Category: Culture

The reality of “book bans”

Jonah Goldberg:

Earlier in the week there was one of those stories that helps feed the ravenous maw of perpetual outrage. Ron DeSantis banned a poem by Amanda Gorman. Banned it!

Vox: The latest book ban target: Amanda Gorman’s poem from the Biden inauguration

Guardian: Amanda Gorman ‘gutted’ after Florida school bans Biden inauguration poem

Los Angeles Times: Amanda Gorman on her inauguration poem being banned at Miami school: ‘I am gutted’

Variety: Amanda Gorman’s Books Sky Rocket in Sales Despite Florida Book Ban

The Wrap: Amanda Gorman ‘Gutted’ by Ban of Inauguration Poetry Book From Florida School

Daily Mail: Miami elementary school BANS students from reading poem Amanda Gorman recited at Biden’s inauguration after parent complained it spread ‘hate messages’

ABC: Poet Amanda Gorman criticizes book ban effort in Florida targeting Biden’s inauguration poem

BookRiot: Inaugural poem by Amanda Gorman banned after single complaint

It turned out the poem wasn’t banned. It was removed from a shelf in a library “media center” for grade-schoolers and put on a shelf for middle-schoolers.

That’s it. One school. One library. Moved a book to a different shelf.

Now, it was dumb for the school to remove it based on a single complaint—or any complaint. But that’s one of the downsides of our ridiculous moment—normal people are so desperate to avoid getting in the crosshairs of controversy, they overreact to controversy that creates even more controversy. It’s the ballad of DeSantis versus Disney in miniature.

Still, the poem wasn’t banned. It changed shelves.

I have no doubt that if a precocious fourth grader asked the librarian to see the poem, it would have been made available. But hypothetically, let’s say that’s not the case. Let’s say the school actually pulled it. So what? I mean, I’m 100 percent with you if you think that would be a wrong decision by one librarian in one school in one neighborhood in one county in one state. But beyond “that would be the wrong decision,” what’s the big frickin’ deal? The kid could probably still find the poem. It just might take a little time or money. But that’s it.

I have no statistics handy, but I am absolutely confident that on any given day, at least 50 kids ask librarians for books that the library doesn’t have, or has loaned-out, or declines to give to kids for a bunch of reasons. “Timmy, I need a note from your mother saying it’s okay for you to read Tropic of Cancer.”

People lost their minds in part because this happened in Florida where American Orbánism is supposedly flourishing. But Americans have been wildly irrational about book-bans-that-aren’t-bans for decades. Whenever you look into it, it turns out that something like 98 percent of the cases are about libraries or schools being pressured by parents or school boards that object to some controversial book that’s not age appropriate.

Since the 1960s, the stories are literally never about bans on the sale of books, never mind the possession of them. That matters. That’s what countries that actually ban books do. See what happens if customs finds The Satanic Verses in your luggage at the Tehran airport.

Now, America used to ban books. Actually, states and cities used to ban books. The federal government, to my knowledge, has never actually banned books, though under the Comstock laws it did prohibit a bunch of “obscene” books from being mailed. (Another reason why UPS and FedEx are limitations on federal power! Down with government control of the means of communication!) The Confederacy did ban Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which is bad. But not anywhere near the top of any known “Things the Confederacy Did That Were Bad” list.

Boston, before its Puritanism evaporated, banned—I mean really banned—books for a very long time.

The real problem with all of this “banned” talk is that a bunch of institutions and the journalists who uncritically defer to them, are using the word “ban” wrong. defines “ban” as “to prohibit, forbid, or bar; interdict.”

Here’s how PEN America—one of the worst culprits—defines a book ban: “where students’ access to books in school libraries and classrooms in the United States was restricted or diminished, for either limited or indefinite periods of time.” So if your school has a library book sale to clear out old titles and make room for new ones, you’re all mass book-banners.

Now, I’m not going to defend every decision made in every county or school library in Florida in response to the “Individual Freedom Act,” aka the “Stop Woke Act.” Pulling biographies of Hank Aaron strikes me as stupid.

But here’s the thing. If the restriction or diminishment of access to books in school libraries or classrooms is defined as “banning” you know who the worst book banners in America are? Librarians and school teachers. Every single day, teachers and librarians decide what books should be available to kids.

By this definition, the teacher who opts to include Uncle Tom’s Cabin but not To Kill a Mockingbird has banned To Kill a Mockingbird. The school librarian who refuses to keep The Protocols of the Elders of Zion on their shelves has banned that book. Heck, from what I can tell, all three of my books are banned in schools and libraries.

And that’s fine!

That’s what librarians and teachers are supposed to do! They are what we call in the digital age, “content moderators.” But because libraries are physical spaces, the content moderation is more tangible because there’s this thing called “limited shelf space.” You can’t carry all the books, so you pick and choose which you’ll keep and which you won’t. Librarians also get to decide which books they make more visible and which ones you need to ask for help to find. That’s not banning, that’s editing or curating or whatever. Museums do the same thing every damn day. The Met isn’t banning George W. Bush’s paintings, it’s just not interested in displaying them. Who gives a furry rat’s behind?

What PEN and the American Library Association really mean by “banning” is overruling their decisions—or the decisions of their members and allies. If a bunch of parents or school board officials complain about the inappropriateness of a book, the parents might be right or wrong, but that’s not “banning,” it’s democracy in action. Heck the politicians, starting with DeSantis, behind this push have one thing on their side the librarians and teachers don’t: the voters. At least for now. If they go too far, voters will elect different politicians and different decisions will be made. That’s democracy for you.

What the people screaming about book bans want you to believe is that any effort to second-guess or overrule the “expert” opinions of librarians, teachers, and educrats is fascism. Now, it could be fascism. There were a lot of book bans in fascist regimes, and fascism is fueled by a kind of populism that can look like democratic action you support for a while. But, come on. Moreover, the rush to remove “problematic” books is hardly just a right-wing thing. School boards have removed Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird from reading lists and syllabi because they find the language offensive or because To Kill a Mockingbird is a “white savior story.”

Now, I think getting rid of such books is a terrible idea. I also think it’s a big country and there’s nothing inherently wrong—and much that is inherently good—about parents and politicians taking an interest in what local schools and libraries do. I have zero problem saying the parents are sometimes wrong. The woman who complained about Amanda Gorman’s book apparently peddled The Protocols of the Elders of Zion on her Facebook page, so I’m extra comfortable questioning her judgment. But I also have zero problem saying the librarians are sometimes wrong too.

But what I can’t stand is the idea that any second-guessing of unelected functionaries is an Orwellian assault on free thought. I loathe the saying “Government is just another word for the things we do together.” But you know what? At the local level, public schools—i.e. government schools—should operate according to something close to the spirit of that idea. Parents and citizens are stakeholders, particularly in the education of their own children. We always hear about the need for more civic engagement and parental involvement, but don’t you dare complain about what’s on your kid’s curriculum.

Everyone should have to defend their decisions. And shrieking, “You’re a book banner!” if you lose an argument is nothing more than bullying, an attempt to shut down debate, not engage in it. That’s as illiberal as any attempt to influence what’s on library shelves.

