The Social Justice Victim Machine

A really extraordinary (or, at least it would have been prior to Tuesday night…) video caught my attention today,  Journalist Jonathan Capehart breaks down over Trump’s America;

At about the 5 minute mark, there is an exchange that I found deeply disconcerting but also very illuminating.

Q:You are a gay, black Washington Post Columnist and much celebrated. Are you, is this, your America? Are you worried it will become another America?
A: That is a very powerful question John, and it moves me almost into silence, because, um, the election of President Obama was a great moment for this country… and now we stand two months away from…from all of that disappearing [here he begins to weep]… And as an African American, as an openly gay man, and as an American, that frightens me.

Watching Jonathan Capehart break down out of fear because his candidate lost an election… at first I thought it was almost juvenile, hysterical even (in the old sense of caused by uncontrolled extreme emotion, not the humorous sense). Capehart is more then just a well established, well respected and frequently awarded journalist, at least one site lists his net worth “considered to be $3 million“.

But it occurs to me that in this man, a well respected multimillionaire journalist, we see the same pathology that is running rampant in the the Social Justice Warriors and Inter-sectional Feminists (etc, etc) on college campuses all across the Anglosphere. He has allowed himself to be terrified, to become a victim in his own mind. A victim of his own accusations against someone else.

He’a convinced himself that Trump, a man who was a rich New York liberal until only a few years ago, a man who has a Jewish daughter, a Jewish son in-law, and two Jewish daughters in-law, is but a toothbrush-mustache away from being Neo-Hitler.

The same Donald Trump that, at the end of the interview, Capehart describes as being warm and charming when Capehart interviewed him personally!

I can’t help but think about the protesters that accosted Professor Peterson only a few weeks ago. Protesters that accused him of not only attracting Nazis to his rally with his rhetoric, but that his words were the proximate cause of teen suicides.

It really is both amazing and dismaying. Whether on campus or in the campaigns, it seems that the only thing the pursuit of Social Justice has produced is an ever greater number of victims.


Hillary’s Health goes from “Conspiracy Theory” to “A Real Issue” in just 5 days

Folks may be aware that Hillary Clinton had to leave a 9/11 memorial earlier today;

UPDATE: Another angle of Hillary entering the van has been posted,

What you may not be aware of is the concerted effort by many in the ‘mainstream press’ to minimize and cast aspersions on questions about her health prior to this.

At the Washington Post Chis Cilliza’s behavior provides a great example of this;.

In the article posted last Tuesday simply titled Can we just stop talking about Hillary Clinton’s health now?, WaPo’s Cilizza dismissed rumors about Hillary’s health thus;

Here’s the thing: This is a totally ridiculous issue — for lots of reasons — and one that if Trump or his Republican surrogates continue to focus on is a surefire loser in the fall. …

The simple fact is that there is zero evidence that anything is seriously wrong with Clinton.

Putting politics aside (if possible in such a situation), this is a great illustration of how press bias can manifest without being as blatant as ‘X people are bad, bad people!” While Cillizza peppers his column with plenty of disparagement towards Trump, his real effort is to firmly signal that discussion of Hillary’s health is firmly outside of ‘polite discussion’.

On Friday, September 2, the FBI released (dumped) a large number of documents related to the Clinton Email controversy, among them several noting that she had referenced a head injury in explaining lapses in protocol;

In at least one case, according to documents released Friday by the FBI, Clinton said she could not recall every briefing she had received after a 2012 concussion, which later led to a blood clot in her head.

“Clinton stated she received no instructions or direction regarding the preservation or production of records from [the] State [Department] during the transition out of her role as secretary of state in 2013,” the report says. “However, in December of 2012, Clinton suffered a concussion and then around the New Year had a blood clot. Based on her doctor’s advice, she could only work at State for a few hours a day and could not recall every briefing she received.”

Since then there has been an uptick in discussion about Hillary’s health, predominantly confined to ‘alternative’ media outlets. Which is where bias comes in;

  • Hillary is a 68 year old woman.
  • In December, 2012 Hillary suffered a concussion.
  • As this concussion was the stated reason she did not appear before a Congressional hearing, can presume it was a serious matter.
  • In a Q&A session in 2014 Bill Clinton stated his wife’s concussion “required six months of very serious work to get over,” contradicting the previous statements from a State Department spokeswomen.
  • Hillary is an enthusiastic drinker. As Amy Chozick, national political reporter for the The New York Times, remarked in an interview with ABC News, “She likes to drink. We were on the campaign trail in 2008 and the press thought she was just taking shots to pander to voters in Pennsylvania. Um, no.”

To that we add Friday’s FBI revelations, yet some the press were arguing that concern over Hillary’s health was confined to the “ranks of conservative conspiracy theory”. Why?

Why would concerns about an objectively elderly woman with a serious head injury in her recent medical history be confined to this disreputable, shadowy alt-media? Does anyone honestly imagine that anything *vaguely* similar in Trump’s past would be so treated?

I have long observed that the only really amusing thing in the growing mistrust American’s have for the press is that the press seems utterly unable to understand that the Press’ own constant dishonesty and bias are responsible.

Magneto or Magical Negro

In order to show the world that minority characters are not bad people, one will step forward to help a “normal” person, with their pure heart and folksy wisdom. They are usually black and/or poor, but may come from another oppressed minority.

TvTropes, Magical Negro

The Social Justice/Politically Correctness/Diversity movement (the Diversity crowd, for short) has given rise to many strange, and often paradoxical, phenomena. One of the more distressing is a trap that simultaneously demands diversity while also punishing diversity. It starts with well meaning people that want more representation of women and minorities in popular culture. At the same time female and minority characters that deviate even slightly from the doctrines of the SJ/PC faith prompt the diversity crowd to erupt with toxic, and often very personal, criticism.

In shorthand I call this phenomenon ‘Magneto or Magical Negro’, and it begins with a binary decision;

Either, the character is an individual, and both their virtues and their vices are simply the individual expressions of a given character,

-Or, the character is an avatar, representing their whole demographic. Thus their virtues are the virtues of their entire group, their vices the vices of the entire group, and their failings and limitations paint the entire group with the same brush.

The Diversity Crowd claims that they want morally complex, fully developed characters (Magneto), but their insistence on treating these characters as avatars leads to demanding flawless (thus one-dimensional) caricatures (‘Magical Negroes’). My paradigm example of this comes from the vastly different responses that two popular comic book characters received for very similar character moments: Micheal Fassbender’s Magneto in X-Men: First Class and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

In X-Men: First Class, we receive a great deal more backstory on the character of Magneto. Since 2000’s X-Men we’ve known that Magneto is a Holocaust survivor, now we learn the story of what happened to the boy last seen at the gates of a death camp, specifically the torment he endured at the hands of Nazi ‘doctor’ Sebastian Shaw. We follow Magneto in the post war years (what fans refer to with affection as the ‘Magneto, Nazi hunter’ scenes). After extracting information from a collaborating Swiss banker, he follows the lead on Shaw to a bar in Argentina, where he discovers several former colleagues of Shaw. What follows is a magnificently tense scene between the ex-patriot Nazis and the Holocaust survivor that eventually culminates in brutal revenge.

Notice that the man asking the question is nailed to the table.

In Avengers: Age of Ultron the scene is dramatically different: early on the film  establishes there is some form of relationship between the alter egos of Natalia (Natasha) ‘Black Widow’ Romanova and Bruce ‘Hulk’ Banner in the form of the ‘lullaby‘ (nickname for Natasha’s ability to sufficiently calm the Hulk that he reverts to his Banner form).

