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Home/Rod Dreher

Chamath Tells An Ugly Truth

US venture capitalist billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya explaining why he doesn't give a damn about what China is doing to Uyghurs

All, I have been busy most of today online at a TAC editors’ planning retreat, and then did a Covid nap crash. Woke up, ate something, and am headed back to bed. I’m definitely on the mend, but holy cow, this stuff is not playing around. Before I sign out for the day, I wanted to say something about this:

Here’s a news story about the interview with billionaire investor (and co-owner of the Golden State Warriors) Chamath Palihapitiya. Excerpt:

About 15 minutes into the podcast, Calacanis pointed to the Biden administration’s steps to curb and address China’s sweeping human rights abuses when the following conversation ensued:

Calacanis: His [President Biden’s] China policy, the fact that he came out with a statement on the Uyghurs, I thought it was very strong.

You know, it’s one of the stronger things he did, but it’s not coming up in the polls.

Palihapitiya: Let’s be honest, nobody, nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs, okay? You bring it up because you really care. And I think that’s really nice that you care but …

Calacanis: What? What do you mean nobody cares?

Palihapitiya: The rest of us don’t care. I’m just telling you a very hard truth.

Calacanis: Wait, you personally don’t care?

Palihapitiya: I’m telling you a very hard truth, okay? Of all the things that I care about. Yes, it is below my line. Okay, of all the things that I care about it is below my line.

Calacanis: Disappointing.

You can watch the fuller exchange here. Chamath says that Americans have no business speaking out on behalf of a million Uyghurs held by the Chinese in concentration camps because we have “black and brown” people held in our jails for bad reasons. Really, he says this:

There was a huge social media row, with Palihapitiya trying to backtrack on what he said. But everybody knows he was telling the truth about his feelings the first time. Years ago, this was the kind of thing we used to call a “Kinsleyan gaffe,” after Michael Kinsley, the former New Republic editor, who famously said that in Washington, a “gaffe” is when a politician inadvertently speaks an unpalatable truth.

I would like to praise Chamath for saying what he said. Oh, don’t misread me: it was as callous and hateful a statement as I’ve seen from anybody in ages. Someone on Twitter said today that this guy’s attitude must be like what a lot of Americans thought when word first leaked out about persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany. I think that’s probably right. In a just and humane world, Chamath would be dogpiled mercilessly for his inhumanity.

But we don’t live in a just and humane world. We live in Chamath’s world. The Golden State Warriors put out a statement saying that Chamath doesn’t speak for them on the issue. Maybe not technically, but in terms of action, what is the difference between the NBA’s policy towards China on the Uyghurs, and Chamath’s statement? It doesn’t exist. The entire NBA is completely on the side of Chamath, as was demonstrated a couple of years ago when that unfortunate NBA head coach team manager spoke out for the Uyghurs, who are being culturally genocided by the Chinese.

See, it’s important that nobody get the idea that these sports executives and business leaders don’t care about the Uyghurs, even though they don’t. They want to be free not to care about the Uyghurs, and to keep up their lucrative business partnership with the Chinese, without receiving criticism from Americans.

You know who else doesn’t care about the Uyghurs? Most Americans — at least not enough to punish the NBA for its heartless policy towards them. You know who also doesn’t care about the Uyghurs? Leaders of Arab Muslim nations, some of which have been deporting Uyghur refugees back to China. Just a few days ago, Gulf Arab states said that what China does to the Muslim Uyghurs is China’s business. 

Few people really care about the Uyghurs. Enes Kanter, the Turkish NBA star, is one who does. May God bless him richly. The Uyghurs are a Turkic people, by the way. And to their credit, Congress passed, and President Biden signed, a recent law pressuring China over the Uyghurs by banning the import and sale of goods made in the Xinjiang region, where the Uyghurs live. Did you know about this? I didn’t, until I happened to come across it just now in researching this story. Maybe I simply happened to overlook it when it was reported.

Others who don’t really care about the Uyghurs: many (though not all!) in the US news media. In the 1980s, there was immense, and immensely critical, coverage of South Africa over its apartheid policy oppressing blacks there. As evil as that was, it wasn’t the same thing as the genocide Beijing is waging against the Uyghurs. We do get some reporting on it here, but there is no crusade to save the Uyghurs. Unlike in the case of apartheid South Africa, the plight of the Uyghurs in China can’t be typecast into a familiar American historical drama (meaning the struggle of blacks against white supremacy).

American woke capitalism absolutely doesn’t give a damn about the Uyghurs. Think of all that money they’re making doing business with China! What’s the genocide of an ancient culture and the extermination of a distinct people when there’s wealth to be built? If some Southern red state passes a law saying penis-havers should stay out of women’s toilets, corporate boards go into moralistic convulsions. But when the Chinese put two million Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps, it’s crickets.

You know who else doesn’t care much about the Uyghurs? You and me. Well, I can’t speak for you, obviously, but I bet you are a lot more like me than you think — and I’m ashamed to admit that I’m a lot more like Chamath than I ought to be. Of course I was disgusted by what he said, but when I thought about it, what have I done to bring attention to the plight of the Uyghurs? Unlike most Americans, I actually have a platform — a small one, but a platform — that I could use to do something, however small, to defend those people against the butchers of Beijing. But I haven’t done this.

I should thank the heartless venture capitalist Chamath Palahapitiya for showing all of us what it means to have sold your soul, and for shaming me over seeing some of myself in him. I can console myself by saying that I’m not like Chamath, and would never say that I don’t care about the Uyghurs. I do care! I care in the sense that I wish the Uyghurs well, and hold the correct opinion about the Uyghurs. But honestly, so what? Am I morally that much better than Chamath? I don’t even pray for the Uyghurs, which would cost me nothing. They never cross my mind, except when I read a news story about them, and think, “Those poor people. China is ruled by monsters” — and then move on. Chamath is just saying the quiet part out loud about how the rest of the world really feels about the friendless Uyghurs.

Readers, let’s not be like this repulsive guy. I promise to do better here, writing more often about what China is doing to those people — and not just to the Uyghurs, but to Christians, Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners, and anyone who gets in the Communist Party’s way. God forbid I should be as vile as Chamath, whose billion dollars cannot buy him a conscience.

Please take about an hour and watch this 2020 episode of PBS Frontline, about the Uyghurs and the Communist Party’s persecution of them. This is what Chamath doesn’t care about. This is what the National Basketball Association doesn’t care about. This is what the Gulf Arab states don’t care about. This is what too many of us — I accuse myself — either don’t care about, or care insufficiently about. What Beijing is doing to the Uyghurs is what it would do to anyone who opposes Chinese Communist totalitarianism. [UPDATE: As you learn in the film, Beijing has turned Xinjiang province into the most heavily monitored place in world history — and is selling the totalitarian security technology it develops there to regimes around the world. The Uyghurs are guinea pigs for an AI-powered totalitarian state that steals all human freedom. The cameras on the streets of Xinjiang, for example, use AI software to monitor facial expressions of passing Uyghurs, looking for people who are anxious or otherwise disharmonious. What’s happening in Xinjiang today is moving out to the world tomorrow.) Watch:

UPDATE: A Christian reader rightly calls me out for crossing the line in a personal insult I made towards Chamath. It was wrong of me, and I apologize to him, and to you.

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Totalitarian Canada. Is The US Next?

From a propaganda video from Canada's state broadcaster (See here)

Canada now has a law banning “conversion therapy”. From the NYT:

A Canadian law banning so-called conversion therapy is poised to go into effect on Friday, making it a crime to provide or promote services intended to change or repress a person’s sexual orientation or gender expression.

With the new law, Canada’s criminal code will prohibit forcing someone to undergo conversion therapy; taking a minor abroad to take part; and profiting from, promoting or advertising the practice. Violations can draw sentences of up to five years’ imprisonment.

“This is an incredibly important step to making sure queer and trans people in Canada feel valid and deserving of full protection,” said Michael Kwag, a policy director at the Community-Based Research Center in Toronto, which researches the health of people of diverse sexualities and genders.

“It also sends a strong message to the entire country that any attempt to change, deny or suppress the identity of queer and trans people is wrong,” he said in an interview.

It was rammed through parliament last month, and went into effect earlier this month. You would never know from the Times story how radical this law is.

Matt Walsh quotes this from the text of the law:

Matt points out that under this insanely broad law, if you counsel your male child to accept his male identity, you could be looking at five years in prison.

Also:

What is it going to take to make people realize that they really are coming for our children?

Religious liberty is dead in Canada. You can have religious liberty, or you can have this law, but you cannot have both. Canadians (Christian and otherwise), now is the time to form underground church groups, like the ones Father Kolakovic set up in advance of the Communist takeover of Slovak society (I tell the story in Live Not By Lies). You are going to need it to get through what’s there now, and what is to come. This is not a joke, this is not an exaggeration, this is not a drill.

Look to what is about to happen in Finland for an example of where this is going next. Paivi Rasanen is a physician, member of Parliament, and Lutheran laywoman. She is about to go on trial, along with her Lutheran bishop, for hate crimes. What did she do? I wrote about it here. But to sum up:

In 2019, she protested on Twitter her church’s participation in Pride, tweeting a photo of a Bible verse critical of homosexuality.

