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Home/Rod Dreher

Down With CRT! Jill Su’s Life Mattered

Dayonte Resiles, accused Florida murderer (Source)

In 2014, a wealthy south Florida woman, Jill Halliburton Su, was murdered:

The wife of a prominent professor and a relative of the founders of the billion-dollar Halliburton oil empire, Su lived in an upscale mansion in a gated Florida community. In her spare time, she read to the blind and raised money for various charities.

But everything changed Monday when Su, 59, was found dead in a bizarre murder mystery that is raising more questions than answers.

“She was always involved in helping others. She was the first person to volunteer for anything,” says her friend Theresa Randolph, who she has known for more than a decade. “Just a very sweet, kind, giving woman.”

On Monday morning, Dr. Nan Yao Su, a professor of entomology at the University of Florida’s Research and Education Center in Fort Lauderdale, tried to watch the live feed of his home’s security cameras. When he was unable to see the feed, he called home. Receiving no answer, he called his adult son and asked him to check on the house.

When the son arrived at the waterfront mansion, he found a chilling scene. A glass door had been broken; shards of glass covered the ground. At least one room had been ransacked. And worst of all, his mother was lying dead in a bathtub.

Jill Su, white murder victim (Source)

Police eventually arrested Dayonte Resiles for the murder. His DNA was found on the murder weapon. He went on trial late last year. He is black; his victim was white. The result:

Dayonte Resiles killed Jill Halliburton Su by stabbing her to death and leaving her lifeless body in a bathtub in her Davie home — on that much, jurors could agree.

But they couldn’t agree on a murder charge, according to the jury forewoman, because three members refused to sign off on a verdict that would send a young Black man to prison for the rest of his life. For a short time, the nine who wanted a first-degree murder conviction were willing to budge. A manslaughter conviction would send Resiles to prison for 15 years, not for life. All 12 jurors signed off on manslaughter late Tuesday.

But that, according to the forewoman, would not have been justice. Not for her. Not for the defendant. Not for the victim. “What have I done?” she thought.

In an interview Thursday night, the forewoman, who asked not to be identified by name, shed light on what happened in the deliberation room in the days leading up to the hung jury and mistrial, describing a cauldron of anger, mistrust, betrayal and, underscoring it all, accusations of racial and anti-police bias.

It came to a head Tuesday night, when the manslaughter verdict was read, and the forewoman was faced with the usually-routine question of whether she agreed with the group’s decision.

Only a few seconds passed, but the forewoman’s mind was racing. She thought of the victim and the family left behind. She felt the eyes of the judge and the prosecutor and the victim’s husband boring into her. She was torn between her agreement with her fellow jurors and her firm belief that the prosecution proved Resiles guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt.

“I just got a knot in the pit of my stomach. I looked at the defense table. They were just cheering and patting him on the back, like he graduated high school or made the winning touchdown at a football game,” she said. “I thought, what have I done? Is this the world I am creating for my children, a world where someone can get away with murder because of the color of their skin?”

Finally, she recalled the advice her husband gave her before the trial started: “Follow the law. Don’t cave.”

She was convinced Resiles did not commit manslaughter on Sept. 8, 2014 — he committed murder. Manslaughter was not her verdict.

“No,” she told the judge. She didn’t agree.

Her answer prompted the judge to send the jury back to the deliberation room. Her fellow jurors were incensed, she recalled.

“If I do leave here with friends, that would be great,” she recalled saying. “But at the end of the day, I’m not here to make friends. I’m here to give justice to Jill. This was about her.”

The holdout juror, who is a mixed-race Puerto Rican, said that some black jurors accused her of not caring about the life of a black man, who would go to prison for life if he were convicted of murder (versus manslaughter). Her refusal at the last minute to affirm the manslaughter charge made it possible to retry Resiles. Jury selection for the retrial began this month. (Another juror, this one a white man, later claimed that there was no racial animosity among jurors, though he did not explain why he believes that Resiles was guilty of murder, but he agreed to the manslaughter verdict.)

Richard Hanania observes:

Exactly. And this is why the further along we get in mainstreaming CRT, the closer we will come to civil war. You cannot expect people to sit back and accept that the murderer of their loved one should get a lesser sentence because of the color of his skin. Black people in this country had to live with that for many years. It was monstrously unjust. It always will be unjust to dole out justice on the basis of race, wealth, or anything else other than individual guilt or innocence. Our legal system cannot survive jurors who are willing to send people to prison, and keep them out of prison, on the basis of the defendant’s race. While we will never be able to achieve a system capable of producing perfect justice, we can get closer to that ideal. The Florida jury’s verdict is a huge step backward. It would be possible to look at this as an aberration, except for the fact that as Hanania points out, that immoral verdict is what you would expect under Critical Race Theory.

CRT and its implementation by institutional elites is tearing this country apart. While the media obsess over the MAGA yahoos of January 6, the real destruction of the American project is advancing through the law, through medicine, through business, and through the education system. And it is a project of the illiberal Left.

 

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What Is Hungarian Conservatism?

Balazs Orban (no relation to the Prime Minister) From speech at NatCon2)

Last night my son Matt and I had dinner with my favorite teacher from high school, a historian. We got to talking about war and nations, and I mentioned that Matt and I were startled to learn last summer in Hungary about how the decisive fact in Hungarian political thinking of the past century is the Trianon Treaty. “Trianon,” as they call it, was the treaty that dealt with Hungary after World War I. It reduced Greater Hungary to a rump state, taking away two-thirds of its territory. The Hungarians regard it as a national catastrophe, as I explained, though I pointed out to my teacher that the Slovaks, Romanians, and other minorities who were at the time living under Hungarian rule in those territories, and who were given by Trianon their own land, do not think it was a catastrophe at all. Matt, showing that he has mastered one of the basic principles of historical analysis, then said, “You don’t have to agree with the Hungarian point of view to recognize how important this issue is to them, and to factor that in when you are trying to understand why they think the way they do.”

I went on to explain to my teacher that spending that time in Hungary was eye-opening because it revealed how willfully ignorant American governmental, policy, and media elites are about why the Hungarian government does the things it does — and why replacing Viktor Orban with some EU-friendly liberal would probably make less of a difference than many Westerners think. Hungary, I explained, has been at the mercy of Great Powers for most of the previous century. Trianon was imposed by the victors, and divided the country. Then, after World War II, the Soviets colonized Hungary, and kept it prisoner for forty years. Every Hungarian, no matter what his politics, feels deeply in his bones the sense of humiliation at having no national agency. Even many liberal Hungarians eager to cooperate with the European Union have within them a sense of the precarity of their freedom and self-determination.

Matt added that it didn’t start at Trianon. In 1848, Hungarian patriots cast off the Habsburg crown, and fought for Hungarian independence. Their initial victory was reversed when the Russians invaded at the Kaiser’s request, and restored Habsburg rule, though in modified form. The Habsburgs executed thirteen Hungarian generals who led the rebellion; they are remembered today in Hungary as the Thirteen Martyrs of Arad. 

The point is that if you want to understand why Hungarians think the way they do — about the EU, about immigration, and about many other things — you have to be aware of this history: the history of a distinct Central European people, with their own unique language, having to battle constantly against being conquered and having their identity and agency subsumed by the invaders. This does not make the Hungarians right about this or that issue, but it does help you understand their perspective.

With that history in mind, take a look at this YouTube clip of a speech young Viktor Orban, sporting a mullet, delivered in 1989 at the reburial of Imre Nagy, the 1950s Communist leader of Hungary executed by the invading Soviets for resisting them in 1956. Orban was a staunch anti-communist, but in this speech — delivered courageously in a ceremony attended by the Communist rulers of Hungary, who were still at that time in power — he praises Nagy for being a Hungarian patriot, defending the sovereignty of the nation despite his communism. Turn on the subtitles to understand the entire speech:

Now, I’d like to draw your attention to this new essay by Balazs Orban (no relation to the prime minister), the head of Matthias Corvinus Collegium in Budapest, and a top adviser to the Prime Minister. In it, he discusses the differences between Hungarian conservative thought and Anglo-Saxon conservative thought. Consider this:

Anglo-Saxon countries, as a rule, have long coastlines. For this reason, throughout their history they have been naval and trading powers, and frequently established overseas colonies. One consequence of this was that they encountered foreign cultures more frequently, and, as a result, regularly had to define the relationship of foreign cultures to their own. Continental powers fundamentally fear the emergence of nomadic peoples, while maritime powers are themselves nomadic.

In addition, Anglo-Saxon countries have at times pursued an expansionary foreign policy. This was, in part, to establish their values, including some form of their own social, political, and economic arrangements, in a given territory. There were economic and political reasons for this, since it enabled them to create a ‘familiar’ environment, a semi-domestic environment within their area of influence. At the same time, these processes led politicians and thinkers in these countries to ideologize, to a certain extent, the particular merits of the British or American way of life, as well as their political and economic systems, and to argue that they should replace the customs and traditions of indigenous peoples.

This is why Anglo-Saxon traditions and values have increasingly lost their pragmatic character, becoming instead a kind of political ideology with expansive political aspirations. These ideologizing processes were present during the heyday of the British Empire, during the Cold War competition between the Soviet Union and the United States, and after the emergence of the post-1990 neoliberal world order, and all have left their mark on Anglo-Saxon conservative thinking.

Look at this map of Central Europe, and where Hungary is located. “Continental powers fundamentally fear the emergence of nomadic peoples,” Balazs Orban writes (the Hungarians were themselves such a people when they first arrived in the Carpathian Basin that they settled). Geography goes a long way to explaining mindset:

This is crucial:

The guiding thread of Hungarian conservative thinking has always been to represent the Hungarian national interest, and thus the preservation of the country’s sovereignty and freedom—this is understood to supersede any theoretical concepts.11 The Hungarian conservative tradition is in this sense pragmatic, in that it makes flexible use of the means at its disposal to attain its ends. One might remark that there is nothing surprising in this, since conservative thought is taken to be pragmatic in principle. But how does this attitude manifest itself in Hungarian conservative thinking? In the fact that Hungarian conservative thinking is essentially defensive in character. If the central problem has always been the protection of Hungarian sovereignty, national and individual freedom, and the attainment of the national interest, then the economic and cultural expansion which has come to seem natural and self-evident in Anglo-Saxon countries has here taken a back seat. Indeed, Hungary’s experience has rather been one of being conquered by foreign powers, and of alien ideas and social phenomena entering the country despite having no organic roots within the local culture, meaning that the defence of Hungarian values and the attainment of the national interest became the guiding motives of Hungarian conservatism. As in the Anglo- Saxon example, it is also possible in the case of Hungarian conservatism to outline in four regards why Hungarian conservative thinking has become essentially defensive in nature.

