It Was All A Grift
Two weeks after the 2020 election, a team of lawyers closely allied with Donald J. Trump held a widely watched news conference at the Republican Party’s headquarters in Washington. At the event, they laid out a bizarre conspiracy theory claiming that a voting machine company had worked with an election software firm, the financier George Soros and Venezuela to steal the presidential contest from Mr. Trump.
But there was a problem for the Trump team, according to court documents released on Monday evening.
By the time the news conference occurred on Nov. 19, Mr. Trump’s campaign had already prepared an internal memo on many of the outlandish claims about the company, Dominion Voting Systems, and the separate software company, Smartmatic. The memo had determined that those allegations were untrue.
The court papers, which were initially filed late last week as a motion in a defamation lawsuit brought against the campaign and others by a former Dominion employee, Eric Coomer, contain evidence that officials in the Trump campaign were aware early on that many of the claims against the companies were baseless.
The documents also suggest that the campaign sat on its findings about Dominion even as Sidney Powell and other lawyers attacked the company in the conservative media and ultimately filed four federal lawsuits accusing it of a vast conspiracy to rig the election against Mr. Trump.
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Pope Francis Scolds ‘Rigid’ Sinners
Oh boy, Pope Francis produced a wealth of quotable lines in his recent meeting with Slovak Jesuits. The entire exchange is here, in La Civiltà Cattolica. Excerpts:
One of those present begins by saying: “I am two years younger than you” and the pope replies jokingly: “… but you don’t look it! You’re wearing makeup!” The others laugh. He continues: “In 1968 I entered the Society of Jesus as a refugee. I was a member of the Swiss Province for 48 years, and have now been here for 5 years. I have lived in very different Churches. Today I see that many people want to go back or seek certainties in the past. Under communism I experienced pastoral creativity. Some even said that a Jesuit could not be formed during communism, but others disagreed and we are here. What vision of Church can we follow?”
You said something very important, which identifies the suffering of the Church at this moment: the temptation to go backward. We are suffering this today in the Church: the ideology of going backward. It is an ideology that colonizes minds. It is a form of ideological colonization. It is not really a universal problem, but rather specific to the churches of certain countries. Life scares us. I’ll repeat something I said to the ecumenical group I met here before you: freedom scares us. In a world that is so conditioned by addictions and virtual experiences it frightens us to be free. In the previous meeting I took Dostoevsky’s The Great Inquisitor as an example. He finds Jesus and says to him: “Why did you give us freedom? It is dangerous!” The inquisitor reproaches Jesus for having given us freedom: a bit of bread would have been enough and nothing more.
That is why today we look back to the past: to seek security. It frightens us to celebrate before the people of God who look us in the face and tell us the truth. It frightens us to go forward in pastoral experiences. I think of the work that was done – Father Spadaro was present – at the Synod on the Family to make it understood that couples in second unions are not already condemned to hell. It frightens us to accompany people with sexual diversity. We are afraid of the crossroads and paths that Paul VI spoke of. This is the evil of this moment, namely, to seek the path in rigidity and clericalism, which are two perversions.
“The ideology of going backward”? What world is he talking about? Are you aware that the Catholic Church has been “rigid” at any point over the last 50 years? Most of the people I know who seek out the Latin mass are not looking for rigidity; they are looking for backbone. And if anything, they are trying to escape the clericalism of priests who treat liturgical worship as theirs to modify, and to inhabit as a performer.
Anyway, the condescension and arrogance of his characterizing those who disagree with him as cowards who fear the glorious future Francis and his cohorts promise. That the people within the Church who find the progressive LGBT outreach of Francis’s agent Father James Martin to be theologically problematic are nothing but homophobes. A lot of the Catholics I know have spent a lifetime listening to clerics like Pope Francis promise that the great postconciliar renewal, the springtime of the Church, was just around the corner. They can’t be fooled again.
It’s just not true that the Catholic collapse in the wake of Vatican II is entirely the fault of Vatican II. The West experienced radical secularization starting in the 1960s. The point is that whatever the conciliar fathers hoped for did not pan out, and some Catholics are desperate for a liturgy and an ethos in which they find strength. But Francis doesn’t want them to have it. I’m an outsider, but this is unfathomable to me. How are these people the problem? How?
About his decision to severely limit once again the availability of the Tridentine (Latin) mass, the Pope said:
Now I hope that with the decision to stop the automatism of the ancient rite we can return to the true intentions of Benedict XVI and John Paul II. My decision is the result of a consultation with all the bishops of the world made last year. From now on those who want to celebrate with the vetus ordo must ask permission from as is done with biritualism. But there are young people who after a month of ordination go to the bishop to ask for it. This is a phenomenon that indicates that we are going backward.
A cardinal told me that two newly ordained priests came to him asking him for permission to study Latin so as to celebrate well. With a sense of humor he replied: “But there are many Hispanics in the diocese! Study Spanish to be able to preach. Then, when you have studied Spanish, come back to me and I’ll tell you how many Vietnamese there are in the diocese, and I’ll ask you to study Vietnamese. Then, when you have learned Vietnamese, I will give you permission to study Latin.” So he made them “land,” he made them return to earth. I go ahead, not because I want to start a revolution. I do what I feel I must do. It takes a lot of patience, prayer and a lot of charity.
The “true intentions of Benedict XVI and John Paul II”! That’s chutzpah. And saying that he is the one showing patience, prayer, and charity — wow. Did you ever think you would see the day when a Pope discouraged priests from studying what was the language of the Church from antiquity until maybe fifty years ago? Progress! they call it. Father Zuhlsdorf, reflecting on the Pope’s words, said, “This is the world turned inside out and upside down, colors inversed, polarities shifted.”
Let the reader understand.
Francis also denounced EWTN (though not by name) as doing “the work of the devil.” It is known that the conservative Catholic satellite channel is not Francis’s favorite, but it’s interesting how progressive Catholic outlets like National Catholic Reporter can do things like publish an account by a Catholic divinity student about how great it was to go to a Hindu temple and worship Ganesha — and the Pope doesn’t care. Granted, I don’t expect the Roman pontiff to know about columns published by American progressive Catholic newspapers. But then, if he’s going to call out EWTN for its supposedly satanic excesses, he ought to at least have a word or two to say about Catholic newspapers that promote Catholics worshiping false gods.
I know, I know. I know. None of this is new from Francis, of course, but it felt particularly weird hearing it in the same week that we found out that the Catholic Archbishop of Moncton, in Canada, has said that only those Catholics over the age of 12 who can prove vaccination will be allowed to come to mass, or to participate in any other part of the Church’s communal life. As you know, I’m not an anti-vaxxer, but forbidding people from the life of the church, most important of all the Eucharist, unless they can prove vaccination shocks the conscience. Is this church that Francis wants to build going to have the strength to resist governmental oppression?
Despite the accusation that EWTN does the devil’s work, I want to recommend to you this interview that Edward Pentin, Vatican correspondent for the EWTN-owned National Catholic Register, did with me recently in Rome. I draw your attention specifically to this part:
Whom did you speak to for the book, and how did you find them?
I dedicated the book to the memory of Father Tomislav Kolakovic, I had never heard of until I went to Bratislava, and I was just so amazed by his story. [When he fled] to Slovakia in ’43, he told his students, “The good news is the Germans are going to lose this war; the bad news is the Soviets are going to be running this country when it’s over. The first thing they’re going to do is come after the Church, we have to be ready.”
He knew that, and could tell instantly, the very clericalist, passive Slovak Catholicism was going to be no match for what was coming. So, he began to prepare his students. He would bring together these groups of mostly students for prayer, and intense discussion and analysis of what was happening, and they would decide.
Within two years, a network of these groups had spread all over Slovakia, and they had some priests who were going along with them.
They became the backbone for the underground Church. So I realized we are in a Kolakovic moment now in the West. We have to take advantage of the liberty we have now, the liberty of time and religious freedom, such as it is, to prepare.
And to create networks?
Yes, prepare ourselves and our families and our parishes spiritually, but make these networks now across confessional boundaries, across national and international boundaries. Now is the time, it’s urgent.
Once again, let the reader understand. Let the reader also understand that he’s probably not going to get any help from the Vatican in the long struggle ahead.
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Saving Your Child From The Village
A reader comments on the “Gender Identity And Your Kids” thread:
There’s a certain kind of conservative who looks at this trend [the corruption of fandom by gender ideology obsessives — RD] and says, “Good riddance. Unplug it all. Now your lazy nerd kids can spend all day at the gym lifting weights, or learn to play a musical instrument, and won’t be wasting time on the fandom of some media-marketed TV show or book series.”