In 2004 — eighteen years ago! — she authored a pamphlet setting out Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality, and why gay marriage is incompatible with Christian teaching. And in 2019, she was interviewed on a Finnish radio show where the host asked her what Christianity teaches about homosexuality. The answer she gave is part of the criminal charge against her.

Here’s more about Paivi and her case:

 

Dr. Rasanen has said:

“I will defend my right to confess my faith, so that no one else would be deprived of their right to freedom of religion and speech…The more Christians keep silent on controversial themes, the narrower the space for freedom of speech gets.”

This woman is a hero. The Finnish state is persecuting her, and will put her on trial next week on behalf of LGBT haters. Keep in mind that Finland is one of the most pro-LGBT countries in the world, with widespread legal equality for gays and lesbians, and a population that overwhelmingly supports gay rights. Gays have everything they can possibly want in Finland — except the unanimous consent of every single Finn that what they believe and what they do is morally good. What the state refuses to tolerate is any dissent at all, no matter how peaceful, from the LGBT line. This is profoundly illiberal. Gays and progressives in Finland have already won completely; they are now simply being sadistic. It was never about “tolerance”; it was always about total domination. Dr. Rasanen, a grandmother and former minister of state, could go to jail for two years if convicted.

Again, if you can spare a few coins to help pay for the defense of Paivi and her bishop, please go here and donate. And please do tell everyone you know about her case. Above all, pray for her and her bishop.

Back to Canada. Canadian pastors and Canadian parents who counsel against their child’s gender transition are now considered to be criminals. I tell you, if this comes to America — and progressives will do their best to make sure it does — this is the point at which the regime becomes illegitimate in my eyes. No government or social order that stands between parents and children, criminalizing parents who wish to prevent their children from destroying their lives with hormones and surgery, is worth respect or support. Non serviam. What parents in Virginia fought back against recently regarding the schools is a skirmish in a much bigger battle to come. If you know anything about the history of the Soviet state, you know that the totalitarian Left prioritizes separating children from their parents, on the grounds that the progressive state knows better than bigoted parents.

Is Canada a lost cause? I don’t know. But I do know that here in America, we still have a lot of fight left in us. People need to understand that you cannot avoid this fight. It is coming to all of us. When I gave a California workshop last fall on Live Not By Lies, I urged participants to start forming these Kolakovic groups now, before the persecution starts. What is a Kolakovic group? From Live Not By Lies:

Sometimes, a stranger who sees deeper and farther than the crowd appears to warn of trouble coming. These stories often end with people disbelieving the prophet and suffering for their blindness. Here, though, is a tale about a people who heard the prophet’s warnings, did as he advised, and were ready when the crisis struck.

In 1943, a Jesuit priest and anti-fascist activist named Tomislav Poglajen fled his native Croatia one step ahead of the Gestapo and settled in Czechoslovakia. To conceal himself from the Nazis, he assumed his Slovak mother’s name—Kolaković—and took up a teaching position in Bratislava, the capital of the Slovak region.

The priest, thirty-seven years old and with a thick shock of prematurely white hair, had spent some his priestly training studying the Soviet Union. He believed that the defeat of Nazi totalitarianism would occasion a great conflict between Soviet totalitarianism and the liberal democratic West. Though Father Kolaković worried about the threats to Christian life and witness from the rich, materialistic West, he was far more concerned about the dangers of communism, which he correctly saw as an imperialistic ideology.

By the time Father Kolaković reached Bratislava, it was clear that Czechoslovakia would eventually be liberated by the Red Army. In fact, in 1944, the Czech government in exile made a formal agreement with Stalin, guaranteeing that after driving the Nazis out, the Soviets would give the nation its freedom.

Because he understood how the Soviets thought, Father Kolaković knew this was a lie. He warned Slovak Catholics that when the war ended, Czechoslovakia would fall to the rule of a Soviet puppet government. He dedicated himself to preparing them for persecution.

Father Kolaković knew that the clericalism and passivity of traditional Slovak Catholicism would be no match for communism. For one thing, he correctly foresaw that the communists would try to control the church by subduing the clergy. For another, he understood that the spiritual trials awaiting believers under communism would put them to an extreme test. The charismatic pastor preached that only a total life commitment to Christ would enable them to withstand the coming trial.

“Give yourself totally to Christ, throw all your worries and desires on him, for he has a wide back, and you will witness miracles,” the priest said, in the recollection of one disciple.

Giving oneself totally to Christ was not an abstraction or a pious thought. It needed to be concrete, and it needed to be communal. The total destruction of the First World War opened the eyes of younger Catholics to the need for a new evangelization. A Belgian priest named Joseph Cardijn, whose father had been killed in a mining accident, started a lay movement to do this among the working class. These were the Young Christian Workers, called “Jocists” after the initials of their name in French. Inspired by the Jocist example, Father Kolaković adapted it to the needs of the Catholic Church in German-occupied Slovakia. He established cells of faithful young Catholics who came together for prayer, study, and fellowship.

The refugee priest taught the young Slovak believers that every person must be accountable to God for his actions. Freedom is responsibility, he stressed; it is a means to live within the truth. The motto of the Jocists became the motto for what Father Kolaković called his “Family”: “See. Judge. Act.” See meant to be awake to realities around you. Judge was a command to discern soberly the meaning of those realities in light of what you know to be true, especially from the teachings of the Christian faith. After you reach a conclusion, then you are to act to resist evil.

Václav Vaško, a Kolaković follower, recalled late in his life that Father Kolaković’s ministry excited so many young Catholics because it energized the laity and gave them a sense of leadership responsibility.

“It is remarkable how Kolaković almost instantly succeeded in creating a community of trust and mutual friendship from a diverse grouping of people (priests, religious and lay people of different ages, education, or spiritual maturity),” Vaško wrote.

The Family groups came together at first for Bible study and prayer, but soon began listening to Father Kolaković lecture on philosophy, sociology, and intellectual topics. Father Kolaković also trained his young followers in how to work secretly, and to withstand the interrogation that he said would surely come.

The Family expanded its small groups quickly across the nation. “By the end of the school year 1944,” Vaško said, “it would have been difficult to find a faculty or secondary school in Bratislava or larger cities where our circles did not operate.”

In 1946, Czech authorities deported the activist priest. Two years later, communists seized total power, just as Father Kolaković had predicted. Within several years, almost all of the Family had been imprisoned and the Czechoslovak institutional church brutalized into submission. But when the Family members emerged from prison in the 1960s, they began to do as their spiritual father had taught them. Father Kolaković’s top two lieutenants— physician Silvester Krčméry and priest Vladimír Jukl—quietly set up Christian circles around the country and began to build the underground church.

The underground church, led by the visionary cleric’s spiritual children and grandchildren, became the principle means of anti-communist dissent for the next forty years.

You think it can’t happen here? Look across the border to Canada (where the soft totalitarianism was well underway a year ago). Look across to ocean to the persecution of Paivi Rasanen and her bishop. It is coming — and the Republican Party (right now) is not doing a damn thing to resist it. Is your church? Don’t wait for our leaders to get it in gear. They are like the Slovak Catholic bishops of 1944. It’s coming. Get ready for the fight, and if we lose the fight, get ready for the underground resistance. Now is the time to prepare, not when the persecution laws are already in place.

UPDATE: A Canadian Lutheran comments:

Hi Rod. I am not sure if you remember meeting me. Back in 2016 you spoke up here in Canada at a theological conference which I helped organize. We spoke over beer about how things of this sort were in the wind in both of our nations. I will soon be leading a study in my parish on “Live Not By Lies” with a young adults group. I have been involved in this issue in the Canadian Lutheran community for decades now. Years ago, like Paivi Rasanen, I authored a few pamphlets and articles on this topic, mostly for the purpose of fighting this movement in my (then) denominational body. I have since left that body due to their sanctioning of same sex marriage. I helped in the formation of a new Lutheran church body in North America, which is largely made up of congregations and individuals who are refugees of the so called “sex wars”.

One of the most difficult things to internalize has been how we were stigmatized and abandoned by so many who purported to be our brothers and sisters in Christ. We were often publicly compared with Nazis, and were quite regularly publicly accused of bigotry by the more zealous Rainbow Warriors. I can only imagine what was said about us in their private circles. Actually, I don’t even need to imagine all of it, because some of it got back to me, as these things do. Most disappointing of all however have been those (both clergy and lay) who, after looking over both shoulders, would whisper that they agreed with us, but then would tell us all the reasons why they would not poke their heads out of their foxholes. And of course I have watched friend after friend, colleague after colleague drink the kool-aid. I have watched as one of my children suffered harassment at school, and later at university over this. I have even been asked by my other child “Dad … are you a homophobe?”. The latter query turned into what I think was a good conversation about what is and is not a phobia.

My point here is that this has been going on for a long time, and I am afraid to say that elements of the Christian church have been in the vanguard of this movement. I almost wish it were more the case that the church was simply asleep at the switch. But I’m afraid that the church in Canada and the USA is deeply implicated in bringing this about. Every western denomination has had its rainbow flag movement. Some more so than others. But it absolutely crosses denominational lines. I cannot speak of the Eastern church, because I simply don’t know much about it. I would like to think that somewhere there is a Christian community who will not bend the knee to Ba’al. But I admit to feeling pretty discouraged about that right now. The topic of that theological conference back in 2016 was “Relevant or Remnant?”. You (along with Peter Leithart) taught us about keeping the faith when we have been pushed to the fringes. I am more convinced than ever that this is how things are going to go down.