This, along with banter between Banner and Steve ‘Captain America’ Rodgers during the celebratory scene in Stark’s Avenger’s Tower, hints at Natasha’s desire for a deeper connection to Banner. It also establishes that banner is reticent (to say the least) about pursuing a romantic relationship with anyone, considering his own personal challenges.

Some time later in the film the Avengers are regrouping at a safe-house, having been handed a significant defeat by the villain Ultron. More importantly, Scarlet Witch (at this point acting as his agent) has tampered with the Avengers’ minds, leaving them emotionally shaken. It is in this context that Natasha makes an emotional appeal to Banner, trying to convert their relationship into something more… intimate.

She makes quite the convincing case…

In the course of this scene, Natasha responds to Banner’s fear that he can never provide her with children by noting that, along with the physical and emotional conditioning that made her an assassin for the Soviet State, she was also sterilized. He is not, she points out, not the only “monster” in the room.  Unfortunatly for her, the Bruce Banner of Age of Ultron is very much the ‘Hulk is a curse’ version of the character familiar to fans of Bill Bixby’s long running series, and Banner cannot bring himself to accept Natasha’s romantic overtures.

Note that as different as the emotional tone and the content of these scenes are, the characters are actually revealing notable similarities between the characters;

-Both Magneto and Black Widow bear deep, emotional scars inflicted on them by tyrannical regimes (for Magneto the Nazis, for Black Widow the Soviets).

-Both had their childhoods stolen; First Class and Age of Ultron make clear that each character was subject to systematic abuse with the intent of turning them into living weapons.

-Finally, though neither serves their former tormentors, both characters recognize they have become ‘monsters’; one a man so driven that he is willing to do literally anything in the service of his cause (up to and including attempting to murder his long-time friend and ally Mystique in X-Men: Days of Future Past), the other driven by guilt over the ‘Red in her ledger’; an allusion to innumerable bloody deeds in the service of the Soviet State that Loki taunts her with in The Avengers.

So, of course, naturally these interesting character moments were equally well received? Well… no. Fassbender’s take on the character of Magneto in First Class was widely praised, to the extent that any criticism seems more oriented to the idea that Magneto is too sympathetic. Johansson’s Black Widow, by contrast, despite being fleshed out a great deal more then the (somewhat shallow) ‘action girl’ of the previous Iron Man and Avengers movie, was the subject of a torrent of criticism.

While there were some critics that valued the message and development of the character, a disturbing amount of criticism condemned both the plot point, the movie and the director, often as ‘sexism’. For example, Black Widow: This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things read the bilious article at Io9. The daily Beast chooses to post their ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’s’ Black Widow Disgrace under the “Sexism” category. The bulk of the vituperation would be reserved not for long pieces with room for (slight) nuance, but for a storm of outrage on twitter that grew so intense (and personal) that many at the time blamed it for Joss Whedon deleting his twitter account (a claim he denies, to be fair).

Twitter, where movies ruin lives and Joss ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ Wheadon is “the master of misogyny”.

Magneto is not just a Jew but a Holocaust survivor. It’s a part of his character, and a very important part, but it is only a part. Black Widow was forcibly sterilized by a totalitarian regime, part of their process to make a more perfect assassin. It’s a part of her character, and a very important part, but it is only a part. Because the Diversity Crowd does not consider Jews a ‘minority’ (because reasons), Magneto is free to be a complex, flawed and… well, a ‘monster’. Because Black Widow “is the main female character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe” she thus can’t be permitted to admit emotional scars over a disturbingly physical, intimate violation.

Of course this isn’t the only example of this phenomenon; it’s not even the most recent. What do I mean? It’s the action-adventure movie that smashed box office records this summer. It’s proof that a cast starring four diverse women can attract both men and women. So why isn’t Suicide Squad getting the “Girl Power” treatment that the pool of box office ectoplasm that is Ghostbusters 2016 enjoyed?

I think they might be trying to tell us something…

Suicide Squad made more in its opening weekend then Ghostbusters has in the four weeks since release, and at first glance this would seem to be a triumph for ‘women protagonists in action movies’ movement. After all, by the standards of the diversity boosters it’s arguably an even better standard bearer then Ghostbusters 2016!

If your goal is ‘diversity’, it’s worth noting that GB2016  gauchely cast three Caucasian women as scientists while relegating their lone non-white lead character to the role of ‘street smarts’. By way of contrast, the lead cast of Suicide Squad features African American Viola Davis as Amanda ‘the Wall’ Waller, one of the more formidable women in the DC universe and throws in Karen Fukuhara as Tatsu ‘Katana’ Yamashiro for even more diversity.

Yet though Suicide Squad seems to tick every box for the Diversity Crowd, that same group was not merely indifferent but actively hostile to the box office hit, positively angry at how it has eclipsed the sinking ship of GB2016. At Breitbart, Ben Kew rounds up a selection of the scathing opprobrium directed towards Suicide Squad;

And the critics are already throwing their toys out of the pram. “Suicide Squad Sets Box Office Record, Because We Don’t Deserve Better Movies” huffed Gawker’s Gizmodo blog, which also branded the film “misogynist bullsh**.”

Slate, meanwhile, went after the movie’s Joker-and-Harly-Quinn-themed merchandise:“nothing says #relationshipgoals like the tortured pas de deux between a deeply troubled woman and her abuser.”

Perhaps my favorite example of explaining just how badly the box office hit of Suicide Squad measures up to the box office failure of GB2016 comes from Michael Phillips at the Chicago Tribune. In a piece titled Harley Quinn vs. Holtzmann? The Ghostbuster emerges with smarts, grace, Phillips gives his best shot at salvaging something from the wreck of Gb2016 while also denigrating Suicide Squad*;

After the Chicago press screening, writer Bastien recalls, “I literally held my head in my hands … this straight-up racist, sexist, poorly edited, nonsensical, ugly movie. And it was a bummer because, for once, the casting was incredibly diverse.”

Ah, if only that “incredibly diverse” cast could have been advised by people like Phillips or Basttien, it might have had the success GB2016 is now enjoying! All of this, despite the fact that Suicide Squad achieved what is perhaps the holy grail in box office performance;

The biggest surprise in terms of audience makeup was the strong turnout among females, who made up 46 percent of Friday’s audience, according to exit poling service CinemaScore. That’s unusual for a superhero film. Warners also succeeded in luring younger moviegoers: 28 percent of ticket buyers were under the age of 18. Both females and those younger moviegoers liked the pic better, giving it an A- and A, respectively.

A movie with a diverse cast of women explodes at the box office, with huge appeal to both women and younger movie goers. In other words, it does exactly what Sony executive Tom Rothman claimed Hollywood needed to do: “In his estimation, studios need to recognize and address [a lack of diversity] or “die,” and that is part of why movies like Ghostbusters are so important to the future of an already ailing business.” Yet for all its commercial success and actual diversity, for many commentators the women of Suicide Squad are more embarrassing then the potentially franchise killing GB2016.

While this summer Suicide Squad didn’t conform to exactly what the Diversity Crowd considers acceptable portrayals of women, early this year an even larger version of this same phenomenon gripped the media. In the lead up to the 2015 Oscars, the #OscarsSoWhite campaign dominated entertainment news with (at least) the Guardian, CNN, NPR, The Blaze, the LA Times (to list but a few) writing stories about this grave injustice. It seemed that no news outlet could resist the urge to talk about tiny gold statues not being distributed evenly. Much of the furor centered on the perception that black actors were being funneled into ‘stereotypical’ roles.

The Hollywood reporter came closest to quantifying this, producing an info-graphic that attempts to categorize how Black actors win their Oscars. Most notable is the degree of parsing that has gone into their classifications; apparently the character of Ray Charles, for which Jamie Foxx won an Oscar in 2004, is reducible simply to ‘drug addict’ and ‘musician’ while Denzel Washington’s conflicted and complicated Private Silas Trip is simply reduced to ‘slave‘.

