charlotte Bronte, El Greco, Macrina the Younger, Bach, St. John of the Ladder, Josquin des Prez, John Paul II, not to mention the pious old women of my church who stand for three-hour prayer vigils. And when I suggest you go to a Christian college, I don’t mean any Christian college, but the sort of Christian college that takes Dante, John Milton, and Constantine seriously. When you think of “Christian architecture,” it’s not unfair to think of gawdy, wretched megachurch stadiums, but neither is it unfair to think of Notre Dame and the Hagia Sophia. If you’re afraid of going to a Christian college because you’re fed up with the sappy, soundtrack-to-apostasy pop they make you sing at youth group, I don’t blame you …

[Y]our impression of the difference between Christian colleges and secular colleges is wildly inaccurate. I don’t like pop Christian culture any more than you do, but the sort of Christian colleges I would recommend to you are small, traditional, and can offer you a greater range of views than a secular college can. That is not the primary reason I would recommend them to you, but it is nonetheless true.

Student: What’s the primary reason?

Gibbs: When Christians complain about Christian culture, they tend to compare the worst examples of contemporary Christian culture with the best examples of secular culture. But for every Radiohead, there are twenty Smash Mouths. For every There Will Be Blood, there are a hundred Project Runway_s. And there’s absolutely no secularist equivalent of _Paradise Lost or Bach or Dante… I could go on.

Student: Okay.

Gibbs: I get it, though. You don’t take contemporary Christian culture seriously, but some of the adults in your life do. This worries you. You want to trust adults, but it’s hard when so many of them can’t see that contemporary Christian culture is often just a trite, hackneyed imitation of secular culture with a “Gospel message” tacked on. Adults have shown you ridiculous, preachy Christian films and told you they were good. Adults have asked you to treat banal, simple-minded worship songs like significant musical accomplishments. You’ve heard about Christian kids giving up the faith in secular colleges, but you’re not worried about that happening to you. Why? Because even though you’re a Christian, the preachy Christian films and silly songs never really got to you. They didn’t change you. And you’re convinced that none of the preachy anti-Christian culture in college is going to get to you either. At the end of the day, though, the idea of spending four years and a hundred grand on Veggie Tales College is terrifying.

Student: It is.

Gibbs: And I’m sure there are Christian colleges out there which would give you just that. But not all of them.

I think another way of saying this is that most cultural products, Christian or not, are mediocre (or worse) and ephemeral. Get over it.

Integral faith

Beha’s return to his faith did not make him think his job as a writer was to serve as a Catholic witness, but he acknowledged its influence on his work. “I don’t think of my writing as a form of apologetics. I don’t think of it as a form of proselytizing,” he said. “Writing is a central part of the project of my life, and my Catholicism is an essential part of the project of my life, so they are inevitably bound up with each other.”

Yes. That. And more.

Every public argument made in religious terms will be disregarded by essentially everyone who doesn’t share the arguer’s religion. But arguments about public policy, made in non-religious terms, must not be dismissed as crypto-religious merely because the arguer is known to be “religious” or “very religious” (leaving aside how vexing the construct of “religion” is).

I don’t design arguments as crypto-religious trojan horses, and to act as if I do is a kind of disenfranchisement.

The Successor Ideology is harming people

Julie, 27, who also transitioned and then detransitioned, likens the policy to the practice of lobotomy. “I have this intense rage in me over the harm that was done to me,” said Julie, who didn’t want to be identified out of fear of backlash from activists.   

She called her treatment a “collaborative idiocy”—drawing together her parents, therapists and doctors. “It took a goddamn village.” 

“I asked my doctor about concerns I was having about my heart health, and she told me, ‘Listen, you signed a waiver,’ which scared me,” she said. After five years on hormones, Julie stopped taking them.

She was not against trans people. Just like Phoenix and Helena and Chloe and all of them. They just felt like they’d been rushed through this heavily medicalized funnel when all they really needed was a little time to grow up. 

Suzy Weiss, The Testosterone Hangover, chock-a-block with stories of “gender-affirming care” gone wrong.

Unfortunately, the “progressive” march through the institutions having succeeded in creating a mad hegemony (the Successor Ideology), this and similar articles haven’t done much so far.

Punching down in the name of punching up

Journalists like to think of ourselves as champions of the powerless against abuse by mighty political and economic oppressors. But two decades into the 21st century, things are a little more complicated than that self-congratulatory story implies.  

The Washington Post may at times be animated by the spirit of the original progressive muckrakers, but it has also become a very powerful organization in its own right, with formidable institutional allies throughout the culture and political system. Those institutions now confront a new set of muckrakers, and that the institutions lean left and the muckrakers lean right doesn’t change the hierarchical character of their conflict. Neither does the fact that the muckrakers often have powerful allies of their own. 

When a person working for a powerful media outlet goes after an ordinary citizen, it can’t help but look like ideologically motivated bullying — which, of course, confirms everything today’s right-wing muckrakers say about their progressive opponents. The best way for the Post and other leading institutions of American public life to defend themselves against the populist onslaught from the right, then, is for them to resist the temptation to sink to the same level. The powerful will never beat muckrakers at their own game.

Damon Linker, ‌How a Washington Post exposé played into right-wing muckrakers’ hands, on Taylor Lorenz’s doxxing of the woman behind the Libs of Tik-Tok Twitter account.

When the center shifts leftward

I don’t think Biden is an extremist, but I don’t think he’s a moderate either. He’s a moderate Democrat, and as such has moved left with his party. The examples abound. 

It wasn’t enough to pass an infrastructure package that Trump couldn’t pass. He had to move towards an FDR-style “Build Back Better” platform that even a president who possessed a popular mandate would struggle to pass.

It wasn’t enough to ratify largely-existing legal protections for LGBT Americans. He had to support an Equality Act that would take direct aim at religious liberty and sweep even into arenas—like athletics—where very real biological differences between men and women should be acknowledged and respected.

It wasn’t enough to try to target electoral reforms at the weak point that almost caused a constitutional crisis, the Electoral Count Act. He had to support a massive, sweeping rewrite of the entire electoral system that included a number of provisions that blatantly violated the Constitution

Even where Biden’s solidly in the mainstream, he’s suffered from imprudence. The prime example, and the moment where his approval rating really started its decline, was the withdrawal from Afghanistan. I’ve said it many times—Americans wanted to end the war, but they did not want to lose the war. A more prudent leader would have recognized the distinction.

David French, ‌Can’t Anything Be Normal for Five Minutes?

So how is this supposed to work?

Democratic Gov. Jared Polis … signed legislation earlier this month codifying Coloradan’s “right to make reproductive health-care decisions free from government interference.”

The Morning Dispatch, ‌States Prepare for a Possible Post-Roe Future

I’m not sure how a law like that would work. If there’s no Colorado law interfering with “reproductive health-care decisions,” the law does nothing. Should such an “interfering” law pass, would it not implicitly supersede this law where they conflict?? Is the Colorado law mostly aimed at restrictions coming from Cities and Counties?

