The War On Reality
Greetings from rural Holland, where my son Matt and I have taken a short vacation to visit old family friends. I finally got my residency visa, so I'm street-legal in the Schengen Zone. I flew straightaway to Amsterdam, where Matt was. We stayed there together for one night, in a terrific little hotel on a canal, The Noblemen, which is owned and operated by a family. I don't know if I've ever stayed in a hotel where the staff was more gracious. I strongly, strongly suggest booking there for next time you're in the city.
Yesterday afternoon our hosts, longtime friends of mine, since my teenage years, took us to the Trappist monastery of Achel, just over the Belgian border, to drink their ale.
The first time I visited the tiny Achel cloister (Achelsekluis in Dutch and Flemish) was in the summer of 1984, when the father of a Dutch friend I was visiting took me there to sample the Trappist ale. It blew my teenage American mind. Fast-forward to about seven or eight years ago, and my shock to see Achel ale sold on the shelf at Whole Foods in Baton Rouge. I made my second-ever visit to the Achelsekluis this afternoon, this time with my son Matt, age 22. The beer was as good as I remember it ... but sadly, there are no monks left. The last one moved out on August 8, 2020, to go into retirement at the Trappist house in Westmalle.
I've been away from the keyboard for a couple of days, and that has been good for me. I walked a lot around Amsterdam (one of the world's great walking cities) with my son, and ate savory pancakes. Wanted to have a rijsttafel (Indonesian smorgasbord), but not enough time on this trip. We are headed back to Vienna tomorrow. I planned to spend my summer there, but because of my visa problems, I have spent more of this summer outside of Austria than there. But it has been an adventure!
Because I'm going to be traveling a lot today, back to Austria, I will toss a bunch of things out for you to comment on. And yes, I have been hearing from a lot of you lamenting the destruction of this blog's comments section by the redesign. I am passing all of them on to the Mothership, and am hoping that the status quo ante can be restored, minus Disqus.
Sadly for me, I can't keep off of Twitter, which brings me news like this:
Great. The globalist master class is so confident of its success that it doesn't mind looking like some Chick-tract conception of a world-governing elite. These are the people running the Machine.
A friend sends me this news item from Germany. Apparently, one down side of normalizing prostitution is that women will be expected to take those jobs when nothing else is available. Late-Weimar madness!
Meanwhile, Michael Brendan Dougherty observes that the crazy religious bigots who predicted in the Dark Ages that same-sex marriage would devalue marriage more broadly are now shown to have been correct. He writes:
America is retreating from marriage. Of course the radicals imagined that what would replace marriage would be better. But by and large, Americans are replacing it with nothing. Resigning the married life and having fewer children means more people will live without dense networks of kin. They will live atomized lives marked by more and longer periods of intense loneliness and despair.
This is in addition to an editorial by NR's editors, commenting on a current Congressional effort to codify the right to same-sex marriage. NR's editors write:
Same-sex marriage was not the first step away from this model of marriage. Many social trends and legal developments have weakened the links between sex, marriage, and child-rearing. But that weakening has generally been regrettable rather than laudable. The need for a marriage culture that channels adult behavior in a way conducive to the well-being of children remains as vital as ever. Same-sex marriage obscures the purpose of marriage as an institution and therefore makes the institution less capable of achieving it.
And more bad effects have followed in its train. The bullying, unfairness, and sheer illogic of the trans movement have all drawn strength from same-sex marriage. The attempt to give same-sex couples the same legal and social dignity as married couples had demanded the expansion, and diminished the possibility of criticism and correction, of a market in human flesh: embryos and surrogates, an entrepreneurial field in which the most vulgar eugenics is practiced.
The facile argument that government recognition of same-sex marriages “does not affect you” has turned out to be risibly untrue. Countless lawsuits after Obergefell have worked to diminish the religious liberty of Jews, Muslims, and Christians who hold on to the historic moral and metaphysical commitments of their faith. It is not just bakers and florists, but religious universities, schools, religious orders, and adoption agencies that have faced all manner of legal threats since this alteration to our laws.
All of these are reasons for governments to adhere to the older view of marriage, and reasons for the federal government to allow them to do so. Allowing states to reach different conclusions on this issue would not cause chaos or prove unworkable, as it did not in the years just before 2015. Congress need not legislate a national policy.