One of the most obnoxious tendencies of American mainstream foreign policy elites, of both the Left and the Right, is the assumption that American values are universal, and should be accepted as such. I had no direct experience of foreign peoples who viewed the US as a culturally imperialist country until I started going to the countries of Central Europe. Once you start seeing things through their eyes, it’s remarkable (or was to this American) how much of a bully we Americans can be. It’s not that they reject all our values; in fact, they agree with most of them. What they resent is American arrogance in using our soft power and hard power to turn all foreign people into Americans. I used to think that this was pretty much a vacant leftie complaint, but when you experience it on your own, you realize that it really is true. Viktor Orban is the bête noire of the European Union, but it is crucially important to grasp that he does not demand that other EU countries follow Hungary’s values and example; he only wants Hungary to be left alone to govern itself as it sees fit, within general limits. He is defending Hungarian sovereignty. If Hungarian voters turn the Fidesz Party out of office later this spring and overturn the law banning LGBT material aimed at minors, then fine: that is a decision that will have been made by the Hungarian people, through their duly elected representatives. It will not have been imposed on them by Brussels.

B. Orban explains that in the 19th century, Hungary’s ruling class wanted to modernize the nation, but to do so on terms that suited Hungary. That is, they accepted the need to modernize, but wanted to do so in ways that preserved Hungarian sovereignty and traditions. The emphases are mine in this passage below:

 In the first half of the 1870s, the threat of state bankruptcy was a daily topic of conversation. It was in this situation that János Asbóth, a former government official and Member of Parliament, published a book entitled Hungarian Conservative Politics, which— as the name suggests—emphasized the need for a conservative change in political direction.19 The significance of Asbóth and his work cannot be overemphasized, as his ideas are, in a sense, echoed in Hungarian conservative thinking to this day. The essence of Asbóth’s critique is that the bankruptcy of liberal politics stems from the fact that liberals consider theory more important than practice.20 In other words, they are more interested in whether liberal principles prevail in a political decision than in whether the decision is truly to the benefit or detriment of the nation, or in line with Hungarian interests.

It is worth noting that Asbóth’s criticism is directed against the excessive liberalism of the governing elite. He criticizes the rapidly alternating liberal administrations for adopting Western patterns in the belief that these will bring automatic benefits, without considering their long-term effects on the life of the nation. For example, Asbóth cites the regulation of economic conditions. Governments expected so much from free competition that they introduced all the elements of a laissez-faire economic system almost at once. According to Asbóth, this was a mistake: at that time Hungarian economic actors were not yet ready to compete with better-funded Austrian and Czech industries, and the domestic economy, far from flourishing, entered a period of recession. This is a painfully familiar phenomenon—we need only consider the missteps of the Hungarian liberal administrations in the post-1989 period.

Think of what happened to Russia in the aftermath of the USSR’s collapse. Following American advice, the successor administration of Boris Yeltsin tried shock therapy to establish a free market economy. It caused chaos and widespread despair, and led to the popular election of Vladimir Putin. Similarly, in Hungary, many of the state-owned industries were sold at fire sale prices to Westerners, leaving Hungary at the mercy of foreigners. When I first arrived in Hungary back in 2018, I think it was, my Hungarian friend showing me around told me that a big reason Viktor Orban became popular after his election in 2010 was that he repatriated many of those industries. She said that you could say that he put them in the hands of his political cronies, which might be true, but beside the point: Hungarians have the power to deal with that kind of thing through their elected representatives, but they were powerless when ownership was foreign.

B. Orban says that what we now call “national conservatism” is an Anglo-Americanization of Hungarian conservatism:

This movement calls itself national conservatism, and, curiously, the views it espouses reflect— presumably unintentionally—the principles of national Hungarian conservative thought. The movement is critical of globalization, encourages opposition to the unconditional enforcement of free trade, criticizes liberal politics for its lack of interest in practical results, and sees the pursuit of national interests and the preservation of national traditions as the primary task of politics. So what was new in the West in the 2010s is essentially the natural state of conservative thinking and politics in Hungary. It is not difficult to see why it has turned out this way. We Hungarians already had to deal with the problems currently faced by the West—and especially in the Anglo-Saxon world—in the nineteenth century. We were among those compelled to adapt to a changing world, rather than the other way around. We had to learn how to preserve our independence and how to assert our interests in a world where conditions did not depend so much on our will as on the limitations of our strategic thinking and room for manoeuvre.

Read the whole thing. It’s really interesting. You don’t have to agree with or support Viktor Orban to learn from this essay. One gets so weary of the mantras repeated by American establishment talking heads of the Left and the Right, about how Hungary is one step away from fascism, blah blah blah. It is demonstrably untrue, and reflects not only ignorance of the facts, but also the knee-jerk substitute of ideology for reality. I recall Peter Kreko, one of the foremost liberal critics of the Orban government, saying last summer at the Esztergom festival, when he and I were onstage together, that his allies in the West do the anti-Orban forces no favors by talking about Hungary as fascist, or near-fascist. It’s simply not true, and as I see it, it is yet another example of arrogant Western do-gooders trying to impose their own ideological view of the world on peoples whose histories and values are different.

Last summer, I wrote an essay in The Spectator defending Orban from Western criticism. I said, in part, with reference to the new, highly controversial law prohibiting the dissemination of pro-LGBT information to minors and preserving parental authority when it comes to the sex education of their children:

Thanks to the new Orbán-backed law, Hungarian parents won’t have to deal with their kids coming home from school asking them what gender they are, really. They won’t have to worry, like many American parents do, that their children’s school is conspiring to keep their child’s gender identity secret from them. They won’t have to worry, like British parents, about a 4,000 percent increase in youth referrals for gender treatment in just a decade.

I imagine that most Hungarian parents will support this, and if not, Hungary remains a democracy; on July 21, Orbán announced an upcoming national referendum on the law. In the meantime, Hungary retains a free press, which is at liberty to criticize the supposed homophobia and transphobia of the government, and to call on voters to reject the law in the referendum and throw the bigots out in 2022. Hungarians remain free to protest the state’s policies, as thousands of Pride protesters did in Budapest in late July. Of course, everything came off peacefully; some ‘Viktator’, that Orbán.

This is how things are supposed to work in a democracy. But now a coalition of democratic European leaders are ganging up on Hungary, threatening to smash it for daring to assert its own cultural sovereignty. They are vowing to withdraw EU funding over Hungary’s moves to keep NGOs and broadcasters from indoctrinating Hungarian children with cheerful songs featuring sexually mutilated beavers, in an effort to destroy what religious tradition, their mothers and fathers and common sense says is true about gender.

At the European summit earlier this summer, French president Emmanuel Macron, furious at Hungary’s new law, lashed out at conservative central European for undermining ‘what has built the core of our western liberal democracy for centuries’. Macron called it ‘a cultural, civilizational battle that we must fight’.

The idea that the Blues Clues Pride Parade aimed at pre-kindergarten children is rooted in centuries of Western democratic thought is about as absurd and ideological a claim as is possible to make. This shows you how fanatical Western elites are when it comes to Hungary. Even if you don’t agree with the Fidesz Party’s policies, read Balazs Orban’s essay to understand its roots. And if you are a conservative, read the essay to understand why some of us see Hungarian conservatism as a model on which to draw to create a new kind of American conservatism, one faithful to our own values and traditions.

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Pope Francis Is Queering The Catholic Church

Pope Francis, January 6, 2022 (Source)

The hits just keep coming from the Vatican:

In another sign of support for L.G.B.T. Catholics and those who advocate on their behalf, Pope Francis sent a handwritten letter on Dec. 10 to Jeannine Gramick, S.L., the co-founder of the Catholic apostolate New Ways Ministry.

Sister Gramick is celebrating 50 years of working with and advocating for L.G.B.T. people. Noting her anniversary as the reason for his letter, the pope congratulated her in Spanish on “50 years of closeness, of compassion and of tenderness” in a ministry that he described as being in “‘the style’ of God.”

Pope Francis’ letter to Sister Gramick is the latest in a series of letters from the pope written to gay Catholics and others who are serving and advocating for L.G.B.T. people.

In his letter, the pope praised Sister Gramick for her willingness to suffer for love’s sake. “You have not been afraid of ‘closeness,’” he wrote, “and in getting close you did it ‘feeling the pain’ and without condemning anyone, but with the ‘tenderness’ of a sister and a mother.”

[Interview: Sister Jeannine Gramick on being censured by the Vatican, 50 years of ministry and her hopes for LGBT Catholics]

“Thank you, Sister Jeannine,” the letter concluded, “for all your closeness, compassion and tenderness.”

Here is the full text of the letter:

December 10, 2021
Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL

Dear sister,

Many thanks for your letter. It made me happy to receive the news about your 50th anniversary.

Your letter reminded me of “the style” of God… God has his own style to communicate with us. And we could summarize that style in three words: closeness, compassion, tenderness.

And I am thinking of your 50 years of ministry, which were 50 years with this “style of God,” 50 years of closeness, of compassion and of tenderness.

You have not been afraid of “closeness,” and in getting close you did it “suffering with” [compassion] and without condemning anyone, but with the “tenderness” of a sister and a mother.

Thank you, Sister Jeannine, for all your closeness, compassion and tenderness.

I pray for you. Please do not forget to pray for me. Greetings to Yayo (Obdulio).

May Jesus bless you and the Holy Virgin protect you.

