Category: Culture

Steve courts controversy!

The fragile state of psyches today means that anyone who dares express an opinion risks causing someone who disagrees to have a meltdown.

This sometimes happens when expressing political opinions. “Sometimes” as only in the a.m. and p.m.
However, an online challenge from someone called Feo Amante challenges us to express 10 nonpolitical opinions that are likely to be very unpopular. Feo’s include:

3. AVATAR was not only the worst movie James Cameron ever directed, even SyFy channel has shown better work. …

5. A Matter Transmitter in THE FLY and STAR TREK sense (extraordinarily precise disassembling and reassembling of the atomic structure of living beings into the same living beings), isn’t as viably efficient a technology as transmitting matter whole from point A to point B via wormhole and String “bundling” (imaginatively launching from where we currently understand the concepts). …

7. We do not have a Bee die off Crisis, since the accuracy of research/counting of Bee populations / Colonies remains reproducible only when limited to Beekeepers and not the unknown but (in all likelihood) overwhelmingly larger populations of bees in the wild (which are virtually impossible to monitor thanks to their ever-changing nomadic lifestyle – though some scientists are trying). …

10. Extending the human lifespan more than 10 times its current limit is not only possible, but environmentally desirable.

Well … “Avatar” (not to be confused with the non-Cameron “Avatar”) was, from what I remember, entertaining. So was “Waterworld,” but neither was probably worth the hype nor the expense. The last two seem to be somewhat political comments to me, but that’s his list.

Readers may not be surprised to know that I have not shied away from expressing potentially controversial opinions. (Really? readers respond.) I once wrote a column for the Madison La Follette High School student newspaper, The Lance, that applied the concept from the book Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche for “Real Lancers,” including such opinions as that women don’t wear more than one earring per ear. That didn’t make my girlfriend of the time, who had two earrings in one year (which was not as many as the five of a classmate of mine, which prompted the idea), very happy.

Facebook Friend Mike Baron, who first posted this, got some contributions:

  • I like pineapple on pizza.
  • Star Wars bores the shit out of me. I think it’s the most overrated franchise in entertainment history. Very weak tea.
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is not the best Star Trek movie. That honor belongs to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Oh, and Blade Runner is boring.
  • … there should be a five-year moratorium on anything Batman-related. No new movies, no new comics, nothing.
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is an overrated movie.
  • [Steven] Spielberg is overrated.
  • James Cameron should have retired from filmmaking after T2.
  • Pink Floyd and U2 are highly overrated.
  • Bruce Springsteen sucks. Two good songs – that’s it.
  • The Rolling Stones stink.
  • The Beatles suck.
  • No one actually enjoys those new IPAs. They just like to be known as someone who enjoys them.
  • I get the most hostile reactions to non-political posts. These are the things that really get people riled up:
    1. Any challenge to complaints about “incorrect” grammar, usage, spelling, or punctuation. These complaints are invariably bogus and ignore actual language history, e.g., there never has been a commonly observed distinction between “lay” and “lie.”
    2. Common names are more useful than “scientific” names in many contexts.
    3. The metric system is no more scientific than any other system.
    4. Civilization will not collapse because children don’t learn the difference between a salad fork and a regular fork.
    5. Health appears to have very little to do with diet.
    6. It is possible to overestimate the earth-saving potential of hemp.
    7. People who flock to stores to buy gifts on Black Friday are not being selfish. Just the opposite.

OK, let’s see how I do, and whether I can stick to the politics prohibition. (Without that, one thing I would say is that no one should be a member of a political party. Another is that fewer people should be voting.)

One: I do not like (which means you should not like) any musical group’s complete body of work. Every group has mutts among its thoroughbreds, and every artist’s or group’s song should be judged based on the quality of the piece, not on whether or not you like the group. Even Michael Bolton, the dubious talent of the ’80s, recorded one good song (because it was written by Bob Dylan). Even my favorite rock group, Chicago, recorded far too many sappy crappy ballads, which are among the group’s best selling singles. Which demonstrates that …

Two: “Quality” and “popularity” are not synonyms. (In fact, no one should ever be concerned about the popularity of anything, or make decisions based on popularity, in any area. No one should ever do, watch or buy something becasue of its popularity.) Which leads to …

3A: “Change” and “progress” are not synonyms. (I question the judgment and values of anyone who claims we must embrace change.) However …

3B: … those who say that things were better in the “old days” usually have selective memory. In fact, no one ever thinks things are good today, whenever “today” is, or was.