I totally understand this impulse as a utopian ideal, but I also think there’s a horrible lack of appreciation for how difficult it is to raise kids in a world where they are uncomfortable with participating (or forbidden to participate) in popular franchise fan culture. My children are homeschooled and constantly desperate for more peer interaction. When they meet other kids at the park, or the roller skating rink, or on vacation, they are bombarded with aspects of pop culture from which they are being excluded — and they know it. Last month my brother passed along a collection of books and comics that my nephew was reading, and within a few weeks my 9-year-old came to us to confess that one of the books had “the f-word” in it. It ended up featuring a protagonist who was a pre-op transgender boy. At at this point I’m not even sure if her uncle gave it to her out of ignorance, or if he knew but did it anyway as a way to subvert our overly protective parenting style. I don’t have the heart to start a confrontation over it, given the cultural and ideological stress I have with my siblings already. Do you have any idea how wretched I feel that I can no longer trust my own brother as a screen for children’s literature content?
Right now my girls are super-enthusiastic about a book series… and I know they are just a few books away from the one that introduces a lesbian character. We started watching a TV show… and I already know which season has the gay wedding. Every new property (whether it’s original or the rebooting of a Gen X classic) is simply obligated to pay out a wokeness tax now. I’ll let my children watch this stuff with my supervision sometimes, when we can talk about it along the way. But I can’t let them enjoy unsupervised spaces with peers, certainly not in virtual spaces, since those peers are not going to exercise similar discretion. I essentially have to ban my kids from having friends unless those friends are very carefully vetted and supervised, and now I feel trapped in a helicopter-parenting Defcon-alert holding pattern.
It’s hard to exaggerate how besieged the current culture makes me feel as a parent of two daughters leaving elementary school age. I have unceasing dread of a giant industry devoted to prying my children away from my world, my culture, and my values, and to convince them that I’m the sociological equivalent of the stock villains being defeated weekly in their prepackaged media products. I want to give my children the freedom to explore and discover friends without oppressive surveillance, but all of the friends they meet want to create secretive phone-driven modes of contact with them for private conversations. Am I doomed to become a CIA operative, using spyware to catch my preteen daughter having illicit chats about testosterone and top surgery? Will I be the stereotypical killjoy parent, demanding that my girls stop seeing any friends I regard as “a bad influence”? I’m staring into an abyss that has swallowed so much of my world and the things in it that I once loved already, and has designs on my girls as well.
I’ve given up on having any kind of fandom myself, except of a few retro franchises that I can pretend are “closed”. But even that no longer feels safe. What’s LGBT representation going to look like in the new Tolkien-verse show on Amazon? After feeding that fandom for years, do I suddenly have to start telling my own children to avoid interacting with anyone who acts too enthusiastic about Middle Earth? Is there any safe ground left? Will they come for Narnia next?
This devouring of a formerly apolitical childhood and adolescent culture of organic fan enthusiasm to transform it into a catechism for woke cant is an act of unspeakable cruelty to families.
Well said. This is what totalitarianism means: the infiltration of politics (cultural and otherwise) into every aspect of life. In Huxley’s Brave New World, the Savage was the only sane person there because as an exile, he had been raised ignorant of the corrupt totalitarian culture and its values. I heard the other day about a family — a conservative Christian family — that has been devastated by gender ideology wreaking havoc in the lives of their children. It sneaked up on them. Catastrophe. I mean, honest-to-God destruction of young people’s bodies and souls, and of family relationships.
It used to be that it takes a village to save a child. Now, you have to work hard to save your child from the village.
UPDATE: Reader Todd responds to a commenter who said surely it’s not that bad:
I appreciate what you’re writing above, but honestly, you are completely wrong about this. I’m also GenX, and my daughter (born in 2000) sees this stuff day in and day out, since middle school. Honestly, almost all of her friends identify with some kind of “sexual” identity, and the really, really complex ones. I had to have her explain some of the words to me, like “A-rom/A-sex,” which apparently means “not interested in romance or sex,” or, basically, “I don’t want to date anyone right now.” The pressure is just insane. My daughter had a group of peers tell her she was “demisexual,” which I think means something like “won’t have sex without strong emotional attachment.” Like, waiting for sex until she’s married.
It’s really, really crazy for kids right now. I thought for a while that all of this was just “out there,” but I’m telling you, it’s everywhere for young people right now.
A good comment from reader KW:
If I could add one more thing: I think some people misunderstand the sort of concern I think this parent has (and I know that I have). At least in our case, it’s not that we don’t want our children to think gay, trans, etc. people don’t exist (if indeed gay people do still exist; all the kids seem to be bi…but I digress). It’s that we don’t want our child to feel compelled by contemporary cultural forces to parrot that, of course, a boy can be a girl or whatever cultural milestone “next” is about to be thrust upon us (and if you don’t think “multigenerational love” is at least one of the “nexts” to be shoved down our throats…now who’s being naive, Kay?). It’s not representation per se that’s the problem, it’s the insistence that we acknowledge every form of sexuality as a good thing.
And Reader CS:
If I’m picking up the vibe of the “I Have A Question” comment correctly, I think a lot of people like this commenter, who have no or lesser moral qualms about homosexuality, see such Christian concern and think it’s so weird. As if all these prude, bigoted Christians are afraid their children will become gay by TV osmosis or something. I suppose I can’t speak for all Christians, but for me, the reason I hate the gay indoctrination and don’t want my children exposed to it is that children’s minds are not developed enough for nuance. Explaining that homosexuality is a sin, but we all sin, and so while gay people may be wrong, they shouldn’t be judged for it, only their actions should be judged, and not by us, but by God, we should never judge, and oh, by the way, we live in a pluralistic society whereby not all members share the same beliefs, and of course, gay people don’t think what they are doing is sinful or wrong, and we should respect their beliefs, whether or not we agree with them, and so on and so forth. The kid stopped listening when he heard the word “sin,” which he doesn’t quite understand yet. Christians don’t want to communicate that message, and therefore, they would prefer to shield children from these sorts of questions until their children have the capacity to fully understand the nuance and how complicated things can be when morality, religion, ethics, and public policy collide.
The Left, of course, has it easy because they only want to communicate the black-and-white message that all things gay are wonderful and amazing. Both Christians and the Left understand that, when it comes to children, nuance has no chance against simple black-and-white. The simple message has got pole position. So the only alternative is to adopt a simple counter – i.e., that all things gay are bad and harmful. Most Christians don’t want to do this because they do actually believe that it is complicated – maybe not the fact of the sin itself, but rather the meaning of an isolated (even if persistent) sin in a world full of sin, including but not limited to those sins Christians commit on a daily basis and may not even see due to the planks they know are in their eyes.
But, yeah, no, it’s just that we fear the gays…. Makes it easier to hate us, I suppose.
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Viktor Orban On National Mission
At a recent event at Budapest’s Matthias Corvinus Collegium, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban gave a speech in the presence of Niall Ferguson, whom he mentions in the text. If you speak Hungarian, here is a video link to the speech. Here is a link to the English-language translation of that speech. Excerpts:
What is the reason for the West’s paralysis? In summary, we Central Europeans take the view that the West has gradually lost its faith in its own mission. It no longer seeks meaning in its own history; instead, it keeps saying that it will end soon. It re-interprets or deletes entire chapters of its history, finding them shameful and so to be cancelled, and in the meantime, it is unable to replace them with anything else. And those who are not paralysed, but in fact very much active, are such deconstructive, negative forces that they would be better off paralysed. In Popper’s book of the same title, which lays the foundations for the ideology of open society, we read that those who attribute a special value and a special mission to their own nation or political community are effectively the enemies of open society and are in fact – whether they’re aware of it or not – building tyranny and oppression.
This view is perhaps the most influential and most destructive conclusion of post-World War II Western thinking. Its importance is extraordinary, as today open society – we can safely say – is the West’s only intellectual school of thought that can be regarded as ideologically consistent. However, the concept of open society has deprived the West of its faith in its own values and historical mission, and with this now – at the time of the Muslim flood and the rise of Asia – it is preventing the West from setting its own mission against the rising intellectual and political power centres. This is like choosing the slow agony of life without action over the achievements and flaws of an active life just because there were flaws and errors in that life.
When I talk about Christianity, I must make a detour, drawing your attention to a threat. When we hear about Christian democratic politics, we must be aware that Christianity consists of two things: faith and the forms of existence inspired and created by faith. When in politics we talk about Christianity and Christian democracy, we mean the latter. On issues of faith, governments have no competence. Salvation and perdition – which are the true issues of faith – are simply beyond the boundaries of the realm in which the politics of the day has any legitimate authority. When we talk about Christianity and Christian democracy, we defend the forms of existence that grew out of the societies imbued with Christian faith. Defending personal dignity, the freedom of man created in the image of God, family as was created in Christianity, the national community and communities of faith. This is the essence of Christian democratic politics, not the defence of religious beliefs and dogmas.
