Thursday, June 16, 2016

Evening Reception and Talk with Daniel Greenfield

I'm proud to introduce my friend Daniel Greenfield of the Sultan Knish blog at this event tonight in L.A.

Honor and the Brock Turner Rape Case

The internet has been afire lately with the shocking story of the rape of a young woman by a Stanford University athlete, and the subsequent slap on the wrist he received from the judge in the case. Apart from the pain and injustice suffered by the victim, at the heart of this story is a failure of male honor.

In January 2015 two passing students spotted Brock Turner, 20, behind a dumpster outside a Stanford frat house, raping a young woman passed out from drinking. He tried to flee but the students tackled him and held him for the police. Brock eventually was given a six-month sentence and probation, a lightweight punishment that sparked an explosion of online protest, particularly after the victim herself posted online a devastating statement that went viral about the rape and its effect on her.

Prior to the sentencing, Brock’s father wrote a letter to Judge Aaron Persky attesting to his son’s character and sincere remorse. The father referred to the rape as “the events” of that night, and does not mention Brock’s victim at all. He begs the judge not to ruin the boy’s promising future over what he called, in stunningly tone-deaf phrasing, “20 minutes of action.” He apparently did not consider how those 20 minutes irrevocably altered the victim’s future as well.

Brock’s mother also wrote a plea for mercy to the judge. Not one of her nearly 3500 words refers to the crime or Brock’s victim. It’s as if Brock’s family was simply struck one day with undeserved misfortune that affected no one else. In fact, to read both these letters, one would think that Brock himself was the victim – the victim of a guilty verdict. His parents seem wholly detached from any sympathy for the actual victim of their son’s assault. I understand that the intent of their letters was to shift the focus from the crime to their son’s positive qualities, but they gave no indication that they believe Brock should bear any responsibility for such an ugly act.

Even more disturbing is the reaction of Brock himself, who tried in his own desperate statement to the judge to place the blame on peer pressure and Stanford’s “party culture,” which he promised to devote himself to spreading awareness about. “I want to take what I can from who I was before this situation happened,” he said [emphasis added]. “I know I can impact and change people’s attitudes towards the culture surrounded by binge drinking and sexual promiscuity that protrudes through what people think is at the core of being a college student.”

While college binge drinking and sexual promiscuity are certainly serious issues, rape is another level of gravity altogether. Brock did acknowledge that he is the “sole proprietor of what happened that night” [emphasis added again] but maintained that the sex was consensual (sorry, but no woman consents to being manually probed and humped while lying unconscious behind a dumpster, and the fact that he attempted to flee when discovered is damning evidence that he knew he was guilty). “There isn’t a second that has gone by where I haven’t regretted the course of events I took on January 17th/18th,” he claimed. The course of events I took – again, a refusal to say directly what he did.

Brock came close to an apology by saying that his “poor decision-making and excessive drinking hurt someone that night, and I wish I could just take it all back.” There’s no question that excessive drinking leads to poor decisions at best and tragedy at worst. But rape is not a “poor decision”; majoring in puppetry is a poor decision. Rape is a heinous crime, and the first step toward Brock’s atonement must come from a willingness to own up to that.

The next step would be to seek mercy and forgiveness not from the judge but from his victim. But according to her, Brock did not: “Had Brock admitted guilt and remorse and offered to settle early on,” she wrote, “I would have considered a lighter sentence, respecting his honesty, grateful to be able to move our lives forward.”

I am sympathetic to Brock’s parents for being put in such a terrible position. As a parent myself, I understand the instinct to protect your child, even a grown child like Brock, from a fate as nightmarish as prison. But as devastating as it is for them to face, Brock brought this on himself and his parents must be willing to let their son suffer the consequences. If I had a son guilty of rape, I would be horrified; I would do anything to turn back the clock and erase the tragedy – to spare the victim her trauma and to restore the bright potential of my son’s character. In all fairness, Brock’s parents probably do feel that horror privately.

But that is the harsh reality of our life choices: there is no turning back of the clock. The honorable response is not to seek avenues of escape but to face the music. Men of honor hold themselves and each other responsible for their sins. In this respect, all the men of this tale fell short: Brock did not fully acknowledge his guilt; his father abetted that evasion; the judge’s sentence trivialized Brock’s crime and did not hold him accountable. 

“Honor,” wrote Sophocles, “is not about making the right choices. It is about dealing with the consequences.” It would break my heart, but I would hope that I would have the integrity to tell my son in the same situation that the honorable way forward is to accept the consequences for his crime. That is the beginning of forgiveness and redemption.

