Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Antidote to Toxic Masculinity

The recent slaughter of nearly 50 people in an Orlando gay bar is now the deadliest mass shooting in American history, and as such it has ratcheted up our national conversation about guns and terrorism into a frenzied crosstalk about whom and what to blame: Islam? The NRA? Homophobia? Salon’s Amanda Marcotte believes it can all be explained by “toxic masculinity.”

Toxic masculinity is a concept from the men’s movement that feminists like Marcotte have pounced on to explain the root cause of all violent male misbehavior from gay-bashing to domestic violence to terrorism. “It is a specific model of manhood,” she writes, “geared towards dominance and control. It’s a manhood that views women and LGBT people as inferior, sees sex as an act not of affection but domination, and which valorizes violence as the way to prove one’s self to the world.”

I don’t dispute that the notion of toxic masculinity applies to many men. But Marcotte, heavy on sneering and light on facts, uses the concept to rope such losers together with her favorite target – Republican male gun owners, whom she dismisses as posturing and insecure bullies – and to make them responsible for mass shootings with such varied motives as mental illness, workplace violence, and Islamic terrorism: “[T]his persistent pressure to constantly be proving manhood and warding off anything considered feminine or emasculating is the main reason why we have so many damn shootings in the United States.”

Marcotte goes on in that vein – and on and on: “Being able to stockpile weapons and have ever bigger and scarier-looking guns is straightforward and undeniable overcompensation [sic] insecure men, trying to prove what manly men they are.” We need a society, she says, “with more dancing and less waving guns around while talking about what a manly man you imagine yourself to be.”

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.”

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

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Harambe the Gorilla and Our Disconnect from Nature

Over the Memorial Day weekend dramatic cell phone video emerged of a Cincinnati Zoo gorilla named Harambe getting hold of a 4-year-old boy who had managed to get into the gorilla’s habitat. Harambe dragged the boy through the habitat’s moat like a rag doll and ultimately hauled him up onto the habitat, where the zoo's Dangerous Animal Response Team was forced to kill it with a rifle. The boy was in “imminent danger,” as the zoo’s director said. “We are heartbroken about losing Harambe, but a child's life was in danger and a quick decision had to be made.”
Indeed it did. While it is certainly regrettable that the animal had to be put down – and the decision was not made lightly – the situation was volatile and the increasingly agitated animal was unpredictable. It suits our naïveté to think of the 17-year-old Harambe as a gentle giant, but gorillas are enormously strong and classed among the most dangerous creatures in the animal kingdom: tigers, lions, bears, etc. The alternative to killing Harambe might have been a dead 4-year-old. But instead of a collective sigh of relief about the boy’s safety, hysterical outrage over the gorilla’s death roiled the internet.

The social media lynch mob, always at the ready to judge and bully, erupted in anger over what it perceived to be the mother’s negligence. Comedian Ricky Gervais, who has no children himself because they’re “a hassle” and jokes that irresponsible parents should be sterilized, tweeted that some gorillas make better parents than some humans. Comedian DL Hughley and others actually suggested that criminal charges be brought against her. A petition called – ludicrously – “Justice for Harambe” which urges that the child’s “home environment” be investigated has garnered nearly 360,000 signatures so far. Ostensibly concerned about the safety of the child, the petitioners are in fact pushing for the parents to be harassed by Child Protective Services. This isn’t justice; it’s vindictiveness.
Others blamed the zoo for insufficiently securing the habitat against such accidents and for shooting Harambe rather than tranquilizing him or, as the chairman of The Gorilla Organization suggested, “negotiating” with him using bananas (the zoo ruled out tranquilizer darts because they would not have taken immediate effect and would only have further provoked an already spooked animal).
I can remember a time when zoos were little more than cages; these days most zoo animals are better off pampered in habitats than scraping for survival in the wild. Yet, PETA and many others are up in arms over the very notion of zoo captivity:
Others simply blame humanity itself:
Aside from the ugly controversy over who is at fault, the broader issue here is what this hysteria over the tragic but necessary killing of a potentially lethal animal to save a child says about us.
We in the First World are normally far removed – thankfully –from the brutal reality of the natural world. Most of us rarely if ever even kill our own food, a state of comfort practically unprecedented in history. Decades of cultural influence from the environmental movement and animal preservation groups have made us irrationally sympathetic to and trusting of nature and, for some, even self-loathing as a species. We anthropomorphize animals whose true nature we don’t understand; thus, the kneejerk misperception of many is to believe not only that Harambe posed no threat, but that he was even being protective of the boy. One wonders if such animal apologists would have responded with as much anguish if the boy had died instead of Harambe.
A month ago tigers at a Florida zoo killed their experienced keeper, a 38-year-old woman. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but Dave Salmoni, a host for Animal Planet, said that regardless of the relationship between trainer and tiger, once she entered the big cats’ enclosure, “the tiger would have looked at her like a ball of yarn to play with. Once she started to struggle or moved quickly, that tiger's primal hunter instinct would have then come into play.”
We are so out of touch with our primal instincts that we think of zoo animals, and perhaps even all animals, as docile and lovable, not deadly predators; indeed, we consider ourselves the most dangerous species and the greedy despoilers of an idyllic nature. While there may be a degree of truth to this, it’s dangerously naïve to downplay the ruthlessness of the natural order or to assume that peace and harmony are the norm rather than survival of the fittest. 
Nature is transcendentally beautiful but also unforgiving. It is most accurately represented not by the bear in The Jungle Book, bouncing along with Mowgli to the tune of “Bare Necessities,” but by the bear in The Revenant: merciless and “red in tooth and claw,” as Tennyson put it. To lose our visceral connection to that reality is to dangerously detach ourselves further from nature, and to devalue ourselves as human beings.
From Acculturated, 6/1/16