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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Has the West Lost the Will to Live?

When it became too obvious to deny that the hostage crisis in Sydney, Australia was an act of Islamic terrorism, Prime Minister Tony Abbott asked Aussie citizens for calm, saying, “The whole point of politically motivated violence is to scare people out of being themselves. Australia is a peaceful, open and generous society – nothing should ever change that. And that’s why I would urge all Australians today to go about their business as usual.” That’s what a politician is expected to say. But what he should have said is that the time for business-as-usual is over.

Recently my friend Doris Wise Montrose – founder of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and its related site for self-defense instruction, Jews Can Shoot – brought to my attention something she found disconcerting. It was a Facebook post by a very popular Israeli news blogger, a brief update on the knife attack perpetrated by a young Arab on shoppers in a Jerusalem supermarket. This update was accompanied by mention of the blogger’s own mundane shopping trip to a different supermarket, and a photo of the contents of his cart.

Doris commented to him that connecting the two experiences in the same breath, in the same tone, seemed oddly cavalier. The blogger replied that it was simply an acknowledgement that this is the way of life in Israel – her citizens refuse to be cowed; they proudly carry on even with terrorism in their midst. Business as usual.

Last month novelist Jack Engelhard, who writes a weekly column for Israel’s Arutz Sheva, wrote an op-ed questioning precisely this attitude of proudly taking terrorism in stride. He noted that in the wake of four rabbis being hacked to death in a Jerusalem synagogue, for example, Israeli life went on as before. Engelhard wrote: “Hurray for Jewish bravado,” but

are Israelis getting too used to this? Is this a case of Israelis proving that nothing can stop them, or is this a case of Israelis accepting their fate as sheep doomed to be slaughtered? When will it end… how can it end… when no matter what happens ‘everything is back to normal’?

You often hear the cliché that if we let the terrorists change our way of life, change who we are, then they win. But they have changed our way of life and who we are as a culture. Look at what has become of air travel in the wake of 9/11 and the bungling Shoe Bomber: passengers shuffling along like cattle in long security lines, removing our shoes and laptops, submitting to invasive scans by the useless TSA, etc. This is but one example of our “new normal,” and as incidents like the Boston Marathon bombing and the Jerusalem synagogue butchering and the Sydney hostage-taking become more and more common, they too will become our new normal.

The jihadists need not carry out another 9/11 or a nuclear strike in order to ultimately prevail. Terrorism is a war of attrition, a strategy of death by a thousand cuts. That means we live with the subtle but ever-present expectation that a so-called “lone wolf” like the Sydney gunman, or a suicide bomber, or a well-trained team of merciless slaughterers like the Mumbai or Nairobi terrorists could strike anywhere at any time: a mall, a café, a market, a school, a synagogue, a subway, anywhere.

For the victims of terrorism life doesn’t go on at all, and it is forever altered for the surviving family members and friends. The rest of us live with the knowledge that next time, it could be us or our loved ones. The psychic attrition is incalculable, and it sits in our consciousness like a cancer no matter how much we tell each other that we must not live in fear.

In an address to the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust earlier this year, J.J. Goldberg of the Jewish Daily Forward praised those Jews during the Holocaust who “fought back by surviving another day in the face of the inhuman killing machine, and then another day and another. They fought back by maintaining their humanity and dignity in the face of utter depravity.”

But that is not fighting back; it certainly is not victory. It’s simply a dignified surrender. To accept living under the cloud of terrorism while declaring stubbornly that it won’t change us is a terrible self-delusion. It is a fatal misconception to believe that simply denying terrorists the satisfaction of terrorizing us is any kind of a victory at all. Our humanity and dignity mean nothing if depravity wins, if our civilization succumbs to a hungrier, more ruthless one, if the world enters a Dark Age under a totalitarian theocracy. The only victory worth having will come when we bring the terrorism to an end.

The West is in decline for a number of reasons, one of which is its cultural capitulation in the face of an ascendant Islamic fundamentalism. It is as if we, or at least our leaders and elites, have lost the cultural will to live. We need to get in touch with a sort of cultural rage, a fierce determination to crush threats to our culture, our values, and our liberty. We need to demonstrate that our tolerance has reached an end, that there will be no more coexistence with an ideology openly dedicated to our destruction. “Never mind normal,” as Jack Engelhard put it. To paraphrase his wish for Israel, for once let our blood “be exceptional and cause for nausea and trembling” among our enemies. Show the jihadists that there will be no more business-as-usual capitulation, and that they can expect us to unleash hell in retaliation for a single drop of Western blood.

We have a President who actually announced to the world that “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” At the rate we’re going, it won’t. One thing is certain: the future will belong to the culture that is not hamstrung by cultural self-doubt, that is not mired in apologetic self-abasement, that is not burdened by historical guilt induced through decades of politically correct indoctrination, and that burns with a will to win, no matter how long it takes or what it costs. The future will belong to the lions, not the lambs.

(This article originally appeared here on FrontPage Mag, 12/18/14)

Why Mark Wahlberg Should be Pardoned

In April 1988, a 16-year-old Mark Wahlberg was convicted in adult court of felony assault against two men during an attempted theft, while under the influence of pot and alcohol. One of the victims, a Vietnamese man, was legendarily left blind in one eye. Wahlberg received a two-year sentence, with three months to be served and the remainder suspended. He ended up serving only 45 days, but it seems to have scared him straight. Through “faith, hard work, and guidance from some incredible mentors,” Wahlberg says, “I turned my life around.” Over twenty-six years later, the actor is petitioning the Massachusetts Parole Board for a pardon for that conviction – a forgiveness that media opponents of white privilege want to deny him.

