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Fox Geezer Syndrome

(Photo by B.A. Van Sise/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A reader sent me an e-mail about the Rush Limbaugh caller who, near tears, said he was prepared to die for Donald Trump. I wrote about the guy here, and offered a reader’s thesis that the caller was a man who had been disappointed by the church, and looked for a substitute. This reader, a conservative Christian Millennial, has a different thesis:

Man, that guy is exactly like my dad. And he’s like a lot of my friends’ dads, too. We all talk about the “Fox News Dad”: the Baby Boomer who gets sucked into right-wing media the way Millennials get sucked into Minecraft or whatever. They immerse themselves in an alternate reality—part radio, part television, part social media—where their whole world becomes this epic battle between “We the People” against the “Deep State.”
These guys get up at 6am and watch Fox and Friends until 8am. They go to work and watch Outnumbered during their lunch break at 12pm. They get home from work at 6pm and watch Tucker, Hannity, Ingraham, etc. until 11pm. All the while, they’re on their phones or their laptops sharing memes with their buddies and arguing with strangers on social media.
They probably got hooked after 9/11, like my father. The addiction reached a new height during the whole Tea Party thing in 2010, and now the 2020 election is giving them another massive hit.
Right-wing media exists solely to create and exploit these junkies, just as sure as Call of Duty and Valorant do. Force the Rush caller to go two or three days without any media whatsoever, and I believe you’d see signs of withdrawal in his brain activity.
Bastards like Giuliani know that. They exploit them, the way terrorists exploit teenagers who are into FPS games. They give them the opportunity to bring their digital fantasies in the real world.
It’s hard because there’s obviously quite a fair bit of truth to what they’re saying. But the hysteria you hear in the Rush caller’s voice is the voice of an addict. It’s the voice of 14-year-old me when my parents made me turn off the PlayStation because I’d been playing for three days straight. That guy’s done nothing but suck up conspiracy theories about voter fraud since November 3. He’s in the middle of a serious bender.
I don’t find them frightening, or even interesting—just really, really sad. It’s ruining my dad’s life. He’s estranged from one of his brothers because they can’t stop talking about politics. His doctor said Fox was a major contributor to his heart attacks, but he won’t stop! And he’s not the only one.
Our parents’ generation, no less than ours, was totally unprepared for the advent of digital technology and mass media. They’ve been sucked into their screens like the rest of us.
Boy, does that sound familiar. Fifteen years ago or so, my conservative friends and I used to laugh about the same thing with our parents. We were all conservatives, but also were bothered by how monomaniacal our parents had become about politics. The one thing that they all had in common: they were retired, and watched Fox News all day long. This was long before social media was a thing, or a thing that older people did. And it was long before our politics became as toxic as they are today.
(I have mentioned here before that a secular liberal friend of mine has become similarly frustrated with his mother-in-law, who retired from her job and, sitting at home idle, became obsessed with MSNBC and left wing social media, and in turn made progressive politics her substitute religion.)
Anyway, it’s interesting to think of these folks as just as cracked by media as young leftists who have given themselves over to politics as a pseudo-religion. I had a conversation earlier this year with a friend I hadn’t seen in ages, who has become a QAnon supporter. It was like talking to a religious cultist, in that nothing they professed was falsifiable. If you questioned it, that just showed in his mind how naive you were to the way the world really is. And hey, maybe I am! But help me understand what you are seeing, and why you believe what you do. One thing I deeply hate about the woke Left is how they believe that you either accept the entire package, or your failure to accept the entire package shows how sinful racist, sexist, transphobic, etc., are.
The cultists of the Right are like this too, aren’t they? Remember, a totalitarian society is one in which every aspect of life has been politicized. The mentality of people like the reader’s father, who insists on banging away about politics even though it has caused him to have heart attacks, and estranged him from his family, is in this sense totalitarian.
If my reader above is right, then the prospect of Trump’s defeat is a kind of religious crisis for these people. Whether they meant to or not, they have found ultimate meaning in MAGA, and its internal dramas. I think that the woke are ultimately a greater threat, because their delusions are conquering and have conquered the institutional leadership of the country. But the Right wing people who have made a religion of politics are not harmless, heaven knows. Damon Linker wrote a few weeks back that “Trump is a demonic force in American politics.” Here’s how he defines the demonic personality:
What is this something? It’s more precisely a someone — the kind of person who delights in wreaking havoc, who acts entirely from his own interests, and whose interests are incompatible with received norms, standards, restraints, and laws. Someone who actively seeks to inspire anger and animus, who likes nothing more than provoking conflict all around him, both to create advantages for himself and because pulling everyone around him down to his own ignoble level soothes his nagging worry that someone, somewhere might be more widely admired. This is a person who lives for adulation without regard for whether the glory is earned. The louder the cheers, the better. That’s all that counts. And so the only thing that’s a threat is the prospect of the cheers going silent — of someone else rightfully winning the contest for public approval.
Whether or not he’s right about Trump, that demonic spirit is certainly dominant in our culture today, on both sides of the political spectrum. Zealots see nothing more important than politics. We can argue over which side is worse, but if it’s people in your own family or circle of friends who is a political obsessive — of the Left or the Right — then it ceases to be an abstract problem.
I remind you that the reader who wrote me — I know him personally — is a political and religious conservative. But he recognizes addiction when he sees it. Another way to see it is that people who have made politics their idol have invited themselves to be possessed (I speak metaphorically) by a spirit of division and loathing.
It has to be possible to resist the evil we see in others without becoming that which we despise. I’m thinking now of how hard some of the Christians imprisoned and tortured by the Communists had to work to keep themselves from hating those who had done hateful things to them. We live in a culture now that shames as weak and uncommitted those don’t embrace total political war as the ultimate source of meaning and purpose.
If there is no way to disprove your political claims, then you should confront the fact that you have made a religion of your politics.

