Rod Dreher

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President Supervillain Comics

My new favorite Twitter account: President Supervillain (@presvillain), where they take actual Trump quotes and pairs them with comic drawings that already exist. More from the Trump letter to Erdogan:

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Vatican Money Scandal Brewing?

Edward Pentin, Rome correspondent for National Catholic Register (EWTN screenshot)

Phil Lawler:

Back in June 2016 I made a prediction about the next Vatican scandal:

This time the subject will not be sex, but that other rich lode of corruption: money.

When the police raid on Vatican offices was followed by the resignation of the Vatican’s top police official. We still don’t know what happened but it’s abundantly clear that another “turf war” has begun— or perhaps I should say “escalated”— inside the Vatican, precipitated by an investigation into questionable financial deals.

Lawler points to this eyebrow-raising analysis from National Catholic Register‘s Edward Pentin, who explains what might be going on with the forced resignation of Domenico Giani, the Vatican security chief. Excerpts:

“The reason why he has resigned is fake,” said an informed source. “They could not find a good reason to dismiss him, they did not want to disclose the internal reasons for doing so, and so used this story as an easy instrument to get him out.”

Anonymous sources cited a number of reasons, one in particular being that he was too closely allied to the “old guard” and involved in resistance to clearing out financial and other corruption in the Vatican.

This came into sharp focus during the dismissal of the Vatican’s first auditor general, Libero Milone, in 2017. Milone told media at the time he had been forced out after launching an investigation into a possible conflict of interest involving an unnamed Italian cardinal.

He said his phones were bugged and computers hacked and that Cardinal Angelo Becciu (then sostituto, deputy secretary of state) had told Milone to resign on the basis of a seven-month investigation by Vatican police.

Cardinal Becciu alleged at the time that Milone “was spying on the private lives of his superiors and staff, including me,” and that if he had “not agreed to resign, we would have prosecuted him.”

But Milone said the facts presented to him on the morning of his dismissal “were fake, fabricated” and that he was “in shock,” as “all the reasons” given for his dismissal “had no credible foundation.”

“I was threatened with arrest,” he said, adding that Giani “intimidated me to force me to sign a resignation letter that they had already prepared weeks in advance.”

Milone also said he suspected that his forced dismissal was linked to the arraignment of Cardinal George Pell, who was then serving as the prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, on sexual-abuse charges in Australia, as the two events occurred within a week of each other. Both were uncovering extensive evidence of financial mismanagement at the time.

The Vatican withdrew all charges against Milone last year.

Trust me, you’ll want to read it all. The penultimate graf:

His resignation might also have something to do with the publication of a new book next week by the Italian investigative reporter Gianluigi Nuzzi, which threatens to herald another Vatileaks scandal.

Here we go again. I am reminded of something a high-level Vatican insider told me within the past year: that in the insider’s opinion, Cardinal Pell was framed because of the things he was uncovering, and second, that this person is disgusted by the entanglement of gay sex and financial corruption in Vatican circles.

The Nuzzi book, Via Crucis (The Way Of The Cross) will be published in the US in the next couple of weeks. According to Nuzzi’s website, it will reveal a web of extensive financial corruption in the Vatican, as well as the reason that, in his words, “finally makes us understand why Benedict XVI resigned.”

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Insider Chaos Trading

Wait … what?!?. From Vanity Fair:

In the last 10 minutes of trading at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on Friday, September 13, someone got very lucky. That’s when he or she, or a group of people, sold short 120,000 “S&P e-minis”—electronically traded futures contracts linked to the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index—when the index was trading around 3010. The time was 3:50 p.m. in New York; it was nearing midnight in Tehran. A few hours later, drones attacked a large swath of Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure, choking off production in the country and sending oil prices soaring. By the time the CME next opened, for pretrading on Sunday night, the S&P index had fallen 30 points, giving that very fortunate trader, or traders, a quick $180 million profit.

This has happened several times: some unknown person makes an unusual investment on the futures market only a very short time before the president says or does something dramatic that affects the market. More:

Traders in the Chicago pits have been watching these kinds of wagers with an increasing mixture of shock and awe since the start of the Trump presidency. They are used to rapid fluctuations in the S&P 500 index; volatility is common, of course. But the precision and timing of these trades, and the vast amount of money being made as a result of them, make the traders wonder if all this is on the level. Are the people behind these trades incredibly lucky, or do they have access to information that other people don’t have about, say, Trump’s or Beijing’s latest thinking on the trade war or any other of a number of ways that Trump is able to move the markets through his tweeting or slips of the tongue? Essentially, do they have inside information?

And:

There is no way for another trader, let alone an outsider such as me, to know who is making these trades. But regulators know or can find out. One longtime CME trader who has been watching with disgust says he’s never seen anything quite like these trades, not at least since al-Qaida cashed in before initiating the September 11 attacks. “There is definite hanky-panky going on, to the world’s financial markets’ detriment,” he says. “This is abysmal.”

Read the whole thing. That’s amazing.

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Is Trump Mentally Unstable?

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

I’m serious. He blew up at the Congressional Democratic leadership today. Here’s what Rep. Steny Hoyer had to say about it:

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According to the NYT:

During the meeting, according to Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Trump berated her as “a third-grade politician” and suggesting that she would be happy if communists gained influence in the Middle East. Ms. Pelosi told reporters on the White House driveway afterward that the president seemed “very shaken up” and was having “a meltdown.”

Mr. Trump also dismissed his own former defense secretary, Jim Mattis, who resigned last year when the president first tried to withdraw troops from Syria. When Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, began to cite Mr. Mattis, a retired Marine general, the president interjected, calling him “the world’s most overrated general,” according to a Democrat briefed on the meeting.

“You know why?” Mr. Trump said. “He wasn’t tough enough. I captured ISIS. Mattis said it would take two years. I captured them in one month.”