Speaking of shutting down debate …

I spend a lot of time lamenting the growing tide of illiberalism on the right. And I’ll continue. But I get a lot of attaboys from progressives who seem to think illiberalism is a uniquely right-wing thing. It’s not. If you think that schools and libraries should be allowed to teach whatever they want, to have exclusive arbitrary power to exclude the books they don’t like but then say, “Don’t you dare try to exclude the books they like,” you are on the illiberal side of the argument—because you don’t think there should be an argument. Liberalism, like democracy, is all about cultivating a high tolerance for disagreement and debate.

Which brings me to this horrifying story by James Fishback published by our friends at The Free Press.

Apparently, competitive high school debate is becoming, in meaningful respects, a debate-free zone. Judges promulgate “paradigms” which lay out what they’re looking for from the debaters. It’s supposed to be stuff like “provide evidence to support your position” or “emphasize clarity.” But here’s one such paradigm from Lila Lavender, the 2019 national debate champion:

Before anything else, including being a debate judge, I am a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist. … I cannot check the revolutionary proletarian science at the door when I’m judging. … I will no longer evaluate and thus never vote for rightest capitalist-imperialist positions/arguments. … Examples of arguments of this nature are as follows: fascism good, capitalism good, imperialist war good, neoliberalism good, defenses of US or otherwise bourgeois nationalism, Zionism or normalizing Israel, colonialism good, US white fascist policing good, etc.

Now, not all judges are self-declared Marxist-Leninist-Maoists (excuse me while I take a moment to keep my eyes from rolling out of their sockets), and not all of them are even this avowedly illiberal, according to Fishback. But a lot are. And you know what? One is too many. I’m not saying this just because Lavender’s paradigm is so incandescently absurd.

Though I should dwell here to say that calling yourself a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist may not be as disqualifying as calling yourself German National Socialist, but it’s close enough. By body count alone, the ideologies are at best a wash, with the Marxist-Leninist-Maoists ahead on points.

Remember that big debate I had with Sarah Isgur about Nazis marching in Skokie? Her position is basically that the law should be viewpoint neutral when it comes to speech. This debate story isn’t a question of constitutional rights, of course. The National Speech & Debate Association can have any rules it wants—because they’re content moderators!

But when it comes to the spirit of liberalism in general and free speech in particular, declaring yourself a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist is substantively no different than declaring yourself a Nazi. It’s certainly an open declaration against liberalism properly understood. And illiberal debate societies aren’t really a thing.

This is my problem with viewpoint neutrality. I think grown-ups, by which I mean citizens in a free society, can make judgments about what ideas are beyond the pale. It may get thorny as a matter of constitutional law, but a liberal institution—and a debating society is perhaps the ne plus ultra of liberal institutions—should be able to say, “Get that garbage out of here.”

Anyway, other judges say that using the word “illegal” in connection with “immigrants” will immediately result in a loss. Another says, “If you are white, don’t run arguments with impacts that primarily affect POC [people of color]. These arguments should belong to the communities they affect.”

I don’t care if you think the idea that marshaling arguments using logic and facts is inherently illegitimate if you’re the wrong skin color is racist. The fact is it’s illiberal.

(Also, is it okay to apply this rule to, say, billionaires? I mean proposing laws to abolish billionaires—a trendy leftwing idea—don’t primarily affect the people arguing for the proposition.)

I’m not an absolutist about such things. I’m the guy who’s just explained—again—that I’m comfortable with libraries and even debating societies discriminating against certain viewpoints.

My problem is two-fold. First, the discrimination is one-way. Open and flagrantly illiberal ideas and arguments of a leftwing bent are indulged and celebrated. Facts that are inconvenient to privileged narratives are scorned and demonized while arguments like “capitalism can reduce poverty”—an incontestable fact, by the way—are preemptively delegitimized. Not only is this illiberal, it’s cowardly. But it’s cowardice in the name of maintaining power.

Second, because there is this one-way bias, the actual liberals—yes left-leaning, but still fundamentally liberal—are stuck in an environment where all of the incentives are to demonize the illiberalism of the other side while refusing to confront the ever increasing illiberalism in their own ranks. This not only fuels the demonization of anyone who doesn’t toe the party line, it invites an inevitable backlash and not just from alt right poltroons.

You want to know why DeSantis and his crew are going full Gramsci about retaking institutions and using governmental power to take back the culture? It’s because liberal institutions—universities, libraries, debating societies—are too illiberal in one direction. How many college admissions people share the same attitude as these judges?

It’s a rhetorical question.


Maybe because they’re wrong

Matthew Yglesias:

Earlier this month the CDC released the results of its Youth Risk Behavior Survey of American teenagers. The findings have been much discussed, with the focus largely and understandably on the fact that teenage girls are suffering from extraordinarily high levels of sadness and depression. But I think the conversation has overlooked a few things.

One possible culprit for this widespread sadness is that social media apps are especially damaging to girls’ psychological health, a thesis long championed by Jonathan Haidt. And even though on its face Haidt’s point seems left-wing (new technology has downside risks and big companies need to be regulated more), the idea has taken on a mostly right-wing inflection, with Josh Hawley as its most vocal champion in the Senate.

Social media is good at generating polarization, and some of the left-inflected pushback has essentially argued that maybe teens aren’t depressed because of phones but because, in Taylor Lorenz’s words, “we’re living in a late stage capitalist hellscape during an ongoing deadly pandemic w record wealth inequality, 0 social safety net/job security, as climate change cooks the world.” Noah Smith and Eric Levitz both wrote good articles questioning the veracity of that doomer narrative, and Michelle Goldberg did an excellent piece trying to reframe the issue, arguing correctly that “the idea that unaccountable corporate behemoths are harming kids with their products shouldn’t be a hard one for liberals to accept, even if figures like Hawley believe it as well.”1

But I want to talk about something Goldberg mentions but doesn’t focus on: a 2021 paper by Catherine Gimbrone, Lisa Bates, Seth Prins, and Katherine Keyes titled “The politics of depression: Diverging trends in internalizing symptoms among US adolescents by political beliefs.” The CDC survey doesn’t ask teens about their political beliefs, but Gimbrone et. al. find not only divergence by gender, but divergence by political ideology. Breaking things down by gender and ideology, they find that liberal girls have the highest increase in depressive affect and conservative boys have the least. But liberal boys are more depressed than conservative girls, suggesting an important independent role for political ideology.

I think the discussion around gender and the role of social media is an important one. But I also don’t believe that liberal boys are experiencing more depression than conservative girls because they are disproportionately hung up on Instagram-induced body image issues — I think there’s also something specific to politics going on.

Some of it might be selection effect, with progressive politics becoming a more congenial home for people who are miserable. But I think some of it is poor behavior by adult progressives, many of whom now valorize depressive affect as a sign of political commitment. The thing about depression, though, is that it’s bad. Separate from the Smith/Levitz project of arguing about recent political trends, I think we need some kind of society-level cognitive behavioral therapy to convince people that whatever it is they are worried about, depression is not the answer. Because it never is.