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Inside Head Of Rush’s ‘Die For Trump’ Caller

'I will die for my president,' says Limbaugh caller

You may have seen this over the weekend, either on Twitter or this blog. It’s a male caller talking to Rush Limbaugh, and almost in tears over how everybody has betrayed people like him, except for Rush Limbaugh and Donald Trump, for whom he would die. Listen at least to the last 45 seconds of the 2m30 clip:

I thought this was bonkers and childish. A reader just sent me this letter (and gives me permission to quote it), which offers a more sympathetic view. He’s not defending the Rush caller on the facts, but trying to help me understand how someone could get to that position in life. Check it out:

I saw your retweet yesterday (and subsequent column today) about the guy who called in to Rush and said he’d die for Trump. The tweet said something to the extent of “if you don’t like conservatives now, wait until they lose their religious faith.” I’d like to take that from the opposite direction, though. I don’t know that man’s story, but I know my own, and I think it’s more likely that religious faith left him.

I don’t know where to start here; I’ve been thinking about this all day and it’s honestly made me a bit depressed the more I think about it. I don’t want to read into the situation things that aren’t there, but I heard desperation in that man’s voice. In all likelihood he wouldn’t actually take a bullet for Trump, but he would die for the things that Trump represents. Trump stands up for men like him in a way that nobody (not just politicians; I’ll get to the church as well) has done in at least a generation. Men can be fiercely loyal when someone has earned it; it’s one of our best qualities. I don’t want to comment on whether Trump earned that loyalty, but I will say that he has to the caller.

Now with that out of the way, let’s not focus on that person in particular, but from the experiences of an Evangelical white male (me) that may drive men in general out of the church and into politics. In short, there’s a shrinking-to-nonexistent place for men in Evangelical churches, especially middle aged men. I’ll use a few examples to hopefully make my point. These all are my experiences in Evangelical churches over the past decade or so:

My father taught Sunday School. In fact, this is where academically-minded men (I would count myself among that group) usually ended up as a way to contribute. He would study and prepare lessons on topics of his choosing, adding his interpretation and exegesis while leading the discussion. That path doesn’t exist anymore. Sunday School is gone, replaced by “small groups.” The only qualifications for being a small group leader are having a semi-clean house and reading the prewritten questions that the pastoral team sends out every week. In an effort to make it easy and accessible, it’s not a role to aspire to. It’s not leadership, and it flexes no spiritual muscles beside showing up.

When I was growing up, our church elected deacons and elders who would, alongside the pastoral staff, make decisions for the church and serve the more corporeal needs of the church. Those roles are largely gone now (speaking from the Evangelical perspective), replaced by committees and the Board of Trustees. If a man isn’t fond of the corporate world, he doesn’t have this avenue open to him anymore either.

I remember growing up, the men of the church made up half of the choir and a good number of the orchestra. I went to a moderately sized Methodist church in Alabama, maybe 300 on a Sunday. I had wanted to play the trumpet in the orchestra in church since elementary school. I have only attended one church with a choir since college; none with an orchestra. I played guitar in the “praise band.” Women outnumbered men 2:1 in the choir, at least.

Churches largely market to and chase after the elusive “young family” demographic, and secondarily women. I looked for men’s groups at a church my wife and I began attending. 70% of the groups are labeled “young family” or “singles.” There are two ladies’ Bible studies. Men’s breakfast meets once a month at the Cracker Barrel. They encourage you to bring an unsaved friend as there will be a short Gospel message. We joined a young families group. I don’t know where we’ll go when we cease to be in the “young families” before we hit “golden years.”

I once emailed the pastor of a church I used to attend with a theological question. I got his assistant. His assistant referred me to another staff member who could meet with me for an hour. He recommended a few books to read on the topic. I never bothered asking a question again. For more therapeutic needs, the “congregational care” team could assist, composed mostly of 20 something psych students trying to get their hours in.

I have more stories, but I’ll stop here for now. The last one I think is telling. For Evangelicals in larger churches especially, the pastor is a manager who teaches. He wouldn’t go to bat for me. If I lost my job; I’d get passed off to the trainees for therapy. I, on a visceral level, understand Trump guy. There but by the grace of God go I. I’ve had enough experiences in the church to get the message “you’re not needed here,” so I get how a person can find the MAGA movement and find belonging. You fight for that sense of belonging, and you get defensive when others try to marginalize you by not sticking up for those you see as fighting for you.