In his working-class youth in Boston, Wahlberg was a high-school dropout and petty thug: on drugs at thirteen, numerous run-ins with the law, ugly incidents of racist behavior, convicted of assault. To his credit, he makes no excuses for that: “I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life and I’ve done bad things,” he has said, but “everything I did wrong was my own fault. I was taught the difference between right and wrong at an early age. I take full responsibility.”

“I've worked extremely hard for the last 27 years since I woke up sober and realized the horrible mistakes I had made and the horrible pain I had caused so many people,” Wahlberg told The New York Daily News recently. “Every single day I try to better myself as a person.” Some of that effort has been directed into philanthropic work including raising millions of dollars for the various causes of the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation, serving on the board of the Boys and Girls Club, and helping the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens encourage underprivileged youth to finish high school and go on to higher education.

In his application, Wahlberg wrote that the pardon would be

formal recognition that someone like me can receive official public redemption if he devotes himself to personal improvement and a life of good works. My hope is that, if I receive a pardon, troubled youths will see this as an inspiration and motivation that they too can turn their lives around and be accepted back into society. It would also be an important capstone to the lessons that I try to teach my own children on a daily basis.

Harsh media skepticism ensued. Some noted cynically that part of Wahlberg’s stated motivation lies in the possible expansion of his Wahlburger’s restaurant chain, which could be denied locations in some states due to his felony record. If this is indeed his ulterior motive, however, it seems odd and not especially shrewd to actually include it in his application.

The media skeptics also linked Wahlberg’s request to current racial tensions. Ben Railton at Talking Points Memo, for example, called Wahlberg’s application “the epitome of white privilege,” and claimed that the actor is trying to rewrite history. But Wahlberg isn’t trying to buy a whitewashing of his crime, which he has never avoided discussing in public. “I have not engaged in philanthropic efforts,” Walhberg writes in his application, “in order to make people forget about my past. To the contrary, I want people to remember my past so that I can serve as an example of how lives can be turned around and how people can be redeemed.” A pardon would not erase what Wahlberg did; it would only officially forgive him for it.

Jeff Yang at CNN, for another, linked Wahlberg’s teenage crimes to the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner, and declared emphatically that the white Wahlberg “doesn’t deserve pardon.” Brian Moylan at Time, in a particularly cynical op-ed called “Forgive Mark Wahlberg’s Cinematic Crimes, If You Like – But Not His Real Ones,” says that a pardon for the narcissistic celebrity Wahlberg would only prove that rich white folk are above the law.

All three commentators accuse Wahlberg of cruising to stardom after his light sentencing while criminals of color struggle even to find jobs after their convictions. They neglect to mention that the talented Wahlberg is a rare situation, that most white ex-cons also struggle to get by. They also conveniently neglect to mention that black rapper Jay-Z was convicted in 2001 of a 2nd degree felony – a stabbing – and received only three years probation. Neither that conviction nor his skin color held Jay-Z back; he and wife Beyoncé are worth a combined billion dollars. If Jay-Z were to seek a pardon, would the race-baiters support it because he’s black? I believe that’s called racism.

Only Time’s Moylan even mentioned that another reason Wahlberg is seeking a pardon is to become a reserve officer for the LAPD, a position that civilian volunteers hold in order to perform the duties of full-time police officers: “I am seeking a full and unconditional pardon because, under California law, a full and unconditional pardon is the only form of pardon that will enable me to, for example, obtain a position as a parole or probation officer.”

Here’s something else that the haters always bring up and always get wrong: that Wahlberg’s Vietnamese victim not only forgives him, but that he was already blind in one eye: “I was not blinded by Mark Wahlberg,” said 59-year-old Johnny Trinh in the only media interview about the incident that he has ever given. “He did hurt me, but my left eye was already gone. He was not responsible for that.”

In a recent, exclusive interview with Daily Mail Online, Trinh – who never even knew that his assaulter went on to become a famous rapper and movie star – said that he supports a pardon for Wahlberg and that he is willing to make a written statement for the court to that effect:

I forgive him now. Everyone deserves another chance. I would like to see him get a pardon. He should not have the crime hanging over him any longer… I am not saying that it did not hurt when he punched me in the face, but it was a long time ago. He has grown up now.

In light of this gracious forgiveness, I do think Trinh himself deserves a personal, face-to-face apology from Wahlberg. But I also believe that Trinh’s gesture goes a long way toward validating a pardon for the star.

I’ve written before for Acculturated about my admiration for the ways in which Mark Wahlberg has reinvented himself as one of Hollywood’s most upstanding role models: from returning to school at the age of 41 for his high school diploma, to his very vocal appreciation for our military, to his devotion to family. Indeed, Wahlberg was voted the first recipient of Acculturated’s “Celebrities Behaving Well Award. None of this is to excuse or erase the thug life of his youth. But it is to acknowledge, as Wahlberg’s pardon would do, that youthful criminality need not determine the course of one’s life, that redemption can be earned, and that as a society we value the power of forgiveness.

(This article originally appeared here on Acculturated, 12/16/14)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Chris Rock: College Audiences Are Too PC

The college circuit used to be where many newer, edgier comedians built their audience and reputation, and where some established comedians remained relevant by connecting with a new crop of fans. But in recent years those fans seem to have traded their funny bones for a very humorless hypersensitivity toward the feelings of others.

