Sunday, May 26, 2013

In Praise of American Warriors

For Memorial Day weekend, I thought I'd re-run this piece I wrote for Big Hollywood on a different occasion four years ago...

My father Roger E. Tapson, a former United States Army Staff Sergeant and veteran of World War II, died in 2004 and was buried near a small lake in the rolling, pastoral grounds of the Dallas-Ft. Worth National Cemetery alongside thousands of other veterans - their names, as poet Stephen Spender might say, "feted by the waving grass, and by the streamers of white cloud, and whispers of wind in the listening sky, the names of those who…left the vivid air signed with their honor." It’s exactly the kind of place my dad would have described – without a hint of Oprah-fied, feminized, New Age devaluation of the word – as “spiritual.” It was the way I once heard him describe a still, brisk, early autumn morning on a gorgeously wooded golf course, his favorite place to be.


Spiritual indeed, but not in the same degree or kind as "civilian” burial grounds. Not to diminish the final resting place of anyone interred in the latter; but to stand in a military cemetery among the unadorned, uniform white markers that stretch out in precise rows like an army-in-waiting, is to feel a spiritually heightened quality to your surroundings that demands humility, gratitude, and a more solemn reverence. The “vivid air” of a military cemetery is undeniably suffused with something extra, because it’s not merely a graveyard, but a memorial to qualities that constitute the best of humanity – honor, courage, dignity, service and sacrifice – and to warriors who once embodied them. Their grave markers stand as a challenge to those of us who remain.

Honor, courage, dignity, service, sacrifice – how many of us civilians can say that we commit to embodying those qualities in our daily lives? How many of us can say we are truly tested, body and soul, ever, much less on a daily basis, the way that the men and women of our military are? How many of us can say we are ready and willing to “do what is required,” asWarlord author Ilario Pantano puts it, for our country and our fellow Americans, even at the cost of our lives? Precious few if any, I would guess, and we civilians are all the lesser mortals for it.

And that makes us all the more fortunate that there are those who can and do rise to that challenge, on front lines around the world. It takes a special American to embrace that responsibility and earn a uniform of the United States armed forces, and it takes a special family – warriors too in their own way (“they also serve who only stand and wait,” as John Milton wrote) – to support their loved one from the home front. 

I was too young for the Vietnam War draft, and when I did come of age I was much more interested in playing guitar in a rock band than having my hair shaved off and being yelled at by a drill sergeant. Today, when America is engaged in an epic clash with worldwide jihad, in addition to facing threats from thuggish dictators to Central American drug armies to a re-emergent Russia, I’m frustrated and deeply regretful that I never served, and that the only way I can now contribute to the fight is through my writing.

Is the pen mightier than the sword? It sure doesn't feel like it – it’s pretty obvious which one I’d rather have in a fight – but the pen is what I'm stuck with. Meanwhile I'm grateful and humbled that the men and women of the United States military have the rare and noble qualities it takes to be the sword between me and America’s enemies.

Brave New ‘Cosmos’

Last week the Fox network announced plans to reboot Cosmos, the massively popular documentary TV series hosted by the late scientist and science popularizer Carl Sagan. When it aired 33 years ago, the original program became the highest-rated series on PBS (and held that distinction for 10 years until Ken Burns’ The Civil War). “Before there was Downton Abbey,” said Fox President Kevin Reilly, “the biggest thing to happen to PBS was Cosmos.”

With Sagan as guide, Cosmos swept viewers along on a grand tour of the origins of the universe, the evolution of our planet, the miracle of life, and the nature of consciousness. It celebrated our innate curiosity and our longing to return to the stars from whence we came. “We’re going to explore the cosmos in a ship of the imagination,” he promised. Each of the 13 episodes – with titles like “One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue,” “The Harmony of Worlds,” “The Lives of the Stars,” and “Who Speaks for Earth?” – focused on a specific aspect of the journey. The series opened countless minds to the power of science, the majesty of the universe, and the possibility of life beyond our own planet. It was accompanied by a big-selling, gloriously illustrated coffee table book (which I am pleased to say I still have).