After all, if he was in the Evangelical church, he’s been down that road before.

Thoughts, readers?

I think Trump is no real defender of men like the caller, but that they are projecting their very real pain onto him, wanting to see in Trump someone they need. I’m not making fun of that. I did something similar with Pope John Paul II when I was in my older teens and twenties. I think this is common in human experience.

We have to find some way to channel this valid emotional need by men — a need to feel wanted, and purposeful — into something constructive, or it will express itself as something destructive.

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A Benedictine Thanksgiving

I went by my son Matt’s place this morning to pick up a book and to bring him coffee. We sat on his stoop talking. I told him that he will be a happy man when he comes home this week for the Thanksgiving holiday, because I ordered a case of Birra Nursia blonde. He was thrilled. Just a few seconds later, literally, my phone buzzed, telling me that FedEx had just that moment delivered the precious nectar to my front door.

It turns out that you can buy happiness after all. Here is a link to the Birra Nursia online store, where you can have 750ml bottles shipped to you in a matter of days (maybe even in time for Thanksgiving). It is not cheap, but if you are a serious beer drinker, it’s worth it. Matt and I prefer the blonde, which is crisper, and lower in alcohol (six percent) than the darker ale (ten percent), but that’s just because neither of us are big fans of dark ales. It’s all completely delicious. I have visited the monastery in Norcia — read more about the monastery here — where the monks make it in small batches. You can feel good about your purchase, because it supports the work of the Benedictines there in St. Benedict’s birthplace. In fact, the last time I visited, Brother Augustine Wilmeth, a South Carolina native, was the brewmaster. Look at that beard. That monk, brethren and sistren, is the man you want to be brewing your holiday ale:

 

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Narrative Yes, Truth No

QAnon cultists and others at Stop The Steal rally in Georgia today

Here’s a tweet that went out today from the senior art critic at New York magazine, a Manhattan intellectual with over 523,000 followers on Twitter:

Interestingly, yesterday I heard from a DC-area friend who mentioned a conversation he had with a pal of his, a military officer high in the government. The officer said the same thing as Jerry Saltz. My DC friend said that almost all of his educated urban friends and colleagues think the same thing, and cannot imagine thinking otherwise.

These are not Antifa. These are middle and upper middle class professionals.

Meanwhile, in Georgia today, there was a big “Stop The Steal” rally of Trump diehards. You can watch the whole thing here. They cheered for Alex Jones. They chanted “Fox News sucks!” Look at this:

And this:

It’s insane. What did Tucker Carlson do? He introduced doubt into the Narrative. That’s all it took for this mob to denounce him. What is crucial here is that Tucker expressed a fatal lack of confidence in the president’s top lawyer, and asked her to back up her extraordinary claims with evidence. This mob doesn’t care about evidence. It knows what it believes, and anyone who doubts it from the Right is a traitor. A back-stabber, even!

Check out this clip from Limbaugh’s show late this week. Here is a listener who breaks down in tears, saying he will die for Donald Trump if it comes to it:

What kind of cultist do you have to be to break down crying, saying that a radio host and Donald Trump are your only hope? A grown man did that. How is this guy any different from those fragile, shrieky leftists who go to pieces when someone violates their Safe Space? It’s pathetic.

By the way, the Georgia Stop The Steal folks are threatening to boycott the January 5 Senate runoff to punish the GOP for stabbing Trump in the back — that is, for not going balls-to-the-wall to advance and defend the conspiracy theories about how Trump had the election stolen from him. Meanwhile, back in the real world, a federal judge in Pennsylvania today threw out the Trump campaign’s request to negate millions of votes there. From his ruling:

In other words, Plaintiffs ask this Court to disenfranchise almost seven million voters. This Court has been unable to find any case in which a plaintiff has sought such a drastic remedy in the contest of an election, in terms of the sheer volume of votes asked to be invalidated. One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome, a plaintiff would come formidably armed with
compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption, such that this Court would have no option but to regrettably grant the proposed injunctive relief despite the impact it would have on such a large group of citizens.

That has not happened. Instead, this Court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations, unpled in the operative complaint and unsupported by evidence. In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state. Our people, laws, and institutions demand more. At bottom, Plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Therefore, I grant Defendants’ motions and dismiss Plaintiffs’ action with prejudice.

Conservatives have a hell of a fight ahead, but now a significant number of people on the Right would rather see the Senate fall into Democratic hands than surrender their preferred Narrative. Unbelievable, just unbelievable. Trump lost this election. It’s not the end of the world. The GOP can still hold the Senate, and frustrate Biden’s plans. But if the party loses these Senate runoffs in Georgia, there will be nothing standing the way of the Democratic president and a unified Democratic Congress. Donald Trump knows good and well that he has lost this election, but he’s willing to allow the Right to tear itself apart over him, and willing to let the country and its institutions suffer serious damage.

As I have done often, I encourage you to watch the first episode of a 1980s-era British documentary about the Spanish Civil War. It covers the five years leading up to the outbreak of war. It’s only an hour long, but it’s quite informative about how political extremism on both Left and Right destroyed the possibility of democracy, and led to civil war.