Squandered credibility

In his Very Serious newsletter, Josh Barro had one of the most eminently reasonable takes on the end of the federal public transportation mask mandate. “Mourning the rule we lost yesterday only makes sense if your interest in masks is more about how we should regard COVID than how we should prevent it. That is, if you just liked seeing people forced to make sartorial expressions like your own about how much they care about COVID, then yesterday was indeed a sad day for you,” he writes. “The public health establishment still has not grappled with the damage it’s done to its reputation by failing to respect the fact that members of the public have different values and preferences than their own, or to place any value at all on individual freedom. There is a cost to ordering people around all the time, and if you’re too obnoxious about it, your powers to do so will be taken away. This is part of why leaving the transportation mandate in place so long was such a mistake: The more capricious an enforcement measure looks, the more likely it is the courts will find some justification to throw it out.”

The Morning Dispatch

Wordplay

My wife first noticed it and now I see it everywhere. Example:

Big rise seen in amount of EU migrant entries

Not number, but amount.

I guess it feels a bit dehumanizing to think of people being measured by the cubic yard (or some other measure) rather than as individuals.


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

The Blame Game

I blame Star Wars and Harry Potter

American political commentary has for some time been dominated by pop culture references, in particular those two great modern fables, Star Wars and Harry Potter, which have replaced the classics as the source of communal knowledge. I’m not convinced that children’s books or films aimed at selling toys, enjoyable though they are, have that much to offer in the way of deep wisdom, compared to more ancient texts; I may be a declinist, but it is not commented on enough that America’s most-praised public intellectual didn’t know who St Augustine was.

Ed West, ‌Empires v nations: a battle as old as time

I blame Trump (look what he made these nice people do!)

After Trump’s election, many commentators expressed anxiety that his followers would plunge the country into far-right authoritarianism. Instead, it is the class of college-educated Democrats that now openly argues for the value of blind submission to authority and the elimination of personal freedoms. The trend [Christopher] Lasch wrote about in the 1990s has metastasized. It no longer poses a mere threat to democracy—it has become a full-fledged attack on basic democratic principles. Far from upholding civil liberties, the self-proclaimed “resistance” to Trumpism has itself exhibited many hallmarks of authoritarianism: suppression of dissent, demand for unquestioning obedience, and tight control over the flow of information. While scapegoating Trump supporters, a nexus of billionaires, woke corporations, public intellectuals, and Democratic officials have sparked the very descent into authoritarianism they claimed would emerge from the populist right.

This is not simply a matter of hypocrisy. It is only by painting themselves as victims fighting against their oppressors that college-educated professionals can rationalize their own authoritarianism. The cult of victimhood conjures the specter of fascism, misogyny, or white nationalism in order to justify blatantly repressive measures.

Alex Gutentag, ‌The New Authoritarians

Another take on the pivot after Election 2016:

If you go back to the Arab Spring and the Green Revolution there was generally a sense of triumphalism. Back then, the CEO of Twitter said that we are the free speech wing of the free speech party. That’s how Silicon Valley saw itself. Ten years later, you have the widespread view that Silicon Valley needs to restrict and regulate disinformation and prevent free speech on its platform. You’d have to say that the turning point was 2016, when Trump got elected against the wishes of pretty much everyone in Silicon Valley. That was a little too much populism for them. And they saw social media as being complicit in Trump’s election.

[Trump’s populist voters had sent] a message they very much didn’t want to hear. So they began to believe that the message was somehow inauthentic. That it was engineered by Russian disinformation, and that their platforms had contributed to it and that they needed to crack down and restrict free speech so that it never happened again.

David Sacks, ‌How Big Tech Is Strangling Your Freedom

I blame the Internet

Maybe this is obvious. Maybe I knew it "in the back of my mind." But Bari Weiss and Peter Robinson collectively (as Robinson interviewed Weiss on his Uncommon Knowledge podcast) put their finger on a major driver of media change: the migration of advertising from newsprint to the internet.

Loss of ad revenue means greater dependence on subscription revenue. Greater dependence on subscription revenue necessitates cultivating a large and loyal readership. Cultivating a large and loyal readership necessitates picking your target audience and pandering to them shamelessly.

Nobody in print has done this better than the New York Times. But "audience capture" is a threat in Substackworld, too. Some of the best podcasts have no sponsors, or sponsors so marginal as to be an embarrassment. I’m especially thinking of Advisory Opinions‘ David French reading an advertiser’s innumerate puffery that "the average user saved up to $794" and, in the same ad, that "20,000 users had saved a total of over $1 million" (or maybe it was 200,000 saving $10 million – same $50/person average).

Listen to it all on Bari’s Honestly podcast, which incorporates the Uncommon Knowledge episode.

Neo-aphorisms

  • Wokeness flattens everything, dividing all into oppressed and oppressor.
  • Everything great gets built by people who are dissatisfied with the options they see around them.

Bari Weiss who, I learn, has greater ambitions than just making a decent living away from the New York Times.

I blame Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has restored democracy’s image and its mojo. How? The answer is that Putin’s blundering and brutal behavior has accidentally highlighted democracy’s greatest superpower: the trait that insures that, for all of democracy’s flaws, it will triumph over autocracies in the long run. Democratic virtues like the supremacy of law, independent courts, and the protection of human rights are all important. But Russia’s debacle in Ukraine underscores the fact that democracy’s guarantee that leaders are regularly replaced is actually the system’s most important advantage. It turns out that our power to throw the bums out could end up saving not just the West, but the world.

Jonathan Tepperman, How Putin Just Revealed Democracy’s Secret Superpower – The Octavian Report

Democracies

Current political ideology update: I support democracy, but I’m open on the adjectival modifier. This is not a fixed identity, but it’s one around which I’ve been circling for a while. I read (and sometimes listen) to defenders of both liberal and illiberal democracy.

Reminder: Sunday April 3 is election day in Hungary. There is a large and improbable coalition (politics made very strange bedfellows) vying to oust Viktor Orbán, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may have strengthened the hand of the leader of Hungary’s acknowledged illiberal democracy.

Plus ça change …

[H]e … returned to Washington, in time for the new session of Congress, only to find himself exhausted by just sitting and listening. He could neither work nor abide the whole “vileness and vulgarity” of the capital. When in late December he left again, he felt better almost at once. Still, he tried returning to Washington several times, but to no avail.

David McCullough, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, of Senator Charles Sumner in December 1857 after his beating on the Senate floor and some recovery in Paris.

Wordplay

My local TV newscast reports that Purdue University has developed a drug to treat prostate cancer, the second-leading cancer among men.

I don’t mean to be picky, but shouldn’t that be "men and other prostate-havers"?


QAnon — an offshoot of evangelical Protestantism that’s been cross-pollinated with Glenn-Beck-style hyper-rationalism to produce an unfalsifiable belief system about hidden networks of pedophiles and behind-the-scenes efforts to thwart them led by prominent Republicans, including Trump.