At the risk of minimizing the #OscarSoWhite concerns, perhaps when a representative system reduces an honorable and upstanding Marine Corp Drill Sargent, a murderous and corrupt police detective and a vicious African dictator all simply to ‘tyrant‘**, perhaps the problem lies more in the metric then the measured. As a bonus, both the Drill Sargent and the and the corrupt detective also join the African dictator under the classification ‘violent‘. In fact, though the graphic claims that Black actors win Oscars”most often for roles that paint stereotypical (or painful) portraits of African-Americans”, the actual roles listed are so varied as to defy any description. It’s a listing of saints and sinners, reduced to a box score that obscures vastly more then it reveals.

So in the end what was the point? It’s hard to say; after all the complaints about stereotypical roles the big Oscar contender for blacks was… the slave rebellion story Birth of a Nation (before being troubled by controversy). What lesson, what policy, what guideline could be implemented after the 2015 Oscars that could possibly mollify this complaint? Worse yet, if the complaint is ultimately misplaced, based on ham-handed narrative crafting like the graphic above, what if the complaints can’t be mollified?

This leads to the final incident I’ll touch on, notable more for the perfect summation then its notoriety: the ‘Stop Killing Queer Women (On TV)‘ controversy that sprang up after a recurring lesbian character died in the third season finale of the show The 100. There is actually quite a lot of effort that goes into tracking how many fictional lesbians die on TV (satire or SocJus, who can tell?). Rather then go into my thoughts on the matter, let’s hear how YouTuber Undoomed reacted (warning, language and merciless mockery);

Now, amusing as all this insanity may be, it actually… got results: the showrunner for The 100 apologized. Let that sink in for a moment: nothing in the apology indicates that this plot twist was a poor narrative choice or didn’t make sense in the universe. No, the apology is entirely designed to pacify people who are upset that a lesbian character was treated like she was a character instead of a tool for raising self-esteem.

What motivates all this is… complicated (certainly too complicated for a post this long). In the end the motives don’t actually matter, what matters is where it logically leads. Talking about The 100 lesbian controversy, William Shatner manages to sum up the logical outcome of all this in one tweet;

At its core the ‘Magneto or Magic Negro’ trap isn’t the result of racist, sexist or bigoted motives on the part of creators. It’s the logical result of a series of incentives that both demand more representation of ‘minority’ characters, then engages in punishing, hypersensitive offense-taking when it comes to that representation.

Imagine you are a film maker, but not a Chis Nolan or a Joss Wheadon or Russo Brother; instead you’re a new film maker, one without the clout to buck the studio’s desires. A Josh Trank, for example, whose Fantastic 4 movie was taken over by the studio and forced, like sausage through a meat grinder, into the shape the studio wanted. A director that has to fight with the studio system to get their vision on the screen and who, chances are, end up doing mostly what the studio wants even when the studio executives are imbeciles. Quick aside; yes, that’s right, the same Tom Rothman that was pumping GB2016 for Sony a few months ago is the responsible for keeping (box office hit) Deadpool in development hell while he was at 20th Century Fox.

Directors, showrunners, writers, basically everyone on the creative side of entertainment is constantly struggling against the bean counters whose primary job is to manage risk. Well, guess what makes bean counters think something is risky? Internet outrage.

See, the thing about a one dimensional, blandly positive ‘Magic Negro’ character is it’s safe. Actors don’t want safe, writers don’t want safe, directors don’t want safe; no one on the creative side really wants these safe, bland characters, just like no chef wants to make vanilla pudding all the time. Somewhere along the line, though, the creative person is taken aside and asked ‘do you really want to take the heat for having a black guy/woman/LGBT/etc do that?’

So the edges get ground down. The rough patches get smoothed out. Sometimes the path of least resistance is to change nothing at all except to make the dangerous, risky character into a white, preferably straight, male. So a movement that is theoretically devoted to increasing diversity in roles instead becomes an engine for reducing actual diversity.

There is nothing mysterious or conspiratorial about all this; it’s a simple example of incentives not lining up with goals and it is everywhere. As long as this article is I barely scratched the surface. This phenomenon shows up everywhere creativity exists: video games, books, comics, art, music…

What’s truly ironic is that the ‘fix’ to the problem is the one thing, the simplest of all things, and it’s the one thing that we can confidently predict isn’t going to happen; Stop complaining. As the saying goes, the best way to make race less important is to stop treating race like it’s important (and that goes for all the other groups as well). When a female/black/LGBT/etc character is simply a character, instead of the embodiment of an entire group, that’s when we will get the diversity almost all of us actually want.



*As an aside spare a moment to wonder, given he “had issues with the Joker’s sex toy Harley Quinn long before”, his 10-year old daughter was allowed to see the PG-13 Suicide Squad that he labels a train-wreck of violence, sexism and bad editing.

**Louis Gossett Jr.’s  Marine Corp Sgt. Emil Foley, Denzel Washington’s corrupt LAPD Det. Alonzo Harris and Whitaker’s Idi Amin.

#NeverTrump Files: Bret Stephens and the Underpants Gnomes

Today, the first in what is likely to be a series on the quixotic oddities of the #NeverTrump movement.

Ace at the Ace of Spades blog has an excellent (and appropriately acerbic) post on the distressing turn some prominent members of #NeverTrump have taken and their increasingly bizarre reasoning. On Tuesday the Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Page’s Bret Stephens assailed Sean Hannity (among others) and includes the following;

This is the reason I’ve consistently argued that the only hope for a conservative restoration is a blowout Hillary Clinton victory, held in check by a Republican majority in Congress. If Mr. Trump loses the election narrowly, the stab-in-the-back thesis will have a patina of credibility that he might have won had it not been for the opposition of people like me. But a McGovern-style defeat makes that argument impossible to sustain except among the most cretinous. We can count on Mr. Hannity for that.

So, let’s get this straight: the path to restoring ‘conservative’ principles lies first in… a crushing Democratic victory? One that leaves the White House (and thus certainly the Supreme Court) in the hands of progressive Democrats for four to eight more years (vastly longer for the Court)? So elegant a plan, yet also so familiar…

For those insufficiently well versed in South Park episodes (or internet memes) the ‘business plan’ of the Underpants gnomes (world domination through underoos monopoly!) which has become shorthand for any plan where the initial steps seem completely disconnected from the final goal. A shorthand Stephens is well familiar with. Unfortunately, familiarity with the concept does not seem to have aided Stephens, for he seems to embrace a plan that not only seems unlikely to succeed, but a scenario where the first step makes the final step all but impossible.

Stephens’ thoughts on the subject are a deep well to plumb, but let’s focus on just a few problems that stand between Steps 1 (Hillary in the White House) and 3 (Conservative Triumph).

One is immediately struck by how #NeverTrump is presented in two, mutually incompatible, forms. On the one hand it is a movement so small and so lacking in influence that their opposition cannot reasonably be blamed for a loss by Trump. On the other hand the NeverTrumpers seem to harbor no doubt that their influence and leadership is sufficiently potent that they will be able to seize hold of the levers of power in the GOP in a post Trump environment.

To be fair one may object to my characterization: perhaps it is not that the NeverTrumpers believe they have such power now, no no. Rather they imagine that, after their prophesied ruin of Trump, they will be hoisted on the shoulders of the GOP, a GOP repentant and chastened by shattering losses. In other words, they may be powerless now, but just you wait, when this worm turns they will be on top of the world!