Three of the politics of depression paper’s authors are also co-authors on a newer paper arguing that “as efforts to increase policing and roll back criminal legal system reforms in major U.S. cities rise, the collateral consequences of increased criminalization remain critical to document” and looking at the idea that “criminalization may contribute to racial disparities in mental health.” Like most academics, they seem to be quite left-wing. If there were more Republicans working as professors, we’d probably balance out this line of inquiry with papers asking whether rising levels of shootings and homicides also contribute to racial disparities in mental health.2 But there aren’t. So even when all the research being done is good, we primarily see research looking at the questions that progressives think are interesting.

In keeping with that, the politics of depression authors seem very interested in the idea that liberal teens are depressed because they correctly perceive injustice in the world:

Adolescents in the 2010s endured a series of significant political events that may have influenced their mental health. The first Black president, Democrat Barack Obama, was elected to office in 2008, during which time the Great Recession crippled the US economy (Mukunda 2018), widened income inequality (Kochhar & Fry 2014) and exacerbated the student debt crisis (Stiglitz 2013). The following year, Republicans took control of the Congress and then, in 2014, of the Senate. Just two years later, Republican Donald Trump was elected to office, appointing a conservative supreme court and deeply polarizing the nation through erratic leadership (Abeshouse 2019). Throughout this period, war, climate change (O’Brien, Selboe, & Hawyard 2019), school shootings (Witt 2019), structural racism (Worland 2020), police violence against Black people (Obasogie 2020), pervasive sexism and sexual assault (Morrison-Beedy & Grove 2019), and rampant socioeconomic inequality (Kochhar & Cilluffo 2019) became unavoidable features of political discourse. In response, youth movements promoting direct action and political change emerged in the face of inaction by policymakers to address critical issues (Fisher & Nasrin 2021, Haenschen & Tedesco 2020). Liberal adolescents may have therefore experienced alienation within a growing conservative political climate such that their mental health suffered in comparison to that of their conservative peers whose hegemonic views were flourishing.

I’m not saying any of those particular points are wrong. But if these Columbia epidemiologists walked down the street to talk to Columbia economist Richard Clarida, I wonder how he would characterize political trends over the last 20 years. Clarida was Assistant Secretary of Treasury for Economic Policy under George W. Bush, and in terms of the big political fights of the mid-Bush years — the Iraq War, gay marriage, Social Security privatization — liberals totally ran the table. The collapse in political support for Bush-style free trade policies has been so complete that hardly anyone even remembers that’s what the conservative view was.

So is it really true that in some objective sense, conservative views are flourishing and hegemonic?

It’s really hard to definitely prove that one side or the other is “winning” the game of American politics. The answer depends on how you weigh different topics, and people often shift their views on the relative importance of things depending on the context. What I think is most relevant from a mental health perspective is that like most things in life, politics is a bit of a mixed bag that could be looked at in different ways.

The catalog of woes offered in the paper sounds less to me like a causal explanation of why progressive teens have more depressive affect than it does like listening to a depressed liberal give an account of recent American politics. Note for example the negative framing of the fact that progressives have used their agenda-setting power to make structural racism, pervasive sexism, and rampant socioeconomic inequality into unavoidable features of political discourse. One could instead say this is what the path to victory looks like — progressive activists and intellectuals have succeeded in getting more people to pay attention to what they think are the most important problems.

Mentally processing ambiguous events with a negative spin is just what depression is. And while the finding that liberals are disproportionately likely to do it is interesting and important, it’s not sound practice to celebrate that or tell them that they are right to do it.

There is an old phrase attributed to Winston Churchill that if you are not a liberal at 20 you have no heart, but if you are not a conservative at 40 you have no brain. Perhaps young progressives get depressed not by the state of the world (which will always be flawed because of humans) but when they start to realize that what they think is true is not.

What is known as “liberalism” or progressivism today is guaranteed to make its believers unhappy. It requires that they believe things that are false — for instance, that every member of a particular group is the same (i.e. all white conservative men are racists, and all members of minority groups are victims). Liberalism also appeals to emotion, whereas conservatism should (but doesn’t always; see Trump, Donald) appeal to facts and reason.

The thing about young political idealism — actually young idealism of any sort — is that it lacks knowledge and therefore wisdom. That is not to say that older people are smarter. But one of the most important aspects of growing older is learning perspective, as in your ability to change things being in direct proportion with how close something is to you.


Why nothing is funny

Bobby Burack:

American society reads like satire. But don’t you dare laugh about it. Laughing about it is offensive.

“The Daily Show” has aired on Comedy Central for 27 seasons. Last week, Trevor Noah announced his departure from the show. Noah failed as host of the program. He lost over 76% of his predecessor Jon Stewart’s audience. His content was inherently unfunny.

But Noah’s hacky skills are hardly the story. The network chose him despite knowing he couldn’t make more than a niche subsection of the population pretend to laugh. In fact, that made him the ideal candidate for the role.

Trevor Noah is diverse, predictable, safe, and an ardent progressive. Those qualities matter more than humor and talent. They’ve come to define the state of satire.

Comedy is no longer creative or effective. “Saturday Night Live” subtly realized this over the weekend. On Saturday, the program returned for its 48th season. The show predictably opened with a skit parodying former President Donald Trump. Just as predictably, the sketch fell flat. But the bit didn’t only mock Trump. It also poked fun at itself. A character portraying Peyton Manning described the direction of the program as challenging.

“The show’s in a rebuilding year for sure. Fourteen attempted jokes this episode, only one mild laugh and three chuckles,” the character joked about the truth. “Thank God they’ve got Kendrick Lamar because that’s the only reason anyone is tuning in.”

The demise of comedy is partly due to an unhealthy infatuation with Trump. He’s such an overbearing figure that supposedly funny content creators feel obligated to repeat their lines about him to drum up retweets. 

However, just as responsible for the fall of the genre is a culture fueled by outrage. “SNL,” “The Daily Show” and stand-up comedians are frightened shells of their former selves. The thought-police have clamped down the art of jokes.

If you think the mob has scared the cowardly press, look at what these unreasonable hemophiliacs have done to satire.

Performers used to clap themselves on the back for that killer joke that drew “oohs” from the crowd. Today, they just hope no one in the crowd calls them bigoted on social media. 

The list of apologies from comedians is extensive and escalating. Did you know all jokes are either racist, homophobic, transphobic, dangerous, or threatening? Well, it turns out they are.

Comedy is predictable and repetitive. If you hadn’t heard, white women like coffee, Trump has small hands, and a man wore Viking horns to the Capitol. 

That’s about the extent of the political derision from corporate “comedic” brands. And what a time to see such a historically significant part of American culture, comedy, wane.

Truthfully, there has never been more fodder for witty satire. The country deserves to look itself in the mirror with both laughter and humiliation. American culture is a bleeding parody of an Orwellian society.

Compromised dorks hold the most influential positions in the nation. They’ve tried to redefine the most basic words in the English language. Our wacky society is in an ongoing dispute over the term “woman.”

The United States Air Force mandates cadets undergo “gender-inclusive training” that shuns the words “mom” and “dad” on behalf of the idea that some parents are neither. The U.S. is prepared to fight the next war with pronouns.

