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Home/Rod Dreher

Italian Lives Matter

Vincent PInkney, left, and his alleged victim Davide Giri (Heavy.com)

Italian reader Giuseppe Scalas says that the murder in NYC of an Italian researcher by a black gang member out on parole has turned the left-wing Milan daily Corriere della Sera against The New York Times. He sent a translation of the Federico Rampini commentary in the Corriere today. Here it is:

The 25-year-old Vincent Pinkney, the killer who cut short Davide Giri’s life, belongs to one of the most ferocious New York gangs. He was a convicted felon, arrested several times for violent crimes, sentenced to a light sentence, released before having served it. He was at large despite being suspected of committing a recent assault.
Almost everything is known about the man who savagely assaulted the Italian researcher as he returned to Columbia University after a soccer game. But none of this news is visible in The New York Times. A landmark newspaper for the city and the nation. Yet distracted and reticent about a tragedy that occurred in the heart of Manhattan.
Name, surname, age of the murderer are the meager news provided to readers. The news article was confined to the local pages, with little visibility. On the newspaper website, the first version was not followed by any update. Brief testimonials from fellow students, a statement from the rector of Columbia University, make up an evasive and terse article. Zero news about the perpetrator of what could have been a massacre.
After stabbing Giri at 10:55 p.m. on Thursday at the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and 123rd Street, a quarter of an hour later Pinkney wounded an Italian tourist, Roberto Malaspina, a short distance away on Morningside Drive; a few minutes more and he attempted to attack a couple in Central Park. Why don’t New York Times readers know anything about Pinkney except his age and last name?
The newspaper’s interest, and the investigative vigor put into the field, would have been different if the parties had been reversed. That is, if the victim had been African-American and the murderer a white man; all the more so if that white man had been a member of some organization that preaches and practices violence, for example a right-wing militia. The tragedy would have made the front page, a team of reporters would have been mobilized to investigate the murderer’s background, history, and motivations.
Pinkney is an African-American resident of Washington Heights, an area of Harlem. The police recognized him as a member of EBK, which stands for Everybody Killas, a gang whose base of operations is in the borough of Queens. EBK was born from other criminal gangs with which it maintains close relationships: the Bloods, the Crips, the Nightingales. EBK’s range of action extends to California, where a report by the San Joaquin prosecutor’s office describes it as “a gang whose policy is open warfare”. It is financed by drug trafficking; it is involved in a long line of shootings.
Pinkney had been arrested 11 times since 2012 for serious crimes. In 2018, he had been sentenced to four years in prison for participating in a vicious pack attack. He was released after two years. To find these news stories, released by law enforcement, you have to go to the sites of some local TV station, or a populist tabloid, the New York Post.The New York Times has chosen a reticence that borders on self-censorship, consistent with the editorial line of recent years. The canons of American journalism have been twisted, particularly during the Donald Trump years when it became a boast in progressive media newsrooms to practice “resistance journalism.” The search for balance or impartiality was considered a weakness: the end justifies the means.
With the murder of African American George Floyd by a white officer on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis, and the revival of the Black Lives Matter anti-racist movement, major newspapers embraced slogans such as “defund the police.” Incidents of looting and violence that occurred under the guise of anti-racism were downplayed. The New York Times has promoted an initiative, The 1619 Project, which rereads the entire American history as a derivation of slavery that would still affect every institution, the entire legal system, culture and school. A purge within the editorial staff removed several reporters who were not aligned with the radicalism of Black Lives Matter.
A few dissenting voices remain isolated, such as columnist Bret Stephens, who warned a week ago: in the past, when the American left has been lax on the escalation of crime, it has favored a powerful right-wing uprising. In New York, homicides are up 42% since 2019. The first political reaction has already been there: the election of new Mayor Eric Adams, an African-American who comes from the ranks of the police. The less privileged ethnic groups, the main victims of the escalation of violence, voted for him.
“Black lives matter” is a slogan that for Black Lives Matter seems to apply only when the killers are white and racist; the vast majority of violent deaths, among Blacks as well as Hispanics, go unnoticed because the killers belong to the same ethnic group. The Times‘ reticence includes the issue of easy release. The newspaper supports “progressive” prosecutors who also set free dangerous criminals, professionals of violence, who pose a constant threat to the community.
In the aftermath of Giri’s death, an editorial from the editors confirmed this line, attacking those prosecutors who do not proceed fast enough to empty prisons. The pain for the absurd death of Giri would not be compensated by a different focus of the press, but this event offers a disturbing look at the “new journalism”, militant and conditioned by its ideological agenda. Even crime reporting bends to this tribal logic.

If you read Italian, read the original. 

The Italians are correct. It matters far, far more to the Times newsroom that a so-called Karen called the police unfairly on a black man in Central Park than that a black ex-con released from prison early in a time of progressive anti-incarceration initiatives savagely murdered a white man at Columbia. When this country takes a hard right turn out of disgust with crime and the ideological lying around race that America’s elites practice and mandate, The New York Times is going to wonder how it happened. I hope they have a big mirror in the newsroom.

And if you want to read actual news about this monster Pinkney, check out the New York Post. 

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Books As Race Bait

Cracker trap in the front lawn? (Source)

Whenever people ask me why I keep subscribing to The New York Times, even though I believe it despises people like me and is working in many ways to make our lives worse, I tell them that one has to know how one’s enemies are thinking. The Times is the parish newsletter of the Cathedral, and as such the thoughts expressed there, whether openly in op-ed pieces or implicitly in its news coverage, pretty much express the views of the American ruling class — or at the very least opinions the ruling class believes are normative. Attention must be paid, because these opinions will sooner or later affect your life.

One of the most interesting aspects of Times-reading is coming across outrageous remarks that indicate how deeply inside the progressive bubble the newspaper is. I say “progressive,” because the Times is no longer a liberal newspaper. No authentically liberal newspaper would publish something like this lunatic racist screed. Here is the headline:

The author, a black woman named Erin Aubry Kaplan, is feeling guilty about putting a My Little Library — a box of books for people to borrow and return — outside her house in a black Los Angelis neighborhood, because … well, let her tell the story:

Prepandemic, Inglewood was gentrifying, another reason I’d been inspired to do the library: I wanted to signal to my longtime neighbors that we had our own ideas about improvement, and could carry them out in our own way. There are organizations that help people build these little libraries, but I did mine independently. I envisioned it as a place for my neighbors to stay connected during the pandemic. The wooden post on which the library sat was a stake in the ground, literally.

The response to the library was slow at first — it was the first in the area, and some people mistook it for a birdhouse, or a mailbox. But I was pleased to soon see people stopping by to browse and take home books.

Then one morning, glancing out my front window, I saw a young white couple stopped at the library. Instantly, I was flooded with emotions — astonishment, and then resentment, and then astonishment at my resentment. It all converged into a silent scream in my head of, Get off my lawn!

Uh oh, there goes the neighborhood. More:

What I resented was not this specific couple. It was their whiteness, and my feelings of helplessness at not knowing how to maintain the integrity of a Black space that I had created. I was seeing up close how fragile that space can be, how its meaning can be changed in my mind, even by people who have no conscious intention to change it. That library was on my lawn, but for that moment it became theirs. I built it and drove it into the ground because I love books and always have. But I suddenly felt that I could not own even this, something that was clearly and intimately mine.

As the couple wandered on, no books in hand, I thought about how fragile my feeling of being settled is. It didn’t matter that I own my house, as many of my neighbors do. Generations of racism, Jim Crow, disinvestment and redlining have meant that we don’t really control our own spaces. In that moment, I had been overwhelmed by a kind of fear, one that’s connected to the historical reality of Black people being run off the land they lived on, expelled by force, high prices or some whim of white people.

Kaplan reflects on the fact that this sounds pretty racist, but then reassures herself that it’s just fine, because reasons. I am quite sure that anybody in the New York Times newsroom who read this and thought, “hang on, that’s racist” knows by now to keep that opinion to themselves if they want to keep their job.

This op-ed is a perfect example of the illiberalism of today’s Left. Kaplan is correct to write in her piece about the old white-supremacist laws that prevented black Americans from controlling their spaces. We overturned those with civil rights legislation, which was built on the idea, in part, that no race in America gets to control a residential space to keep home buyers out on the basis of race. What do you think the “white flight” phenomenon was all about? It was about white people angry that they “don’t really control [their] own spaces,” so they fled to places where they would not have to live around black people. Erin Aubry Kaplan condemns white people who prefer to live in white neighborhoods, and condemns white people who would like to live in her minority neighborhood. You might think, sorry, Erin, you can’t have it both ways, but of course you can, if you are on the Left. Leftists like Erin Aubry Kaplan are the beneficiary of a racist system that puts its thumbs on the scale to benefit racist progressives. Her rationalization of her own objectively racist views makes sense within a system of thought that denies liberal universalism, and that places the line between Good and Evil between races … exactly as the white supremacists of old did.

For a long time, conservatives used to think that by pointing out liberal hypocrisies, we would compel liberals to change. Now, nobody on the Right can possibly have that illusion. The people in power today in our country — not just in political power, but in power within all the important institutions of American life — have absorbed this postliberal Leftist viewpoint, and think of it as normal — just as the ruling class of the 1950s American South did when racism benefited whites who wanted to control their own neighborhoods. If it was wrong then — and I believe it was — then it’s wrong today.

Let me put in a word for Erin Aubry Kaplan, though. Wanting to live around people who look and think like you, and share your culture, is very human. About 15 years ago, the Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam (the Bowling Alone guy) published results of a study he was doing on how diversity affected social capital. What did he discover? This:

After Bowling Alone, Putnam’s next step was to determine why some communities have more social capital than others. To find out, he helped organize a large nationwide survey of social capital indicators that sampled about 30,000 people from a broad array of cities, towns, and rural areas. By collecting demographic information about the individuals and the places they lived, Putnam hoped to gain insight into what makes for a trusting and neighborly community.

When he spoke to my class in 2004, Putnam had started to analyze the survey data, but he had not yet published any findings. He began by telling us about one result he encountered that was thoroughly upsetting to him—the more ethnically diverse a community is, the less social capital it possesses. When a person lives in a diverse community, he trusts everyone less, including those of his own ethnic group. In describing the behavior of people in diverse areas, Putnam told us to imagine turtles hiding in their shells.

Putnam walked us through how he came to his conclusion. At first, it was just a simple correlation. Looking at his list of the most trusting places, Putnam found whole states such as New Hampshire and Montana, rural areas in West Virginia and East Tennessee, and cities such as Bismarck, North Dakota and Fremont, Michigan. Among the least trusting places were the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Houston. The most trusting places tended to be homogenously white, while the least trusting places were highly diverse.

Putnam told us he had been fairly certain the correlation would go away once other factors were taken into account. But it didn’t. He entered a long list of control variables into regression analyses that predict elements of social capital such as neighborly trust and civic participation. Many factors—especially younger age, less education, and higher poverty and crime rates—seem to damage community relations. But none of these factors could explain the robust, negative relationship between ethnic diversity and social capital. Sounding almost defeated, Putnam told us that ethnic diversity is not merely correlated with certain community problems—it causes them.

When Putnam finally published the study, he fell all over himself trying to qualify its findings to avoid the obvious conclusion. Putnam is a man of the Left, and the foremost authority on social capital. Yet his research indicated that an inverse relationship exists between diversity and social capital — a refutation of the sacred progressive concept of Diversity Is Our Strength. In fact, he found that in terms of neighborhoods and social capital, diversity is our weakness.

This makes sense, not necessarily because we are a racist society, but because it is perfectly natural for people to feel more comfortable around those like themselves. The anxieties people of all races living in mixed-race communities feel about their neighborhood might be irrational, but they are normal. What Erin Aubry Kaplan is expressing is racist, but understandable in terms of human nature. She is black, and feels more comfortable living in a neighborhood where she shares the culture with most of her neighbors. Wouldn’t you?