Four: This is my printable response to people of any ideology who claim to be offended at something:

Grow up. The fact you have an opinion makes it no more important than anyone else’s. Your claim that your feelings are hurt or you are offended means you weren’t raised right. I’d add a few other words, but I’m trying to avoid obscenity. Speaking of which …

Five: There are right times and places to use obscenities, and wrong times and places. Mature people know when and where, though they may not be flawless in their use of obscenities, though we should all strive to use obscenities with correct English.

6A: Many sports fans don’t know what they’re talking about. That includes (A) those who want everyone to be fired with every loss, (B) those who don’t realize that all players have sell-by dates (as Branch Rickey put it, better to get rid of a player a year too early than a year too late), and (C) those who don’t know what they don’t know because they have acquired no knowledge of the sport. However …

6B: No pro sports player, coach or executive should be beyond criticism. For that matter, no public figure — politician, entertainer, etc. — should be above criticism. What follows from that is …

Seven: Too many people who don’t know what they’re talking about express opinions. A lot of it is because of social media, but there have been people who couldn’t keep their mouths shut since speech was invented. One sign they don’t know what they’re talking about is their inability to justify their opinion by facts or logic. Such people sometimes resort to emotion (especially anger) and name-calling, which is not an argument, jackwagon.

Eight: I like roundabouts. I vastly prefer roundabouts to intersections with stoplights or, worse, four-way stops. I do not understand why people don’t like and cannot drive around roundabouts. I like roundabouts because …

Nine: … the only truly, provably nonrenewable resource is time.

Ten: Most people have the wrong attitude about work. On the one hand, I’ve never been able to understand those who claim to love their job and claim they’ve never worked a day in their life. For one thing, you should never love your job, because your job does not love you. (Bonus opinion: The word “love” is horribly overused, as is “hate.”) On the other hand, those who do the minimum to get paid are violating our duty to work, as stated throughout the Bible. You should do the maximum you can, because you’re supposed to, not out of loyalty to your employer (who is paying you the minimum he or she can pay you), but for yourself. The corollary to that is …

Eleven: People need to stop sucking at doing things. In other words, if you’re doing something, but you’re bad at it, and you’re not interested in doing it better, stop. Our world is a screwed-up mess in large part because of incompetence.

Twelve: There are at least two TV series where the original theme song was better than its more popular replacement.

Thirteen. Maybe it’s because I’ve never had a life-threatening disease, but I believe that quality of life is more important than quantity of life. No one should expect perfect health, but I don’t want to spend my remaining years being useless. (Keep in mind, though, that, as economist John Maynard Keynes observed, in the long run we are all dead.)

Fourteen: Every human is flawed. Therefore, every human institution is flawed. That has always been the case, and that will always be the case. The corollary to that is …

Fifteen: People have the choice to be good or bad based on their actions. However, most people are not innately good. Most people will do the right thing and avoid doing the wrong thing only because of the consequences.

There are 15 points here, not 10. As I often say, journalism is the opposite of math.


The highest form of art, and if you don’t agree, you’rrrrrrrrre des-PICCCCC-able

Annie Holmquist:

I recently picked up Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court for the first time. Finding the plot rather amusing, I began relaying it to my father over the weekend. Because he had never read the book, I was rather surprised when he began asking informed questions about the story. In no time at all, he was the one schooling me on plot elements I had not yet reached.

“Wait a minute,” I asked. “Are you sure you’ve never read this book?”

“No, never have,” he replied, “but I saw a cartoon version of the story when I was younger and everything I know comes from that.”

His revelation was intriguing, and to be honest, not the first of its kind. Like many in the Boomer generation, my father grew up watching classic cartoons, numbers of which were produced by the likes of Warner Bros.

But those cartoons did more than mind-numbingly entertain a generation of children. They also introduced millions of young people to key facets of cultural literacy, particularly in the realm of literature and music.