Damon Linker


This tweet …  attracted much amusing scorn … It was as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in cringe

Ed West, ‌Empires v nations: a battle as old as time (italics added)


Thy mouth hath embroidered evil, and thy lips have woven lies.

Psalm 49:19 (Orthodox numbering; 50:19 in Western Bibles), adapted from Miles Coverdale translation of the Psalms.


I decided not to read the article about the takes about the memes about the exhaustion about the memes about the takes about the Thing That Happened.

Alan Jacobs


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Poetry as Theology (and lesser stuff)

Censorship and self-censorship

Lest it be thought that my reading doesn’t span a broad spectrum, compare these three responses to the very same New York Times Editorial Board offering:

As this (superb) Times staff editorial persuasively argues, America has a free speech problem. And in many parts of the country, the right poses more of a threat to free speech than the left.

David Lat, ‌An Open Letter To Yale Law Dean Heather Gerken.

Lat is wrong. The only excuse was that it was almost an aside in the larger context.

Another week, another opportunity for our media class to freak out when it’s suggested that we are living in an age that’s not friendly to open debate. The absolute madness this anodyne NYT op-ed provoked among the NPR tote bag set should be listed in the DSM. Just an absolute shriek of anger from the privileged, overeducated Brooklynites (in spirit if not in geography) who have put our intellectual culture in such a stranglehold.

‌Freddie deBoer, Please Just Throw Me a Bone with the Wesleyan Argus Controversy.

Well, that was fun, Freddie, but Ken White ("Popehat") persuades me, where you didn’t; the editorial was worthless — or worse.

There’s a lot more good stuff than I feel I can fairly quote, but here goes with "best of the best":

Some defenders of the [Editorial] say that critics are being too pedantic, and that it’s clear the Times is talking about norms, or “free speech values,” or "free speech culture” or “norms.” First, bullshit. It’s the New York Times Editorial Board. I’m not critiquing a middle-schooler’s essay. I can hold them to a standard of coherence …

[I]t’s terrible that the Times is gullibly accepting the Right’s deeply dishonest assertion that it doesn’t engage in the sort of behavior it calls “cancel culture.” There is no serious argument that conservatives refrain from “cancel culture.” Conservatives attempt to cancel liberal professors all the time. Conservatives decry disinvitation even as they indulge in it. The meretricious Turning Point USA, which constantly bemoans cancel culture, maintains a enemies list of too-liberal professors. Conservative luminaries accuse opponents of legislation of wanting to groom minors for abuse. Our former President constantly complained about cancel culture and just as constantly demanded that people get fired for speech he didn’t like. Don’t get me started on Colin Kaepernick or Liz Cheney.

The Times also errs by utterly failing to grapple with the problem that “cancelling” represents free speech and free association. Saying we should “end cancel culture” means we’re saying some people should refrain from some exercises of speech and association to promote other people feeling more free to speak.

That’s not an outrageous proposition. We have cultural norms to that effect, and we follow them all the time. If, at a cocktail party, someone says “we should just make hate speech illegal, it’s easy,” I probably won’t say “that’s [expletive deleted] stupid Janet, you’re a dim person, put down that Appletini and get the [expletive deleted] out” even if that’s what I think in my head, because cultural norms tell me that’s rude and disproportionate. If I happen across an eighth-grader’s essay arguing that Donald Trump will be indicted for RICO, I won’t put the eighth-grader on blast the way I will if Rachel Maddow says it, because norms tell me that would be disproportionate. But a discussion of norms that value proportionality and make people more comfortable speaking isn’t serious if it doesn’t take into account the interests of the people who want to speak in return …

Popehat doesn’t write all that often, but he’s awfully good when he does.

Trans girls in Indiana Sports: A Null Set

Transgender sports: Holcomb vetoed House Bill 1041, which would ban transgender girls from playing school sports. In a letter sent to the General Assembly, Holcomb wrote that protecting integrity and fairness in women’s sports was “a worthy cause for sure,” but he believed “the wide-open nature of the grievance provisions” in the bill made it unclear about how it would be enforced consistently between different counties and school districts. Holcomb wrote that the IHSAA has had a policy in place for 10 years and that “not a single case of a male seeking to participate on a female team has completed the process.” (State Sen. Ron Alting, a Lafayette Republican, had made similar arguments when he voted against the bill.) Holcomb wrote that he could “find no evidence” to support claims that there is an existing problem in the state. Monday night, advocates who had lobbied that the bill was mean-spirited were praising Holcomb. Legislators were threatening to override the governor’s veto. U.S. Sen. Mike Braun and Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita piled on with criticism of their own.

For more, here’s a version of the story from AP reporter Tom Davies, another one from Arika Herron at the Indianapolis Star and one more from the New York Times.

(Dave Bangert’s Based in Lafayette Substack, italics added)

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s not a bad slogan, but I’ve been around the block too many times to think it’s a principle.

30 years ago when all our local governments in my county made sexual orientation a protected class throughout the county. I attended every minute of every hearing of all three government bodies, and the only first-hand report of discrimination was from a guy whose apartment-mates asked him to live elsewhere after they found his gay porn stash. Do you call that "discrimination in housing"?

(I’m disappointed, but not surprised, at the shit-stirring responses of Mike Braun and Todd Rokita. I’m not ashamed to say I’ve never voted for either of them.)

Polyamory?

Overheard in Silicon Valley: "The modern university is a political madrassa married to a trade school married to a hedge fund married to a sports team married to an adult day care center married to a visa law firm."

Marc Andreesen

Shock treatment

Those first few days after Russia’s invasion revealed something important about the United States: Much of what looks like unbridgeable polarization online may be the product of boredom, distraction, and jadedness; when something real happens, people pay attention to that instead. We refresh our feeds incessantly, looking for new information and sharing it. And as a shooting war started, average users sought out experts and reputable news organizations. Google Trends, for example, showed a relative increase in searches for nuclear weapons and _potassium iodide—_a treatment used after radiation emergencies—while searches for Ukraine were at an all-time high. The culture war temporarily faded into the background ….

Renée DiResta, ‌The Ukraine Crisis Briefly Put America’s Culture War in Perspective

Wordplay

‘Oikophobia’ was Roger Scruton’s term to describe ‘the repudiation of inheritance and home’, the way that many socialists and progressives are motivated by a loathing for their own country, their own countrymen and often their hometowns, from which they wished to escape and punish its inhabitants.

Ed West


Campism is a longstanding tendency in the international and U.S. left. It approaches world politics from the standpoint that the main axis of conflict is between two hostile geopolitical camps: the “imperialist camp,” today made up of the United States, Western Europe, Saudi Arabia, and Israel (or some such combination) on one hand and the “anti-imperialist camp” of Russia, China, North Korea, Syria, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, and other less-industrialized nations on the other.

Socialist Forum


rebarbative rē-bär′bə-tĭv adjective

  1. Tending to irritate; repellent.
  2. Irritating, repellent.
  3. serving or tending to repel

Use in a sentence: "The rationale for the transgender movement is couched in arcane and rebarbative prose."