In a recent, wide-ranging Vulture interview, comedian Chris Rock was asked for his thoughts on the controversy back in October about talk show host and comedian Bill Maher speaking at UC Berkeley’s commencement. Ironically, considering that this is the 50th anniversary year of the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley, students disinvited Maher over remarks he had made about Islam that some found “racist and bigoted.”

Curiously, it was the university that stepped up in support of free speech over student objections; the administration reinstated Maher’s invitation, asserting in a statement that it fully respects and supports Maher’s right to express his opinions and does not intend to “shy away from hosting speakers who some deem provocative.”

“Well, I love Bill,” Rock answered, “but I stopped playing colleges, and the reason is because they’re way too conservative.” Politically conservative, the interviewer asked? Rock’s response says a great deal about the current state of American youth in higher education:

Not in their political views — not like they’re voting Republican — but in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody. Kids raised on a culture of “We’re not going to keep score in the game because we don’t want anybody to lose.” Or just ignoring race to a fault. You can’t say “the black kid over there.” No, it’s “the guy with the red shoes.” You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.

Maher wasn’t the only commencement speaker this year to have been confronted by politically correct sensibilities: Condoleezza Rice at Rutgers University, International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde at Smith College and former UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau at Haverford College were all successfully shut down. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, women’s rights proponent and fierce critic of Islam, was denied an honorary degree at Brandeis for similar reasons.

Political correctness, Chris Rock said, is “stronger than ever.” The atmosphere on today’s campuses is that of intolerance of anyone and anything that could conceivably give offense, that challenges students’ biases and makes them feel uncomfortable. Thanks to the comforting embrace of Orwellian speech codes, safe spaces, and trigger warnings, too many young people place a high priority on the protection of their feelings and beliefs. They’re wary of testing received wisdom and expanding their horizons, and they cling to favored illusions while wrapping themselves in the force-field of victim status. The result is a reflexive sensitivity that renders the comedy routine of someone like Rock completely toothless and pointless; hence, no more college tours.

Rock told his Vulture interviewer that he began to notice this dismal state of affairs “about eight years ago. Probably a couple of tours ago. It was just like, This is not as much fun as it used to be. I remember talking to George Carlin before he died [in 2008] and him saying the exact same thing.”

Carlin, of course, was an uncompromising champion for free speech. “Political correctness is America’s newest form of intolerance,” Carlin once complained,” and it’s especially pernicious because it comes disguised as tolerance.” He was surprised by the censorship from “the politically correct people on the campuses,” and groused about the tortured, evasive wording forced upon everyone by the “Political Language Police” in a misguided attempt to avoid being judgmental. “Politically correct language cripples discourse, creates ugly language, and is generally stupid,” he declared.

Universities exist – in theory, anyway – to open up students’ minds, not circumscribe them. But political correctness is so much the “new normal” that the students themselves have become their own intellectual jailers. It may take another couple of generations of hard work to dismantle that and reopen the American mind. Too bad Chris Rock abandoned that field, because comedy is a uniquely powerful tool for challenging one’s perspective and saying what cannot be said.

(This article originally appeared here on Acculturated, 12/15/14)

Monday, December 15, 2014

New Bond Girl is a Bond Woman

Late last week the producers of the Bond blockbusters officially announced the title (Spectre) and cast of the 24th installment of the franchise, including the return of Daniel Craig as Bond, James Bond. But all the buzz about the announcement has been centered not on Bond himself, but on the newest – or rather, the oldest – Bond girl.

Fifty-year-old Italian actress Monica Bellucci has just made history as the oldest Bond girl in 50 years of Bond movies. This smashes the record held by Goldfinger’s Honor Blackman, who was 39 when she played Pussy Galore back in 1964. The gorgeous model-turned-actress Bellucci is older than even Bond himself – Craig is 46 – which has happened on only a couple of previous occasions through the decades. The Washington Post, which actually charted the ages of the Bonds and their women throughout the franchise’s history, proclaimed that “James Bond finally falls for a woman his own age.”

Bellucci has had a brush with Bond girlhood before: she nearly got the role in 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies that ultimately went to Teri Hatcher. At the time, she was already a star in Europe but it was before her leading role in Malena, which brought her greater attention in America. She went on to appear in Hollywood films like Tears of the Sun opposite Bruce Willis, the Matrix films, and Passion of the Christ, in addition to a boatload of productions in Europe, where the glamorous Bellucci is a household name.

Not everyone in the media applauded the inspired and well-deserved casting of Bellucci. In the dismissively-titled “‘Spectre’ Casts 50-Year-Old Bond Girl For 007 to Do Sex To,” The Daily Beast’s Amy Zimmerman complained that “the Bond series still has a long ways to go if it wants a cookie for being feminist-friendly.”

But why should Bond be feminist-friendly? That’s not his style. Audiences for five decades have enjoyed his unapologetically masculine swagger, wry quips, stylish menswear, and sleek sports cars. As Monica Bellucci said: “James Bond is our fantasy – the ideal man. The man is a protector, he is dangerous, mysterious and sexy, and a perfect English gentleman” – i.e., not feminist-friendly.

As for the women: yes, they’re archaically called Bond “girls” but there isn’t a single actress in Hollywood who wouldn’t leap at the opportunity to play one. And why wouldn’t they? Bond girls are strong, fun, independent characters with professions that have included spy, assassin, nuclear scientist, and oil heiress. They kick ass and look sexy doing it. Sometimes they kick even Bond’s ass. Sometimes they’re deliciously evil, sometimes good, and Bond doesn’t always have sex with them – like Olga Kurylenko, Craig’s Quantum of Solace costar.

