What fools we mortals be
Proof that he knows better
I once ran into an old acquaintance at a Middletown bar who told me that he had recently quit his job because he was sick of waking up early. I later saw him complaining on Facebook about the “Obama economy” and how it had affected his life. I don’t doubt that the Obama economy has affected many, but this man is assuredly not among them. His status in life is directly attributable to the choices he’s made, and his life will improve only through better decisions. But for him to make better choices, he needs to live in an environment that forces him to ask tough questions about himself. There is a cultural movement in the white working class to blame problems on society or the government, and that movement gains adherents by the day.
J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy. The movement to blame someone else now seems to have Vance as one of its leaders.
The great paradox of “queer” ideology
The great paradox of “queer” ideology is that it both seeks the margins and then complains about being marginalized! It wants both the frisson of outsiderdom and total acceptance by insiderdom. It’s the kind of reasoning you expect from a toddler not a grownup. The “centering” of the “marginalized” is how critical queer theory always eventually disappears up its own backhole.
Norm McDonald once said of the term “cisgender” that “it’s a way of marginalizing a normal person.” And he’s right. When “queer theorists” insist they are about diversity, they mean the opposite. The point is not to live and let live; it is to impose their queerness on everyone — to make themselves feel more secure.
“I figured if I called myself Dykewomon,” she joked in an interview with J: The Jewish News of Northern California this year, “I would never get reviewed in The New York Times. Which has been true.”
Obituary of Lesbian “author, poet and activist” Elana Dykewomon (neé Nachman) in the New York Times
Solomon Asch’s corollary
In a famous 1951 experiment, the psychologist Solomon Asch showed how easily humans can be manipulated by social pressure to conform. If everyone else in the room affirms even the most blatant falsehood, we will very often affirm it ourselves, even denying the clear evidence of our own eyes.
But a variation of the Asch experiment gives hope. If only one other person in the room—a single reality ally—tells the truth, the pressure to conform drops sharply and we become much more willing to buck the lie. That is why authoritarian regimes work so furiously to stifle opposition voices, even seemingly weak ones. It is what the Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was getting at when he said, “The simple act of an ordinary brave man is not to participate in lies, not to support false actions! His rule: Let that [lie] come into the world, let it even reign supreme—only not through me.”
Jonathan Rauch, The Reality Ally (Persuasion)
So, I’ll join the alliance: Joe Biden won the 2020 Presidential Election. He did not steal it.
Does everyone have a narrative?
Yes, the legacy media, like the New York Times, have a narrative. But so do (some? most?) upstart media, like Quillette.
Ken White (Popehat) demolishes an absurd Quillette story, twisted and jammed into the narrative “kids today are intolerant snowflakes.”
What the story actually shows, stripped of handwaving and unwarranted characterizations, is some private school students protesting perfectly appropriately when a powerful lawyer and Harvard Professor subjected them to repeated use of the word “nigger,” part of the title of a book by another powerful professor. And, ironically, the professor who claims to have been cancelled by kids silently walking out on his lecture, is famously, even performatively, in favor of free speech and expression — for himself, apparently, but not for those who would protest his ideas.
People disagreeing with you or protesting you without trying to silence or deplatform you is not what generally is meant by “cancellation.”
But the Quillette article fits my worldview, so I might have bought it had Popehat not intervened.
Sclerosis plus ideological capture
America’s response to Covid-19 went badly not just for Trump-related reasons, but because of problems inherent to our public health edifice, from bureaucratic sclerosis to the ideological capture of putatively neutral institutions …
And then along with these failures came an absurd ideological spectacle, in which health officials agonized about how to state the obvious — that monkeypox at present is primarily a threat to men who have sex with men — and whether to do anything to publicly discourage certain Dionysian festivities associated with Pride Month. As the suffer-no-fools writer Josh Barro has exhaustively chronicled, public-health communication around monkeypox has been an orgy of euphemism and wokespeak, misleading and baffling if you don’t understand what isn’t being said.