Orban, who is addressing college students, goes on to talk about what he calls the Hungarian national mission: “defending the independent Carpathian Basin.” I imagine that non-Magyar Carpathian Basin peoples might have a different take on what it means to be independent. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to hear the prime minister speak in this patriotic vein to these students. Earlier in the talk, he pointed out that given the uniqueness of the Hungarian language, that
our culture, Hungarian national culture, which has been documented for many hundreds of years and whose beginnings reach as far back as the millennia spent on the steppe can only exist within us, through us and by us. Without us, it becomes forever lost to the whole of humanity. This is no easy mission.
This is profound. He is asserting that there is a reason for the existence of the Hungarian people, and that if they disappear, something vital to humanity’s well being will have been lost. This brought to mind something I read a while back by the ethnobiologist Wade Davis, who pointed out that we have a finely developed sense of why we should preserve endangered plant and animal species, but we overlook how much of worth is being lost every day when traditional peoples and their languages die out or die as a distinct culture because of assimilation.
Orban’s main beef with George Soros and the Eurocrats is that they favor a society in which all this real diversity is seen as a problem to be overcome. They say they favor “diversity,” but what they really favor is cultural surrender and annihilation. Orban told the students that they should be patriots, not stateless technocrats:
However, the Hungarian intellectual elite of the day is to be recognised by the fact that they don’t just sense but are keenly aware of this specific Hungarian mission. This is where you come into the picture. Therefore, over here – in harmony with their own professional career objectives – it is the duty of people of intellect to understand this mission, to reflect on it in relation to issues concerning public life, to grasp and to describe the ever-changing forms and expanding content of that mission, and to offer it to members of the nation who pursue professions of a different, non-intellectual nature. In other words, in Hungary, the status and performance of members of the Hungarian intelligentsia – that you yourselves belong to – are always a strategic issue for the nation, not a mere matter for the individual. Within this, supporting talent, or to use a modern term ‘fostering talent’, is one of the Hungarian nation’s greatest challenges and resources at the same time.
This means that due to the outstanding intellectual abilities the Lord bestowed upon you, you have a special responsibility for the future of the Hungarian people. The weight of one thousand one hundred years weighs heavily on your shoulders. Be grateful for that, and do what you have to do.
What would that kind of speech sound like if given by an American president? If he were true to history and the American character, he would talk about the national mission to bring liberal democracy to the nations. That has been the felt mission of the country across the centuries, and encompassing both political parties.
Now though? I don’t believe in that mission. Do you? I don’t think that makes me less of a patriot. As a general rule, we have no business telling other countries how to run their affairs when our country is falling apart. The woke have taken up the historical American mission and interpret it as telling foreigners that they need to be woke. God forbid that any of my descendants bear arms against another country that the US ruling class decides needs to be punished for being insufficiently woke.
But what does this national mission mean on the political Right? I presume the old-school neocons are looking for another war to fight to prove our national greatness, but I don’t sense that most conservatives believe in exporting American values to the world like we used to. Am I wrong?
I could be wrong. Most of the right-wingers I hang out with think that America today is either an exporter of bad ideas, or at least has so much work to do on shoring up the home front that it has no business meddling in the business of other countries. But maybe I’m out of touch with where most people who identify as conservative are these days on national mission and American exceptionalism. You used to hear right-of-center politicians and thought leaders all the time talk about our national mission to spread the ideals of democracy around the world. After Iraq and Afghanistan, how can people believe that? I’m serious — how can people justify this as a good idea, or even a feasible one?
I’m trying to think about the kind of patriotic “national mission” speech I would want to hear from an American leader in 2021. What would he say? I think I would want to hear a speech in which the leader talked about how we can’t pass on what we don’t have — and that we have lost the habits of mind and of the heart that make for a healthy liberal democracy. I would want to her the leader speak of national mission as recovering who we once were, at home: rebuilding families, re-establishing communities, rediscovering religion, valuing history and tradition, learning to receive our country, its people, and its folkways in a spirit of stewardship, and so forth.
What do you think of Orban’s speech? What kind of speech like that would you want to hear from an American leader?
If you’re a European reader, what kind of speech like that would you want to hear from a leader of your own country? Me, I would want him or her to talk about Europe’s mission to conserve what it is in danger of losing: its rich, diverse history, its culture, and most of all its ancestral religion. Orban talks like this. I wonder how many European religious leaders do.
UPDATE: After posting this, I checked e-mail, and found this there from a reader:
As someone who considers himself a conservative classical liberal (or a classical liberal conservative, depending on how you look at it), one of the more unsettling realizations of our current time is that liberalism (not as practiced and professed by the Left) did this to itself. Not deliberately, of course. But a shift to illiberalism was always possible in an ideology that professed itself able to accommodate all sorts of viewpoints and ways of being. The irony, of course, is that nothing really is all-encompassing. Even classical liberalism needs a line drawn somewhere, but the nature of the ideology makes it difficult to draw any lines. Something which cannot impose limits on itself will eventually walk itself off a cliff because it cannot convincingly argue a reason not to.The big political story of our time is that liberalism, after an incredible run of success, is now failing, if it hasn’t already. It’s failing due to its aforementioned inability to set limits for itself and also because both the Left and Right have lost faith in it. The Left sees it as unable to delivery equity and it’s ability to deliver equality is also viewed as suspect. The Right sees how easily it can be subverted for nefarious purposes. Thus, we’re currently in a transitional phase where both sides are seeking alternative frameworks and ideologies. The Left, further along the timeline, has settled upon a system that’s socialism in all but name. The Right’s still figuring things out, but it, too, is flirting with some dangerous ideologies.This is why people like Viktor Orban, in my view, represent the future, at least as far as conservatism and right-wing politics go. No matter what President Biden might say (and he’s certainly no authority on the matter), Orban is far from Hitler and, for someone who’s illiberal and undemocratic, seems to understand democracy better than most of our own politicians here in the U.S. Orban isn’t perfect, but, when faced with committed autocrats, authoritarians, and oligarchs, Orban seems a much better bet, indeed.The problem is, Orban also represents a distant future. He’s in many ways a product of a much longer history that involves communist totalitarianism. In other words, we’re probably not getting our own Orban this decade and considerable amount of bad has to transpire before we become a society willing to hand our own Orban a chance to run the country. Also, bear in mind the U.S. doesn’t have a parliamentary system, so voting for an Orban-like figure may be a different ballgame from trying to elect a party to which such a figure belongs.I still consider classical liberalism something worth defending, even to the point of failure. It is, after all, the ideology underpinning the greatest experiment in human history. But I’m also resigned to the fact it’s a fight which will ultimately end in failure. I just hope whatever replaces it will be something other than Wokeism or MAGAism (to which Q-Anonism belongs).
UPDATE.2: A disillusioned military veteran writes:
As far as America’s mission abroad losing your support, I think this is the logical extension of the gradual realization among conservatives that shoring up the imperium may not be in their current best interests, especially when every single elite class sees you as kulaks to be purged.
You cannot alienate between a third to half of your population by regarding them as utter scum and then be surprised when they fail to fight and die on command. This is a logical extension of the left absolutely and completely winning the culture war. The right needs to take a hard look at the status quo and ask the question of cui bono [who benefits?] before they spend blood and treasure.
Freedom and democracy spread abroad in 2021 do not mean classical liberalism in the West. They mean CRT, gender ideology, LGBTQ, and every other progressive tenet — and God help any country like Poland or Hungary that dares to think otherwise. You are not allowed to dissent, to question, or to oppose or the full weight of the world order is brought to bear against you, as Hungary is now seeing.
This was not always the case. From the 1970s up until the 2000s, there was still a social conservative hope that the world order might be something friendlier, and you had no shortage of Catholic theocons who went in that direction. But when the US failures in Iraq resulted in the Obama administration (see Douthat on this) and the left won the culture war in 2015, any chance of that happening became nil. Right now social conservatives are begging not to be treated like pariahs in their own country. Anyone who wants to export that model abroad is insane.
There can be a hypothetical discussion on exporting classical liberalism, but right now that isn’t viable in the US, let alone abroad. Instead you have a progressive wokeness that apes classical liberalism and inhabits its spaces and its language for the purpose of improving its brand, and making it look like something benign, even positive.