Our President struggles to speak and hopes to soon receive assistance from Rep. Jackie Walorski, who died this past summer. And more powerful than he has been a little bureaucrat who likely helped fund the virus from which he got generationally weal

A term called “equity” is the leading political message from the White House. What is equity, for those still unsure of its importance? Vice President Kamala Harris explained last week it means withholding hurricane relief from white people until all communities of color are situated.

“We have to address this in a way that is about giving resources based on equity, understanding that we fight for equality, but we also need to fight for equity, understanding not everyone starts out at the same place,” Harris said of Floridians seeking aid following Hurricane Ian.

Yes, this would have been a hilarious bit. Unfortunately, it’s not. Harris actually argued in favor of this racist equitable idea.

These topics are off-limits to comedians at large. The few brave voices still practicing comedy — from the following names to Alex Stein — have been firmly warned there’s a price to pay for daring to publicize jokes that run afoul of the prevailing media narrative.

In March, The Babylon Bee lost access to its Twitter account for awarding a government official named Rachel Levine, a biological male who identifies as a woman, its “Man of the Year.” Twitter deemed the joke “hateful,” and demanded The Bee delete the post itself to admit wrongdoing.

The tweet was so hateful that its nod played out in reality when the NCAA nominated Lia Thomas, a biological male who competes against female swimmers, for Woman of the Year just months later.

Even recently-created parody accounts have struggled to stay afloat. For example, Meta deleted a popular Instagram page last year for its mockery of Dr. Fauci’s stumbling expertise. Its jokes were a form of “misinformation,” says Meta.

Bill Maher is fatphobic or something for including obesity rates in his “New Rules” segments. Being fatphobic is almost as bad as being racist, Hollwywood journalists say. But not quite.

We haven’t checked in a bit, though last we knew, Netflix staffers were still staging walkouts demanding Dave Chappelle’s cancellation for including both straight and trans people in his monologue last fall.

Aspiring comedians have taken note. Trevor Noah hosted the White House Correspondents Dinner this year. Meanwhile, the creative jokesters can’t find a mainstream video service to air their stand-up specials — hello, Adam Carolla.

Political satire had great importance to the discourse of the conversation. An effective joke not only makes you laugh but also think. It makes you realize the wackiness of your own staunch ideology — this includes topics of sensitivity.

“SNL” and “The Daily Show” and political comedians once existed to look at society through a humorous lens. That is the case no more. 

If Donald Trump or white supremacy aren’t the subjects of the joke, it comes with severe risk. The tone might hurt the wrong social media user’s feelings.

The backlash is too grave. Performers and their brand partners don’t have the backbone to withstand the heat.

Cowardice now defines comedy. Quality humor is hardly possible in a society catered to victimhood and perpetual outrage. 

American culture is satire and we aren’t allowed to laugh.

Surveys said …

J.D. Tuccille:

Americans don’t much like each-other and many are willing to fight each other over their differences. But what do the opposing factions believe in? When it comes to economic systems and whether production and consumption should be dictated from above or guided by free exchange, a growing number of Americans don’t seem to believe in much at all. Both capitalism and socialism are losing support, especially among Democrats.

“Today, 36 percent of U.S. adults say they view socialism somewhat (30 percent) or very (6 percent) positively, down from 42 percent who viewed the term positively in May 2019,” Pew reports. “And while a majority of the public (57 percent) continues to view capitalism favorably, that is 8 percentage points lower than in 2019 (65 percent).”

Among Republicans, support for capitalism declined from 78 percent to 74 percent, and for socialism from a rock-bottom 15 percent to a slightly rock-bottomier 14 percent. With Democrats, capitalism became a minority taste, dropping from 55 percent support to 46 percent, while socialism’s favorable standing eroded from 65 percent to 57 percent.

“Much of the decline in positive views of both socialism and capitalism has been driven by shifts in views among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents,” acknowledges Pew. That still leaves the GOP as a market-oriented political party (despite the oddball 14 percent lobby for adding Lenin to the partisan pantheon alongside Lincoln and Reagan). The Democrats have become a lukewarm socialist party, to judge by the sentiments of supporters.

“Americans see capitalism as giving people more opportunity and more freedom than socialism, while they see socialism as more likely to meet people’s basic needs, though these perceptions differ significantly by party,” Pew notes in partial explanation of the disagreement. OK, but that’s aspirational; do Americans really understand the differences between the economic systems?

Fortunately, in 2019 Pew asked respondents more detailed questions about their opinions of capitalism and socialism. Unfortunately, that poll was also terrible about defining terms, but at least it allowed people to describe their impressions of the systems in their own words.

Supporters of free markets “mention that capitalism has advanced America’s economic strength, that America was established under the idea of capitalism, or that capitalism is essential to maintaining freedom in the country,” the 2019 report offered. “Critics of socialism point to Venezuela as an example of a country where it has failed. People with positive views of socialism cite different countries, such as Finland and Denmark, as places where it has succeeded.”

That’s helpful because Venezuela’s government has largely seized the means of production and dominates the economy; it’s socialist. The country is ranked at 176 in the 2022 Index of Economic Freedom as a “repressed” economy. By contrast, Finland is ranked at ninth as a “mostly free” economy, along with Denmark (10th), and the United States (25th); all are countries where private enterprise prevails. Yes, both Scandinavian countries are considered somewhat more capitalist than the U.S.; but they have expensive welfare states and tax the hell out of their private economies to pay for them.

“I know that some people in the U.S. associate the Nordic model with some sort of socialism. Therefore I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy,” then-Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen commented in 2015. “The Nordic model is an expanded welfare state which provides a high level of security for its citizens, but it is also a successful market economy with much freedom to pursue your dreams and live your life as you wish.”

“So, what is the catch you might ask. The most obvious one, of course, is the high taxes. The top income tax in Denmark is almost 60 percent. We have a 25 percent sales tax and on cars the incise duties are up to 180 percent. In total, Danish taxes come to almost half of our national income compared to around 25 percent in the U.S.”

In Reason, historian Johan Norberg pointed out that Sweden, in particular, dabbled with state economic control. The experiment was abandoned after the economy tanked. Then the country “deregulated, privatized, reduced taxes, and opened the public sector to private providers.” Impressions of socialist Scandinavia are “stuck in the 1970s,” he added. Sweden also has a welfare state and very high taxes.

Americans probably mostly understand capitalism because they live in a generally market-oriented society, even if it’s often cronyist and overregulated. Flaws, including politically favored businesses, and companies supporting ideological goals under regulatory pressure, undoubtedly tarnish impressions of the system. It wouldn’t be surprising if recent arguments over “woke” corporations explain mildly cooling enthusiasm for capitalism on the right. But when it comes to socialism, too many advocates want a unicorn; they ask for socialism but point to capitalist models. Other sources offer some insight.

“The vast majority of Republican voters—85 percent—believe anyone who works hard can get ahead, while 53 percent of Democrats feel that way,” a recent Wall Street Journal poll reveals. “Democrats often say that hard work isn’t sufficient for all Americans to advance, partly due to systemic hurdles based on class or race, and that the government should help. … Republicans, by contrast, say the government should as often as possible get out of the way of efforts by individuals, businesses and charities to help people advance economically.”