H/T Carl Trueman, who continues:

Today, the latest form of body dysmorphia—rapid-onset gender dysphoria—is fueled by extremely wealthy lobby groups with a vested interest in identity politics. Backed by a medical establishment for whom ethics is little more than a supine acceptance of technological possibilities, and enabled by a political class that lacks a moral backbone, these groups are shaping the country’s pediatric care. And the cost will be catastrophically high.


"Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation": The Orwellian title of a proposal to divide the United Methodist Church along lines of theology (not limited to ordination of practicing homosexuals, though the press tends to report it that way).


Polysemy Polysemy is the capacity for a sign to have multiple related meanings. For example, a word can have several word senses. Polysemy is distinct from homonymy—or homophony—which is an accidental similarity between two or more words; whereas homonymy is a mere linguistic coincidence, polysemy is not.

Wikipedia. (H/T , Daniel Gustafsson, Poetry as Theology: Reflections on Ephrem the Syrian and Richard Wilbur. Highly recommended for Orthodoxen; may be evocative for others, too.)


It’s good to shut up sometimes.

Marcel Marceau via The world in brief


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Curated for 10/27/21

The cure for out-of-parental-control public schools

Terry McAuliffe may have been too candid for his own good, and Republicans may have "pounced" on his statement (“I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”), but his statement parallels the state of the law:

[T]he state does not have the power to “standardize its children” or “foster a homogenous people” by completely foreclosing the opportunity of individuals and groups to choose a different path of education. We do not think, however, that this freedom encompasses a fundamental constitutional right to dictate the curriculum at the public school to which they have chosen to send their children.

1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Brown v. Hot, Sexy, and Safer Productions, Inc., via David French.

Since public school parents are not a homogenous bunch, how could any other rule work?

National Review’s Andy McCarthy addresses a bolder claim than a parental constitutional right to dictate public school curriculum, namely that public schools are unconstitutional:

Professor [Philip] Hamburger is right to highlight this project’s offensiveness to the parents of schoolchildren as among its worst features. That said, parental dissent, which is widespread but not unanimous, is just one reason why the project should be resisted. And Hamburger strains mightily not only to portray this dissent as the dispositive objection to progressive curricula, but to portray such curricula as a violation of the constitutional right to free speech.

It is an ill-conceived theory, and reliance on it will only disserve a critical cause by giving progressives an easy target to shoot at.

Hamburger asserts:

Education is mostly speech, and parents have a constitutional right to choose the speech with which their children will be educated. They therefore cannot constitutionally be compelled, or even pressured, to make their children a captive audience for government indoctrination.

It would be generous to describe these propositions as dubious. Let’s assume for argument’s sake that most pedagogy, like most human interaction, takes the form of speech, and therefore that the whole of education is, as Hamburger maintains, covered by the First Amendment. Even if all that were true, what he is arguing for here would not be freedom of speech, but freedom from speech.

Essentially, he posits that the First Amendment gives one party to a protected communication a veto over the other. By this logic, if parents wanted their children to be taught that two plus two equals five, teachers would be expected to comply. Ironically, moreover, Hamburger’s suggestion that public schools are compelling parents to “make their children a captive audience for government indoctrination,” or at least pressuring them to do so, is belied by the very legal authority that he offers in support of his specious First Amendment claim.

The best solution for parents who don’t like what’s going on in public schools is to get their kids out of public schools.

Two final, somewhat tangential, observations:

  1. I sympathize with public school board members. They are almost always (so far as my experience goes) well-meaning volunteers, dependent on educational professionals for their information, and, realistically, serving these days mostly as lightning rods for those educrats.
  2. Phillip Hamburger’s piece was so flawed that I’ve got to suspect the Wall Street Journal of high-class clickbaiting.

Time to descend from the pulpit

Elections are not prayer meetings, and no one is interested in your personal testimony. They are not therapy sessions or occasions to obtain recognition. They are not seminars or “teaching moments.” They are not about exposing degenerates and running them out of town. If you want to save America’s soul, consider becoming a minister. If you want to force people to confess their sins and convert, don a white robe and head to the River Jordan. If you are determined to bring the Last Judgment down on the United States of America, become a god. But if you want to win the country back from the right, and bring about lasting change for the people you care about, it’s time to descend from the pulpit.

Mark Lilla, The Once and Future Liberal

As if on cue, Damon Linker on wokeness:

Then why does wokeness nonetheless drive me crazy?

The beginning of an answer can be found in the fact that wokeness makes me feel like I’m attending Sunday school in a denomination and parish I never chose to join. I just turn on the radio or open the paper or scroll through Twitter — and the next thing I know, a finger-wagging do-gooder with institutional power behind him is delivering a sermon, showing me The Way, calling on me to repent, encouraging me to be born again in the moral light.

Do not underestimate Russians

Napoleon at last occupied Moscow as he had occupied the capitals of Austria and Prussia, but instead of surrendering, as those countries did, the Russians retreated and fought on. Suddenly Moscow burned down and Napoleon, facing the Russian winter in a destroyed city, was forced to make a rapid retreat. Assuming that history is made by decisive actions, historians asked whose idea it was to incinerate Moscow. Some credited the city’s furiously patriotic mayor, Rostopchin; others picked other Muscovites. Nonsense, Tolstoy replies. No one decided to burn the city down. No one had to, since a city made of wood, where scarcely a day passes without a fire, “cannot fail to burn when its inhabitants have left it and it is occupied by soldiers who smoke pipes, make campfires . . . and cook themselves meals twice a day.” Likewise, no one ordered the inhabitants to leave—Rostopchin in fact tried to stop them—but the civilian equivalent of “the spirit of the army” led them to feel that they simply could not remain under French rule. By leaving, they unintentionally made the city burn and, without intending it, saved Russia. Tolstoy concludes: “Moscow was burned by its inhabitants, it is true, but by those who abandoned her, not by those who stayed behind.”

Gary Saul Morson, ‌Tolstoy’s Wisdom and Folly

An organized vehicle for neurotic progressivism

But even accounting for their courage, Martin Luther King Jr., who began his career in ministry as a staunch liberal inspired by Unitarian Pastor Theodore Parker, felt compelled to renounce the flimsiness of unitarian liberal theology in a 1960 essay: “liberalism’s superficial optimism concerning human nature caused it to overlook the fact that reason is darkened by sin. … Liberalism failed to see that reason by itself is little more than an instrument to justify man’s defensive ways of thinking.” The delusional optimism of liberal theology, according to King, could not stand up against the hard, grim reality of human chauvinism and cruelty.

From its inception in 1825, the American Unitarian Association—formed from a schism within the Congregationalist church, with the Unitarian contingent leaving behind those committed to Calvinism—was as much an institution for social reform as a religion. Theologically, however, it could never really get its act together.

… in lieu of having commitments to theology or anything identifiable as the divine, the Unitarian Universalist church has functioned for decades as primarily an organized vehicle for … neurotic progressivism ….

‌The High Church of Wokeism

Seeking status and significance?