Fraternally,
Francisco

All this therapeutic language (“closeness, compassion, tenderness”) conceals the fact that Sr. Jeannine and her ministry has been leading people away from clear, authoritative Catholic teaching about sexuality, and homosexuality. In 1999, the Vatican’s chief doctrinal office, led then by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, ruled that New Ways Ministry fundamentally opposes Catholic teaching, and confuses the faithful, and that Sr. Jeannine and a priest colleague are forbidden from ministering to LGBT Catholics. Now, Pope Francis has brought the pro-gay, anti-Catholic ministry in from the cold.

Legalistic conservative Catholics, perhaps desperate to preserve their position, can say that with this Francis is not changing doctrine. And they are right — for now, at least. But that is an awfully thin reed on which to hang one’s hopes. All that doctrine written down on paper doesn’t mean much if the Church and its pastors don’t live by it. Francis is teaching as much by what he doesn’t say as by what he does. I just don’t see how one can get around the fact that the Roman pontiff is praising the defiance of church teaching by a progressive ministry — a ministry that just over twenty years ago was suppressed by the Vatican for that very defiance. I would not be surprised if Francis attempts to overturn Catholic teaching about homosexuality, thus provoking a schism.

Last week I was talking to a Protestant man who told me he and his family have reached the end of the line with Protestantism, and believe there is no realistic hope that it will be able to resist permissive modernism. He approached me to ask me about Orthodoxy and Catholicism. I told him that there is no institutional escape from these challenges, that we have within Orthodoxy in this country a contingent of liberal intellectuals who want to queer our churches too, as well as make other theological innovations to make Orthodoxy conform more to the spirit of the age. The best any of us can do is to find a place where we stand a better chance of weathering the storm.

He told me that he is attracted to the Catholic catechism, and the solid, coherent teaching of the Catholic Church, but sees things like what Pope Francis does (this was last week, before today’s announcement) and worries that if he and his family go Catholic, they will have signed up for something that is not what it appears to be. I told him that yes, that was my experience too: I read myself into the Catholic Church, but was shocked to discover that the Church of John Paul II and Richard John Neuhaus was not what I found in most parishes where I worshipped. Of course it was the same church as a matter of communion; what I meant was that it was a shock to me to become a Catholic in 1993 and to find that it was no escape at all from the divisions within Protestantism, but that all these same arguments took place under a canopy of unity that functioned more like a Potemkin façade.

For the time being, American Orthodoxy is not as vulnerable as American Catholicism is to liberalizing, but Orthodox would be fools to think we are somehow protected. I brought this up to an Orthodox priest once, who said that it doesn’t surprise him that Catholics are going this way, but he wasn’t worried about us Orthodox. I think that is whistling past the graveyard. One of the painful lessons I learned from my 13 years as a Catholic is how futile it is to rely on written texts and institutional practices to preserve the faith when the people don’t care to live out the faith’s teachings, and the clerical leadership doesn’t show that it believes orthodoxy and orthopraxy are important. I told the Protestant who contacted me asking my opinion that I thought he should become Orthodox, not only because I think Orthodoxy is a more accurate account of who God is and what He wants from us, but also because after 16 years of practicing the Orthodox faith, I have come to appreciate much more how important practice is to sedimenting doctrinal teachings into one’s bones.

This matters for a reason I could not have seen when I read myself into the Catholic Church as a young man. Three years after my Catholic conversion, an older friend who was leading his family out of the Episcopal Church was trying to figure out whether or not he should go Catholic or Orthodox. I made to him an argument for Catholicism. He said what made him balk was the question of whether or not the Catholic Church in this country was a safe place to raise his children. He wasn’t talking about abuse; he was talking about whether or not it was a safe bet that his children would remain Christian if they were raised in the contemporary US Catholic Church. I got my back up, and told him that that didn’t matter, that the only thing he should be concerned about is whether or not the Catholic claims were true. 

The family became Orthodox. Years later, when I married and had a family of my own, I understood my older friend’s point in a way I could not have when I was young and living wholly inside my head. He agreed with me back then that we had a good pope (John Paul II), but said he wasn’t worried about the pope; rather, he was concerned with the local bishops, the local pastors, and the local Catholic schools. What good is the Catechism if nobody where you are living and raising your family wants to live by it?

I’m sorry to say that Orthodoxy is not an escape from it. When I was living and working Philadelphia, a Greek Orthodox turned Evangelical colleague asked me one day in the break room why I was eating such a puny lunch. I told him that today was a fast day in the Orthodox calendar. He was genuinely surprised. He said he grew up in the cathedral parish in Manhattan, and went to the Greek cathedral school for his entire education, and never once heard about fasting. This, even though fasting is a core part of Orthodox Christian spirituality. I thought: no wonder he became Evangelical. This is what happened to Eric Metaxas too.

The point is this: there is no religious system perfect enough to relieve individuals of their responsibility to be seriously engaged with their faith. You can leave Catholicism or Protestantism for Orthodoxy, but if you don’t put your faith into practice diligently, you will be no better off. We are in such a sorry state in American Christianity broadly that if you can find a church that doesn’t actively work against your attempts to live faithfully and raise faithful children in the religion, you are ahead of the game. One reason so many of us American converts to Orthodoxy are so sensitive about this “compassion” talk is because we are refugees from churches that lost their way when they began to succumb to appeals to “compassion” and “tenderness” as a justification for bending on Scriptural teaching. I knew that my family’s days in Catholicism were numbered when I began having conversations with my oldest child, then seven years old and starting to pay attention to the sermons, explaining to him that what Father preached that day is not what the Church teaches. I finally told my wife that I was having to teach our son to distrust our church’s authority figures before he has learned to trust them. I can only imagine how hard it is for faithful Catholic parents to have to teach their children today that what the Pope says and does is not what the Church teaches.

To be clear, I make a point of not using this space for proselytizing. Even if I wanted to do that, I don’t have it in me. It has been 16 years since I left Catholicism, and though I healed many years ago from the specific wounds left by the loss of my Catholic faith, I recognize now that I will probably never fully heal from my inability to fully trust religious hierarchy. That might be to the best. When people ask me privately to tell them about Orthodoxy, I am always excited to talk about what Jesus Christ has done for me in the Orthodox Church. If they want to know more, I am happy to direct them to the resources they need. But I have also counseled Catholics in crisis in ways that helped them decide to continue on with the Catholic faith. I don’t think I’ve ever had a Protestant who talked to me about this but decided to stay Protestant, but I would not consider it a failure if that happened. I would like for everybody to become Orthodox, but more than that, I want everybody to have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Maybe I should care more about prompting people to convert to Orthodoxy, but at this stage in my life, I’m more interested in helping them to be better Christians. In the Orthodox Church, we have a number of good apologists whose mission is different than mine. On the front line of apologetics, you need soldiers who, unlike me, don’t carry unhealed battle wounds.

So, to sum up: I don’t believe that one church is just as good as any other, nor do I believe that all churches in America are in the same woebegone condition. If you come to Orthodoxy from another Christian church, you will probably find resources you didn’t even know were available. I could not imagine being anything other than Orthodox now. But what you will not be able to do in Orthodoxy is hide securely from the challenges of the post-Christian world. They are coming for all of us. And though it might benefit Orthodox membership to see the other churches crumbling (doctrinally and otherwise), no Orthodox has the right to feel triumphalistic. On the American scene, Orthodoxy is very, very small. The future of American Christianity will not likely be decided by what happens to the Orthodox Church, but by what happens to the Catholic and Evangelical churches. The future of Western Christianity, likewise. When the Catholics have a strong, good pope, we Orthodox should rejoice, because that stands to make our lives as Christian in post-Christian America easier. When Evangelicals have strong pastoral leadership, bearing witness to Christ in a courageous, admirable way, we Orthodox should thank God for their service. I am not a universalist, but I really do mean that.

I just never imagined that I would live to see the day when a Roman pontiff would do some of the things Francis is doing. In 2013, not long after he was elected Pope, Francis made his famous “who am I to judge?” comment about gays. It’s true that the statement was taken somewhat out of context by progressive advocates, but Jorge Bergoglio did not fall off the turnip truck on his way to St. Peter’s Square. He had to know how his remarks would be reported. I received an email shortly after that from a teacher at a Catholic high school in Tennessee. He was devastated. He said that he had been working for years to explain the Church’s teaching on sexuality to students, and in a single stroke, Francis had obliterated his labor. The teacher told me that his students had all taken to saying some version of, “But the Pope says who are we to judge?” Three years on, the Catholic bishops of Eastern Canada issued a pastoral letter embracing euthanasia under certain circumstances, citing Francis’s “who am I to judge?” as a guiding principle. I wrote about it here at the time. In the hands of those bishops, the tenderness and compassion of Pope Francis led to the euthanist’s needle.

When the Roman pope, the historic Patriarch of the West and the spiritual leader of the world’s largest Christian communion, starts saying and doing the things that Francis does, it is not a time for Orthodox or Protestant triumphalism. It is a sign of big trouble for all faithful Christians. In 2018, commenting on a matter of intercommunion with Protestants, Cardinal Wim Eijk of Utrecht criticized the liberalizing initiative of the German bishops and Pope Francis, and said, in part:

Observing that the bishops and, above all, the Successor of Peter fail to maintain and transmit faithfully and in unity the deposit of faith contained in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, I cannot help but think of Article 675 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“The Church’s ultimate trial

Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the ‘mystery of iniquity’ in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth.”

Whatever your church or communion, you must pray, and you must prepare. There is no escaping this trial.

UPDATE: Here’s upcoming fun with Pope Francis’s beloved New Ways Ministry:

 

UPDATE.2: A reader comments:

Rod, I’m a Catholic priest whose primary apostolate has been with young adults and seminarians for the last sixteen years. You are correct to point out the grave damage that Pope Francis has done to the Church, as well as the iconoclastic narcissists (those ordained between 1965-1980), have done to the Church. I can only see the election of Pope Francis and his horrific reign as a purification upon the Church, one that clarifies the papal-olatry that creeped in as a result of having two amazing (albeit imperfect like all of us) popes in JPII and BXVI.

In all my years of work with young adults and seminarians, I have NEVER met one who says that they are Catholic or are in the seminary because of Pope Francis. Bishops, seminary rectors, and other priests can affirm this as their experience as well. Meanwhile, I know hundreds who were inspired, and continue to be inspired by Pope St John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

I’d like to offer three insights – two hopeful, one not so much.