When it aired, Cosmos immediately established creator Carl Sagan as a pop culture icon. The catchphrase “billions and billions,” falsely attributed to him (it actually originated from a skit on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson), became a common cultural meme; Sagan even playfully made it the title of a collection of his essays. Like painting instructor Bob Ross and beloved children’s show host Mister Rogers, two other quirky but endearingly sincere pop culture icons on PBS, Sagan was an easy target for parody and ridicule, but he and his show nonetheless had an incalculable impact on American viewers, their interest in science, and the perception of their place in the universe.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Rumsfeld’s Rules

When President Gerald Ford learned that his Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld had compiled a file of instructive observations and quotations about effective leadership and management, he asked to read them. An impressed Ford promptly designated them “Rumsfeld’s Rules” and distributed them to the senior members of the White House staff. Since then they have been read by presidents, government officials, business leaders, diplomats, members of Congress, and others. Rumsfeld was finally asked to collect them between covers and elaborate on them, and the result is the just-published Rumsfeld’s Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life.

Donald Rumsfeld boasts a ridiculously distinguished résumé from the arenas of business, government, and the military: naval aviator, Congressman, top aide to four American presidents, ambassador, the CEO of both a worldwide pharmaceutical company and a leading company in broadcasting technologies, and of course, as he is most well-known, the 13th and 21st U.S. Secretary of Defense (the only man in American history to serve twice in that post). He is also the author of Known and Unknown: A Memoir, a weighty tome but one of the most important political memoirs since the 9/11 attacks forever altered our geopolitical landscape. He now chairs the Rumsfeld Foundation, which supports leadership and public service at home, and funds global finance projects, fellowships, and charitable causes that benefit our armed forces and their families (all proceeds of Known and Unknown, for example, go to the Foundation’s military charities).

Monday, May 20, 2013

Speaking Engagements This Week

Tuesday I'll be introducing former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at a Freedom Center luncheon at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, and later this week I'll be speaking before the Bloomfield (MI) Republican Women's Club on "Hollywood and Islam."

Friday, May 17, 2013

Stalin’s Secret Agents

Try a word association quiz with the phrase “Cold War,” and the first two responses that are almost certain to come to the mind of the general public are “paranoia” and “McCarthyism,” which is practically a synonym for paranoia. The common assumption, thanks to decades of public school indoctrination and the influence of leftist intellectuals, is that the Cold War, at least in its early decades, was all about suspicious Republicans fearing a Red under every bed and blacklisting innocents in Hollywood. But a recent book (the paperback edition hits bookshelves next month), lays out the historical evidence for massive Communist penetration of our government beginning in the New Deal era, increasingly rapidly during World War II, and afterward leading to gaping breaches of national security and the betrayal of free-world interests.

Contrary to the notion that domestic Communists were simply harmless, misguided idealists, Stalin’s Secret Agents: The Subversion of Roosevelt’s Government by M. Stanton Evans and Herbert Romerstein shows that widespread government infiltration by Soviet spies sabotaged our foreign policy and molded the post-WWII world in favor of the Soviet Union. Evans, the author of eight previous books including the controversial revised look at Joseph McCarthy called Blacklisted by History, is a former editor of the Indianapolis News, a Los Angeles Times columnist, and a commentator for the Voice of America. Romerstein is a leading Cold War expert, formerly head of the Office to Counter Soviet Disinformation at the U.S. Information Agency from 1983 until 1989, who has served on the staff of several congressional committees including the House Intelligence Committee.