Ye who have been reading me for the past 20 years on this topic know that I don't blame same-sex marriage for the destruction of marriage. I have always argued that the demand for SSM arose out of the decline of marriage culture. To disconnect marriage from a transcendent obligation to children, and to make it rather an expression of individual romantic feelings, is to fundamentally alter its character. Straight people did that before gay people ever started asking for marriage rights. Nevertheless, people like me correctly understood from the beginning that SSM was a Rubicon moment in advancing the Sexual Revolution. However strained the connection between marriage and its traditional purposes was under post-1960s cultural change, there was still the possibility of reform. With the normalization of same-sex marriage, that ended.
I don't read MBD as blaming gays for the collapse of marriage. But he is showing that the promises that extending marriage to same-sex partners would strengthen marriage culture is every bit the nonsense that the cultural Right said it was. And, per NR's editorial, it undeniably has broken down barriers to thinking in a more fluid way about sex and gender. As Camille Paglia, no right-wing Christian, has noted, this sort of thing historically precedes the collapse of a civilization. And as Carle C. Zimmerman wrote back in the 1940s, the form of family within a civilization determines the strength of the civilization. I've written from time to time in this space about Zimmerman's work (he was the head of Harvard's sociology department) on family and civilization. A Zimmerman excerpt from a past post:
There is little left now within the family or the moral code to hold this family together. Mankind has consumed not only the crop, but the seed for the next planting as well. Whatever may be our Pollyanna inclination, this fact cannot be avoided. Under any assumptions, the implications will be far reaching for the future not only of the family but of our civilization as well. The question is no longer a moral one; it is social. It is no longer familistic; it is cultural. The very continuation of our culture seems to be inextricably associated with this nihilism in family behavior.
Zimmerman was not a religious man. He feebly suggests in the conclusion of that 1947 book ("Family And Civilization") that science will pull a rabbit out of a hat and save us all. Didn't happen, obviously. Now we have institutional elites, including the propagandists of our media elite, convincing children that their sex is whatever they say it is, and bullying parents to go along with this. We are not a civilization that intends to survive. Cue Alasdair MacIntyre:
A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium. What they set themselves to achieve instead often not recognizing fully what they were doing—was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If my account of our moral condition is correct, we ought also to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point. What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us.
The need for the Benedict Option wasn't clear to many people when I published the book in 2017. Today? You, Christian, really believe that we live in a healthy Imperium, one that is worthy of your support and labor? Or has the Imperium -- its power and its values -- made itself the enemy of what you know to be true and good? The unwillingness of many conservative Christians to admit that this is a valid and necessary question is a big part of our problem today.
And while we are on the topic of dishonesty and unreality on sexual discourse, the NYT reports that the NYC health department doesn't know what to think about monkeypox messaging. Excerpt:
The spread of monkeypox has ignited a debate within the New York City Health Department over whether the agency should encourage gay men to reduce their number of sexual partners during this summer’s outbreak.
Inside the department, officials are battling over public messaging as the number of monkeypox cases has nearly tripled in the last week, nearly all of them among men who have sex with men. A few epidemiologists say the city should be encouraging gay men to temporarily change their sexual behavior while the disease spreads, while other officials argue that approach would stigmatize gay men and would backfire.
Of course. God forbid anyone should tell gay men to stop having orgies during a disease outbreak. If you believe that the summum bonum of personhood is the ability to have sex with whom you want, when you want to, then of course you will take this stance. It's nihilistic, but that is where we are today as a civilization.
Josh Barro, a gay man living in NYC, is not fooled. He says that public health authorities are lying with their "everybody is equally susceptible to monkeypox" message. Excerpt:
“Anyone can get monkeypox,” it says, in a section entitled “Who is at risk for contracting monkeypox?” It adds that “certain populations are being affected by monkeypox more than others, including men who have sex with men.” Okay. But then it adds “some groups may be at heightened risk for severe outcomes if they contract monkeypox,” identifying four such groups: “people with weakened immune systems, elderly New Yorkers, young children under 8 years of age, and pregnant people.”
This is just terrible messaging that’s going to scare a lot of people for no reason.
Danger level in the event you get infected isn’t necessarily important information, if the odds that you will get infected in the first place are extremely low. And monkeypox is currently spreading almost exclusively among men who have sex with men — a fact that largely takes “pregnant people” and children under 8 (!) off the table for risk. An elderly man could theoretically face significant risk of getting monkeypox, depending on his activities, but we’re mostly talking about a younger demographic that’s getting it so far.
This is all about managing the narrative so Nobody Thinks Bad Things About Teh Geyz. More:
What exactly are we doing here?