Putting aside that little wrinkle, there is a vastly greater problem. Buried in the vituperation against Mr. Hannity is a small and very revealing remark, almost offhand, but which gives perfect voice to the insuperable problems in the 3-step #NeverTrump plan (emphasis mine);

Mr. Hannity’s other goal is to preserve the fiction—first cultivated by Ted Cruz and later adopted by the Trumpians—that a wan GOP “establishment” and its “Acela corridor” voters sat on their hands while Mr. Obama traduced the Constitution and sold us out to the enemy.

For a moment, let’s take Mr. Stephens at his word: he truly believes that a Hillary presidency is the key to a “conservative restoration”. If that’s the case, what exactly is the conservative movement that Stephens and his colleagues at the WSJ editorial page interested in restoring?

It’s not exactly ancient history when the WSJ had precious little regard for conservatives such as Ted Cruz and Mike Lee. In an article at Truth Revolt from December of last year, pithily titled The Wall Street Journal Hates Ted Cruz. Here’s Why., Aaron Bandler runs through the many, many objections the WSJ has raised to Senator Cruz’ attempts to enforce conservative principles;

Time and again, the Journal‘s editorial board attacks conservatives for trying to fight against the leftist agenda. When Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Ut.) attempted to defund Obamacare, the Journal accused them of simply wanting “fund-raising lists or getting face time on cable TV.” The Journal also came out against conservative efforts to defund the baby-dismembering Planned Parenthood and Obama’s illegal executive amnesty. What good are the Republicans if they can’t even fight against those two issues?

Also, Bret Stephens, who is on the Journal‘s editorial board, wrote a snarky column called “Let’s Elect Hillary Now” in which he accuses conservatives like Levin and radio host Laura Ingraham of having purity tests for Republican candidates that will guarantee a win for likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. The column was light on substance, but heavy on elitism.

That same day Ben Shapiro dissected Stephens’ ‘Elect Hillary Now’ article in depth on Truth Revolt;

In fact, Stephens calls Cruz as unpalatable as Trump with this nasty slur:

Mr. Cruz is happy to be on any side of an issue so long as he can paint himself as a “real Republican”—the implicit goal here being the automatic excommunication of anyone who disagrees with him. Naturally, he’s rising.

What absolute, self-serving hogwash. Cruz has been incredibly consistent, far more so than Rubio. In fact, Cruz and Trump were both leaders on one of Stephens’ chief priorities, stopping the Iran deal that Stephens’ beloved GOP establishment allowed to breeze through Congress.

But that doesn’t matter. In order to demonstrate that they aren’t the whiny pick-up-the-political-football-and-go-home types, however, the GOP establishment must insist that Mitt Romney didn’t lose because they picked him – no, it was somehow the base’s fault. And it will be the base’s fault again if Cruz or Trump gets the nomination.

Shapiro remarks that Stephens “mocks”, “snarls” and insists “the only reason to disagree with him is a collective political death wish”. Ben Shapiro has been one of the most prominent (and during the Michelle Fields affair, most strident) public conservatives associated with #NeverTrump, yet there seems little room for either Ted Cruz or Mr. Shapiro in this new, ‘restored’ conservative movement Stephens imagines.

So, if Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Ben Shapiro et al are insufficiently representative of the ‘conservative’ movement the WSJ wishes to restore, what does actually inform the WSJ’s conceptualization of ‘conservatism’? Again, from Bandler’s article at Truth Revolt;

To really get an idea of the mindset of the Journal, one simply needs to look back to their editorial on July 3, 1984 called “In Praise of Huddled Masses” in which they called for open borders.

“If Washington still wants to ‘do something’ about immigration, we propose a five-word constitutional amendment: There shall be open borders,” the editorial read.

This stance by the WSJ editorial page has remained constant.

In his articles Mr. Stephens explicitly denies the very idea of an ‘Establishment’ GOP. He has openly denigrated conservatives in the mold of Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee.  Two years ago it was the libertarian conservative Senator Rand Paul that Stephens was denigrating. In that article Stephens seems to reserve his warmest regards for such conservative stalwarts as… Governors Jeb Bush and Chris Christie. Winners, respectively, of 0.92% and 0.18% of the GOP primary vote. They really are representing the 1% (well, 1.1%)!

Stephens inadvertently illustrates that whether Trump or Hillary occupies the Oval Office next year, the conservative movement and the GOP face dark times ahead. As Myron Magnate observes, the voters are angry, animated by “the sense that the U.S. government no longer belongs to the people and no longer represents them“, a sense that “reflects the real state of affairs”. By this December we will be well into the question of what the conservative movement actually is and what it seeks to conserve.

Unfortunately for us all, it seems there is no shortage of people that someone wants out of the movement. What remains to be seen is if anyone at all will be left.

Quick Hit: de Blasio, Red Skull and Progressive Cognitive Dissonance

Sooo, this happened last week (Steve Rogers: Captain America #1);

Oh, and for those inclined to believe this is some complicated double bluff, the writer is pretty open about… well, how much he just hates those darned Republicans;

In case it’s hard to follow (or hard to believe), yes, Mr. Spencer here, writer of the current Captain America comic for Marvel, thinks that ‘the good Republican’ is a myth, embraces his hatred of the right and justifies it, oh, and has Marvel’s most famous Nazi stand-in give voice to a grab bag of somewhat rightist positions. It’s so classy.

My point here isn’t that Nick Spencer is a putz (thought he certainly plays one on twitter). The point is that it is now entirely typical for many on the Progressive left to vitriolically condemn perceived intolerance on the Right (and among libertarians) while at the same time expressing a rather broad actual intolerance themselves. This particular bit of cognitive dissonance resurfaced, earlier this month as New York Mayor Bill de Blasio decided to renew the Progressive war on the orthodox Christian beliefs of Dan Truett Cathy, President and COO of the Chic-fil-a chain of restaurants.

Bill Murray said it best: “Yes, it’s true, this man has no…”

“I’m certainly not going to patronize them and I wouldn’t urge any other New Yorker to patronize them.” Opined de Blasio, which the NY Post (pithily) noted as a clucking travesty. A travesty, clucking or otherwise, but by no means something peculiar to the embattled de Blasio: he joins august company among progressives, such as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and internet gadfly Dan Savage. Dan Cathy’s transgression that earned such a chorus of hate from the left?

Dan Cathy, gave an interview in which he stated, “We don’t claim to be a Christian business … [Christianity] is about a personal relationship. Companies are not lost or saved, but certainly individuals are. But as an organization we can operate on biblical principles. So that is what we claim to be.” And he added with regard to the company’s support of WinShape Foundation, “That morphed into a marriage program in conjunction with national marriage ministries.” Does the company support the traditional family? Said Cathy, “guilty as charged … We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit ….”

After de Blasio made his statements, Gregg Gutfeld was fond of asking; ‘why just is de Blasio only going after Christians that object to same sex marriage? There are a whole lot of Halal food trucks in NYC; is the mayor going to urge people to stop patronizing them? How about businesses owned by Orthodox Jews? More then a few of them in NYC.’

the progressive movement has no compunction whatsoever as declaring orthodox Christian thinking and attitudes outside of the acceptable range, but at the same time, considers any discussion about the propriety of mass Muslim immigration into Europe as indistinguishable from being a neo-Nazi. This despite the fact that Muslims from the areas of emigration into Europe hold vastly more retrograde views on everything from sex outside of marriage, drinking alcohol to the moral acceptability of homosexuality.

How is it that an expression of caution and a basic appeal to national identity is something that (some) progressives are ready to associate with Marvel’s own version of Hitler*, but Bill deBlasio can continue to call for widespread boycott’s based on an American’s expression of faith? How can calling out the evils of Christian faithful (and their “Hate Chicken“) be socially responsible and progressive, but worry about Muslim social views and their compatibility with a Western, liberal democracy be the height of intolerance?

