Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Christianity, Islam, and Atheism

Now that the Boston bombers have turned out, contrary to the fervent hope of the left, to be not Tea Partiers but Muslims, the media are spinning the terrorists’ motive away from jihad and shrugging, helplessly mystified, about the “senseless” attacks. And so our willful blindness about Islam continues. Nearly a dozen years after the 9/11 attacks, too many Americans still cling to militant denial about the clear and present danger of an Islamic fundamentalism surging against an anemic Western culture. What will it take to educate them? And once awakened, what steps can we take to reverse the tide?

The vicious Boston attack makes these questions and William “Kirk” Kilpatrick’s new book Christianity, Islam, and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West all the more timely. In addition to being an occasional contributor to FrontPage Magazine, Kilpatrick is the author of other books, including Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right from Wrong and Books That Build Character: A Guide to Teaching Your Child Moral Values Through Stories, and his articles about Islam have appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, Catholic World Report, and other publications. He was interviewed here by Jamie Glazov at FrontPage about the new book, which he intended not only as a wake-up call to the West about Islam, but also as a practical guide, especially for Christians, to pushing back against its spread and to countering Islam’s Western apologists.

Christianity, Islam, and Atheism opens with a section titled “The Islamic Threat,” in which Kilpatrick describes the rise of supremacist Islam and our correspondingly tepid defense of Western values. Our collapse in the face of Islam, he says, is due in large part to our abandonment of Christianity, which has led to “a population vacuum and a spiritual vacuum” that Islam has rushed to fill. “A secular society… can’t fight a spiritual war,” Kilpatrick writes. Contrary to the multiculturalist fantasy dominant in the West today, “cultures aren’t the same because religions aren’t the same. Some religions are more rational, more compassionate, more forgiving, and more peaceful than others.” This is heresy in today’s morally relativistic world, but it’s a critical point because “as Christianity goes, so goes the culture.”

The Left's Top Six Boston Bombing Lies

You have to admire how, when it comes to pushing their agendas, the American left stays relentlessly on point. Nothing stalls, much less derails, their locomotive, not even a terrorist act on our own shores. As Mad Men’s adman extraordinaire Don Draper tells his clients, “If you don’t like the conversation, change it.” The left doesn’t like the current Boston bombing conversation because it’s about Islam, their partner in an unholy alliance; so they quite simply do everything in their power to change it. How? Let us count the ways.

Blame the right. Immediately after last week’s Boston Marathon terrorism, the mainstream news media began speculating that right-wingers were behind the blasts. And by speculating, I mean demonizing, because that was the left-leaning media’s fervent intent – to not let the crisis go to waste, to cast suspicion upon the overlapping segments of society they are hell-bent on “otherizing,” to use their own terminology: law-abiding Tea Partiers, patriots, veterans, Republicans, the NRA, white people, Christians. A CNN analyst, to name only one example, focused the discussion on “right-wing extremists.” More blatantly, Salon put its hateful bigotry on display in an article entitled, incredibly, “Let’s hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American.”

Blame the NRA. Once the ongoing investigation revealed it to be beyond dispute that the terrorists weren’t Tea Partiers, the left didn’t miss a beat. Even while the remaining fugitive was still at large, MSNBC’s attack dog Lawrence O’Donnell shamelessly blamed the National Rifle Association for hindering the investigation by having lobbied to block a taggant “that would enable tracing of the purchase of gunpowder”:

The NRA’s effort to guarantee that America's mass murderers are the best equipped mass murderers in the world is not limited to those who use automatic weapons and high capacity magazines. The NRA is also in the business of helping bombers get away with their crimes.

O’Donnell conveniently neglected to mention that an independent scientific ruling years ago had recommended, for various reasons, against the use of taggants.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Sex, Fame and Videotape

Farrah Abraham, twenty-year-old star of the MTV reality show Teen Mom whose bestselling autobiography last year detailed her turbulent childhood, pregnancy, and motherhood at sixteen, caused a media stir recently when she was spotted leaving the offices of adult film company Vivid Entertainment hand-in-hand with porn star James Deen. Vivid is the go-to distributor for celebrities exchanging a sex tape for big bucks and fresh notoriety.