Given our treatment at the hands of those who claim to be of the same faith I cannot but expect worse now that the government has become more deeply involved in this movement. I believe that politics is downstream from culture, and that the politicians in Canada are now simply raising their sails to catch the cultural wind. I fear it will get worse from here, and that there might yet be a personal reckoning for me over things that I have said and written a decade and more ago. All stuff that was fair ball at the time of course. But the overton window has closed since then. What once was something we were called to tolerate is now something that nothing short of a full throated shout of approval will suffice. I hope I am wrong, and I pray that God will give me the strength to stick to my guns if it should ever come to that.

Anyway, thanks for bringing this issue to people’s attention on your side of the border.

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News? No, It’s Narrative-Management

Viola Plummer, lowlife race radical cited by NPR today as a 'human rights leader'. (Source)

Listen to what the president had to say today:

Why, it seems like only yesterday…

Biden is right that we don’t have a lot of information about the hostage-taker, other than his name, Malik Faisal Akram, and the fact that he was a British subject who was trying to win the release of an Islamic terrorist. But for Biden to pretend that we just don’t understand why a Muslim seeking the release of a convicted Muslim terrorist would attack a synagogue is insane.

If you accept that liberal and progressive elites — politicians, elected officials, the news media, and others — see their main task not as telling the truth about the world, but about managing the narrative, this kind of thing makes sense. Steve Sailer calls this kind of pre-emptive story control “frontlash,” citing this example:

In other news today, I heard an NPR report on the funerals for victims of the Bronx high rise fire. The report centered on — surprise! — systemic racism. The victims were black folks. According to the New York Times, city officials said earlier the fire was started by a space heater in one family’s apartment. The heat in the building was on, but the family was supplementing it with the heater. Smoke spread so quickly throughout the building, making it harder for people to escape, because the family with the space heater left the door to their apartment open as they fled.

Based on what we know now, it appears that the fire started by a mechanical malfunction in the heater, and became much worse by human error — the fleeing family leaving their door open, allowing smoke to fill the high-rise quickly. But you don’t get any of those facts in today’s NPR report by journalist Sally Herships. It focuses instead on wild charges that bigotry is to blame. Excerpt:

HERSHIPS: There were hundreds of people there, the kind of community members you would expect at a tragedy of this size. People were there to pay their respects. But there was another really common theme. Viola Plummer is with a local Black human rights organization. We were in the same tent. And she said structural racism was the problem here and that the problem is not new.

VIOLA PLUMMER: Today we are talking about environmental racism. Tomorrow we’ll be talking about the health care delivery system, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

HERSHIPS: Plummer said she’s seen the same problems in Haiti after earthquakes, Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. And just this past fall in New York, 15 people died from the flooding. Some were trapped in basement apartments. And many were people of color or low income.

The Bronx apartment building was run by a company that provides affordable housing to poor people — in this case, the building housed many immigrants from Gambia. If the building was badly managed, then the owners should be held to account for that. Why make the incendiary assertion that their deaths were a reflection of anti-black racism, though, when it is much more plausible to suppose that if — if —  the building was badly managed, it was because of the owners’ indifference to poor people? That doesn’t make it any better, if true, but it does at least keep this tragedy from being exploited by race-baiters.

Later in the report, Herships quotes a local Muslim leader at the service comparing the fire dead to Emmitt Till, murdered by white supremacists in Mississippi in 1955. Again, there was nothing in her report that challenged in any way these lurid assertions with facts. Herships just accepted them as true. I suppose that any time something bad happens to people of color, it’s obviously the fault of white supremacy.

By the way, who is this Viola Plummer of “a local Black human rights organization”? I googled her, and found this 2007 editorial from the New York Daily News, the city’s liberal tabloid:

Viola Plummer is a self-styled black revolutionary who has found common cause with cop killers and has been given through the years to irresponsible talk of violence. And today she is where she doesn’t belong: on the city payroll.

Plummer is chief of staff to Councilman Charles Barron, who is a former Black Panther and inveterate provocateur. That she collects a salary from the taxpayers came glaringly to light as the Council voted down a proposal to rename part of Gates Ave. in Brooklyn after Sonny Carson, kidnapper and racial arsonist.

It was Plummer who instigated the name change as head of a group called the December 12 Movement. It was Plummer who helped disrupt the vote on the measure by shouting and booing. It was Plummer who called for the assassination – she says she meant at the ballot box – of a black councilman who didn’t support her. All that was in keeping with a history that should disqualify her from public employment.

Who is Viola Plummer? Let’s go to the record. In 1985, she stood trial with seven co-defendants on charges of plotting to crash out of prison two members of the gang that pulled off the 1981 Brink’s armored car robbery in which a guard and two cops were killed in Rockland County.

Acquitted of the most serious charges, other members of the group, including Plummer’s son Robert Taylor, were convicted of possessing weapons such as dynamite and machine guns. In the transcript of an undercover recording introduced at the trial, a leader of the bunch, Coltrane Chimurenga, instructed Taylor in the ways of armed robbery.

“I want you to say, ‘Freeze, this is an armed stickup,’ ” Chimurenga tells Taylor in the transcript, adding, “Always when you, when you say freeze, you’re pointing directly, talking about a kill shot, not at his head, because you might miss it.”

When Taylor doesn’t quite get the message, Chimurenga says, “Now it’s on, he’s gonna shoot,” and Plummer interjects, “He pulls his gun.”

“I had him,” Taylor responds.

Plummer wound up convicted only of falsely identifying herself so that she could gain admittance to the Metropolitan Correctional Center for the purpose of visiting Nathaniel Burns, aka Sekou Odinga, a Brink’s job principal who was arrested after a shootout with cops in Queens. (He’s still doing time in Colorado’s Supermax, by the way, unsprung.)

That was Viola Plummer’s crowd in those days. Cop killers. Subsequently, after Michael Griffith was chased to his death by a Howard Beach mob in 1987, she was among the activists who called for a boycott of white-owned businesses. Her rhetoric was decidedly inflammatory. Invoking the name of Malcolm X, Plummer said, “We are at war. Malcolm said war is bloody. And it was Malcolm who said an eye for eye and a life for a life.”

She took a similar inflammatory and dangerous tack after the Council voted down the street-name change. Outside City Hall, the building in which Councilman James Davis was gunned down in 2003, she erupted against Queens Councilman Leroy Comrie, who is black and had abstained from casting a vote.

“If it takes assassination of his ass, he will not be a borough president in the borough where I live,” Plummer railed. Asked to explain, she continued, “So, to assassinate Leroy Comrie’s ass, because that’s what I said, means his whole stuff, his whole run for Queens borough president.”

Bouncing Viola Plummer from the public payroll may, alas, make her a martyred heroine in some circles, but bounced she must be. We hope Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s search for the legal grounds on which to so bounce her is fruitful.

“Local black human rights organization” my big fat butt. Look, it is probably not fair to expect a reporter to know who Viola Plummer is. But given the wild racialized accusation Plummer made on the record, for a national radio audience, blaming white people for every major tragedy that afflicted black people (including the Haitian earthquake), it’s not too much to expect the reporter to google her name to see if there is anything in her past that would make her a less than credible commentator. But again, I assume that the reporter — a youngish white woman who is a Columbia Journalism school professor — here didn’t think that it was at all questionable to blame this disaster on white supremacy.

The very next story on NPR was this one about how Americans are losing trust in elections and the news media. You don’t say!

Last week, The New York Times finally admitted that there is a medical controversy about whether or not teenagers with gender dysphoria ought to be put on hormones — this, months after Abigail Shrier reported it. One is grateful that the Times has finally caught up with the actual story, but you wonder what finally had to happen to make the Times report the news for once, as opposed to uphold the pro-trans narrative.

Jesse Singal, one of my favorite liberals to follow on Twitter, writes about how the liberal media and the Democratic leadership mislead Americans about real life:

Finally in media malpractice, you might not be a fan of Ann Coulter, but you owe it to yourself to read her great two-part series on both government malpractice and the lack of media curiosity about the life and death of Jeffrey Epstein. Here is part one. Excerpts:

As for media coverage, did you even know that the FBI found Epstein’s cache of sex tapes labeled “(name of underage girl) + (name of VIP)” — and then lost them?

Immediately after Epstein’s arrest at Teterboro Airport in July 2019, the FBI executed a search warrant on his New York mansion. Following a daylong search, agents discovered a hidden safe in the closet of a fifth-floor dressing room, used a saw to break into it, and found an enormous collection of photos of naked girls, and CDs of the girls apparently having sex with influential men.

Then, the agents left — abandoning the photos and CDs, with Epstein’s employees free to wander about the place. As Kelly Maguire, FBI special agent in charge of the search, explained during Maxwell’s trial, they only had a warrant to search the house, but not to remove evidence — evidence at the heart of the entire sex trafficking scheme.

It didn’t occur to Maguire to leave a single agent behind to guard the CDs? How about the intern who just gets coffee?