Republicans, then, retain faith in individual effort, which is fundamental to free-market capitalism. Democrats want some sort of government thumb on the scale, which isn’t socialist state control of the economy (and perhaps this helps explain declining support for socialism), but which is welfare-state-ish. So maybe they do want Scandinavia as a model—at least for favored groups.

“There are so many socioeconomic differences in the country,” one Democratic voter complained to the Wall Street Journal. “It really depends where you were born on the strata.”

But the same poll suggests grounds for more strife. The Journal found 61 percent of Republicans and 53 percent of independents agree they are “one of the people the elites in this country look down upon.” Just 40 percent of Democrats concur. So, Democrats don’t trust capitalism, are losing faith in socialism, but want government to play a bigger role. Against them are Republicans and independents who think the ruling class that would pick winners and losers despise them; they’re unlikely to envision themselves among those a hostile government would help.

In terms of capitalism and socialism, Americans may not entirely know what they’re talking about, but it seems clear that many of us have very different visions for the country in which we want to live. If there’s one thing on which we can agree, it’s that we’ll continue to strongly disagree.

But James Freeman points out one area of agreement:

This column is still waiting for someone to name a great civilization built by progressive leftists. But just because the wokesters don’t create anything of enduring value, that doesn’t mean they aren’t highly competent when it comes to transmitting their grievances via modern media. In fact, so successful have they been in promoting the false idea that America is an unjust society that these days one can feel almost subversive expressing unapologetically patriotic views.

So it’s nice to get a regular reality check. The latest to arrive is a Wall Street Journal poll showing a solid majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents who understand that we live in an exceptional meritocracy. Yes, it’s important to note the usual caveat that polling is not an exact science, if it’s even a science. But these results appear to be well outside the margin of error.

Specifically, the survey found that a full 74% of participants agreed with the following statement:

America is the greatest country in the world.

Not just above average, not just great, but the greatest.

According to the WSJ survey results, nearly as many people also think that the right to rise is alive and well in the U.S. A sturdy 68% of respondents agreed with the following statement:

If people work hard, they are likely to get ahead in America.

Some readers may be distressed that the number isn’t even higher. Still, given the number of voluble politicos and pundits who’ve spent so much of the last several years claiming that U.S. society is rigged and racist, it’s notable how decisively they have failed to persuade. The logical conclusion is that the progressive left’s critique of the free society doesn’t square with the experience of people who live in it.

Perhaps patriotic Americans are just too numerous to cancel!

Self-disarmament from bad leadership

Tim Nerenz:

An interesting article in Army Times on September 15 provided insights into reasons that the services are struggling (to put it mildly) to hit troop strength targets this year.

On the input side, the numbers of high school graduates who contact recruiters with interest has remained steady at 110k per year, but the numbers who are disqualified in initial 48 hour background screening have jumped from historical 30-40% rejection rates to 70% in 2022 due to low test scores, obesity, drug use, and delinquency records.

On the back end, overachievement in 2021 retention masked the drop-off in recruitment, but retention has fallen off in 2022 for a variety of reasons, although the article does not mention vaccine mandates or investigations of “wrong think”.

Parent’s attitudes about military service have also turned increasingly negative, as media coverage of controversies is not balanced by stories that convey the benefits of military service, benefits that carry forward into civilian life. Fewer and fewer extended families have a member in the military of live near a military base.

Only 5% of high schools offer JROTC programs, which provide an important avenue of self-development and “right path” that is increasingly lacking as broken homes have increased and church attendance has decreased in recent generations, scouting has fallen into disfavor, and vocational education had been eliminated.

The Army will end the fiscal year with more than 10k open unfilled positions, just as employers in other sectors are unable to fill their open positions with qualified candidates – has anyone else connected those dots yet? The implications of the recruiting crisis for military readiness are obvious, but the downstream ramifications need to be pointed out.

In a survey of CEOs taken a few years ago, the most common undergraduate and graduate degrees were identified as was the first full-time job, and military service was among the most cited. A separate study of billionaires found similar commonalities. The choices they made at 20 set the trajectory that opened up the topside at 60. Those who have served and those who have served the military community were not surprised by this.

The traits and skillsets and values developed in military service – character, discipline, teamwork, diversity, mission-orientation, unit cohesion, competence, a sense of duty beyond oneself – translate into business leadership and leadership in all other walks of civilian life. In my MBA classes, the military students stand out term after term.

A generation not suitable for military service will not be any more ready to enter the labor force or tackle the rigors of college. Dumbing it all down to make the bad numbers go away is not the answer, and the decision-makers who created this circumstance for Gen Z have a lot to answer for.

These kids are not Democrats or Republicans; they did not choose to be disadvantaged – that was done to them and we all know by whom. It is a tragedy of compounded error whose effects are just beginning to be recognized in proficiency scores, military recruiting, skyrocketing rates of mental health issues, and crime statistics.

The negative consequences of closing schools and socially isolating children and teens in their formative years will linger for decades.

The MSM did not find the Army’s recruiting report newsworthy, although I can’t think of a more important matter of public interest than the controlled demolition of a generation in the name of Covid – the panic, not the disease.

Why you should go to church

Michael Smith:

In Memphis, Tennessee last week, about sixty miles north of my Mississippi hometown, there was a violent kidnapping, rape and murder of a young teacher committed by a man of disposition little removed from that of a feral animal. This horrific act was closely followed by a random shooting spree that was livestreamed on Facebook by another man absent his humanity. Then there was the vile reaction to the peaceful passing of a British Queen in Scotland by a Carnegie Mellon professor, Uju Anya, who tweeted she hoped Queen Elizabeth died an excruciating death.

These things are connected by a question as old as history.

What is it in the hearts of men that make them do what they do?

It seems such an appropriate question in the first two instances, but the savaging of Queen Elizabeth II and her memory would logically seem to be something different.

It isn’t.

For a long time, I have pondered the role of morality – or the lack thereof – in our contemporary society and how morality either restrains or promotes our actions.

There are certain things civilization once placed off limits, some important enough to do by force of law (murder and mayhem) and some culturally enforced (such as restraint when condemning others).

I was reared in the South during a period when a genteel culture still undergirded small town live. Very much akin to the Victorian culture in England, from which it was clearly cloned, people were polite to a fault, and even the fallen within the eyes of the community were spoken of in polite, hushed tones, if they were spoken of at all. There was a sense that speaking ill of the dead (or those who rejected civil order and civility) should be done in private – and to a very large extent, it was.

That doesn’t mean that people didn’t recognize evil, in many ways, it sharpened the focus on it because it was so out of bounds in society.

This wasn’t a feature limited to the upper classes of my small hometown, it cut across all socioeconomic boundaries to extend to all members of the community. My maternal grandmother, the wife of a farmer and mother of six, would often chastise children and adults alike to hold their tongues when she was witness to abridgement of our informal rules.

For me, I see a tie between Christianity and morality. I was reared in a strong Christian family, with strong Christian values, so I guess that is unsurprising – but I also have traveled the world, been exposed to hundreds of different cultures and the various religions of the world, Christianity, Judaism, Islam (Sunni, Shi’a, Ibadi, Ahmadiyya, and Sufism), Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and many more variations on those belief systems and when it comes down to it, there are a very select few morals all of these religions share.