And, once again, as Hannah Arendt said of the kind of people who are ripe for totalitarianism:

They do not believe in anything visible, in the reality of their own experience; they do not trust their eyes and ears but only their imaginations, which may be caught by anything that is at once universal and consistent with itself. What convinces masses are not facts, and not even invented facts, but only the consistency of the system of which they are presumably part.

Not just masses, as we now know, but also elites.

UPDATE: The wheels keep coming off the clown car:

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‘Triumph Of The Will Hillbilly’

Glenn Close as J.D. Vance's Mamaw in 'Hillbilly Elegy' -- which is 'Triumph Of The Hillbilly' in leftist Sarah Jones's view

Sarah Jones is a young left-wing writer with Appalachian roots. She has made it her business these past few years to savage J.D. Vance and his Hillbilly Elegy memoir because, as far as I can tell, he grew up poor, under painful and difficult circumstances, and emerged a conservative (though not a conventional one). Traitor to his class! Jones is out today with a screechy condemnation of the new Hillbilly Elegy movie, which airs on Netflix starting November 24. The excitable Miss Jones seems to think it’s a far-right Riefenstahlian gloss on Appalachian culture — call it Triumph Of The Hillbilly. Here’s how her piece starts:

Five minutes into Hillbilly Elegy, I hit pause and walked out of my living room. In the relative safety of my bedroom, I stared at the wall and then at the ceiling; both suddenly appeared preferable to my television.

Can you imagine? I mean, seriously, can you imagine being so damn fragile? She took to the bed! I hope Miz Sarah was able to get her hoop skirt off before her swoon, and that the maid came up with some quinine water on ice. Sounds like female trouble to me.

Sarah Jones is one of those lefties who is always two tics away from a gran mal seizure. That should have been a sign to her, and to her editor, that she is incapable of writing about this movie. But she has delivered a lengthy indictment of J.D. Vance (again) for his horrible politics, and director Ron Howard for whitewashing the fact that J.D. Vance is deeply problematic, a fascist, and probably tortures kittens.

I have not yet seen the movie. Netflix provided me a copy a couple of days ago. I plan to watch it tonight. I’ve read some of the ghastly reviews. Maybe it’s not a very good movie. I’ll see for myself. What I do know from these reviews is that some of the critics seem to be trashing the movie because it seems to make Trump voters seem like human beings. J.D. is a friend of mine, and I was an early champion of his book. But I’m going to be honest about the movie when I write about it.

That said, imagine my shock when I turned up in Sarah Jones’s screed, as an example of why J.D. Vance is a creep:

Elevated by Yale to dramatic heights, Vance spent years working for Peter Thiel, the libertarian venture capitalist whose links to the anti-democratic right predated his support for Trump. Thiel even blurbed Elegy, and helped bankroll Vance’s new venture-capital fund, which will allegedly bring tech jobs to the forgotten hollers of Atlanta and Raleigh. Following the success of his book, Vance became a frequent Tucker Carlson guest and developed an ally in conservative blogger Rod Dreher, who claimed in 2016 that Elegy “does for poor white people what Ta-Nehisi Coates’s book did for poor Black people: give them voice and presence in the public square.” He and Vance remain personal friends to this day.

This matters, because Dreher isn’t exactly a Lincoln Project Republican. Like Thiel, Dreher belongs to a further fringe of the right wing. His views deserve some dissection, if only to illustrate how troubling it is that Vance will not disavow him, and that Howard has erased any trace of the politics that drew Dreher to Vance’s work. In his regular column for The American Conservative, Dreher has repeatedly recommended The Camp of the Saints, the openly racist book championed by Steve Bannon. Dreher has praised and even met with Viktor Orban, president of Hungary, dubbing him a champion for Christians. (Orban, if you aren’t familiar, shut Hungary’s borders to migrants in the middle of a humanitarian crisis, arrested critics, and recently assigned himself new, dictatorial emergency powers. Dreher has also said he is “glad” that Francisco Franco, the fascist dictator, won the Spanish Civil War.)

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The Giuliani Meltdown

I have not followed the post-election vote counting controversies closely. My general stance has been that President Trump has the right to challenge in court what he believes to be dodgy voting results. I would not be surprised if there was voting fraud somewhere in this big country. If Team Trump can produce meaningful evidence, then we have to take it seriously, no matter how much that ticks off Democrats.

Yesterday’s presser by Rudy was an embarrassment, and not just because his hair dye melted down his face. A conservative friend said Rudy went full “Claude Robichaux.” Claude Robichaux is the conspiracy-minded old gent in A Confederacy of Dunces who believes that there’s a “communiss” behind every bush. More significantly, Trump’s attorney Sydney Powell alleged a Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy to steal the election by nabbing millions of votes from Donald Trump.

If you didn’t see Tucker Carlson’s segment on this last night, you need to watch it. He reports that he asked Powell to come on the show and present evidence of this conspiracy. Said he would give her the whole hour. She refused, and told him to quit bothering her. Tucker, who is well-sourced in the White House, said that members of Trump’s circle told him that Powell has given them no evidence either.