You’ll never guess what happened next.

The CDs and photographs disappeared. By the time the FBI returned with a new warrant — four days later — to remove the CDs and photos, they were gone. Later, after a few phone calls, Epstein’s lawyer, Richard Kahn, “returned” the cache in two suitcases. I had no idea they were important! I was just tidying up!

Were the videos tampered with? Were all of the photos returned? Who knows!

This was testified to by Special Agent Maguire. That’s the last time I trust the lawyer of a pedophile! Boy, is my face red! Darn it! … Oh well, what are you going to do?

(Before moving on, let’s take a moment to honor the historic appointment of Kelly Maguire as FBI special agent. Another glass ceiling shattered!)

The reason the tapes are kind of important is that it was perfectly clear — certainly by 2019 — that Epstein had no legitimate source of income to fund his Caligula lifestyle, and further, that he was farming out underage girls for sex to the rich and powerful — with hidden cameras running everywhere. It sure looked like his underage sex ring was a blackmail/kompromat operation.

Obviously, the most important question is: On behalf of whom? The tapes of “(underage girl) + (important person)” would have gone a long way toward answering that. What did the search warrant specify, if not videos and photographs?

If I didn’t know better, I might think that those in power don’t want us to know anything about Epstein’s sex-trafficking operation.

As further evidence that there is ABSOLUTELY NO COVER-UP: The New York Times has never breathed a single word about the CDs lost in the FBI’s botched search. Nor has the Washington Post. Nor the Chicago Tribune. Nor the Los Angeles Times.

Wait — I’ll make this easier. Here’s a list of all the major U.S. newspapers that did report on Maguire’s breathtaking revelation:

1) The Miami Herald
2) The New York Post

The end.

Read it all.

Here is part two, in which Coulter details how the government kept botching the investigation.Excerpt:

However this ends, once it’s over, we’ll never hear about Epstein again — unlike, say, January 6, which we will never stop hearing about. If America got to vote, which story do you think they would find more interesting?

Which story is more important? Doesn’t the public have a right to know how big Epstein’s sex/blackmail club was, who among America’s ruling elite were compromised, and to what end?

Read it all. 

Oh, one more thing: in case you thought the GOP leadership could be counted on to have its collective eye on the ball of what’s really going on in America:

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Another Year Of Rod Dreher’s Diary

Your diarist

This month marks the one-year anniversary of Rod Dreher’s Diary going behind a paywall. RDD is my Substack newsletter — usually sent twice weekly, sometimes more, always with a long post. It differs from this blog in that it focuses exclusively on religion and sources of meaning, and is written not to lament and diagnose, but to find reasons for hope, and means of sustaining that hope. I also write more personally about religion there than I feel at liberty to do on this blog. That is to say, I try to avoid here anything that seems like proselytizing; in the newsletter, I don’t actively proselytize, but I am more free with my religious opinions there.

The cost of subscribing is five dollars per month, or fifty dollars for the year. The thing started out as The Daily Dreher, but I realized after several months of doing that that I was burning out, writing a thousand words or so daily, in addition to my blogging and other writing. Writing between one and three newsletters each week — two is the most common schedule — has been far more manageable.

To give you an idea of what the thing is like, here is almost the full text of the most recent Diary:

Someone, don’t know who, sent me a used book titled Powers of Darkness, Powers of Light, a 1991 book by the English journalist John Cornwell. Seeing Cornwell’s name piqued my attention. I recall that Cornwell is an ex-Catholic and ex-seminarian who published a highly controversial book years ago about Pius XII, with the slanderous title Hitler’s Pope. Normally I wouldn’t read a Cornwell book, but Powers details a simplified version of what I will be doing this year: traveling around looking at evidence for the miraculous, and inbreakings of the divine into our world. So I gave it a try.

 

John Cornwell in 2019

The book, which I just finished, is disappointing in a way that it was destined to be, I suppose, though I’m very glad I read it because it’s an example of how this kind of book can go wrong. If credulity is one flawed approach to a project like this, then too much skepticism is another. The main lesson I took from the book is that unbelief is also an exercise in faith.

Cornwell doesn’t set out to be a debunker. His pilgrimage was inspired by a midlife curiosity about the faith that he had long ago rejected. There is, of course, nothing wrong and much right with approaching these things with skepticism. Yet you realize after a while that nothing is going to be able to breach the author’s tower of resistance, heavily fortified with English professional-class disbelief. Whenever Cornwell is faced with something he can’t explain, he always finds some rationalistic reason for it, or at least says that there is probably such an explanation. At other times he retreats in disgust at the vulgarity of the thing on display, as if God had offended him by showing Himself in such a trashy way.

I get that. It happened to me once. In January of 1998, my wife and I were on our honeymoon in Portugal, and made a side trip to Fatima to honor the Virgin Mary, and to thank her for her role in bringing us together. I had never been to a popular pilgrimage site, and had no idea what to expect. A bus from Lisbon dropped us on the outskirts of the village, a 90-minute drive north of the Portuguese capital. It was a cold, grey day. Julie and I tramped towards the cluster of buildings that indicated village life. But nobody was there. We had arrived in the depths of the off-season.

It was, we reckoned, the main street of Fatima. It was appalling. Religious tchotchke shops everywhere. One had glow in the dark plastic statues of the Madonna, in several sizes, filling a window. There was Fatiburger, and the John Paul II Snack Bar. This town lived off of religious tourism. It was gross. We checked into our hotel — I think we were the only guests — and then made our way towards the end of the street, to the vast plaza in front of the basilica.

There we saw a mass of pilgrims streaming into the church; it was January 8, a Marian feast day. It really did look like James Joyce’s oft-quoted line about the Catholic Church: “Here comes everybody.” As we stood at the edge of the crowd watching, a family approached from the right. There was a young Portuguese mother moving forward on her knees, with maybe a quarter-mile ahead of her. Here’s a photo from Google Earth of the plaza. Julie and I were standing towards the bottom left of this photo, on the north side of the white line, between the line and the trees. You can see how far that mom had to do on her knees to reach the basilica (upper right). She was doing this, mind you, in a cold drizzle, with the plaza asphalt damp under her knees.

 

Standing behind her was her husband, holding a baby, and an older woman — either her mother, or her mother in law. They were moving forward to thank God and the Virgin for the baby. The mom did not care about the hardship of “walking” on her knees, nor did she care what people might have thought of her. Such faith!

As I stood there marveling, I realized that judging by the modest dress of this family, they were probably the sort who would fill up the trunk of their car with tacky religious tchotchkes before heading home. And yet, upon whose heart — mine or theirs? — would the Lord look more favorably? To ask the question is to answer it. I repented.

This is not to say that standards of beauty are irrelevant. But it is to say that they should be considered in context. There is nothing more beautiful in the sight of the Lord than the gratitude and humility of that Portuguese family.

Anyway, back to Cornwell. He opens his book with an arresting anecdote based on an interview he did with the Catholic novelist Graham Greene. Cornwell visited him a year or so before his death in 1991. Cornwell questioned him on the nature of his Catholic faith, and found that Greene didn’t believe in much: not in heaven, not in hell, not in the devil, not in angels, and so forth. So why did he still call himself a Catholic? Because, Greene said, that he also doubts his disbelief. Then he told a story about Padre Pio, the great Franciscan mystic and stigmatist, who died in 1968.

“I am able to doubt my disbelief because I once had a very slight mystical experience. In 1949 I travelled out to Italy to see a famous mystic known as Padre Pio. He lived in a remote monastery in the Gargano Peninsula at a place called San Giovanni Rotondo. He had the stigmata, displaying the wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side. At this time my belief in God had been on the ebb; I think I was losing my faith. I went out of curiosity. I was wondering whether this man, whom I had head so much of, would impress me. I stopped in Rome on the way and a monsignor form the Vatican came to have a drink with me. “Oh!” he said, “that holy fraud! You’re wasting your time. He’s bogus.”’ Greene looked up at me challengingly.

“But Padre Pio had been examined by doctors of every faith and no faith,” he went on. ‘He’d been examined by Jewish, Protestant, Catholic and atheist specialists, and baffled them all. He had these wounds on his hands and feet, the size of twenty-pence pieces, and because he was not allowed to wear gloves saying Mass he pulled his sleeves down to try and hid them. He’d got a very nice, peasant-like face, a little bit on the heavy side. I was warned that his was a very long Mass; so I sent with my woman friend of that period to the Mass at 5:30 in the morning. He said it in Latin, and I thought that thirty-five minutes had passed. Then when I got outside the church I looked at my watch and it had been two hours.”

Greene stopped for a moment as if to gauge my reaction.

“I couldn’t work out where the lost time had gone,” he went on. “And this is where I came to a small faith in a mystery. Because that did seem an extraordinary thing.”

He sat for a while in reverie. Then he took a well-worn wallet from his trouser pocket and fished out two small photographs. They were sepia, dog-eared. As he handed them over I detected a faint air of self-consciousness; as if, English gentleman that he was, he had been caught out in a gesture of Latin superstition. One depicted Padre Pio in his habit, smiling. The other showed the monk gazing adoringly at the host during Mass. The possession of the pictures, the gesture of sharing them, seemed a declaration of loyalty to faith.

“Why do you keep them in your wallet like that?” I asked.