Of course, there is an explanation that explains all of this and immediately resolves the cognitive dissonance: if you believe that Muslims cannot be held to the standard of white men, which is to say they occupy an inferior moral situation, then it’s not dissonant at all to hold one standard for white and another for non-white. One would suppose that Progressives simply believe that it’s unfair to critique these immigrants; after all, they’re just “acting their color”.

*Let’s gloss over that in the Marvel Universe they really did save Hitler’s brain, only to see him return as one of the incarnations of HateMonger (subtle, no?).

White Crime, Black Deaths, and Lying with Statistics

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

-Attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, by way of Mark Twain.

There is a recent trend of what I can only call Race Inequality Apologists: that is, people who take it upon themselves to explain away differences, especially with regards to the conditions in the Black community. It’s become quite a cottage industry, one unfortunately marked by a pronounced lack of regard for accuracy and a tendency towards the mendacious use of statistics to obscure or outright deny reality.

Consider the example of an article entitled 5 Facts That Shatter the Myth of ‘Black-on-Black’ Crime. Put out by U.S. Uncut, it purports to provide a handy list of facts, with the admonition that “The next time you hear someone say “black-on-black crime”, show them this”. Presumably, the intention is to debunk the idea of elevated black on black crime, unfortunately  each of the 5 “Facts” shows an ever increasing disconnect from reality. Consider the 5 ‘facts’ as they are presented in bullet point;

1. 84 percent of white murder victims were white

2. Whites kill more whites than black people kill each other

3. White people commit more crimes than any other race

4. White people kill more members of vulnerable populations than any other race

5. Gang murders are most common among white gangs

There is a single point that makes all 5 of these points laughably misleading and that is demographics: just going to Wikipedia we can find the following estimate of the US population distribution;

White Americans are the racial majority. African Americans are the largest racial minority, amounting to 13.2% of the population. Hispanic and Latino Americans amount to 17.1% of the population, making up the largest ethnic minority. The White, non-Hispanic or Latino population make up 62.6% of the nation’s total, with the total White population (including White Hispanics and Latinos) being 77.1%.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the table used to justify points 4 & 5;

Note that “Other” includes “american Indians, Alaska natives, Asians, Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders.

In an article devoted to debunking the idea of the significance of Black crime, the author uses a table that unambiguously shows the ~13% of the country that is Black is responsible for over 50% of all homicides. Bravo. Of course, the author could have simply read the sources they cite: Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980-2008, cited directly under point 8 is not just the source for Table 7 (above), but contains the following damning points;

-In 2008, the homicide victimization rate for blacks (19.6
homicides per 100,000) was 6 times higher than the rate for
whites (3.3 homicides per 100,000).

-In 2008, the offending rate for blacks (24.7 offenders per
100,000) was 7 times higher than the rate for whites (3.4
offenders per 100,000)

Truly, it is an article that should come to mind “The next time you hear someone say “black-on-black crime”…”.

A similar example comes from a recent article by the British Guardian newspaper. Discussing the issue of black deaths at the hand of police, the article opens with the following statements;

Young black men were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by police officers in 2015, according to the findings of a Guardian study that recorded a final tally of 1,134 deaths at the hands of law enforcement officers this year.

Despite making up only 2% of the total US population, African American males between the ages of 15 and 34 comprised more than 15% of all deaths logged this year by an ongoing investigation into the use of deadly force by police. Their rate of police-involved deaths was five times higher than for white men of the same age.

Clearly these are disturbing statistics on their face… but when you actually look past the first impression, this article is less a penetrating investigation of a national problem and more a textbook example of How to Lie With Statistics.

Let’s take the very first part of the premise of the article, that: Deaths due to police shootings should follow the population distribution. To be clear, in a purely randomly selected population this would be conceivable… but this isn’t a randomly selected population. The article makes note that despite “making up only 2% of the total US population, African American males between the ages of 15 and 34 comprised more than 15% of all deaths”.

But so what? According to Wiki, people over 65 years of age make up 13.4% of the total US population. Going by the logic of the Guardian piece, this group should make up 13.4% of the police killings… except, of course, that’s ridiculous logic that imagines that interacting with police is a random event that your behavior plays no part in.

Instead of looking at the overall population demographics, let’s instead take a loot at the FBI Crime in the United States charts. What do we see when we take a quick look? That violent offenders are not evenly distributed through the population.

There is a clear trend in violent criminality and that trend is males between the ages of 17-34 (incidentally, this is one reason why you should never trust any gun control pitch that starts by talking about ‘children’ and includes 17 and 18 year old males). Women, older people and children under 13 or so are responsible for an almost negligible rate of homicides.

Shockingly, this article contains no information about the distribution of offenders! This omission by itself should relegate this article to nothing more then propaganda.
Again, we are simply left to wonder: ‘well, if young black men are 2% of the population, they surely must commit 2% of the crime…’

Of course, anyone with any passing familiarity with crime statistics in the USA knows that young black men, while 2% of the population commit about half of the violent crimes in the USA. Take another gander at the FBI crime chart: for homicides in which the offender’s race was known, blacks commit more homicides then whites, despite Black males being “only 2% of the total US population”.

The statistical manipulations by The Guardian also serve to obscure that Whites, not Blacks, comprise the majority of fatal police encounters.

The Guardian presents a chart titled “Black people were killed by police at more than twice the rate of white people in 2015”, which presents data normalized (by default) “per million”. Those numbers are certainly damning (again, numbers per million Americans);

  • 2.91 Whites
  • 7.13 Blacks
  • 3.48 “Hispanic/Latinos”
  • 1.34 Asian/Pacific Islander
  • 3.4 Native Americans

These numbers seem, prima facia, to establish a clear disparity according to race and something to be further looked into. Certainly I agree we should look into things further, because a curios thing happens when one looks at “Total” police related deaths;

  • 577 Whites
  • 300 Blacks
  • 193 “Hispanic/Latinos”
  • 27 “Other/Unknown
  • 24 Asian/Pacific Islander
  • 13 Native Americans

Given that he title of the article is “Young black men killed by US police at highest rate in year of 1,134 deaths”, it’s rather remarkable that more Whites were killed by the police then Blacks and “Hispanic/Latinos” combined. Yet again, the Guardian gives primary place to a ‘normalized’ number, and we have the number of deaths caused by police ‘normalized’ to something other then crime rates.

Finally it’s worth pointing out that the Guardian’s database, and thus the Guardian’s story, makes no effort to distinguish between justified and criminal police shootings: thus while scrolling through the list of the December 2015 dead, one will find two names that may be familiar to news watchers… Tashfeen Malik, 27 and Syed Farook, 28. Cause of death? Gunshot. Why were they shot by the police? Who can know. (The oddest thing: both are listed as “Asian/Pacific Islanders”. Huh.)

Nor, incidentally, do they distinguish between people shot by police in the course of their duty and simple shot by police personnel: February 2016, for example, lists Emily Thibodeaux, shot by an off-duty police officer… who just happened to be her husband.

None of this is to dismiss all police misconduct, nor is it to say ‘they are bringing this upon themselves’: this is to make the simple point that any group that has an elevated rate of violent crime is going to have an elevated rate of adverse interactions with law enforcement personnel. The manner that the Guardian has chosen to present, or chosen not to present, information, is a shameful derogation of journalism in favor of advocacy.

Whatever problems there are with policing in the USA (and there are plenty of problems) it does no one any good to spread a false and simplistic narrative that blacks are at greatest risk from the police. Or as Ben Shapiro put it when discussing the BLM movement, sometimes it seems that the advocates for blacks would rather more blacks be killed by criminals, so long as the campaign of marginalizing the police can proceed.