It’s not just about race. You might be a nice middle-class liberal pleased to be living in an ethnically diverse neighborhood. But let’s say a white redneck family moves into a rental house on your block. Let’s say that all their cars — old, beat-up vehicles — have Trump stickers on them. The pick-up even has a Confederate flag sticker in the back windshield. They put a Trump 2020 sign in their yard during the campaign. They play music a little bit too loud, and sometimes they argue with each other in the driveway, cursing and carrying on. You get the picture. How are you going to feel about their presence? Chances are it’s going to wind you up, because these people don’t fit in — and it’s 100 percent about class and culture. You would prefer to have a nice middle-class liberal family living there, the kind of people who mind their manners, and put in their lawn signs that say BLACK LIVES MATTER and “IN THIS HOUSE WE BELIEVE…”. Progressivism gives you a conceptual vocabulary with which to justify your antagonism to the redneck neighbors. They make you feel “unsafe” in your own neighborhood, with their Trumpy redneckery, and so forth.

It’s bigotry based not on race, but on class. But bigotry it is. You are, like Woody Allen’s Alvy Singer, a bigot, but a bigot for the Left. That’s the kind of bigotry that is acceptable to the ruling class in American life. You can get an op-ed in The New York Times with that bigotry. White people who express the same kind of sentiment risk having their reputations destroyed by the attacks of the kind of power-holders who cheer for the Erin Aubry Kaplans of the world, but who at the same time see white people who reason in the same exact way about their neighborhoods as the scum of the earth who deserve whatever they get.

Imagine that you are that white couple whose interest in her My Little Library so triggered Erin Aubry Kaplan. You are thought by her to be racist for trying to “gentrify” her black neighborhood. But if Erin Aubry Kaplan overheard you talking about how you preferred to live in an all-white neighborhood, she would call you racist too. You can’t win. Progressives like Erin Aubry Kaplan and the people at The New York Times who publish her have no interest in logical consistency or moral fairness. Progressive racism is just social justice, haven’t you heard?

People are tribal by nature. Evolution has made us so; it’s a survival instinct. The reason Bob Putnam found that the more diversity you have in a neighborhood, the less social capital there is that if you live around a bunch of people who don’t look like you and — more importantly — may not share your values, the more wary you have to be of potential threats from them. This does not mean, of course, that people who look like you and share your culture won’t harm you, or that people who don’t look like you and don’t share your culture will harm you. The instinct, though, comes from humanity’s distant past, where failing to develop these prejudices to some extent might have gotten you killed.

Liberalism, then, is something that can only exist in conditions of advanced economic and cultural development. It is contrary to natural human instincts. I was telling someone the other day that at this point in my life, I really don’t want to live outside the American South. Is it because I think there is something wrong with people from the West, the Midwest, the East, etc? Not at all. It’s because of what Little Steven van Zandt said in the chorus of his great song “I Am A Patriot”:

I am a patriot, and I love my country
Because my country is all I know
I want to be with my family, the people who understand me
I’ve got nowhere else to go

Looking at Erin Aubry Kaplan’s column from that angle, I get it. She wants to be with the people who understand her — and in her mind, that means black people. She is permitted to say that out loud, because a black person is permitted to hold that kind of belief in our society without facing condemnation from the ruling class and its institutions. She expects others to affirm, or at least tolerate, her own racist views, while rationalizing her own. Here is an excerpt from a Times column she wrote in 2020:

Racism is a form of convenience, in the sense that it’s designed to make life easier for its beneficiaries. So is white privilege — the phenomenon of not having to think about the costs of oppression, or about Black people at all.

Antiracism requires the opposite: engagement. We are starting to see it in the demands for police reforms, in the growing white rejection of symbols of white oppression like Confederate monuments and flags, even figures of presidents.

But this is all part of Step 1. Being truly antiracist will require white people to be inconvenienced by new policies and practices, legal and social, that affect everything in everyone’s daily lives, from jobs to arts and publishing.

What a convenient ideology! Racism really is a form of convenience, in the sense that it’s designed to make life easier for its beneficiaries. Kaplan’s anti-white racism is a form of convenience designed to protect the ethnic homogeneity of her own neighborhood, which allows her to feel more at home there. But come on, “being truly antiracist” requires black people like Kaplan to be “inconvenienced” by the fact that under civil rights laws, that white couple has as much right to buy a house in her neighborhood as she does to buy a house in a white neighborhood.

What Kaplan — and The New York Times — supports is a double standard that dispossesses white people in the same way that a previous generation of laws and standards dispossessed people of color. And they want us all to call this progress.

You can roll your eyes at the hypocrisy of Erin Aubry Kaplan and The New York Times, but you had better be well aware that this hypocrisy is not seen as hypocritical at all by the ruling class and the Cathedral. In the spaces they control — like university campuses — they execute such racist policies all the time, such as creating racially exclusive student housing, while denying (as they should) whites the opportunity to live in such places. I believe that if progressives (of all races) had their way, they would expand these racist policies, and write protecting them into law. This is why it is important to read The New York Times: to know what the elites who control this society think, and what they are likely to do with their power.

One of the most interesting things about progressives is that they honestly cannot conceive of people objecting in good faith to what they proclaim. If you are a white person working at The New York Times, you probably never encounter white people who object to this kind of progressive racism, or find it problematic in any way. Those that do — like the liberal journalist Donald McNeil — have been driven out. Whites who work in environments under progressive cultural control (such as major corporations) have learned to keep their objections to themselves if they want to keep their jobs.

But they still see it, and they understand that the Left has created, and continues to create, a world set on dispossessing them and their children, in the name of rectifying wrongs of the past, when whites did the same to minorities. Justice, in the old, liberal sense, meant creating a world where this is less likely to happen. But justice in the postliberal left-wing sense means creating a world where the Erin Aubry Kaplans of the world are permitted to think and do racist things, as long as their racism is aimed at white people. And the white people this is typically aimed at are those who don’t know and accept the elite code that’s hammered into the heads of those who aspire to professional life. That is to say, it is aimed at working-class white people.

As J.D. Vance said at NatCon, once you realize that culture war from the Left is really class warfare in a different guise, everything becomes clearer.

The white couple that admired Erin Aubry Kaplan’s My Little Library was probably not working class, but Kaplan resented them anyway. Her late husband was white, but he accepted her anti-white racism. As she wrote in the Times in 2018:

When I married in 2000, I changed my name. I expanded it — kept my name but added my husband’s name, Kaplan, without a hyphen. I wanted my name to reflect a conjoining that was also an evolution, literally one thing following another. This was an experiment, as all marriages are, that felt exciting and open-ended, not least because I’m black and my husband was white.

I wasn’t excited because I thought we’d be some kind of symbol of racial resolution. I was hardly that naïve, and neither was Alan. I am a journalist who had been covering black matters for years at that point, and Alan was a locally famous high school teacher of American history who believed that race and racism had shaped America far more than it was willing to admit. Not surprisingly, he didn’t think changing my name was a great idea. “Black people know you as Erin Aubry,” he said bluntly. “They’ll resent a name so obviously white and Jewish. It’ll get in your way.”

He wasn’t being snide or heroic. One of the many things he’d figured out is that white people showing up in a black space, including the intimate space of a relationship, is seen by many black folks as an incursion, even if they don’t say so. That he understood and was even sympathetic to this view impressed me, but I changed my name anyway. It felt romantic.

In that piece, she talks about how her husband often challenged her thinking on race, and how she benefited from it. How does she know that white couple might not do the same thing for her? Why doesn’t she admit that as unpleasant as it might be for her to see white people moving into the neighborhood, this “inconveniencing” is the price she has to pay to have demolished a racist system that kept black people out of white neighborhoods in the past?

Again, I understand at some level why she feels this way. Erin Aubry Kaplan is as human as the rest of us. But I resent that she (and the people who publish her) would deny that same complicated humanity to white people, and to anyone on the Right.

More broadly, the kind of remedies for “systemic racism” that the Left promotes serve the function of making us all more suspicious of each other, and more tribal. The New York Times is a cheerleader for this kind of racial balkanization. A lot of white people read or hear opinions like Kaplan’s being broadcast in the workplace, in the classroom, and in the media, and know that the fix is in. Out of frustration, they end up voting for people like Donald Trump. You cannot get a liberal or a progressive to understand that, though.

Final point: if Erin Aubry Kaplan had to choose between having Trevor and Kayleigh as neighbors, or my fellow Baton Rougean Boosie Badazz (see below, in this clip filmed in his old Baton Rouge neighborhood), what would she do? How would she justify it?

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America Hates You. Now Go Fight For Her

It's not about tolerance; it's about celebration -- and the parallel condemnation of those who refuse to do so (US military video)

I had a great, even inspiring, short trip to Denver late last week. I’ll be writing more about the good news I found there later this week, but a private exchange I just had with a reader prompted me to post this.

I spoke at a fundraiser for a classical Christian school. There was a nice crowd there, and it turned out that some of them had no connection to the school, but just came out because they are fans of Live Not By Lies. I was able to have a few conversations after the speech.

One thing I picked up is that these people — all of whom seemed to be conservative Evangelicals — are hearing the same thing that I am, over and over: that the US military is no longer a place for political, social, and/or religious conservatives. That wokeness is driving people like us out. I mentioned in these conversations that I have been hearing via e-mail and in personal conversations from active-duty or recently retired armed forces members (including officers), all saying the same thing. Many of the Coloradans with whom I spoke said yes, they are hearing the same thing too, and that they are discouraging their kids from considering military service until and unless the military returns to what it was before wokeness conquered the Pentagon.

Granted, the kind of people who reach out to me, or who come hear me speak, are probably not representative of broader conservatism, but trust me, I’m hearing this a lot. How widespread is this view in our country? More and more I am hearing from the kind of people who would have been the last ones in America to look skeptically on the US military and serving the country in its ranks, all saying, “No more.”

Earlier today I was talking with a friend who is an Afghanistan vet. I told him what I had heard from the folks in Colorado, and he said yes, we should not be at all surprised. The messaging that the American people have been getting from the ruling class — including within the military — is that conservatives, and especially conservative Christians, are kulaks. Kulaks were prosperous farmers whom the early Soviet regime regarded as Enemies Of The People, and demonized. My veteran friend said that it is perfectly reasonable for political and religious conservatives to shun the military now, and not just because it is going woke. He said that in the absence of any deeper and broader unifying principle (e.g., shared religion, or a shared sense of nationhood), why should these people be willing to send their sons to die for a regime that holds them, their way of life, and the things they value, in contempt?

He went on to say that the fact that America lost Afghanistan, that we know from the Afghanistan papers that the generals lied to Congress and to the American people for years about what was going on there, and that none of them have been punished or otherwise held accountable for their failure, it also makes sense for potential soldiers to question whether or not they should put their lives behind the leadership of this senior officer class. Our civilian leadership — the President and Congress — has not held the senior military leadership to account for its lies and failures. Why should the American people trust these elites on matters of war? They got so much wrong in Afghanistan, and lied about it for years, and now we are expected to forget all that and consider the possibility of sending our soldiers to fight and die for Ukraine?

My friend said that the leaders of America’s institutions can’t say enough about how much they hate people like him and wants his rights restricted and views suppressed as much as possible. Where is the incentive to fight and possibly die to defend an order that wants people like him crushed? This is the fruit of the divisive culture-war policies that the US government, corporations, media, universities, and other leading institutions have been practicing.

He’s right. Why has it never occurred to the people who make military and national security policy that wokeness is a brilliant strategy to demoralize and weaken America? “Hey bigots, when you can tear yourselves away from your bitter-clinging to God, your disgusting patriarchal ideas about family, your supremacist fear of Critical Race Theory, and your cishetero privilege, put on your uniforms and get ready to deploy to Utopistan to defend democracy!”

I repeat what one active-duty service member told me not long ago, paraphrased: “The Pentagon doesn’t know how to win a real war against America’s enemies, so it’s focusing on winning the culture war against conservatives in the ranks.”

Again, I have no data on this at all. It’s entirely anecdotal. But I have spoken to or received correspondence from active-duty or retired military from nearly all ranks, testifying that something seriously bad is happening.