[I]n the United States, a record nearly 4.3 million people quit their jobs in August, according to the Labor Department, and more than 10 million positions were vacant — slightly down from July, when about 11 million jobs needed filling …

… [T]here might also be something deeper afoot. In its sudden rearrangement of daily life, the pandemic might have prompted many people to entertain a wonderfully un-American new possibility — that our society is entirely too obsessed with work, that employment is not the only avenue through which to derive meaning in life and that sometimes no job is better than a bad job.

… They’re questioning some of the bedrock ideas in modern life, especially life in America: What if paid work is not the only worthwhile use of one’s time? What if crushing it in your career is not the only way to attain status and significance in society? …

Farhad Manjoo, ‌Even With a Dream Job, You Can Be Antiwork.

So the goal is "status" and "significance"?

I don’t think so:

if a man lived in obscurity making his friends in that obscurity, obscurity is not uninteresting.

Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

And don’t forget that leisure is the basis of culture.

Beta male smackdown

I’m old enough to remember when John Zmirak was bragging to his friends about hanging a picture of Generalissimo Francisco Franco in his Manhattan office. He had much better taste in right-wing strongmen then. They were actually, you know, strong.

Rod Dreher, responding to Trumpkin "failed writer and professional ankle-biter" John Zmirak who called Rod (and others outside the asylum) "beta males." Rod’s response is pretty devastating — especially if one’s familiar with Zmirak.

Empathy failure

Came across this from last year, as I was still reading anything from any plausible source to explain why my fellow-American Trump supporters weren’t patently wrong, but had reasons I could apprehend with enough effort:

…as preposterous as it may sound given Trump’s penchant for exaggeration and sarcasm, a vote for Donald Trump is a vote for truth against the overt political propaganda of the corporate media.

Robert Hutchinson, Why so many voters support Donald Trump: a letter to baffled non-Americans

For the record, I highlighted this for the outlandishness, not that it helped me understand. It is not logical to vote for a terrible President because the media lie about him, and Trump’s lies and cruelties were not mere "exaggeration and sarcasm."

I just cannot get into the mind of Trump voters, and their own explanations have more drollery and trolling than plausibility. I only hope that the madness somehow — ummmmm — dies down before 2024, and the only obvious way for that to happen is something that I, not having rightful power over life and death, dare not pray for.

Shithole University

“The Liberty Way”: How Liberty University Discourages and Dismisses Students’ Reports of Sexual Assaults — ProPublica

Is anyone really surprised? My only surprises are:

  • that Liberty hung on to a handful of very good people, like Karen Swallow Prior, as long as it did; and
  • at Liberty, as elsewhere, almost all of the young women who got sexually assaulted were partying and drinking, as were the louts who assaulted them.

But we’re not supposed to notice the nexus between getting blasted and getting sexually assaulted, because that would be blaming the victim. So the only effective preventive — sobriety in comportment and drinking — is off-limits for discussion.


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

No Middle Ground

No Middle Ground on Some Things

Kevin D. Williamson’s maiden guest column at the New York Times builds skillfully to his conclusion:

The Trump administration was grotesque in its cruelty and incompetence. But without the coup attempt, it might have been possible to work out a modus vivendi between anti-Trump conservatives and Mr. Trump’s right-wing nationalist-populists. Conservatives were not happy with Mr. Trump’s histrionics, but many were reasonably satisfied with all those Federalist Society judges and his signature on Paul Ryan’s tax bill. Trump supporters, who were interested almost exclusively in theater, enjoyed four years of Twitter-enabled catharsis even as the administration did very little on key issues like trade and immigration.

In the normal course of democratic politics, people who disagree about one issue can work together when they agree about another. We can fight over taxes or trade policy.

But there isn’t really any middle ground on overthrowing the government. And that is what Mr. Trump and his allies were up to in 2020, through both violent and nonviolent means — and continue to be up to today.

When it comes to a coup, you’re either in or you’re out. The Republican Party is leaning pretty strongly toward in. That is going to leave at least some conservatives out — and, in all likelihood, permanently out.

Kevin D. Williamson, ‌The Trump Coup Is Still Raging.

Better late than never, Kevin. I was out at the delusion of "ending tyranny in our world."

The Woke Left gets pushed back

It was a month or so ago, I think, that I first encountered the hopeful suggestion that the woke Left had scored its victories largely via the element of surprise: many people thought wokeness was just another silly campus fad that would stay on campus, but like a zoonotic pathogen, it leapt into a "real world" that had acquired no immunity to it.

The hopeful part is that immunity is surging and that wokesters are starting to get smacked down without any government action. The antibodies are kicking in:

[I]f we can’t intellectually engage people on how critical theory is palpably wrong in its view of the world, we can sure show how brutal and callous it is — and must definitionally be — toward individual human beings in the pursuit of utopia. [HBO’s] “The White Lotus” is thereby a liberal work of complexity and art.

Another sign of elite adjustment: both The Atlantic and The New Yorker have just published long essays that push back against woke authoritarianism and cruelty. Since both magazines have long capitulated to rank illiberalism, this is encouraging …

Anne Applebaum links the woke phenomenon to previous moral panics and mob persecutions, which is where it belongs. She too begins to notice the obliteration of due process, individual rights, and mercy among her crusader peers …

[BLOCK-QUOTE OMITTED]

Applebaum’s Atlantic piece is a good sign from a magazine that hired and quickly purged a writer for wrong think, and once held a town meeting auto-da-fé to decide which writers they would permanently anathematize as moral lepers.

Similarly, it was quite a shock to read in The New Yorker a fair and empathetic profile of an academic geneticist, Kathryn Paige Harden, who acknowledges a role for genetics in social outcomes. It helps that Harden is, like Freddie DeBoer, on the left …

The profile also puts the following woke heresy into the minds of the Upper West Side: “Building a commitment to egalitarianism on our genetic uniformity is building a house on sand.” And this: “Genetic diversity is mankind’s most precious resource, not a regrettable deviation from an ideal state of monotonous sameness.” The New Yorker is also telling its readers that there are around “thirteen hundred sites on the genome that are correlated with success in school. Though each might have an infinitesimally small statistical relationship with the outcome, together they can be summed to produce a score that has predictive validity: those in the group with the highest scores were approximately five times more likely to graduate from college than those with the lowest scores.”

All of this is empirically true. But if this is empirically true, critical theory, which insists that absolutely nothing but white supremacist society leads to inequalities, is dead in the water. Refuted. Proven false by reality. Finished — even as it continues to be the premise of other countless pieces The New Yorker has run in the past few years …

And then, in the better-late-than-never category, The Economist, the bible for the corporate elite, has just come out unapologetically against the Successor Ideology, and in favor of liberalism … Money quote: “Progressives replace the liberal emphasis on tolerance and choice with a focus on compulsion and power. Classical liberals conceded that your freedom to swing your fist stops where my nose begins. Today’s progressives argue that your freedom to express your opinions stops where my feelings begin.”