And this:

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Well, she’s right. This man is nuts. My colleague Daniel Larison wrote a short time ago about Trump’s scary-bonkers formal letter to Turkey’s Erdogan. You’ve got to read this thing to believe it. It’s not a hoax — the White House has confirmed that this is what POTUS sent to another world leader:

Who talks like that in real life? Who threatens another world leader like a TV mafioso? “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” Who responds well to being addressed so condescendingly? Trump reportedly distributed copies of this letter to Congressional leaders today in an attempt to show them how tough he is. In fact, he demonstrated that he is a boob. Worse:

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At what point does President Trump’s monumental foreign policy idiocy become a national security threat? Not only was he stupid to write and send such a letter, but he undermined his own emissary to Ankara by releasing it today.

In related news:

A former top White House foreign policy adviser told House impeachment investigators this week that she viewed Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, as a potential national security risk because he was so unprepared for his job, according to two people familiar with her private testimony.

The adviser, Fiona Hill, did not accuse Mr. Sondland of acting maliciously or intentionally putting the country at risk. But she described Mr. Sondland, a hotelier and Trump donor-turned-ambassador, as metaphorically driving in an unfamiliar place with no guardrails and no GPS, according to the people, who were not authorized to publicly discuss a deposition that took place behind closed doors.

Ms. Hill, the former senior director for European and Russian affairs at the White House, also said that she raised her concerns with intelligence officials inside the White House, one of the people said.

Mr. Sondland’s lawyer declined to comment.

In her testimony, Ms. Hill described her fears that Mr. Sondland represented a counterintelligence risk because his actions made him vulnerable to foreign governments who could exploit his inexperience. She said Mr. Sondland extensively used a personal cellphone for official diplomatic business and repeatedly told foreign officials they were welcome to come to the White House whenever they liked.

Ms. Hill said that his invitations, which were highly unusual and not communicated to others at the White House, prompted one instance in which Romanian officials arrived at the White House without appointments, citing Mr. Sondland.

Ms. Hill also testified that Mr. Sondland held himself out to foreign officials as someone who could deliver meetings at the White House while also providing the cellphone numbers of American officials to foreigners, the people said. Those actions created additional counterintelligence risks, she said.

Another incompetent boob — and a senior US diplomat appointed by Donald Trump.

At some point, Congressional Republicans are going to have to consider whether or not impeachment and removal is in the best national security interests of the United States. You can bluster about the Deep State all you want, but what we know to be true about the president’s behavior in this Turkey matter is profoundly troubling, not only about his competence as Commander in Chief, but about his own mental stability.

Think about it: if China, North Korea, or Iran were to choose this moment to test America, who among us would have confidence in Trump’s response? What if you were a senior US general or admiral? How much security would you have in the soundness of the orders coming from this White House?

As much as I fear and loathe some of the political positions of the Democrats, after today, we have cause to worry that the president is not mentally capable of doing his job. Whether or not you like the leadership of the opposition party, you have to be able to work with them to govern the country. And you have to be able to communicate to world leaders who have large and powerful armies in a way that does not unduly antagonize them via insults and empty threats. Trump lacks these skills. To put it mildly.

UPDATE: The Speaker of the House calmly asked the nation to pray for the president’s (mental) health:

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UPDATE.2: Yeah, he’s draining the swamp, all right…

Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and a central figure in the House impeachment inquiry of President Trump, is overseeing a nearly $1 million renovation of his government-provided residence, paid for with taxpayer money, that current and former officials have criticized as extravagant and unnecessary.

The work on the ambassador’s home on the outskirts of Brussels includes more than $400,000 in kitchen renovations, nearly $30,000 for a new sound system and $95,000 for an outdoor “living pod” with a pergola and electric heating, LED lighting strips and a remote-control system, government procurement records show.

The State Department also has allocated more than $100,000 for an “alternate” residence for Sondland for September and October, while work is performed.

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Paper Damaged Carson King — And Its Brand

Charity bike ride longer affiliated with the Des Moines Register (Via IowasRide.com)

You might remember the controversy when the Des Moines Register surfaced a couple of obnoxious racist tweets that 24-year-old Carson King had sent when he was 16. King had become a kind of goofy populist star after a sign he held up on ESPN asking for beer money landed him a contract to promote Busch Light, his favorite brand. He was using his fame to raise millions for an Iowa children’s hospital. The paper was doing a profile of him, and its reporter went digging into all his past tweets, finally finding some incriminating ones that were eight years old, and written when he was a high school kid, quoting a comedy TV show.

Carson apologized for them, and said he had changed. But it was too late: Anheuser-Busch cut him off, though it agreed to honor its pledge to the children’s hospital. King’s name was ruined — or so it seemed.

But Iowans responded quite differently. They believed — correctly! — that King had been treated badly by the Register, and they raised hell about it. The Iowa governor declared September 28 “Carson King Day” to show solidarity with the young man. As I wrote here, it turns out that the Javert-like SJW reporter who trashed King had himself tweeted vile things in his teenage years, and lost his job because of it. The people of Iowa remain angry at the paper.

Now comes this news:

A rift over the Des Moines Register’s handling of the Carson King story has led to the resignation of the entire staff of the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa from the newspaper, effective immediately.

In a Tuesday post on RAGBRAI’s Facebook page, TJ Juskiewicz said the Register, “refused to offer me the opportunity to openly speak to the RAGBRAI Nation, and answer the hundreds of passionate questions asked about the future of RAGBRAI following the Des Moines Register’s handling of the Carson King story.”

Juskiewicz said his efforts to communicate with riders were blocked because “it did not mesh with the company’s PR narrative to spin the Carson King embarrassment.”

Juskiewicz says he was told the Register’s leadership, and public relations professionals “don’t want to issue any more public statements on this matter”.