Sure, sometimes (mostly in the earlier films) they’re sexual diversions, but sometimes Bond actually falls in love with them, like Eva Green in Casino Royale. He even resigned from the Service in order to build a future with Green’s character – until she betrayed him and died, leaving him emotionally scarred for the next two films. Would it have been more feminist-friendly had he married her and they lived happily ever after? Considering how radical feminists feel about heterosexual marriage, probably not. Would audiences have embraced a softer, domesticated, monogamous Bond? Almost certainly not. So the love interest must die so that the iconic Bond we know and love can go on.

Zimmerman’s kneejerk condemnation of the films for their perceived sexism comes apart in the details. For example, she mentions that Naomie Harris’ character in Skyfall is demoted from field agent to Bond’s “devoted” secretary – “not exactly a Lean In-approved take on the modern corporate world.” But Harris’ character wasn’t demoted – she had the full confidence of her superiors but took herself out of the field because she decided being a field agent wasn’t for her. And she didn’t become Bond’s “glorified secretary-cum-booty call” – she is the secretary for M, the head of the British Secret Service and Bond’s boss (who for seven films was played by Dame Judi Dench – a feminist-friendly aspect that Zimmerman neglected to consider).

By the way, Naomie Harris is 38, nearly breaking Honor Blackman’s record herself. So at an age at which most actresses are panicking about narrowing opportunities for roles, Bond “girls” can still be sexy, smart, stylish, and lethal when they need to be. What woman doesn’t aspire to that?

James Bond films are more successful than ever at 50 years old because they’re sexy, fun, action-packed, over-the-top escapism starring a man’s man who has been one of the world’s favorite fictional characters since Ian Fleming’s novels first appeared in the ‘50s. They’re not meant to be taken too seriously – but at the same time, they’re more feminist-forward than the killjoys give them credit for.

(This article originally appeared here on Acculturated, 12/11/14

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Victoria’s Secret is Sexy, not Sexist

It’s that time of year again. Christmas, yes, but I’m referring to the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, which won’t air until December 9 but is already being greeted by the predictable tut-tutting from those who wrongly conflate “sexy” with “sexist.”

The extravagant show was actually staged last Tuesday in London. Irked by the “tawdry caravan” of lean-limbed, wild-maned, high-heeled, spray-tanned Victoria’s Secret Angels, the UK Daily Mail’s Sarah Vine lit into the dazzling celebration of genetic perfection, asking, “How did 50 years of feminism end in this?

It’s not looking feminine per se to which Vine objects – she concedes that “it is perfectly possible to make it in a man’s world without looking like one” – but she draws the line at what she repeatedly called Victoria’s Secret’s trashiness. “The brand’s website looks like a soft porn magazine,” she complains. “I imagine it gets a lot of traffic from teenage boys. Like most cheap and tacky things these days… it’s annoyingly successful.”

But it’s not successful because of teenage boys; it’s not successful even because of men, since men generally don’t buy lingerie for their partners. Victoria’s Secret raked in $6.6 billion in 2013 and controls 35% of America’s lingerie market because women want to feel sexy and desirable, because pretty lingerie helps them feel that way, and because VS works that angle spectacularly well. Even the models are chosen, according to VS, to appeal to its female customers, not to men.

This is precisely what disturbs Vine – that VS has convinced women that they are wearing its products because they want to, not because “they are expected to.” This doesn’t give VS’ customers much credit for making up their own minds. But Vine and many others like her are further troubled by what they see as the objectification of women by Victoria’s Secret, which is “a world where how you look doesn’t just matter; it’s the only thing that matters”:

No other quality is required. Forget kindness or intelligence: can you or can you not get into this see-through lace body? And if not, why not? A degree in astrophysics? Don’t be ridiculous, woman. What you need is a rhinestone thong… It makes a mockery of everything that modern women stand for — and invites us to be complicit in our downfall.

That is really going too far. VS sells lingerie, so naturally the focus is on the female body and on sexiness. Objectors like Vine who take such umbrage at VS are confusing sexy with sexist. Sexiness is not oppression or even objectification. It and other qualities like kindness or intelligence are not mutually exclusive; in fact, more often than not, sexiness blooms out of a woman’s other qualities, and the lingerie is just the icing on the cake. Is Vine saying that a woman who indulges her sexy side with a rhinestone thong can’t also be kind and intelligent? Victoria’s Secret may be about seduction, but it is not seducing women away from pursuing that degree in astrophysics.

As for Vine’s accusation that VS’ models promote an idealized standard for women’s bodies: of course they do. The models who look fabulous on the runway and in the famous VS catalog serve as inspiration for women who want to envision their idealized selves in sexy undies. If VS marched a parade of frumps down the runway instead, the show wouldn’t capture 9.3 million viewers, and women would look elsewhere for attractive lingerie.

I do grant one point of Vine’s argument. She notes that Victoria’s Secret’s parent company L Brands recently launched Pink, “aimed fairly and squarely at the teen market.” She worries that there is “a real danger” of the younger generation being sexualized before their time. As the father of two little girls, I too have my concerns about age-appropriateness and think VS should be careful about grooming girls to become customers too young.

Despite all the skin on titillating display, the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show that Sarah Vine derides as “trashy costumes, echoes of strippers and sleazy nightclubs, nudity and downright lecherousness” is not quite as Bacchanalian as all that. It’s simply a fun, glitzy, and yes, sexy pop culture event. The show doesn’t crudely demean or limit women; it simply celebrates their sexiness. Even astrophysicists don’t want to be cerebral all the time.