Andrew Sullivan, ‌Emerging Cracks In The Woke Elite

I had already read all but the New Yorker piece, and even on that I had read Freddie DeBoer’s comments. And Sullivan continues with more, if more minor, examples of the shifting tide. This is really a hopeful sign.

Now is there any way to smack down the intolerant Right (see previous item), which rivals the woke left in contempt for democracy and which appears more prepared to act in violent paramilitary operations when it doesn’t deliver what they want? (See previous item.)

Hopeful pessimism

Scialabba’s way of reading [Wendell] Berry is not uncommon. As with others whose thinking is hard to locate on the political map, we tend to assume that they must be proposing another map. On this view, Berry’s suggestion to Think Little must be a strategy by which to achieve a better world. Accordingly, we see the dichotomy between Thinking Big and Thinking Little as an alternative theory of how change works: not that way, but this way.

It is true that Berry, albeit always an urgent and sometimes an angry writer, does not hitch his prescriptions to the prospects of success. He is something of a hopeful pessimist. And so his “advice,” as Scialabba calls it, though not a strategy for winning, can be described as offering a vision for living with integrity whether or not one wins.

Brad East, ‌When Losing Is Likely


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

Irresistible forces and immovable objects

Two serious blogs in one day is unusual, but here’s the second.

Liberalism versus the Successor Ideology

Liberalism leaves you alone. The successor ideology will never let go of you. Liberalism is only concerned with your actions. The successor ideology is concerned with your mind, your psyche, and the deepest recesses of your soul. Liberalism will let you do your job, and let you keep your politics private. S.I. [The Successor Ideology] will force you into a struggle session as a condition for employment.

Look how far the left’s war on liberalism has gone.

Due process? If you’re a male on campus, gone. Privacy? Stripped away — by anonymous rape accusations, exposure of private emails, violence against people’s private homes, screaming at folks in restaurants, sordid exposés of sexual encounters, eagerly published by woke mags. Non-violence? Exceptions are available if you want to “punch a fascist.” Free speech? Only if you don’t mind being fired and ostracized as a righteous consequence. Free association? You’ve got to be kidding. Religious freedom? Illegitimate bigotry. Equality? Only group equity counts now, and individuals of the wrong identity can and must be discriminated against. Color-blindness? Another word for racism. Mercy? Not for oppressors. Intent? Irrelevant. Objectivity? A racist lie. Science? A manifestation of white supremacy. Biological sex? Replaced by socially constructed gender so that women have penises and men have periods. The rule of law? Not for migrants or looters. Borders? Racist. Viewpoint diversity? A form of violence against the oppressed.

[Ibram X] Kendi, feted across the establishment, favors amending the Constitution to appoint an unelected and unaccountable committee of “experts” that has the power to coerce and punish any individual or group anywhere in the country deemed practicing racism. Intent does not matter. And the decisions are final. An advocate for unaccountable, totalitarian control of our society is the darling of every single elite institution in America, and is routinely given platforms where no tough questioning of him is allowed.  He is as dumb as Obama is smart; as crude as Obama is nuanced; as authoritarian as Obama is liberal.

We are going through the greatest radicalization of the elites since the 1960s. This isn’t coming from the ground up. It’s being imposed ruthlessly from above, marshaled with a fusillade of constant MSM propaganda, and its victims are often the poor and the black and the brown. It nearly lost the Democrats the last election. Only Biden’s seeming moderation, the wisdom of black Democratic primary voters, and the profound ugliness of Trump wrested the presidency from a vicious demagogue, whose contempt for our system of government appears ever greater the more we find out about his term in office.

… one reason to fight for liberalism against the successor ideology is that its extremes are quite obviously fomenting and facilitating and inspiring ever-rising fanaticism in response. I fear the successor ideology’s Kulturkampf is already making the 2022 midterms a landslide for a cultish, unmoored GOP. In fighting S.I., we are also fighting Trump.

Andrew Sullivan, ‌What Happened To You?. I’m marking this as a favorite. It’s just devastatingly effective demonstrating that the Left is the aggressor in the current Culture Wars, and just how damaging those wars are (the Left just might give us Trump 2024).

And, by the way, Trump’s baaaaaaack (at CPAC)!

Why “critical race theory” is a decent approximation for the Successor Ideology

[The New York Times] is the media hub of the “social justice movement.” And the core point of that movement, its essential point, is that liberalism is no longer enough. Not just not enough, but itself a means to perpetuate “white supremacy,” designed to oppress, harm and terrorize minorities and women, and in dire need of dismantling. That’s a huge deal. And it explains a lot.

The reason “critical race theory” is a decent approximation for this new orthodoxy is that it was precisely this exasperation with liberalism’s seeming inability to end racial inequality in a generation that prompted Derrick Bell et al. to come up with the term in the first place, and Kimberlé Crenshaw to subsequently universalize it beyond race to every other possible dimension of human identity (“intersectionality”).

A specter of invisible and unfalsifiable “systems” and “structures” and “internal biases” arrived to hover over the world. Some of this critique was specific and helpful: the legacy of redlining, the depth of the wealth gap. But much was tendentious post-modern theorizing.

Again, Andrew Sullivan, ‌What Happened To You?. This felt worth extracting from his general discussion of successor ideology radicalization because it gives the “critical race theory” moniker its due.

J.D. Vance finds his inner Winston Smith

“It was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Donald Trump,” – Robby Soave, on J.D. Vance’s volte-face over Trump now that he’s seeking the cult leader’s endorsement for the Ohio Senate race.

Via Andrew Sullivan, ‌What Happened To You?.

The cardinal problem

C. S. Lewis describes the premodern view as one in which “the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue.” According to the modern view—unwittingly set in motion by Bacon, Descartes, and others—”the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men.” And there is no reality—no truth of things—to order our wishes.

Ken Myers, All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes

This book is at least 19 years old, and I think the original publication is further back than that. And up it pops in Readwise with another insight that converges on what I’m currently focusing on. (I needn’t posit divine intervention: what you’re thinking about and looking for shapes what you see.)

Conservatives are the counterculture now

Because the larger culture has drifted away from the traditional norms of family life, for instance, mere persistence in those norms is becoming a countercultural statement—and a community consciously built around them becomes, almost by default, a subculture with a moral life of its own, provided it is given the freedom to try.

Yuval Levin, The Fractured Republic.

Is Levin’s premise true? Upperclass liberals live boringly conventional and bourgoise marital lives.

MAGA Anger Explained

Sometimes, I’m surprised how long it takes for gossip to reach me. This time, it was 5 days.

Last Thursday, a Twitterstorm began issuing shortly before noon, from one @MartyrMade. I missed it because I’m utterly neglecting my Twitter account.

That night, Tucker Carlson took 7 minutes to read it on air. I missed it because life is too short to fit in Tucker Carlson.

Donald Trump read from it during his 90-minute CPAC therapy session (I think that was Sunday). Need I explain that I don’t follow CPAC?

@MartyrMade’s Twitter account surged from 7,000 followers to 70,000. Good for him. But crickets were all I heard.