Beyond the aforementioned case of Mark Twain’s novel, these cartoons introduced children to stories such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde through the medium of Bugs Bunny. Key quotations and scenes from William Shakespeare’s works were the main theme in a Goofy Gophers cartoon known as A Ham in a RoleAnd Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha was placed front and center in a Walt Disney short called Little Hiawatha.

Perhaps even more famous than the literature references are the many ways in which cartoons introduced children to the world of classical music, including both instrumental and operatic selections, one of which is the famous Rabbit of Saville. American film critic Leonard Maltin describes the situation well:

“An enormous amount of my musical education came at the hands of [Warner Bros. composer] Carl Stalling, only I didn’t realize it, I wasn’t aware, it just seeped into my brain all those years I was watching Warner’s cartoons day after day after day. I learned Liszt’s Second Hungarian Rhapsody because of the Warner Bros. cartoons, they used it so often, famously when Friz Freleng had a skyscraper built to it in Rhapsody and Rivets.”

But Maltin wasn’t the only one learning from these classical music forays. In fact, as the famous pianist Lang Lang testifies, it was Tom and Jerry’s rendition of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody in The Cat Concerto which first inspired him to start piano at age two.

These examples just brush the surface of the cultural literacy lessons which the old cartoons taught our parents and grandparents. Even if they never learned these elements in school, they at least had some frame of reference upon which they could build their understanding of the books and music and even ideas which have impacted culture and the world we live in today.

But can the same be said of the current generation? Admittedly, I’m not very well-versed in current cartoon offerings, but a quick search of popular titles seems to suggest that the answer is no. A majority of the time they seem to offer fluff, fantasy, and a focus on the here and now.

In short, neither schools, nor Saturday morning cartoons seem to be passing on the torch of cultural knowledge and literacy. Could such a scenario be one reason why we see an increased apathy and lack of substance in the current generation?

Ellen, Dubya and “them”

Kevin D. Williamson:

When the Founders designed the basic architecture of the American system, they bore in mind among other antecedents the Roman republic. Their heirs are fascinated by a rather different model of social organization: the junior-high cafeteria.

“Nobody should be friends with George W. Bush” reads the headline over Sarah Jones’s essay in New York magazine, that purported bastion of urbanity. The article addresses the scandalization of American progressives by the private life of talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres, whose circle of friends is wide enough to encompass many people with whom she disagrees politically, including the former president.

There is much to criticize in Jones’s piece—the insipid prose, the intellectually dishonest mischaracterization of the casus belliin Iraq—but what is most relevant here is Jones’s thinking about second-best outcomes. She writes: “In a superior reality”—she means “a better world”—“the Hague”—the U.N. court seated there—“would be sorting out whether he is guilty of war crimes. Since our international institutions have failed to punish, or even censure him, surely the only moral response from civil society should [sic] be to shun him. But here is Ellen DeGeneres hanging out with him at a Cowboys game.”

That’s quite a spread: Ideally, Bush would be strung up by the heels, but, short of that, at least he should be snubbed by that nice lady who dances merrily on television while wearing the better part of $1 million on her wrist. (DeGeneres is a serious wristwatch fiend, and anybody with that many Rolexes is at least a little bit Republican.) DeGeneres’s offense, in Jones’s telling, is engaging in “the grossest form of class solidarity.” This seems to be a sensitive point for Jones, who notes a tweet from Chris Cillizza, and then writes: “There’s almost no point to rebutting anything that Chris Cillizza writes. Whatever he says is inevitably dumb and wrong, and then I get angry while I think about how much money he gets to be dumb and wrong on a professional basis.” I assume the money is pretty good at CNN, where Cillizza works, but I have never been under the impression that New York is a salt mine. Sarah Jones should be grateful for the opportunity to be dumb and wrong on a professional basis there.

Jones is fairly typical in indicting Bush for his purported failure on the question of “basic human rights for LGBT people” without addressing the question of whether we should also shun, say, Barack Obama, who ran as a presidential candidate opposed to gay marriage. Nor does she consider that maybe Ellen DeGeneres doesn’t need lessons on how to lesbian from New York magazine.