“I don’t know why I put them in my pocket,” he said. He looked a trifle haunted. “I just put them in, and I’ve never taken them out.”

I decided to press him a little further. “If you hadn’t had your mysterious experience with Padre Pio might you possibly have lost your faith?”

“I don’t think my belief is very strong; but, yes, perhaps I would have lost it altogether…”

“So what, in the final analysis,” I said, “does religion mean to you?”

Greene looked at me directly, wonderingly. He seemed at that moment ageless; there was an impression about him of extraordinary tolerance, ripeness.

“I think … It’s a mystery,” he said slowly and with some feeling. “There is a mystery. There is something inexplicable in life. And it’s important because people are not going to believe in all the explanations given by science or even the Churches … It’s a mystery which can’t be destroyed…”

 

St. Pio of Pietrielcina

Greene’s dependence on that tiny sliver of belief brought to mind the case of Manfred, from Canto III of Dante’s Purgatorio. Manfred was an actual historical figure, a royal who died in battle, excommunicated from the Catholic Church. But he made it into Purgatory (which meant that he would eventually be with God in Paradise) because as he fell off his horse, mortally wounded, he repented.

As I lay there, my body torn by these

two mortal wounds, weeping, I gave my soul

to Him Who grants forgiveness willingly.

 

Horrible was the nature of my sins,

but boundless mercy stretches out its arms

to any man who comes in search of it…

The church’s curse is not the final word,

for Everlasting Love may still return,

if hope reveals the slightest hint of green.

For God so loves the world that He will accept the slenderest repentance — as think as the first green shoot of the spring — and draw us to Himself.

There is another story in the book, a written account by the novelist Tobias Wolff, a friend of Cornwell’s. Wolff tells the story about going to Lourdes in 1972, as a young man, wanting to volunteer to help the sick coming to take the waters. He explains that he has always had very poor vision, but hated wearing glasses, so he wandered through his youth in a blur.

Wolff spent some of his time on a crew of young men who stood in the grotto’s waters, lifting the sick out of their chairs and beds and immersing them in the bath. He saw the human body in all manner of agony. One day, his crew accompanied a group of disabled Italian pilgrims to the airport to catch their chartered flight home. Wolff’s assignment was to care for a completely paralyzed two-year-old girl, confined to her bed with tubes coming out of her nostrils, draining into bags under her blanket. It was hot and muggy as they loaded the plane, but then, for no apparent reason, the door to the plane closed, stranding the helpless child.

Wolff began to panic. The plane wasn’t moving, so he hoped that the door would eventually re-open. In the meantime, he did his best to keep the child cool. Flies discovered her face, and no matter how hard Wolff worked to keep them off of her, the insects harassed the toddler. Wolff says that he “became desperate with anger,” an anger that he realized was disproportionate to the situation. He was raging at the injustice of it all, at the cruelty of the world. When the plane door re-opened to let the child on, Wolff says he was sobbing, but as everybody was sweating buckets, nobody could tell.

On the bus ride back to Lourdes from the airport, Wolff, still not wearing his glasses, noticed that he could see things in the distance. He rubbed his eyes to clear them, thinking that maybe the mixture of sweat and tears had formed a kind of lens over his eyes that enabled him to see. But the effect didn’t go away.

I felt giddy and restless, happy but uncomfortable, not myself at all. Then I had the distinct thought that when we got back to Lourdes I should to to the grotto and pray. That was all. Go to the grotto and pray.

But he didn’t do that. The bus dropped him off at the barracks, where he fell into conversation with a gregarious Irishman he had befriended. Wolff didn’t tell him about the miracle, and was aware that he was hiding this from his Irish friend, who would have been interested, not judgmental. Wolff was aware this entire time that he was not going to the grotto to pray as he had been told to do. Eventually the two went to dinner, and Wolff never made it to the grotto that day. The next morning, his eyes were back to their broken state, and he had to wear glasses again.

Wolff tells Cornwell:

What interests me now is why I didn’t go. I felt, to be sure, some incredulity. But this wasn’t the reason. I have a weakness for good company, good talk, but that wasn’t it either. That was only a convenient distraction. At heart, I must not have wanted this thing to happen. I don’t know why, bu tI have suspicions. I suspect that I considered myself unworthy of such a gift. And if I had secured it, what then? I would have had to give up those doubts by which I defined myself, in the world’s terms, as a free man. By giving up doubt, I would have lost that measure of pure self-interest to which I felt myself entitled by doubt. Doubt was my connection to the world, to the faithless self in whom I took refuge when faith got hard. Imagine the responsibility of losing it. What then? No wonder I was afraid of this gift, afraid of seeing so well.

Incredible, isn’t it? Whoever among you sent me this Cornwell book, you have my thanks, because this Wolff anecdote is going into my book. That story illustrates one of the fundamental messages of the book: that we tell ourselves that we would believe if only we could see evidence for God’s existence, but in fact we prefer our blindness, because it gives us license to behave in ways we could not do if we were sure that God was real and watching over us. I have been there. Wolff was 27 years old when this happened — two years older than I was at my conversion. I spent my late teen years and the first half of my twenties telling myself that I would believe if only I had proof, but deceiving myself for the same reason that young Wolff did: because the “freedom” that I thought I deserved depended on nurturing my doubts. When you are at a party, and you have had a lot to drink, and you would like to go home with a cute girl you’ve been talking to all night, it’s amazing how vividly one’s religious doubts show themselves.

This is Cornwell’s problem in the book. Well, not necessarily the sexual aspect of it, but he clearly has so much invested in his worldview as a skeptic that by the end of the journey he chronicles here, I both pitied him and was quite annoyed by him. Annoyed, because it was clear that nothing he saw or heard would change him, because he did not want to be changed. Pitied, because he was plainly unhappy with his faithlessness, which is why he undertook the journey in the first place. It was clear to me by the time I finished Cornwell’s account that he was too afraid of the responsibilities that would come with losing his doubt.

In my book, I will be addressing this head on. I plan to visit Rocamadour, a medieval pilgrimage site in France. It is where the spiritual climax of Houellebecq’s novel Submission occurs. The dissolute protagonist François goes on pilgrimage there in a half-hearted attempt to regain his lost Catholic faith. In one of the worship services, François has a semi-mystical experience, and is at the very door of conversion … and then decides that he’s just hungry, and suffering from “an attack of mystical hypoglycemia.”

Everybody wants to get to heaven, but nobody wants to die. There is no telling how many people would have been saved, and could yet be saved, if they were not afraid of repentance, and did not care what other people would think of them.

This year I will be traveling a lot to holy places, researching my forthcoming book about Christian re-enchantment. I will share most of my field notes with my newsletter subscribers. If you would like to subscribe, click here for instructions.

 

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Anti-Porn Digital Canopy

Sean Clifford, CEO of Canopy, which uses AI technology to block porn on smart devices (Canopy video)

Here’s a special podcast to which I want to draw your attention. Kale and I talked to Sean Clifford, CEO of the Austin-based company Canopy, which makes porn-blocking software. I got the idea to invite Sean on when he and I had dinner in New Orleans — we’ve known each other for a few years — and I asked him about his work. I thought I knew a fair amount about the scourge of porn, but it turns out that it’s much worse than I realized. We talked to Sean about it on the podcast:

Once again, here’s a link to the Canopy website. Sean really is one of the good guys. He’s a husband, a father of small kids, an observant Orthodox Jew, and a man who cares greatly about giving parents like himself tools to win the battle against creeps who want to colonize the minds of our children.

To emphasize Sean’s message, here’s a column called “Porn Will Destroy You,” appearing in UnHerd under the byline Sarah Ditum. Excerpts:

The acceptance of pornography as part of everyday life, available freely and constantly via our private devices, was based on a compact that should always have been obviously implausible: that the media you consume will not change you in any way. That you can log out after orgasm touched only by yourself. And that anodyne outcome was considered possible even when the material being consumed was the most depraved imaginable.

More:

We are two decades now into revolution in media that was also a revolution in sex, and there is no room left for naivety about what that means.

Before Wayne Couzens committed the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard this year, he watched extreme porn. While the double murderer and mortuary employee David Fuller was committing routine necrophilia against the corpses in his care, he was also recording his offences and adding them to a meticulously maintained library of the most horrific pornography, his trial heard this year.

And regular men choke regular women because they’ve seen it in porn, while regular women accept regular violence as sex, because that’s what they’ve learned to masturbate to. The desire, the fantasy and the act create a self-inciting feedback loop. In what Dworkin called the skinlessness of sex, participants are vulnerable, penetrable.

Read it all. If you have kids with smartphones, contact Canopy for a free 30-day trial of their software — they can help.

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Terry Teachout: Farewell To A Good Man

Terry Teachout in 2013

I am about to head back to bed for another exciting afternoon of Covid napping. I don’t want to do so without noting with extreme sadness the sudden death yesterday of my friend Terry Teachout, the drama critic of the Wall Street Journal. I say he was my friend, but we never actually met. We started corresponding off and on back in 2014, but I really became a devoted Terry reader when he would write about his beloved wife, Mrs. T., on Twitter.