This is something I have reflected a lot on as I think back on our defeat in Afghanistan. We were sold a war to defend our way of life and freedom, and we ended with those like myself who were dumb enough to answer the call finding ourselves as pariahs in our country, and who need to be denied influence and power until we die off. It is an America where people fear what they say for fear of losing their job based on an ever-updating orthodoxy, where true thoughts can only be shared with family or near-family, and an America with a growing class divide, political violence having reemerged on both sides, and a general stigmatization and dismemberment of everything we were told to go fight for. Something to remind the next time someone seriously argues for a crusade.
As someone who is all too aware that the barbarians are real and brutal, I would just say that those entrusted with positions of duty and responsibility cannot care more about these issues than those at the top. Our military, intelligence, and diplomatic leadership couldn’t beat the Taliban in Afghanistan or the Iranians in Iraq. There is absolutely no reason to believe that the woke army will behave any better against the Chinese or the Russians. So gradual decline sets in, just as it did for the Ottomans, quite independent of anything you or I might want.
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Can Liberalism Be Saved?
There was an interesting essay published in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend. Its author is Barton Swaim, who is on the editorial board there. It’s paywalled, so you aren’t going to be able to read it unless you’re a subscriber, or can find the full text elsewhere. I’ll do my best to describe it.
Swaim begins by saying that “liberalism is in trouble,” by which he means classical liberal ideals, which are under attack by both the left and the right. Swaim characterizes the situation like this:
On the left, markets generate inequality, democracy works only when it achieves the right outcomes, individual freedom is uninteresting unless it involves sexual innovation or abortion, the state is everything, and religion doesn’t deserve neutrality. On the right—or anyway the intellectual/populist right—markets destroy traditional moral conventions, democracy is mostly a sham, individual freedom encourages behavioral deviancies, state power is a force for good, and the First Amendment’s ban on the establishment of religion was likely a bad idea.
Partisans will dispute these characterizations, but the liberal order in America (and Europe) is under attack—and not without reason. Political debates in Washington are bereft of good faith, the education system idealizes self-hatred and sexual confusion, and even corporate leaders—who until yesterday could be counted on to champion patriotism and hard work—eagerly recite the maxims of idiots.
I have read many critiques of liberalism, but none so original as “Why We Are Restless: On the Modern Quest for Contentment” by Benjamin Storey and Jenna Silber Storey. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say the book doesn’t so much criticize liberalism as explain why it’s neither the cause of our problems nor their solution.
The couple are political philosophers at Furman University. More:
At the core of their book is the reflection that educated people in modern liberal democracies are very comfortable with proximate arguments and not at all with ultimate ones—in other words, that moderns can debate means but not ends.
What do they mean by “ends”? “I teach Plato’s ‘Gorgias,’ ” Mr. Storey says. “ Socrates is arguing with Callicles about what the best way of life is. And so I will ask my students: What’s the best way of life? Just like that. The standard response is: What are you talking about? They look at me as if to say: You can’t ask that question!”
So it is, he thinks, in liberal societies generally: We’re allowed to debate all questions but ultimate ones. “We’re assuming we can’t have an answer to these questions, without even asking them.” In the classroom, he says, both he and his wife “try to shift students from a stance of dogmatic skepticism, in which they assume before the inquiry begins that you can’t ask ultimate questions, to a place of zetetic or seeking skepticism, in which you recognize that, despite all your doubts and apprehensions, you have to at least ask questions about God and the good and the nature of the universe.”
Swaim says that liberalism emerged out of Europe’s spasms of sectarian violence following the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation. He asserts that it was a philosophy that enabled diverse peoples to live together in relative peace. But the problems that liberalism presents itself as a solution are not the main problems we live with today. More:
As attractive as the liberal worldview is, the Storeys think, it has ceased to satisfy. “Liberalism isn’t popular among a lot of younger people,” Mrs. Storey says, “because it was designed to solve a different anthropological problem from the ones we’re facing. We were different people when we came up with our liberal institutions to solve the strife of war and persecution.” The political institutions of liberalism, she says, were designed for people who “were already strongly committed to churches, localities, professions and families. But when private lives have broken down—families dissolved, localities less important, religious life absent—liberalism’s framework institutions no longer make sense.” Young people in particular, she says, aren’t interested in the “prosaic” Montaignian life: “It just isn’t enough for them. It has no transcendence. They’re going to go beyond it.”
Many critiques of liberalism and modernity quickly become critiques of the free market. It’s a tempting solution because the market is something you can change or rearrange by force of law. The Storeys don’t take that view. “The problems we’re facing right now are not fundamentally economic problems,” he says. “They’re fundamentally educational and philosophical problems. The way forward is a multigenerational project, and it’s going to begin in schools.”
Huh. I said something like that too in The Benedict Option. Well, not me, exactly, but Michael Hanby:
“Education has to be at the core of Christian survival—as it always was,” says Michael Hanby, a professor of religion and philosophy of science at Washington’s Pontifical John Paul II Institute.
“The point of monasticism was not simply to retreat from a corrupt world to survive, though in various iterations that might have been a dimension of it,” he continued. “But at the heart of it was a quest for God. It was that quest that mandated the preservation of classical learning and the pagan tradition by the monks, because they loved what was true and what was beautiful wherever they found it.”
As crucial as cultural survival is, Hanby warns that Christians cannot content ourselves with merely keeping our heads above water within liquid modernity. We have to search passionately for the truth, reflect rigorously on reality, and in so doing, come to terms with what it means to live as authentic Christians in the disenchanted world created by modernity. Education is the most important means for accomplishing this.
Classical Christian educators are one form taken by the new Benedictines.
Anyway, one more Swaim quote:
The task for today, in their view, isn’t to dynamite liberalism, on the one hand, or to encourage its pathologies, on the other. It is, as Mrs. Storey says, “to recover the preconditions of liberalism’s success.” To do that “is going to require returning to preliberal sources—the resources of classical thought, Christian thought and Jewish thought, and the communal practices that turn those traditions into ways of life. These ways of thinking aim to cultivate order in the soul in a way that liberal thought does not.”
Perhaps the Storeys’ point can be put as simply as this: You can’t fix the city as long as the souls are a mess.
Again, this is one of the basic points of The Benedict Option. It’s not that politics don’t matter; they do! It’s that they don’t matter ultimately, and trying to fix our crisis without addressing the core problem. The best we can hope for from politics is that it will protect the liberty of institutions and people engaged in practices that work towards the sustenance of communal life. But if those institutions don’t do that work, and/or if people don’t really care to engage in those upbuilding practices, politics will be a waste of time.
But how are we going to do what the Storeys want? If you’ve been following me a while, you know that I am deeply skeptical that we will do this at all, collectively speaking. This is why I believe that those who want to hold on to traditional religious faith, and traditional virtues, are going to have to live in some sense like the Benedictine monks of the early medieval period. With chaos everywhere, we have to build strong communities of discipleship and formation. This is going to be very hard. But what else is there? Seriously, what else?
One of the reasons I first got interested in the writer Paul Kingsnorth (who, by the way, writes a fantastic Substack) was that he had reached the same point with regard to climate-change activism that I had reached about moral renewal through conventional means: that what we want is simply not going to happen, because it would require too great of a cultural change, so the wisest thing for us to do is to figure out how to adapt.
Paul and a friend, Dougald Hine, came up with the Dark Mountain Project. I came up with the Benedict Option. It’s just a model for what I hope is a fruitful way of thinking about our relationship to the broader post-Christian world, not a complete scheme. People keep saying to me, “You tell us what we need to be doing, but you don’t tell us how to do it.” I can’t figure it all out, y’all. I am a diagnostician. I hope my diagnosis helps you who are gifted organizers and visionary builders do so. I will tell others what you’re doing. But aside from the many examples I give in my books, I’m at a loss for what else to tell you.
One more thing, a quote from the Swaim essay:
Young people in particular, she says, aren’t interested in the “prosaic” Montaignian life: “It just isn’t enough for them. It has no transcendence. They’re going to go beyond it.”
I realized this weekend, thinking about this stuff, that I’m so satisfied with my hobbity life because I am always aware that I am connected to eternity, and a world full of meaning. (And no, the fact that I have done a lot of traveling to Europe this year does not mean my life most of the time is not hobbity and home-bound. I tend to sit at home drinking hot tea, reading books, and writing, and doing little else.) If I weren’t connected to eternity through my belief in God and in the transcendent realm, then all the traveling to Europe and the fun stuff I get to do would not satisfy me either. But I look back at my own winding path to faith in God — a path I’m still on, for conversion continues until the day we die — I see very little that I could point to and say, “Ah ha, that was what did it!” I see instead a series of forks in the road in which I was compelled to make a choice. Did that mystical moment in the Chartres Cathedral mean something, or did it not? I can’t unsee and unfeel what I just saw and felt. What do I do with it? The choice I made that day not to dismiss it, but to believe that in some real sense, I had glimpsed God, led me down paths I would not otherwise have taken. The fact was, I walked out of that cathedral, age 17, on a search.