Jones makes a sophomoric effort to dress the question up, but this is the eternal politics of cooties. Say that headline out loud—“Nobody should be friends with George W. Bush”—and you can practically hear Cher Horowitz chiming in that his cowboy boots are “so five minutes ago.”
The urban sophisticates at New York are not the only practitioners of the politics of cooties. When the news got out that Mark Zuckerberg has been having occasional conversations with conservative writers and thinkers (including me), the usual little pissant brigade of Caitlyns on Twitter lost it: #DeleteFacebook even trended for a minute. The Caitlyn-in-Chief, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, was livid, demanding to know what was discussed during the Facebook founder’s “ongoing dinner parties with far-right figures.” If she had asked him which table he sat at during lunch in eighth grade, she couldn’t have been any less serious. Congressional Republicans may be as useless as teats on a boar hog, but they should thank whatever higher power they believe in for such opposition as that.

April Glaser, writing in Slate, insisted that it should “register as shocking” that Zuckerberg met with Tucker Carlson. She never makes an argument for why that should be shocking; she assumes that it is self-evident. Cooties. Everywhere.
This comes from the Right, too. Every now and then I’ll have an article in the Washington Post or appear on MSNBC, and I’ll get 11,000 emails and rage-monkey tweets demanding: “Why would you want to work with those people? Huh? They aren’t your friends!” I don’t know, Bubba, because a lot of people read the Washington Post who don’t read National Review, and they ain’t ever going to hear it if we don’t bring it to them? And maybe the folks at the Washington Post aren’t my people, but then neither is y’all, Bubba.

But we’re all in this together.
(For our sins, Bubba.)

“We are not enemies, but friends,” Abraham Lincoln said in his first inaugural address. It would be more difficult to say a few years later, when Americans had become one another’s enemies on the battlefields of the Civil War. We throw around the word “treason” irresponsibly in our time. But when Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia were forced to surrender at Appomattox Court House, they had been engaged in genuine treason—“treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them”—on a massive scale. But Lincoln’s better angels carried the day. Lee and his men were given the most generous terms imaginable. Ulysses. S. Grant, saddened and embarrassed by the occasion, spent the first part of the meeting reminiscing with Lee about their service together in the Mexican War. The rebels were not even humiliated, when justice would have countenanced hanging them. And then in one of this nation’s great moments of republican virtue, Grant had his men salute Lee and his ragged, defeated rebels as they turned to ride home, in safety and with dignity.

Abraham Lincoln did not have the likes of Sarah Jones around to advise him. Thank God for that.

The ’80s vs. the ’10s

Facebook Friend Michael Smith first wrote:

I was out and about this afternoon and got tired of the crap that passes for music these days, so I flipped to the 80’s on 8 channel on Sirius XM and “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins was on – and I immediately thought of this scene from Miami Vice and remembered how cool I thought it would be to be rolling in that black Ferrari Daytona with Sonny and Tubbs…

But I also thought about how our situation today is like and unlike the 80’s at the same time.

We had a Republican president whom the left despised, just like today and they were out to get him through non-elective methods, too. Remember Col. Oliver North and Iran/Contra? We were also coming out of the economic “malaise” and “stagflation” of the Carter years (as we are the Obama years).

But I also remember it being a happier time when politics didn’t totally consume the entertainment industry and the newswires.

If our entertainment mirrored culture, look at what we watched:

– Magnum P.I. (the real one)

– Miami Vice

– Night Court

– The A-Team

– The Dukes of Hazzard

– The Wonder Years

– WKRP in Cincinnati

There’s not a single one exploring the collapse and rebirth of families and the damage that ensues (A Million Little Pieces, This Is Us), pushing alternative lifestyles (Gray’s Anatomy, Will and Grace) or every TV series trying to be woker than the next.

In short, the 80’s were fun, the 10’s have not been.

Fun has become the enemy of our culture rather than a part of it. The evidence lies in the fact that almost none of the great movies or TV shows of the 80’s could be made today. The social justice warriors would never permit it. We can’t just be entertained, we must be scolded until we learn our lesson. It’s almost like we are supposed to feel bad about ourselves after each episode and spend the next 12 hours in navel gazing introspection.

I sorely miss Reagan and the optimism of the Reagan years. If we had a little of that, there is no limit to what we could do.