Sure enough, Abraham had made a sex tape with Deen. Why? At first she claimed, oddly, that she wanted one as a sort of nostalgic keepsake for when she is older. But Deen soon let it slip that Abraham’s actual plan was to make a professionally produced porn video and pass it off as a leaked sex tape for the aforementioned money and fame. She didn’t deny it; indeed, rather than exhibit any sense of embarrassment, much less shame, that she was literally prostituting herself to the highest bidder, Abraham seemed concerned only about reassuring her impressionable fans that she had practiced safe sex:

As my young fans and others should expect, I made sure my partner was tested and clean as well as contraception was used… As for the company who has a copy of my personal video, my lawyer is taking care of that matter. I will not be settling for anything less than a couple million.

So now we have disturbing official confirmation that young women today view sex tapes as an entrepreneurial endeavor. This is due in large part to the empire built by Kim Kardashian, arguably the most famous woman in the world, atop her own sex tape.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Graphic Photos of the Boston Bombing: To Show or Not to Show?

In the wake of the horrific terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon finish line Monday, which as of this writing killed three innocents and wounded nearly two hundred, photos of the aftermath naturally began appearing in the media, a few of which were shockingly graphic. One in particular showed three people hurrying an ashen young man away from the scene in a wheelchair. His legs below the knees are nothing more than stripped bloody bone, tendon and a hanging sheet of skin.

The New York Observer noted that some media outlets cropped the photo to spare readers the grisly sight; but a few, The Atlantic among them, posted the image uncensored, sparking a debate about the journalist ethics and standards of confronting viewers with such disturbing material. “We agree that this image is difficult to look at but believe that it is also a true depiction of the terrible nature of this story,” said Atlantic communications director Natalie Raabe. “We were careful to prepare viewers for the graphic content, including a warning that entirely obscures the photo.”

The Observer went on to point out that the Daily News blurred the man’s injuries (The Atlantic blurred his face “out of respect for his privacy”) and The New York Times declined to use the photo at all. Standards editor Phil Corbett said, “We clearly would consider the full frame of that photo to be too graphic to publish.” New York Times senior photographer James Estrin said, “I’m not opposed to showing blood and, on rare occasions, a dismemberment, if it’s integral to telling a story.” But of the photograph in question, he said, “I’m not sure the graphicness advances the story.”

Bad Company

Image from my friend Bosch Fawstin

In 2004, former Hollywood heartthrob Robert Redford executive-produced The Motorcycle Diaries, a cinematic love letter to the young Ché Guevara. In 2007 he directed the talky anti-war bore Lions for Lambs, starring himself as an activist professor who is appalled when two of his students enlist and fight in Afghanistan instead of protesting our involvement here at home. The 2010 movie The Conspirator was Redford’s thinly-veiled attack on Bush’s war on terror posing as a docudrama about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Now Redford sets the sights of his cinematic activism on idealizing the domestic terrorists of the Weather Underground.

Redford, founder of the Sundance Institute, and a progressive activist with connections to the leftist puppetmaster George Soros, produced and directed the new film The Company You Keep from a screenplay adapted from a 2004 novel by Neil Gordon. In addition, Redford also stars in the movie as an attorney whose former identity as a Weatherman radical is exposed by a pushy journalist hungry for a career-launching story. Still wanted thirty years later for a deadly bank robbery in his militant past, Redford’s character goes on the run to prove his innocence by finding the real shooter and convincing her to give herself up.

Along the way he reaches out to old comrades, fugitives like himself who have also created new identities and lives for themselves, like the professor who teaches Marx and anti-colonialist Frantz Fanon in his popular class. They are all – including the two women (played by Julie Christie and – surprise! – Code Pink ally Susan Sarandon) who are the most unrepentantly violent of the gang – painted as idealists who simply got carried away in their resistance to the United States government, which they believed was committing genocide abroad and murderous suppression of dissent at home. “We made mistakes, but we were right,” a smug Sarandon’s character tells the journalist.