But today, Glen Greenwald turned over his Substack to @MartyrMade, a/k/a Darryl Cooper, “to elaborate on his influential thread, with a focus on what led him to these observations ….” The observations were a sharp and plausible “general theory” about why so many Trump supporters distrust the 2020 Election.

Spoiler alert: they distrust the Election because they’ve come to distrust many of our major institutions, and not without reason.

Here’s one of Cooper’s many observations, to my mind one of the best:

GOP propaganda still has many conservatives thinking in terms of partisan binaries. Even the dreaded RINO (Republican-In-Name-Only) slur serves the purposes of the party, because it implies that the Democrats represent an irreconcilable opposition. But many Trump supporters see clearly that the Regime is not partisan. They know that the same institutions would have taken opposite sides if it had been a Tulsi Gabbard vs. Jeb Bush election. It’s hard to describe to people on the Left, who are used to thinking of American government as a conspiracy and are weaned on stories about Watergate, COINTELPRO, and Saddam’s WMD, how shocking and disillusioning this was for people who encouraged their sons and daughters to go fight for their country when George W. Bush declared war on Iraq.

They could have managed the shock if it only involved the government. But the behavior of the press is what radicalized them. Trump supporters have more contempt for journalists than they have for any politician or government official, because they feel most betrayed by them. The idea that the corporate press is driven by ratings and sensationalism has become untenable over the last several years. If that were true, there’d be a microphone in the face of every executive branch official demanding to know what the former Secretary of Labor meant when he said that Jeffrey Epstein “belonged to intelligence.” The corporate press is the propaganda arm of the Regime these people are now seeing in outline. Nothing anyone says will ever make them unsee that, period.

‌Author of the Mega-Viral Thread on MAGA Voters, Darryl Cooper, Explains His Thinking

Pointing out what may be obvious

I didn’t set out to follow a common theme, but I seem at least halfway to have found one.

  • The successor ideology is totalizing
  • MAGA American doesn’t want to be totalized by anyone but Donald Trump
  • MAGA America, famously if formally leaning Evangelical, isn’t all that faithful in Church attendance, and they’re not letting some preacher totalize them with knowledge, exhortations to self-discipline and virtue. No, they’re going to try to subdue reality to their wishes.
  • This is not a formula for healthy civic life. Left-liberals, center-liberals and right-liberals need to make common cause against the toxic extremes.

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

Seven shorts

Front Page News Today

Front page of my local newspaper, above the fold, is the news that "Racist post on County GOP Facebook elicits backlash."

The post was genuinely and frankly racist — no mere dog-whistle. And my former party is entirely too hospitable toward yahoos and atavists. But the County was Brown County, in Southern Indiana, roughly two hours from us. And it was a Facebook page, fer cryin’ out loud, where presumably any jackass, including enemies, can post.

This story’s placement was partly a function of the steep decline of my local paper and its increasing reliance on stories from other Gannett newspapers in Indiana (and from Gannett Corporate HQ). But we form our impression of the world from, well, glimpses and impressions left by things we generally have no time to analyze and blog about.

Do better, Journal & Courier.

I’m not sure EWTN sees what I see in this swag:

That’s all I’m going to say. (Source)

More Rules for Life

Politics can make people crazy, especially these days. For the latest evidence, consider its insidious spread to “Jeopardy!,” the game show heretofore loved by millions.

Last week Jeopardy! contestant Kelly Donohue put his index finger and thumb together in an “OK” sign, with three fingers extended, during the show’s introduction. Uh oh.

It seems some progressives are on constant watch for this gesture as a signal of white supremacy because it has allegedly been adopted by some extremist groups. Within a few days, hundreds of former Jeopardy! contestants signed an open letter explaining that Mr. Donohue’s gesture, “whether intentional or not, resembled very closely a gesture that has been coopted by white power groups.”

Mr. Donohue said he had signaled the number three because he had won the show three days in a row. He clarified his meaning in a Facebook post, but he apparently didn’t abase himself sufficiently in the view of the concerned game-show participants. “Most problematic to us as a contestant community,” they wrote, “is the fact that Kelly has not publicly apologized for the ramifications of the gesture he made.”

Mr. Donohue then posted a statement “regret[ting] this terrible misunderstanding” and condemning racism in all its forms. We hope, for his sake, that the latter declaration appeases the troubled sensibilities of the, uh, contestant community.

Mass Hysteria for $2,000

I have read that one of Jordan Peterson’s maxims in his new book is "Don’t apologize if you’ve done nothing wrong."

Keep em’ guessing

I have purchased a copy of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals in the full expectation that I’ll find much worthwhile in it (anyone who got an acknowledgment from Jane Jacobs in The Death and Life of Great American Cities can’t be all bad), despite the book’s bugbear status, alongside "George Soros," among the Right.

A line in the sand

I understand that language evolves. I reluctantly admit that usage (eventually) makes proper.

Generally.

But—usage be damned—I will never, ever, accept that "literally" means "I’m about to engage in wild hyperbole because I feel strongly about this."

Thank you.

Cancel culture and the GOP

There are huge divides within the GOP over whether or not cancel culture is a problem government has any role in solving.

J.D. Vance—the author and venture capitalist who is likely to enter Ohio’s U.S. Senate race in the coming weeks—urged Republicans to retaliate against businesses whose leaders met to coordinate responses to Republican-led efforts to change voting laws in states across the country. “Raise their taxes and do whatever else is necessary to fight these goons. We can have an American Republic or a global oligarchy, and it’s time for choosing,” said Vance, who declined to be interviewed for Declan’s story. “At this very moment there are companies (big and small) paying good wages to American workers, investing in their communities, and making it easier for American families. Cut their taxes. No more subsidies to the anti-American business class.”

Rep. Peter Meijer, a freshman Republican from Michigan, grew animated when presented with Vance’s comments. “How is that conservative? Where is there a fidelity to an underlying set of beliefs or principles other than just taking cues from the left and being inherently reactive?” he scoffed. “If you’re using the government to compel something you like, you’re setting the precedent for the government to be compelling something you don’t like. And the non-hypocritical approach is to just not have the government be a coercive entity towards those ends.”

Meijer agreed that Republicans have work to do on this issue, but not necessarily in statehouses or the Capitol. “The Overton window has kind of shifted to where the narrative that ‘Republicans are evil’ is not just unquestioned in many elements on the left, but in corporate America, too. And to me the broader challenge is how do we regain that credibility,” he said. “We’ve lost some credibility to be viewed as serious participants in larger cultural clashes. And if all we’re doing is talking to a Newsmax and OANN crowd, we’re not flexing those persuasive muscles to be able to win over voters in the center.

Declan Garvey, ‘How is that Conservative?’.

I have been consistently impressed by Peter Meijer so far a worthy successor to Justin Amash (and that’s saying a lot), while J.D. Vance sinks ever-lower in my estimation (he started mildly positive, because of Hillbilly Elegy). If the Republicans can come up with any effective, popular, constitutional legislation on cancel culture, you literally can knock me over with a feather I will be astonished.