First the less hopeful. The iconoclastic narcissists who were ordained between 1965 and 1980 make up the great majority of bishops today. Unfortunately they are going to be replaced by what is probably the gayest generation of priests in the history of the US (1980-1995). In those years, seminaries became places where it was safe and even encouraged to be gay, and even act out sexually. That generation is now taking leadership. It will be another 15 years before they go on their way. The queering of the episcopacy will continue in the US.

Now, to the more hopeful. Pope Francis has not only lost the orthodox Catholic faithful, he’s also lost most of the liberals as well. His pattern of bringing in associates who are morally compromised, which gives him the power to control them, and then discarding them when he is done with them, has run its course. One gets the sense that this along with his psychological problems (anger management) and Latin American dictatorial style, that this papacy is in the last stages. I am certain that after his death, the stories of his unjust anger, his deceptions, and his evil acts will come out. Right now, they are only spoken of quietly. But much of it will be revealed.

The most hopeful comes from my earlier comment. I am not aware of any faithful Catholic under the age of 40 and most under the age of 50 who isn’t completely against this nonsense that Pope Francis proclaims. I think most diocesan priests (and most religious) in the same age group would be the same way.

I would tell those people who are thinking about becoming Catholic, don’t let popes or bishops destroy your faith. It isn’t an easy time, it isn’t a warm and welcoming Church, but it is the Church and Jesus promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against it. The Church is not a cruise ship, it is a battleship. Unfortunately our human captain today is incompetent, a little unstable, and unqualified. Rough waters, difficulties, and even bad leadership should neve tempt us to leave the ship (that is not a comment directed against you, Rod).

I’m not saying that it will be easier after Pope Francis dies. The most narcissistic generation of priests/bishops is being replaced by the gayest generation of bishops. it will be a difficult time for faithful orthodox Catholics for another 20 years.

Many years ago, I came to realize that my vocation as a priest was to clean up the mess of the previous generation. The only correction that I had to make was that I thought that would have been done a decade ago. Now, I realize my entire priesthood will be spent cleaning up after the iconoclastic narcissists who cannot believe anything good happened before 1965 or after 1980. I wish this wasn’t my vocation. I wish I could go out and be a part of what PJP called the “New Evangelization,” but it is my task to clean up the messes and take care of the remnant that remain.

UPDATE.3: The conservative Catholic writer Phil Lawler writes that though he has never been a traditionalist Catholic, Pope Francis is driving him towards the movement. Excerpts:

For several decades after Vatican II, Catholics who might, for want of a better term, be classified as “conservative”—and I include myself among them—looked askance at traditionalists. Even The Wanderer, a newspaper never associated with liberalism, viewed the Trads as too negative. We defended the Novus Ordo liturgy, trusting that all would be well once the excesses of the 1970s, which were certainly not authorized by the Vatican Council—were eliminated. We balked at the notion that the Council itself had introduced problems; it was, we firmly believed, the deliberate misinterpretation of the Council that had plunged the Church into chaos.

Above all, we “conservative” Catholics longed and worked and prayed for the “reform of the reform” in the liturgy. We firmly believed that, once the fads and novelties and outright abuses were corrected, we could restore reverence and dignity to the Mass. We imagined—and if we were fortunate, occasionally encountered—a Mass actually celebrated according to the guidelines laid out by Sacrosanctum Concllium, and we found it beautiful.

Still, through all those years, the liturgy that we experienced in ordinary parishes did not improve. The abuses were not corrected; the novelties continued to proliferate. We could usually find a parish where the liturgy was celebrated more or less properly, but that situation could change overnight with the arrival of a new pastor or a directive from the diocesan liturgy czar. When we traveled, we entered an unfamiliar church with great trepidation, never knowing what sort of Mass we would find.

Alongside the deterioration of the liturgy, we saw the collapse of orthodox Catholic teaching, the flight from Church moral standards, and the exodus (especially of young people) from the pews. All these disasters occurred after Vatican II. But they were not, we repeated, caused by the Council. The misinterpretation of the Council was to blame.

Thank God we could look to Rome for leadership, for orthodox teaching, for inspiration. Pope John Paul II and then Pope Benedict XVI gave us abundant indications that the Church had not changed in any essentials. Unfortunately, at the parish level, things did not notably improve. The liturgy was sloppy, the catechesis sloppier; the young people continued to drift away. We waited, and hoped, and prayed for the time when all that clear papal teaching would filter down to the local churches. As indeed it must, we felt sure, because wasn’t the Pope the final authority on what the Council taught, and what the Church teaches?

And then came Pope Francis.

More:

Within the past week I have spoken with a half-dozen other Catholics who, like me, have begun regularly attending the Traditional Latin Mass. In every case, their movement toward the TLM began during the current pontificate. We did not move toward traditionalism because the Trads attacked the Pope; it would be far more accurate to say that we moved in that direction because the Pope attacked us.

Read it all.

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Is NPR In The Grips Of (Checks Notes) White Supremacy?

Audie Cornish, who recently left NPR. Why are minority journalists quitting? (Source)

I mentioned this in a post yesterday, but I want to explore it more: National Public Radio is reportedly in a crisis because so many people of color are resigning and taking other jobs. Excerpt:

Celeste Headlee, who has hosted several public radio programs and written extensively about race in the industry, said she couldn’t speak to the specific reasons individual hosts have left but called the departures concerning. “It’s so common for companies to put resources into recruiting people of color and then put no resources into really retaining them or supporting them in the roles they have so that they will continue with the organization.”

She said she regularly hears from public-radio staffers of color who say they deal with daily slights and resistance to their ideas, despite a sense they got their jobs to help expand the audience.

But Headlee — who founded a nonprofit for minority public-radio employees — credited John Lansing, NPR’s president and chief executive, for being “dead serious about solving these issues.” She added: “If there ever was a chance for our industry to move forward, now is the time.”

NPR employees raised questions about the exodus of women of color during an all-staff meeting last month headed by Lansing, who is generally well-regarded within the organization. But he received a cool reception when he told employees that turnover was common in the news media and that NPR couldn’t stand in the way of staffers seeking greater opportunities elsewhere, according to one participant.

The WaPo piece quoted this tweet from last September by NPR’s Sam Sanders:

And this, from All Things Considered’s co-host:

Oh, please. You know which employees “from marginalized backgrounds” NPR doesn’t give a rat’s rear end about recruiting? Working class white people. Evangelicals. I am neither, but from listening to NPR over the years, I know that those people are invisible to many of NPR’s reporters, except as a menace.

Of all the reasons why NPR is losing so many on-air hosts of color, the idea that NPR is hostile to them and their ideas is the most risible, at least from the outside. Of course I don’t know what happens inside NPR, but judging from the content of the programming, whenever I turn in, NPR has become so unlistenable because it seems to care only for the so-called “marginalized” — LGBT, POCs, et al. — who are centered in NPR’s overall coverage. If what we hear on NPR is the product of a newsroom that is hostile to minorities, what on earth would an NPR deemed friendly and supportive to minorities sound like?

Over the past 20 years, NPR has developed but ended three separate programs focusing on black audiences. Tavis Smiley left NPR back in 2004, and the other two shows (“News & Notes” and “Tell Me More”) were cancelled during funding cutbacks, when management had to let go of the lower-rated programs. It’s not the fault of NPR management when programs aimed at a narrow demographic don’t succeed. I used to listen to Tavis Smiley’s show, because though I wasn’t the target audience, I felt that his program gave me an insight into the things some black Americans cared about. Besides which, he was interesting, if at times exasperating. But I would turn off the radio for those other shows, because they were so insular and uninviting.

In the network’s defense, an NPR spokeswoman said that NPR can’t help it when its employees get better offers from other companies — private ones that can pay better salaries. She has a point. I don’t know about the public radio business, but the market for print journalists of color is very much a seller’s market. You have deep-pocketed employers fighting for the same limited number of job candidates. A journalist of color with a successful track record can pretty much write his or her own ticket in the business — especially because journalism is so liberal. Any conservative who has worked in the mainstream media, especially religious conservatives, can tell you that there is less than zero concern among newsroom management to diversify its staff by viewpoint.

I am sure the business has changed a lot since I left newspapers 11 years ago, but I was in management for a couple of years, and I remember sitting in on planning sessions in which newsroom leaders agonized over how to hire more minorities. One piece of research data stood out so strongly that I still recall it today: most people who go into print journalism come from households where families read newspapers and magazines. For whatever reason, back when this research was done (first decade of this century), whites were far more likely to read newspapers than blacks and Hispanics.

If you think about it, this makes sense. It was certainly the case with me, and, I believe, with most of my friends in journalism school. As much as I crack on NPR for not caring about viewpoint diversity, I concede that it would be hard to find conservatives interested in a career in public radio journalism, because so few conservatives grow up listening to public radio. (We are such a family, or were until NPR went super-woke, and my youngest kid dreamed for a while about becoming a public radio journalist.) All of this is to say that if public radio staffs are disproportionately white and liberal, the fact that NPR attracts a white liberal audience has a lot to do with it.

But does it have everything to do with it? In 2015, an analysis of NPR’s demographics found:

  • From a political standpoint, the NPR demographics are equally split into thirds when identifying as a conservative, moderate, or liberal.

My guess is that those numbers have shifted to favor liberals, simply because when the Great Awokening conquered NPR, turning it from liberal to woke, many conservatives (like me) abandoned it. And yes, if I seem like I obsess over what has happened to NPR, it’s because I used to care about NPR a lot, and I miss it greatly, but there’s not much there anymore for people like me, except cultural hostility and contempt for us. Granted, I don’t know precisely what POCs leaving NPR think the problem is there, and for all I know, they have a point; we won’t be able to judge it fairly until they start speaking in specifics. But again, judging from what is on the air, the idea that NPR is under the boot of white supremacy is the kind of idiotic claim that only someone who has gotten high on their woke supply can make.