The reality of disproportionate Black crime is not new. Jason Riley recounts a particular anecdote from half a century ago;

“Do you know that Negroes are 10 percent of the population of St. Louis and are responsible for 58% of its crimes? We’ve got to face that. And we’ve got to do something about our moral standards,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told a congregation in 1961. “We know that there are many things wrong in the white world, but there are many things wrong in the black world, too. We can’t keep on blaming the white man. There are things we must do for ourselves.”

Whatever else, these “many things wrong” can never be corrected if they cannot be honestly evaluated. Lying, even if only with statistics, will save no lives.

Dr. StrangeRod, or, How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the H-Bomb

The Democratic nominating process has finally begun, which being the Democrats means that the first allegations of impropriety have been lodged.

What happened Monday night at the Democratic caucuses was a debacle, period. Democracy, particularly at the local party level, can be slow, messy and obscure. But the refusal to undergo scrutiny or allow for an appeal reeks of autocracy.

But what’s a potentially stolen primary when measured against the vast tally of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s malfeasance? It’s a credit to her immense and transparent corruption that she’s managed to make a septuagenarian socialist Jew from Brooklyn (by way of Vermont’s Senate delegation) seem like a reasonable alternative for the nomination of the Democratic party (another glass ceiling shattered by Hillary!).

For all that, I find myself almost fond of the diabolical crone, not so much for herself, but for the case she makes against the Democratic party and (especially) the mainstream media. This is, after all, the same media that considered sexual harassment in the workplace a pressing concern… right up until it was time to slip on their presidential kneepads.

With that in mind, let’s look at some issues where Hillary forces her supporters and the mainstream media (but I repeat myself) to swallow positions that they have previously condemned (and in some cases, continue to condemn).

Secret Emails are Shredding the Cons… err, never-mind…

The year is 2007; the battle rages between Hillary Clinton, heir apparent to the Democratic nomination and the upstart Barack Obama. One issue they agree on is the perfidy and secrecy of the bush administration. Obama promises “We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration.” While today Obama’s promises of transparency have increasingly gone from a punch-line on the right to a shared consensus, some forget the clarion call of alarm issued by Hillary.

Clinton said, “We know our Constitution is being shredded. We know about the secret wiretaps, the secret military tribunals, the secret White House email accounts.”

Apparently the Constitution is safe so long as the emails are under the steely eye of Eric Hoteham…

Those who have observed the evolving Clinton strategy of defense on the email matter will note that Hillary has moved subtly from “There is no Classified Material” to “nothing marked classified”. This is, however, a distinction without much legal difference; among the statutes she is suspected of potentially violating is 18 USC 793. Without going too much into things, gross negligence, as well as  willful and malicious action, is enough to secure a conviction for “Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information”.

Put another, simpler way: if the material on Hillary’s server falls under the aforementioned code, then the excuse “it wasn’t marked classified” is about as legally useful as “I swear officer, I didn’t know she was 13…”

Lawyer for Evil, Incorporated;

Critical writers, such as those of Mother Jones magazine, have made a bit of a cottage industry of criticizing GOP candidates for actions they took during their private legal representation of clients. The criticism is especially sharp when directed at Ted Cruz, ranging from who he represented,

…But much of the time, Cruz represented corporate clients.

To the degree he has highlighted his clients;

Cruz’s years as a highly paid private lawyer who often defended powerful corporations. And there are several significant cases he handled—politically inconvenient cases—that he has photoshopped out of his personal narrative.

And the implication that acting zealously for his clients makes him traitor to his Conservative principles;

As a politician, Ted Cruz, the junior Republican senator from Texas, has championed tort reform—the nationwide effort pushed by conservatives and business interests to restrict malpractice and other wrongful injury and death lawsuits, limiting how much a jury can award a harmed individual for pain and suffering and in punitive damages. …

Yet, as a lawyer in private practice, Cruz—at least twice, in 2010 and 2011—worked on cases in New Mexico to secure $50 million-plus jury awards in tort cases prompted by corporate malfeasance. These are precisely the kind of jury awards that the tort reform Cruz has promoted would abolish.

That an attorney has an ethical and legal responsibility to zealously represent the interest of their client seems to be no exculpation… well, at least it doesn’t until they have to explain away Hillary’s representation of Thomas Alfred Taylor. Who’s Thomas Alfred Taylor and why would he appear in Hillary’s biography, you may ask?

In 1975, the same year she married Bill, Hillary Clinton agreed to serve as the court-appointed attorney for Thomas Alfred Taylor, a 41-year-old accused of raping the [12 year old] child after luring her into a car.

The specifics of Hillary’s defense of Mr. Taylor are not the subject of this post (they deserve a specific and in-depth treatment). What is relevant is the simple question: if a corporate attorney’s actions should reflect poorly on his character, how about the defense of the accused rapist of a 12 year old girl? How about securing for that accused rapist a sentence of one year?

Taylor, who pleaded to unlawful fondling of a chid, was sentenced to one year in prison, with two months reduced for time served.

How about securing a one year sentence for an accused rapist of a 12 year old girl when their attorney thinks they are guilty?

“I had him take a polygraph, which he passed – which forever destroyed my faith in polygraphs,” {Clinton] added with a laugh.

No doubt we can look forward to the media expressing as intense an interest in the case of Thomas Alfred Taylor as, say, Mitt Romney’s high school experience. I wouldn’t hold my breath though.


The Darker the Money, the Sweeter the Juice…

This is not to say that all of Hillary Clinton’s trespass are all of old vintage, far from it. In the ongoing Democratic party attack of paranoid lunacy regarding the Koch brothers, the new book that is making the rounds is Jane Mayer’s Dark Money. In it, Mayer… well, let’s let the NY Times describe it;

“Dark Money” relates the personal story of the Koch family in considerable detail — an engineer father who made a fortune building oil refineries, then spent the last years of his life as an angry member of the John Birch Society; an early conversion by Charles and David Koch to the radical libertarian economics of Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises; a web of sibling rivalry among all four of the family’s brothers, ending in painful legal confrontations that dragged on for years.

Ah yes, Hayek and von Mises, those dastardly fellows! You can practically smell the mustache wax… Thank goodness Hillary Clinton is, of course, above such shabby and obvious graft, such tawdry peddling of influence for cash.

That’s what the Clinton Foundation is for;

Clinton Foundation Donors Got Weapons Deals From Hillary Clinton’s State Department;

A consortium of American defense contractors led by Boeing would deliver $29 billion worth of advanced fighter jets to the United States’ oil-rich ally in the Middle East. …

The Saudi deal was one of dozens of arms sales approved by Hillary Clinton’s State Department that placed weapons in the hands of governments that had also donated money to the Clinton family philanthropic empire, an International Business Times investigation has found.

Hillary Clinton’s State Department Increased Chemical Arms Sales To Middle East Countries That Gave To Clinton Foundation

As Egyptian democracy protesters massed in the streets of Cairo in 2011, provoking a bloody crackdown from the authoritarian regime of Hosni Mubarak, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented herself as a champion of human rights. …

But behind the scenes, Clinton pursued contrasting aims. … Her State Department cleared Egypt to continue purchasing arms the U.S. government classified as “toxicological agents,” a broad designation that included chemical and biological weapons, …

The Clinton-run State Department’s approval of chemical and biological exports to the Egyptian government increased in volume just as dollars flowed from Mubarak-linked entities into the coffers of Clinton family concerns.

Foreign governments gave millions to foundation while Clinton was at State Dept.

The Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars from seven foreign governments during Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, including one donation that violated its ethics agreement with the Obama administration, foundation officials disclosed Wednesday.