We have to show the young that there is something out there to search for. Not something as trite as their happiness. Nothing short of the Truth. And not just a truth claim, but the Truth itself. This is how I’m going at it in the book I’m planning. As readers of my Substack know, I’m re-acquainting myself with the work of Dr. Iain McGilchrist, who wrote The Master And His Emissary. Using McGilchristian terms, liberalism detached from grounding in something pre-liberal, and greater than itself, is like the left brain thinking it understands all of reality, and leading itself to disaster.
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Tyler Cowen Submits To Wokeism
The libertarian economist Tyler Cowen says he hates wokeness as “stupid and inflexible” and “boring and predictable,” but believes that “wokeism” will “rule the world.” (Note: “wokeism” seems to be the word we are going to use for “wokeness”; the French are already using le wokisme.) He says that his essay in his “attempt to explain why and how its enemies should learn to live with wokeism.” What is Cowen’s argument?
He says that wokeism is global.
One question raised by the woke movement, though hardly ever asked, is whether the U.S. will be able to deploy this new intellectual tool for exporting American cultural influence. Put another way: If there is going to be an international progressive class, why not Americanize it?
Wokeism is an idea that can be adapted to virtually every country: Identify a major form of oppression in a given region or nation, argue that people should be more sensitive to it, add some rhetorical flourishes, purge some wrongdoers (and a few innocents) and voila — you have created another woke movement.
Unbelievable! The next form of US cultural imperialism is to export this malignant ideology that is tearing our country apart, so it can perform the same service for other countries. Foreigners, wake up!
Returning to the glories of American cultural imperialism, consider the British philosophical pessimist John Gray. He recently wrote the following, weird but insightful:
Wokery is the successor ideology of neo-conservatism, a singularly American world-view. That may be why it has become a powerful force only in countries (such as Britain) heavily exposed to American culture wars. In much of the world — Asian and Islamic societies and large parts of Europe, for example — the woke movement is marginal, and its American prototype viewed with bemused indifference or contempt.
Does that make you feel better or worse about wokeism? I say better. Again, keep the bigger picture in mind. It doesn’t much matter who controls the English department at Oberlin College. But it would be nice if the Saudis moved to allow more rights for women.
Note that it is not necessary to approve of all U.S. cultural exports to view the spread of wokeism as a net positive for the world. I do not like either Big Macs or Marvel movies, for instance. But at the end of the day I think American culture is a healthy, democratizing, liberating influence, so I want to extend it.
This is such a characteristically American thing to say. I think we can all agree that women are mistreated in Saudi Arabia, and that things can change there. But Cowen has a bizarrely positive view of the disruption wokeness stands to bring to much older and less dynamic societies. “I think American culture is a healthy, democratizing, liberating influence, so I want to extend it,” he says. I don’t. I think American culture has turned sick, anti-democratic, and enslaving, and I hope to encourage other countries to resist it. It is … well, look, I can’t think of a better word: it is reprehensible that Cowen extols a highly illiberal ideological scheme that is ending the careers of his fellow academics, and that is turning every institution that it infects into a soft-totalitarian dystopia, because it might end up with Saudi women getting driver’s licenses. Wokeism is a utopian movement that separates the Elect from the Damned by virtue of the color of their skin, or their sex, or their religion, and so forth — and then treats people according to that classification. It calls this “social justice” — and now it has a prominent libertarian economist singing its praises.
Like I said, unbelievable. But here we are.
Cowen continues, asking, “If not woke, then what?”
Another question is what are the alternatives to woke. Some people are going to be extremists no matter what.
One possible alternative belief system, for example, is QAnon. According to a poll released in May by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Interfaith Youth Core, 15% of Americans “agree with the sweeping QAnon allegation that ‘the government, media and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation.’” The same share said that “true American patriots may have to resort to violence” to restore order.
If QAnon were considered a religion, it would have more adherents than many other denominations. Even if not all of those believers are locked in, 15% is still a lot.
Of course there are many possible alternative belief systems more moderate than either wokeism or QAnon. But recall the question of the counterfactual: What exactly is wokeism a substitute for? If the woke didn’t believe in wokeism, what would they believe in? Something like the ideology of the Weather Underground of the 1970s? Classical liberalism? Moderate 1990s-style Clintonism? Or would they simply become disillusioned?
Woke and wokeism are a way to keep people engaged. To be clear, I think there are better alternatives to woke on the relevant margins. But simply asking the question is to realize the costs of woke are not as high as they might seem. The relevant comparison is not “woke vs. what I believe to be best,” but rather, “woke vs. a lot of the other crazy stuff people are going to believe if they weren’t woke.”
Wait, so the only alternative to wokeism is … QAnon?! Really?
I appreciate that Cowen understands that wokeism is a substitute religion — that is, a totalizing ideology that gives people a sense of meaning, purpose, and solidarity. But you know what? So was National Socialism. So was Bolshevism. We don’t say it’s fine for Johnny to become a Maoist because at least he’s engaged with the world, and at least he’s not a Nazi. QAnon is also a pseudo-religion, but (thank God) QAnon followers hold little to no power in our society. The woke run it all. Anyway, if the woke didn’t believe in wokeism, maybe they would believe in Christianity, or some other traditional religion. Maybe they would commit themselves to classical liberalism (though that liberalism cannot by its nature answer the fundamental questions that can only be answered by religion, or a philosophy lived as a manifestation of eternal, transcendent principles). It’s just bonkers to look at the evil of wokeism, and the destruction the woke are wreaking in American life, and shrug, saying, “Hey, it could always be worse!”
Read the whole thing. It’s longer than a usual column, and offers more arguments. Cowen says that corporate America is woke, because “wokeism has passed a market test that has been going on for decades.” Well, there you have it: there is no higher praise from a libertarian economist than that Big Business likes it. I would remind Cowen that there was a time when corporations had hiring practices that greatly disadvantaged women, racial minorities, and Jews. If all the big companies followed those policies, presto, they “passed a market test,” so all must be well.
Conservative readers, understand that this is why conservative like me favor restricting the market to prevent companies from engaging in discriminatory hiring. What is good for Big Business is not necessarily what is good for America and Americans. It has never been true.
Finally, here is how Cowen concludes:
The arguments have been so fully joined because they are about how to define success, which is the fundamental American ideology. I believe such debates are not only healthy but also necessary. I also believe that the ideology of success will endure, though it may take less familiar forms over time. In some ways wokeism is what a feminized, globalized version of 21st century U.S. triumphalism looks like.
You don’t have to like that. But you may have to get used to it.
Again, read it all. If Cowen is right, then “success” is defined by embracing and implementing a malignant ideology that reduces all social relations to power, and actively discriminates against people based on identity characteristics. It is an ideology that tramples free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and freedom of association. It is beyond my ability to comprehend how a principled libertarian can in any sense endorse wokeness. But that’s what Tyler Cowen has done. I don’t understand it. Honestly, I don’t. I am not a libertarian, obviously, but I like and even admire much of what Tyler Cowen writes. I can’t work out in my mind how he, as a principled libertarian, rationalizes embracing wokeness.
He reminds me of François, the protagonist in Houellebecq’s Submission, who converts to Islam not out of conviction — he is very much against what Islam stands for — but because Islamism is the wave of France’s future. In that novel, Islamism is what “success” looks like in the fictional France coming into being. Under a different set of circumstances, Cowen would be penning a surrender note to Islamism.
If Cowen is right, and 21st century American triumphalism looks like the globalization of wokeness, then I devoutly pray that America does not triumph in this century. This will be yet another naive and moralistic American attempt to bring the blessings of American liberty to the world, and wreaking havoc. We never, ever learn. Never.
One more thing: I certainly understand why Americans of the left despise Viktor Orban, but why do Americans of the right hate him? He understands the threat of wokeness much better than American conservative politicians do (I suspect that our Republicans will be following Cowen on the road to rationalizing wokeness). Orban does not do politics like a classical liberal, in part because he well understands that what we call “liberal democracy” has become illiberal to the left — in the ways Cowen recognizes. Orban is fighting this. He might lose, but at least he is not doing what most of the American right’s leadership is doing: either working out the terms of internal surrender to wokeness, or wasting energy on futile lib-owning schemes that gin up people’s anger and separates them from their paycheck, but do nothing to roll back wokeism.
UPDATE: Reader Wency comments:
Watching the oil industry, I recently arrived at a seldom-discussed factor in corporate America’s rising Wokeness: the simultaneous rise of index funds and ETFs that have no reason to care about companies’ profits. I’ll probably start hammering this point for a while until I see someone influential catching on to it.