From Acculturated, 6/15/16

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Platitudes and Hashtags Won’t Stop Terrorism

Once again, international landmarks are lit up brightly in solidarity with victims of Islamic barbarism, and social media are festooned with hashtags of sympathy for the butchered. Enough. Such safe and easy displays are well-meaning but they serve little purpose beyond making us feel good about our compassion; then we settle back into being comfortably numb (pace Pink Floyd) about the ongoing threat until the next time dozens are killed. It’s long past time we broke the cycle of mourning our dead and started taking concrete actions to prevent more fatalities.
After the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the social media slogan “Je Suis Charlie” went viral. After the ghastly Paris attacks last November, Facebook supporters swathed their profile pics in the French flag. The victims of the San Bernardino jihadist assault in December got short shrift because the city unfortunately doesn’t have a flag to make virtue-signaling convenient. But after the Brussels slaughter in March, the French tricoleur was swapped out for Belgium’s black, yellow, and red. Now that fifty Orlando gay clubgoers are dead and another fifty+ wounded, rainbows abound.
These are the touching but ultimately empty gestures of a culture that is already resigned to losing the clash of civilizations. They will do nothing to save lives the next time around – and there will continue to be many more “next times” throughout the West until we say no more, until we refuse to accept that suffering terrorist savagery is our new normal. We must reverse our mindset, think like conquerors instead of the conquered, and deal aggressively with the source of all this misery: Islam.
In the wake of the Orlando massacre, the calls to fight this relentless evil with love were legion. Shark Tank co-host Robert Herjavec’s tweet exemplifies their sincere but impotent heartache: “There are just no words,” he wrote. “Nothing seems appropriate enough. Just choose Love. Love Wins #PrayersForOrlando” With all due respect to Herjavec, my favorite TV entrepreneur, choosing love isn’t enough when someone else has chosen to kill you. In the face of such a merciless enemy, it is not love we must choose but life, and we do that by choosing not to be a victim, by choosing to fight back, by choosing to kill if necessary. Choosing life by taking another’s may seem like a contradiction or hypocrisy to the morally confused, but that is often the choice we are given in the eternal clash of good and evil. And if we are unwilling and unprepared to make that choice, the enemy will make it for us.
Big Government harpy Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted a similarly high-minded message. “That’s the message of Pride,” she wrote. “That’s who we are. That’s how we’ll defeat hate, & how we protect America.” She closed with the meaningless hashtag “#loveislove,” a bland sentiment that is sure to soften the stony hearts of ISIS killers, if only they would take a break from videotaping gruesome snuff films long enough to read Warren’s Twitter feed. Sorry, Fauxcahontas, we will not defeat “hate” and protect America through pride; it’s going to take going to war with fundamentalist Islam, and that’s a bridge too far for leftists who are already locked into what David Horowitz calls an unholy alliance with radical Islam.
For some reason Nashville Mayor Megan Barry felt compelled to issue a similar statement about the Orlando massacre. She momentarily hit the right note, calling the killings “pure evil”; but then she kicked the legs out from under that assertion with this vomit-inducing solution: “We must meet that evil with an overwhelming show of love.” No, we must meet evil with an overwhelming show of righteous force.
The cast of the Tony-winning historical musical Hamilton symbolically acknowledged the Orlando terrorism by performing that Sunday evening without muskets – a pathetic misfire of a gesture which did not target jihad at all but rather steered the issue toward the left’s foremost obsession (well, second only to transgender bathrooms): gun confiscation.
Speaking of Tonys, host James Corden opened Sunday night’s Tony Awards in New York City with a somber announcement about “the horrific events” in Orlando (Islam was never mentioned, of course, nor was the word “terrorism”). “Your tragedy is our tragedy,” he intoned, referring to the audience behind him who apparently were so traumatized by the Orlando atrocity that they could find healing only by attending a black tie event of Broadway theater entertainment. “Hate will never win,” Corden promised, to an explosion of applause.
I have news for Mr. Corden and everyone on Twitter who feels that an abundance of #LoveWins hashtags will somehow crush ISIS: jihadist hate most certainly will win if we, all of us, don’t drop the mushy platitudes and begin fighting in a very literal sense for our lives, our families, our country, and our civilization.
The very first step is for all of us, from our leadership on down, to acknowledge that the root cause of all this butchery is Islam – not the AR-15, not the NRA, not “easy access to guns,” not colonialism, not “Islamophobia,” not the alienation of Muslims from society, not global warming, not poverty, not the Tea Party, not “a tiny minority of extremists,” not the Israeli “occupation” of “Palestine,” not some amorphous “hate,” but the racist, violent, theocratic, supremacist ideology of Islam. Our leaders from the White House on down must be unafraid to state that the world has a jihad problem, and to express a determination of Churchillian magnitude to defeat it.
Beyond that, there are some glaringly obvious concrete steps we must take. In no particular order, here are a few for a good start: vote the radical left and RINOs out of office; fight to your last breath for your 1st and 2nd Amendment rights; marginalize or better yet shut down all the Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups, whose mission is to destroy us from within – from CAIR to the Islamic Society of North America to the Muslim Students Association and all the rest; shut down imams who foster radicalism; get serious about our borders and our immigration policies; make a thorough housecleaning of every security-sensitive position from Homeland Security to airport baggage handling; lay merciless waste to ISIS.
Don’t get me wrong. Gestures of solidarity can be psychologically empowering, though it’s doubtful they will demoralize the fanatical enemy we are facing. Hashtags, as silly as they often are, can spread awareness. The power of love is unquestionably transformative. But love can change only one willing soul at a time; it cannot in one fell swoop erase the cruelty and hatred from the hearts of ISIS or from generations of fundamentalist Muslims brainwashed to love death more than life and to despise infidels with a murderous fury. Changing the enemy through love sounds beautiful but in reality is an incremental – sometimes even generational – process and not a strategy to reverse the tide of evil now
Mourning the victims of violent jihad brings us all together as Americans. Enough. Now it’s time that we are just as united by our resolve to eradicate this scourge.
From FrontPage Magazine, 6/14/16 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Is ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ Marketing Violence Against Women?