When you’ve lost Tucker Carlson, that’s a pretty good sign that the b.s. has to stop. Trump has only won one of the 31 election-related legal challenges he has filed, and that have been settled in court. At this point, they’re just throwing whatever they can at the wall to see what sticks. Peggy Noonan:

Responsible Republican leaders ought to congeal and address the fact that what rough faith and trust we have in the system is being damaged. Which means our ability to proceed as a healthy democracy is being damaged.

There is no realistic route to victory for the president, only to confusion and chaos and undermining. He is not going to find the votes in recounts to win the election. Dominion, the voting-machine company under attack, has not been credibly charged with doing anything wrong. As the Journal said this week in an editorial, “Strong claims need strong proof, not rumors and innuendo on Twitter. ”

Trump lost. One may regret it, but there it is. It would have been more shocking had Trump won, given how badly he has governed, and campaigned. The Republican Party, however, did amazingly well on Election Night. Now is the time to put this Trump thing behind us, and get busy creating an effective opposition. Trump is going to carry on for ages trying to delegitimize the new president, because his ego cannot bear to accept that he lost this race. There is no need for conservatives to play along with this charade. The Democrats are going to try to do serious damage to the things many of us care about. Conservatives need strong fighters, ready to punch back hard. This Trump psychodrama only makes it harder for them to do their jobs.

Tucker Carlson is right: if the Trump team can come up with hard evidence for its extraordinary claims, then by all means let’s hear them, and see the evidence. But if it can’t or won’t provide that, it should shut up and accept reality. In Live Not By Lies, I write about Hannah Arendt’s claim that a society in which large numbers of people prefer to believe bizarre things absent evidence, because it suits their emotional needs, as a sign of a pre-totalitarian society. I talk about the Left and its crazy beliefs about the founding of America (e.g., The 1619 Project). But we are seeing the same kind of thing on the Right with this post-election psychodrama. Trump failed. It’s not the end of the world. The next four years are going to be hard for us conservatives because a liberal Democrat sits in the White House.

But to pretend that he did not fail, that he was stabbed in the back by conspirators, even in the absence of evidence — that’s dangerous stuff. Conservatives who don’t live in reality are going to end up losing. This year, the Democrats underperformed in part because the radicals who are disproportionately influential in party circles convinced themselves that “Defund The Police” was a popular idea. They refused to see how it looked to people outside the epistemic bubble, and it cost them. Similarly, conservatives who are full-tilt MAGA conspiratorialists on the election need to understand what persisting in this belief stands to do to their cause, and to the country.

Again, when you’ve lost Tucker, you’re in deep trouble. In that segment, Carlson laid into the news media for its Russian conspiracy obsessions, and its other foibles. But in the end, he invited Trump’s lawyer on to offer the evidence that the election was stolen from the president by a conspiracy — and she repeatedly declined to make the case. He told her to put up or shut up — and she told him to get lost.

That speaks for itself.

UPDATE: A reader just sent in this short response Sidney Powell offered on Fox to Tucker’s criticism:

UPDATE.2:John Hinderaker at the conservative blog Powerline, says that Trump lawyers confused data from Michigan and Minnesota in one of their legal filings:

Evidently a researcher, either Mr. Ramsland or someone working for him, was working with a database and confused “MI” for Minnesota with “MI” for Michigan. (The postal code for Minnesota is MN, while Michigan is MI, so one can see how this might happen.) So the affidavit, which addresses “anomalies and red flags” in Michigan, is based largely, and mistakenly, on data from Minnesota.

This is a catastrophic error, the kind of thing that causes a legal position to crash and burn. Trump’s lawyers are fighting an uphill battle, to put it mildly, and confusing Michigan with Minnesota will at best make the hill steeper. Credibility once lost is hard to regain. Possibly Trump’s lawyers have already discovered this appalling error, and have undertaken to correct it. But the Ramsland Affidavit was filed in Georgia just yesterday.

Team Trump’s chief legal analyst, attorney Lionel Hutz, is trying to process this information:

UPDATE.3: Whoa! Listen to this whole thing:

I accuse — correctly! — many on the Left of having made a religion of politics, but this MAGA zealot definitely has done so.

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‘Muir Woods, Queer Woods’

Ranger Ricky Martin and the National Park Service queer the Muir Woods for you (NPS video)

Ever been to the Muir Woods, the redwood forest north of San Francisco? It is like heaven on earth. First time I went, I thought, “So this is why people become druids and worship trees.” It is not only one of the great treasures of America, but of the world. To enter the Muir Woods is to walk into a garden of transcendence.

Or was. This is what hits you now when you show up at the park:

 

No kidding. Here’s what the National Park Service tells you about the Queer Ecology of the Muir Woods. Excerpt:

Queer ecology is the series of practice that reimagines how people think about nature. It studies gender, sexuality, and behavior in the natural world. It uses the word “queer” because it draws from a related field called queer theory. Queer theory studies dominant, social norms around sexuality and the way those norms hurt people who are queer. Queer ecology looks at how dominant, social norms impact our understanding of nature.