But, Juskiewicz said the Register offered him “talking points for interviews regarding RAGBRAI if the Carson King situation comes up.”

So, 16-years after taking the job as RAGBRAI’s executive director, Juskiewicz, and his staff resigned.

“I can no longer be an effective leader when my principles are compromised by the leadership of Gannett/Des Moines Register,” said Juskiewicz

RAGBRAI was founded in 1973 by John Karras and Donald Kaul.

The seven-day, cross-state bicycle ride across Iowa is the oldest, largest and longest bicycle touring event in the world.

But get this — they re-formed to sponsor the same week-long charity bike ride, without any connection to the newspaper. It’s now called “Iowa’s Ride”.

What a spectacular self-destruction of one’s own brand the Des Moines Register has pulled off. I’m so encouraged to see the people of Iowa responding like this, giving the media comeuppance.

UPDATE: Reader Paul Gregory just posted:

The paper has announced that they will proceed with their event as scheduled, without the staff who resigned, who had run the event for the last 16 years. I expect they will hire a New York-based public relations agency to handle the schedule and logistics, making detailed arrangements, including sleeping arrangements for 10,000 riders, with all the small towns along the route from Council Bluffs to Keokuk. Should go just fine.

UPDATE.2: A reader who is a cyclist e-mails:

Hard to understand how much of a coup this is unless you know how RAGBRAI works and how big a deal it is. There’s a lottery system to figure out who actually gets to register in the event of the ride filling up – some years it does, some years it doesn’t. IR is doing away with that entirely, no lottery at all – if you want to ride you’re going to ride. That’s not as big a deal as it seems, I’ve seen figures implying that only about 75% of riders actually register, but you do need to register if you want to use RAGBRAI’s support buses. Registration for riders at IR is $25 cheaper, RV registration is $25 cheaper, and car registration is $15 cheaper too. That’s not enough to matter to a lot of people, but it’s not nothing.

IR is also scheduled for the exact same week as RAGBRAI but has said it’s announcing its route in November as opposed to January. That’s really big for anyone who plans to be there, especially people driving or flying in from out of state and for vendors who plan to set up along the route.

Basically, RAGBRAI has to put together a whole new staff and get a ride planned by January in the shadow of one that’s cheaper, has been planning the split for a while (I saw one source that said the IR domain was registered two weeks before today), has had a route for two months already, and almost certainly will have better logistics because it’s planned by people whose main experience is planning the largest cycling event in the northern hemisphere. If IR 2020 goes well, the host cities at the end of each day cooperate with the change, enough of the clubs that sign up en masse switch over, and RAGBRAI sees both falling registration and a poor experience for the riders I can easily see RAGBRAI not existing in 2021. Will RAGBRAI 2020 be a Fyre Festival-level debacle? I don’t think so, but it could happen.

Check out this video too. It’s hard to get an idea of the scale of it all unless you see the crowd sizes.

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Heteronormativity Smashers

Elly Barnes, cultural revolutionary (Gay Star News screengrab)

Erin Manning writes:

Yesterday a video circulated on Twitter featuring Elly Barnes, a British lesbian who heads the charity “Educate and Celebrate.” Their mission is to transform schools into LGBT-friendly places. In yesterday’s video, in the first couple of minutes, Barnes openly says that the goal is to “…completely smash heteronormativity…” first in the schools, and then in society.

Here’s the video. The quote Erin cites begins just before the one minute mark:

More Erin Manning:

Lest we think that’s some UK aberration, the goal of the LGBT movement for many years now here in America has been exactly the same. People who thought gay marriage was the end goal didn’t realize that redefining marriage so that it would no longer mean the union of a man and a woman was only the beginning. The program aims to remove any and all notions that heterosexuality is the default position for nearly 97% of human beings. Radical takes on sex and gender identity are another tool in the toolbox to achieve this goal: if there are no men or women, no boys or girls, etc. but only people who “identify” one way or the other then there is no longer any way to “privilege” (in their way of thinking) the heterosexual binary.

That means eradicating heteronormative language, such as “husband/wife” “bride/groom” “mother/father” “son/daughter.” It means changing laws so that nobody has a mother and father listed on a birth certificate, just “Parent 1” and “Parent 2”. It means erasing the “privilege” of the presumption of biological parenthood, because it’s unfair for a heterosexual couple to be granted the assumption that the husband is automatically the baby’s father when this presumption of parenthood is not automatically given to partnered lesbians or transgendered couples and so on. It means teaching children that they are not to think of themselves as male or female, only as “people who identify”, with a strong presumption in favor of fluidity (e.g., you may identify as a boy today, but if you decide to be a girl tomorrow and a “neither” on Friday that’s even better). It means reshaping society to think it is rude to assume that there is such a thing as a normal family structure that includes a mother and a father and their own biological children, or that this is in any way a good thing for society or for individual families.

What does all of the above have to do with GQ’s “New Masculinity”? Simple: if anybody and everybody can be masculine, then nobody really is. There’s no such thing, in fact. If you can’t tie masculinity, even as a kind of stereotype, with the biological male sex, then masculinity is a word that means nothing at all.

But that’s what the agenda is: make “masculinity” something a FtM transgender person is better at than actual males, and make “femininity” something that a MtF transgender person is better at than actual females. Being a woman, in the rainbow community, means dressing up in exaggerated feminine clothing, wearing lots of makeup, and choosing stereotypical accessories like high heels and jewelry. A natal woman who dresses simply and who has dealt with her period since age 12 is scolded that this has nothing to do with being a woman; a “trans girl” born male whose artificially constructed breasts fill out his hot pink sequined dress is told he’s much more a woman than she is.