(This article originally appeared here on Acculturated, 12/8/14)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

WaPo: Believe Rape Accusations Even if They’re False

As the shocking allegations of a fraternity party gang rape at the University of Virginia come unraveled, progressives whose cause is to condemn America for a so-called “rape culture” have chosen to double down in defense of the apparent falsehood. The Washington Post even ran an astoundingly un-American piece that suggests we should believe rape accusations, regardless of whether they are true.

Rolling Stone, the music and politics magazine that can stay relevant only by sexualizing everyone (including terrorists – remember its dreamy cover photo of Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev?), broke the lurid story only to have it fall apart thanks to unconscionably sloppy journalism. But progressives cannot let the truth get in the way of the agenda, so Zerlina Maxwell rushed to fill the breach with the aforementioned WaPo piece initially entitled “No matter what Jackie said, we should automatically believe rape claims” (“Jackie” is the victim’s pseudonym).

The thrust of Maxwell’s piece is that “the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist.” She begins by saying that many people

will be tempted to see [the collapse of the UofV gang-rape allegation] as a reminder that officials, reporters and the general public should hear both sides of the story and collect all the evidence before coming to a conclusion in rape cases. This is what we mean in America when we say someone is “innocent until proven guilty.” After all, look what happened to the Duke lacrosse players.

Exactly – look at what happened to them. But then she goes on to reject that reasonable restraint: “In important ways,” she wrote, “this is wrong. We should believe, as a matter of default, what an accuser says” [emphasis added] – after all, false accusations are “exceedingly rare,” she claims. But then she quotes an FBI statistic that 2-8% of allegations are false; that is not “exceedingly rare.”

In any case, it wouldn’t matter if the figure were only 1% - in this country we don’t suspend the presumption of innocence just “to offer our hand of support to survivors.” Maxwell disagrees: “The time we spend picking apart a traumatized survivor’s narration on the hunt for discrepancies is time that should be spent punishing serial rapists.”

It should go without saying, especially to someone with a law degree like Maxwell, that we shouldn’t be “punishing serial rapists” if they haven’t yet been proven to be serial rapists. She has created a false choice between believing and disbelieving the accused. It is not the job of law enforcement to believe or disbelieve a victim’s story; it is their job to determine if a crime has been committed, to investigate it, to examine the evidence, and then to act accordingly. Maxwell wants to reverse that process; too bad if the accusation falls apart under later scrutiny.

And what of the man she’s willing to falsely if temporarily accuse of the ugly crime of rape? Well, he would have “a rough period” for the duration of the investigation, Maxwell generously concedes. For example, he might lose some Facebook friends – yes, she actually wrote that. But when his name is cleared everything will return to normal. Certainly no one would suggest that a real rape victim’s trauma is not significant, but Maxwell is willfully ignoring the damage done to a man falsely smeared as a sexual predator.

Her op-ed was so stunningly and self-evidently wrong that it incurred a wave of Twitter wrath and negative comments, resulting in either Maxwell or the WaPo editors backing off and replacing “automatically” in the headline with “generally,” which is little improvement.

“Democratic strategist” Maxwell is of the school of thought, and I use that word loosely, that we live in a rape culture and if only we taught men not to rape, then women would be relieved of the burden of having to protect themselves from it (“strategist,” by the way, is the title given to someone has no official authority or function except to serve as a media mouthpiece for talking points).

Rape culture is the theory that sexual assault becomes normalized when a culture condones the objectification and trivialization of women. Radical feminists have managed to push the term to the forefront of our conversations about the sexes today, promoting the ugly notion that all men are literal or latent rapists who need to be deprogrammed out of their acculturated misogyny.

As I’ve written before for FrontPage, America doesn’t have a rape culture any more than we have a murder culture. We have a culture that considers both to be heinous violent crimes. We have a culture so unforgiving of rape that even false accusations of it ruin men’s lives. We don’t “teach” men to rape, and the vast majority of American males would never even consider such a depraved act.

According to 2013 Bureau of Justice statistics, the estimated annual rate of female rape or sexual assault victimizations in this country declined 58% from 1995 to 2010. To cite this is absolutely not to trivialize the terrible violation that is rape; it is not to suggest that anything more than zero sexual assaults is acceptable; and it is not to encourage complacency. It is only to emphasize that not only are we not enmeshed in a rape culture, but things seem to be improving significantly.

However, there are violent deviants who will and do rape, and the world will never rid itself of that evil minority. That’s just reality, but it’s not the utopian reality that progressives insist upon. To believe that we can simply teach that rape is unconscionable – which we already do – and that the crime will then disappear is a childish and useless utopian fantasy.

When a pregnant teenager in the Sudan faces death by stoning for being gang-raped, that is a rape culture. But a privileged Western woman like Zerlina Maxwell is insanely focused on smearing innocent men in order to peddle the myth that American culture is little better.

(This article originally appeared here on FrontPage Mag, 12/8/14

Dept. of Ed. Supports Classroom Memorials to Michael Brown

If you are mystified as to why the left strives so hard to make martyrs out of such unlikely role models as Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, both killed in self-defense, just keep in mind Rahm Emanuel’s credo: “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.”

Within days of the shooting of Brown in August, a “Professor of Science and Education” named Christopher Emdin posted (and then updated in October) a piece for Huffington Post entitled “5 Ways to Teach About Michael Brown and Ferguson in the New School Year.” That article was given new life when a link to it was tweeted by the White House Am-Af Ed just after Thanksgiving. It included the acronym for “in case you missed it” – indicating that the administration thought the article’s content important and valid enough to bring to people’s attention once again.