A common way mainstream American society understands nature is in “either/or” boxes like “male/female,” “natural/unnatural,” and “human/nature.” Looking at nature with our societal norms, we might look at two spiders and assume the big one is the male or “dad” and the smaller one is the female or “mom.” Queer ecology investigates if the norms we put on people apply to plants, animals, and insects. Often, the answer is no, just like the answer is no with the spider example above. In many species of spiders, the physically larger spiders are female. Many times these societal perceptions don’t universally apply to people either. When we impose our societal norms on nature, we miss how diverse nature really is. But when we learn to recognize societal norms and question them, we can more accurately study the natural world.

The Redwood forest is a wonderful place to experience queer ecology. When we look at Muir Woods in the lens queer ecology provides, we see past the structures that we have traditionally held to be true in nature. Redwood forest ecosystems are so diverse and there is a lot we can learn from this incredible variation. Here are a few examples of queer ecology in the redwood forest.

They give examples — gay bats, genderfluid banana slugs, how making creeks straight harmed the forest, and so forth.

This is the National Parks Service, a US Government agency. Watch the five minute video where gay and bisexual forest guides tell you all about the Queer Woods. 

Here’s the embed:

You know why this is totalitarian? Because totalitarianism is what you have when politics invade every aspect of society. Mussolini, the Italian Fascist leader who invented the term “totalitarianism,” defined it as “all within the state, none outside the state, none against the state.” For us, it’s “all within wokeness, none outside of wokeness, none against wokeness.”

One of contemporary progressivism’s commonly used phrases—the personal is political—captures the totalitarian spirit, which seeks to infuse all aspects of life with political consciousness. Indeed, the Left pushes its ideology ever deeper into the personal realm, leaving fewer and fewer areas of daily life uncontested. This, warned Arendt, is a sign that a society is ripening for totalitarianism, because that is what totalitarianism essentially is: the politicization of everything.

Infusing every aspect of life with ideology was a standard aspect of Soviet totalitarianism. Early in the Stalin era, N. V. Krylenko, a Soviet commissar (political officer), steamrolled over chess players who wanted to keep politics out of the game.

“We must finish once and for all with the neutrality of chess,” he said. “We must condemn once and for all the formula ‘chess for the sake of chess,’ like the formula ‘art for art’s sake.’ We must organize shock brigades of chess-players, and begin immediate realization of a Five-Year Plan for chess.”

Today they would be demanding that we queer chess, or develop a Five-Year Plan to make chess antiracist. The mentality is the same: there is nothing that can exist outside of wokeness.

By the way, here is some of the material being taught to elementary school students at a school in the Bay Area, according to this tweet:

 

More news from the Bay Area, this one from a reader in Los Gatos:

I readLive Not By Lies and it is great.  A powerful warning for what is coming.  Thank you for writing it.
I was reminded today of the stories told by the people in your book who know what it is like to live in a totalitarian society and the unmistakable warning signs that it is happening.
My wife and I were in our front yard today and a wonderful woman stopped to talk to us (from a safe distance).  She left East Germany 40 years ago.  She talked of living in fear every day and the toll it takes on people to live that way.  They could never say what they really thought and had to limit everything they said out of fear of imprisonment.  She never knew who was listening or who would turn her in.  One of her relatives, to this day, will not discuss politics over the phone out of fear of being arrested.
She moved here in 1966 hoping to get away from the fear.  She had.  Until the last six to nine months.  The rapidity of the change has stunned her.  It is all too familiar.  The fear is creeping back.
You might be thinking, well, just get out of crazypants California, and everything will be fine. Do you seriously not think that what starts in California stays in California?
UPDATE: A reader writes:

What a crazy story. William Kent (who donated Muir Woods to the country) would have been horrified. Here’s what he said about the donation — and if he had accepted having his name on the park, he would have to be canceled today for having such retrograde views.

Shrouded in fog banks that roll in daily from the Pacific, California redwoods reach hundreds of feet in height and thousands of years in age. They once filled many northern California coastal valleys, but it was one of the last remaining mature stands that William and Elizabeth Kent purchased in 1905. In donating a 300-acre tract north of San Francisco to the Department of the Interior, the Kents asked that President Theodore Roosevelt declare it a national monument, and name it Muir Woods in homage to naturalist John Muir. Acting on their request in 1908, Roosevelt created the first national protected area to be donated by private individuals. But the President suggested the monument should bear the donor family’s name, in recognition of their “generous and public-spirited” act. William Kent demurred, saying he and his wife were raising “five good husky boys” and “if these boys cannot keep the name of Kent alive, I am willing it should be forgotten.”  

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LGBT Lobby Coming After Christian Schools

Human Rights Campaign was all in for Joe Biden -- and now they want payback (HRC screenshot)

The Law of Merited Impossibility: It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it.

This law never fails. It’s how the Left operates, without fail. They just wanted marriage equality, remember? And now the Human Rights Campaign, the powerful LGBT lobby, is asking the incoming Biden Administration to crush Christian colleges that do not conform to the HRC’s idea of righteousness. It’s in the HRC’s recently released “Blueprint For Positive Change 2020” — a policy brief for Biden.