Remember: the goal is to smash heteronormativity, to make anything related to the gender binary seem outdated and prejudiced, to create a new world where your father can be your mother three days out of seven and neither parent may actually have been “AMAB” (e.g., assigned male at birth). The creation of such a world can only lead to even greater isolation of the individual and even more eradication of the community–and the atomized individual, exploited for his labor, controlled for his vote, destroyed for his alleged own good, is the perfect corporate citizen of the brave new world.

Yes. Notice that in the video, Elly Barnes says that smashing heteronormativity makes people happier and “more productive.”

We are a long, long way from merely promoting “tolerance” and creating “safe spaces.” The fact that Elly Barnes can be so open about what her group is after — smashing heteronormativity — is a sign of their strength. No more having to sugarcoat it to convince the middle classes to welcome it into their schools.

The left used to be about economic fairness. Now, as Augusto Del Noce saw back in the 1970s, it has become about revolutionary destruction of social norms. Carlo Lancellotti, in a Commonweal essay about Del Noce, writes:

Under close inspection, the affluent Western consumer of the 1960s looked suspiciously like Marx’s homo economicus. The main difference was that the Marxist dream of a revolutionary catharsis had transmogrified into a bourgeois utopia of liberation from sexual repression and the shackles of traditional morality.

The Marxist dream of a revolutionary catharsis had transmogrified into a bourgeois utopia of liberation from sexual repression and the shackles of traditional morality.

Del Noce also reflected deeply on the political repercussions of the advent of such “post-Marxist bourgeois society.” He believed that, ironically, the enduring influence of Marxist ideas would leave the left ill-equipped to correct the excesses of capitalism. If values like justice and human dignity do not have an objective reality rooted in a metaphysical order knowable by reason, then social criticism becomes purely negative. It can unmask the hypocrisy and contradictions of ideals like religion, family, and country, but there is no conceptual ground for new ideals. Secondly, Del Noce thought that the left itself was doomed to become “bourgeoisified,” by losing its ties to the working classes and becoming focused on causes broadly linked with sexuality. By doing so it would end up embracing an essentially individualistic and secular idea of happiness, which French sociologist Jacques Ellul had called the bourgeois trait par excellence. Conversely, politics would no longer be the expression of a fabric of social life organized around families, churches, ethnic neighborhoods, trade unions, etc., because all of them were being undermined by the individualism of the new culture.

Indeed, Del Noce said, if a society’s only ideal is the expansion of individual “well-being,” the left faces two equally bad options. One is to embrace what he calls the “reality principle,” and to compromise with the realities of late capitalism. Then the left must necessarily become the party of the technocratic elites, and end up pursuing power for power’s sake, because in the vacuum of ideals left behind by Marxism there is no common ground between the elites and the masses. This “realistic left” can only organize itself around two principles: trust in science and technology, and what Del Noce calls “vitalism,” sexual liberation, which provides a “mystified,” bourgeois replacement of the revolution. The second option is what Del Noce calls “unrealism”: dreaming the impossible, rejecting existing reality altogether, and embracing political extremism in various forms, all of which are destined for defeat. Unrealism “becomes an accomplice of the first attitude in the global rejection of all values.”

Elly Barnes makes smashing heteronormativity seem chipper, but this is what it has meant for Elaine Davidson and her daughter. Here is Elaine speaking outside the Supreme Court at its recent hearing. Part of her speech is below, courtesy of the Kelsey Coalition:

How often have you seen stories like Elaine’s in the mainstream media? You haven’t. It doesn’t fit the “smash heteronormativity” narrative.

And it doesn’t stop there. Someone has begun to notice a certain theme in recent New York Times stories:

 

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I know some of you readers don’t like to hear it from me. When I posted yesterday about GQ magazine’s new issue defining the “new masculinity” according to the views of lesbians, gay men, and genderqueers, some of you took it as yet more culture war whining from me. You people are terribly naive. What remains of our culture is being dismantled by these revolutionaries, but you can’t be troubled to notice it. Things are moving so fast now that plenty of us remember how the media campaign for same-sex marriage began not long after the turn of the century. We remember the claims issued. We warned that the ultimate goal was the destruction of marriage itself — this was actually in academic literature published by far-left law professors at the time — and the normalization of transgenderism. We were denounced as bigots and alarmists.

Now look. You’re going take in all this propaganda, and remain in denial about what’s happening right up until the moment when, as in Britain, where all schools have to teach gender ideology by law, there is no ability to resist. And then you will wonder how on earth it happened. Or you will declare that your miserable trans daughter who now has a beard and has cut off her breasts and crowbarred out her womb is an icon of Eden.

Fifty years ago, if an invading army of barbarians had swept in and said they were going to destroy the ideal of the family, of sexual relations, even of male and female, everyone would have risen up to defend these things. Now, in much of our country, we have become too enervated to do so. And I guess this is Paradise.

I want to add one more thing, for my Christian readers. We cannot keep a traditional culture through laws alone. The laws come from the culture itself. If the culture that treats the traditional family as the norm, and that treats heterosexuality as normal, and men as men and women as women — if the cultural basis for that goes away, then it will go away in our laws. This is what is happening. The West is re-paganizing. A friend just e-mailed me a summary of his priest’s sermon from this past Sunday:

He said persecution is coming. He said that it will be up to our children and grandchildren to preserve Christian Culture in an age of anti-Christian hostility in a neopagan civilization. And Christians will have to be as our early ancestors were in the face of implacable hostility.

I believe it. This is why I wrote The Benedict Option. People misread it all the time as some sort of escape from the coming persecution. In fact, it’s about building resilience in the face of it. As I write in the book, there is no ultimate escape from this. If you think you are going to vote and legislate our way out of it, you’re dreaming. It’s all about culture.

