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Monday, November 6, 2017

Lido Pimienta Thinks Racially Segregating Her Audiences Will Fight Racism?



The broadly-labeled “world music” or “world beat” musical genre was enormously popular from the late ‘80s through the late ‘90s and, for me as a musician, exciting and inspirational. Musicians from Mali to Croatia to Brazil found themselves collaborating with the biggest First World pop stars of the day to produce uniquely multicultural sounds. Peter Gabriel powered whole albums with African drumming and duets with singer Youssou N’Dour, a superstar in Africa and Europe. Paul Simon recorded a South African-influenced album with musicians from that country, and he and Michael Jackson also recorded separately with the Brazilian samba-reggae group Olodum (which I drummed with myself in Carnaval in the mid-90s). Sting, having soared to fame with a group that fused rock and reggae, toured with percussionists of African and Caribbean roots and scored a hit with Algerian singer Cheb Mami in “Desert Rose.” Audiences ate it up.
None of that would be possible today, or at least popular, because an ugly current of racial totalitarianism has taken hold among many young people who would condemn the Western artists for cultural appropriation. The opportunities for such musical blends to knit disparate audiences together are disappearing, replaced by a militant tribal defensiveness.
When musical artists mix genres and collaborate in a way that promotes unity rather than division, there is no faster way to break down barriers of race, nationality, and gender and move people beyond the barricades of politics. The exciting energy such a creative partnership can generate brings people together more quickly, harmoniously, and organically than any other artistic or activist endeavor.
Conversely, nothing is more certain to wedge people further apart than using a musical performance to sow division and perpetuate resentment in an audience that otherwise is primed to seek common ground.

Why I Am Not Raising My Daughters to be Feminists



Huffpost reported recently on a project created by photographers and partners Sham Hinchey and Marzia Messina called “Dear Daughters,” in which 22 men posed for artsy portraits with their daughters, ages 8 to 11, and chatted informally but a little awkwardly with them about feminism. As you might expect from Huffpost, a half-hour video of the process depicts mostly “woke” grade-schoolers and hipster dads showing off their feminist consciousness for the camera without a trace of a diverse viewpoint.
In the video, fathers and daughters play a board game Hinchey and Messina invented to encourage discussion. The game featured such questions as “What worries you about bringing up girls in a male chauvinist world?” and “Name a woman you admire” (almost all the girls named Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama) and “Name all the stereotypes you can think of about boys and girls.”
“[C]hildren of this age start asking questions regarding social issues and it is interesting to watch them process news, trying to rationalize and decipher events which in their minds are absurd or unjust,” Messina told HuffPost. Yes, but a ten-year-old isn’t likely to have the wisest or most informed perspective on what is absurd or unjust – many adults don’t have it, for that matter. At that age, children are largely parroting what they have heard from parents and other adult influences such as teachers, particularly on complex political issues such as wages and the environment.
When one parent in the video tries to explain the concept of abortion to his daughter, for example, he glosses over the ugly reality of it and declares that what the issue boils down to is, “There’s a bunch of men in a room trying to tell women, ‘If you get pregnant, you have to have that baby.’” His daughter responds, “That’s messed up.” What’s messed up is the way he steered her toward the Progressive lie instead of guiding her toward the truth.

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.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Do We Really Want Men to Be More Vulnerable?



In a piece last week for Vanity Fair with a title that perfectly captures the magazine’s signature tone of grandiosity and giddy celebrity-worship – “Jay-Z, Prince Harry, Brad Pitt, and the New Frontiers of Male Vulnerability” – Monica Lewinsky praises the trio of celebs as refreshing examples of men liberating themselves from the straightjacket of traditional masculinity and embracing an endearing vulnerability. But is that really the kind of masculinity we want?

“[T]hanks to public declarations from these three men,” Lewinsky says of Jay-Z, Harry, and Brad, “masculine stereotypes [have] given way to something different—something soulful, engaging, vulnerable, and even feminist. Hallelujah.” Yes, thank goodness we have celebrities to lead the way to new frontiers!

She begins by celebrating Prince Harry’s recent openness about his personal struggle with mental health after the death of his mother, Princess Diana. Harry confessed to being unprepared not only for the loss of his mother when he was a mere twelve, but for the burdens of royalty. It was an emotional transparency that was out of keeping with the stiff upper lip expected of a royal.