You’ve probably seen these side-by-side comparisons of recent military recruitment ads for the Chinese, Russian, and American militaries. You don’t have to speak Chinese or Russian to understand what’s being communicated here.

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Into The Upside Down

Yesterday I had a remarkable conversation with a stranger I will call Nicky. He is an Orthodox Christian, an accomplished professional who contacted me through a mutual friend, about a journalistic question. After we finished that discussion, I told him about my new book project, and as he sounded like an intelligent and well-connected believer, asked him for his advice.

He was excited to hear about the book, and said he believes that I am anticipating the next big religious/spiritual leap in American culture. He said that a huge concern he has about it all is that people — especially the young — will begin to turn to psychedelics (LSD, DMT, and so forth) in search of re-enchantment, and numinous experiences. He lives on the West Coast, and is seeing a lot of this already.

Nicky’s view is that most of these people are not hallucinating (in the sense of imagining things that do not exist), but in fact are entering into spiritual realms that are usually closed to humans in our normal state. He told me that the state of research on DMT (the active chemical ingredient in ayahuasca, and a far more powerful hallucinogen than LSD) has actually progressed quite far. Researchers, he said, have discovered that when they put test subjects into the DMT state, they can do it via a DMT drip, which allows them to control the subjects’ experience. To put it plainly, they can send these subjects into this other world, and keep them there to explore. If you are thinking about the Upside Down from Stranger Things, you are thinking like me.

From ‘Scientists Are Trying To Open A Portal To A Parallel Universe’

Nicky’s opinion is that most of these drug users are connecting with actual entities that exist on another plane — and that these entities are demonic, or demon-adjacent. The churches in America, he said, are not remotely ready for what is about to hit them as use of these drugs becomes normative among seekers. Nicky said he hopes my next book will in some way take up this question, if only to warn people away from these drugs. As he put it: “These drugs open up people to experiences and hostile entities that they are in no way capable of handling. It would be like taking somebody from their suburban couch and dropping them off in the middle of the Amazon, and telling them they have to survive.”

I repeated to Nicky my usual claim about psychedelics: that I suspect they really do work to open the doors of perception, in ways that don’t usually happen to people except after long ascetic disciplines. Therefore, they are like people who win the lottery, versus people who become multimillionaires after years of hard work. The lottery winners don’t know how to handle the money, and often ruin their lives.

I thanked Nicky for what he told me. I read Michael Pollan’s book about the return of psychedelics in a therapeutic sense, and have in this space before speculated about what these drugs tell us about spiritual reality. Let me be perfectly clear: I do not not not recommend going down this road for anybody. I think psychonauts remind me of Ulysses from Dante’s Inferno: driven by insatiable curiosity to go beyond where men are supposed to go, and do so risking their doom. Nevertheless, I think that an examination of the current state of knowledge about the psychedelic experience might be useful in helping us to understand spiritual and material reality, and to warn others away from fraudulent and dangerous forms of attempted re-enchantment. For example, I believe God sternly warns His people in Scripture to stay away from divination and the occult arts not because these things are fake (though they might be in individual instances), but because they open doorways that should never be opened.

This morning I looked at this website that catalogs testimonies about DMT experiences. They quote the psychedelics pioneer Terrence McKenna:

“The feeling of doing DMT is as though one had been struck by noetic lightning. The ordinary world is almost instantaneously replaced, not only with a hallucination, but a hallucination whose alien character is its utter alienness. Nothing in this world can prepare one for the impressions that fill your mind when you enter the DMT sensorium.”

Noetic lightning. Hadn’t Nicky said to me that the main problem with these drugs is that they thrown the nous (pron. “noose”) wide open? In Orthodox Christianity, the nous is the term we use for man’s faculty of spiritual perception.

The people who run the site are clearly DMT enthusiasts, but they do publish essays about what you might call “bad trips.” Here is one from 2019, by a man who says he encountered demonic possession in his many DMT experiences. Excerpts:

I smoked DMT at least once a day for a couple of months. While my early experiences were inexplicable and somewhat profound, there was no indication that DMT was anything more than just another psychedelic, albeit an incredibly powerful one. It wasn’t until around the third week that things started to get pretty heavy.

The first interesting thing that happened was when I decided to smoke a rather large amount through an oil burner off my stove. After the first hit, everything started to vibrate at this incredibly high pitch, and I thought to myself “Oh, you’ve really f*cked up this time…” and ran to the garage to be alone. I saw and felt the presence of multiple beings around me, thought “Nope, f*ck this…” and ran to my friend’s room where I fell face first onto her bed. I heard a lot of gibberish being whispered into my ears, and felt a weird sexual energy that made me uncomfortable.

There was a certain sensual quality to the gibberish, which was almost like moaning. Then I closed my eyes and saw what I can only describe as an Egyptian goddess made up of colors I’d never seen before… like, new colors that I can’t even picture in my head. She was literally one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen, and due to her Egyptian vibe, I started referring to her as “Isis.”

The next day I kept ranting and raving to everyone about my experience. My friend was making fun of me for entertaining the possibility that there was anything more going on than brain chemistry, so I challenged him to smoke some. He was literally talking shit while lifting the pipe up to his mouth, but after he came to, he stood up and started yelling about Egyptian goddesses and things trying to get inside of him. He said there was a female entity at the center of it, and she had this hoard of helpers trying to examine him, but he was somehow able to deny them entry.

From a later trip:

They sat me in a chair, and before I could really get ahold of myself, I see Missy reach for my pipe and start hitting it. She laid back in the grass as I stood up and tried to regain my composure. A few minutes later, she popped up and started screaming “No!” at the top of her lungs, and rambling on very loudly about how “they” performed some kind of surgery on her and left something inside of her. I picked her up and carried her inside to her room because she was so loud the cops were definitely gonna get called.

After calming her down a bit, I left to drive my friend home, but when I returned, I found Missy sitting on her bed crying, rocking back and forth, and muttering “I don’t want this” over and over. I asked her what she didn’t want, and she looked up at me with a big smile and said hi to me, by name. I was like “Uh, hi Missy…” Then she went back to crying and begging for it to be over. She looked pretty miserable, and I guess I was more concerned with her well-being than I was about talking to whatever was inhabiting her body, so I said, “Tell them to suck a dick and come talk to me in person next time (I smoke DMT).”

She then looked up at me and said “Don’t be arrogant. We are much more powerful than you.” So I was like, “Uh… we? What’s your name?” to which she replied “Missy, of course…” with a big smile on her face, “…you’re so curious.” After reprimanding me for being “arrogant,” she went on to say “…but we love you, and we want nothing but the best for you. We think you’re beautiful.”

I don’t know why, but I was still more concerned about Missy’s wellbeing than I was about the conversation I was having, so I kinda blew my chance to have a clear, sober, uninterrupted conversation with an entity/entities from hyperspace. In retrospect, there was so much I wanted to say and so many questions I wanted to ask, but all I did was stroke Missy’s face and tell her it would be over soon.

A couple interesting things to note about the conversation:

  • It seemed like they were going through her brain like a Rolodex and laughing at the shit they found. For example, they were laughing and asking me to show them what Google was. After showing them how it worked, I asked if they would like to listen to music. I said “How about The Beatles?” and they got all kinds of excited. So yeah, apparently beings from hyperspace don’t know what Google is, but they’re familiar with The Beatles.

  • My other friend who was there was stroking her back and trying to comfort her when all this was happening, but they didn’t like that very much and started screaming “Why is he touching her!? Tell him to stop touching her! Get her some water!” Maybe they were sensing some creepy vibe coming from him that I wasn’t aware of, but they really didn’t like him touching her.

  • I got the impression that they really didn’t want me to tell anyone about what happened. At one point in the conversation, she turned to me and said “We’re just gonna pretend that Missy got drunk, right?”

This might just be my brain trying to compartmentalize things or whatever, but after putting her to bed and falling asleep in my room, I had this weird dream where I was naked in this room near a beach with these two humanoid creatures trying to act all sexy, but their proportions were all off, like they had perfect tits and big asses, but their limbs were too long and skinny. All I remember saying is “Yo, y’all are doing it wrong.”

It turns out that those entities had possessed Missy. What he later says happened ought to be enough to drive anybody away from this drug.

Read it all.

The website, DMT Times, has a page speculating on whether or not the entities people encounter on these trips are real, or hallucinations. It says in part:

One question leads to another, and the fire of curiosity burns on. However elusive the answers currently are, what seems clear is that regardless of intellectual capabilities, the majority of DMT users report a profound sense of reality in their entity encounters. DMT is also one of the few substances that facilitates such encounters in the first place, which lends credibility to the idea that is some kind of  ‘gateway’ rather than a substance that simply warps the perception.

It is also not uncommon to hear that people feel they have ‘brought back an entity’ into the current reality. However unpalatable that might sound, it would be very unwise to write off that possibility.

Here is another page on DMT Times talking about these entities. 

I have posted before in this space this link to a personal account about ayahuasca healing by Kira Salak, a travel writer who has published frequently in National Geographic Explorer. She writes about how in an earlier trip deep into the interior desert of Libya, she and her team had been warned by locals not to climb a mountain that was believed to be the home of demons. They laughed at it, and climbed. If the ayahuasca experience in Peru is to be believed, Salak returned with demons attached to her; for Salak, the ayahuasca experience was a kind of exorcism, as well as a healing of her traumatic childhood. Notice this part below. Hamilton and Julio are the shamans directing this experience. Notice how Hamilton steps into her experience:

After three ceremonies, I still feel that I have something big to purge. There is something stubborn in me, refusing to be released. I walk through the jungle and wade into a narrow river, dunking myself in the water. Schools of piranha-size fish, mojaritas, nip harmlessly at my skin, unnerving me. Earlier today I was still scared to look at myself in the mirror, still scared of the self-judgment, the all-too-familiar shame.

I report to the hut for the next ceremony. The others sit or lie in hammocks, waiting silently, fretfully. Their experiences, while nowhere near as intense as mine, have been bad enough in their view. Winston has found the darkness during his visions tedious and unrelenting. Christy actually found herself crying during the last ceremony, which is something she says she doesn’t do. Lisa has found her ceremony experiences “too dark” for her tastes and blames me for creating this.

“It’s her own fear she’s scared of,” Hamilton told me earlier. “It has nothing to do with you.” It’s always that way, he explained. Projection of our own self-contempt. We judge in others what we can’t yet face and accept in ourselves.

We begin the ceremony, drink the ayahuasca. I’m hoping to find myself in some heavenly realms this time, but again, as usual, the darkness. With disappointment, I find myself entering a familiar tunnel of fire, heading down to one of the hell realms. I don’t know where I’m going, or why, when I suddenly glimpse the bottom of the tunnel and leap back in shock: Me, I’m there, but as a little girl. She’s huddled, captive, in a ball of fire before those three thrones of the devil and his sidekicks. As soon as I reach her, she begins wailing, “Don’t leave me! Don’t leave me!” It’s heartbreaking to hear her.

I think this must be a part of me that I lost. Long ago. The shamans believe that whenever a traumatic event happens to us, we lose part of our spirit, that it flees the body to survive the experience. And that unless a person undergoes a shamanic “soul retrieval,” these parts will be forever lost to us. Each one, they say, contains an element of who we truly are; people may lose their sense of humor, their trust of others, their innocence. According to psychotherapist and shamanic healer Sandra Ingerman, author of Soul Retrieval, such problems as addictions, personality disorders, and memory blackouts are all warning signs that a person may have lost key portions of themselves.

“No one will help me!” the little girl wails in my vision. And now she is me—I am wailing. Crying like I have never cried before. I know it as an expression of primordial terror from a time when, as a small child, I felt abandoned, set helpless before the universe. I have never felt such profound fear. How did this happento me? the adult me wonders with fury. And why?

“The darkness was so heavy during your childhood,” a spirit voice says to me, “that your soul splintered beneath the weight.”