The early Cold War spying which resulted in the theft of our atomic secrets, radar, jet propulsion, and other military systems was serious enough, but that wasn’t the major issue. “The spying,” as the authors put it, “was handmaiden to the policy interest,” which was by far the leading problem. As President Franklin Roosevelt’s health and mental ability waned, covert Communist aides exerted pro-Soviet influence on U.S. policy, which was reflected in postwar discussions by the Big Three powers about the new shape of the world. The policy impact of such deceptive influence on the part of Soviet agents

was to turn Western influence and support against the anti-Communist forces and in favor of their Red opponents, as U.S. and other Allied leaders based decisions on false intelligence from pro-Soviet agents. The effects were calamitous for the cause of freedom, as numerous countries were thus delivered into the hands of Stalin and his minions.

The three leaders – FDR, Churchill, and Stalin – “would ultimately decide what political forces would prevail where and the forms of government to be installed in formerly captive nations, including those in alignment with the victors.” Unfortunately, at that time “seeking Soviet ‘friendship’ and giving Moscow ‘every assistance’ summed up American policy [in meetings] at Teheran and Yalta, and for some while before those meetings.”

Sunday, May 12, 2013

"Jihad in America: The Grand Deception" Wins Best Documentary

The documentary I co-wrote for the Investigative Project on Terrorism, Jihad in America: The Grand Deception, won Best Documentary at this weekend's Beverly Hills Film Festival. You can find it here on Amazon.

Topless Jihad

Recently members of the Ukrainian-based, global feminist group Femen staged protests across Europe calling for “topless jihad.” While American feminists today are satisfied whipping up outrage about Mitt Romney’s binders and Sandra Fluke’s right to bill taxpayers for her birth control, Femen’s Amazonian warriors dive right in to do battle in a real War on Women being openly waged by Muslim misogynists. Topless jihad – it puts a whole new spin on #MyJihad.

The protests in Sweden, Italy, Ukraine, Belgium, and France [here are images from the demonstrations; warning – most contain nudity and/or offensive language] were in solidarity with a gutsy young Tunisian activist named Amina Tyler, who recently shocked Islamic sensibilities by posting naked images of herself online, with the words “I own my body; it’s not the source of anyone’s honor” penned on her bare chest.

The head of Tunisia’s Orwellian-titled Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice responded to this provocation as you might expect from a violent totalitarian, calling for Tyler to be stoned to death lest her obscene actions lead to an epidemic of Muslim women casting off not just their burqas and blouses but their oppression as well.

Nice Sharks Finish First

The Los Angeles Times did a profile recently of gleefully greedy investor Kevin O’Leary of ABC’s popular business pitch show Shark Tank. Sarcastically dubbed “Mr. Wonderful,” he is the sharp-tongued dealmaker that audiences love to hate, the show’s “Wicked Witch of the West,” as one TV producer put it. His brutal honesty and cold put-downs (“You are a nothing-burger”) make O’Leary stand out as the Simon Cowell among the panel of other self-made multimillionaires. Too bad the LA Times didn’t look past the ratings-grabbing arrogance and profile a more exemplary co-star – O’Leary’s polar opposite, Canadian software king and nice-guy-who-finished-first, Robert Herjavec.

Robert is the elegant gentleman Shark, whose “brilliant blue eyes and expressive features seem particularly adept at telegraphing sympathy,” as one interviewer perfectly phrased it. Where Mr. Wonderful might dismiss a wannabe entrepreneur on the show with a curt “You’re dead to me,” Robert often delivers his honest assessment of a pitch – and even his rejection of it – with a compliment and encouragement rather than an insult. “Because of my mom, I learned never to be rude,” he says, exhibiting a politeness and respectfulness that sadly seem quaint in the attitude-filled world of reality TV.

The son of Croatian immigrants who arrived in Canada with just $20 when he was 8 years old, Robert once got emotional on the show – even choking up other sharks as well – when he referred to his now-deceased father’s quiet struggle to make ends meet for his family in the New World. His father hated living under Communist oppression in dictator Tito’s Yugoslavia, was repeatedly jailed for speaking out against it, and just wanted his only son to grow up free.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Iran Declares War on Hollywood

In response to last year’s Oscar-winning film Argo, based on the real-life rescue of a handful of American citizens during the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Tehran plans to sue Hollywood filmmakers who participate in the production of such “anti-Iran” propaganda films.