Traditionally, shareholders of companies mainly cared about things like whether the company was generating good shareholder returns. This was true whether the shareholder was an individual investing his own money, or a mutual fund company or hedge fund investing money on behalf of other people but judged by those people primarily on their investment performance. Most of the time they just supported the CEO and sold the stock if they decided they didn’t like him, but when they did object to the CEO and decided to launch a shareholder battle against him (which was always a time-intensive and fraught endeavor), it was always for financial reasons.
But recently we’ve seen shareholders go after the oil industry in particular for reasons that seem purely political and not for any financial benefit. We also have increasing mandates for more minority and female board members. And big index fund groups like Vanguard, Blackrock, and State Street are signing off on all these things, while generally never supporting actual substantive changes at companies to help shareholders. Why is this?
Well, index funds, which now control roughly half the US stock market and rising (up from around 25% a decade ago) don’t actually have a reason to care about the financial performance of the stocks they hold. They aren’t judged on investment performance like with traditional mutual funds; they are judged on tracking error — i.e., how well they mimic an index, up or down, at the lowest possible cost. And yet they wield all this power: how to use it? Well, in the absence of any reason to wield their power to productive ends, they default to wielding it for virtue signaling and naturally Conquest’s Second Law starts to kick in.
Increasingly, if any publicly-held company tried to resist Wokeness, its CEO would have a massive target painted on his back by the index fund companies (really, activists channeling themselves through those companies), who will vote relentlessly for a board that promises to fire that CEO and replace him with someone more diverse and bien pensant. And since they own half the stock market and rising, more often than not they’ll have the votes to do it. We haven’t seen many battles like this in the open, but I have to think CEOs are increasingly cognizant of it and submitting to it in advance.
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Gender Identity And Your Kids
A reader writes:
I’m writing to you today because I have some information to share with you (and your readers) who may still be skeptical that this LGBTQIA+ gender-identity craze is coming for their kids. Some recent interactions online have made me more aware than ever that the movement is spreading in wild and unpredictable ways, and also made me reflect on how, in my own life, even someone like me could have fallen victim to it.
I want to start off by saying that recently, (and ironically, in an attempt to try not to be sucked into the internet as purely a source for doom and gloom: you will see how this backfires on me) I decided to rejoin a fan community surrounding one of my favorite franchises on Twitter. I won’t go into too much detail about which community and the exact specifics, but just know that it’s a popular franchise that’s appropriate for older kids, teens and adults (nothing 18+, nothing for really little ones). As a teen myself I was fairly active in a similar branch of this community on another social media platform (Facebook), and enjoyed it immensely before the platform eventually went more or less defunct as a hot-spot for fan content. Most of the content was fan-created work (like fan-art or fan-fiction) with a little interaction and lots of “DID YOU SEE THE LATEST” kinds of posts.
I’m not going to gloss over my entire youth and say that there was never anything in the old version of the fan community that wouldn’t have been inappropriate for me or that I could, potentially, have been harmed by if I’d been sucked into it. But I was probably around 16+ by the time I ever engaged actively online, and was well aware of things to watch out for and when to close the tab, so to speak. But largely, what I will say is that I got what I came for. I came to see other people who liked the same things I did talking about it and creating their own little spin offs to tide them over until the next big release, and it didn’t matter that some of us were teenagers and some were 25+ year olds with a long history with the franchise (by and large we didn’t know who was who, and conversations were pretty minimal anyway, and seldom personal- DMs weren’t really a thing unless you were IRL friends or had some larger connection, etc. etc.).
Anyway, to keep it to a minimum, that was then. If you’ve been on the internet any time in the last five years you know that spaces where people just talk about an interest and don’t mix it with politics and activism are becoming few and far between. Even though I knew this, and knew that I wasn’t going to have the same experience in a different place, something sparked an interest in me to go try to reconnect with my internet roots in a different setting. So, I followed some hashtags, quickly found some new followers and settled back to enjoy at least marginally some discussions online that didn’t have to do with Covid and All The Ways We Are All Going To Die.
Then came the teenagers.
Much like when I was a kid, this franchise attracts a lot of younger people. So it was hardly surprising to me to find that many of my new followers were in the 14-18 age range and that people like myself (mid-older 20s) were a sort of senior majority. That was fine- Twitter’s rules after all are 13+, so it’s not unreasonable to assume if you’re part of a popular group that you’ll interact on occasion with minors. That wasn’t the part I found strange. The part I found strange was that all of them, and I repeat, all of them were fans of two things- the franchise, and gender identities.
You can actually almost pinpoint the age range of the 18 and under crowd by how many of them have the following: 1. Pronouns in bio and in username. 2. Gender identity or lack thereof displayed in bio or username. 3. LGBTQ+ sexual orientation displayed in bio or username. etc. etc. etc. I’m not going to dive into it too much, because some might be saying “isn’t that just normal nowadays? Even politicians do that?” Well, you’re not wrong if that’s what you’re thinking. And that’s not the part that disturbs me.
What disturbed me was that, a few weeks after I joined the group, I started noticing an unsettling pattern among many of these teenage users (and many over-teen users, but I’m trying to make a point about the young ones specifically). For a few days, after an interesting bit of news or a trailer or some other thing that unites franchises, the posts in my feed would be primarily things like what I remembered from past experiences: posts about the franchises, theories, speculations, fanart, etc. But, every time things would settle back down into a quiet, normal week, the feeds in my post became almost entirely about one thing: Gender and LGBTQ talking points. I’m going to diverge for one second and say that many people in this group aren’t using a personal, front-facing account for their interactions in this fan-group. They’re mostly using alt-accounts with no real names and faces attached (myself included). And yet, every time the discussion in the feeds died down to where there was just no new stuff about the franchise to talk about, all the conversation slowly but surely shifted back to sexual orientation and gender. From fan-ships of perfect LGB couples to ‘hey I drew this person but as a trans-female!’ to even forgoing pretending to talk about their interests and just discussing their own gender and sex presentation with their other online friends, it became quickly very clear to me that A. I no longer really belonged here and B. Every single one of these kids was obsessed. Every. Single. One.
And the worst part is, not all of them are even remotely candidates for what we might call ‘prone’ to gender dysphoria or anything else. They’ve just learned it’s cool to have a gender identity, and they’re parroting everything they’re hearing everywhere else. Don’t believe me? Here’s some evidence.
I’m going to share with you, stripped down and condensed to essentials (because these are kids, after all, and I don’t want to actively showcase any of their private details) the gist of two conversations I saw on the app during some dead days. One happened a few weeks ago. The other one was within the last few days.
The first one went like this: Person A (OP) posted something along the lines of “I’ve decided to test (note the word ‘test’) if I’m gender fluid. I’d like everyone to call me (opposite sex pronouns) for a while. Immediately, many comments with affirmation and specifically addressing OP as opposite sex emerged. OP reacted with glee.
The second instance, and the one that really broke me: Person B (OP) posts repeated questions about female gender orientation. Asks what it means if they are a tomboy and if that counts as a gender presentation. Is told no. Continues (in a series of posts, that because I followed this person I saw all of) to ask more and more questions including things like ‘what if I’m comfortable being female but I like masculine things and sometimes feel drawn to masculinity? What does that mean?’ I didn’t see a whole lot of replies to this person, but today, they posted that they are now identifying as a “Demigirl” with the appropriate flag. I had to look this one up: https://gender.wikia.org/wiki/
If you read that wikia page, you’ll learn that a ‘Demigirl’ is a female who ‘mostly’ identifies with being a woman, but not completely, and is partially gender-fluid as a result. You’ll also learn that the official ‘flag’ for this hybrid identity was scribbled out by some person on reddit only about a month ago. A month. So, less than a year ago probably someone came up with this idea, a month ago they made a flag, and less than a day ago a young girl on the internet adopted this as ‘proof’ that their slight attachment to masculine stereotypes fits them in on the gender-identity board! Praise and affirmation followed.
Still don’t think the gender craze is coming for your kids? Do your kids interact at all in fan groups? Do they talk to people online? Do they go to public school? All it takes now is a half-day of questioning to find your perfect gender flag, and you’re good to go. Forget trying to turn off their phones, if parents aren’t talking to their children right now about what sex (and gender) really are and how varied and multifaceted they can be while still existing in a binary then they might as well be handing them over to the gender-packaging factory to receive their stripes. The instant someone says “I don’t always adhere to stereotypes” a million voices are waiting to tell them which of 364000 identities they can fit into to be special and cool just like everyone else. If they don’t have a response for that, it’s over. Period.