What is Am-Af Ed? It is the U.S. Department of Education’s Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, an Obama creation designed to improve educational opportunities for blacks in America. But of course, educational excellence doesn’t mean the same thing to the Alinsky protégés in the White House as it does to most Americans. To the radical left, education is about mobilizing, galvanizing, and deploying armies of social justice warriors.

The Am-Af Ed tweet also included Twitter links to: left-leaning PBS; Teaching for Change, whose motto is “Building Social Justice Starting in the Classroom”; and Rethinking Schools, whose mission is “social justice teaching and education activism… to build broad democratic movements for social and environmental justice.” See a pattern developing there?

Teaching for Change devotes an entire page to “Teaching About Ferguson” to help indoctrinators – I mean, educators – enable students to “be proactive in their own communities” – because apparently it’s less important to give students of color an education than it is to pump them up for community action. The page is replete with items about the history of racism in America, along with positive references to Malcolm X, radical historian Howard Zinn, and the Black Panthers. That would be the same Black Panthers whose recent plot to bomb the Gateway Arch and murder the Ferguson police chief and a St. Louis prosecutor was stalled because the racist thugs ran out of EBT credit. What a standard for academic excellence they set.

Emdin’s Huffington Post piece urges that educators “set the appropriate tone for the school year” by focusing on “events and issues that mean something to students,” especially “youth of color” – by which he means the Michael Brown shooting and what he calls “the recent events in Ferguson.” Those “events” now have expanded beyond Ferguson and include rioting, burning, looting, and murdering, and the harassment of Christmas-caroling children for good measure. It is “imperative that teachers find a way to bring this issue into the classroom,” he writes, otherwise “we are loosing [sic] opportunities to make powerful connections” – because successful community organizing depends on ramping up racial grievances and victimhood. Never mind the powerful connections that a good education would instill in students’ minds.

His 5 steps to not letting this crisis go to waste begin with asking students what they have heard or know about Brown and Ferguson. From there the indoctrinators – oops, there I go again – are to connect the Brown shooting to other, similar controversial black deaths such as those of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner, to make students “more sociopolitically aware” and to develop “emotional awareness, empathy, and other skills necessary to be informed citizens.” Actually, emotional awareness, whatever that is, and empathy are unnecessary to be an informed citizen; they are, however, necessary in order for youth to be manipulated by progressive race-mongers into believing that feeling trumps facts.

Third, Emdin recommends that students “write letters to all those who are involved in the shooting. This includes politicians, police officers, the families of victims of the violence, and even the deceased.” This apparently helps “students lean [sic] how to write while conveying emotion” – because again, emphasizing emotion is a critical element in community organizing. And while the students devote all this time to writing emotionally-charged letters to everyone involved in a case in which the evidence supports the white officer’s story and demolishes the racially self-serving lies initially spread about the shooting, the rest of their education languishes on the sidelines.

Emdin’s fourth proposal would ordinarily beggar belief, except that by now, nothing that emerges from leftist propagandizing in the American educational system should surprise anyone. He recommends that students create a memorial to Brown on a classroom bulletin board, to “honor Michael Brown and other people who have been victims of police and other violence.” That’s an actual memorial to a man who initiated violence against a cop after strong-arming a local storekeeper in the commission of a crime. That is the man that Emdin and the Department of Education want to hold up as an inspiration to youth of color. This, Emdin claims, helps teachers to “form classroom solidarity” [emphasis added] – because classroom solidarity, and not the development of individual critical thinking skills, is crucial to “rethinking schools.”

Finally, Emdin wants teachers to “carry the theme for the rest of the year” to get the students “beyond meaningless assignments like writing and talking about what they did over the summer... [They] begin to see the classroom as a space where the teaching affects real life, and where assignments have meaning” – because without the transformative goal of racial payback and social justice, readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic obviously have no real life applications.

Are such recommendations really ways in which Af-Am Ed intends to produce educational excellence in students of color? For all of Christopher Emdin’s lip service to the “critical thinking skills” he claims his plan promotes, it will produce not academic excellence but more dumbed-down youth animated by racial anger – just the way the Alinsky protégés want it.

(This article originally appeared here on FrontPage Mag, 12/5/14

Beyoncé Stands with Rioters in New Video

Just in time to add fuel to the Ferguson fire, superstar singer Beyoncé has re-released a video for her dirge-like, 2013 single “Superpower,” in which she makes rioting against law enforcement look hip and romantic.

The overlong video opens with an image of the Black Power fist – a hint of things to come. Then the camera finds Beyoncé striding in super slo-mo down a stretch of urban Los Angeles devastation in a flesh-baring outfit that is difficult to describe; suffice it to say that, like too much fashion today, it is runway-fabulous but no one would wear it outside of a Beyoncé video. The salient point is that her getup inexplicably pairs this semi-nudity with a niqab, which she draws up over her face, exposing only her eyes.

This apparently displeased some Muslims. Twitter lit up with complaints such as, “Dear Beyoncé: Do you think you’re going to get away with wearing a version of Islamic head-dress, niqab, while promoting your Demonic music?” Another tweet: “Quoting our holy Quran and dressing in a niqab isn’t a fashion statement you dumb beyonce.” In the video’s context, it’s possible that Beyoncé intended for the look to be more Occupy Wall Street than Islamic. Or perhaps she was wearing a niqab to make Muslim head coverings sexier and more culturally acceptable. If so, it failed to convince at least one feminist, who lashed out on Twitter: “Sorry, Beyonce. Probably not in the best interest for women’s rights to make the niqab fashionable. Just sayin’.”