Al Mohler writes:

Yet, the most shocking demand in the report is found under the section for the Department of Education. The Human Rights Campaign demands the Biden administration to ensure that “non-discrimination policies and science-based curriculum are not undermined by religious exemption to accreditation standards.”

That is sinister. I’ve not seen any document like this before—the Human Rights Campaign is effectively calling for religious colleges and schools to be coerced into the sexual revolution or stripped of accreditation.

The Blueprint states, “Language regarding accreditation of religious institutions of higher education in the Higher Education Opportunity Act could be interpreted to require accrediting bodies to accredit religious institutions that discriminate or do not meet science-based curricula standards. The Department of Education should issue a regulation clarifying that this provision, which requires accreditation agencies to ‘respect the stated mission’ of religious institutions, does not require the accreditation of religious institutions that do not meet neutral accreditation standards including nondiscrimination policies and scientific curriculum requirements.”

In terms of accreditation, that is an atomic bomb.

In clear text, for all the world to see, the Human Rights Campaign summons the Biden administration to deny accreditation—or, at the very least, to facilitate the denial of accreditation—to Christian institutions, Christian colleges and universities, and, for that matter, any other religious institution or school that does not meet the demands of the LGBTQ orthodoxy. This would mean abandoning biblical standards for teaching, hiring, admissions, housing, and student life. It would mean that Christian schools are no longer Christian.

Read Mohler’s entire piece. 

If a college or school lost its accreditation, it would have to close. Simple as that.  This is the point. The HRC believes that if you do not accept its vision of sexuality, then you should have no place in public life.

These activists are something else. They have won the culture war spectacularly — but now they are bouncing the rubble.

I have never been more grateful to have a conservative majority on the US Supreme Court. That doesn’t guarantee anything, but at least when these cases are litigated, the First Amendment has a fighting chance against the diktats of the Homintern.

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Down With Card-Carrying Communists

This happens more than it should with a generation born after Soviet Communism’s fall. From Live Not By Lies:

Recently, a bright-eyed and cheerful twenty-six-year-old California woman told me that she thinks of herself as a communist. “It’s just so beautiful, this dream of everybody being equal,” she gushed. When she asked me what I was working on, I told her about the struggles of Alexander Ogorodnikov, a Christian dissident imprisoned and tortured by the Soviets, whom I had recently interviewed in Moscow. She fell silent.

“Don’t you know about the gulag?” I asked, naively.

Of course she didn’t. Nobody ever told her. We, her parents and grandparents, have failed her generation. And if develops no curiosity about the past, she will fail herself.

She’s not alone. Every year, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit educational and research organization established by the US Congress, carries out a survey of Americans to determine their attitudes toward communism, socialism, and Marxism in general. In 2019, the survey found that a startling number of Americans of the post-Cold War generations have favorable views of left-wing radicalism, and only 57 percent of millennials believe that the Declaration of Independence offers a better guarantee of “freedom and equality” than the Communist Manifesto. The political religion that murdered tens of millions, imprisoned and tortured countless more, and immiserated the lives of half of humanity in its time, and the defeat of which required agonizing struggle by allies across borders, oceans, political parties, and generations—this hateful ideology is romanticized by ignorant young people.

Writing in the The Harvard Crimson in 2017, undergraduate Laura Nicolae, whose parents endured the horrors of Romanian communism, spoke out against the falsification of history that her fellow Ivy Leaguers receive, both in class and in the trendy Marxism of intellectual student culture.

“Depictions of communism on campus paint the ideology as revolutionary or idealistic, overlooking its authoritarian violence,” she writes. “Instead of deepening our understanding of the world, the college experience teaches us to reduce one of the most destructive ideologies in human history to a one-dimensional, sanitized narrative.”

This really is a scandal. It should no more be acceptable to be proud of your Communist Party card than it would be to boast of a Nazi Party membership. The fact that any young Americans does testifies to a shocking lapse in historical education, as well as moral seriousness. Perhaps now you can see why so many of the US citizens who emigrated here from Communist countries get so angry that Americans won’t listen to them. Perhaps related, I’ve written three New York Times bestsellers, but Live Not By Lies is by far the fastest seller of them all. At the rate its going, it will soon pass The Benedict Option‘s sales numbers, which have been accumulating for three and a half years. It has done this with zero coverage from the mainstream media (aside from a favorable Wall Street Journal review). Our media wish to memory-hole the experience of Communism’s victims, and are not interested in what they have to tell us today. It is worth contemplating why that might be.

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, which was founded by the US Congress, offers educational programs for American schools. Here is a link to a curriculum the Foundation offers for use in schools. It is so very important that students learn these facts of the 20th century. One more bit from Live Not By Lies:

Forgetting the atrocities of communism is bad enough. What is even more dangerous is the habit of forgetting one’s past. The Czech novelist Milan Kundera drily observes that nobody today will defend gulags, but the world remains full of suckers for the false utopian promises that bring gulags into existence.

“Not to know what happened before you were born is to remain a child forever,” said Cicero. This, explains Kundera, is why communists placed such emphasis on conquering the minds and hearts of young people. In his novel The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Kundera recalls a speech that Czech president Gustáv Husák gave to a group of Young Pioneers, urging them to keep pressing forward to the Marxist paradise of peace, justice, and equality.