In the movie, in which director Ben Affleck also plays the lead role, Iranian officials are shown being outwitted by an elaborate CIA plan to camouflage the U.S. diplomats fleeing the country as part of a team scouting locations for an outlandish science-fiction film.

Iranian authorities have labeled Argo a propaganda attack against their nation and humanity. The country’s state-run broadcaster Press TV complains that the film is “a far cry from a balanced narration” and is “replete with historical inaccuracies and distortions.” The film was banned from the general public – not that this accomplished anything, since an estimated “several hundred thousand copies” have been sold by DVD bootleggers who say it’s their biggest seller in years. As an additional measure, Iranian officials held a private screening of Argo as part of a conference called “The Hoax of Hollywood” and called it a “violation of international cultural norms,” whatever those are.

Press TV detailed its objections to the film in an online article: “The Iranophobic American movie attempts to describe Iranians as overemotional, irrational, insane, and diabolical while at the same time, the CIA agents are represented as heroically patriotic.” At the risk of speaking for Ben Affleck, I would respond that the movie does not depict all Iranians this way, only the murderous Islamic fundamentalists who took over the country, and who already do a great job living up to the description “irrational and diabolical.”

Nonetheless, Press TV reports that offended Iranian officials have talked to an “internationally-renowned” French lawyer about filing a lawsuit. “I will defend Iran against the films like Argo, which are produced in Hollywood to distort the country’s image,” said attorney Isabelle Coutant-Peyre. In a curious, Hollywood-worthy twist, Coutant-Peyre just happens to be the wife of mega-terrorist Carlos the Jackal, currently imprisoned in France where he converted to Islam.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Misunderstanding of Lauryn Hill

Grammy-winning singer Lauryn Hill had drifted to the margins of the pop culture radar in recent years until Monday, when she made surprising headlines by being sentenced to three months in prison for failing to pay nearly $1 million in taxes. She then raised some eyebrows even further by audaciously comparing her situation to the slavery of her ancestors.

“I am a child of former slaves who had a system imposed on them,” Hill exclaimed in a forceful statement to the court. “I had an economic system imposed on me.” A little bit of advice to millionaire rock stars: unless you want your credibility rating and degree of public sympathy for you to plunge to zero, don’t compare the outcome of your own choices to the crushing misery of a slave.

Despite her mixed creative output and audience reception in recent years, Hill is one of the most successful women in the history of the music business. Now 37, she hit it big as a teenager in the 1990s with the Fugees before hitting it even bigger with her multiplatinum 1998 album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. She has a shelf full of Grammys, including one for co-producing Santana’s blockbuster Supernatural album.

In 2000, Hill began to feel the oppressive demands of fame and the music industry, and dropped out of the public eye supposedly to protect herself and her children, now numbering six, from its pressures. “I was told, ‘That’s how it goes, it comes with the territory.’ I came to be perceived as a cash cow and not a person. When people capitalize on a persona, they forget there is a person in there.”

Man’s Search for Offline Meaning

Last week technology writer Paul Miller returned to the internet after an entire year offline, an experiment to see how unplugging would affect his productivity and quality of life. At the outset, he believed not only that the internet was making him unproductive, but that “it lacked meaning. I thought it was ‘corrupting my soul.’” A year later, what did he conclude? “I’m supposed to tell you how it solved all my problems. I’m supposed to be enlightened. I’m supposed to be more ‘real,’ now. More perfect.Supposed to, but there was a problem: “I was wrong.”

At 26, Miller had used the internet “constantly,” he says, from the age of 12, and made a living from it since he was 14. As a result, “I didn’t know myself apart from a sense of ubiquitous connection and endless information. I wondered what else there was to life.” With the backing of his employer, he decided, with no small degree of eager anticipation, to unplug, “find the real Paul, far away from all the noise, and become a better me.”