Certified bleak — in a hopeful sort of way

We take it as our great privilege to enter an age wherein no stone remains on another. There is much to be gained amidst the dark ruins of a shattered word: Brokenness and desolation, so hopeless in the eyes of some, are invisibly pregnant with promise in the eyes of others. As we kick the opiate of material comforts, exit the temple of broken idols, and come to acknowledge that our culture is one of loud and benumbing noise, we finally stand on the threshold of encountering Truth. If one is not seduced back to numbness by the influence of contemporary life, this threshold positions one to apprehend truly (and even transcend almost completely) our dying world’s scaffolding – its logic, appearances, gross phenomena – and come to know by experience the spiritual, otherworldly life. Thus, when one loses all that is of apparent worth and modern society’s ugly face is unmasked, a search for the new, authentic life begins.

2020 Vision: From Blindness to Sight in the Age of Collapse, via Paul Kingsnorth.


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

Meanderings 4/8/21

I did an interview today with someone in London whose final question contained within it a statement. He said that he is a “cultural Christian” — he doesn’t believe, but he considers himself an ally of the church, and wants to see it thrive. He told me that more and more, he’s having conversations with people who aren’t believers, but who “are saying things now that they never would have said.” He explained that they are saying that the insanity overtaking our civilization has them thinking maybe they should look closer at the Church, and be more than fellow travelers.

I was taken aback by that remark … I [brought] up Auden’s return to Christianity after going to the movie in Manhattan … The English poet was living in New York when the Germans invaded Poland in 1939. He went to see a movie at a theater in the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan, which was heavily German at the time. As a newsreel showed images of German troops brutalizing the Poles, members of the audience stood and began screaming bloody murder, demanding the slaughter of Germany’s enemies.

Auden left shaken, and resolved to return to the faith. Only the Christian faith could muster the force to defeat evil so pure, he reckoned.

Maybe that’s what’s going on with people like my interviewer. Maybe they see that things are falling apart quite rapidly, and are feeling in their bones that they can no longer be free riders on what Christianity has built. I told the man that he could not believe because it seemed like a good thing to do, or because it supported the right things. Jesus is either Lord, or he’s not. But I told him that Christ stands at the door of his heart, and knocks.

Social Credit Bunnies – Daily Dreher

I have no particular bone to pick with Dreher’s response to this remark, but I think I would have been less taken aback by it. In fact, my reflex would probably be "what an opportunity for the Church!"

That would be my reflex because I spent nearly 50 years in Christian traditions that were obsessed with numerical growth, and we were always tempted to generate it with gimmicks. In other words, my response would be perverse.

Every church loves to get new members, of course, and I would be thrilled if American turned en masse toward Christian Orthodoxy.

But if it were up to me, I would try to structure Orthodox Christian catechesis in a way that would flush out real versus notional (or even ulterior) conversions to the Orthodox Christian faith.

Here’s the sort of thing I’m concerned about.

  • In 2016, Matthew Heimbach was excommunicated from the Orthodox Church, which he apparently had joined because of what he thought was an ideological traditionalism. Matthew Heimbach is a pretty nasty piece of work.. In fairness to the Southern Indiana parish that received him into the Church, I don’t think they remotely saw such a thing coming, and he wasn’t even nominally Orthodox for very long before they found out and took care of it.
  • Any number of people who (understandably) have problems with developments in the Episcopal Church (or other Protestant Churches) express interest in the Orthodox Church, when what they really want is a nostalgic, early 20th-century version of the tradition they’re pissed off at. Maybe Orthodoxy would work out for them in the end (i.e., they’d be drawn into something they never imagined when they switched), but even our Western Rite Liturgies are expressing a much different faith than anything in Western Christendom.
  • Joining a Church because of concern over "the insanity overtaking our civilization" could work out, as it apparently did for Auden, but I fear it would further politicize the Church rather than making solid Christians of the new members.

I had a client once, a genteel Episcopalian Republican, who was disgusted with the political liberalism in the Episcopal Church, and kept expressing, on her own behalf and that of a like-minded friend, interest in my Orthodox Church. In my notional catechesis, anyone like that who came and sought catechesis would be kept in catechesis until they reached the point where they wanted to be Orthodox because that’s where they find Christ. That’s the only valid reason for an adult conversion.


Words cannot convey how chilling and authoritarian this all is: watching government officials, hour after hour, demand censorship of political speech and threaten punishment for failures to obey. As I detailed last month, the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the state violates the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee when they coerce private actors to censor for them — exactly the tyrannical goal to which these hearings are singularly devoted.

There are genuine problems posed by Silicon Valley monopoly power. Monopolies are a threat to both political freedom and competition, which is why economists of most ideological persuasions have long urged the need to prevent them. There is some encouraging legislation pending in Congress with bipartisan support (including in the House Antitrust Subcommittee before which I testified several weeks ago) that would make meaningful and productive strides toward diluting the unaccountable and undemocratic power these monopolies wield over our political and cultural lives. If these hearings were about substantively considering those antitrust measures, they would be meritorious.

But that is hard and difficult work and that is not what these hearings are about. They want the worst of all worlds: to maintain Silicon Valley monopoly power but transfer the immense, menacing power to police our discourse from those companies into the hands of the Democratic-controlled Congress and Executive Branch.

And as I have repeatedly documented, it is not just Democratic politicians agitating for greater political censorship but also their liberal journalistic allies, who cannot tolerate that there may be any places on the internet that they cannot control. That is the petty wannabe-despot mentality that has driven them to police the “unfettered” discussions on the relatively new conversation app Clubhouse, and escalate their attempts to have writers they dislike removed from Substack. Just today, The New York Times warns, on its front page, that there are “unfiltered” discussions taking place on Google-enabled podcasts:

New York Times front page, Mar. 26, 2021

We are taught from childhood that a defining hallmark of repressive regimes is that political officials wield power to silence ideas and people they dislike, and that, conversely, what makes the U.S. a “free” society is the guarantee that American leaders are barred from doing so. It is impossible to reconcile that claim with what happened in that House hearing room over the course of five hours on Thursday.

Glenn Greenwald. This is the conclusion to the latest of Greenwald’s very, very good work on the specter of government-coerced "private" censorship on the internet.


3. Real creativity will die out. Instead, we shall get a multitude of mediocre pseudo-thinkers and vulgar groups and organizations. Our belief systems will turn into a strange chaotic stew of science, philosophy, and magical beliefs.  “Quantitative colossalism will substitute for qualitative refinement.” What is biggest will be regarded as best. Instead of classics, we shall have best-sellers. Instead of genius, technique. Instead of real thought, Information. Instead of inner value, glittering externality.  Instead of sages, smart alecs. The great cultural values of the past will be degraded; “Michelangelos and Rembrandts will be decorating soap and razor blades, washing machines and whiskey bottles.”

Morris Berman, discussing Pitirim Sorokin’s predictions on the collapse of our sensate culture, in 2012.

For more on Sorokin, a fascinating figure, see:


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