I’m going to digress and talk about myself for a minute to explain just why these examples, particularly that last one, burn a hole in my soul. From the minute I was old enough to remember, I’ve never been one of those typically presenting females. When my sisters and I played dress-up as kids, they played princesses and I played a prince or a witch or whatever was more interesting. In addition to the dolls and barbies I had being one of three girls, I also had an assortment of boy-oriented toys, including action figures, a remote control car and this really cool nerf bow-and-arrow set that I still secretly wish had survived my playing with it because man, my kids are gonna miss out someday. My hair was short because I hated wearing it up and the solution was a bob, and when we spent time with relatives I could be found as far away from my female cousins as possible, hanging out with my male cousins and talking about Legos and Lord of The Rings. I spent 90% of my time reading books and ignoring reality, and didn’t put much effort into my appearance until probably age 13 or later.
And I wished I was a boy.
It wasn’t an all-consuming thought, but I thought it. I wished, many times, when my parents would fuss at me to please stop attempting to climb trees in your Sunday clothes and when my sisters never talked about anything but dolls and tea-parties around their friends that I could be one of the boys. I had always liked the boys and their world better, and I fit into better, and yet there was that little problem (that I was still a girl) that kept me from being accepted into the boy group. The reality was, I was already probably very intelligent for my age (too-well read children can relate) and I took that big-headedness a little too far at times. I was also a very emotional person (still am) and just passionately felt that being a girl and being expected to do girl things was hideous and unfair.
The saving grace? My mom was the same. She’s never been a typical female either, and though as adults we have some clear differences (ironically, I have more stereotypical female interests/talents than her- like a hidden passion for interior decorating and a love of baking and so on) she was there for me, to be able to tell me that no- I didn’t really want to be a boy, I was just a girl who liked sword fights and grass-stains more than ballgowns and tea parties, and that was okay!!! She was proof that there were other girls like me, and that I would find more of them eventually (I did) and, even though we never said so in so many words, that stereotypes and how we fit into them has nothing to do with our innate female and male selves. And so, reassured that I could be female and still be however I wanted, I eventually grew out of those thoughts, and as I matured, found that there were ‘female things’ I connected with that my past self was too young to appreciate.
But, think about all this in a modern context. I’m a happy adult female now, and I was never truly gender-questioning. I just thought, for a while, that boys had more fun than I did, so I wanted to be one. But that, in it of itself, is a thought that’s deep enough for modern gender activists to insist I be transitioned immediately and put on life-altering hormones, never given a chance to grow up or grow out of questioning, and affirmed in my presentation instantly! If I, like that young girl online, had been handed a ‘gender-affirming’ flag and an identity that ‘made sense’ out of why I was different from my peers, I might have jumped on it, especially without the presence of a wise older person to tell me I wasn’t anything different than what she’d been as a child. This is the problem, this is why this kind of thing is so dangerous and toxic and wrong.
I’ve gone on at long enough length, so I won’t write more here, but what I have to say is this: Again, if you are a parent in today’s era, you have to be talking to your kids about gender identities and how cult-like they are. The likelihood is that none of the parents of these kids in the fan-group I rejoined know that their kids spend most of their internet time debating which gender they are and being saturated by different identities and sexualities. When their kid comes home saying they’re now a “Demifem” and they want to be addressed as she/they, they’re going to express confusion and act like they never saw it coming. They’re going to regret not having these conversations earlier, while their kids were young enough to resist peer pressure. And their kids are going to end up messed up for life, especially the ones that end up on hormones. If we can’t start stamping this out at the roots, it’s never going to go away.
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The West’s Sympathy For The Devil
To prepare for my new book project, I am re-reading Iain McGilchrist’s great 2009 book The Master And His Emissary: The Divided Brain And The Making of the Western World.
His basic thesis is that both halves of our brain do different things. The left focuses on abstraction and precision. It takes information that the right brain (intuitive, feeling) gives it about the world outside of our heads, analyzes it, and produces a picture of the world that allows us to operate within it. Neither side can have the full picture of the world as it is; we need both in order to grasp the world, which is ultimately too great for us to fully comprehend.
The left brain is the realm of the scientist, the mathematician, the businessman. The right brain is the realm of the sage, the prophet, the poet and the artist. McGilchrist is not a religious man, but he argues that we in the West have argued ourselves into a state of unreality, into a place where we live by a lie: the lie that there is no end to human life, that there is no ultimate meaning, that there are no connections. Because we live in a culture and civilization thoroughly dominated by the left brain, we have convinced ourselves that the story the left brain tells is the whole truth. But it’s not!
In his forthcoming book, Dr. McGilchrist relates an extraordinary creation myth told by the Iroquois. It has to do with the originators of the world as twin brothers — one a creator, the other an imitator who can create nothing, only work with material his brother gives him. The twin is jealous, and tries to deny the brother’s role, and presence. The jealous brother symbolizes evil in the form of intentional forgetfulness of the higher identity in the spiritual realm. Whenever we forget the divine realm, we make a mess of things. Here is Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, from his 1983 Templeton Prize address:
Over half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: ‘Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.’
Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: ‘Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.’
What is more, the events of the Russian revolution can only be understood now, at the end of the century, against the background of what has since occurred in the rest of the world. What emerges here is a process of universal significance. And if I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire twentieth century, here too, I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again: ‘Men have forgotten God.’ The failings of human consciousness, deprived of its divine dimension, have been a determining factor in all the major crimes of this century.
Today’s world has reached a stage which, if it had been described to preceding centuries, would have called forth the cry: ‘This is the Apocalypse!’
Yet we have grown used to this kind of world; we even feel at home in it.
Dostoevsky warned that ‘great events could come upon us and catch us intellectually unprepared’. That is precisely what has happened. And he predicted that ‘the world will be saved only after it has been possessed by the demon of evil.’ Whether it really will be saved we shall have to wait and see: this will depend on our conscience, on our spiritual lucidity, on our individual and combined efforts in the face of catastrophic circumstances. But it has already come to pass that the demon of evil, like a whirlwind, triumphantly circles all five continents of the earth.
We are witnesses to the devastation of the world, be it imposed or voluntarily undergone. The entire 20th century is being sucked into the vortex of atheism and self-destruction. This plunge into the abyss has aspects that are unquestionably global, dependent neither on political systems, nor on levels of economic and cultural development, nor yet on national peculiarities. And contemporary Europe, seemingly so unlike the Russia of 1913, is today on the verge of the same collapse, for all that it has been reached by a different route. Different parts of the world have followed different paths, but today they are all approaching the threshold of a common ruin.
I bring all that up as prelude to a discussion of this extraordinary essay by Mary Harrington, appearing in UnHerd. She claims that Satanism is the real religion of the United States. Now, before you jump to conclusions, she’s not talking about ritual Satanism. Her point is much more subtle than that. For example:
But if devilish imagery mostly feels a bit cringe, the Devil himself has gone mainstream. If being deliberately anti-Christian pour épater la bourgeoisie feels exhausted, for the new, post-Christian bourgeoisie Satan now reads like the good guy. And in the hands of this class, the Devil’s proverbial pride, self-regard and refusal to yield isn’t just celebrated — it’s on its way to becoming the established religion of the United States of America.
What does she mean? This:
But this doesn’t mean you need to become a devout Satanist to embrace the belief that self-empowerment is our real purpose in life, and that guilt is an unwarranted intrusion. Aleister Crowley wrote in The Book of the Law that “Every man and woman is a star”. And from Rand to Maslow to a trillion “empowering” Pinterest memes today, a variant of this dictum is a core message of the self-help industry.
Self-help writer Julia Cameron, for example, closely echoes Ayn Rand in her 1992 bestseller The Artist’s Way when she declares: “What we really want to do is what we are really meant to do”. Elsewhere, if you want a bit more ritual with your individualism, but the heavy-metal Church of Satan vibe isn’t your thing, there’s the occultism-meets-pamper-day aesthetic of Arin Murphy-Hiscock’s 2019 The Witch’s Guide To Self-Care.
Echoing Crowley, Murphy-Hiscock tells us: “Living as your authentic self means following a very individual path”. If, for instance, you find yourself plagued by inconvenient feelings of guilt as a consequence of doing exactly what you want, Murphy-Hiscock suggests a ritual for “releasing” those feelings.
No wonder the modern Satanic Temple is now (as the Guardian suggested in 2019) hard to distinguish from the liberal “good guys”. At its core Satanism is simply the doctrine of untrammelled individualism, shorn of any link to the divine. To put it another way: Satanists are just very, very liberal.