I have an awareness of having lost so much of myself. Who will I be when all the parts come home? I feel a hand on my back: Hamilton’s. “I’m here to help you,” he says. Suddenly, the flames trapping the little girl disappear. Everything is covered in a freezing white frost. I shiver from the intense cold.

“Julio and I have frozen the devil,” Hamilton declares. “You can pull the little girl out now.”

So that’s why everything got so cold, I think. But wait a minute—what are Hamilton and Mr. Julio doing in my vision? How can Hamilton see what I’m seeing?

“Pull her out,” Hamilton says to me.

I reach down and take the girl’s hand. When she feels my touch, she stops crying, and I pull her up, out of the tunnel of fire. The darkness departs. We reach realms of bright white light—the first such places my visions have allowed. The heavenly realms.

“Your little girl has to enter your body,” Hamilton says. “Call to her.”

I do. I see her split into several little girls, each looking like me at a different age. One at a time, they appear to enter me, my body jolting backwards for each “soul part,” as Hamilton calls them, that was retrieved.

As soon as they’re done, I see a vision of them. Dazed by the brilliant light of their new world, the girls walk through green grass, under pure white clouds. Flocks of butterflies land on them, smothering them. Flowers bow to them. All the pet cats from my childhood, those beloved creatures who had died over the years, appear suddenly and flock around the little girls to have their bellies rubbed. Here, I discover, is a place that transcends death. It is an unbelievably perfect place in which there is a sense that nothing could ever hurt me.

Back in 2013, I visited a friend in Amsterdam who was dying of cancer. Here I wrote about the sign and symbols that preceded my arrival. We sat in her living room and she told me about an ayahuasca experience she had recently had. Miriam was not a religious believer, but in this experience, she met her late mother, and was comforted by her. Miriam’s mother had died from breast cancer — the same cancer that would take Miriam’s life. After her mother died, she entered a profound crisis that broke up her marriage and caused immense chaos in her life. According to Miriam, the pain and terror that entered her when her mother died went away when she met her mom on the ayahuasca journey. She believed the journey had been healing, and had made her unafraid of death. Six months later, on Christmas Day, she died. A mutual friend who was at her bedside said that Miriam was terrified until the end.

I don’t pretend to know what Miriam experienced with the drug — if she really did meet the soul of her mother, or if it was a demonic counterfeit. I don’t think it is necessary to decide that to believe that whatever potential benefits can come from using DMT, they are not worth the risks of being struck by noetic lightning.

Yet after my conversation with Nicky yesterday, I believe that we are certain to see a big jump in spiritual seekers turning to DMT in search of transcendence and re-enchantment. I believe as a matter of faith that Augustine was right: our hearts are restless until they rest in God. We are created for fellowship with Him. And as spiritual creatures, we crave experiences of the spirit. I have major theological differences with Pentecostal and charismatic Christians, but I am 100 percent on their side in terms of their recognition of the importance of the participatory experience of God in worship. In Orthodox Christianity, I believe we have worked out a good balance. The Orthodox writer Frederica Mathewes-Green told me many years ago that she was at an ecumenical conference once, and observed during the break time that the Calvinists and the Catholics bunched together on one side of the room to talk doctrine, while the Orthodox and the Pentecostals bunched together on the other side to talk about worship.

Yesterday one of you readers put me onto Bernardo Klastrup, a Dutch scientist who believes that quantum physics and neuroscience have invalidated the materialist view of reality. I spent some time on Klastrup’s website last night, and the website of his Essentia Foundation, which promotes the scientific exploration of non-material reality. He doesn’t appear to be any kind of religious believer, which makes him more useful to my own research interests. I ordered one of his books to learn more about his theories, and expect that I will interview him in the Netherlands next year, if he is willing. Klastrup seems to believe that mind — consciousness — is the fundamental state of the cosmos. If he’s right, then what the DMT people are doing and accessing might well be real, not hallucinations.

This is heavy territory. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me. This book of mine is not at all going to be a mere book about religious tourism (e.g., pilgrimages, visits to holy sites) and miracle stories, though those will absolutely be there. It’s about the collapse of naive realism — the idea that the universe is made up only of inert matter — and a return to the pre-modern Christian model of reality, which as it turns out has been most faithfully preserved in Orthodox Christianity, but which is also available in different, fragmented modes among other confessions. And it will be a stern warning not to go searching for spiritual experiences via drugs or occult techniques — not because they don’t work, but because they often do, to our own destruction.

By the way, if you are interested to know what the Orthodox tradition says about spirituality and noetic reality, a good place to start is Kyriacos Markides’s book The Mountain of Silence. I first read it in 2005, deep in a spiritual crisis that eventually led me to become Orthodox. I thought I understood a lot about Orthodoxy, but I really didn’t. I had no idea that such spiritual depths existed there. Markides, a sociologist of religion, writes in the introduction that he had spent his career studying shamanistic traditions, but had not really thought about the amazing spiritual resources that exist within the religious tradition in which he was raised, Orthodoxy. He writes that young Westerners who are bored with Christianity, and who set off for the East in search of what they believe will be more spiritually vital traditions in Buddhism or Hinduism would be better served by going to the Christian East, where they can find what they are looking for. The book is basically one long series of interviews with a monk of Mount Athos, who explains these things to him. That monk is now Metropolitan Athanasios, a bishop in Cyprus. I am going to reach out to him to see if he will sit for an interview with me for my book.

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Lot’s Wife And Elite Western Culture

Lot's family flees Sodom and Gomorrah -- but his wife looks back (Source)

Another day, another act of anti-Christian hatred from progressives:

You know the drill: They would never do this to Muslims, blah blah blah. It’s true, but irrelevant. They don’t care. They hate Christians, but they fear and revere Muslims because Muslims are the Other, which is to say, Not Christians, and therefore good.

This freak Simonetti is one reason why, if I were a European voter, I would vote populist in part to punish the freaks whom he represents. Enough is enough. The contempt the elites have for normal people and the things that mean a lot to us is infuriating.

But I don’t post this as clickbait. I post this because it intersects with something that has been on my mind since I wrote the “Hiney-Lickers Of Princeton” post earlier this week. In that earlier post, I published images from a handout resident assistants at a Princeton dorm handed out to freshmen, advising them that the university has “Choose Your Own Adventure” safe sex kits it is prepared to deliver upon request:

On the “Butt Stuff” part, Princeton hands out flavored dental dams for students to put on the anuses of their sexual partners so they can lick the buttholes without risking disease or discomfort. I’m sorry to use such crude language, but we have to be clear what we are talking about here. Using clinical language sterilizes the disgusting nature of the acts being discussed.

It was instructive to see the kinds of responses I got from angry people in the comments section. They were usually one or both of these: “You are a prude who hates to see people having fun with sex” and/or “You hate public health”.

I am a 54-year-old man who grew up after the Sexual Revolution, and who spent half of his twenties as a religious unbeliever. I am not unfamiliar with sexual variety. Besides, do you think I’ve never heard of the Marquis de Sade? Good grief.

What I find interesting and alarming is the degree to which we have been conditioned to hate what is good and love what is evil. The fact that one of America’s most prestigious universities (and I am certain Princeton is not alone here) thinks its place is to encourage its students to lick each other’s buttholes safely tells us a lot about where we are as a society. It is one of the most degrading acts imaginable, yet thanks to ubiquitous pornography, it has apparently been normalized, such that for many people, the real shocking and offensive thing is that someone like me would consider it disgusting.

How does a society sink to the point where licking buttholes is considered to be normal and good, such that elite institutions encourage it for people who are part of those institutions? We were not made for behavior like this, which is lower than the animals. Sex was created as good, as an act of loving care, one that sometimes creates new life. These modern people, they drag it through the mud (er, “mud”), and debase it. There is a connection between this kind of debasement, and what you see from the cretin Simonetti, who debases the incarnation of purity itself by making the Holy Virgin a transgender.

It’s satanic, all of it. If we have become the kind of culture that normalizes and valorizes perversion à la Princeton, then God owes Sodom and Gomorrah an apology. If you want to laugh at me for that, I accept your mockery and wear it as a badge of honor. I despise your world of perversion and sacrilege, and do not apologize for it. I remind readers, though, that these are signs of the times, and that what will follow the collapse of this corrupt culture will be painful.

Sex is good, and the body is good, but we are not permitted to do whatever we like with the body. I don’t think you have to be a believing Christian to understand this. The symbolic meaning of putting mouth to the excretory organ is clear to anyone. In today’s world, there is no perversion that the people who run this society won’t call good, and liberatory. We really do live in Sodom and Gomorrah. You may laugh at me for saying so, but in your heart of hearts, if you look at your child, if you have any conscience in you, you will not view it as a matter of indifference the understanding of sex, love, and the body into which your child will grow and mature. Which father or mother looks upon their beautiful baby, and thinks, “I hope she will grow up to use dental dams when she licks a sex partner’s backside”?

What was once forbidden and hidden is now out in the open and celebrated by the most powerful and sophisticated people in our society. If you were a farmer in Sichuan province, or a Bedouin nomad, or a campesino in Latin America, or a goat herder in Africa, and you were told that at the top universities of the most powerful nation on earth, the school provides equipment to allow its students to lick each other’s bungholes for pleasure, what would you think about that society? If you were one of those poor people, and were told that the European Parliament paid as a “special ambassador” a gay man who portrays the Mother of God — even if you didn’t believe in that god — as a bearded transgender, what would you conclude about the foundations of that society?

You would probably think: those people are corrupt, and they are going to fall.

And you would be right.

I am not interested in converting putative bunghole-lickers and their allies to my side. I am interested in helping the morally sane among us recognize that their intuitions of disgust are healthy and normal, and should be leaned into hard. I am also interested in waking up Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and other religious parents to the sick depths to which the commanding heights of our culture have sunk, so that these parents will do their best to protect their children from the propagandists, and to prepare their kids to be faithful and morally sane in this contemporary Gomorrah.

Back in 2013, Conor Friedersdorf wrote a piece for The Atlantic in which he considered the question of whether or not some forms of sex might be morally wrong. Excerpts:

In “What Do You Desire?” Emily Witt travels to San Francisco, attends a shoot for a pornographic video about “women bound, stripped, and punished in public,” reflects on her own unsuccessful search for romantic love, and ponders the implications of a sexual culture where no desire is considered off-limits so long as all participants give their consent. She’d prefer love to sexual novelty. But “what if love fails us?” she asks. “Sexual freedom has now extended to people who never wanted to shake off the old institutions, except to the extent of showing solidarity with friends who did. I have not sought so much choice for myself, and when I found myself with no possibilities except total sexual freedom, I was unhappy. I understood that the San Franciscans’ focus on intention—the pornographers were there by choice—marked the difference between my nihilism and their utopianism. When your life does not conform to an idea, and this failure makes you feel bad, throwing away the idea can make you feel better.”

Her essay is a must-read, with the caveat that it should not be read by anyone who wishes to avoid graphic descriptions of extreme sexual acts. The lengthy descriptions will distress many readers. But the substance of the essay transcends those scenes, as evidenced by the fascinating exchanges it has prompted in the blogosphere. The primary participants (linked in order if you want to follow their thought-provoking conversation as it unfolded) are Rod DreherNoah MillmanAlan Jacobs, (Noah Millman and Rod Dreher again) and Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry.

All of them grapple, at least in part, with what our response ought to be to the explicit acts described. Put bluntly, a group of San Franciscans crowded into a basement to watch and participate as a diminutive female porn actress (who consented very specifically to all that followed) is bound with rope, gagged, slapped, mildly electrocuted, and sexually penetrated in most every way. The tenor and intensity of the event can’t be conveyed without reading the full rendering. The object of all that abuse describes it afterward as physically uncomfortable at times, but intensely pleasurable throughout. She departs extremely happy and eager to do it again.

More:

Was the consent of all participants sufficient to make the porn shoot a morally defensible enterprise? Alan Jacobs says no. People like the director and actress “are pursuing, consciously or not, absolute degradation, and are publicly debasing sexuality in the process,” he writes. “They are immensely destructive to themselves and to others; they becloud the image of God in which they were made.” As he sees it, their behavior is uncivilized. If you claim otherwise, he argues, “you have reduced the content of civilization to a single element: consent.”