Hilary (her real name) suffered from chronic lung disease, and lived an increasingly restricted life as she waited for a lung transplant. Terry’s love for her was the purest thing, and it lifted me up more times than I can remember to read him talking about what a blessing it was to love her. She died in 2020, and tens of thousands who never met Terry mourned with him. Not long ago, he found love again, with a woman he introduced to us only as Cheril. That she made our Terry so happy again, after all he had suffered, was all I needed to know about her. (And now, poor Cheril has lost her mother and her boyfriend in the same week.)

Terry was a true light in the darkness. Did the man have any enemies? I can’t imagine it. He truly loved people, and he truly loved art. I leave you this wonderful tribute to him by Titus Techera. Excerpts:

Politically, he was a conservative liberal. I find more decent political opinion on the right than the left, of course, but concern for justice is much more evenly distributed, and Teachout aspired to be just while being gentle; he almost never had a harsh thing to say about anyone. He was the living embodiment of the ideals of mid-century America, a reminder that liberalism was once generous and learned, while being patriotic. He was a child of small-town, heartland America, born in 1962, which shaped his character—he was both playful and mindful of good manners. To make use of his unusual talents as critic and playwright, though, he had to go to New York City, where he lived until his death on January 13.

Titus talks about how Terry’s deep Missouri niceness ought to have prevented him from becoming a critic:

It is paradoxical that he should have become a critic, since he lacked the studied contempt that gives moral power to criticism and above all the cruelty necessary to effect separations between what is honored and what is not. He was not shy about what he disliked or had no taste for, but the overwhelming tendency of his criticism was to applaud whatever deserved applause, whether for excellence, charm, good work, or even in certain cases good intentions. As a critic, he was a friend to and admirer of artists, whether famous or unknown, not a master.

I did not realize that Terry helped Titus, who lives most of the time in Romania, a leg up as a young film critic. This is part of Titus’s gratitude to Terry:

Our decadence is a troubling phenomenon Terry knew rather well—our tendency is to abandon in despair things that have not yet been taken from us, our heritage first. It didn’t make him despair, but it is perhaps why he worked so hard to find the right things and the right words to say about them in order to give people access to pleasures they could respect themselves for enjoying. His tendency was to find the best in the past and, if it should be found still worthy, if it could come alive for people, then that would be enough for now. He also wanted to find good things in the arts everywhere in America, not just in his home in New York.

It is somehow of the essence of being human to suffer where we love, to prepare ourselves to be devastated, and that is obvious above all in mourning. Perhaps it is not so different when we willingly go to enjoy a tragedy. We want the best for the best among us, in order to prove that it is worthwhile being human. I guess Terry Teachout spread his powers of comprehension among the arts in order to live up to our admiration. There is a kind of justice, after all, since we judge him to have succeeded. We pay in pain for the privilege of the pleasures he offered, and are almost grateful to do so. We will surely at another time remember how glad he was, that he treated being alive as a privilege to be enjoyed in gratitude, and that will gentle our condition.

Please, read the whole thing. Terry Teachout was, above all things, a lover of the good, the true, and the beautiful. Good, True, and Beautiful: such was Terry’s life, and such is his legacy.

For a glimpse of the kind of man Terry was, take a look at this Big Think interview from nine years ago:

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Neckbeard Militias Are Not My Enemy

Right-wing militia guy is not the real radicalism problem in America (Source)

Good morning. It’s Covid Day Five for me, and I want to tell myself that this is getting better — my throat doesn’t hurt anymore, and maybe my voice is coming back, a little — but I also know from this week’s experience that there’s no predicting what any day is going to be like. I presume I have the omicron version — the one responsible for 90 percent of new infections in Louisiana — and if so, man, I gotta say, if this is the weak version, thank God I took precautions and didn’t get one of the stronger versions. This stuff is kicking my butt hard. I slept all day yesterday, which is just as well, because my area had a day-long Internet outage. Now my family members are waiting for the omicron bomb to drop on them. Let me discourage anybody from saying “it’s just a flu,” or “it’s just a bad head cold.” I have experienced nothing worse than the flu, but still, do you remember having the flu? It’s not fun. On the flip side, I’ve figured that I was going to get this super-communicable omicron variant, no matter what precautions I took, because so many vaxxed-and-boosted people I know are coming down with it. And so I did — which is a relief, in a way, because I will have acquired some natural immunity. But I also have at least two friends who have had it twice.

Xi Jinping, I will never forget you.

I want to draw your attention to this important essay in UnHerd by a writer named James Pogue. He lives in northern California, in what blue-state libs would call the Redneck Belt, and he says that the blue-state experts who are predicting an American civil war have no real understanding of the people they fault as antagonists. Here’s how it starts:

I moved recently to a remote part of Northern California, where in a couple weeks an election will decide whether or not allies of the local militia take control of the county government. It’s a fraught situation, in a part of the country that’s often described by journalists, myself included, as being on the verge of civil war.

This can be a hard thing to explain. Just before I sat down to write this, I was at a bar where a liberal guy invited a not-so-liberal guy out to the parking lot. The liberal showed off a fly rod he’d built, and the redneck showed off a not-at-all-legal belt-loaded gun that he’d built. They came back smiling. Everyone mostly gets along fine. The incidents that seem to show overt cracks in the social order are very rare — occasional spats at restaurants or threatening visits to trailers, county board meetings moved online for safety.

They’re usually non-violent, and so wrapped up in the baroque Facebook-driven personal drama that colours life the rural American West these days that any honest observer has to wrestle with questions about whether or not they portend a real breakdown. The numbers of people involved are tiny. The divides aren’t really about Trump, race, class. They aren’t really about anything that fits into mainstream America’s understanding of why civil violence feels so possible in this country, unless you count the fact that basically everybody around here has guns.

This resonates deeply with my experience here in Louisiana. Mind you, I live in the capital city, not the countryside anymore, but the cultural boundaries between city and country here in the Deep South are more porous than you might think. “They came back smiling” is a pretty accurate way to describe the outcome of ideological conflicts around here. You could go stand at the downtown intersection of my tiny Louisiana hometown, dressed in drag, flying the Pride flag, and screaming, “Black Trans Lives Matter!”, and the most people would do is laugh, and wonder who your poor mama and daddy are, having a kid who acts like that. Go to the center of any Ivy League campus and fly the MAGA flag, and see how tolerated you are. For that matter, go to Times Square and try it. Yet those who run the culture in America keep telling themselves that they are the ones in danger.

Pogue continues:

Luckily, America has an influential class of professionals who make a living explaining situations like this. These are our extremism-watchers, and I should say here that I’m one of them. Today extremism-watching is a boom industry, and I was fortunate to have got in on it early, before Trump was elected, because now the race to establish yourself in the field can look frantic. The people who manage to do it tend to have long academic or government experience. The best way for them to get attention on Twitter and spots on NPR and cable news is by offering evidence that alarms the political and media class. And that class is naturally most alarmed by evidence that confirms its already-existing fears about what is going wrong in America.

The result is that there’s a very real professional incentive not to get to know your subjects too closely, lest you discover something that muddies up the story. And so the people who make the best living by describing America’s descent towards civil violence tend to be those with almost no personal knowledge of the armed rednecks they think are leading us there.

Pogue’s contention is that the information system that tells professional extremism-watchers what is actually happening in the country is in trouble, and sending decision-makers information that confirms their biases. I’m old enough to remember the line that the G.W. Bush administration repeated ad infinitum in its successful effort to convince the American people to support its war of choice on Iraq: that even though we can’t be absolutely sure we know what WMDs Saddam has, “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” My point is that the ruling class always has a reason to exaggerate threats, because that is what justifies its power, and its power grabs.

Pogue talks about a book that’s getting a lot of elite attention right now: “How Civil Wars Start: And How To Stop Them,” by Barbara Walter, an academic who studies this stuff and who advises the CIA. Unsurprisingly, Walter thinks America is on the verge of a civil war, and that it’s being caused by the Right. Pogue:

This becomes a very important bridge in the book, suggesting that if we have a civil war it will surely be an ethnic one, organised in opposition to a diversifying America. The thesis of the book becomes that the entire Right-wing radical fringe is oriented around ethnic identity, and that ethnic resentments — organised by “ethnic entrepreneurs” like Croatia’s Franjo Tudjman, who helped kick off the wars in the dissolving Yugoslavia — are the source of most civil wars since the end of the Cold War.

Ethnic resentment only partly explains many major recent civil conflicts, including the wars in Libya and Afghanistan (both of which were instigated by US military action), but it will serve for ours. She suggests that by using phrases like “shithole countries” and proposing a wall, but also by pulling out of international agreements and starting a “trade war” with China, Donald Trump “did exactly what Tudjman did,” and “what Hutu extremists did when they characterised Tutsis as cockroaches and Hutus as the chosen people.” The Republican party itself, she says later, “has become like the Serbian Radical Party in Yugoslavia.” This is a party whose longtime leader was directly involved in ethnic cleansing.

It’s probably pointless to wonder whether saying Republican politicians act “exactly” like génocidaires is a meaningful way of looking at what’s happening in this country. Because this is how the extremism micro-industry’s incentive structure works: it would have been impossible for her to get a book deal, get reviewed, go on talk shows, get paid, and build a career had the situation not been dire and, to some degree, radically simplified.