This list is, of course, far from comprehensive. Nor is it my point to claim that there is no possibility that any given one of these episodes or elements is evidence of irredeemable corruption. My point is that the Left and the Media (once again, I repeat myself) have established a code of conduct, a framework of right and wrong and applied it strenuously to Republicans whenever they get the chance. It is the unfortunate reality of the moment that these traits, found individually in various people on the right, seem to be present all at once in the person of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

This is the singularity that is Hillary, and the best explanation for the Berne being felt: Hillary embodies all of the traits that the Democratic base has grown to despise, yet the Clinton’s possess such a death-grip on the Democratic Party machine they seem determined to either drag the party to a Hillary coronation, or strangle it in the process.

On the Virtues of Humiliating Obama

Just a quick little post as we wait for the State of the Union, entertaining the question: why would Iran seize 10 American Sailors only hours before the President was scheduled to give his final state of the Union address.

The most obvious single answer is: in order to humiliate President Obama.

“What”, one may ask, “Does Iran gain by humiliating Obama?”

The answer is manifold, but there are three obvious benefits to Iran;

First: Iran has an audience for this action that is far larger then either the Iranian or American public. Iran is engaged in a ‘Game of Thrones’, so to speak, with other Islamic actors for the ascendancy in the Islamic world. That is, other state and near state actors, such as Saudi Arabia and ISIS, advance claims that they are the inheritors of Islamic leadership, the heirs of Mohammed, so to speak.

Osama bin Ladin famously stated that ‘people that see a weak horse and a strong horse will instinctively be drawn to the strong horse.’ By showing that they are able to seize American servicemen with impunity, and then having the President of the United States put on a mask of good humor, the Iranian regime not only shows Obama to be weak, but themselves to be strong. In this game, humiliating Obama is a relatively low-risk way for Iran to demonstrate that they can bend the ‘great Satan’ to their will.

Second: As I mentioned above, there is a larger audience for this action, specifically Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab states. The Gulf Arabs, led by the Saudis, are engaged in a regional conflict for control of the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. The Saudis are, let’s say, not generally considered to be a serious military thread to Iran. Saudi Arabia instead must rely on the good will and military umbrella of the United States.

By humiliating Obama Iran sends a clear message to the Saudis and other Gulf Arabs that the United States which they rely on for protection may, in fact, be a paper tiger.

Third: Finally, Obama’s hope for a ‘Legacy’ rest entirely on the behavior of Iran in the following year and the years to come. This humiliation reminds Obama that it is Iran, not him, that holds the whip hand when it comes to how Obama will be perceived in the future. It cannot be forgotten that Iran is on the threshold of a 100+ billion dollar payoff; if Iran feels they want to have extra insurance, they can reliably estimate that Obama is the kind of man that will be moved to compliance, as opposed to defiance.

That alone should tell the neutral observer everything they need to know about Obama’s reputation on the world stage: Iran believes that seizing American Servicemen makes it more likely, rather then less likely, that they will receive 150 billion dollars from the United States.

Postscript: Iran apparently aired footage of their ‘arrest’ of the American Sailors (what, don’t ‘partners in peace’ do that?);

Oh, and just as a reminder,

The (academic) World of Pain

A spectacle is currently unfolding on university campuses across the nation: college students are marching, organizing sit-ins, promising boycotts of academic and sporting events, brandishing placards and harassing the staff. What truth are they attempting to ‘speak to power’? Topically, it’s about the idea that free speech may go so far as to cover ‘inappropriate’ Halloween costumes, but that’s only the surface. No, the greater point of the protest is that college is no place for an intellectual discussion.

It’s unacceptable when the Master of your college is dismissive of your experiences. The Silliman Master’s role is not only to provide intellectual stimulation, but also to make Silliman a safe space that all students can come home to. His responsibility is to make it a place where your experiences are a valid concern to the administration and where you can feel free to talk with them about your pain without worrying that the conversation will turn into an argument every single time. We are supposed to feel encouraged to go to our Master and Associate Master with our concerns and feel that our opinions will be respected and heard.

But, in his ten weeks as a leader of the college, Master Christakis has not fostered this sense of community. He seems to lack the ability, quite frankly, to put aside his opinions long enough to listen to the very real hurt that the community feels. He doesn’t get it. And I don’t want to debate. I want to talk about my pain.

Emphasis mine. The above quote is from an article that ran in The Yale Daily Herald. Or rather, I should say, was from that student paper: the article has been withdrawn at the request of the author, Jencey Paz, a Yale student. Ponder that for a moment: an article cited (critically, to be fair) all over the web is simply removed. Put aside any accusation of intellectual cowardice, what person working on the web today imagines you can just erase a controversial article?

Apparently, the Yale man…

Pain. That’s the key to this discussion, and the use of pain and therapeutic language is no accident: in an excellent article at The Atlantic, Greg Lukainoff and Jonathan Haidt use the term “vindictive protectiveness” to describe the pathological mode of thought that has overtaken the academy at this moment. But it is by no means limited to the academy (thought it is most pronounced there). Writing at National Review about a month ago David French discussed the case of  a lesbian couple and their 5 year old child. The couple wanted their child to attend a private, explicitly Christian school, and when the school averred, citing the fairly well known disfavor traditional Christianity has for same sex couples. This simply will not do, so let us take a look at how an attorney described the potential harm to a child not being admitted to a Christian school;

“Now the question is where do you draw the line?” [the attorney] asked. “If you have a religion that believed in human sacrifice or amputation of the arm or the hand for theft, would we permit that in the interest of permitting the free practice of one’s religion? I don’t think so, and one could argue that psychologically… this is as devastating to the little 5-year-old girl as some of those other vicious practices.”

Got that? A Christian school’s refusal to admit a child (from a family engaging in flouting the school’s tenants) is arguably as psychologically devastating as “human sacrifice” or amputating hands for theft. With that in mind it scarcely should be surprising that the campus police at University of Missouri are requesting you call the police if you view examples of hateful and/or hurtful speech.

The pathological mode is increasingly gaining ground at law schools as well. The laws that govern rape are some of the most complicated and nuanced areas of criminal law, and last year in the New Yorker Professor Jeannie Suk wrote about the difficulty in teaching this uniquely complicated subject at Harvard Law;

When I teach rape law, I don’t dwell on cases in which everyone will agree that the defendant is guilty. Instead, I focus on cases that test the limits of the rules, and that fall near the rapidly shifting line separating criminal conduct from legal sex. These cases involve people who previously knew each other and who perhaps even previously had sex. They cover situations in which the meaning of each party’s actions, signals, and desires may have been ambiguous to the other, or misapprehended by one or both sides. We ask questions like: How should consent or non-consent be communicated? Should it matter whether the accused realized that the complainant felt coerced? What information about the accused and the complainant is relevant to whether or not they should be believed? How does social inequality inform how we evaluate whether a particular incident was a crime? I often assign students roles in which they have to argue a side—defense or prosecution—with which they might disagree.

Though “[t]hese pedagogical tactics are common to almost every law-school topic and classroom,” instructors are encountering ever increasing push back from students: “asking students to challenge each other in discussions of rape law has become so difficult that teachers are starting to give up on the subject” to the extent that “a dozen new teachers of criminal law at multiple institutions have told me that they are not including rape law in their courses, arguing that it’s not worth the risk of complaints of discomfort by students.”  Tellingly, the complaints focus on the pathological language once more, the lingua franca of such arguments;

Some students complained that I should have given them a “trigger warning” beforehand… For at least some students, the classroom has become a potentially traumatic environment, and they have begun to anticipate the emotional injuries they could suffer or inflict in classroom conversation. They are also more inclined to insist that teachers protect them from causing or experiencing discomfort—and teachers, in turn, are more willing to oblige, because it would be considered injurious for them not to acknowledge a student’s trauma or potential trauma.