Milton saw Satan’s refusal to submit to any law (however ambivalently) as the sin of pride. Now, in our post-Christian world of self-actualisation, pride is no longer a sin. Rather, it’s a vital part of becoming fully yourself. As body modification micro-celebrity Farrah Flawless put it: “I do not believe in God, I don’t worship the Devil, but yes I am a Satanist which means I am my own god. I worship myself’.
Indeed, it’s so far from being a sin that sacralised self-worship now has an annual religious festival. This new, increasingly pseudo-religious summer event, simply known as “Pride Month”, may have started out as a twentieth-century campaign for gay and lesbian equality. But what began as a justified and (at root deeply Christian) campaign for equal treatment for gay and lesbian people has long since morphed into a corporate-sponsored celebration of individualism that today horrifies many gay and lesbian people.
Pinterest, the internet’s motherlode of self-help platitudes, succinctly summed up the new faith in an official post this year. As a religious holiday, Pride isn’t about gay rights; it’s where we “celebrate identity and self-expression in all its forms”. Inasmuch as Milton’s ambivalence about rebellion lives on, it’s in the now-traditional argument about whether there are any forms of individual desire still off-limits for proud celebration.
At least on the now majority post-Christian East and West coasts of America, this sacralisation of individual freedom and desire is increasingly assertive in its efforts to expunge Christianity as America’s official faith.
A less overt challenge than those posed by Aleister Crowley or Anton LaVey, but a continuation of the same argument. This time, though, the boot is on the other foot. The side with imperial institutionaland military backing is the faith of self-expression, individual will and indomitable pride.
Read it all — there are hyperlinks in the original text.
As I write in Live Not By Lies, Russia in the years before the Bolshevik Revolution had given itself over to sensualism:
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.
People, this is us. This is who we have become. Do not doubt that there will be nemesis. There always is.
A couple of years ago, a young man attended our church for a short time before he moved out of town. He had been involved with a local chapter of Aleister Crowley’s sex cult. He fled that darkness, and became a Christian. He told me once after the liturgy that when you read Crowley’s writings from early in the last century about the kind of world he wanted to bring about through his “sex magick,” and look around you at the world we now live in, it is clear that Crowley succeeded.
The Angel of Light promising that we can be happy if only we assert both our will to pleasure and the domination of nature by the exercise of our will, is no angel, and bears no light. But those who consider themselves enlightened have welcomed him openly; others welcome him with a guilty conscience, but welcome him all the same. And still others welcome him without knowing what they are doing: because they have been catechized by the spirit of the age.
These are the times in which we live. We have to do whatever we can to make sure that they don’t live in us. Even if you don’t believe in a literal Satan, understand that Satan is the archetype for a creature that believes it is and should be entirely self-sufficient, and that the sovereignty of its will (“Do what thou wilt is the whole of the law”) is the primary fact that orients it to the world.
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Big Keira Bell Loss On Trans Therapy
The court of appeal has overturned a controversial judgment that children under the age of 16 considering gender reassignment are unlikely to be mature enough to give informed consent to be prescribed puberty-blocking drugs.
Tavistock and Portman NHS foundation trust, which runs NHS England’s only gender identity development service (GIDS) for children, challenged a high court ruling last year in a case brought against the service by Keira Bell, a 24-year-old woman who began taking puberty blockers when she was 16 before detransitioning. The other applicant was the unnamed mother of a teenage autistic girl on the waiting list for treatment.
The three high court judges had also said the doctors of teenagers under 18 may need to consult the courts for authorisation for medical intervention. As a result of the decision, the Tavistock suspended new referrals for puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for the under-16s.
However, in a judgment handed down on Friday, the lord chief justice, Lord Burnett, Sir Geoffrey Vos and Lady Justice King said it had been “inappropriate” for the high court to issue the guidance.
Keira Bell comments:
Bell said she planned to seek leave to appeal to the supreme court, adding: “A global conversation has begun and has been shaped by this case. There is more to be done. It is a fantasy and deeply concerning that any doctor could believe a 10-year-old could consent to the loss of their fertility.”
Here’s a link to a personal essay in which Bell tells her own story. She was a moody and depressed 14-year-old from a troubled background (mother an alcoholic), and who was struggling to deal with same-sex attraction. More:
As I look back, I see how everything led me to conclude it would be best if I stopped becoming a woman. My thinking was that, if I took hormones, I’d grow taller and wouldn’t look much different from biological men.
I began seeing a psychologist through the National Health Service, or NHS. When I was 15—because I kept insisting that I wanted to be a boy—I was referred to the Gender Identity Development Service, at the Tavistock and Portman clinic in London. There, I was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, which is psychological distress because of a mismatch between your biological sex and your perceived gender identity.
By the time I got to the Tavistock, I was adamant that I needed to transition. It was the kind of brash assertion that’s typical of teenagers. What was really going on was that I was a girl insecure in my body who had experienced parental abandonment, felt alienated from my peers, suffered from anxiety and depression, and struggled with my sexual orientation.
After a series of superficial conversations with social workers, I was put on puberty blockers at age 16. A year later, I was receiving testosterone shots. When 20, I had a double mastectomy. By then, I appeared to have a more masculine build, as well as a man’s voice, a man’s beard, and a man’s name: Quincy, after Quincy Jones.
Five years later, she began to detransition after she realized that her dysphoria was not the cause of her problems, but a symptom of deeper problems. More:
The consequences of what happened to me have been profound: possible infertility, loss of my breasts and inability to breastfeed, atrophied genitals, a permanently changed voice, facial hair. When I was seen at the Tavistock clinic, I had so many issues that it was comforting to think I really had only one that needed solving: I was a male in a female body. But it was the job of the professionals to consider all my co-morbidities, not just to affirm my naïve hope that everything could be solved with hormones and surgery.
If you read the whole thing, you’ll see that this poor young woman was put on hormones and on the conveyor belt to transition without much deliberation at all — because that’s what she wanted.
Parents need to wake up, and wake up fast. There is an entire world of activists and allies devoted to convincing your child that he or she is something other than what they are, in terms of sex and gender. They are constantly trying to undermine your kid. You probably have no idea what it’s like. You might recall me telling you about meeting a Catholic father in Slovenia this summer, a man whose 12-year-old daughter is locked in a profound depression because some older teens from the US that she met online convinced her that she has to choose her gender identity quickly, before puberty really sets in. The girl is obsessed with this idea, doesn’t want to go to school, is struggling with eating, and so forth. This family is sitting in Slovenia, but the Internet made it possible for these ghouls in Oregon to colonize the child’s mind.
Please — please — read Abigail Shrier’s investigative piece about how here in the US, some states are amassing the power to seize custody of minor children who have indicated a desire to change their sex. Excerpt:
Taken individually, no single law in any state completely strips parents’ rights over the care and mental health treatment of their troubled minor teens. But pieced together, laws in California, Oregon, and Washington place troubled minor teens as young as 13 in the driver’s seat when it comes to their own mental health care—including “gender affirming” care—and renders parents powerless to stop them.
Here, for instance, are the powers granted to a 13-year-old child by the state of Washington. Minors age 13 and up are entitled to admit themselves for inpatient and outpatient mental health treatment without parental consent. Health insurers are forbidden from disclosing to the insured parents’ sensitive medical information of minor children—such as that regarding “gender dysphoria [and] gender affirming care.” Minors aged 13 to 18 can withhold mental health records from parents for “sensitive” conditions, which include both “gender dysphoria” and “gender-affirming care.” Insurers in Washington must cover a wide array of “gender-affirming treatments” from tracheal shaves to double mastectomies.
Put these together, and a seventh grader could be entitled to embark on “gender affirming care”—which may include anything from a provider using the child’s name and pronouns to the kid preparing to receive a course of hormones—without her parents’ permission, against her parents’ wishes, covered by her parents’ insurance, and with the parents kept in the dark by insurance companies and medical providers.
Lest you wonder whether there is some madcap elixir polluting the groundwater of Washington State alone, in 2015, Oregon passed a law permitting minors 15 and older to obtain puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and surgeries at taxpayers’ expense—all without parental consent. In 2018, California passed a similar bill for all children in foster care, age 12 and up. The California state senate is now considering an amendment to the Confidentiality of Medical Information Act that would bar health insurers from disclosing medical information to parents about their dependents, on pain of criminal liability.
The thing to get clear in your mind is that the ruling class in the US and in Europe — the state, the media, academia, the professions, big business — has accepted gender ideology as true and good. It will increasingly set out to separate children from their bigoted parents. Who is protecting you and your family? Are you aware of how vulnerable you all are?
Think about it: we have become a civilization whose ruling class believes that it is perfectly right and natural to put children on cross-sex hormones in an attempt to change their sex, based only on the say-so of the child and his guardians. As MacIntyre said:
This time, however, the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament.
Well, they told us so.