This is such an important point! Along those lines, it is the Left in power, both in government and private industry, that is moving on every possible front to make Americans more race-conscious, suspicious, and antagonistic on race matters. This is the same dynamic that I’ve characterized this way regarding LGBT:

Left: “Gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay. Gay-gay! Gaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygay! Ga-aaaaay! GAY!”

Right: “Gay?”

Left: “BIGOT! OFF WITH HIS HEAD!”

Substitute the word “racism” for “gay,” and you’ve got the same thing. These people have to find evidence of seething, seditious hatred everywhere, to justify their contempt for their fellow Americans, and to justify their power grabs. This is why grown-up men and women in the Cathedral (to use the neoreactionary term for the Establishment) actually believe that the MAGA yahoos of January 6 nearly overthrew the US government. You can believe, as I do, that what happened on that day was appalling and shameful without believing that OUR DEMOCRACY WAS IN THE CRUCIBLE!!!

Meanwhile, ideas and policies that in real life are making our country less democratic and less free continue to be frog-marched across the backs of the American people, by the same liberals and progressives. Did you read or hear any part of Joe Biden’s crazypants speech the other day, in which he called anyone who doesn’t agree with his voting rights plans a crypto-Klucker? Jonah Goldberg, who is on record as despising Donald Trump and all his pomps and works, really let Biden have it. Excerpt:

Biden’s speech yesterday, and this whole project, is shameful, dangerous, stupid, and profoundly hypocritical.

Because the wheels are coming off his presidency, Biden has decided to divide Americans in ways he vowed he would not. Now, I don’t have any problem per se with politicians “dividing Americans.” Democracy is about disagreement, not unity. Unity is Biden’s bag and, as I pointed out at the time, I thought Biden’s unity schtick was clichéd nonsense. I’ve spent the better part of two decades ranting about the “cult of unity.”

But I do have a problem with a president dividing Americans by casting people he disagrees with as evil racists bent on destroying democracy—particularly when it’s not true (and when Biden himself played footsie with the very segregationists he’s now associating with his political opponents). Even worse, his lies are intended to sow even more distrust in our elections purely for partisan gain.

And let me just say right now that if any readers come at me with, “But what about Trump?” their arguments will find no purchase. I’ll stack my record of criticizing Trump for spewing hateful lies against pretty much anyone. But Biden staked his entire presidency on taking the high road; on not being like Trump. He vowed in his inaugural address, “I will be a president for all Americans. I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.” He cribs Obama’s better rhetoric about there not being red states and blue states but the United States all the time. And he threw it all away yesterday.

And for what? I could go on about how the legislation he wants would make our electoral system worse in myriad ways, but that misses a crucial point. This legislation almost surely won’t pass, and probably the only way it can pass is by getting rid of the filibuster (even then it’s unlikely). If Biden, Schumer, and Pelosi actually cared about saving democracy and thwarting the Trumpist threat from below, or the joys of unity and bipartisanship, they’d focus on reforming the Electoral Count Act or writing a bill that could attract the votes of people like Mitt Romney. Instead, they’d rather cast Romney—who, as Sarah Isgur notes, was the first senator in American history to vote to impeach a president of his own party—as a partisan hack in league with Bull Connor and Jefferson Davis. If he cared about letting the “will of majority” prevail in the Senate as he claims, he’d work to craft legislation that a majority of the Senate could support. Instead, he’s saying they have to swallow policies that have been on the shelf for years or be guilty of racism.

Anyway, back to Pogue. He says that the intelligence-gathering system that would alert authorities to actual extremist violence is badly broken, in such a way that allows decision-makers to have their biases confirmed. Actual far-right people are so alienated now from media and anybody else who could tell their story that they trust nobody. Pogue concedes that there really are some far-right militia-minded people, but what the authorities know about them is dangerously flawed:

The Right in the county is now almost entirely alienated from the other structures of government, and it is hard to see how this situation could change, because many of the people involved in state and county government don’t actually see their concerns or worldview as democratically valid.

This is a good illustration of how analyses like Walter’s can become self-fulfilling. The paper here has mostly stopped reporting local news, and so many experts and officials have no way of knowing what’s going on — all they have are national narratives about Trump and demographic change that don’t actually explain the particular circumstances of the county. So the reactionary alienation grows deeper, the online threats get more serious, and the FBI has been showing up frequently to trailers and houses around the county. And, as the studies show, police crackdowns can often end up sparking insurgencies.

Read the whole thing. 

I have no sympathy with far-right militia groups, and if any of them are planning violent action, I hope the government finds out and puts a stop to it. I believe that extremists on the Right — like many of the Jericho March folks — are pushing and participating in a dynamic that is tearing the country apart. That said, neither the Jericho Marchers nor the neckbeard militias are anywhere close to the threat that the Left poses.

Are the neckbeards hammering home, in messaging and policy, across every possible venue, that a racial class of people are wicked and responsible for all the world’s problems, and deserve to be discriminated against to atone for the sins of their ancestors? Are the neckbeards saying that people of that race should take a back seat to people of other races when it comes to medical treatment for Covid? For jobs?

Are the neckbeards hammering home, in message and in policy, the idea that gender is fluid, and that our boys might be girls, and vice versa, so school authorities need to have formal policies in place to lie to parents about what’s going on with their kid, and when possible, laws must be passed to allow minor children to begin taking hormones to change their sex, without parental consent?

Are neckbeards ginning up phony requests that the FBI treat parents who object to the ideological indoctrination of their children in public schools as “domestic terrorists”?

Are neckbeard gangs doing smash-and-grab robberies in retail centers around the country? Are neckbeards beating up Asians on the streets? Are neckbeards robbing trains in Los Angeles? Are cities becoming more dangerous places to live because of neckbeards?

Did the neckbeards lie for years about the real situation in Afghanistan, resulting in the loss of many American and Afghan lives? Did the non-neckbeards at the Pentagon who lied and lied and lied about it to support a failed policy ever have to answer for their lies? Did the neckbeards lie us into Iraq? Are neckbeards trying to get us into a war over Ukraine?

Are the neckbeards censoring information that doesn’t suit their narrative? Are the neckbeards ordering their companies not to sell books that violate the neckbeard narrative?

Are the neckbeards turning the US military into a vast DEI experiment? Are neckbeard commissars going through the ranks making armed service members who might have any slight sympathy with political, social, or religious conservatism scared of saying so? Are they driving officers and enlisted soldiers to retire, and to discourage others from signing up to the newly politicized military?

Are there neckbeards sitting in print and broadcast newsrooms on the coasts, ordering coverage that ignores at best and demonizes at worst vast numbers of Americans whose views do not accord with progressive orthodoxies?

Are neckbeard journalists and academics floating papers and articles trying to normalize pedophilia? Are neckbeard professors working behind the scenes to blackball the hiring of ideologically non-compliant professors? We know that neckbeard college students aren’t trying to punish dissident students and professors for their views, because a generation of American men are giving up on college, no doubt in part out of justified fear that the deck is stacked against them.

Are neckbeards running a political party that ostensibly looks out for their interests, but which has a poor record of defending them?

Are the neckbeards pushing the digitalization of everything, laying the groundwork for a future social credit system? Are neckbeards exploiting the Covid crisis to do so? Do neckbeards in Silicon Valley exercise disproportionate power over the information ecosystem, and use it to push their ideological convictions on the masses, and to suppress opposing opinions? When the social credit system comes to America, neckbeards will have had nothing to do with building it and executing it. In fact, they will be its first victims — but not its only ones.

You see my point.

Again, I am very far from being a militia sympathizer. But in all honesty, I am a hell of a lot less worried about those good ol’ boys than I am about my own government, and beyond the government, about the regime (media, woke capitalism, higher education, law, medicine) that rules America. Any harm that threatens my liberty and the welfare of my family is almost certainly not going to come from neckbeard militias, but from the state or other agents of the regime (e.g., woke capitalists), or from members of their favored demographics.

If the ruling class wants to diminish the incentives for normies to sympathize with neckbeard militias, it can start by realizing the extent of its epistemic closure, and repenting. In Live Not By Lies, I write about Hannah Arendt’s warning that totalitarianism comes in part through information that shuts people off from reality:

Propaganda helps change the world by creating a false impression of the way the world is. Writes Arendt, “The force possessed by totalitarian propaganda—before the movement has the power to drop the iron curtains to prevent anyone’s disturbing, by the slightest reality, the gruesome quiet of an entirely imaginary world—lies in its ability to shut the masses off from the real world.”

In 2019, Zach Goldberg, a political science PhD student at Georgia Tech, did a deep dive on LexisNexis, the world’s largest database of publicly available documents, including media reports. He found that over a nine-year period, the rate of news stories using progressive jargon associated with left-wing critical theory and social justice concepts shot into the stratosphere.

What does this mean? That the mainstream media is framing the general public’s understanding of news and events according to what was until very recently a radical ideology confined to left-wing intellectual elites.

It must be conceded that right-wing media, though outside the mainstream, often has a similar effect on conservatives: affirming to them that what they believe about the world is true. For all users of social media— including the nearly three quarters of US adults who use Facebook and the 22 percent who use Twitter— reinforcement of prior political beliefs is built into the system. We are being conditioned to accept as true whatever feels right to us. As Arendt wrote about the pre-totalitarian masses:

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.