Everything began promisingly on May 1, 2012. He got outside to play Frisbee, take bike rides, meet with people in person. He pumped out essays and wrote half a novel. He lost 15 pounds effortlessly and bought new clothes. His attention span swelled. He interacted better with people. He lived in the moment. He got so in touch with his humanity that he cried during Les Miserables. He had indeed discovered the real Paul.

And then it all came undone. By the end of 2012,

I’d learned how to make a new style of wrong choices off the internet. I abandoned my positive offline habits, and discovered new offline vices. Instead of taking boredom and lack of stimulation and turning them into learning and creativity, I turned toward passive consumption and social retreat.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Schools for Subversion

On Monday, May 6 at the Luxe Hotel in Los Angeles, the David Horowitz Freedom Center and Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors are co-hosting a symposium and panel discussion entitled “Schools for Subversion: How Public Education Lays the Groundwork for University Radicalism.” The panel will feature FrontPage Magazine’s own classics professor Bruce Thornton, retired educator Larry Sand, “Dissident Prof” Mary Grabar, and Kyle Olson.

Olson is the publisher of, a news service dedicated to education reform and school spending research, reporting, analysis and commentary. It is the flagship website of the Education Action Group Foundation. The author of Indoctrination: How ‘Useful Idiots’ Are Using Our Schools to Subvert American Exceptionalism, Olson has appeared on Fox News, the Fox Business Network, NPR and MSNBC, as well as scores of talk radio programs from coast to coast. His work has been cited by the Drudge Report, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck.

Mark Tapson:         You recently appeared in a Fox & Friends segment called “The Trouble with Schools.” Briefly, what is the trouble with schools?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Suicide’s on the Rise. Now for Some Cute Guinea Pigs

The Atlantic online posted a rather shocking piece by Alexander Abad-Santos this week entitled, “3,026 More People Die from Suicide in America Each Year Than in Car Crashes.” As if that revelation itself weren’t depressing enough, what was also eye-opening – and inadvertently revealing – was the way in which Abad-Santos tried to give the bad news a lighthearted spin.

In its grimly-titled Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for May 3, he wrote, the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) examined an 11-year study of suicide figures and concluded that in 2009, “the number of deaths from suicide surpassed the number of deaths from motor vehicle crashes in the United States.”

An even more disturbing discovery: the age group that saw the biggest surge in suicides since the end of the millennium was Baby Boomers, Americans in their fifties. Their suicide rate boosted by nearly 50 percent. Concern about suicide usually focuses on troubled teens, not adults entering their golden years – what happened? The CDC's deputy director explained in The New York Times that the jump in Baby Boomer numbers is due partly to economic ills suffered during the study’s span of time.

After going on to detail the increase in the most popular methods for ending one’s own life (suffocation, poisoning and firearms, for those morbidly interested), Abad-Santos oddly chose to close with this:

Considering that we've just ruined your day — and that someone apparently shot himself in the head at an airport in Houston today — we leave you with this... a pair of guinea pig brothers chewing in unison:

And then he posted a 25-second video of two Guinea pigs comically chewing in sync.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Cheating = Extinction

In an Acculturated piece I wrote back in October called “The Culture of Cheating,” I mentioned the deeply corrosive effect that cheating has on a personal level. It can be easy to rationalize it when you’ve convinced yourself that cheating isn’t hurting anyone. But even if you’re never found out, it is a self-betrayal that shreds your integrity and your self-image, and repairing that internal damage is no easy task. And what about the external damage, to the broader society? Biology tells us that cheating equals extinction.

