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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Should Megyn Kelly Have Interviewed Alex Jones?



Sunday night NBC’s Megyn Kelly interviewed conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on her new show. The event was the anti-climactic culmination of an almost Shakespearian degree of ambition, manipulation, betrayal, and drama starring two media egos using each other to advance their personal agendas. In the end, not only did Jones dodge Kelly’s questions, but larger questions remained unanswered as well: should Kelly and NBC have given a platform to the controversial Jones in the first place? Would it have been wiser to ignore him than to expose him? Did it serve the common good or just further poison the cultural atmosphere?
A little background about the career journeys of our main characters. Megyn Kelly, formerly a Fox News superstar, is now struggling to establish herself at NBC News as a Barbara Walters-level household name. She saw an interview with the bombastic Jones as an opportunity simultaneously to boost her ratings and to discredit an influential critic of the embattled mainstream media, of which she is a less-than-beloved member.
Meanwhile, the buzzsaw-voiced Jones built a widespread, loyal online following, largely on the strength of his exploitation of sick conspiracy theories. His influential InfoWars website (slogan: “There’s a war on for your mind!”) has pushed claims that the 9/11 attacks were an inside job, the massacre of schoolchildren at Sandy Hook was a hoax, and a Washington D.C. pizza parlor was the center of a Democratic Party-linked child sex trafficking operation. On occasion he has been legally forced to retract, and apologize for, outrageous lies.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Left's Obsession With Obscenity



“The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing,” declared George Washington, “is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.” Theodore Roosevelt concurred: “Profanity is the parlance of the fool. Why curse when there is such a magnificent language with which to discourse?” The answer is that profanity is a useful substitute for discourse when one is losing a debate and needs to trump reason with passionate intensity in order to win. That is what is happening in the current degraded state of our national political conversation.
I’m not talking about the cursing that the average American citizen may do in private, which is common enough on both sides of the political fence. I’m not talking about a careless slip of the tongue during a radio interview, or being caught on an open mic letting loose with a profanity. I’m talking about an entire political party which gleefully embraces swearing in speeches and protests, on social media and clothing slogans, in news media and entertainment. I’m talking about public figures from entertainers to talk show hosts to politicians intentionally and unapologetically hurling obscenities.
It should come as no surprise that that political party is the Democratic Party, which is in the grip of the far left, and that those public figures are invariably so-called Progressives.
Needless to say, the following examples come with a maximum-level language alert.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Daniel Greenfield Delivers Brilliant Ariel Avrech Memorial Lecture

I was honored to attend this event over the weekend. Reconnected with my friend, screenwriter and novelist Robert J. Avrech (of the Seraphic Secret blog), met the insightful Bookworm Room and Joshua Pundit bloggers, and witnessed a powerful speech about fighting anti-Semitism and defending Israel from my always-brilliant friend and colleague Daniel Greenfield at the memorial which Mr. Avrech organizes each year in memory of his son Ariel.

The lecture will be posted at Seraphic Secret (link above) and on YouTube in about ten days. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Industriousness as a Form of Worship

I've been invited to contribute blog posts to a Hoover Institution initiative called the Ben Franklin Circles, the purpose of which is to promote the values of Franklin’s 13 virtues to foster civic participation and ethics-based leadership. This is my first contribution...

“Be always employed in something useful,” wrote young Benjamin Franklin, promoting the virtue of industry and discouraging the wasting of time. “Cut off all unnecessary actions.” Surely, though, he did not intend that we maintain a perpetual busy-ness just for its own sake. After all, as Thoreau pointed out, “It is not enough to be industrious; so are the ants. What are you industrious about?”
Franklin undoubtedly meant that we should keep engaged in activities that make us productive members of society, that advance our prosperity and improve our character. Probably of less consideration in his era was the more contemporary notion that our work should also be personally meaningful – in other words, it should nourish our soul.
“Idleness is an enemy of the soul,” reads The Rule of St. Benedict for monastic living, written twelve hundred years before Franklin created his list of thirteen virtues. Though we usually think of the monastic life as contemplative and spiritual, St. Benedict believed that ora et labora – prayer and work – formed a partnership of labor that not only engaged, but united both body and spirit.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Left’s Betrayal of Terrorism’s Victims