Back in 2020, I wrote about how Zach Goldberg’s findings show how the elites — especially white liberals — are preparing themselves to wage civil war on their fellow Americans, by talking themselves into believing that holy war is necessary to restore America’s virtue. Look at this finding of Goldberg’s, about the frequency of appearance of certain words are in our leading media:

Did America become 300 percent more racist after 2014? Or is it more likely that liberal elites self-radicalized, and began telling themselves stories that fit their ideological priors? With regard to our elites, I would rewrite that Arendt line as follows:

What convinces America’s liberal elites are not facts, and not even invented facts, but only the consistency of the system of which they are presumably part.

This is where the importance of James Pogue’s analysis lies: it explains how distortions in our information-gathering system, plus the ideological uniformity of elites, causes those same power-holders to make foolish decisions that only make conflict, including violent conflict, more likely. I don’t like one bit to read about the growth of militias, but again, these people are not even remotely close to being America’s biggest problem. They might one day be, so that’s why it’s important that the government keep watch on them. The right-wing radicalization at the fringes serves as a useful distraction from the left-wing radicalization happening at the centers of state, corporate, and cultural power. Remember, the more we talk about the idealistic MAGA nitwits of January 6, the less we think about what the globalist mob at Davos is doing.

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Lying About Covid For ‘International Harmony’

Dr. Anthony Fauci being roasted this week by Sen. Rand Paul (Source)

The prominent science journalist Matt Ridley is not happy these days. From his Telegraph op-ed:

Inch by painful inch, the truth is being dragged out about how this pandemic started. It is just about understandable, if not forgivable, that Chinese scientists have obfuscated vital information about early cases and their work with similar viruses in Wuhan’s laboratories: they were subject to fierce edicts from a ruthless, totalitarian regime.

It is more shocking to discover in emails released this week that some western scientists were also saying different things in public from what they thought in private. The emails were exchanged over the first weekend of February 2020 between senior virologists on both sides of the Atlantic following a meeting arranged by Sir Jeremy Farrar, head of the Wellcome Trust, with America’s two top biologists, Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, and Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Freedom of Information requests sent last year produced farcical results in both Britain and America: ghost emails with all the contents redacted. Now, the US government has been forced to make unredacted versions available to Republicans on the House of Representatives’ oversight committee for an “in camera review”.

Thankfully, staffers transcribed some of the contents. They show that Dr Fauci, Dr Collins and Sir Patrick Vallance, our Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, were briefed, on and after February 1, by several virologists who thought at the time that the new virus showed signs of having been manipulated in the laboratory.

Not only did they never breathe a word of this suspicion to the media or the public, they rubbished it. The meeting on February 1 led to an article from the very virologists who were making the case that the virus showed signs of having been in a lab. Yet, in the words of Dr Collins, the job of that article was to “settle” the matter and “put down this very destructive conspiracy” lest the rumours do harm to “international harmony”.

Read it all (if you can get behind the paywall). Ridley goes on to say that he believed these senior scientists — and now he knows they lied to the public. Documents obtained by The Intercept through a FOIA request indicate that the US Government did in fact help fund gain-of-function research in conjunction with Chinese labs. And here is a clip from the Telegraph story Ridley links to in the second paragraph of the above passage:

The emails were sent in response to a teleconference between 12 scientists including Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, on February 1.

The emails show that by February 2 2020, scientists were already trying to shut down the debate into the laboratory leak theory.

An email from Dr Ron Fouchier to Sir Jeremy said: “Further debate about such accusations would unnecessarily distract top researchers from their active duties and do unnecessary harm to science in general and science in China in particular.”

Dr Collins, former director of the NIH, replied to Sir Jeremy stating: “I share your view that a swift convening of experts in a confidence-inspiring framework is needed or the voices of conspiracy will quickly dominate, doing great potential harm to science and international harmony.”

Institutions which held the emails have repeatedly resisted efforts to publish their content.

The University of Edinburgh recently turned down an Freedom of Information request from The Telegraph asking to see Prof Rambaut’s replies, claiming “disclosure would be likely to endanger the physical or mental health and safety of individuals”.

James Comer, the Republican congressman who secured the unredacted emails, said it showed that experts like Dr Fauci had taken the Wuhan lab leak theory “much more seriously” than they had let on.

They wanted to protect China, and access to Chinese labs. So they lied about where they thought this virus came from. Maybe they lied to protect themselves from scrutiny over gain-of-function research. Well, whatever the case, you can get better verbal ass-whippings of Collins and Fauci, those “noble liars,” elsewhere than here. Sen. Rand Paul has been raking Fauci over the coals this week. Allow me to point out, though, that these lies from our top scientists and public health officials have been telling about Covid are likely to have a tremendous effect. (“Trust the science”? Please.) What I’m talking about is the key role that widespread loss of faith in hierarchies and authoritative institutions play in moving a society towards totalitarianism. Hannah Arendt observed that a “new terrifying negative solidarity” among the masses in pre-totalitarian Germany and Russia, after a collapse of trust in the traditional authorities and authoritative institutions in those societies.

It’s not only Fauci and Collins, of course. Just last night I read this piece by Jeff Groom about the conviction of USMC Lt. Col. Stu Scheller, who publicly denounced senior military leadership after the hot mess of our Afghanistan withdrawal. Groom writes that Scheller’s attack was ill-advised, but morally, he was in the right. Excerpt:

Specifically, what issue caused Lt. Col Scheller to create his protest video? In his own words, the Marine officer was outraged that no senior military leaders had come forward to take responsibility for the then-unfolding catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan. The key word was accountability. As Scheller rightly noted, if a battalion commander of his rank presided over a live-fire training exercise mishap or fatality, usually they are removed, i.e. fired, from their position. He wasn’t exaggerating the standard that these leaders are usually held to.

Why then, do mistakes and miscalculations of much greater magnitude such as what he was watching in real time in Afghanistan go unpunished? As Army Lt. Col. Paul Yingling wrote in a 2007 essay about the failures of America’s generals, “a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.” President Biden ordered the Afghanistan withdrawal in April of 2021. Given full four months to plan and execute, the military’s leaders completely punted it. And now, almost two months after things went south, not a single military or civilian leader has been demoted, reprimanded, or fired.

As Thomas Ricks noted in 2012, firing generals wasn’t always seen as a bad thing in American military history. Termination was “expected” if they failed in combat and was a sign of the systems’ health. Even going back to the days of the Civil War, President Lincoln sorted through a half dozen generals before settling on the offensive, total war-minded Ulysses S. Grant. Since World War II, however, as Ricks details, things have changed dramatically. Firing generals has become much more taboo, and when it did occur, it seemed to imply the system was dysfunctional.

General Stanley McChrystal was fired in 2010 by President Obama, not for his conduct in commanding the troops in Afghanistan, but because he made disparaging remarks about the President and then Vice President Joe Biden. After cozying up to the war machine he has, along with another fallen general named Petraeus, made a lucrative post-military career writing books and giving TED talks.

As things went badly in Iraq the perception in the public was that our civilian leadership wasn’t listening to our generals. The military had become a sacred cow, immune from criticism. But generals have to be laser focused on how their strategic vision aligns with the political goals of their civilian leaders. When those visions don’t match, it is incumbent on them to recommend a change of course. If they can’t do this, why do they have stars on their collar? The last twenty years showed this wasn’t happening in any appreciable way. As Scheller said, “General officers, for the last 20 years, have given bad advice consistently.”

Twenty years of bad advice, and nobody is called to account. It’s the American way now.

There will be a heavy price to pay for these lies.

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Vaxxed, Boosted, And

Well, it was bound to happen. Last week in my family, we all agreed that given how communicable the omicron variant of Covid is, we should just accept that it is unavoidable at this point. We know too many people who have been vaxxed, boosted, and who take precautions, but who are getting it anyway. And now, I’m one of them. So, I went about two years of this pandemic without getting sick, and when I did get sick, I acquired the least serious version of it. I’ll call that a win.

Still … not gonna lie, this week has been a beatdown with this stuff. Since childhood, respiratory viruses hit me especially hard. Omicron was no exception. I believe people when they say it was like a minor cold for them. For me, it’s been like a major case of bronchitis, verging on the flu. It started like a head cold on Monday, but quickly moved into my throat, which has been on fire all week. I’ve almost entirely lost my voice. It’s intermittently hard to get warm. I sleep a lot. Some brain fog. It really does seem to be true, though, that the omicron variant doesn’t get into the lungs — and thank God for that! I do want to emphasize, though, that for me at least, omicron has been a harder thing to deal with than I expected from other people’s descriptions. This almost certainly has to do with my particular susceptibility to respiratory problems, as well as a weakened immune system. In my family, we figured from the beginning of this that if Dad got Covid, it was going to hit him hardest of us all. So far, nobody else in my family has it, but I am hopeful that it will be mild for them. Milder than it has been for me.

I was supposed to catch a plane later this morning for Wichita, for the Eighth Day Institute conference, one of my favorite annual events. Obviously that’s off. If I get my voice back, we might try to Zoom me in to give my talk, but it’s not the same thing. So many friends I’ll miss seeing. These last two years sure have been hard on us all, haven’t they?

 

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