By way of contrast, I currently am enrolled in a course through the Jewish Learning Institute. Titled “Journey of the Soul: An Exploration of Life, Death, and What Lies Beyond” I’ve just learned that the course (being conducted in Chabad institutions across the country) has an enrollment of over twenty-two thousand participants. Given that the old saying claims two Jews will produce three opinions, that’s plenty of room for offense to be taken, especially on weighty matters such as life after death, the nature of the immortal soul (and the nature of that immortality) and other matters that are both intensely personal and highly charged.

It’s a challenging exploration and a great privilege to study under a Rabbi who, while tactful, must travel treacherous waters. Not for the students alone, either: at Yale the thought of a badly done trick-treat outfit leaves a Yale student “not going to class, who are not doing their homework, who are losing sleep, who are skipping meals, and who are having breakdowns”, as the now withdrawn article above put it. Imagine then being an instructor and speaking candidly about your grandparents, murdered by the Nazis, their bodies desecrated in a direct violation of every tenant of Jewish law.

Yet for all that the Rabbi has imparted a lesson during the class that has nothing to do with the specific topic per se, but everything to do with learning: that when a topic is difficult, when it is something that you struggle to grasp, those topics are the most valuable when mastered. The students at Yale and Missouri turn this idea on its head, regarding those most challenging ideas and subjects as the ideas and topics least worthy of grappling with. It is a vision of the University not as a place for personal growth and exploration (after all, exploration, by definition, requires stepping outside of the familiar), but the University as a Safe Room writ large, complete with puppies and a barred door to keep any uncomfortable or challenging ideas at bay.

In the end, while there are less charitable interpretations, it’s very difficult to disagree with the conclusion Robby Soave at Reason comes to;

It’s clear that many of today’s students—at Yale, Missouri, and other campuses—don’t value free expression the way their radical predecessors did. But the Yale and Missouri incidents reveal something even more startling: they don’t value their own independence, either. Their goal is to re-enshrine in loco parentis. They want their administrators-in-chief to hold them while they cry, pat them on the back, and softly whisper into their ears, “you’re right, I’m so sorry.”

Will these same students, complain, I wonder, if their administrators start sending troublemakers to bed without supper, or preventing them from hanging out with their friends until they finish their homework? Keep in mind that prior to the ‘60s, administrators placed broad restrictions on students’ rights to socialize, organize, and speak. That’s what parents do, it’s what used to take place on college campuses, and it’s what awaits these students who are suddenly so desperate to be treated like children again.


Carly Fiorino and the Factless Fact-Checkers

Carly Fiorina had a good night on Wednesday. One way we can tell this is that the honest evaluations in the media of her good performance are being accompanied by (rather snide) ‘take down’ pieces in mainstream and liberal (but I repeat myself) ‘news’ outlets. Like mushrooms after the rain, these pieces seem to spring up in the wake of any significant movement in the GOP field. The tact they seem to have agreed on is that, yes, Fiorina did a fine job, but her rhetoric is a trick, designed to persuade the rubes of the GOP.

The reality is that many of the pieces follow the tact of this article on the Rachel Maddow blog (written by Steve Bennen), which is not so much a refutation as a disagreement. That is, as seems to be the habit on the left these days, Mr. Bennen labels opinions and interpretations of the facts that she does not share as ‘wrong’ and ‘false’, rather then simply differences of opinion. Consider the paragraph that is the meat of the article’s condemnation;

Her rhetoric about Planned Parenthood was plainly at odds with reality. She said it takes “two-thirds of the states” to ratify a constitutional amendment, but it actually takes three-fourths. Her comments about the criminal justice system were simply untrue. She insisted that Democrats, who’ve been pleading with Republicans for years to pass immigration reform, “don’t want” to pass immigration reform. Her defense of her failed tenure at HP was hard to take seriously. Her rhetoric about foreign policy was “bizarre.”

The only one of these things that Mr. Bennen cites that seems genuinely wrong is also the one thing that is almost certainly a slip of the tongue; that Constitutional ratification is 3/4 instead of 2/3.

Other then that, everything Mr. Bennen cites as “false” is either actually a difference of opinion, or actually true but something the left cannot acknowledge. Consider the statement that “Her rhetoric about Planned Parenthood was plainly at odds with reality”. To support this Mr. Bennen references… an opinion piece by Amanda Marcott in Slate. Ms. Marcott in turn relies and links to other leftist opinion sources. The problem, of course, is that other sources of differing politics claim exactly the opposite: “Watch the full video for yourself. It does, in fact, show a fully formed fetus, heart beating and legs kicking.” writes Mollie Hemmingway at the Federalists. Given that Hemingway provides what she claims to be the video where the scene in question occurs, I am inclined to credit her accounting.

The other points are all variations of debatable, and often bad faith debates: for example, Mr. Benen baldly states “[Fiorina’s] comments about the criminal justice system were simply untrue”, but then links to a Slate piece by Leon Neyfalk that points out (emphasis mine);

She is far from alone in perpetuating this idea—President Obama has done it too, along with just about every other mainstream politician who has expressed support for criminal justice reform in recent years.

Have Mr. Benen or his headliner Ms. Maddow similarly dismissed President Obama’s stance on Criminal Justice Reform as “simply untrue”? Moreover, given that her position is apparently shared by “just about every other mainstream politician”, is it not more likely, perhaps, that what Mr. Benen claims as “simply untrue” are

Mr. Benen seems to regard his denunciation on immigration as so self-evident as to require no source at all. I treat his dismissal in the same fashion, save to point out that if we take as gospel fact “pleading” from Washington, then Obama is Israel’s best friend, Iran is ready to join the community of nations and Global Warming is responsible for the refugee crisis in Europe.

Mr. Benen’s dismissal of Fiorina’s business leadership links to an analysis by Neil Irwin at the New York Times (hosted at the Boston Globe), which is scarcely the complete dismissal Benen presents it as. Rather it is a piece that points out that “Fiorina emphasized metrics of success that captured less of her success at leading Hewlett-Packard and more of the fact that she acquired a much larger competitor”, and that “many analysts view the merger, her defining action as chief executive, as ill-advised”. That many analysts disagree with her actions and the Fiorina chooses to emphasize what she sees as her strengths (and presumably gives greater credence to those analysis that do not disagree with her actions) is scarcely an open and shut case of dissimulation.

Mr. Benen’s dismissal of Fiorina’s “bizarre” foreign policy prescriptions links to (again) an opinion piece at Vox, where Ezra Klein pronounces himself puzzled that Fiorina thinks conventional strength would persuade Putin when “America has enough nuclear weapons pointed at Russia to level the country thousands of times over”.

Not to needlessly belittle Mr. Klein but his befuddlement seems rather more an indictment of his own tactical depth (or lack thereof) then an rebuttal of Fiorina’s ideas. After all, if we are to credit his statement as his actual beliefs, he would seem to be almost hopelessly naive in matters of the military. By contrast, serious military thinkers, such as Professor Victor Davis Hanson, have a rather less sanguine view of America’s tactical doctrines under Obama.

As I mentioned, this is all of a style: the left disagrees with a policy proposal and labels it ‘wrong’ for being a position other then their own. What makes this particular article such a case of bad faith is that in the instance of criminal justice reform, the position isn’t even one that the left disagrees with. Mr. Benen simply found a piece that labeled Fiorina wrong on the issue and linked to it, without pointing out that Fiorina’s position is shared by Barack Obama and a broad coalition of criminal justice reformers on both the left and right.