Back to the video. Beyoncé is gradually joined by a growing crowd of chic, wannabe revolutionaries sporting edgy hairstyles and clothing that looks like a privileged designer’s ridiculous fantasy of how urban youth dress. Some of them conceal their identities with gas masks and scarves, Occupy-style, because they know they’re about to commit crimes.

The dirge drags on as Beyoncé pouts, scowls, and growls. Her mob smashes car windows with baseball bats, hurls Molotov cocktails, and burns cop cars while Beyoncé sings: “The laws of the world never stopped us once/’Cause together we got plenty super power.” Except for the music and the ultrachic posturing, it suggests the real-life “sensitive urban zones” of Paris, where immigrant “youth” go on nightly, car-immolating rampages and challenge the police in territorial skirmishes.

As the song draws mercifully to a close, the privileged Beyoncé – having peeled off the niqab and donned a camouflage jacket that costs probably $3000 – faces off with her defiant, multicultural mob of chiseled cheekbones against a line of cops in riot gear. She stands next to a man in a balaclava reminiscent of her niqab. The two of them clasp hands Thelma and Louise-style in anticipation of the confrontation to come. The message: rioting, property destruction, anarchy, and attacking cops are cool – and nothing influences youth more than the aura of cool.

Who cares, you ask? She’s just another left-leaning celebrity exposing her own political ignorance. Why is her video important? It’s important because Beyoncé is arguably the biggest entertainer in the world now. With over 118 million albums sold, she is the top artist of the 2000s, with 17 Grammy awards, a Golden Globe nomination, and untold millions of fans worldwide. Her pop culture influence is incalculable, and pop culture – not politics – is where the progressive control takes root. When Beyoncé weighs in on an issue like the Ferguson tinderbox, her fans absorb the message and pump their fists along with her.

The video was actually first released last December, long before the August 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Why would Beyoncé believe that this is an appropriate time to put it back in the public eye?

Keep in mind that she is married to rapper Jay-Z, who has none of Beyoncé’s talent but all of her racial supremacism and political radicalism.* His song lyrics are replete with profanity, racial slurs, misogyny, glorification of violence, and expressions of racial grievance – not to mention anti-police hatred. “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” boasts of giving “a middle finger to the law.” A music video titled “No Church in the Wild,” which “Superpower” resembles, celebrates anarchy and depicts police trying to quell a violent riot. And “99 Problems” features a verse about blacks being racially profiled by the “motherfu**ing law.” In 2009 he released a song in honor of the newly-elected Obama entitled “My President is Black” (imagine if a country singer back in 2005 had performed a song called “My President is White”). The massively wealthy Jay-Z (he and his wife have a net worth of $1 billion) has also been a supporter, or at least an exploiter, of the Occupy movement.

The two are arguably Obama’s closest, and certainly most famous, friends in the entertainment industry. MTV even described their relationship with the President as “a mutual affection society” and Jay-Z’s friendship with him a “bromance.” In September 2012, Jay-Z and Beyoncé hosted a $40,000-per-person fundraising reception which took in more than $4 million for Obama’s re-election campaign. Subsequently the dynamic duo were given State Department permission for a grand, whitewashed tour of the Communist utopia in Cuba, where Jay-Z appeared wearing a Ché T-shirt (in solidarity with a murdering coward who held musicians and blacks in contempt).

Music entertainers have a long tradition of anti-establishment, anti-authoritarian lyrics aimed at a rebellious youth audience. I don’t expect Beyoncé to come out with a pro-police anthem or an ode to Darren Wilson. But to re-release a video that openly advocates violent conflict with the police at this time of heightened tension between blacks and law enforcement is irresponsible at best, and incitement to violence at worst. The fact that Beyoncé is so closely linked to the President of the United States makes it all the more unconscionable, albeit unsurprising, since the “post-racial” Obama, who urged protesters to “stay the course,” hasn’t lifted a finger to quell the violent animus over Ferguson.

* Some of what followed was excerpted and paraphrased from the Horowitz Freedom Center’s Discover the Networks resource site about Jay-Z.

(This article originally appeared here on FrontPage Mag, 12/4/14)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Benjamin Watson’s Wisdom About Ferguson

Amid all the dark news from Ferguson last week, my Acculturated colleague Chelsea Samuelson still managed to find “rays of light and hope” emanating from the rioting. Another bit of inspirational positivity came in the unexpected form of a viral Facebook post from New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson, who touched literally hundreds of thousands of readers with his honest introspection about the racially charged controversy.

Following his Monday night game against the Baltimore Ravens, the 33-year-old Watson wrestled with his feelings about the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown. Watson decided to write them all down: his anger, frustration, fear, embarrassment, and ultimately his hope. That Facebook post has garnered, as of this writing, more than 732,ooo “likes” and over 404,000 shares.

“I'M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes,” he began. Then he made an interesting observation about the cultural milieu in which such confrontations take place: “I'M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.”

He went on to talk about his determination to go “the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt” when people view him, a black male, with suspicion. He expressed his embarrassment over the lawless looting that “confirms” and “validates” black stereotypes. And yet he’s hopeful, “because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents... And it’s a beautiful thing.”

I can vouch that it is a beautiful thing, because I’ve been around long enough to witness that sea change in race relations – although I also believe those relations in America have dipped in recent years to their lowest ebb since the 1960s. Nevertheless, Watson’s positive perspective is a welcome relief from the relentless race-baiting that goes on in the media.

“The only way we can move forward in any of this is to talk about it and to be honest,” Watson told a sports reporter in the locker room. “When it’s simply hatred, violence, finger-pointing, those sorts of things… and sometimes you feel like doing that, yes, but on the other side, it’s important to think about how you feel, why you feel about it, and take time to listen to how somebody else feels because of their life experiences.” If only Watson’s reasonable voice had a more prominent media presence than that of some of the self-designated civil rights leaders who are exacerbating racial tensions in Ferguson rather than resolving them.