Biological populations, from microorganisms to humans, depend on the cooperation of their members in order to thrive as a society. But in any cooperative activity, there is the risk of “cheaters” benefitting from the productivity of others while making no contribution of their own. Take the slacker roommate, for example, who refuses to do his share of the housework. Cheaters exploit the system, taking without giving, with destabilizing consequences for the social unit as a whole. What happens if enough of this behavior spreads throughout the population? How much cooperation is necessary to maintain a society?

In a new study published this week in the PLOS Biology journal, MIT researchers Alvaro Sanchez and Jeff Gore (no relation to Al) investigated the competition between cooperating and cheating strains of a yeast colony. They found that, depending on the mix of strains, the yeast either achieves a stable coexistence or collapses for lack of cooperation. In other words, a yeast society dominated by non-producers – cheaters – is more likely to face extinction than one consisting entirely of producers, or cooperators.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Hollywood Awards Gala

The Hollywood Bureau of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) had its 22nd Annual Media Awards Gala last Saturday at the Hilton in Long Beach, California, bringing together “American Muslims, TV and film studio executives, public officials, interfaith leaders, and media professionals to celebrate our honorees’ achievements in using the arts to foster positive social change.” “Positive social change” in this context is Muslim Brotherhood-speak for “the fundamental transformation of American culture.”

MPAC’s busy Hollywood Bureau, established shortly after 9/11 and sharing the Brotherhood’s subversive ideology, claims to serve as a professional resource to the entertainment industry by providing accurate information on Islam and Muslims. It has consulted with the producers of such TV shows as 24, Bones, Lie to Me, 7th Heaven, The Good Wife, and Homeland. It offers script consultation (read: approval) for filmmakers who want to get Islam “right,” and helps Hollywood professionals connect with Muslim filmmakers, writers and actors.
For the past 21 years, MPAC has honored “Voices of Courage and Conscience” who use art and media “to create accurate portrayals and enriching dialogue around important social, cultural and political issues.” A few of the “accurate and enriching” artists and their works that MPAC has honored with awards in the past are filmmakers Michael Moore (for Bowling for Columbine) and Spike Lee (for Malcolm X), producer Lawrence Bender (for An Inconvenient Truth), George Clooney’s production company (for the morally inverted Syriana), and actor Alec Baldwin (“for his courageous commitment to social justice and civil liberties, and for standing up against violations of Muslims’ civil liberties in national media interviews and at the 2004 Democratic National Convention”).
This year, MPAC honored three projects: the Oscar-nominated 5 Broken Cameras, the Fox TV series Bones and the Sundance Film Institute’s Feature Film Program.

Aafia Sidiqqui: Repaying Opportunity with Terror

One of the more jaw-dropping excuses that the news media have concocted in defense of the Boston Marathon bombers’ murderous evil is that America herself failed the two immigrant brothers. “Expecting hospitality,” sympathized an American University professor, “they felt alienated and disillusioned, even with all of the opportunities and privileges available to them as citizens of this country.” This is reminiscent of a parallel tale of opportunities and privileges made available to another jihadist immigrant –Aafia Siddiqui, who attended the same Boston mosque as the Tsarnaev brothers, benefited from the same welcome embrace of our society, and like them, still repaid it by plotting terror.

The Pakistani Siddiqui immigrated to the United States in 1990, graduated from MIT on a full scholarship and obtained a Ph.D. in 2001 from Brandeis. A full scholarship to MIT – quite an opportunity and a privilege. Described by her fellow students as “religious,” she joined the Muslim Students' Association, a creation of the subversive Muslim Brotherhood, and solicited money for Brooklyn’s Al Kifah Refugee Center, an early nerve center for al Qaeda in America.

When Pakistan asked the U.S. for help in 1995 to combat religious extremism, Siddiqui circulated an email deriding Pakistan for joining “the typical gang of our contemporary Muslim governments,” and closing with a quote from the Quran warning Muslims not to take Jews and Christians as friends. She wrote three guides for teaching Islam, expressing the hope in one that “America becomes a Muslim land.” Meanwhile she took a 12-hour pistol training course.