This, too, has repeated Covidian failures. The political anxiety about saying or doing anything that might appear to stigmatize homosexuality mirrors the great public-health abdication to the George Floyd protests — in which a great many members of an expert community that had championed closures and lockdowns decided to torch their credibility by endorsing mass protests because the cause seemed too progressive to critique.
In each case what’s been thrown over is neutrality — the idea that public health treats risky behaviors equally, regardless of what form of expression they represent …
[S]peaking for myself, as a citizen with a personal interest in medical controversy, when I read the kind of blathering, newspeak-infused monkeypox advisories that Barro highlights, all I can think is: I can never trust anything these people say again.
Ross Douthat, The C.D.C. Continues to Lead From Behind – The New York Times
6-7 years back, I asked my eldest’s scout leader if he was a Christian. He said, “Of course, it’s the most important thing in my life.” I asked where he went to church and he replied, “I’ve never been, but my wife was raised Catholic.” For him, it was just another part of his … American identity.
One response to a social medium thread on churchless Christianity (that began with the thrown-down gauntlet “Being reliably right-wing doesn’t confer upon you the status of being an “orthodox Christian,” even if it is with a small ‘o.’”)
Is this how tribalism begins?
Protection of freedom of thought requires that no group should be permitted by law to express an opinion. For when a group starts having opinions, it inevitably tends to impose them on its members.
Simone Weil, The Need for Roots. I cannot concur with her literal sense, but today’s tribalism makes me think that she was directionally correct.
There are a number of tribalists who think me a traitor because I unexpectedly and publicly bucked the tribe — a tribe of which I was never a member, but only a co-belligerent.
Christian concern about popular culture should be as much about the sensibilities it encourages as about its content.
Ken Myers, All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes.
Just so you don’t miss the prophetic gravamen, not that the book predates social media and the ubiquitous smartphone. (And blogs, too, frankly.)
The American Conservative has a list of cases it wants to see reversed now that Roe is reversed:
If you know all those cases without looking them up, you’re a better man than I am.
I’m sympathetic to overturning at least one of them. One other, On birthright citizenship, my reflex is that if Michael Anton or John Eastman is agin it, I’m fer it.
Did I mention that I’ve dropped my American Conservative subscription? So many sites I used to enjoy reading that I now avoid. Maybe I’m the one that’s changing (though I’m confident that the Trump-Sluagh has gotten to some of them).
It’s hard to admit that I really don’t fit anywhere other than an Orthodox Church (and that’s because the Church is mercifully broad in accommodating quirks).
George Soros is not off-limits
Democratic billionaire George Soros has, by his own admission, had an outsized influence on our politics over the years with his political donations—just as GOP mega-donors Sheldon Adelson, Paul Singer, and Charles and David Koch had on the right. “All well and good. America is a free country, and Soros has every right to spend his vast fortune however he wants within the boundaries of the law, as well as to justify that spending in the public square,” James Kirchick writes in Tablet Magazine. “[But] the same applies to those of us inhabiting lower tax brackets, who have no less a right to criticize Soros for how he’s trying to influence American public life.” Because Soros is Jewish, however, many progressives have adopted the tactic of dismissing any criticism of his political advocacy as anti-Semitic—a charge Kirchick, himself Jewish, believes is unfair. “The argument that the mere mention of the name ‘Soros’ is tantamount to antisemitism, which is effectively the position of the progressive political, media, and activist elite, is made entirely in bad faith,” he writes. “If the mind of a Soros supporter, upon hearing his name, races immediately to an image of a ‘Jew,’ and one who serves as a stand-in for ‘the Jews,’ it’s probably not the motives of the critic that need questioning.”
The Morning Dispatch, August 16, 2022
When I was young, there was a conservative book titled “Today’s Isms.” I was trying to figure out what ISMS stood for. It turns out, it stands for ideologies — communism, socialism, fascism. We could add a few today.