Then Watson turned, in his Facebook post, to a religious interpretation of the controversy and its solution:

Ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I'M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that's capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being.

The cure, Ben Watson wrote, for incidents like the shooting deaths of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin “is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.” His Christian take on the current racial strife may be unsatisfying for some, but it’s the only perspective I’ve heard that offers hope and understanding for Ferguson.

(This article originally appeared here on Acculturated, 12/1/14)

Justifying the Rioting

Rather than denounce the shameful lawlessness demonstrated by many “protesters” demanding “justice” in the wake of the grand jury decision about Officer Darren Wilson, progressives are doubling down by posting rationalizations for the rioting.

Marc Lamont Hill, for example, author of a book on “hip hop pedagogy” who hilariously describes himself as “one of the leading intellectual voices in the country,” tweeted, “The story of ferguson tonight is way bigger than looting or violence. People are angry. People are hurting. They're killing us with impunity.” This is nonsense. People don’t loot and burn down neighborhood businesses because they are angry and hurting; they do so because trumped-up racial controversies give a criminal element the cover to commit crimes against business owners who had nothing to do with the controversy. Rioters steal big-screen TVs and Nike sneakers because they’re hurting? Ridiculous. They steal them because they are opportunistic thieves.

The hugely popular Gawker site, in an article claiming that “riots are good,” actually argues that “rioting is economically efficient”: “Since state authorities are always and everywhere most concerned about capital and business interests, threatening to impose costs on them via rioting should have a similar impact on police incentives” – by which it means that destructive rioting now supposedly discourages the police from shooting innocent black males later. What it really dissuades economically is businesses starting up or rebuilding in a neighborhood devastated by looters. The costs it imposes are not on the police, but on the victimized local business owners and their employees. But then, celebrity gossip is Gawker’s strong suit, not economics or common sense.

Perhaps the most unintentionally comical defense of rioting is from Mask Magazine, “an online style + living magazine for antagonist youth.” With a title that could have come straight out of the satiric site The Onion, “Hey, Step Back with the Riot Shaming” explains irrationally that “[People of color] are criminals because we are seen as criminals.” [emphasis in original] So, simply being viewed with suspicion causes people to commit crimes? The writer argues (actually, he doesn’t “argue” anything; he just spews a lot of whiny victimhood) that blacks don’t “own” neighborhoods; there are black-owned businesses, he concedes, but in the next breath he claims that “we don’t have shit,” and so apparently it’s all right to loot and burn the black-owned neighborhood businesses that he says blacks don’t have.

Even before the grand jury decision, as early as August right after the shooting of Michael Brown, a site called the New Inquiry put up a piece with the straightforward title, “In Defense of Looting.” It was Marxist, racist agit-prop written by a guy whose bio identifies him as “a member of the punk band Vulture Shit.” Here’s a sample: “Only if you believe that having nice things for free is amoral, if you believe, in short, that the current (white-supremacist, settler-colonialist) regime of property is just, can you believe that looting is amoral in itself.” Here’s another: “Looters are only stealing from the rich owners’ profit margins. Those owners, meanwhile, especially if they own a chain like QuikTrip, steal forty hours every week from thousands of employees who in return get the privilege of not dying for another seven days.” This sounds like easily dismissed, Occupy lunacy, but unfortunately it is representative of the “thinking” of a depressing percentage of young people.

Also in August, the radical Salon.com posted a piece “in defense of black rage,” in which the writer states about rioting, “I refuse to condemn the folks engaged in these acts, because I respect black rage… How dare people preach and condescend to these people and tell them not to loot, not to riot? Yes, those are destructive forms of anger, but frankly I would rather these people take their anger out on property and products rather than on other people.”

But what Salon and other riot apologists refuse to acknowledge is that those products and property don’t exist in a vacuum; they belong to people who had nothing to do with the controversy and yet whose livelihoods are seriously damaged, and in some cases ruined, by the looting and burning of that property.

In addition to these intellectually insupportable attempts to justify rioting, other progressive voices took the opportunity to simply fuel the fire. In apparent response to tweets that the rioters should “go back to Africa,” The Atlantic’s popular Ta-Nahisi Coates, perhaps best-known for his recent article supporting slave reparations, tweeted, “Not how this works. We are here to run you out, not the other way around.” If he’s saying that blacks are here to run whites out of the country, then that’s a rather militantly racist admission.

Another militant, UPenn’s willfully illiterate Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Africana Studies Anthea Butler – whose unhinged response to the George Zimmerman verdict I have previously written about – posted an equally unhinged response this time, an inflammatory article asserting that Michael Brown was a “sacrifice to the god of white supremacy.”

In all fairness, not all the progressive voices attempted to whitewash the rioting or fan the flames. Charles M. Blow of The New York Times, for example, kept a relatively even keel in his Wednesday op-ed:

No one of good character and conscience condones rioting or looting or any destruction of property. Those enterprises aren’t only criminal, they’re fruitless and counterproductive and rob one’s own neighborhood of needed services and facilities and unfairly punish the people who saw fit to follow a dream and an entrepreneurial spirit, and invest in themselves and those communities in the first place.

“But people absolutely have a right to their feelings,” Blow continues, “including anger and frustration.” Of course. But what the riot apologists won’t acknowledge is that violent rage is not justice or justification.

(This article originally appeared here on FrontPage Mag, 12/1/14)