Rod Dreher agrees. Acknowledging that the Marquis de Sade conceived of humiliating and being humiliated for sexual pleasure long before today’s San Franciscans, he posits that such behavior is becoming more acceptable due to the absence of a strong moral framework to push back against it. “You can have whatever you desire,” he writes. “If you choose hell, then we will call it good, because it is freely chosen, and brings you pleasure.” He worries that “the result is chaos and nihilism” and the idea that “the only way to find transcendence is to yield to one’s desires.” For Dreher, “affirming human dignity, and walling off the most destructive impulses within individual and collective human beings, requires condemning this pornography and perversity.”

Yet America’s secular individualism offers “no firm ground on which to stand to condemn this barbarism,” Dreher continues, and “no basis to call it barbarism.” He marvels that history’s most free, wealthy people “use their liberty to degrade each other and to choose to be degraded.” Why does he care? “I have to live in a world—and, more to the point, raise children in a world—in which perversity like this is available, via the Internet, to more and more people,” he explains. “I have to raise children in a world in which human sexuality and the general idea of human dignity is degraded by pornography. I have to live in a world in which utopians are working very hard to tear down the structures of thought and practice that harnessed humankind’s sexual instincts and directed them in socially up-building ways. I have to raise my kids in a world that says when it comes to sex, there is no right and no wrong, except as defined by consent.”

Read it all. 

Where is the role for love in all this? There is none. It is all about will to power, and will to destruction if it brings one pleasure.

Again, there is a clear connection between the kind of depravity one sees in the sacrilegious Simonetti image, what’s happening at Princeton, and what Emily Witt records in her essay. I do not hesitate to call it demonic. Whether or not you believe in the devil, Satanism is parasitic on Christianity, and on the Good, because it seeks to defile everything Christianity calls holy and good. A couple of years ago a young man came to our church, having recently left a coven of occultists who followed the teachings of Aleister Crowley. He told me that he quit the cult because he knew that to rise in it, one had to participate in ever more degrading sexual acts. He had been molested by a babysitter as a boy, and recalling the lasting trauma of that event, recoiled at what the cult asked him to do … and left.

He said that once outside of it, he looked back on all the people he knew there, and was amazed by how depressed and suicidal they all were. And yet they persisted in it, believing that to choose to degrade themselves and others was an act of sovereign will, and therefore a great good. He also told me that when one reads Crowley’s writings from the old days, and the kind of world he wanted to bring into existence with his “sex magick,” one looks around at America today, and sees that Crowley’s dream has largely been fulfilled.

Don’t you see what the elites of our culture want to turn our children into? What they are doing to our holy things? Do you think this does not matter?

Are we going to be Lot’s wife?

Auden once said:

In our culture, we have all accepted the notion that the right to know is absolute and unlimited. The gossip column is one side of the medal; the cobalt bomb is the other. We are quite prepared to admit that, while food and sex are good in themselves, an uncontrolled pursuit of either is not, but it is difficult for us to believe that intellectual curiosity is a desire like any other, and to recognize that correct knowledge and truth are not identical. To apply a categorical imperative to knowing, so that, instead of asking, “What can I know?” we ask, “What, at this moment, am I meant to know?” — to entertain the possibility that the only knowledge which can be true for us is the knowledge that we can live up to — that seems to all of us crazy and almost immoral.

Apply the same principle to sexual acts. What if we asked ourselves not, “What can I do with my body?” but rather, “What, at this moment, am I meant to do with my body?” — to entertain the possibility that the only sexual behavior which can be good is sexual behavior that fulfills the goal of treating our bodies with love and dignity — that seems to many of us crazy and almost immoral.

I feel confident that there are more people, especially young people, who agree with me than not, but they are afraid to say so. These are young people who despise the world that my generation, and their grandparents’ generation, have created for them, but who don’t know how to resist. Well, guess what: even at Princeton, there is hope. Princeton has The Anscombe Society, which describes itself like this:

The Anscombe Society is a student organization at Princeton University that aims to foster an atmosphere where sex is dignified, respectful, and beautiful; where human relationships are affirming and supportive; where marriage is given pride of place among those relationships; where motherhood and authentic femininity are reverenced; where true masculinity and committed fatherhood are vital to family life; and where no one is objectified, instrumentalized, or demeaned. We hope to provide those students who strive to understand, live, and love their commitment to chastity and ‘traditional’ sexual and familial ethics with the support they need to make their time at Princeton the best it can be. Lastly, we wish to offer these values to the wider Princeton community and promote a culture of charitable dialogue and mutual understanding among all Princetonians.

What good and necessary people. If you are a Princeton student, find them, join them! If you are a student somewhere else, why not start an Anscombe Society? Contact the Princeton Anscombe Society — and please, donate to them. The enemy has lots of money and power. We need to make it possible for searching young people to know that they do not have to surrender to the god of this world, that there is goodness, truth, and light despite the darkness.

Yes, I’m radical about this stuff. You should be too. Open your eyes! Choose today whom you will serve. This is what the world without God looks like. I remind you of where this filth, and “consent” being the sole ethic by which we judge sexual acts, could easily end. FromLive Not By Lies:

Regarding transgressive sexuality as a social good was not an innovation of the sexual revolution. Like the contemporary West, late imperial Russia was also awash in what historian James Billington called “a preoccupation with sex that is quite without parallel in earlier Russian culture.” Among the social and intellectual elite, sexual adventurism, celebrations of perversion, and all manner of sensuality was common. And not just among the elites: the laboring masses, alone in the city, with no church to bind their consciences with guilt, or village gossips to shame them, found comfort in sex.

The end of official censorship after the 1905 uprising opened the floodgates to erotic literature, which found renewal in sexual passion. “The sensualism of the age was in a very intimate sense demonic,” Billington writes, detailing how the figure of Satan became a Romantic hero for artists and musicians. They admired the diabolic willingness to stop at nothing to satisfy one’s desires and to exercise one’s will.

UPDATE: A reader sent this passage from the moral philosopher J. Budziszewski:

[W]hen a man puts the part of himself that represents new life into the cavity of another man that represents decay and expulsion, at the most basic of all possible levels he is saying, “Life, be swallowed in death.” We cannot overwrite such meanings with different ones just because we want to.

Similarly, Princeton and other colleges are encouraging its students to taste death and decay — but as is typical of our age, they want to make it hygienic, and taste like chewing gum. From a Brown University how-to video, dental dams:

Brown University

UPDATE.2: An interesting comment by Joanhello:

I don’t think you’re a prude, Rod, and I don’t think you’re against public health. What I think is that you have a very powerful awareness of the symbolic level of life and you don’t really understand people who don’t. It’s like you have an extra sense, such that these matters of exultation and degradation are viscerally real to you, so that you don’t understand the large numbers of people who can only comprehend them intellectually if at all and so are disinclined to care much about them unless there’s some kind of material or societal pressure on them to do so. You say “The symbolic meaning of putting mouth to the excretory organ is clear to anyone,” but it’s not equally significant for everyone.

When I was a child, no older than 12, I used to sneak out of Sunday School, not to play hooky, but to attend the adult service because I could feel the spiritual energies and they gave me joy. But I noticed that nobody else did that and I already knew that most other kids would be bored and wouldn’t like it. Think of all the people you’ve known who were bored in church. Think of your father, who would rather spend Sunday mornings hunting. Most people don’t get it, not really.

It doesn’t help your case that modern society is all about questioning past assumptions and ignoring the symbolic in favor of the physical. We as a society revere innovators because innovators have given us a great deal of material well-being. Therefore many of us feel that we are doing something inherently good when we innovate and experiment in our own lives. To oppose such innovation out of some kind of symbolic understanding would be like not allowing the Wright brothers to experiment with flying machines because the fact that humans don’t have wings is interpreted symbolically to mean that we are not meant to fly. When Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, first proposed its use in treatment of bacterial diseases, his colleagues mostly ignored him. You want us to take this stuff you extracted from a mold you found contaminating one of your colonies of staphylococci and put it in people’s bodies? Yuck. More than a decade went by before his discovery was put to use.

So we are a nation of experimenters and are furthermore taught that real innovators don’t let themselves be stopped by squeamishness. So people start experimenting with their bodies, discovering what feels good. The anal area has a lot of nerve endings. To people who are totally focused on the physical, stimulating that area can provide some intense sensations. Which father or mother looks upon their beautiful baby, and thinks, “I hope she will grow up to use dental dams when she licks a sex partner’s backside”? That would be the father or mother who enjoys backside-licking in their own sex life, who has found it to be physically harmless, and isn’t bothered by symbolic or spiritual considerations.

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European Base Camp 2022

Self in Italy, summer 2021

I want your advice on something. Good news: I just signed a deal for my next book. It will be with Sentinel, again (yay!), but this time, it will not be a political or culture-war topic. It will be religious and spiritual. The book does not have a title yet, but here’s what it will be about.

The book will be about how we in the West lost our sense of “enchantment” — that is, the sense that life is holy, and that God is everywhere present — and how we can get it back. The “how we lost it” part is going to be relatively short. This is a topic that has been well covered in the literature over the years, but it is necessary to explain to lay readers what happened and how it happened. Of course I will write about Charles Taylor, but also the “W.E.I.R.D.” theory, and especially Dr. Iain McGilchrist’s work about the brain.

However, most of the book will be focused on “how to get it back.” There will be a technical part, in which I explore the work of the Stanford anthropologist T.M. Luhrmann, who has written about this from a scientific point of view. Mostly, though, I will tell stories. I will travel to holy places where miracles have taken place, and where people pray intensely. My plan is to go to Jerusalem for Orthodox Holy Week next year, and to be present in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre when the Holy Fire appears. I also intend to spend some time on Mount Athos, praying with an interviewing monks. With any luck, I will also get to St. Katherine’s monastery on Sinai.

I am now going to start making a list of places I need to visit, and I need your help. I don’t want this to be religious tourism. I am really interested in pilgrimage sites and places of miracle, in “thin places” where the numinous can be felt. It should go without saying that I am focusing exclusively on Christian religion and spirituality. As of now, I am planning to go to Lourdes, to Rocamadour, and to Mont Saint Michel in France. Also, of course, Chartres. In Ireland, I want to visit and interview Paul Kingsnorth, and if possible, go to Skellig Michael. I am also thinking of going to the new Orthodox monastery in the Hebrides.

I am thinking about walking the Camino de Santiago, or at least part of it. I have been to Fatima before, so probably not there. If I can convince the Archbishop of Turin to let me see the Shroud, then I will go there (the Shroud of Turin is going to be a big part of this project). But where else should I go, given that I have only limited time? What else should I see? I am wide open. Please advise.

This book is for at least (but not exclusively) three kinds of people:

  1. Lukewarm Christians who need to be reminded that we live in a world suffused by the spirit of God, and by spirit, period;
  2. People like François, the protagonist in Houellebecq’s Soumission, who makes a pilgrimage to Rocamadour, begins to experience something numinous … then out of fear, convinces himself that it’s not real; I want to speak to people like him, and convince them not to dismiss these promptings of the spirit; and
  3. Seekers like I was at 17, on the threshold of the Chartres cathedral; I thought I had Christianity all figured out, and that it was moralistic, middle-class psychology, nothing more. Then I walked into that cathedral, and was overwhelmed by awe. I did not leave a Christian, but I did leave on a search, one that eventually led to my conversion. I want the kind of young person that I once was to read this book and at least go on a search.

I will also interview people who have had numinous encounters with God, in the form of inexplicable (by natural means) miracles, visions, and visitations. There will also be a chapter on the demonic, because that too is real, and testifies to the primacy of the spiritual.

The book’s plan is in its early stages, so I welcome advice. And I need advice on something else, too.