The recent massacre of Ariana Grande concertgoers in Manchester at the hands of a Muslim suicide bomber prompted the usual celebrity blather about conquering terrorism through love. Pop superstar Katy Perry, for example, pleaded “No barriers, no borders, we all just need to co-exist. We’re just all loving on each other and we should just stay loving on each other.” Sorry, but as much singalong fun as The Beatles’ “All You Need is Love” was half a century ago, it’s not a counterterrorism strategy. Pretending that it is is a betrayal of the memory of the men, women, and children slaughtered in the name of Allah, as well as a betrayal of the victims to come – and there will be many, many more unless we stop passively mourning and act upon the righteous anger in our hearts.
In all fairness to Perry, we shouldn’t be looking to pop stars for terrorism insights. British rock singer Morrissey, however, offered a dissenting voice of moral clarity. In an outburst on Facebook in the wake of the bombing, Morrissey, former frontman of the Manchester band The Smiths, tore into Prime Minister Theresa May, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, and the Queen herself for the attitude that is betraying the commoners across western Europe who are now routinely victimized by violent jihad.
“Theresa May says such attacks ‘will not break us,’” Morrissey wrote, “but her own life is lived in a bulletproof bubble, and she evidently does not need to identify any young people today in Manchester morgues. Also, ‘will not break us’ means that the tragedy will not break her, or her policies on immigrations. The young people of Manchester are already broken — thanks all the same, Theresa.”

How College Summer Reading Programs Are Failing Our Students – and Our Culture



Many colleges have a “common reading program” which assigns incoming students a book to read over the summer before starting school in the fall. The National Association of Scholars (NAS) has just released its annual study of these programs, and the findings, while not unexpected, are a disheartening indication of how higher education is shortchanging our youth – and our culture.
The Beach Books Report (BBR) is an examination of the common reading programs of 348 colleges and universities in nearly every state in the country – 58 of them identified by U.S. News & World Report as among the top 100 universities in America, and 25 among the top 100 liberal arts colleges. Thus, you might expect from them reasonably challenging reading assignments that reflect the highest quality education – but you would be wrong. If you assumed that the recommended books include such classics as, say, St. Augustine’s Confessions or even Ralph Ellison’s more modern Invisible Man, then you are blissfully ignorant of the intellectually shallow state of our purported institutions of higher learning.
The NAS study revealed that colleges rarely assign classic works anymore; in fact, all the books in the common reading programs for the academic year 2016-2017 were published during the students’ lifetime – 75% of them since 2010. Moreover, a significant number of the readings demonstrates the degree to which “high culture” has capitulated to pop culture: many are graphic novels, young adult novels, books based on popular films and TV shows, and books associated with the left-leaning National Public Radio (NPR).

Bruce Bawer’s Terrorism Thriller Tells the Truth About Islam in Europe



The suicide bombing which slaughtered nearly two dozen concertgoers in Manchester last week demonstrates yet again that terrorism is indeed becoming “part and parcel,” as London’s Muslim mayor Sadiq Khan declared, of European life. And yet the continent’s elites continue to live in denial of the religious roots of that terrorism. Few are willing to tell the truth about Islam and its impact on Europe; even fewer have dared to tell that truth in the gripping way that only fiction can. Controversial French novelist Michel Houllebecq’s bestselling Submission, for example, recently struck a chord among readers with its chilling tale of Europe’s embrace of sharia. And then there is Bruce Bawer’s new novel The Alhambra.
Critic, essayist, and political journalist Bruce Bawer is the author of over a dozen books, most notably While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West from Within (2006), Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom (2009), and The Victims' Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind (2012). He is a native New Yorker who has lived in Europe since 1998, and who continues to report on the continent’s decline and fall from the front lines. Full disclosure: I am honored to say that Bawer is a friend of mine.
FrontPage Mag readers are surely familiar with regular contributor Bawer’s incisive work. But some may not know that Bawer has just released a self-published international thriller that takes on the verboten topic of Islam’s infiltration and subversion of Europe. The Alhambra is set in early 2001, while America and Europe still slept, as Bawer put it in another book, prior to the September 11 attacks. It is the story of an American living in Amsterdam who overhears jihadists planning an act of terrorism, and finds himself caught up in the deadly intrigue.

