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Saturday, October 7, 2017

In Defense of Sending Thoughts and Prayers After a Tragedy



The world was horrified earlier this week by the nation’s deadliest mass shooting ever, in which 59 people were killed and over 500 wounded by a shooter who rained thousands of rounds down from his Las Vegas hotel room onto the defenseless audience of an open-air country music festival.
As with all such acts of mass murder or terrorism, social media teemed afterward with politicians, celebrities, and “ordinary” folk worldwide sending out the all-too-familiar chorus of “thoughts and prayers” to the victims. Many others dismissed such condolences as an empty gesture, declaring angrily that “thoughts and prayers are not enough,” that the government needs to take concrete actions to prevent further such atrocities. Political commentator Kirsten Powers even wrote in the Washington Post that “Politicians have managed to make a once benign, if not comforting, phrase sound almost profane.”
So, has this “once benign” offer of thoughts and prayers become overdone? Are we burnt out on this predictable, kneejerk response after every tragedy? Has sending thoughts and prayers become just a way for people, especially public figures, to signal their momentary concern and move on without having to actually do something?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Standing Tall for the National Anthem



While all his Pittsburgh Steelers teammates hid in the locker room rather than be put in the position of taking a stand on the protests currently sweeping the National Football League, one player stood apart and stood tall on Sunday for the playing of the national anthem.
The controversy, as everyone in the known universe is painfully aware now, was kicked off last year by former 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began sitting or kneeling during “The Star-Spangled Banner” at game time to protest the “oppression of people of color” in America. A slow trickle of other players gradually followed suit.
Last Friday, President Trump added fuel to the fire when he suggested at a rally in Alabama that any “son of a bitch” who “disrespects our flag” should be fired. This virtually guaranteed that many players who otherwise might not get involved would feel compelled to push back, and indeed, there was a surge of protests during last weekend’s games.
Members of both the Ravens and Jaguars, for example, took a knee while the national anthem was played ahead of their game in London. More than a dozen Cleveland Browns and at least ten Indianapolis Colts knelt before their contest. The Dallas Cowboys and their owners did likewise just before the anthem at their Monday night game. Thousands of spectators booed in each instance, and the hills were alive with the sound of countless fans at home collectively switching off their TVs in disgust.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Our Free Speech Crisis



The Land of the Free is facing a crisis of freedom. A new study from the University of California at Los Angeles polled 1,500 students at four-year universities about their views on free speech. The results are disheartening, to say the least.
Forty-four percent of the student respondents believe that the First Amendment does not protect “hate speech.” Sixteen percent answered “don't know,” and only 39 percent answered correctly. Disturbingly, not even conservative students seemed to understand First Amendment protections: only 44 percent said that hate speech is protected, compared to 39 percent of Democrats and 40 percent of Independents.
A stunning 51 percent of students thought that “shouting so that the audience cannot hear” was a valid tactic for opposing a controversial speaker. Violence as a means of shutting down a speaker was acceptable to 19 percent, or one out of five, of respondents.
“The majority of students appear to prefer an environment in which their institution is expected to create an environment that shelters them from offensive views,” the study concludes.
This is concerning for many reasons, but the most urgent one is that our culture has reached the point of hysteria about an imaginary tide of neo-Nazis threatening to turn America into the Fourth Reich. White supremacists – a discredited fringe of politically impotent, openly despised losers – suddenly loom large in our collective consciousness thanks to a relentless propaganda campaign, aided and abetted by the left-leaning press, to demonize President Donald Trump and right-wingers in general as literal Nazis.

Kate Millett’s Destructive Feminist Legacy



Feminist icon Kate Millett passed away recently in Paris at the age of 82. Obituary portraits and reminiscences of the author of Sexual Politics and other books ranged from respectful to reverential to “tongue-tied fangirldom.” But what has the legacy of her brand of feminism truly been?
Sexual Politics, Millett’s first book, traced the insidious ways she claimed that the “patriarchy” was institutionalized throughout the culture and kept women repressed, often unconsciously so. The “fundamental instrument” of patriarchy, she declared, was the family unit, which encouraged women to embrace their own conformity to the system. Real liberation was only possible by casting off the chains of a woman’s traditional role of wife and mother. Critic Irving Howe observed that the book displayed such little interest in children that it was as if it had been written by a female impersonator.
Called “the Bible of Women’s Liberation” by the New York Times, the 1970 book had a seismic effect on feminist thought and launched her as what the Times called “a defining architect of second-wave feminism.” In a cover story that same year, TIME magazine crowned her “the Mao Tse-tung of Women’s Liberation.” Fellow feminist Andrea Dworkin said that Millett woke up a sleeping world.
I am friends with Kate’s sister Mallory, whose perspective on her sibling gives some necessary insight into the true nature of the feminist vision. In a riveting article from a few years back bluntly titled, “Marxist Feminism’s Ruined Lives,” she shared what she saw of the subversive undercurrent of her sister’s passionate radicalism.