Moving on to “the mature cowboy” Brad Pitt, Lewinsky states approvingly that he has “evolved.” In a recent profile in GQ, Pitt discussed “looking at my weaknesses and failures and owning my side of the street.” He’s in touch with his feelings again, he says: “[Y]ou either deny them all of your life or you answer them and evolve.”


Why You Should Pursue Meaning, Not Happiness



A recent article in The Washington Post identified a rising “sea of despair” among the white working class and a surge in suicides from 1999 to 2015, when a record high of 600,000 Americans took their own lives. In a country as free and as prosperous as the United States of America, where the pursuit of happiness is enshrined as an unalienable right in the Declaration of Independence, why do so many of its citizens seem so increasingly, desperately unhappy?
That paradox is what drove Emily Esfahani Smith to write the important new book The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters. Smith, with a master’s degree in positive psychology, is an editor at Stanford’s Hoover Institution where she manages the Ben Franklin Circles Project, the aim of which is to build community and purpose across the country. Her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The New Criterion, and more.
Smith points out that the boom in positive psychology since the late ‘80s has spawned an army of personal coaches, motivational speakers, and celebrities pushing the “gospel of happiness,” but the “happiness frenzy” has failed to deliver on its promise. “Indeed,” she writes, “social scientists have uncovered a sad irony – chasing happiness actually makes people unhappy.”

The Left’s Next Step: Redefining ‘Hate Speech’ as Violence



An article in the Sunday Review section of the July 16 New York Times posed a question which, once upon a more innocent time, would have been considered nonsensical: When Is Speech Violence? The response of any person who cares about the clarity of language would properly be “Never,” but Lisa Feldman Barrett, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, asserts in the Times piece that the science is settled: speech that bullies and torments” is “literally a form of violence.”
It might seem obvious, Barrett begins, that “violence is physically damaging; verbal statements aren’t.” Yes, that should be obvious to anyone except illiberals, who know that whoever controls the language controls minds. So they are hell-bent on weaponizing words to advance their totalitarian agenda.
The left has spent decades successfully normalizing the intentionally vague term “hate speech” in the culture, even going so far as to insist that it should not be protected by the First Amendment. But what is “hate speech”? It’s anything the left wants it to be, of course. When the media elites of CNN or HBO or The View or late night talk shows openly bash Christians or the traditional values of flyover Americans, it is never, ever condemned as hate speech; but those same elites leap to denounce virtually everything the right says as such. It is a brilliantly effective way to delegitimize conservatives and their ideas, and to exclude them from the public sphere.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Justice Roberts’ Commencement Address Stresses Humility and Gratitude



Commencement addresses typically urge graduates to look to the future, and contain bland, predictable nuggets of inspiration such as “reach for the stars,” “change the world,” and these days, “#Resist Trump!” But Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. upended expectations when he delivered the commencement address for an elite boarding school last month; instead, he wished the graduates failures and setbacks, and emphasized a couple of virtues that have fallen out of style in American culture: humility and gratitude.
Roberts’ address at the Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, New Hampshire, for boys grades six through nine, didn’t attract much attention at the time, but it has been gaining traction since being uploaded to YouTube. Even The Washington Post, no ideological ally of the conservative Chief Justice, recently published an admiring article about the speech.
What many are finding noteworthy about the twelve-minute talk is that Roberts touched on neither politics nor the law in it, although each of the graduates did receive an autographed, pocket-size Constitution along with his certificate, according to the Post. “Instead,” wrote the newspaper, “the address was personal, understated and popular probably because it touched on universal themes, such as a parent’s worry about whether he or she is making the right decisions for their child.”
He began by inviting the students to rise from their seats and applaud the parents for their sacrifice. He painted a touching picture of those parents dropping off their young boys at the beginning of their time at the school and returning home on a “trail of tears” to an “emptier and lonelier house.” That image was all the more poignant because Roberts’ own son was among the graduates that day, and that personal element is what gives this speech its moving, bittersweet edge.