There’s nothing freakish about the attack on Salman Rushdie:
And yet as shocking as this attack was, it was also 33 years in the making: The Satanic Verses is a book with a very bloody trail
In July 1991, the Japanese translator of the condemned book, Hitoshi Igarashi, 44-years-old, was stabbed to death outside his office at the University of Tsukuba, northeast of Tokyo. The same month, the book’s Italian translator, Ettore Capriolo, was also stabbed—this time, in his own home in Milan. Two years later, in July 1993, the book’s Turkish translator, the prolific author Aziz Nesin, was the target of an arson attack on a hotel in the city of Sivas. He escaped, but 37 others were killed. A few months later, Islamists came for William Nygaard, the book’s Norwegian publisher. Nygaard was shot three times outside his home in Oslo and was critically injured.
And those are stories we remember. In 1989, 12 people were killed at an anti-Rushdie riot in Mumbai, the author’s birthplace, where the book was also banned. Five Pakistanis died in Islamabad under similar circumstances.
Bari Weiss, We Ignored Salman Rushdie’s Warning
But would we back Rushdie were Satanic Verses being published today?
When Rushdie made those comments to L’Express it was in the fallout of PEN, the country’s premiere literary group, deciding to honor the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo with an award. Months before, a dozen staff members of Charlie Hebdo were murdered by two terrorists in their offices. It was impossible to think of a publication that deserved to be recognized and elevated more.
And yet the response from more than 200 of the world’s most celebrated authors was to protest the award. Famous writers—Joyce Carol Oates, Lorrie Moore, Michael Cunningham, Rachel Kushner, Michael Ondaatje, Teju Cole, Peter Carey, Junot Díaz—suggested that maybe the people who had just seen their friends murdered for publishing a satirical magazine were a little bit at fault, too. That if something offends a minority group, that perhaps it shouldn’t be printed. And those cartoonists were certainly offensive, even the dead ones. These writers accused PEN of “valorizing selectively offensive material: material that intensifies the anti-Islamic, anti-Maghreb, anti-Arab sentiments already prevalent in the Western world.”
Bari Weiss, We Ignored Salman Rushdie’s Warning
When I left Above the Law in 2019 for my two-year detour into legal recruiting, it was partly because of Donald Trump. Writing about the law in 2019 meant writing about Trump, and writing about Trump meant unpleasantness.
I returned to writing by launching Original Jurisdiction in December 2020, after Trump lost the presidential election, and I turned it into my full-time job in May 2021, after he left office. I thought it was safe to go back in the water.
Alas, here we are, more than 18 months after his administration’s end, and Trump still dominates the headlines. Almost every category in today’s Judicial Notice relates to the controversial ex-president.
David Lat, We Just Can’t Quit Him
A back-handed recommendation
I’m not generally given to wretched excess, but when I get into a six-episode Shetland on Britbox, I’m apt to binge-watch.
Breaking the Sabbath
The princess—I mean the Shiek’s daughter—was only thirteen or fourteen years old, and had a very sweet face and a pretty one. She was the only Syrian female we have seen yet who was not so sinfully ugly that she couldn’t smile after ten o’clock Saturday night without breaking the Sabbath.
Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad.
I’m not sure the princess would worry about breaking the Christian Sabbath. Twain should have made it “sundown Friday.”
[Frederick Beuchner] did not hold orthodox religious views.
“Contrary to widespread religious belief,” he wrote in a 1994 essay for The Times, “I don’t think God goes around changing things in the sense of making bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people, or of giving one side victory over the other in wars, or of pushing a bill through Congress to make school prayer constitutional.”
Robert D. McFadden’s obituary of Beuchner in the New York Times.
What an odd illustration of un-“orthodox religious views”!
Frederick Buechner has met Christians who remind him of American tourists in Europe: Not knowing the language of their listeners, they speak the language of Zion loudly and forcefully, hoping the natives will somehow comprehend. They seem cocky with faith, voluble with their theology, and content with a God who resembles a cosmic Good Buddy. Their certitude both fascinates and alarms him.
Phillip Yancey, Frederick Buechner, the Reverend of Oz
With the caveat that I, oddly enough, cannot recall reading anything from “the most quoted living writer among Christians of influence” (though I’ve known the name for decades and decades), I recommend the Yancey piece, from Christianity Today, as far more perceptive than the Times obituary.
"The Frenchman works until he can play. The American works until he can’t play; and then thanks the devil, his master, that he is donkey enough to die in harness …." (G.K. Chesterton)
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