When 20th Century Fox’s X-Men: Apocalypse opened over the Memorial Day weekend, controversy arose over billboards featuring the arresting image of a ginormous male Marvel Comics character named Apocalypse gripping the female mutant Mystique by the throat. The image offended some, such as actress Rose McGowan, who wrote that “There is a major problem when the men and women at 20th Century Fox think casual violence against women is the way to market a film.” But McGowan’s complaint is off the mark, and only underscores the problematic nature of the demand for onscreen equality of the sexes.

McGowan wasn’t alone; others joined her in protest of the image. Among others, Jay Edidin from the podcast “Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men” called it “gratuitous” and “offensive in ways that serve absolutely no purpose.” Devin Faraci at the blog Birth.Movies.Death agreed: “It’s just an image of a big guy choking out a smaller woman.” Jennifer McCleary-Sills of the International Center for Research on Women says it’s a reminder of how violence against women is used by Hollywood as a default and “seen as sexy for all the wrong reasons.” In a Facebook post to The Hollywood Reporter (THR), McGowan herself wrote that “[t]here is no context in the ad, just a woman getting strangled.”

That’s not so, however. The clear context is that the billboard is promoting a superhero film from a Marvel universe in which super-powered women such as Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow abound. Besides being fictional, Mystique is not merely an ordinary woman being strangled by a much stronger man in the image, which would certainly by disturbing in the context of a different film genre – say, a drama or thriller. Rather, the dramatic tension stems from the fact that she is a kick-ass super-mutant up against an even more powerful supervillain, not that she is the helpless victim of “casual violence against women.”

The ad may arouse shock or indignation in some viewers who innately understand that violence against a woman – even a super-powered one – is morally repugnant, and 20th Century Fox may be playing on that instinct to stir up an emotional response to the billboard in order to drive up ticket sales for the movie. But the image certainly doesn’t send the message that such violence is acceptable or sexy.

The controversy is reminiscent of the misguided outcry which greeted Pat Benatar’s Top 10 single “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” back in 1980. An anthem of feminine strength, tenacity, and fearlessness, the song ironically sparked a massive backlash from feminists who ludicrously perceived it as encouraging domestic violence against women.

The aforementioned Jennifer McCleary-Sills told THR that “some might not see [the ad] as an issue because it is a film about violence… with male and female characters who are warriors and fighting each other as equals.” Exactly. But McGowan couldn’t accept the politically incorrect message it seemed to be sending. “Imagine if it were a black man being strangled by a white man, or a gay male being strangled by a hetero? The outcry would be enormous.”

Indeed it would, but that outcry, like McGowan’s, would be hypocritical. Yes, violence against women is a serious issue in the real world, and the entertainment industry has been known to sexualize that (horror filmmakers, I’m talking to you); but McGowan’s accusation exposes the hypocrisy of “identity politics,” the proponents of which view everything through the distorted lens of class, gender, and race. For them, it is offensive for Hollywood to show certain demographic groups – women, blacks, gays – as weak or as victims of violence because, the reasoning goes, those groups have been historically oppressed and marginalized. Conversely, then, in the name of justice, fairness, and equality those classes now must be depicted as strong and heroic, and the only acceptable victims are the supposed historical oppressors: straight white men.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that in the real world women generally speaking are not the fighting equals of men, social justice warriors have long demanded to see female characters who are the equal of any male in heroism, strength, courage, and battle skill. Such onscreen equality now exists in films like Mad Max: Fury Road, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the Hunger Games trilogy, to name just a few, and Hollywood is no doubt just getting started. But controversies like this one prove that equality in the entertainment arena isn’t enough for feminists who want it both ways: they’re fine with a woman character waging casual violence against men and yet want to claim victim status when the tables are turned. Sometimes feminists simply don’t know to quit when they’re ahead.

From Acculturated, 6/8/16