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GQ Emasculates Itself

Cover of GQ’s November issue

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, I used to read GQ from time to time, because it published good magazine journalism, and because I appreciated learning basic stuff on how to dress like a grown-up. When I was in journalism school in the ’80s, I once read a short GQ feature about penny loafers. I can’t remember who wrote it, but I do recall marveling at it. I didn’t really care about men’s shoes, but this piece, which focused on a particular craftsman, made me care. It made penny loafers interesting to a badly dressed college student who plodded around campus on most days wearing Teva sandals. I loved that piece because it showed me what a talented journalist could do with his subject.

And I appreciated articles in the magazine that taught me things about traditional male culture that I didn’t get from my dad. My father, a country man, taught me how to do all kinds of important masculine things — hunt, fish, how to chop wood. But he didn’t know the basics of what you might call urban masculinity — e.g., how men dressed for the office and more formal occasions, because that wasn’t part of his culture. GQ back then helped rustics like me learn how to buy ties, what to look for in shoes, how to tell the difference between a well-made blazer and a cheap knockoff. Things like that.

In the 1990s, I lost touch with GQ. Haven’t looked at an issue in forever. Apparently they don’t make GQ like they used to. Will Welch, who took over its editorship recently, has this to say about its issue on “The New Masculinity”:

We’re not attempting to be comprehensive on the subject of masculinity or offering a strict how-to for being a better man. Instead, this issue is an exploration of the ways that traditional notions of masculinity are being challenged, shifted, and overturned. It’s also intended as an exploration of how we can all become more generous, honest, open, and loving humans—especially if we rebuild masculinity on a foundation of traits and values like generosity, honesty, openness, and love.

Needless to say, one of the voices in the mix is that of our cover subject, Pharrell Williams, who is an icon of progressive thinking, music making, and dressing. Pharrell has a long history of shattering cultural norms—and he has also shown a profound ability to adjust as the world around him has changed. That dynamic combination of leadership and responsiveness is aspirational, and exactly why we wanted him on the cover.

Above, the icon of GQ‘s New Masculinity: an androgynous-looking pop star who wears a sleeping bag, and who looks like the winner of Miss Transgender Cabela’s 2019. The new issue has a piece featuring 18 “Voices of the New Masculinity.” They are, in order of appearance:

A gay male comedian

A female-to-male transgender

A gender nonbinary female who uses the pronoun “they”

A female feminist activist

A female sculptor whose work explores “hypermasculine spaces,” or what she calls “a club I can’t be part of”

A female activist who founded the #MeToo movement

A lesbian photographer “whose work ranges from fine art to editorial to advertising while flipping gendered scripts—of assertive women, queer and transgender models, and androgynous boys.”

A female cultural anthropologist who advocates for intersex athletes

An NBA star

A female “musher” (dogsled racer) who is partnered with a female-to-male transgender

Gay filmmaker John Waters

A male Muslim podcaster

A black married couple — male and female — who hang out at a strip club

A male poet

A lesbian comedian “who’s taking on toxic masculinity”

Magic Johnson’s gay son who promotes men wearing cosmetics and female clothing

So, of the 18 figures that GQ identifies as defining “the new masculinity,” there are perhaps four who are heterosexual men — about 20 percent. Eight are biological females who identify as females, one is a female-to-male transgender, and one is a biological female who identifies as nonbinary. That is to say, ten of the 18 are not heterosexual men — this, in a country in which 97 percent of males identify as heterosexual. 

At least seven are gay or genderqueer, so they aren’t traditionally female either.

This is the New Masculinity? Or is this rather what masculinity has come to mean to Manhattan decadents?

Circulation numbers for men’s magazines have been declining for years. You can’t blame GQ for wanting to try something new. But good grief, this is really stupid. Turning to women, lesbians, a transgender, and a gay man who wears make-up and frocks for advice on how to be masculine? What kind of man wants to wear Pharrell’s sleeping bag?

What’s next: the editors of Scientific American citing creationism advocate Ken Ham as one of the prominent voices changing science? Cosmopolitan bringing in Fedor Emelianenko as a guide to the New Femininity? We can laugh at this, but in all seriousness, this kind of thing with GQ shows you both how elite editors and journalists frame the conversation, and how out of touch they are with reality.

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Why Federal Judges Matter

Man prepares to have penis removed and vagina created. If you’re a doctor and don’t want to be part of this, you don’t have to, says federal judge (Photo By BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images)

Big victory for religious liberty today:

A federal court in Texas ruled Tuesday that doctors across the nation are not required to perform gender-transition surgeries if they go against their medical judgment or religious beliefs.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor reversed a mandate from the Obama administration that required a doctor to perform gender transition procedures on any patient, including a child, even if the doctor believed the procedure could harm the patient, or otherwise face penalties and legal action.

In December 2016, six months after the mandate was issued, two different federal courts ruled the policy was an unlawful overreach by a federal agency and likely a violation of religious liberty. The rulings were in response to two lawsuits against the “transgender mandate” filed by an association of over 19,000 health care professionals, nine states, and several religious organizations.

Luke Goodrich of Becket Law, which represented the victors, said:

“It is critically important that doctors are able to continue serving patients in keeping with their consciences and their professional medical judgment, especially when it comes to the personal health choices of families and children. Doctors cannot do their jobs if government bureaucrats are trying to force them to perform potentially harmful procedures that violate their medical and moral judgment.”

Think about it: the Obama administration tried to force doctors to cut the breasts off of teenage girls, and the penises off of teenage boys, or lose their licenses. What a monstrous act! Judge O’Connor, a George W. Bush appointee, has overturned that order.

This is a good reminder of why federal judges matter — especially given that the Democrats are willing to use the power of the state to institutionalize the Sexual Revolution. Note that Judge O’Connor does not forbid doctors from performing these surgeries. He only stops the federal government from compelling doctors to perform them. This is the kind of tyranny that the Democrats will press on us if given the chance — and from which the federal courts can protect us.