I can see that I will need to rent a flat somewhere in Europe to use as a base for traveling next year. I expect to be in Budapest the first part of 2022 for a few months, doing the heavy lifting on the theoretical side of the book (the Taylor, McGilchrist, Luhrmann, Henrichs, et al.) while it is too cold to travel widely. Plus, I want to write about the election for TAC. After the end of April, though, where should I go? Where should I spend my summer as a base camp from which to travel to holy places in Europe? Also, I want to go to the Orthodox world too, beyond Athos. I expect to visit Romania, at least, but would like to go to Russia, though that might be difficult. My base will need to be in western Europe.

It needs to have good air and rail links. And it needs to have an Orthodox church.

The most reasonable choice seems to me to be Paris. It also happens to be my favorite city, as you know. But it is very expensive. Sentinel was quite generous with me on this project, thanks to the great sales of Live Not By Lies, and I could afford Paris for a few months if necessary. But I am wondering if there is a better choice? I would like somewhere quieter — for example, San Benedetto del Tronto, where my dear friend Marco Sermarini and the Tipi Loschi live — but that would mean it would be harder to get to trains and planes. Still, it is hard to beat Paris. Maybe Madrid or Barcelona? Rome is too far south, alas. Vienna? Munich? You tell me.

What do you think? Do you have advice — advice both on where to set up base camp, and where I should go for my research? Please say so in the comments, or write me at rod — at — amconmag — dot — com. 

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A Speech For The American Zemmour

Eric Zemmour, in Marseilles

Here is my attempt at translating Eric Zemmour’s speech to an American political and cultural context. America does not have remotely the immigration and assimilation problems that France has — not even close. I don’t deny that we have immigration problems, but the situation in France is vastly more serious, which is why I have softened Zemmour’s anti-immigration rhetoric in my version. For those who don’t know, Zemmour is France’s equivalent of Tucker Carlson.

This is a speech that I would like to hear a Republican presidential candidate deliver:

My fellow Americans: For years, you’ve been carried along by the same feeling. It has oppressed you, shamed you: a strange and penetrating feeling of dispossession. You drive down the streets in your towns, and you don’t recognize them. Businesses have closed. Stores are vacant. Your adult children and grandchildren live far away.

You look at your screens and they speak to you in a language that is strange, and in the end foreign. You turn your eyes and ears to advertisements, TV series, football matches, films, live performances, songs, and the schoolbooks of your children. The same weird words and concepts keep coming up. What is this language they are speaking?

Everywhere it’s the same thing: that America is an evil country. That our history is nothing but a catalog of racism, sexism, and homophobia. That people who have a certain skin color are evil because of that. That boys can become girls, and girls can become men. That nothing ever changes for the better in this country. That the things that were normal just a few years ago are now hateful, and that anybody who says or believes these things deserves to lose their job and be driven out of polite society.

You see these things on TV, in the papers, online, and in the workplace, and you have the impression that you are no longer in a country that you know.

You remember the country of your childhood. You remember the country that your parents told you about. You remember the country found in films and books. The country of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. The country of Daniel Boone and “Remember the Alamo!”

The country of pioneers and suffragettes. The country of Herman Melville and Ernest Hemingway. The country of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington Carver. The country of the novels of Louis L’Amour, the characters of John Ford, and the verses of Walt Whitman.

The country of the Golden Gate Bridge and of the covered bridges of New England. The country of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. The country of Civil Rights marches and Jefferson’s Monticello. The country of Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein — an immigrant, like so many great Americans.

The country of farmers and factory workers, of FDR and the Greatest Generation, of Eisenhower and Rosie the Riveter. The country of John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart; of Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, and Elvis, Dylan and Aretha, of Waylon and Willie; the films of Billy Wilder and Steven Spielberg. The country of “Amazing Grace,” “White Christmas,” and “Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain.”

This America was real. Don’t try to tell us that it never existed. Many of us were there. We remember. We remember our failures as a nation, and we remember how we the people made America better, fairer, and more just. And because we remember, we have hope that we can write a new chapter of that old story of our country, in our own time. We will write new verses, but the song will remain the same, because it is the anthem of our people.

This country— at the same time light-hearted and illustrious. This country— at the same time literary and scientific. This country— truly intelligent and one-of-a-kind. The country of the Apollo program and Silicon Valley. The country that invented Hollywood and saved the world from Hitler. This country— that you search for everywhere, but cannot find. No, your children are homesick, without even having known this country that you cherish. And it is disappearing.

You haven’t left, and yet you have the feeling of no longer being at home. You have not left your country. Your country left you.

You feel like foreigners in your own country. You are internal exiles. For a long time, you believed you were the only one to see it, to hear it, to think it, to doubt it. You were afraid to say it. You were ashamed of your feelings. For a long time, you dared not say what you are seeing, and above all you dared not see what you were seeing.

And then you said it to your wife. To your husband. To your children. To your father. To your mother. To your friends. To your coworkers. To your neighbors. And then to strangers. And you understood that your feeling of dispossession was shared by everyone.

What did they do to our country? America is no longer America, and everyone sees it.

Of course, they despised you: the powerful, the élites, the conformists, the woke capitalists, the journalists, the politicians, the professors, the sociologists, the teachers’ unions, the religious authorities, the diversity officers at your company. They told you it’s all a ploy, it’s all fake, it’s all wrong. But you understood in time that it was them who were a ploy, them who had it all wrong, them who did you wrong.

The disappearance of our civilization is not the only question that harasses us, although it towers over everything. Uncontrolled immigration is not the cause of all our problems, although it aggravates everything. That old, good America was a country where everybody, from the corporate titans to the trash collectors, felt they had a stake in its success. The loss of that America, and its sense of solidarity, makes us poorer and tears us apart. It ruins as much as it torments.

It’s why you often have a hard time making ends meet. It’s why we must re-industrialize the United States. It’s why we must equalize the balance of trade. It’s why we must reduce our growing debt, bring back to America our companies that left, give jobs to our unemployed. It’s why we must support the free market, but make sure capitalism works for everybody, not just the favored few. We must convert our industrialists from globalists to patriots.

It’s why we must protect our technological marvels and stop selling them to foreigners. It’s why we must allow our small businesses to live, and to grow, and to pass from generation to generation. It’s why we must preserve our architectural, cultural, and natural heritage. It’s why we must restore our education system, its excellence and its belief in merit, and stop surrendering our children to the experiments of egalitarians and educational theorists and the Doctor Strangeloves of Critical Race Theory and transgenderism.

It’s why we must devolve powers to the people and away from Washington, and from unaccountable corporations, universities, and institutions that seek to control America’s destiny in the name of woke fantasies. Yes, we must give power to the people, take it back from the minority that unceasingly tyrannizes the majority and from judges who substitute their judicial rulings for government of the people, for the people, by the people.

For decades, our elected officials of the right and the left have led us down this dire path of decline and decadence. Right and left have lied and concealed the gravity of our diminishment. They have hidden from you the reality of the replacement of ordinary Americans with ideologues who hate you, your traditions, and your ancient liberties. “Bitter clingers,” they call you. And “deplorables.”

No politician has been willing or able to stop the decline. President Trump saw the problem, but he could not change the system. When he left office, the Democrats held both the White House and Congress, and the woke were more powerful than ever. He wanted to make America great again, but he did not know how, and his enemies cut him off at the knees. If you choose me as your president, I will learn from his mistakes, and will not repeat them.

We need to believe in America again. But we also need to pass real laws that take the bullets out of the guns that the elites have for too long held to the heads of the American people. There is no more time to reform America – but there is time to save her. That is why I have decided to run for President.

I have decided to ask your votes to become your President of the United States of America, so that our children and grandchildren do not know barbarism. So that our daughters are not taught that their only value is sexual and economic, and our sons are not condemned to live in the basement smoking pot, watching porn, and playing video games. So that we can bequeath to them the America we have known and that we received from our ancestors. So that we can still preserve our way of life, our traditions, our language, our conversations, our debates, our taste for sports and movies.

So that Americans remain American, proud of their past and confident in their future, and open to the world because we know who we are. So that Americans once again feel at home. So that the newest arrivals assimilate their culture, adapt their history, and are remade as Americans in America – not foreigners in an unknown land.

We Americans are a great nation. A great people. Our glorious past pleads for our future. We beat the Nazis, and won the Cold War. Our writers and artists have aroused universal admiration. Our scientific discoveries and industrial production made the 20th century. The romance of America, the land of promise and liberty, continues to draw men and women from around the world.

We have known great victories, and we have overcome cruel defeats. More than any other country, America has written the history of the modern world. We are worthy of our ancestors. We will not allow ourselves to be mastered, enslaved, neutered, conquered, colonized. From the cold harbors of New England, to the bayous of Louisiana, to the Great Lakes of the Midwest, to the Rio Grande and the Pacific Coast Highway, we will not allow ourselves to be replaced by people who despise what this country was and who its people are, and who want to teach our children to hate us and themselves.

In front of us, a cold and determined monster rises up, who wants to trash us. They will say that you are racist. They will say that you are motivated by contemptible passions, when in fact it is the most lovely passion that animates you – passion for America!

They will say the worst about me. But I will keep going amidst the insults, and I don’t care if they spit on me. I will never bow my head or bend my knee to them. For we have a mission to accomplish.

The American people have been intimidated, crippled, indoctrinated, blamed— but they lift up their heads, they drop the masks, they clear the air of lies, they hunt down these evil slanders.

We are going to restore America, and renew her promise for new generations. We are going to renew the vision of the frontier, and make it possible again for all Americans, not the elite few, to have a stake in our country’s future. We are going to make it possible again for plain people to make a good living, and raise a family without going into overwhelming debt. We are going to make America work again. We are going to pass the flame to the coming generations. Join with me. Rise up. We Americans have always triumphed over all.

May God bless America!

What do you think?

Below is a subtitled (in English) discourse that Zemmour gave at at cancel culture conference at the Danube Institute this past spring. It will give you a better idea of what he stands for:

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Eric Zemmour, Superstar

Eric Zemmour announces his candidacy

The French critic and pundit announced his candidacy for the French presidency yesterday in this video. It is in French, without English subtitles:

You may think: Why is Zemmour just sitting there reading his speech? Here is your answer: it’s De Gaulle speaking to the French from exile in London:


A Twitter user called Malmesburyman translated the speech. Here is his translation of Zemmour’s words:

My dear Countrymen— For years, the same feeling has swept you along, oppressed you, shamed you: a strange and penetrating feeling of dispossession. You walk down the streets in your towns, and you don’t recognize them.

You look at your screens and they speak to you in a language that is strange, and in the end foreign. You turn your eyes and ears to advertisements, TV series, football matches, films, live performances, songs, and the schoolbooks of your children.

You take the subways and trains. You go to train stations and airports. You wait for your sons and your daughters outside their school. You take your mother to the emergency room. You stand in line at the post office or the employment agency. You wait at a police station or a courthouse. And you have the impression that you are no longer in a country that you know.

You remember the country of your childhood. You remember the country that your parents told you about. You remember the country found in films and books. The country of Joan of Arc and Louis XIV. The country of Bonaparte and General de Gaulle.

The country of knights and ladies. The country of Victor Hugo and Chateaubriand. The country of Pascal and Descartes. The country of the fables of La Fontaine, the characters of Molière, and the verses of Racine.

The country of Notre Dame de Paris and of village church towers. The country of Gavroche and Cosette. The country of barricades and Versailles. The country of Pasteur and Lavoisier.

The country of Voltaire and Rousseau,of Clemenceau and the soldiers of ’14, of de Gaulle and Jean Moulin. The country of Gabin and Delon; of Brigitte Bardot and Belmondo and Johnny and d’Aznavour and Brassens and Barbara; the films of Sautet and Verneuil.

This country— at the same time light-hearted and illustrious. This country— at the same time literary and scientific. This country— truly intelligent and one-of-a-kind. The country of the Concorde and nuclear power. The country that invented cinema and the automobile.This country— that you search for everywhere with dismay. No, your children are homesick, without even having known this country that you cherish. And it is disappearing.