Earlier this morning I did a Zoom session with a group of PhD candidates at a conservative Evangelical seminary. They wanted to talk about Live Not By Lies, which they had read. I told them that one of the biggest challenges facing pastors and other leaders of conservative churches is getting their congregations to see the world as it is, not as they wish it were. Conservative congregations, especially those dominated by older people, can easily be locked into a rigid framework where they assume that their very particular way of seeing the world is normative. For example, Southern Baptist congregations are known for nationalistic special services, like First Baptist Dallas’s annual Freedom Sunday service:

 

Many people like this are so committed to their worldview that they don’t want to hear the news about the Great Awokening having captured the senior leadership of the US Armed Forces. As you readers know, I regularly hear from active duty and recently retired service members who say they now discourage traditional Christians and political conservatives from military service, saying that the Pentagon brass are politicizing the Armed Forces strongly to the cultural Left — such that conservative and conservative Christian service members might have to face the question of whether to violate their own conscience, or disobey an order and destroy their military careers. This kind of thing is very hard for normie conservatives in the pews to grasp. I recall back in 2002, when I was at National Review, interviewing a Catholic seminarian who told me that when he came home from his first semester at seminary, and told his conservative Texas parents that the seminary was controlled by sexually active gay men, and that the seminary had hosted a BDSM-themed Halloween party for seminarians, the parents refused to believe it. It was easier for them to call their own son a liar than to accept what he was telling them about an institution they trusted. Talking to that young man — who had transferred to a solid seminary — helped me to understand that bad people like those who administered his former seminary got away with so much because of normies on the outside who refused to comprehend what was really going on.

I wonder if the culture within NPR is such that many of its people simply cannot grasp how they look and sound to those outside the bubble of wokeness. Admittedly my listening to NPR is not as frequent as it used to be, but it was (and no doubt still is) rare to listen to NPR shows and think that the network has any interest in people not like themselves. The controversy over whether or not NPR is in the grips of white supremacy sounds as ridiculous as, say, the faculty of Oberlin College tying itself up into knots over the same question. This is a deeply intra-progressive controversy, and the fact that it exists at all is, I think, a sign of how far gone down an ideological rabbit hole National Public Radio has gone. If they hadn’t driven off Garrison Keillor over #MeToo allegations, they would probably be ready to carpet-bomb Lake Wobegon for being too white. I’m serious. Can you imagine doing a show today about Lake Wobegon? NPR’s internal commissars would raise hell about the tiny rural Minnesota town not reflecting the diversity of America (while at the same time not giving a damn about the fact that NPR’s news and programming ignores America’s diversity too, just not in a way that satisfies liberal priors).

Again, I await more details about what precise criticisms these disaffected NPR hosts have about NPR. It is possible that their complaints have substance, but can’t be perceived from the outside. From what we know at this point, though, it seems that NPR’s senior management is caught in a bind that a number of news and information organizations are. Their core people are so ideologically committed that they won’t be satisfied with anything that strikes them as half-measures, even if doing what they want alienates a lot of people who would normally be their allies. We see on the Right now some obnoxious people imposing purity tests as a way to achieve power within conservative circles, while simultaneously making it more difficult to build a conservative movement capable of achieving something in the real world. I’m seeing this happen right now in my broader circles, and I wonder if that’s what this NPR controversy is about: activist types trying to impose their own narrow vision on an organization, even if it makes it harder for the organization to fulfill its mission because it alienates people who normally would join up.

Religions need to draw clear boundaries and defend them, because religions speak of Ultimate Truth. Political parties and media organizations cannot be run like religions, and media organizations that aspire to be non-partisan and even-handed cannot be run like political parties.

Finally, check out this post from Tara Henley on why she resigned from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. It’s very powerful. Excerpts:

For months now, I’ve been getting complaints about the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, where I’ve worked as a TV and radio producer, and occasional on-air columnist, for much of the past decade.

People want to know why, for example, non-binary Filipinos concerned about a lack of LGBT terms in Tagalog is an editorial priority for the CBC, when local issues of broad concern go unreported. Or why our pop culture radio show’s coverage of the Dave Chappelle Netflix special failed to include any of the legions of fans, or comics, that did not find it offensive. Or why, exactly, taxpayers should be funding articles that scold Canadians for using words such as “brainstorm” and “lame.”

Everyone asks the same thing: What is going on at the CBC?

More:

Those of us on the inside know just how swiftly — and how dramatically — the politics of the public broadcaster have shifted.

It used to be that I was the one furthest to the left in any newsroom, occasionally causing strain in story meetings with my views on issues like the housing crisis. I am now easily the most conservative, frequently sparking tension by questioning identity politics. This happened in the span of about 18 months. My own politics did not change.

To work at the CBC in the current climate is to embrace cognitive dissonance and to abandon journalistic integrity.

It is to sign on, enthusiastically, to a radical political agenda that originated on Ivy League campuses in the United States and spread through American social media platforms that monetize outrage and stoke societal divisions. It is to pretend that the “woke” worldview is near universal — even if it is far from popular with those you know, and speak to, and interview, and read.

To work at the CBC now is to accept the idea that race is the most significant thing about a person, and that some races are more relevant to the public conversation than others. It is, in my newsroom, to fill out racial profile forms for every guest you book; to actively book more people of some races and less of others.

To work at the CBC is to submit to job interviews that are not about qualifications or experience — but instead demand the parroting of orthodoxies, the demonstration of fealty to dogma.

It is to become less adversarial to government and corporations and more hostile to ordinary people with ideas that Twitter doesn’t like.

It is to endlessly document microaggressions but pay little attention to evictions; to spotlight company’s political platitudes but have little interest in wages or working conditions. It is to allow sweeping societal changes like lockdowns, vaccine mandates, and school closures to roll out — with little debate. To see billionaires amass extraordinary wealth and bureaucrats amass enormous power — with little scrutiny. And to watch the most vulnerable among us die of drug overdoses — with little comment.

It is to consent to the idea that a growing list of subjects are off the table, that dialogue itself can be harmful. That the big issues of our time are all already settled.

It is to capitulate to certainty, to shut down critical thinking, to stamp out curiosity. To keep one’s mouth shut, to not ask questions, to not rock the boat.

This, while the world burns.

Read it all. It’s very good. Henley is talking about the death of journalism within progressive-run journalistic institutions. Is there anybody within NPR who thinks this way? I would like to hear from them if so. E-mail me at rod — at — amconmag — dot — com. I will not publish anything without your permission, and will respect privacy.

I’ll leave you all with this below. It’s talking about journalism, but it could be talking about the Left in general. It still likes to think of itself as outsider, but in fact it defends the institutional status quo. As far as the Left is concerned, Big Business can do whatever it wants to do as long as it checks off the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity list.

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To Hell With January 6

QAnon Shaman in the well of the Senate on 1/6/21 (Luke Mogelson)

I’ve been away from the keys this morning, in church celebrating the Feast of Theophany, the baptism of Christ. That’s how I prefer to think of January 6. I am in a distinct minority in this country, at least this year. The entire episode makes me angry at everybody. Let me get this off my chest.

    1. I have no sympathy at all for the rioters, or for the president who encouraged their shocking crimes. I supported the second impeachment of Trump precisely because he stoked the mob’s rage, and did not call them off at the first opportunity. What that mob did at the Capitol was as close to a desecration as is possible in a secular building. Every one of those people who went into that building knew what they were doing was wrong, or should have known. It is right to hold them accountable.
    2. Ashli Babbitt is no hero, and a victim of only herself. Before she even arrived at the Capitol, she was a crazy person, driven by her own rage.  She has been made an ex post facto martyr by the Right in the same way that violent druggie George Floyd was made a martyr by the Left. But in Floyd’s case, he didn’t deserve what happened to him. In Babbitt’s case, I don’t see where the Capitol Police officer who shot her had a choice. Ask yourself, conservative: if that had been a Black Lives Matter mob invading the Capitol, and Babbitt had been a BLM activist barreling through a locked door into a chamber where members of Congress were sheltering, would you blame the cop for shooting her? If that January 6 event had been a Black Lives Matter riot, every white conservative in this country would know exactly what to think of it. To hell with double standards, on both the Right and the Left.
    3. Trump bears a lot of moral responsibility for that atrocity, because of his lie about the “stolen election.” Shame on members of Congress who stand by that lie.
    4. If you have forgotten how despicable the mob action of a year ago was, watch this video by Luke Mogelson, taken inside the riot. There is no legitimate defense of this. None.