The inference I draw from that is that morality isn’t uniquely Christian. I’ve also known people who don’t have a religion, even some who reject the existence of God, who act according to moral codes equal or superior to those to which religious people abide.

I also allow it is possible to follow a moral code without being explicitly “moral” or connected to any religion.

But what I have also observed is that those without religious ties are often those most likely to transgress both moral and corporeal (human enacted civil and criminal) laws.

Humans need religion. One thing every human has in common is a search for something to explain the unexplainable or a way to unknow the unknowable, and in almost every case, these searches for meaning evolve into religions. Doesn’t matter if they are monotheistic, polytheistic, agnostic, or simply atheistic, something that fits the definition of a religion always develops.

There is a balance in religion as there is always in nature. When something is taken, something else takes its place to maintain balance. Such is true when we think about a God derived religious morality and the morality that lacks God as a basis. In general terms, the latter is called secular humanism, a religion rooted in science, philosophical naturalism, and humanist ethics.

Secular humanists eschew any reliance on faith, doctrine, or mysticism, and substitute compassion, critical thinking, and human experience to find solutions to human problems.

Secular humanism has attracted quite a following these days, not because it is a positive evolution, I think, but because secularism involves a “flexible” morality where everything is allowed based on what is popular among members of that belief system.

I’ve heard it termed “popular morality”, a fluid system subject to what is allowed or ignored.

Whether we want to recognize it, the secular humanists in our society and culture are sending a message to criminals and university professors alike that your most vile actions and words aren’t going to be eliminated from society.

Who are we to judge?

It certainly seems to me that when anything is fluid, it is meaningless.

Something the French philosopher Albert Camus said, that “’Everything is permitted’” does not mean that nothing is forbidden…” holds universally true.

A morality rooted in God’s Law is that thing that draws the line between what is forbidden and what is allowed. It is what makes taking a life evil, it is what makes lying unacceptable. Secular humanism is seen as “enlightenment”, but not only can it not draw that line, it will not.

Often, secular humanism searches for ways to approve the action that God’s morality forbids, even when that action harms both believers and non-believers alike.

As I noted, I believe people without a religious moral code can act morally. It would seem it is past time for all of us to recognize that whether one believes in God, one must believe that system of morality leads to the type of civil society and tolerant culture that protects freedoms for us all.

Sermon of the next two months

Erick Erickson:

I heard someone once say that eschatology, the study of the end times, is the only theological study framed by our present view of history. Eschatological theology in early twentieth-century Europe was pretty bleak but pretty optimistic in America. As World War II broke out, American eschatology turned dour, but books written after World War II were pretty upbeat about the end of days.

I have to remind myself of that now as we hear so much from around the world — volcanos, earthquakes, pestilence, wars, rumors of wars, and increasing Christian persecution, among other things happening worldwide. We’re seeing a decline in Christianity in America even as it grows elsewhere. It is particularly destabilizing in places like China, where there are now estimated to be more Christians quietly living their faith than there are Christians in America, if not Americans total. President Xi has begun a crackdown not just on Muslims in China, but is bulldozing churches and jailing Christians as quickly as he can find them. Like with the Romans, it is only making the church grow.

But something seems to be happening in the world today, and it seems to be picking up speed. The rise of transgenderism and the collapse of social norms clash more and more with basic facts, science, and logic. The atheist pro-science crowd is turning science rapidly in the religion of scientism that is foundationally pseudoscience. Crystal shops and mysticism are starting to rise again as Christianity fades in the west — very old paganism is returning, which will actually regress science because while Christianity is premised in an absolute truth, paganism is relative. The Enlightment could spring out of a Christian society in a way it cannot from a pagan society where crystals have healing powers.

The world just seems to be headed back into some sort of dark age — complete with reliance on the wind and sun for power.

And that gets me to the point that is bothering me and I admit going into this that some could say I run afoul of this too; therefore, this is hypocritical to write.

But I have always tried to be clear that I’m doing analysis, cultural color commentary, politics, and theology. I’ve actually evolved on some political issues as my faith has grown deeper.

The other thing I’ve concluded is that if you define yourself by your faith, you can’t really be a braying jackass all the time in politics. Christ is going to wield the sword, not you. The overarching desire to turn right-of-center politics into a politics of “owning the left” is descending into intellectual prostitution without conviction. We actually have to love our neighbor — like really love our neighbor, not just in theory, and we’re not given exceptions to that because we hate them, their gender identity, their politics, etc. The Bible does not say it will be easy.

Peter, headed towards his execution, was still telling Christians to pray for the Emperor — not against the Emperor. I cannot tell you how many people I know who, when I point that out, will shuffle their feet and say, “Well, I’m praying for the President to repent and change or otherwise leave me alone or die” or some variation. Sure, pray for his repentance, but Peter’s point was that we should pray the leaders of the nation are authentic instruments of God’s will. We should pray for their health and competent leadership. We should not be praying that they give us our way or die or anything like that.

Now, I see loud and growing voices on the right who claim to be of faith, but they ignore it in their statements. They seem to think what we do on Sunday is separate from the other six days of the week. But you can’t pray for your enemies on Sunday and decide to punch them on Monday because you’re pretty sure they’re going to punch you otherwise.

I have long been critical of the progressive Christians embracing the idea of weepy, huggy Jesus and turning that aspect of Christ into an idol. I’m more and more concerned that conservative Christians are turning wrathful Jesus into an idol. He’s going to come back and sort this stuff out for us. You’ve got to love your neighbor as yourself, do to others as you want them to do to you, and seek the welfare of your local community while praying for it and your civic leaders. A masculine Christianity cannot be a Christianity of gymbro jackasses willing to give the left swirlies. It’s got to be one of men taking responsibility for their families and raising a future generation to love the Lord — a quiet strength in humble living.

While all of this is going on, I’m really more and more concerned about how many Christian influencers who are involved in politics are really engaged in performance. They’re trying to build their following by, and excuse the language but it is the language of the internet that best captures what they’re doing, shitposting those they disagree with. They can’t disagree — they have to pick a fight and rally a mob. I expect this of the theological left, but I see it happening within orthodoxy as well now.

They are conforming their faith to their politics, and where the two diverge, they’re not willing to speak up about their faith lest they fall outside tribal politics. Because Christians in America haven’t had to lead the quiet existence that so much of historic Christianity had to lead and even now must in places like China and Iran, they’ve decided to be loud, proud, and belligerent in defense of their faith. Where’s the humbleness, the humility, and the grace?

Really, yes, where is the grace? The willingness of Christian influencers in politics to ostracize, alienate, shun, and condemn fellow Christians because of political disagreement, not theological disagreement, is growing.

These people are not calling others to Christ but to their political tribe. And therein lies the problem. And, again, I know I could be accused of doing it too and sometimes have to rein myself in. But I am mindful of it and try to rein myself in, albeit sometimes badly.