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The Grateful Acre, The Prairie Of Pain

Jeb Kreager, John Zdrojeski, and Zoë Winters in a scene from “Heroes of the Fourth Turning”

Reader Ellen Vandevort Wolf went to see Will Arbery’s play Heroes Of The Fourth Turning, and sent me this letter about it (if you don’t know what the play is about, read the first thing I wrote about it):

I wasn’t able to comment in your post about the play but after seeing the matinee yesterday, I just had to write.

In NYMag, Sarah Holdren starts her review this way: “Will Arbery’s Heroes of the Fourth Turning is so frighteningly well written, it’s hard to write about. It’s the rare play where standing and picking up your shit and shuffling down steps and going outside—especially onto 42nd Street—immediately after feels like a kind of violence. You’re not ready for it yet. You’re still in Arbery’s world — murky yet lit by lightning, lyrical and scary, brave and terribly gentle. Coming out of the whole thing is like waking to a bucket of water thrown in your face. But even that jolt feels right in its way, because Heroes is a kind of nightmare.”

With the exception of that last phrase, this was my reaction as well. What I really wanted to do was stay in my seat and sob to the depths of my being. I’m still trying to articulate what it meant to sit there for two hours, in which most of the time I was oh so uncomfortable, hearing conservative arguments I’m well acquainted with but which very few of my fellow New Yorkers have ever heard, afraid of how the audience would respond. While I was uncomfortable, the woman sitting next to me seemed viscerally angry. But gradually I found my head forgetting the characters’ political leanings and my heart breaking for these beautiful broken people as the play climaxes, when Arbery shatters the political zeitgeist and sends us careening into the supernatural, confusing, devastating pain of humanity where we all truly live. When the lights came up, everyone seemed shaken, including the girl next to me.

The trick Arbery used that kept everyone in their seats was his resistance to agitprop and his skill at creating five “deplorables” who are undeniably human. He left us at the end with no absolution for either side of the political spectrum. Every time one of his characters started to sound like the liberal caricature of a conservative, he inserted an insightful self-evaluation or a pointed challenge from another character to deny the audience any chance of feeling justified or superior. His most empathetic character, Emily, responds to Theresa’s rabid attack on pro-abortionists by insisting that one can still like pro-choice people. I was sure he’d make Emily pro-choice but he didn’t. It was genius. He would take a character just to the brink of a liberal’s comfort zone, but never hand any of the characters over to vilify. At the same time, he didn’t affirm or valorize any of the five characters’ conservative leanings. What he did was show fully-realized, particular, complicated conservatives, a very rare event for an American stage.

I’m not sure what Arbery really thinks of conservatives. He mentioned in an NYT article being angry at Trump’s victory and needing to write about what kind of person could possibly vote for him. He certainly sounds, at the very least, ambivalent. NYMag’s Holdren seems to think the play indicates that the conservative worldview is on its last breath, not worth saving, and that the generator’s scream doubles the characters over like “devils in torment, hearing the sound of their own sad, poisoned souls.” It’s telling, then, that the bar is so low that right-leaners will grab at any little crumb that comes their way from the entertainment world, even one that isn’t really, at its core, for them. It’s to his immense credit that he’s willing to run the risk of conservatives hailing him as their champion, even if he feels otherwise. And it’s to his immense talent, that if he is as ambivalent as he sounds, conservatives consider this a positive description. (Also, I said to my husband that only a Catholic could have written the ending with the supernatural surprises. How he touched down, just for a second, on that topic [regarding Kevin’s parting story and Justin’s “lie”] was superb story-telling. Emily’s unrelenting channeling was devastating.)

Arbery keeps the liberals in their seats because of his riveting, intelligent, funny dialogue, he keeps the conservatives there by reflecting back to them characters they–to some degree–recognize, and he keeps the rest of us there by giving voice to our longing that both sides would stop for a second and recognize that we’re all human, and that we deserve to be treated with the respect due for simply being human. I came to New York to work in theater and have seen countless excellent plays in my life. But I can count on one hand the number of times a production has reached a place so deep within me that I couldn’t breathe and sobbing seemed like the only response. I will not soon forget this play. Please thank Will Arbery from this New Yorker for counting all of us human.

Done.

I’ve been thinking more about that play, and its deeper meaning. I think the core meaning has to do with the Millennial generation’s haunting sense of dispossession. This is a generation that has been exiled from the givenness of life — even from the givenness of their own bodies (though there are no transgender characters, transgenderism as a form of alienation from physical givenness would very much fit the philosophical framework of the play). These characters are struggling to find a place for themselves — a place where they can hope — in a world that is beset by a malign spirit that no one can quite name.

On the front page of the script, Arbery features this quote from the poet Mary Ruefle:

And who among us is not neurotic, and has never complained that they are not understood? Why did you come here, to this place, if not in the hope of being understood, of being in some small way comprehended by your peers, and embraced by them in a fellowship of shared secrets? I don’t know about you, but I just want to be held.

That’s a key to the meaning of the drama. These are five lonely people who were once given to each other when they studied together at the Wyoming college, and who, because of that past, share something. They are all lonely — even Teresa, the successful Ann Coulter-like pundit, who is planning to be married. She’s a hard-right winger who lives in Brooklyn, and is fighting for a reactionary world, but is using that crusade as a way to hide from her own fears.

Kevin thinks too much. He’s passionate, but unsettled. Justin, the cowboy, is a partisan of the Benedict Option. He says it’s getting too hard to hold on to the Good, and advises staying away from the cities. Emily has been chronically ill — with Lyme disease, no doubt, as this character was based on Will Arbery’s sister Monica, who has suffered from it for years — and her illness defines her experience. She takes Flannery O’Connor as her spiritual guide, and offers her pain as a sacrifice through which she hopes to obtain grace.