You haven’t left, and yet you have the feeling of no longer being at home. You have not left your country. Your country left you.

You feel like foreigners in your own country. You are internal exiles. For a long time, you believed you were the only one to see, to hear, to think, to doubt. You were afraid to say it. You were ashamed of your feelings. For a long time, you dared not say what you are seeing, and above all you dared not see what you were seeing.

And then you said it to your wife. To your husband. To your children. To your father. To your mother. To your friends. To your coworkers. To your neighbors. And then to strangers. And you understood that your feeling of dispossession was shared by everyone.

France is no longer France, and everyone sees it.

Of course, they despised you: the powerful, the élites, the conformists, the journalists, the politicians, the professors, the sociologists, the union bosses, the religious authorities.They told you it’s all a ploy, it’s all fake, it’s all wrong. But you understood in time that it was them who were a ploy, them who had it all wrong, them who did you wrong.

The disappearance of our civilization is not the only question that harasses us, although it towers over everything. Immigration is not the cause of all our problems, although it aggravates everything. The third-worlding of our country and our people impoverishes as much as it disintegrates, ruins as much as it torments.

It’s why you often have a hard time making ends meet. It’s why we must re-industrialize France. It’s why we must equalize the balance of trade. It’s why we must reduce our growing debt, bring back to France our companies that left, give jobs to our unemployed.

It’s why we must protect our technological marvels and stop selling them to foreigners. It’s why we must allow our small businesses to live, and to grow, and to pass from generation to generation.It’s why we must preserve our architectural, cultural, and natural heritage. It’s why we must restore our republican education, its excellence and its belief in merit, and stop surrendering our children to the experiments of egalitarians and pedagogists and the Doctor Strangeloves of gender theory and Islamo-leftism.

It’s why we must take back our sovereignty, abandoned to European technocrats and judges, who rob the French people of the ability to control their destiny in the name of a fantasy – a Europe that will never be a nation. Yes, we must give power to the people, take it back from the minority that unceasingly tyrannizes the majority and from judges who substitute their judicial rulings for government of the people, for the people, by the people.

For decades, our elected officials of the right and the left have led us down this dire path of decline and decadence. Right and left have lied and concealed the gravity of our diminishment. They have hidden from you the reality of our replacement.

You have known me for many years. You know what I say, what I diagnose, what I proclaim. I have long been content with the role of journalist, writer, Cassandra, whistleblower. Back then, I believed that a politician would take up the flame that I had lit. I said to myself, to each his own job, to each his own role, to each his own fight.

I have lost this illusion. Like you, I have lost confidence. Like you, I have decided to take our destiny in hand.

I saw that no politician had the courage to save our country from the tragic fate that awaits it. I saw that all these supposed professionals were, above all, impotent.That President Macron, who had presented himself as an outsider, was in fact the synthesis of his two predecessors, or worse. That all the parties were contenting themselves with reforms, while time passes them by.

There is no more time to reform France – but there is time to save her. That is why I have decided to run for President.

I have decided to ask your votes to become your President of the Republic, so that our children and grandchildren do not know barbarism. So that our daughters are not veiled and our sons are not forced to submit. So that we can bequeath to them the France we have known and that we received from our ancestors. So that we can still preserve our way of life, our traditions, our language, our conversations, our debates about history and fashion, our taste for literature and food.

So that the French remain French, proud of their past and confident in their future. So that the French once again feel at home. So that the newest arrivals assimilate their culture, adapt their history, and are remade as French in France – not foreigners in an unknown land.

We, the French, are a great nation. A great people. Our glorious past pleads for our future. Our soldiers have conquered Europe and the world. Our writers and artists have aroused universal admiration. Our scientific discoveries and industrial production have stamped their epochs. The charm of our art de vivre excites longing and joy in all who taste it.

We have known great victories, and we have overcome cruel defeats. For a thousand years, we have been one of the powers who have written the history of the world. We are worthy of our ancestors. We will not allow ourselves to be mastered, vassalized, conquered, colonized. We will not allow ourselves to be replaced.

In front of us, a cold and determined monster rises up, who seeks to dishonor us. They will say that you are racist. They will say that you are motivated by contemptible passions, when in fact it is the most lovely passion that animates you – passion for France.

They will say the worst about me. But I will keep going amidst the jeers, and I don’t care if they spit on me. I will never bend the head. For we have a mission to accomplish.

The French people have been intimidated, crippled, indoctrinated, blamed— but they lift up their heads, they drop the masks, they clear the air of lies, they hunt down these evil perjuries.

We are going to carry France on. We are going to pursue the beautiful and noble French adventure. We are going to pass the flame to the coming generations. Join with me. Rise up. We, the French, have always triumphed over all.

Long live the Republic, and above all, long live France!

Hot damn! That is one of the greatest political speeches I have ever heard! Here is my reaction. It’s from the time Eric Zemmour hated the music in a bar, and made them change it:

It’s an incredible speech (and not the first time Zemmour has given one). The first American politician who can give an American version of this speech — because France’s problems are not America’s problems — and run a campaign on it, will become president.

UPDATE: I just corrected the translation. It had been “you smell foreigners in your own country”. I listened to the French, and the correct translation is “you feel like foreigners in your own country”.

UPDATE.2: A reader points out that the original video now has English subtitles. You have to click the CC button at the bottom of the YouTube screen.

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Think Tank Thomas Aquinas

The Angelic Doctor is not well suited to work at AEI or Heritage (Source)

Several of you readers have written to me in the past few days to note that Team Integralist seems to be trying to turn me into the new David French, and to ask if I’m okay. Um, yeah, why shouldn’t I be? The Internet is not real life. This is all tempest-in-a-teacup stuff, and somehow I think I’ll survive being off of Adrian Vermeule’s Christmas card list. I have to share with you, though, this e-mail I received this afternoon from an important GOP Congressional staffer, whose name and affiliation (meaning where he works) I’m going to withhold. I should point out, though, that this staffer is not an Establishment Republican who just wants to return to the pre-Trump status quo:

Just wanted to put in a word of appreciation for your recent writings on the future trajectory of conservatism, especially given all the blowback online from our “side.” Working in [GOP office], I’m pretty up-to-speed on current debates surrounding integralism and the direction things are headed. (I’ve read plenty of Vermeule, Ahmari, Waldstein, Crean & Fimister, and the rest.)

That crowd seems pretty far removed from the realities of the moment, so let me be very blunt here. Nobody with a day job in public policy—and I mean nobody—is going to wade through thousands of words of neo-scholasticism at The Josias in order to puzzle out how to wield political power. What the “realignment” movement really needs are practical solutions that can be translated into Overton-window-shifting legislation, and we need them right now. We need cover articles in American Affairs on topics like “A National Conservative Approach to Health Insurance.” (To his credit, Gladden Pappin at the University of Dallas has been really good about this.) This is the sort of thing that can get translated into actual legislative proposals, which “normal” people will at least discuss.

I totally get why nobody wants to do this work. This stuff is boring, and technical, and requires developing some subject-matter competence. It’s a lot more fun to take potshots at David French.

But the fascinating paradox here is that while much of the integralist crowd faults you for being unwilling to confront the challenges of the day, in practice that’s exactly what they themselves are doing! Spending endless hours building out an intricate model of the perfect Catholic regime, and the suitable conditions under which it can seize baptized children from their parents (and justifying all this time and attention by claiming they’re simply stressing the “primacy of the speculative”), is nothing more than Ph.D.-level daydreaming. It’s an air castle. But it’s an easy alternative to doing the grinding, boring, “technocratic” work of proposing and defending actual policies.

(By contrast, your Benedict Option writings offer concrete tactics for navigating current and future conditions. That’s what seems to be completely out of view in their arguments.)

If I sound annoyed, it’s because so much of the intellectual oxygen in the postliberal space is being sucked up by people who are basically just repeating the same set of high-level claims over and over and over again. Yes. We get it. We can all agree that liberal neutrality is a façade and that we need to reinvest in individual workers and defend the common good. But on the ground, we need people who can talk seriously about things like the child tax credit, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Else, we’ll be incapable of effectively wielding power when we get it.

Anyway, rant over. Just thought you might appreciate hearing from someone who’s in the trenches right now.

I do appreciate it. This echoes what I’ve been hearing privately since the National Conservatism conference from conservative Catholics and others who are in the public policy trenches: that integralism, and integralist-adjacent speculation might be an interesting intellectual activity, but it is massively disconnected from the realities we are now facing, and is at best a distraction from initiatives that might actually work.

The Republican Party is likely to retake Congress in the 2022 midterms. What is a realistic legislative agenda that could be accomplished in this actually existing country? I’m not a public policy thinker, and not really a political thinker at all. Religion and culture is my wheelhouse, which is why the Benedict Option is more about what we can do culturally — though I of course recognize that politics has to be part of the resistance (and say so in the book). But I don’t want the perfect to be the enemy of the best-we-can-do-right-now. We do need a broader and deeper vision of the Good, but something tells me that in America, it’s not going to come out of Catholic integralism.

Malcolm Kyeyune has a provocative Twitter thread about this kind of thing. Excerpts:


Read the entire thread. 

The Right needs concrete, achievable policy proposals. But it also needs new stories, or rather, Stories. Most people think narratively. To be honest, despite all the doubts I have about late liberalism, I think the old-fashioned American story is still a pretty good one, or at least better than any competitors. I was listening earlier today to the English “reactionary feminist” commentator Mary Harrington talking about how liberalism isolates people and alienates them from each other, from their past, and from anything higher than the self — and how this is a dead end. I also listened to the Quillette podcast with Batya Ungar-Sargon in which she said that she used to be woke, and is still a socialist, but an anti-woke one. She said that she came to realize that woke progressivism is in fact class war against the poor and working Americans on behalf of the ruling elites. You don’t need to be against classical liberalism simpliciter to agree with them that the state of liberalism today is not working for the common good.

Both of these women were at the NatCon conference, though neither are conservatives. There’s some really interesting stuff going on, both intellectually and in terms of policy potential. What about new stories, though? It is incredible that the Right has allowed the toxic woke story of America to go largely unchallenged. True, the woke have almost all the media, but can’t we do better than we have been? Reheated Reaganism is not the answer, obviously, nor is an unreflective nostalgia. But it seems to me that there is still a lot to work with within the American tradition. Classical liberalism is deeply flawed, perhaps fatally, but it’s the only tradition we have in this country. Besides, we were once a country that had a lot more solidarity, even though we had classical liberalism. Unless we have a true revolution in America, our future will evolve out of classical liberalism, because that is what we know. My thought is that we should take Patrick Deneen’s excellent critique of liberalism (Why Liberalism Failed), and figure out what it has to teach us about ways that we can reform liberalism in a Burkean way — that is, building on what can be salvaged from our own native tradition.

Deneen himself (I think) believes that this can’t happen, and maybe he’s right. But if he is, then it seems to me we are much more likely to get some form of socialism in this country, or right-wing authoritarianism in a distinctly American key (e.g., the Protestant Generalissimo Michael Flynn) than anything that would satisfy the throne-and-altar integralists.

UPDATE: Reader Matt in VA comments:

What I’ve read in numerous different places by authors that I trust is that if you want new stories your best bet is an invigorating rediscovery of the old, or even the very, very old — that creativity and imagination must be fertilized, and the best fertilizer is that which comes from outside of the current moment we’re in, and so far outside of it and away from it that it escapes the narrowness and provinciality of the current time entirely. That is, what is needed is a renaissance of sorts. Why did the American founders style themselves as Romans? Surely their pretending to be Romans wasn’t directly connected to the actual experience or direct background of the people founding the country! They were English gentry and religious nonconformists and such.