Having said that…

    1. The pageant of victimhood that the Democrats and the media are staging is absurd. I said last year when those useful Trump idiots stormed the Capitol that the Democrats were going to make this MAGA riot into a Reichstag fire moment — that is, they will use it to justify taking extreme measures against their opponents. That has happened in particular with the US military. Over the past few months, I have been publishing e-mails and the results of conversations with conservative active-duty and recently retired members of the Armed Forces, all of whom are afraid and disgusted by the atmosphere of persecution that they say now reigns in the ranks. Conservatives who had nothing to do with the January 6 riot, and who have no affection for those cretins who carried it out, are now leaving the military, or planning to, because they are sick of the woke political indoctrination coming down from the Pentagon, and are afraid that any connection that can be demonstrated to conservative institutions or thought will be used against them to destroy their military careers. Numbers of former or current Armed Forces members have told me that they will do everything they can to prevent their children from going into the military service under these conditions.
    2. Today I was driving home from church and listening on podcast to a story from NPR this morning about the radicalization of the American middle class. Check it out here. The reporter, Odette Yousef, says that after January 6, radicals started focusing on local issues, like attacking school boards to protest “racially-inclusive education.” Say what? These were parents who don’t want their children force-fed Critical Race Theory, which many on the Left falsely said wasn’t being taught in schools, despite the fact that there was abundant evidence that it was, in many places. (A version of the Law of Merited Impossibility: “CRT is not being taught in public schools, and wherever it is, you bigots deserve it.”) You have to be skeptical of everything the media have to say about any of these issues. I don’t blame middle-class conservatives for being radicalized by events in this country, because every major institution in America has become or is in process of becoming radicalized to the Left by wokeness. The story that NPR and the mainstream media tell themselves about what is going on in this country is at best a half-truth — and people are not wrong to reject it. For example, the media are very concerned (and rightly so!) about the lies Trump and his supporters tell about the 2020 election, but they have no compunction at all regarding spreading the malicious, destabilizing lies of the 1619 Project.
    3.  Do you remember that time in 2017 that a left-wing activist carried out a mass shooting of GOP members of Congress at a baseball park in suburban Virginia? He nearly killed Rep. Steve Scalise, who underwent extensive surgery because of his wounds. The Virginia attorney general later described it as an act of terrorism. Where was the ongoing spasm of media What-Does-It-All-Mean over that atrocity? Where was the anguished introspection over what that says about the radicalization of the Left in America? That event was sent right down the memory hole. Of course there are important differences between that event and the January 6 riot, so I am not saying they were an exact equivalent. But that was a much bigger deal than it was treated at the time by the media and by the official culture of US elites.
    4. Do you remember the 2020 mass riots all around the country after the George Floyd shooting? The BLM riots? We all saw how the media and official culture worked hard to explain away that violence, and to make us all think that the rioters might have pushed it too far, but they had reason: Systemic Racism made them do it. Remember how so many in the medical profession, who had been telling us all to mask up and lock down and avoid crowds, changed their tune when it came to BLM mass protests? We on the Right saw that, and we call bullsh*t. It’s harder and harder to tell when things are straightforward, and when they are politicized. When people can see a vast discrepancy between the world they perceive with their own eyes, and the world as construed for them by the media, by the education system, by Big Business, and by the government, you damn well better believe they are going to be radicalized.
    5.  As I said above, there is no excuse — none — for the January 6 riot. But some riots are more morally acceptable to our elites than others. Again, see the BLM riots. We on the Right know how this works.
    6.  The very last thing that the media will do is ask itself what they are doing or have done to advance the radicalization of Americans on both sides. The very last thing Big Business, or the US military, or the schools and universities, will do is ask itself (and its HR departments) what it is doing to radicalize Americans. They are all going to keep sitting back and wondering how on earth it all happened. NPR, for example, has been in the news this week because of a recent exodus of on-air personalities of color. The Washington Post reports that some of them say that NPR stifles POCs. To be fair, I don’t know what the atmosphere inside NPR is like; maybe they have a point. But I do know that NPR over the past four years or so has become unlistenable, because of its obsession with race, gender, sexuality, and identity. If that’s not progressive enough for NPR, what is? The question nobody at NPR or in the national media asks about the network is why is its coverage so biased towards the Left? It’s not just an NPR thing; it’s all the national media. After George Floyd’s killing, the media went through more spasms about whether or not they had done a good job of reporting the realities of life of black America. Any conservative, white or otherwise, can tell you that the media do a crappy job of reporting on our lives and our worlds — but again, this is of zero concern to the media. So, screw ’em.

Whether you are on the Left or the Right, it is very hard to live not by lies in America today. There are so many people in authority in both worlds who are eager to tell themselves lies (or half-truths), and to spread them to others. This is very, very dangerous for our country. Hannah Arendt warned that a sign of coming totalitarianism is the willingness to believe lies because they suited us. From Live Not By Lies:

Heda Margolius Kovály, a disillusioned Czech communist whose husband was executed after a 1952 show trial, reflects on the willingness of people to turn their backs on the truth for the sake of an ideological cause.

It is not hard for a totalitarian regime to keep people ignorant. Once you relinquish your freedom for the sake of “understood necessity,” for Party discipline, for conformity with the regime, for the greatness and glory of the Fatherland, or for any of the substitutes that are so convincingly offered, you cede your claim to the truth. Slowly, drop by drop, your life begins to ooze away just as surely as if you had slashed your wrists; you have voluntarily condemned yourself to helplessness.

You can surrender your moral responsibility to be honest out of misplaced idealism. You can also surrender it by hating others more than you love truth. In pre-totalitarian states, Arendt writes, hating “respectable society” was so narcotic, that elites were willing to accept “monstrous forgeries in historiography” for the sake of striking back at those who, in their view, had “excluded the underprivileged and oppressed from the memory of mankind.” For example, many who didn’t really accept Marx’s revisionist take on history—that it is a manifestation of class struggle—were willing to affirm it because it was a useful tool to punish those they despised.

Here’s an important example of this happening in our time and place. In 2019, The New York Times, the world’s most influential newspaper, launched the “1619 Project,” a massive attempt to “reframe” (the Times’s word) American history by displacing the 1776 Declaration of Independence as the traditional founding of the United States, replacing it with the year the first African slaves arrived in North America.

No serious person denies the importance of slavery in US history. But that’s not the point of the 1619 Project. Its goal is to revise America’s national identity by making race hatred central to the nation’s foundational myth. Despite the project’s core claim (that the patriots fought the American Revolution to preserve slavery) having been thoroughly debunked, journalism’s elite saw fit to award the project’s director a Pulitzer Prize for her contribution. Equipped with this matchless imprimatur of establishment respectability, the 1619 Project, which has already been taught in forty-five hundred classrooms, will find its way into many more.

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.

Every single one of us, no matter what our political beliefs, are subject to these forces. Below, an example of what Arendt is talking about. The person who posted these tweets says that this is a “perfect example of the Left,” but I can tell you from my personal experience that there are plenty of people on the Right who would do the same thing.

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Wokeness Defeats Rule Of Law

Three of the four woke statue topplers, after their acquittal (Sky News)

This is a genuinely terrible ruling from the UK, one that sets a horrible precedent in that country:

Anti-racism campaigners tonight hailed a jury’s decision to clear protesters responsible for toppling a statue of the slave trader Edward Colston as a huge step in getting the UK to face up to its colonial past.

Jake Skuse 33, Rhian Graham, 30, Milo Ponsford, 26, and Sage Willoughby, 22, did not dispute the roles they had played in pulling down the statue and throwing it in the River Avon during a 2020 Black Lives Matter protest but all denied criminal damage.

In closing statements following the nine-day trial, the defence had urged jurors to “be on the right side of history”, saying the statue, which stood over the city for 125 years, was so indecent and potentially abusive that it constituted a crime.

After just under three hours’ deliberation, a jury of six men and six women found the so-called “Colston Four” not guilty by an 11 to one majority decision at Bristol crown court on Wednesday afternoon.

More:

But some critics reacted with fury. Scott Benton, a Conservative MP, denounced the verdict as an “absolutely appalling decision”, tweeting: “Are we now a nation which ignores violent acts of criminal damage? This sends out completely the wrong message.”

The former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie said he could not help “questioning the sanity of the jury”. He added: “The verdict was a shocking signal to every lefty protester in the country that they can damage with impunity as long as they chant the phrase hate crime.”

One more:

In the trial, in which few facts were in question, the four defendants argued that their actions were justified because the statue was so offensive.

Each defendant described being motivated by sincere antiracist conviction, frustration that previous attempts to persuade the council to remove the statue had failed, and a belief that the statue was so offensive it constituted an indecent display or a hate crime. …

But Liam Walker QC, representing Willoughby, said: “Each of these defendants were on the right side of history, and I submit, they were also on the right side of the law. Colston’s deeds may be historical but the continued veneration of him in this city was not. The continued veneration of him in a vibrant multicultural city was an act of abuse.”

Read it all. 

Notice that this wasn’t a woke judge deciding this, but a jury. These defendants admitted that they did this crime, but said, Castro-like, “History will absolve us!” And a jury agreed with them! It has now been established in England that you can commit crimes but if you are on the “right side of history,” you can get away with it.

So much for the rule of law. Meanwhile, in Surrey, the police are tracking down the REAL criminals:

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‘Nobody Talk About The Bolsheviks!’

The gulag won't happen in America -- because the Left has other ways of compelling conformity (PragerU video)

The left-liberal Orthodox Christian website Public Orthodoxy, the parish newsletter of Orthodox Christians who want to turn American Orthodoxy into Episcopalianism, has published a piece by the scholar Kristina Stoeckl that seriously misunderstands a few things. As my work is one of the things she misunderstands, I need to set the record straight.

She begins by lamenting — correctly — the closure by Russian authorities of the organization Memorial, which exists to keep alive memory of Communism’s crimes. Yet she somehow believes that this lamentable act by the Putin government is supported by conservative Orthodox Christians. More:

On the pages of Public Orthodoxy, Aram G. Sarkisian recently pointed out the odd affinity which some American Orthodox cultivate vis-à-vis the time of the American Civil War and how ultraconservative Orthodox groups appropriate an eighteenth-century story to fit a twisted and ahistorical agenda of the twenty-first. The identification with past epochs it nothing unique to American Orthodox. In my own studies of moral conservatism in Russia and the US, I have also encountered this identification with the past, in particular with the period of the 1920s to 40s.

I wrote about that Sarkisian piece (my response was titled “The Phony Threat Of Orthodixie”), and criticized it for being wildly off the mark in describing the reality of contemporary American Orthodoxy. Sarkisian found a handful of reactionary Southern Orthodox Christians, and conflates their views — which I do not share, and which most Orthodox I know don’t share — with all politically and theologically conservative Orthodox Christians from the American South. American Orthodoxy is very small, but one place it is growing is the American South — meanwhile, it is dying in the blue-state Northeast. Prof. Stoeckl is Austrian, so perhaps she doesn’t realize that Sarkisian’s piece is an example of the very thing she criticizes: appropriating past history wrongly to advance a line of criticism of a contemporary phenomenon. It is a truism that for the American left, it is always and forever 1963 in Selma. Sarkisian appears to have decided that it is also Fort Sumter, 1861.

Here’s where I come in. Stoeckl writes:

In his speech to the 18th annual meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club, Vladimir Putin drew a historical comparison between the 1920s and today, comparing advocates of gender equality and rights pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity with Bolshevik revolutionaries:

“In a number of Western countries, the debate over men’s and women’s rights has turned into a perfect phantasmagoria. Look, beware of going where the Bolsheviks once planned to go—not only communalizing chickens, but also communalizing women. One more step and you will be there […] this is nothing new; in the 1920s, the so-called Soviet Kulturtraeger also invented some newspeak believing they were creating a new consciousness and changing values that way.”

Putin conjures up a contemporary “red scare” in order to recommend his Russia built on Orthodoxy, traditional values and military power as alternative model. “Beware of going there” is addressed to the foreign participants in the Valdai Discussion Club. You Westerners, he is saying, you think that you won the Cold War and defeated communism, but you don’t see that you now have communism in rainbow colors. The true winner of the Cold War, this is the essence of his message, is Russia.