The more I think about the play, the more I realize that it’s really about particularity, place, and givenness in a world of suffering. Though Will Arbery has said that he no longer practices the Catholic faith in which he was raised, this is a profoundly Catholic play. These characters are all adrift in liquid modernity, which obliterates these things in favor of choice, and they’re trying to come to terms with the fact that they cannot escape their particularity. Teresa, the Ann Coulter figure, says to Kevin:

We’re allowed to read Protestants idiot, Dr. Jim gave me the book okay?, he thought I could handle it, LISTEN, Breuggemann said that every single revelation in the Bible is evidence of the scandal of the particular. The scandal of this particular person getting this particular revelation. This carpenter, this shepherd, this stutterer, this virgin. And grace – grace always accompanying the grotesque. Sometimes the moments that are the most grotesque are the closest to transcendent grace.

She goes on:

Actually this is at the heart of my writing right now. The nation as the last bastion of the particular. The kingdom is the kingdom and the kingdom has particular laws. The lepers need to be healed, not championed for their leprosy. We’re not meant to structure our society according to every freakish chosen “right.” We’re supposed to strive for the good. The particular, written, incarnate, natural Christian good. Otherwise, what are we? A throbbing mass of genderless narcissists. There’s no “thisness” in the liberal future. There’s no there there. It’s empty. What’s really radical is sacrifice. Painful particularity is what we need. Otherwise we’re culturally lobotomized. We’ll be force-fed brand new oppressed identities every year and we’ll bow to the tyranny of rights. Fuck rights. Europe right now has no idea what to do with Islam. It’s going to eat them alive because it’s so fucking specific and there’s a power there. We need to embrace our American identity as a representative of Christ on the globe. Because it’s Christianity alone that has a God who knows what it is to be a man, who sacrificed his life as a man, who felt the full pain of our particular human journey into death. And we need to be ready to sacrifice ourselves the way he sacrificed himself for all of us. What a scandal! What a scandal that we would rather put up a wall, that we would rather die, than be subsumed by an invading disease.

Some of that sounds good, but then you realize that she has turned her appreciation for particularity into a worship of nationalism and right-wing politics. And you also realize, the more you go into the play, that she has thrown herself into the life she has not as an embrace of particularity, but as a form of escape. That line — “What a scandal that we would rather put up a wall, that we would rather die, than be subsumed by an invading disease” — is turned on her rather brilliantly in a confrontation at the play’s end.

I can imagine liberal New Yorkers sitting there hearing Teresa say these words, and thinking of her as a simplistic villain. But she’s not. I know Christian conservatives who think just like her. They’re not villainous, or if they are, there’s nothing simple about them. As St. Augustine would say, their sin is a perversion of the Good. Teresa has taken the truths that she was given, energized them with rage from her own suffering, and made of them a shield to protect herself from having to come to terms with her own demons — as we see later in the play.

After Teresa delivers this angry lecture to Kevin, he takes accurate measure of her:

Yes, it’s just
I got sad
If you’re all about the particular, and ordinary people Then why don’t you want to hear about all my things, My particular things

There you have the first intimation that Teresa is lying to herself — and lying to herself in a way that will be familiar to many of us. Especially us intellectual types who, in our particular lives, profess abstractions but live differently, and dwell within the cognitive dissonance.

Justin, the cowboy, recites for the group the text of a children’s book he has written, called “The Grateful Acre.” I’m not going to reproduce it here, because it really is a special moment in the play — special, but also eerie. It brings to mind Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree,” but in this case, it’s a fable about an acre of land that endures cycles of life, death, and suffering, with a spirit of gratitude for whatever happens to it. That description might sound corny, but I assure you the text is not. It is a children’s fable instructing the reader about the kind of fundamental stance toward life that they should have.

Later, though, in a discussion with chronically ill Emily, she describes her body as a “prairie of pain.” The passage is here:

JUSTIN
Your dad was saying and I thought it was brilliant that it’s this Cartesian “neo-Gnosticism” that convinces people that their souls are somehow separate from their bodies, and their bodies can somehow be fashioned however they like.

EMILY
Oh that’s beautiful J, that’s so — my body is so much a part of me I can’t even begin And I didn’t choose this, my body is just a friggin
prairie of pain,
and I can’t choose to make it go away
It’s just what I’ve been given.

The grateful acre is the prairie of pain. Catholicism is about accepting the suffering, as Christ did, and allowing it to refine you, to make you holy.

Emily has been given to know the prairie of pain in a particular (that word) way, but all four of these friends are suffering. They have been schooled in how to think about the world, but the encounter with suffering has tested, and is testing, their ideals. Emily is the only one whose suffering — whose given suffering — has left her without a choice in how to meet it. It has made her radically empathetic … but, as we learn, it has also made it difficult for her to discern moral truth.

In his New Yorker review of the play, Vinson Cunningham writes:

Justin never quite forgets that blood on the patio, or the difficulty he had killing the animal. That’s never happened before—hunting is a favorite pastime—and he sees the change in himself as just one more sign of the times’ palsying effect on the simplicity of the old ways.

But nothing in this richly allusive play is exactly as it seems at first glance. Justin’s fixation on the early sacrifice—he keeps trying to scrub away the blood when he thinks nobody’s watching—put me in mind of Cain, fretting over the spilled blood of his innocent brother, Abel.

The play begins with Justin killing a deer. Symbolically, this seems to say that violence and suffering are givens of the human condition, and that we are not going to be able to escape them. We are not going to be able to create the perfect conditions for ourselves; all our grateful acres will inevitably turn into prairies of pain, because that’s what it means to live. How we inhabit that ground, and whether we make it holy or desecrate it, determines the character of our lives.