The Compassionate Left and the Coldhearted Right



Shortly after Ronald Reagan first moved into the White House in 1981, a single-panel cartoon appeared in The New Yorker depicting an older, wealthy, white couple strolling down a sidewalk past a homeless man begging for change. Referring to the beggar, the female half of the couple – stereotypically wrapped in a fur coat, dripping in jewels, and nose in the air – said to her equally haughty husband something like, “To hell with him. There’s a Republican in the White House now.” I’m probably butchering the punch line but it wasn’t any funnier in the original, and in any case it wasn’t intended so much to be funny as it was to reinforce the left’s bigoted perception of Republicans as rich, old, white, and most significantly, heartless.
I was reminded of this old cartoon by a rather pathetic recent Huffington Post essay called, “I Don’t Know How To Explain To You That You Should Care About Other People,” which embodied this common misperception of conservatives as unfeeling, greedy monsters who hate the poor, the sick, the underprivileged, the nonwhite.
The writer of the article – Kayla Chadwick, described as an Emmy Award-winning video editor in New York – began by expressing her exasperation over trying to explain to conservatives “why they should care about other people.” I am skeptical that she has ever actually had a conversation with a conservative about this except perhaps with strangers in the disputatious realm of social media, but she clearly assumes that she, like her fellow Progressives, is a normal, decent, compassionate human being; that the right is inhumanly and incomprehensibly cruel, almost a completely different species; and that struggling to thaw a conservative’s frozen heart is a lost cause.

Friday, July 7, 2017

False Black Power?



Barack Obama’s ascension to the White House was the culmination of the black struggle to attain the pinnacle of political power. But decades of that obsessive focus on black political advancement has not yielded the results that civil rights leaders like Jesse Jackson promised. Even after eight years of Obama, racial gaps in income, employment, home ownership, academic achievement, and other measures still exist, and many civil rights leaders both new and old– including Jackson – explain that by pushing the self-serving narrative that blacks in America are still the victims of systemic racism, and that continuing to pursue political power is the answer.
Jason L. Riley, a Wall Street Journal columnist and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, disagrees. The thrust of his slim but significant new book, False Black Power?, is the politically incorrect conclusion that black “political clout is no substitute for self-development”:
The major barrier to black progress today is not racial discrimination and hasn’t been for decades. The challenge for blacks is to better position themselves to take advantage of existing opportunities, and that involves addressing the antisocial, self-defeating behaviors and habits and attitudes endemic to the black underclass.
Riley argues in False Black Power? that the left’s politically useful argument of white oppression serves only the interests of the people making it, not blacks themselves, and that “black history itself offers a compelling counternarrative that ideally would inform our post-Obama racial inequality debates.”
Mr. Riley, also the author of Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed, consented to answer some questions about the book via email.
Mark Tapson:         When America elected its first black president there was widespread hope that he would accomplish everything from healing our racial divide to slowing the rise of the oceans. What was the actual legacy for American blacks of eight years of Barack Obama?

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.

Timelessness, Not Political Timeliness, Makes the Best Stories



Timely. Relevant. Resonant.
These are the promotional watchwords for must-see TV and movies in our politics-saturated pop culture today. The New York Times recently published a piece about the “timeliness” of the new Amazon series American Gods, because of the show’s pro-immigration theme. The Times also advertised Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale as “newly resonant,” because of the widespread, unhinged fretting that President Trump is going to usher in a misogynistic theocracy in which women are stripped of their rights and reduced to being childbearing livestock.
There is more. Director Ron Howard revealed that a Nazi character in his Nat Geo series Genius was modeled after President Trump, and that an episode with an immigration theme had “vital resonance” with current events. The alt-history Amazon series The Man in the High Castle is seen as relevant because of the absurd fear-mongering over imaginary, “deeply disturbing parallels” between the Trump administration and the show’s depiction of a fascist America. Not even kids’ movies can escape this hysteria: analogies are actually being drawn between Trump and the titular character from the animated film The Boss Baby.
The list of examples could go on and on, but while the trend seems ubiquitous, it did not begin with the rise of Trump. Hyping the topical nature of a book, movie, or TV series is a common, longstanding promotional strategy, particularly if the story being advertised also promotes a particular political agenda. Every story that can be politically weaponized is marketed breathlessly as “timely.”