The copyright on this idea is held not by Putin, but by Rod Dreher, who wrote an entire book in order to argue that those on the liberal and progressive side in today’s culture wars are just like Bolshevik revolutionaries and that religious conservatives are the new dissidents in our era. The book cover of his Live Not By Lies invokes a red pillage of churches in a distinctly 1920s constructivist iconography.

Well, Putin may or may not be a bad man, but he is absolutely correct in that statement. But as to my work, do I say that the libs are “just like” the Bolsheviks? No, not at all. I will be charitable and presume that Dr. Stoeckl, who is personally kind, read Live Not By Lies, and has simply forgotten that its main premise is that we are living through the emergence of a new, softer form of totalitarianism, but are slow to recognize it because our idea of totalitarianism is based on Stalinism, which this most certainly is not. In my book, I talk about the distinctions, but also the similarities. In fact, the entire genesis of the book, as I explain, was that emigres to the US from Soviet bloc countries are seeing things happen here that remind them of what they left behind, but they can’t get Americans to take them seriously, because naive Americans think that It Can’t Happen Here.

Moreover, I discuss the forms that contemporary totalitarianism takes that distinguish it from the Soviet model, and indeed from the classical model: chiefly, the fact that it is not centered in the State, but is emerging simultaneously from ideological capture of private institutions, most importantly of Big Business (“woke capitalism”). And I point out that unlike the Soviet Union (and the state of Oceania in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four), our softer form of totalitarianism seeks domination and conformity not by imposing pain and terror on people, but rather by manipulating their access to status and comfort. Yet the end goal is the same for all kinds of totalitarianism: the politicization of all of life, and the establishment of a single ideology to rule.

This is what the Soviet bloc emigres see happening now in America — and not just in America, but also in Europe. Here is the core of her thesis:

The identification of the leadership of the World Congress of Families, of Vladimir Putin and of Rod Dreher with the anti-communists of the past is – apart from hilarious in the case of Putin—haunted by a double historical blind spot: first they ignore the totalitarian potential on the right, and second, they ignore the fact that terror is born by ideological polarization. In their re-imagined 1920s struggle, they ignore the lesson of totalitarianism.

This is just bizarre. I won’t speak for Allan Carlson and the World Congress of Families (she criticizes him too), and certainly not for Putin, but I cannot for the life of me understand this accusation of “ignor[ing] the totalitarian potential on the right.” Of course right-wing totalitarianism existed! That’s what Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were; Mussolini invented the word “totalitarianism,” in fact. There is always totalitarian potential on the right, but we are not seeing the emergence of a totalitarian right today. We are, however, seeing everywhere the emergence of a soft-totalitarian left, as I document in my book.

Prof. Stoeckl’s essay is in large part an exercise in liberal whataboutism — except there is no “what” in her whatabout. Where are the right-wing totalitarians in the West? Mind you, there is a difference between authoritarianism and totalitarianism. Authoritarianism is anti-democratic, and seeks to establish a monopoly over the political sphere. Totalitarianism is authoritarianism, but extended to every aspect of life (that is, it makes all things political). This distinction matters — and even so, I can’t see any meaningful danger from right-wing authoritarianism. It could arise, yes — and European + American liberals of the left and the right always point to Hungary’s Viktor Orban as an example of right-wing authoritarianism. But this is absurd, as spending any time in Hungary will make clear to the fair-minded observer. There are many substantive critiques of the Orban government, but the idea that he is turning Hungary into a Magyar version of Franco’s Spain is risible.

I can only speculate about why Prof. Stoeckl is willing to overlook my argument and the evidence I present, but if she’s like other liberal critics, it’s because that she doesn’t see progressive ideological hegemony as problematic at all. It’s the way the world is supposed to be, according to them.

On her point about terror being born of ideological polarization, I’m trying to figure out what she is saying in her essay. Here’s a passage:

Terror rarely produced solidarity. While millions of persons perished, the Christian Churches failed in front of the challenge, becoming both victims and collaborators. The “lesson” of totalitarianism is that under conditions of utmost ideological polarization, no-one is safe nor saved. The ideological polarization of the 1920s, 30s and 40s produced terror from the left and from the right.

Why, then, is the identification with the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s so significant for twenty-first century conservatism? One could dismiss it as merely rhetorical. After all, we live in 2021, the Cold War ended in 1991, not even China is communist any longer, what is the problem if some people continue to kick the anti-communist ball after playoff? I don’t see it this way. The identification with the time before the totalitarianisms of the twentieth century allows conservative actors to ignore the lesson of totalitarianism: under conditions of utmost ideological polarization, no-one is safe nor saved.

I don’t get her point here. All you have to do is look at the Spanish Civil War to realize that under condition of utmost ideological polarization, no one is safe or saved. Who disputes that? But in the US today, it is the left that is driving this polarization: by driving people out of their jobs, exiling them to social margins, and instilling fear in people, that they will get on the wrong side of the woke commissars, and find themselves unpersonned. This is happening everywhere here, though perhaps not in Austrian academia, and if it were, Prof. Stoeckl, a progressive and a liberal Catholic, will not have to fear for her livelihood.

Yesterday in this space I wrote, after a series of informal conversations with conservatives I know, about a conservative exodus from certain professions, because of wokeness. I’m thinking right now of one of those friends with whom I spoke. He is a Christian and a conservative, but not very political. If he were more politically oriented, he would have identified as Never Trump, but basically, he’s a man of high principle who doesn’t bring politics to his job. Now, though, he has endured the woke-ification of his workplace, and is planning to get out. The atmosphere of fear within his firm is intense, and he can no longer do his job with integrity. This is something that was 100 percent advised and executed by the left. No phony equivalence (“the right might do this too one day”) can erase the fact that whatever potential the right has, the left is turning their own potential into acts.

We do have an illiberal right in America. Some of them are scary people. They also are largely powerless. The illiberal left, which holds immense power, depends on the threat of the illiberal right to justify its own illiberalism. The woke-ification of the US military, for example, went into high gear after January 6; it’s why our national media are obsessed with keeping the memory of January 6 alive. For the record, I think what happened on January 6 was appalling, and that people should be punished for it. I supported the second Trump impeachment because of the way he behaved on that date. But I also believe that the left in this country is using that event as a Reichstag Fire moment, to justify its own repression. As regular readers know, I have been publishing e-mails and comments from readers who are either now in the military, or who have recently retired, all testifying to the way wokeness imposed from on high is tearing military cohesion apart. We cannot and should not have a US military that is politicized — but that is exactly what the left in power is doing! 

I don’t know what the professor thinks about that, or even if she, being Austrian, knows about it. But it is definitely happening, and it is an example of the kind of thing that is driving our country apart. Maybe the professor is like our standard American liberals: defining “polarization” and “aggression” as refusing to agree with whatever new thing the left proposes now. Allow me to once again bring up the interview I did last summer with one of the most prominent Hungarian Orban critics, an academic who is permitted to say whatever he wants about the Orban government (as he should be!). He told me in our interview that despite all his criticism of Viktor Orban, he feels completely at liberty to stand in his classroom and say whatever he wants to. I told him that in the US, professors like him are permitted by law to say whatever they want to … but most of them would be fools to criticize wokeness in any way, because it would stand to cost them their job and their career, not because the State would get involved, but because academia has become highly illiberal, to the left.

In the end, the professor’s argument is not really with me, but with all the emigres from Communist countries whose painful experiences in their native lands taught them to see what comfortable liberals and conservatives in America and western Europe cannot. This no doubt comes as painful news to many academics, but yes, sometimes liberals and progressives really are the bad guys.

By the way, if you haven’t read Live Not By Lies, this short PragerU clip gives you the essence. In the very first lines, I refute Stoeckl’s thesis, by pointing out that we are not going to have an American gulag, and the state is not going to come after us — because it doesn’t have to. Watch:

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J.D. Vance: Pat Buchanan’s Heir

J.D. Vance (Vance campaign photo)

Let me start by saying that this blog is a J.D. Vance stan blog. Though nothing in this post should be considered an endorsement — TAC doesn’t do endorsements — J.D. is my friend, I admire him, and if he were running in Louisiana, I would vote for him twice (and this being Louisiana, I could!). If you are going to criticize him in the comments section, of course I will allow it — he’s a politician, after all — but be aware that there is a limit to my patience for what critics say about him. My point is, try to avoid the ad hominem. Nobody likes to hear their personal friends criticized harshly. Remember that there is a human being moderating the comments — a human being who recognizes his professional obligation to let commenters have their say, but who also has a finite capability to stand by while his friend is being slandered.

Now, to business. The Washington Post has a big piece out on the “radicalization of J.D. Vance.”  The reporter spoke to me for an hour or so about it some time back. Though he only used one or two comments from me, and though it is very frustrating to not see all the positive things I said about J.D. and his character, he did not misquote me. Anyway, this is the gist of the piece:

The beard isn’t a bad symbol for Vance’s U.S. Senate campaign — or at least for how that campaign is being received. Discourse around the race centers mostly on the idea that Vance is a changed or fraudulent person. Five years ago, Vance was eloquently decoding Donald Trump supporters for liberal elites, while lamenting the rise of Trump himself. Vance, whose mother is a recovering heroin user, compared Trump to an opioid, calling him an “easy escape from the pain.” Now, since announcing his run, he’s reversed himself on Trump and adopted a bellicose persona at odds with the sensitive, bookish J.D. of his memoir. On Veterans Day, 48 hours after the Steubenville event, Vance tweeted that LeBron James — of Akron, Ohio — is “one of the most vile public figures in our country.” (James had joked that Kenosha, Wis., shooter Kyle Rittenhouse “ate some lemon heads” before crying on the stand during his trial.) Watching Vance campaign, I felt him straining to deliver his talking points in an angry register. It wasn’t just that steel jobs had been offshored; they were outsourced by “idiots” in Washington, to countries that “hate us.”