I think when public health authorities hide the ball, they are doing so partly, as Demsas notes, in a misguided effort to avoid creating “stigma.” But I think it’s also part of a general pattern of dishonest framing by public health authorities who want to nudge the public into taking more precautions against disease spread. If you’re at above-average risk, they’ll gladly tell you so, in hopes it will get you to focus on their advice. But if you’re at below-average risk, they don’t want to harp on that too much, because then you might not do what they tell you. And of course, it’s likely some gay men who actually are at elevated risk will see the messaging intended for the whole public, and they’ll come away misinformed and under-alarmed.
If you're an old git like me, you'll remember that one of the staunchest advocates for the Everybody Is Equally Vulnerable To AIDS message was none other than a young Anthony Fauci.
It is really hard to overstate the extent to which the American media approach their job not as truth-telling, but as narrative-management. And now it's true for many public health authorities, as we know from AIDS, from Covid, and now from monkeypox.
I tell you, this sort of thing makes me extremely angry. Why? Because when I was writing twenty years ago about the Catholic sex abuse scandal, I encountered people all over the Church -- conservatives and liberals both -- who were bound and determined to deflect discussion and debate on painful truths related to the sexual exploitation of children by clergy, and the crushing (by bishops and their legal teams) of victims and families. Almost every day, I had my professional nose rubbed in the pile of excrement that this culture of lies and denial created. It was obvious why people couldn't bear to look upon the hideous truth. It was too painful to see, and part of the pain was that it threatened to annihilate narratives favored by various church factions.
This is not a Catholic thing; this is part of human nature. I can tell you stories of situations known to me personally in which people prefer to allow others to suffer and institutions to collapse rather than face the fact that their narrative is false. Hell, that's what led to the collapse of my Louisiana family, as detailed in my previous books: it was more important to them to maintain the narrative about the sanctity of their way of life than to welcome us back. But look, this is human nature. Here is a passage from the Gospel of John, Chapter 11:
Then the chief priests and Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”
But one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
How can we know when we are being massaged by narrative-controllers, as opposed to informed about facts in the real world? It's difficult to say, but I, for one, am grateful for the work Chris Rufo does to call these liars out:
It really is a war on reality. People who believe that reality is socially constructed come to believe that lying for the sake of building a socially just world is fine. And so, we find ourselves committing suicide as a civilization. Look at this, from Jonathan Turley:
There is an interesting controversy brewing in anthropology departments where professors have called for researchers to stop identifying ancient human remains by biological gender because they cannot gauge how a person identified at that the time. Other scholars are calling for researchers to stop identifying race as a practice because it fuels white supremacy. One of the academics objecting to this effort to stop gender identifications, San Jose State archaeology Professor Elizabeth Weiss, is currently suing her school. Weiss maintains that she was barred from access to the human remains collection due to her opposition to the repatriation of human remains. The school objected that she posted a picture holding a skull from the collection on social media, expressing how she was “so happy to be back with some old friends.”
The conservative site College Fix quotes various academics in challenging the identification of gender and notes the campaign of the Trans Doe Task Force to “explore ways in which current standards in forensic human identification do a disservice to people who do not clearly fit the gender binary.”
University of Kansas Associate Professor Jennifer Raff argued in a paper, “Origin: A Genetic History of the Americas,” that there are “no neat divisions between physically or genetically ‘male’ or ‘female’ individuals.” Her best selling book has been featured on various news outlets like MSNBC.
Weiss has criticized the book as “just plain wrong” critical points of history and objects that Raff seems “eager to pay homage to every current progressive orthodoxy.”
However, Raff is not alone. Graduate students like Emma Palladino have objected that “the archaeologists who find your bones one day will assign you the same gender as you had at birth, so regardless of whether you transition, you can’t escape your assigned sex.”
We know that totalitarian regimes rewrite the past to change a culture's memory, for the sake of cementing the ruling class's power. But this idea that pre-history has to be rewritten to deny biological reality, so as to impose a bizarre 21st-century sect's dogma onto scientific history -- that's really something that even the Soviets didn't try to do.
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Do you ever wonder why it is that most people you know think this sort of thing is insane -- yet nobody stops these lunatics from institutionalizing their deranged views?
One more War On Reality™ fast fact: all the European solidarity with Ukraine is going to evaporate this winter when energy prices go through the roof over the shortage of Russian gas. I predict that come December, the kind of Europeans who trashed Viktor Orban for being too cautious (in their view) in his support for Ukraine (recognizing in part that Hungary receives 85 percent of its gas from Russia) will have developed a Strange New Respect for his prudence.
OK, now it's time to pack my bags and head back to Vienna. Normal life resumes this weekend.