That quote could sum up the theme of the movie. The Company You Keep pays lip service to rejecting the movement’s violent excesses; for example, when the journalist himself begins to display an empathy with the radicals after listening to Sarandon’s moral pontification, an FBI agent warns him, “Terrorists justify terrorism. Don’t get confused here.” But at the same time the movie absolves those who participated in that violence – and who would do it all over again – by minimizing it as passionate excess. “People make mistakes,” says Redford’s character, who is clearly the voice of moral authority in the film. Of course people make mistakes – this is the most facile truism of all time. But most people know better than to set off bombs to kill innocent people, which is not simply a bad choice or youthful indiscretion – it’s terrorism, and those who try to absolve them of it are terrorist sympathizers.

Actor Steven Weber Exposes the Totalitarian Heart of the Left

It’s easy to dismiss the political ravings of the celebrity left as so much insubstantial hot air, but they occasionally provide a useful exposé of the totalitarian streak just beneath the surface of the “tolerant” left – as in a recent online commentary from actor Steven Weber.

If you are familiar with Weber at all, it’s likely from his Wings sitcom fame in the early 90s. You may be even less familiar with the fact that he is also a frequent political blogger at Huffington Post, the one-stop shop for narcissistic pop culture demagogues like Weber, Russell Simmons, and purported comedian Russell Brand.

Last week Weber, a self-described “wise-ass” (he got that half-right anyway), posted a painfully unfunny political rant there entitled “Comedy Relief.” As near as I can decipher it, the piece asserts that conservatives are a big joke, what with their insistence on sabotaging this country and demonizing the genius President Obama despite all the good he has accomplished.

Weber clearly amuses himself, but when it comes to savagely funny and incisive political commentary, the man is no Mark Steyn. Here’s an example of his wit and insight into current events: “Bin Laden’s been gone, Qaddafi’s ka-dead, and the Arab Spring’s been sprung.” Weber actually cites these as examples of Obama’s “real foreign policy victories.”

He is apparently uninformed that the death of bin Laden has done nothing to diminish al Qaeda’s worldwide vigor; that post-Qaddafi Libya has become a fountain of illicit arms making their way into the hands of terrorists and fueling conflicts elsewhere; and that even the mainstream media have quietly abandoned the rosy misnomer “Arab Spring” in the wake of Islamic barbarians ravaging the Middle East. In fact, Obama’s primary “foreign policy victories” have been to facilitate the spread of sharia and alienate our allies like England and Israel. On second thought, I suppose Weber has a valid point – after all, those are victories from Obama’s point of view.

Hanoi Jane to Critics of Her Reagan Role: “Get a Life”

The showbiz trade magazine The Hollywood Reporter (THR) reports that conservative opposition is slowly building toward a possible boycott of the movie The Butler, still six months away from appearing in theaters. That’s because lifelong leftist activist Jane Fonda is slated to portray Ronald Reagan’s wife Nancy in the flick. “I figured it would tweak the right,” shrugs Fonda. “Who cares?”

The drama is the true story of Eugene Allen, White House butler to every president from 1952 to 1986. Jane Fonda – famously photographed straddling a Viet Cong anti-aircraft gun in North Vietnam forty years ago – as the wife of patriotic icon Reagan is a choice that hardly seems coincidental; more likely casting “Hanoi Jane” was a direct and purposeful insult to the conservative American audience, whom many Hollywood elites openly despise.

THR reporter Paul Bond’s bias in the article itself is blatant – unsurprisingly, since movie biz trade magazines don’t bother to hide their leftist tilt (although THR is a model of neutrality compared to its online competition The Wrap). In his examples of “similar dustups” over political films, Bond writes that the right “howled” about the CBS miniseries The Reagans, while the left only “complained” about The History channel’s proposed 2011 miniseries The Kennedys. The left did more than complain about the project, produced by open conservative Joel Surnow; it got the network to abandon the miniseries, although it was later picked up by the Reelz Channel and won a raft of awards including Emmys.