The bottom line is just this — if you’ve got a platform and you hold yourself out as a person of faith who seeks to be guided by faith in politics, then you need to remember Christ is more important than a political party and God’s kingdom is more important than your nation. You cannot reconcile the two, and if you have convinced yourself you can and that your party and your politics can be an accurate reflection of Christ, you’ve committed a pretty grievous sin. At some point, you have to be willing to recognize this too will pass and what will matter most is how many people you helped lead to Christ, not to a voting booth.

I more and more bothered by Christians performing on social media, sometimes myself included. Very often, it is not the way those on the left rail against. I’ll put something up and some atheist or theological progressive with one foot out the door of Christendom will tweet “very Christian of you.” You have to ignore those. The theological progressive walking out the door of the church is often more hostile to our faith than the atheist who has never known the faith.

But I’m telling you — the constant dragging of evangelicals by those suddenly ashamed of evangelicals over politics and who view themselves as more righteous while pretending to be more humble and the constant dragging of authentic, orthodox Christians by evangelicals who disagree with those authentic, orthodox Christians politically on issues is doing nothing but playing into Satan’s hand.

Too many Christians on social media are building themselves up by speaking out not against the world but against other Christians or against the politics of those they disagree with while trying to claim their politics is closer to Christ. Where is the grace? Where is the Christian love? Where is the agreement to disagree civilly?

I have concerns social media is turning Christians into performance artists and distracting a lot of us from our mission, just as the cycles and rhythms of this world suggest our time is running out to spread the gospel, love our neighbor, and prepare our families for what is coming.


Sermon of the weekend

Michael Smith:

Let me tell you a little story about some people at a company who lost confidence in leadership, themselves and ultimately left everything they had been taught behind.

In this case, their leadership didn’t die or was voted out, their leader, we’ll call him Bob, was just on a long business trip to corporate to meet with his boss and get some information and stuff approved the folks back at the plant needed to get going on a new management plan.

As it turns out, the trip was pretty darn long, as it always is at corporate, there was a lot of hurry up and wait and because the big boss was busy, it took a while for him to get to the visiting Bob – but when he did, it was a significant event, and the executive got a load of info to take back to the peeps.

The big boss told Bob he better get going before his folks started getting worried about him.

But this plant was in a deeply rural area. So far off the grid that there was no mobile phone service.
So, even though the Bob told the folks he would be back no matter what, the people figured it had been too long and he wasn’t coming back. Before Bob could get his rental turned in at the airport to fly back, the folks back at the office decided he had quit or gotten fired and wasn’t coming back, so they decided to move on and even to find another big boss to lead them, which they did, or so they thought. They couldn’t call and didn’t have Internet, so they sent a letter to another person they had heard about from a few towns over and asked him to come and take over.

In preparation of the new big boss possibly coming in, and show the new big boss how much the folks at the office were dedicated to the new leadership and had forgotten about Bob and even the old big boss, they all pitched in, pooled all their valuables and had a statue made of the new big boss from a picture they saw in an old issue of Forbes magazine so he would be pleased with their efforts and maybe even reward them.Fast forward a bit and the Bob finally shows up at the office.Imagine the shock on the employees faces!

I’m sure you can imagine the surprise on Bob’s face when he rolled up on a party for the new boss going on in the break room. Folks were stuffing Krispy Kremes in their faces, shotgunning Dr. Pepper. Doritos were everywhere. Nancy from accounting, Barbara from legal and Cheryl from HR were on such a sugar high, they had stripped down to their dainties, tied balloons around their arms and were dancing around the statue of the new big boss which was situated on a folding table over by the break room bulletin board. Ray and Frank were over in the corner lustily glaring at the girls.

Needless to say, Bob was not a happy camper. He was shocked that not only did they lack trust in him and forget all of what he taught them, they had turned on the big boss as well – even though the big boss had kept them on the payroll during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

Bob had a satellite phone the big boss had given him while he was at corporate so Bob would have a direct line to the big boss as they rolled out the new strategy and got going, so Bob keyed in the big boss’ digits and hit the send button.

“Hey, Bob. Didn’t expect to hear from you so soon, what’s up?”, the big boss said.

“You won’t believe what is going on here, Big. I’m so mad, I could just spit nails and throw this hard drive full of PowerPoint presentations right on the ground”, replied Bob.

Big said, “Dude, I know those folks, they are a stiff-necked bunch. I’m super pissed, so let me stew a bit and I’ll just come down there and fire them all and you can start with a clean slate.”

Bob chilled the big boss, asked him to cool his jets and let him deal with it. “No need to go all nuclear up in this bitch”, Bob said.

So, Bob rolled up into the break room and when he saw Nancy, Barbara and Cheryl dancing, he more or less blew his top. He threw the hard drive and the briefing books on the floor of the break room, breaking them to pieces. He yanked all the banners down, toppled the statue and tossed all the Doritos in a pile and set them on fire. He even made the folks drink all the Dr. Pepper, even though it had all gone flat.

Bob got them out of most of the trouble, but the big boss was still pretty ticked, so he cut out the free coffee and had the air conditioner removed from the break room.

In case you haven’t figured it out, this is pretty much the story told in Exodus, Chapter 35. You know it as the story of Moses, the Tablets and the Golden Calf.

The reason I wrote that is that I have realized that the Democrats have made their own Golden Calf and began worshiping it — and they are intent on forcing you to worship it as well.

• Pelosi just said to oppose abortion is “sinful”.

• Biden is calling anyone who doesn’t bow to him “terrorists”.

• Standing against aborting black babies is now racist.

• Democrats are praising secular humanism and atheism.

• They are for indoctrinating tender age children in all manners of sexual deviancy.

• They support butchering children in support of transgenderism.

• More and more, “progressive” Christians are turning away from God and toward the world.

It seems to me; my paraphrasing of Exodus fits our current situation pretty well.

Something to think about.

If stupidity is a sin, this writer is going to Hell

Alexander Hall reports so we don’t have to read:

Atlantic contributor Daniel Panneton declared that the Catholic rosary has become a “symbol” of religious radicalism.

The rosary is a string of beads or knots used by Catholics as they pray a sequence of prayers, but one writer warned they have taken on a far darker meaning in modern times. “Just as the AR-15 rifle has become a sacred object for Christian nationalists in general, the rosary has acquired a militaristic meaning for radical-traditional (or ‘rad trad’) Catholics,” Panneton claimed in the Sunday piece titled, “How the Rosary Became an Extremist Symbol.”

He added, “On this extremist fringe, rosary beads have been woven into a conspiratorial politics and absolutist gun culture. These armed radical traditionalists have taken up a spiritual notion that the rosary can be a weapon in the fight against evil and turned it into something dangerously literal.”

Panneton slammed an entire online ecosystem for disseminating imagery featuring Christian warriors both historical and modern, suggesting that “social-media pages are saturated with images of rosaries draped over firearms, warriors in prayer, Deus Vult (‘God wills it’) crusader memes, and exhortations for men to rise up and become Church Militants.”

He observed that rosary beads “provide an aide-mémoire for a sequence of devotional prayers, are a widely recognized symbol of Catholicism and a source of strength. And many take genuine sustenance from Catholic theology’s concept of the Church Militant and the tradition of regarding the rosary as a weapon against Satan.”