Commentary about Vance from Never-Trumpers and liberals tends to strike a note of personal chagrin about his evolving image. …

The reporter asked me about that. I can’t remember exactly what I told him — we spoke weeks ago, as I was driving home from Birmingham — I’m pretty sure I explained the change in J.D. by citing the Great Awokening. See, I completely reject the thesis that J.D. turned combative to try to win office. What people who say that conveniently ignore is the Left’s hysterical reaction to Trump, and the way that, over the four years of his presidency, wokeness seized control of the commanding heights of American institutions. Believe me, in 2016, I was a lot closer to 2016 J.D. Vance’s take on Trump than I am today … in which I still don’t care for Trump, but I am far more concerned about the soft-totalitarian Left. Liberals and Never Trumpers are so fixated on Trump as a unique menace that they ignore what so many of the rest of us see.

To his credit, the Post reporter, Simon van Zuylen-Wood, gets what eludes Vance’s critics:

The surface-level changes are indeed striking. Yet the more I watched him, the more it seemed to me that the emerging canon of “what happened to J.D. Vance” commentary was missing the point. Vance’s new political identity isn’t so much a façade or a reversal as an expression of an alienated worldview that is, in fact, consistent with his life story. And now there’s an ideological home for that worldview: Vance has become one of the leading political avatars of an emergent populist-intellectual persuasion that tacks right on culture and left on economics. Known as national conservatism or sometimes “post-liberalism,” it is — in broad strokes — heavily Catholic, definitely anti-woke, skeptical of big business, nationalist about trade and borders, and flirty with Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban. In Congress, its presence is minuscule — represented chiefly by Sens. Josh Hawley and Marco Rubio — but on Fox News, it has a champion in Tucker Carlson, on whose show Vance is a regular guest. And while the movement’s philosopher-kings spend a lot of time litigating internal schisms online, the project is animated by a real-life political gambit: that as progressives weaken the Democratic Party with unpopular cultural attitudes, the right can swoop in and pick off multiracial working-class voters.

Yep. J.D. Vance is not a hypocrite. He has learned a valuable lesson from the past five years. His political worldview is, as the article states, coherent, and part of a wider reaction on the Right. More from the Post piece (emphasis mine):

Vance’s Senate race is an almost perfect test of these ideas because the front-runner in the Republican primary, former state treasurer and tea party product Josh Mandel — who, according to recent polling, leads Vance by 6 points — is the candidate of traditional conservative tax-cutters. To those watching the Vance-Mandel slugfest from afar, it may just look like two candidates trying to out-flank each other on the right; but the fissures between them run deep. The Club for Growth, known for its free-market zealotry, is supporting Mandel and has spent roughly $1.5 million on anti-Vance attack ads. One TV spot highlights a tweet in which Vance says he “loved @MittRomney’s anti-Trump screed.” The narrator does not linger on the rest of the message, which reads: “too bad party will do everything except admit that supply-side tax cuts do nothing for its voters.” Before Vance deleted his old anti-Trump tweets, he tended to attack Trump for abandoning his stated commitment to economic populism. In a 2020 interview with anti-establishment pundits Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti, Vance contended that Trump’s great political failure wasn’t his handling of the pandemic, but his signature corporate tax cut and his attempts to undo Obamacare.

That is the only thing Ohio conservative voters need to know: that The Club For Growth is behind Josh Mandel. Elect Mandel, and nothing changes. Elect Vance, and there is suddenly a threat to the cozy system. Mandel fronts as a populist, but in the end, is the candidate of The Club For Growth. That tells you something. That tells you everything.

On the point that Vance, a Yale Law School graduate, is a hypocrite, he says:

“Dominant elite society is boring, it is completely unreflective, and it is increasingly wrong,” he told me. In other words: “I kind of had to make a choice.”

He did — and in my view, he chose correctly. The piece explains Vance’s pivot from criticizing the personal failings of hillbillies that led to their chronic problems, which he did in Hillbilly Elegy, to criticizing the neoliberal system, characterized by free markets and “whatever” morality. These are two sides of the same critique, Vance says: neither excludes the other, and in fact the calamity that has overtaken so much of America, especially working class America, has its roots in both camps. This is a version of a critique we heard a generation earlier in Christopher Lasch — and not just Lasch. The Post says:

The political forefather of this vision is probably Pat Buchanan, who inveighed against free trade and multiculturalism in the 1990s. But it also draws from the milder “Reformicon” blueprints of 10 years ago, as well as older strains of leftism, such as the anti-globalism of the Seattle WTO protests. One unlikely text Vance has cited is Elizabeth Warren’s 2004 book “The Two-Income Trap,”about the financial pressures families experience when two parents enter the workforce.

If you look for it, elements of Vance’s current critique were in “Hillbilly Elegy” too. People like his grandfather, who moved to southwest Ohio to work in the then-bustling Armco Steel plant, strengthened the local social fabric as producers. A generation later, with jobs disappearing, his mom and his neighbors were not just isolated and angry but also, he wrote, “consumerist.”

Exactly! It was there in Hillbilly Elegy all along, which is why all this “J.D. Vance is a hypocrite” talk is ridiculous, and shows that many people only read the book looking for their own biases to be confirmed. I love how the Post reporter goes on a ride-along with the sheriff of J.D.’s hometown, and brings up the standard left-wing critique of Hillbilly Elegy (that Vance was snobbishly blaming the victims); the sheriff said no, he told the truth about the problems here.

It is no bad thing to have the Washington Post anoint J.D. Vance as the heir to Pat Buchanan. It is also the truth. The Vance candidacy gives Ohio voters a real choice, not an echo of Club For Growth conservatism wearing populist drag. As I told the Post reporter, J.D. has made the breakthrough to realizing that the culture war is really class war. A US Senator who has understood that can go very far claiming unexplored territory in American politics — and in owning the conservative future.

UPDATE: A friend said one of the shitposting integralists accuses me of saying that I’m worried about J.D.’s soul. Here’s how the Post quoted me:

Vance’s friends split the difference: They say he’s the same guy but he’s been radicalized.“I think he’s gotten a lot more bitter and cynical — appropriately,” conservative blogger Rod Dreher told me. To Dreher, the change in tone is justified by the course of American politics over the past five years. “Trump remained Trump — but the Left went berserk,” he wrote in a post defending Vance. Still, Dreher — who attended Vance’s 2019 baptism into the Catholic Church — worries about the toll campaigning is taking on his friend. “S–t-posting has become the signature style of young radicals on the right, and this is particularly a hazard I think for Christians,” he told me.

For the record, I’m not worried about J.D.’s soul. I told the reporter that it was a temptation to me as well, and to all of us who mix it up in public. It does not surprise me that one of the integralists is mischaracterizing my work to try to break up my friendship with J.D. Those guys are trying to build a brand on the rubble of friendships they’ve destroyed, and bridges they have burned.

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Escape From New York

Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg (Source)

I lived in New York City in the last half of the Rudy Giuliani mayoralty. It was a glorious city. If only I had a dollar for every conversation I had with someone that started, “I’m a liberal, but…,” and then went on to praise Giuliani for cleaning up the city and making it livable again. A main part of Giuliani’s strategy was the so-called “broken windows” theory: the idea that tolerating relatively minor quality-of-life crimes signaled to criminals that the people of the city did not care about defending order, and thus invited more serious crime.

Well, as with the proverbial dogs that return to their own vomit, New York City voters have broken definitively with Giuliani-era maxims. The newly elected Manhattan district attorney, a wokester named Alvin Bragg, has announced that his officer will cease seeking prison time for all but a handful of extreme offenses. No kidding — check out the memo. Excerpt:

The new DA is also not going to prosecute certain other crimes. Fare jumpers, hookers, trespassers and others — it’s your city now, baby!

What if the city and the state pass laws demanding prison time for certain offenses? Can the DA just ignore the law? Is this even permitted in our democracy?

The violent crime rate in NYC is soaring now, but voters, in their infinite wisdom, elected a soft-on-crime District Attorney (who depended on George Soros money to run his campaign). Bragg did not hide his soft-on-crime positions during the race; New York voters knew what they were getting with him. Now NYC joins other progressive DA cities like Chicago, San Francisco, and Philadelphia, all of which are overrun by violent crime.

I remember thinking, after living for several years in New York City, how the people there had seen what good government, including strong policing, could do to turn around a city that was once considered a national basket case, and that they would never, ever return to the Bad Old Days.

via GIPHY

UPDATE: Reader Another Dave comments:

As a 30+ year resident of the Rotten Apple, I can assure you many are angry and demoralized by the sad state of affairs in this city, crime being at the top of a growing list.

Unfortunately, the demographic reality has shifted since the 90’s, and even back then Giuliani only barely won. There is a permanent liberal upper class that cares nothing for the chaos because it never touches them, and growing numbers of activist blacks and Latins who can’t seem to think further out than simply having token POC in positions of authority, no matter how much insanity ensues.

The stone cold reality is that the vast majority of crime in NYC is committed by black men, and getting tough on crime means getting tough on the black underclass which produces the majority of the criminals.

Getting tough on the underclass means sending thousands of black men to prison, which makes white liberals feel bad, and makes black people angry, and we simply can’t have that.

That leaves us staring down the barrel of another decade, or more, of horrendous, and increasingly brazen, criminality, and an administration committed to NOT dealing with the problem.

On top of that we have Covid restrictions that are not only punishing half the city’s population, but crushing tourism.

During the first lockdowns in 2020, cell phone and postal service data showed more than 400,000 people left the city, nearly all of them upper middle class.

New data from similar sources shows most never came back. I know six families, all making 6 figure salaries, that fled during the first lockdown and will never return, and these were folks with kids committed to staying here for the duration of their children’s education.

This city, as well as LA and SanFran, are being actively destroyed by shockingly myopic political posturing/maneuvering fueled by progressivist fantasies.

The urban chaos of the 70’s and 80’s lead to massive white flight out of several of America’s greatest cities, and it took a full generation to reclaim them.

The exodus out of NYC and California is now well underway, with Florida and Texas seeing the greatest increases, but unlike Giuliani’s renewal of the 90’s, I’m not sure the political or cultural will exists any longer to fix the urban chaos now swallowing NYC and LA/SanFran.

America’s 3 greatest cities may take more than a generation to fix, if at all. It may be Detroit all the way down.

 

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