Is it Time for Conservatives to Create an Alternate Culture?



The culture leans sharply left, and in our current, highly-polarized political climate that means conservatives in the arts tend to be treated as outsiders at best and pariahs at worst. Listen to the personal experiences of conservatives in Hollywood, for example, whether “above the line” (the stars, producers and directors) or below it (the rest of the crew), and you will understand why most keep their politics in the closet to avoid bad vibes, ostracism, and/or outright hostility. The left, of course, dismisses complaints of blacklisting and bias as paranoid whining, but they are very real indeed.
The publishing world is not exempt from this state of affairs. When conservative author Dinesh D’Souza's new book The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left appeared at No. 7 on The New York Times bestseller list, despite actually having outsold all 14 of its competitors on the list, D’Souza called out the Times on Twitter: “In what alternative universe do Jeff Flake's 7,383 book sales for this week (BookScan data) top mine at 11,651? Thanks @nytimes fake list!”
This was far from the first time conservative authors had called foul about their books’ rankings on the Times’ all-important bestseller list. Cortney O’Brien at Townhall pointed to another noteworthy recent example: Gosnell: The Untold Story of America's Most Prolific Serial Killer, by co-author couple Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney. A horrifying exposé of the dark(er) side of the abortion industry, the top-selling Amazon release was perceived by some as an attack on the left’s sacred cow of abortion rights. The New York Times did have the book at No. 13 on its “Combined Print & E-Book Nonfiction” list, but did not place Gosnell at its deserved No. 4 slot among bestselling nonfiction titles.
“It's not only an insult to the people who have bought this book,” McElhinney said “but an insult to the readers of the New York Times who buy the newspaper and think they are getting the truth about book sales across America but instead get false facts disguised as a neutral list.”

Melania Trump’s Crimes of Fashion



The left spent eight years gushing about Michelle Obama as a First Lady style icon second only to – if anyone – Jackie O. Embraced enthusiastically by the fashion world, Michelle appeared on magazine covers from InStyle to Glamour to Vogue (multiple times). At the end of Barack’s Oval Office tenure, HuffPost even posted a farewell piece to Michelle titled, “Michelle Obama Breaks Hearts With Final Vogue Cover As First Lady.” “Looking ethereal in a white Carolina Herrera gown, she is, as usual, the epitome of elegance and grace,” HuffPost fawned breathlessly.

Last year, with Michelle on her way out, the heartbroken left, looking forward to Hillary Clinton as President, began to wax enthusiastic about Hillary’s “presidential” pantsuits. Had she won the election, there is no question that fashion critics would then have spent the next four years wracking their brains finding ways to praise Hillary’s boxy, Mao-inspired, solid-print tents. But Donald Trump burst that bubble, and the traumatized left watched as he and his wife, the stunning former model Melania, moved into the White House instead.

Literally overnight, the Trump-hating left decided fashion needed to be politicized and weaponized against the new First Lady. Designer Sophie Theallet, who had dressed Michelle for eight years, made a very public announcement of her refusal to work for Melania. Other virtue-signaling designers who are not exactly household names quickly followed suit, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Houston Rescuers Prove the Lie of ‘Toxic Masculinity’



Men. We are just the worst, with our toxic masculinity and patriarchal privilege. We are the source of literally all the world’s problems, from war, income inequality, and “rape culture” to the misogynistic microaggressions of “mansplaining” and “manspreading.” If we are ever to create a nonviolent, truly gender-equal world, we must rip away the false, culturally-constructed façade of masculinity. We must free ourselves from the strictures of macho posturing, embrace vulnerability, and redefine what it means to be strong.
That is the message being promoted incessantly today from celebrities like John Legend to the halls of academia to media outlets such as Slate, Salon, and HuffPost. Seemingly overnight, our culture has unquestioningly embraced the term “toxic masculinity.” Male nature itself is the problem, we are told, and the solution is the deconstruction of our understanding of what it means to be a man. But photos and news reports coming out of the devastation wreaked in Texas by Hurricane Harvey are putting the lie to this subversive idea.
In addition to the men among law enforcement and first responders, whose daily mission it is “to serve and protect” while putting their own lives on the line, thousands of volunteers among regular citizens have stepped up and made their way to the region to bring aid to those endangered by Harvey. Some examples among them, which the media singled out:

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Do We Need Men Anymore?