The Atlantic contributor gave a wide variety of examples of how the modern association between rosaries and fighting men has become marketable to a niche audience, noting that “radical-traditional Catholics sustain their own cottage industry of goods and services,” such as one store that “sells replicas of the rosaries issued to American soldiers during the First World War as ‘combat rosaries.'”

The Swiss Guard, who have been protecting the Vatican in their iconic 16th-century armor and uniforms for centuries, were also addressed, as Panneton recounted: “In 2016, the pontifical Swiss Guard accepted a donation of combat rosaries; during a ceremony at the Vatican, their commander described the gift as ‘the most powerful weapon that exists on the market.'”

He also called out a member of the clergy, stating that “Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix issued an apostolic exhortation calling for a renewal of traditional conceptions of Catholic masculinity titled ‘Into the Breach,’ which led the Knights of Columbus, an influential fraternal order, to produce a video series promoting Olmsted’s ideas.”

Warning that Catholics are a “growing contingent of Christian nationalism,” Panneton commented that “Catholic imagery now blends freely with staple alt-right memes that romanticize ancient Rome or idealize the traditional patriarchal family.” He also commented that as the divide between American Catholics and Protestants has waned, they have become “cemented in common causes such as hostility toward abortion-rights advocates.”

The most sarcastic comment:

Yes. The concern we face in this country is Catholics that attend church every week and have a rosary. It is not Antifa or other rioters from the left. It is not homelessness. It is not spiking crime rates. Everything bad in this country is caused by people practicing a religion that teaches forgiveness, not to judge, turn the other cheek, seek a higher purpose, etc.

Dan McLaughlin compares and contrasts:

It would be hard to find evidence more damning of the worldview of the editors of the Atlantic than the decision to run these two articles two days apart: Kaitlyn Tiffany on “The Right’s New Bogeyman: A mysterious pro-abortion-rights group is claiming credit for acts of vandalism around the country, and right-wing activists and politicians are eating it up” and Daniel Panneton on “How Extremist Gun Culture Co-Opted the Rosary: The AR-15 is a sacred object among Christian nationalists. Now ‘radical-traditional’ Catholics are bringing a sacrament of their own to the movement.” Read in combination, they perfectly encapsulate an asymmetrical threat assessment, in which “our” people are never really bad, but “their” people are to be viewed with constant suspicion. In this view, even actual terrorism by people on the cultural left is dangerous only because it helps conservatives politically, while even the slightest hint of association with the smallest number of extremist weirdos is enough to justify denouncing a core Catholic devotional prayer.

So, when Jane’s Revenge takes public credit for firebombing crisis-pregnancy centers, this is how Tiffany reacts, quoting a comparison to “moral panic” over Antifa during the 2020 riots that cost $2 billion in damages and killed two dozen people:

Right-wing media outlets have provided ample coverage of this new threat, and anti-abortion politicians have demanded government action to address it. But the group’s practical significance remains in question. Just how meaningful is Jane’s Revenge? . . . Whoever is behind Jane’s Revenge, the group has become a prominent bogeyman on social media. . . .

Pro-abortion-rights activists have engaged in vandalism in recent weeks, and the blog posts associated with Jane’s Revenge are actively encouraging the behavior. But that does not imply the existence of a complex, coordinated campaign of violence.

In addition to downplaying Jane’s Revenge and its campaign of terror, Tiffany fails to contextualize it by omitting the activities of “Ruth Sent Us,” the group that published the home addresses of Supreme Court justices to direct protesters to their homes, as well as the assassination attempt on Justice Brett Kavanaugh by a pro-abortion fanatic.

Contrast how Panneton frames the Rosary. First, the Atlantic‘s subtitle hilariously refers to it as a “sacrament,” an error that can only be explained by having had zero Catholics review the article before publication. Even an ex-Catholic who made it through the third grade would have caught that one. There are seven sacraments, and the Rosary — a sequence of prayers dating to the medieval Church — is not one of them:

Just as the AR-15 rifle has become a sacred object for Christian nationalists in general, the rosary has acquired a militaristic meaning for radical-traditional (or “rad trad”) Catholics. On this extremist fringe, rosary beads have been woven into a conspiratorial politics and absolutist gun culture. These armed radical traditionalists have taken up a spiritual notion that the rosary can be a weapon in the fight against evil and turned it into something dangerously literal. Their social-media pages are saturated with images of rosaries draped over firearms, warriors in prayer, Deus Vult (“God wills it”) crusader memes, and exhortations for men to rise up and become Church Militants.

No examples are given of anything bad coming of any of this — and even Panneton has to concede that this is a far cry from the proper and traditional Catholic view of the Rosary. Of course, literally any idea or symbol can be put to a bad use by bad people — Satan himself, the Bible reminds us, can quote Scripture, too. Panneton warns darkly that “the pro-choice protests that followed the leaked early draft of the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade, led to a profusion of social-media posts on the far right fantasizing about killing activists,” yet somehow, he, too, fails to mention the actual violence emanating from the pro-Roe side — even Jane’s Revenge, just two days after the publication of Tiffany’s piece.

Somebody ought to tell Atlantic readers that firebombings and assassination attempts are worse than the Rosary. It does not seem that the editors of the magazine have the heart to be the ones to do it.

One wonders how the Atlantic writer would feel about an attempt to deprive the Atlantic of its First Amendment rights as the writer is trying to deprive Roman Catholics of their First Amendment rights.

One other thing: The sellers of the Rosaries that are mentioned report that their sales have ballooned since the Atlantic piece.

The media vs. self-defense

Paul Mirengoff:

I was amused by this report in the Washington Post about how black women in D.C. are getting gun permits and learning how to shoot. According to the Post, black women represent “a fast-growing group of gun owners.” A black woman who trains some of them to shoot says the increase in females who want her instruction is “over 1,000 percent recently.”

The Post spins this development as a reaction to church shootings, the shooting at that Illinois parade, the one at the Buffalo grocery store, Trayvon Martin, and even “the insurrection.”

But the odds of these women being shot in any of those contexts are miniscule compared to the odds of being attacked in one’s neighborhood by an ordinary criminal who, in all likelihood, is black.

Towards the end of its report, the Post gets to the point:

Black women are unsafe. . .Violence against Black women and girls shot up nearly 34 percent in 2020 amid an overall spike in homicides, to about 8 deaths per 100,000 — a rate more than twice that for White women, at about 3 per 100,000, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Five Black females — women and girls — were killed every day in 2020.

The handful of mass shootings, the shooting of Trayvon Martin (a male), and the “insurrection” (in which no black women were killed) contributed essentially nothing to these statistics.

The Post blames “America,” saying it has let black women down. A more realistic view is that the left-liberals who run cities like D.C., most of whom are black, have let blacks down by abandoning common sense measures that in the past curbed violent crime — proactive policing, serious anti-crime prosecutors, stiff sentences, etc.

These leaders have willfully failed to keep city streets even moderately safe. Black women are responding sensibly. They are engaging in self help by arming themselves.

The crime rate against women would drop significantly if male perpetrators got shot in their attempt to rob, rape or kill their intended victim. The recidivism rate of a bad guy bleeding out in the street will be zero.


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