Teresa has gone to New York and fashioned herself as a Millennial Joan of Arc of the media, but she is hiding from her own fears. Kevin keeps waiting for something to happen to tell him what to do with his life, while time passes (Teresa is not wrong to say that his is a failure of courage.) Justin has become a contemplative, and, as we see in the play’s final moments, has chosen a way to deal with his own rage at the darkness overtaking the world — but is it the right way? Emily has no choice but to dwell in the prairie of pain.

Without giving away too much, I can say that Professor Gina, who taught all of them (and who is based on Will Arbery’s mother Ginny), shows up to sort her pupils out. There is conflict, but the main thing I took away from her appearance is that for all her flaws, she was willing to suffer for the sake of creating life, and teaching, and reaching out, in her own broken ways, to love the students God sent to her, and to give them what they needed to thrive. Prof. Gina has created a way of life out of her own historical givenness — she was a Goldwater girl back in the day — but her daughter Emily, and Emily’s friends, can’t follow her as closely as she would like, because the historical conditions into which they’ve been thrown are so different. The thing they have most in common, though — this, according to Emily, is that they all suffer. Emily talks about all the physical illness her mother has suffered:

… she’s walking around in tremendous pain every freaking day. And she never complains. That’s some faith. That’s some faith. So y’all I guess we can forgive her for being a little intense.

The grateful acre, the prairie of pain. The human stain that stays with us. I’ll leave you with these lines from Ellen Wolf:

But gradually I found my head forgetting the characters’ political leanings and my heart breaking for these beautiful broken people as the play climaxes, when Arbery shatters the political zeitgeist and sends us careening into the supernatural, confusing, devastating pain of humanity where we all truly live. When the lights came up, everyone seemed shaken, including the girl next to me.

Yep. It’s that kind of play. Here’s the trailer:

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Fear Of Jordan Peterson

This is America (and Canada too). From the alternative Seattle paper The Stranger:

About halfway through my conversation with filmmakers Patricia Marcoccia and Maziar Ghaderi, they got two pieces of bad news. First, they found out from their tour manager that a planned screening of their film, The Rise of Jordan Peterson, had just been canceled by a theatre in Toronto.

This was not entirely unexpected. Another venue in Toronto recently canceled a week-long run of the film, as did a theatre in Brooklyn, citing complaints by the staff.

“The people who run these venues are so worried about getting in trouble,” Ghaderi said. “An old professor of mine once told me that artists are supposed to be fearless, but when I’m reading these emails from these gatekeepers, I’m thinking, ‘Man, you people should go work for the government or something.’”

We kept talking, and then, a moment later, Ghaderi received a text message from a pastor outside of Portland. The pastor had agreed to screen the film at his church and had been getting complaints—and threats. He forwarded one of these messages to Ghaderi.

“Fair warning,” it read, “several community organizations are planning to shut down your showing of the Jordan Peterson propaganda film. While many of us aren’t Christian and some even flat-out condemn the religion, we do not want any harm to come to your place of worship or those within. However, we cannot allow fascism to continue to rise and will not tolerate its presence in our city, whether it is on the streets or on the waterfront or in a church. Read some history books, read about eugenics, read about sex and gender and then compare it to Peterson. Pray on it if you must. Do the right thing. As much as we joke about it, we really don’t want to have to bring out the guillotine to fix society.”

More:

Is he dangerous? A lot of people think so. Over the weekend, the New York Times published an opinion piece by a parent worried about children being recruited online by racists. She wrote that she almost lost control of the car she was driving when she heard her son use the word “triggered,” which she calls a “calling card of the alt-right.” She names Peterson videos a sign of radicalization as well, writing that his “perspectives on feminism and gender are very popular among young men and often are a path to more extreme content and ideologies.”

This argument has been made frequently—and it’s addressed in the film—but many of the Peterson fans I’ve spoken to have told me the opposite: Peterson didn’t guide them to the alt-right; he guided them back from it. This discrepancy between what his followers see and what his critics say can make the outrage over him seemed like a kind of moral panic.

Read the whole thing. The lefties in Portlandia are threatening the guillotine, but the threat to society is Jordan Peterson, you see.

Here’s a review of the documentary in Quillette; the reviewer is Carol Horton. Excerpts:

The Rise of Jordan Peterson constructs a kaleidoscopic narrative that enables the viewer to look at the same sequence of events in several different ways. Engaging with the film fully demands a willingness to listen to a wide and often conflicting range of perspectives. Those who insist on placing Peterson in an airtight box, and seeing him solely as either a holy prophet or a demonic villain, will almost certainly neither like nor understand this film. After all, it’s designed to raise questions that, if acknowledged, would devastate such one-dimensional caricatures.

On the other hand, those open to considering the man, his work, and the controversies swirling around him in a new light should value and enjoy the film. It’s an exceptional accomplishment that this should be true regardless of whether they’re fans, critics, or simply curious to know what all the fuss has been about. Weaving a multiplicity of narratives together into a powerful, if complex storyline, The Rise of Jordan Peterson inspires the viewer to think, feel, question, and reflect.

Horton goes on:

It’s sickly ironic that a film of such outstanding originality is being shut out of independent and arthouse cinemas, the very cultural institutions that should be most committed to supporting such creative work. It’s also pathetic that “progressives” preoccupied with a fashionable politics of identity can’t bring themselves to care about the hypocrisy of seeking to sabotage a film made by a woman (Marcoccia) and person of color (Ghaderi). No doubt, they’d also prefer to ignore the fact that the original project was to document Peterson’s friendship with an indigenous artist who, among other accomplishments, created a 55-foot high totem pole honoring the survivors of Canada’s residential school system, which forcibly placed First Nations children in shockingly abusive church-run schools.

Here’s the trailer:

Here’s a link to the film’s website. If you want to sponsor a screening in your locale, go through the site.

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