What Celebrities Can Actually DO About Terrorism



In the wake of the terrorist attack after Monday’s Ariana Grande show in Manchester, England, which killed almost two dozen people, celebrities from Katy Perry to Cher to Ryan Seacrest to Ariel Winter all took to social media to express their horror and condolences. Nearly every tweet was some variation of “sending thoughts and prayers” to those affected by the bombing. It’s the same after every such attack. There is certainly nothing wrong with such sincere, well-meaning sentiments, but they are ultimately impotent and reactive rather than proactive. Isn’t there something celebrities – the most influential people on the planet – can do about terrorism apart from simply following up with a sympathy note and a hashtag?
Fame is the biggest megaphone in the world. A superstar like Kim Kardashian has the virtual ear of over 50 million Twitter followers – twice that on Instagram. The worldwide influence of celebrities is incalculable, and immeasurably greater than that of any politician (by contrast, President Trump, infamous for his Twitter activity, has “only” about 18 million followers). If any segment of society is well-positioned not only to spread awareness but to inspire world-changing action, it is celebrities.
So instead of spouting embarrassingly frothy pleas for the world to “just unite and love on each other,” as Katy Perry did in a radio interview yesterday, or engaging in navel-gazing and self-loathing, as Queen guitarist Brian May suggested we do to figure out “why the world hates us so much,” here is what stars can actually do, short of taking up arms and running off to Syria, to make a difference in what used to be called the War on Terror.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Guy Ritchie’s ‘King Arthur’ Flopped Because its Hero Lacked Virtue



Hollywood has a mixed record when it comes to transposing classic works of literature into film. You can count such movies as The Lord of the Rings and the recent The Jungle Book remake among its successes. Unfortunately for lovers of the Arthurian canon such as myself, director Guy Ritchie’s new King Arthur: Legend of the Sword will not be joining them.
King Arthur was reportedly intended to kick off a six-part franchise that would embrace the whole sweep of Arthurian legend, but with the film’s dismal 26% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and paltry $15 million opening weekend (on a $175 million budget), there will likely be some serious soul-searching at the studio about going forward with that ambitious venture.
What went wrong? Guy Ritchie (Snatch, Sherlock Holmes) brought his signature dazzling visual style to the project, but in an otherwise favorable critique, National Review’s Armond White dismissed it as borrowing too heavily from the likes of 300 and The Lord of the Rings; and the fusion of Ritchie’s British crime underworld sensibility with the sword-and-fantasy genre resulted in what less charitable critics are calling an incoherent mess.
SPOILERS AHEAD
But the core problem with King Arthur is, well, King Arthur. I’m willing to forgive a lot in an action-adventure film if it features a protagonist who inspires me to come along on his hero’s journey; on that score, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword surprisingly falls short, and that could be the reason it’s not connecting with audiences.

Why The Rock Shouldn’t Run for President



Dwayne Johnson is riding about as high as one could get these days. The Artist Formerly Known as The Rock is the highest-paid actor in Hollywood, People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive, and the NAACP’s Entertainer of the Year. His current film, The Fate of the Furious, set the record for the highest-grossing opening of all time, and two more films, Baywatch and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, are slated to open this year. The third season of his HBO series Ballers premieres this summer as well. His multimillion-dollar smile gleams from covers of magazines ranging from GQ to National Review. It’s enough to go to an ordinary mortal’s head.
And perhaps it has, because Dwayne Johnson is now openly speculating about taking a run at the White House.
The Washington Post ran an op-ed last year suggesting that the now 45-year-old star would make an intriguing candidate with a serious shot at winning a future presidency. It’s not like there aren’t precedents for Hollywood stars conquering politics. Ronald Reagan, to name the most successful example, went from B-movie actor to conservative presidential icon. Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor of California. And of course, Donald Trump, while not a Hollywood star per se, used his success in the world of reality TV as a springboard into the Oval Office.
Since that WaPo article, Johnson seems to have been mulling over his own ascendance to the White House, because he told GQ in a recent interview, “I think that it’s a real possibility”:
“A year ago it started coming up more and more. There was a real sense of earnestness, which made me go home and think, ‘Let me really rethink my answer and make sure I am giving an answer that is truthful and also respectful.’ I didn't want to be flippant—‘We'll have three days off for a weekend! No taxes!’”
“If [becoming president] is something he focused on,” says Ron Meyer, the NBC Universal vice chairman, “he probably would accomplish it. I think there's nothing that he couldn't do.” I agree. The question is not whether Dwayne Johnson could become President, but whether he should.