We are still too close to a certain kind of Christianity for it to serve this purpose, I think. We cannot re-Christianize ourselves when most of us still see Christianity as something narrowly partisan and easily slotted into today’s stifling and endless political battles. One might wonder if the Integralists in fact recognize this, and thus look to a kind of medieval Catholicism as a potential answer precisely *because* it is distant and alien–nothing like American mainline Protestantism– but at the same time a very rich vein to mine. Who knows what will come out of the shift to an online world? When mass mediums/mass media changes as profoundly as it just has, all sorts of things become possible. Also, the Catholic Integralists perhaps recognize — to give them their due — that America now is very different from the America that was founded in the 1700s, especially in that we are an *empire* now, and perhaps *the* *empire*. Maybe we should rediscover our roots as a republic — or maybe we should just accept that what we have now is nothing like a republic. I don’t see us going back to being a republic anytime soon, do you? Catholic Integralism might indeed be suited better to a society or culture or whatever that has become what America is today.

One of the things which some of the people who have been criticizing you, including Vermuele, has pointed out, is that you keep insisting, over and over, on this idea that something has to be broadly popular with the current masses to have any political value or political use, when there is very little reason to think this is the case. You look at what Americans say they believe right now and insist that here lies the boundaries of what is politically possible. But it is small intolerant minorities who determine what happens in a society and where the boundaries or permissible vs. impermissible are drawn, not vast swathes of people who don’t ultimately really care and who are too distracted by life or too atomized to make their preferences felt. Considering how often you write about trans people and the trans phenomenon, you should, I think, understand what I mean. Trans people are some incredibly tiny portion of the population and yet MTF transgendered people punch about 1,000 times above their weight when it comes to the culture war. Or gay marriage. Gays are vastly outnumbered by straights and as recently as 2004/2006 gay marriage lost at the ballot box by 75%/25% margins — yet it didn’t matter at all. What people say they want or believe in or whatever matters very little. Social media in particular shows us all too painfully clearly that most people are desperate to be told what to believe and what to espouse, to the point where they JUMP at the chance to be consensus-seeking protozoan stimulus-response “give me memes to share to signal my ingroup/outgroup role, please — and the more the better! Content! Content! Content!” There is nothing people love more than “LOVE IS LOVE SCIENCE IS REAL WATER IS LIFE BLACK LIVES MATTER” etc etc tinned content, they slurp it up and turn themselves into rhizomatic viroid reproducers of it the way the supposedly bad old materialistic racist sexist narrow-minded Christian 1950s suburban families gobbled up middle-class commercialized “Revolutionary Road” Americana. Social media lays bare, to a degree that I think is in fact profoundly destabilizing and disillusioning, that people approach almost *everything* social from the perspective of ingroup/outgroup dynamics, swarms, fads, prefabricated copy, protozoan consensus-seeking, and threats of ostracism. Very difficult to believe in a number of things when this becomes so clear.

It is simply not true that what is politically viable is a matter of what the masses believe, or say they believe, in public opinion polls or whatever. The difficult thing is coming up with a way of taking and seizing power, of exercising power; if you’ve got that, you can do almost whatever you want!

Also: there is an interesting contrast between Tinkzorg’s claims about the practicality and hard-headedness and “populism” of the Bolsheviks, their supposed promises of peace land and bread, and the way you have consistently written about how the Russian Revolution happened on this blog. Many, many blog posts, many related to the Live Not By Lies book, argued that Communism happened/came to power because it was the OPPOSITE of a materialistic, practical, “here are practical steps we’ll take to improve the lives of the poor and the masses” movement. Blog post after blog post of yours stresses the degree to which Bolshevism was fired not at all by the masses of workers or the poor or whatever. It was driven and fired instead by the zeal of the intolerant minority, the overproduced elite, the fanatic, the criminal, the hysterical, the highly verbally fluent, etc.

Tinkzorg wants to claim that the right wing needs soldiers, not just wannabe generals — and that’s true — but I think it’s a mistake to think you get soldiers by coming up with “practical legislation” for Marco Rubio to try to pass in the Senate or whatever. I get where this is coming from — it’s a New Deal or Great Society mindset where the government cultivates a voter base or a client/patron relationship with certain groups of voters that it can rely on for votes, power, muscle, manpower, whatever, in exchange for steering money, access, etc., to that group. That’s a good model! But it has to be understand in the right light. What needs to be understood is the degree to which this model is *fundamentally* and *inextricably* incompatible with the “throw the ring of power into Mt Doom” value system of American conservatives. This model *requires* at the very most basic level a rejection of the “rejection of power” mindset. And that’s a big reason why the whole thing is such a nonstarter with the entire Republican Party as it exists today. Tinkzorg saying that Catholic Integralism won’t work because it’s a group of wannabe generals with no troops ? Well, the entire American Republican/conservative superstructure is practically designed in a lab to result in no troops! This is why American conservatives are either too scared or can’t be bothered to do literally anything other than vote in the safety of the secret-ballot-box, why anybody who counsels anything other than a Tolkienesque “long defeat” is ostracized and denounced by the respectable Right, why conservatives think even just “organizing” is shameful and low-class and a waste of time and can’t be bothered with it (or, they won’t admit, are afraid). The whole thing is set up from the start to destroy the possibility of developing an army (in the political sense.) What is that most basic truism about avoiding becoming a failed state? FEED AND PAY YOUR SOLDIERS!!!! No wonder that American conservatism, which has been telling its own voter base for decades now to drop dead Kevin Williamson-style, is in crisis and is the political party equivalent of a failed state (sacked by Trump in 2016).

it isn’t true that you need to look at what the masses say they believe in or want in public policy polls. I won’t say the masses don’t matter, but they matter a lot less than all this cant and sentimental nonsense about democracy leads us to believe. This is not to say that democracy is inherently bad but enough with these magical and obtuse fantasies about it! “Of forms of government let fools contest; whatever’s best administered is best.” If one lives in a monarchical system but the monarch mostly leaves the majority of decent/normal people alone, that is surely preferable to a rotten democracy rife top to bottom with manipulation, lying, behind-the-scenes intrigues, careful control of media, massive unaccountable bureaucracies that really determine how policy is enacted, undemocratic spook organizations shielded entirely from oversight, etc.

Tinkzorg contrasts the failure of Mishima with the success of the Bolsheviks. Fair enough. It was not very smart to attempt fascism shortly after fascism had been about as defeated as something can be on the world stage. That said, given enough time, things that were “defeated” can still pass the test of time. The ancient Greeks were defeated, and yet… Certainly it is true that we are still close enough to “fascism” for it to be a pretty poor strategy! It’s a paradox — you have to reach farther back, perhaps, to find that which can inspire the creativity and vitality that is lacking in the present. Reaching for medieval Catholicism is not necessary a mistake in that sense!

I agree by the way with the general diagnosis of Integralism as a dead end — but for me, it’s because I think the integralists are mostly rebranded neocons (Vermuele, Ahmari) who needed a new disguise/aesthetic, and there’s not really anything there, not sincerely. Vermeule’s cowritten academic piece with Cass Sunstein highly relevant here, of course. It’s worth noting that Neoconservatism was never remotely popular with the masses (not even 0.1% of voters cared about what The Weekly Standard had say) yet neocons really did exercise *tremendous* power. Another piece of evidence that it doesn’t matter if something isn’t popular with the masses — on the Republican/conservative side, that might even be an asset! The Republican base/broad voter population is so atomized/domesticated/trapped in an ideology of expecting nothing that the people who actually hold power behind the scenes in Republican administrations can be utterly opposed to them in almost everything and even hate most of them, and as long as they are good at palace intrigue they can do whatever they want.

Richard Hanania has made this point often — it doesn’t matter what the masses of Republican voters or Americans want all that much, because different types of people just matter more than others when it comes to exercising power. Certain very rare types of Republicans — neocons would be one example, and business/corporation-loving libertarians would be another– are very rare among the voting public but they matter a great deal when it comes to how power actually gets exercised. If all you do is vote, what you want will have little or nothing to do with what actually comes out of Washington, because voting (when there are only two parties in a 330 million person country) does not translate to policy choices very well, especially on the republican side (on the Democratic side there is MUCH more understanding that other things matter too like activism, organizing, pressuring others, attempting to dominate the public square, associating your opponents with low social status, etc.)

The way to understand “Integralism” is that it’s a bid to become a new sort of Weekly Standardism. It does not matter AT ALL that there’s no mass audience for this stuff, any more than it mattered that there was no mass audience for the Weekly Standard. If the integralists are attacking you, Mr. Dreher, it’s because they’re practicing the arts of ostracism, ingroup-outgroup policing, Overton Window manipulation, control of the sphere in which the “conservative braintrust” operates, etc. — all things that matter for a group or a force that hopes to gain power NOT by rallying the masses but by using palace intrigue techniques to exercise its power behind the scenes among those who actually make the big decisions. It’s not a bad strategy!

Thanks for this. There’s a lot to digest. Let me offer a couple of reactions.

I agree that a dedicated minority can determine the future, especially politically. But the Bolsheviks aren’t as good a parallel as you (and the integralists?) think. You have to consider the context in which they emerged. Marxists had been trying for decades to gain power in Russia, but got nowhere. A key event that opened the door for them was the famine of 1891-92, which the imperial government failed miserably in its response. That shook people’s confidence in the established order, and caused many who had been impervious to Marxist arguments to open their minds. Around the turn of the century the intelligentsia and the cultural elites began to turn to radicalization. The Tsar’s loss in the 1903 Russo-Japanese War further delegitimized and destabilized the monarchy. The 1905 Revolution was a prelude to what was to come in 1917.

It is also the case that industrialism, which came late to Russia, served to uproot rural masses and draw them into cities, where they worked in factories. Yuri Slezkine, in his great 2017 history The House of Government, talks about how the Marxists tirelessly evangelized in factories for the cause. They found willing listeners among masses of workers who were living shitty lives of toil, and who, having been uprooted from the village, were willing to think differently. The Bolsheviks were strong idealists, for sure, but they also offered materialist promises to improve the lot of the workers.

The reason that sexual minorities punch so far above their weight in our society is not only because they have fully captured the elites, but also because the LGBT ideology builds on what masses of Americans already believe about sex and the human person. The Sexual Revolution did the heavy lifting of separating sex from morality and social structures, and making sexual desire central to human personhood and identity. Late capitalism also separated economics from social and moral purpose. Both expressions of liberalism prize the desiring, choosing individual.

So when the gays and the transgenders come along and make their appeals to the masses, they were simply building on a well-established cultural logic in our time and place.

Do the integralists have anything similar to point to? I don’t doubt that a small minority can, under the right conditions, control history. But I don’t see the conditions present in American society — a historically Protestant polity that is de-Christianizing — today that would give people who advocate for Catholic integralism any foothold among the masses. Things could change! But for now, no.

You write:

This is why American conservatives are either too scared or can’t be bothered to do literally anything other than vote in the safety of the secret-ballot-box, why anybody who counsels anything other than a Tolkienesque “long defeat” is ostracized and denounced by the respectable Right, why conservatives think even just “organizing” is shameful and low-class and a waste of time and can’t be bothered with it (or, they won’t admit, are afraid).

Is this true? I don’t think so. Conservatives who counsel the “long defeat” aren’t lionized at all. The conservatives who are lionized are those who Own The Libs, regardless of whether they have any concrete proposals to change anything. It is enough for now, among conservative voters, to be against left-liberals. We have not yet seen a right-wing politician who can mobilize conservative and moderate voters behind a concrete policy agenda, tied to a compelling story about who we are, and who we should be.

That person might emerge. I hope so! But whoever it is will have to build on the America, and the Americans, that we have, not the ones we wish we had. As a conservative Christian, I have a fairly clear idea of the kind of country I would like to see. But I also know that some of my views are not popular with most Americans. I’m not looking for the perfect candidate.

I didn’t write The Benedict Option because I think it will appeal to most Americans. The book is premised on the idea that small-o orthodox Christianity is now, and will increasingly be, a minority belief. The most important thing is to hold on to the true faith, and to pass it on to our children, and they to their children. I hope and pray for the re-Christianization of our society. What concerns me most is that memory of the faith remains alive so that when the cult of individualism/liberalism/progressivism runs its course, there will the church be, ready to rebuild from the ruins. This is more important to me by far than politics, though I agree that politics plays a role in this drama.

 

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