Bond also says the left merely “complained” about supposed “inaccuracies” in the 2006 miniseries The Path to 9/11, which I have written about before and to which I myself contributed. If you want to know just how politely the left “complained” about The Path to 9/11, check out the documentary Blocking The Path to 9/11. ABC was initially proud of the project until Clinton-era alumni feared it would blacken his legacy, because it accurately depicted his flaccid response to the growing threat of Islamic fundamentalism in the 90s. Then a vicious internet campaign got underway which resulted in death threats to the filmmakers, and a team of Democrat senators including Harry Reid threatened to pull ABC’s license if it aired the miniseries. ABC’s owner is a close friend of the Clintons to this day he refuses to release it on DVD.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Road Not Taken

“Two roads diverged in a wood,” Robert Frost famously wrote, “and I,/ I took the one less traveled by,/ And that has made all the difference.” His poem addresses the age-old question: which path in life leads to success and happiness – the conventional and theoretically more secure one, or the riskier but theoretically more rewarding pursuit of a personal dream?

In a series of interviews with PBS mainstay Bill Moyers in the late 80s, mythologist Joseph Campbell rocketed to pop culture fame – a status academics don’t usually enjoy – thanks to his advice to “follow your bliss” in life. It was a credo that resonated with the Me Decade and was often incorrectly interpreted as license for hedonism; in fact, he was urging people to pursue work that fulfilled one’s soul (he later wisecracked that he should have said, “follow your blisters”).

More recently, frenetic wine vlogger and social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk echoed this by urging young people to throw caution to the wind and pursue their dream, the thing they really love, rather than play it safe. Instead of looking ahead, he suggests, picture yourself looking back: “The question really becomes what’s going to happen when you’re 70 years old and you look back at your life and you’re like, Why didn’t I try?” Don’t be steered down the beaten path, he advises, by a guidance counselor or parent:

They’re worried about your next ten years. I’m worried about your last ten years. And in those last ten years, you’re going to be thinking back… and realizing, Why didn’t I go to Austin (or L.A. or Nashville… wherever you’re going)? Why didn’t I take a chance? And really regret that. And that – that tastes a lot worse than going for it.

It’s true – most people regret things they didn’t do, not things they did, and regret is like a cancer of the soul.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Unknown Steve McQueen

This is the 50-year anniversary of the release of The Great Escape, the classic adventure film based on the true story of a daring escape from a Nazi stalag in World War II. Despite the movie being an ensemble piece featuring practically every Hollywood leading man at the time (James Garner, James Coburn, Charles Bronson, et al), actor Steve McQueen asserted his charismatic presence and emerged from the film as the biggest star in the world. Seemingly overnight he went from being “the Cooler King,” as his Great Escape character was known for having earned so much time in solitary imprisonment, to “the King of Cool” – an icon of rugged manliness and classic, masculine style.

Unfortunately, thanks in part to a harsh childhood warped by a broken home, McQueen was also a selfish and insecure egomaniac, a world-class womanizer who was compulsively unfaithful to multiple wives, a world-class substance abuser, and an insufferable jerk (to put it politely) even to those closest to him.

But there was yet another, less-renowned side to Steve McQueen.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

'The Vikings' and the Clash of Civilizations

One of the unexpected and most intriguing elements of the new History Channel series The Vikings is the main character Ragnar’s fascination with his prisoner, a young Christian monk seized during a Viking raid on an Anglo-Saxon monastery. The clash of their value systems echoes the real-life confrontation of paganism and early Christianity in ancient Europe, which would shape the Western World.

In case you haven’t been keeping up with one of the best-produced and most compelling new series on television, The Vikings centers on Ragnar (Australian actor Travis Femmel), a Norseman of the eighth century whose rebellious spirit and lust for riches drives him to defy his ruthless king (Gabriel Byrne) and undertake a dangerous journey across the North Sea to the legendary lands to the west. There he and his cohorts discover easy treasure at the unprotected monastery at Lindisfarne, off the northeast coast of England – an actual historical event which marked the beginning of the notorious Viking Age.

During the raid, another Viking spies a wooden figure of the crucified Christ on the wall and comments that any god who would allow himself to be nailed to a cross and killed is not one to be feared. “He cannot protect anyone,” says another. “He is not alive like Odin, Thor or Freya.” And so the slaughter and the plunder begin.