Considering how much time Grayson Perry has spent pondering masculinity, it’s disappointing how little he seems to value or understand it.
An award-winning artist, author, television presenter, and BBC Reith lecturer, the London-based Perry is also a transvestite and, as he rather simply puts it, “a man.” Not long ago he pursued a thoughtful if flawed exploration of masculinity in a three-part BBC TV series called All Man, and now has written a short, self-illustrated book on the subject called The Descent of Man. The book poses and attempts to answer the question that men of no other century have ever had to ask: “What does it mean to be a male in the twenty-first century?”
Masculinity is the source of a great deal of handwringing and finger-wagging in our gender-confused time. It is viewed by many as resting somewhere on a scale between problematic and abominable, and there is an increasing urgency to do something about it. Grayson Perry, who considers himself very masculine, sees it as the very source of all our troubles. “I sometimes watch the evening news on television and think all of the world’s problems can be boiled down to one thing: the behavior of people with a Y chromosome,” his book begins. “The consequences of rogue masculinity are, I think, one of the biggest issues, if not the biggest issue, facing the world today.”

Want Teenage Boys to Read? Give Them Books About Heroes



Studies show that teenage boys lag behind teenage girls in reading. Even in adulthood, women are far more enthusiastic readers; two out of three adults who say they never read books are male. Debate rages about whether biology or culture is to blame, but the fact remains that girls simply seem to enjoy reading more – how do we inspire a greater love of reading in boys?
Musing upon this question, Daniel Handler, the author of children’s books under the pen name Lemony Snicket, considered what drove him to be a voracious reader as a teen. He came to the conclusion that all of the wide variety of books he read in those years had one thing in common: “they were filthy.” He noted that novels like Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Anais Nin’s Delta of Venus moved and fascinated him, not least because of “the dirty parts.” Handler thus offered this solution in the New York Times recently: “Want Teenage Boys to Read? Easy. Give Them Books About Sex.”
It’s “offensive to pretend, when we’re ostensibly wondering how to get more young men to read, that they’re not interested in the thing we all know they’re interested in,” wrote Handler. “I believe in the power of literature to connect, to transform, particularly for young minds beginning to explore the world… Let’s not smirk at their interests. Let’s give them books that might engage them.”
Having once been a teenage boy and a voracious reader myself, I thought back to those thrilling days of yesteryear and to the intense curiosity aroused by the forbidden mystery of sex. I spent long stretches in bookstores and at drugstore book racks skimming through books with lurid covers for naughty passages that offered even a glimpse beyond the veil.

Pop Culture’s Peter Pan Problem



In 1983 The Peter Pan Syndrome, a pop psychology book which examined the phenomenon of men who seem locked into perpetual adolescence, struck a chord in the culture and became a bestseller. Nearly thirty-five years later, the phenomenon doesn’t seem to be any less prevalent. Now a recent op-ed for The New York Times suggests that there is an ugly racial and sexist dimension to it as well.
In “The Men Who Never Have to Grow Up,” Jennifer Weiner complains that Americans have a soft spot for such “manolescents” – as long as they are white. We are charmed by roguish “good ole boys,” she says, and excuse even their crimes as mere boys-will-be-boys hijinks, but we don’t extend the same amused tolerance to nonwhites and women.
As examples, Weiner lists YouTube clowns Rhett McLaughlin, Link Neal, and Colin Furzelike, all in their late thirties; radio and TV stars Ryan Seacrest, Chris Hardwick, and Billy Bush, all in their early-to-mid-forties, who “have ridden boyish charm into lucrative ubiquity”; and swimmer/reality star Ryan Lochte, 32, whose drunken vandalism during the Rio Olympics was forgiven by officials even after he invented an armed robbery to cover for it.
In graver examples, Weiner cites Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, convicted at 20 of sexual assault but given a slap on the wrist by a judge concerned about how the conviction might impact the young man’s future; the late Ted Kennedy, who was 37 when he abandoned Mary Jo Kopechne to die in the car he drove off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, for which he received a mere two-month suspended sentence; and 39-year-old Donald Trump, Jr., whom Weiner accuses of colluding with the Russians to skew the 2016 presidential election.