“Children, never look back!,” [cries Kundera’s character Husak], and what he meant was that we must never allow the future to collapse under the burden of memory.

A collective loss of historical memory—not just memory of communism but memory of our shared cultural past—within the West is bound to have a devastating effect on our future. It’s not that forgetting the evils of communism means we are in danger of re-creating precisely that form of totalitarianism. It’s that the act of forgetting itself makes us vulnerable to totalitarianism in general.

Put another way, we not only have to remember totalitarianism to build a resistance to it; we have to remember how to remember, period.

If he’s lucky, the young man above, with his party card, will one day come to see that image as the most shameful thing he’s ever done. By the way, two great books to read, from disillusioned Communists who came to know the truth, are Witness, by Whittaker Chambers, and Under A Cruel Star, by Heda Margolius Kovaly. I had known about the Chambers book, but discovered the Kovaly book as part of my research for Live Not By Lies. Kovaly was a Czech Jew who survived the Nazi concentration camps. She and her husband, also a Jew, embraced Communism after their release because they were desperate for hope, and because Communism was the farthest thing from Nazism. Her husband became a high-level functionary in the Communist regime there, but was later falsely accused of political crimes, and executed. Kovaly writes:

What I remember most vividly from this period following the coup is a feeling of bewilderment, of groping in the dark that was doubly oppressive because the darkness was not only outside but inside me as well. How could we have been so credulous? so ignorant? It seems that once you decide to believe, your faith becomes more precious than truth, more real than reality.

People like the young man with his party card put their faith in one of history’s most monstrous lies. Maybe that faith will be impervious to reality. But he and all those tempted by this false hope should at least be compelled to see as much reality about Communism as we can muster for their inspection.

UPDATE: By the way, I’m hearing from a few readers who say they are reading Live Not By Lies with youth groups. Fantastic! Here is a link to the free downloadable study guide I wrote for just this kind of thing. 

Also, readers of this blog who are interested in my writing about non-crazy, non-appalling, non-outrageous things of the world might like to check out Daily Dreher, my Substack newsletter. I’m getting a lot of great feedback from readers of this blog who appreciate the balance. The content is all free for now, though I’m going to switch to paid eventually.

UPDATE.2: A reader writes:

As a young person who has interacted with a lot of serious card-carrying communists as well as the more general people who are interested in “socialism” I thought I’d try and shed some light on why my generation in particular (Gen Z) would be more amenable to the idea of Communism than generations before us.
My generations upbringing has been defined by its instability. I was born in the year 2000 so I don’t remember a time pre 9/11. I grew up in the shadow of a global recession that stunted the job markets of the generation before me, and in a system where it seemed like the government existed to shovel money to large corporations while regurgitating free-market dogma and pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps personal responsibility platitudes out of the other. While I’m not yet in the position of graduating into a recession like the Millennials did, it’s looking increasingly likely like I will also have that dubious honor.
This instability has caused us to look for utopian answers to complex and imperfect problems. Combined with the ease of finding similar opinions on the internet, which we grew up with as a facet of everyday life, where sets of facts are constructed in a way that best appeals to our biases,it becomes very easy to be radicalized into a particular way of looking at the work and using only one lens by which to interpret a complex and messy world. It just becomes easier and easier to ignore stuff that doesn’t fit into your narrative because you can just go somewhere where no-one questions your narrative. This likely helps to contribute to the intolerance of differing ideas that is so common to my generation.
On the other hand, while I’ve met my fair share of card-carrying Marxists and Communists (not a hard thing to do at university especially for one studying political science), I feel like most of what people talk about when they mention socialism or communism is more of a social democracy with a stronger social welfare net and attempts to lower the increasingly obscene wealth divide that we have seen especially reflected in the COVID lockdowns, with the middle-class professional set able to more or less comfortably work from home where the less fortunate have to risk infecting both themselves and people that they might live with just to make ends meet. It also doesn’t help that for ages the right has been engaged in a project of shouting down anything to the left of Hayek as socialism in the first place, so when people think of socialism/communism, they don’t think of the atrocities of Mao and Stalin, but instead think of policies that might make a positive difference in their lives like a stronger national healthcare system and higher taxes that could fund better education for their children.
Our generation sees itself as facing near insurmountable problems. Burdened by student debt, with the highest rate of anxiety and depression in history, with an approaching climate crisis and a political culture unwilling and unable to compromise, we can’t see a future in which slow and incremental change and compromise produces the policies likely to help us in the future. Even after 2008, the government response to the COVID crisis was to shovel more money to corporations and, while some direct support was issued to Americans, largely left people to fend for themselves. In this context, revolution, even if it’s from a failed ideology, seems attractive because it offers a way to actually get things done. There is also a certain hubris of the present, that because we are so much more advanced than people were in the past that we could never make the same mistakes.
In any case, I hope this is illuminating in some respects. It’s definitely not the best overview of why this stuff is on the rise,but if I gave a full analysis it would probably be the length of a dissertation, and I have exams coming up in the next few weeks. I may write again once I have some more free time though.

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