Smith then added:

Sometimes (and by “sometimes”, I really mean “often”), when I write something, I put words into electrons that are unintentionally intelligent or bear further discussion. I did this yesterday when, in celebration of Crockett and Tubbs (and the 80’s), I wrote:

“I sorely miss Reagan and the optimism of the Reagan years. If we had a little of that, there is no limit to what we could do.”

Thanks to all the folks who liked (or hated) it enough to comment, I was looking a that this morning and had another thought about our current circumstances.

I asked myself a question. I said, “Self, let me ask you something … what is it from the 80’s that the contemporary Democrats fear most?”

And after Self thought about it, he (being that I identify as a cisgendered heterosexual male of pallor with the pronouns of he, him and sire) said, “Optimism. That’s what they fear.”

More than anything, that’s really why they hated Ronald Reagan. After Carter’s disastrous turn at the wheel (the Iran hostage crisis, the failed rescue and getting bitch slapped by OPEC), Reagan made America feel good about itself again. He was clear about our greatest geopolitical enemy (about the only thing Mitt got right in 2012) and faced them head on until he broke them. He cut taxes and brought the economy back but more than that, his affable and engaging style made people feel good about themselves.

For years the Democrats have debased the language, eroded civility and destroyed tradition – and simply crushed anyone who tried to speak plainly, engage nicely and tried to keep within established boundaries. They are the ones who defined the rules by which one must fight if one has a chance win. Maybe Trump is an abrasive ass – but that’s the kind of person it takes to win – the gentleness of Reagan or the nice guy, milquetoast affectations of Bush I, Dole, Bush II, McCain or Romney wouldn’t get it done (even when Dub won, he still bent toward the Democrats).

I actually think Trump is a product of the times. He is the way he is because his environment forces him to be that way. Given different circumstances, it is entirely possible we would see a completely different side of him.

I get a feeling we are seeing the first half of Alexandre Dumas’ The Man in the Iron Mask play out in real time.

What is missing is optimism … and what Democrats know is that optimism is contagious. Because it is, they know they have to keep everything negative and in chaos so that people have no opportunity to realize that things have gotten measurably better and can become even more so with a little confidence.

No wonder they are such sour scolds.

Consumers of unhappiness always are.

Moreover, those whose support of this nation is based on whether or not they are in charge are bound to be unhappy as well, since the electorate swings back and forth between voting for Democrats and voting for Republicans despite their best efforts to portray conservatives as the embodiment of evil, even though evil is a concept they really don’t buy.

As someone who graduated from high school and college in the ’80s, I can attest that not everything about ’80s culture and entertainment was great, not to mention politics. If you were a UW–Madison student you were bombarded on a daily basis by tales of the evil Ronnie Raygun and how he was too senile to blow up the world in his first term in office, but was certainly malevolent enough to blow up the world should he be reelected in 1984. For four years this state had Tony Earl, sort of Wisconsin’s answer to Jimmy Carter if Carter had spent his adult lifetime in government, as governor. And there were the fortunes of UW and Packer football, which went from fair to good in the early ’80s to the disaster of 1988, when the BADgers and pACKers combined for a 5–22 record.

(Taking one of those Facebook quizzes about the ’80s that included references to shows I didn’t watch, such as “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” made me remember that during the ’80s I didn’t exactly feel like I fit in, since there was at least some popular music and a great deal of popular TV I despised and refused to, in order, listen to or watch. I didn’t race out and buy a white blazer because of “Miami Vice,” nor did I own parachute pants, and my Members Only jacket wasn’t actually from Members Only. That sense of cultural alienation trained me well for being in journalism, where you’re supposed to be an outsider. Either my life in the ’80s was a whole lot better than I probably thought it was at the time, or I remember my life in the ’80s as being better than it actually was.)

On the other hand, the properly disdained “We Built This City” looks like inspired art compared to some of what fills air time on contemporary hits radio today. It’s hardly surprising that Smith’s aforementioned adventure/dramas have either been remade on TV …

… or as a movie:

The voters get it wrong at least as often as they get it right (which is why you should never rely on the voters’ getting it right), but at least they got it right in 1980 and 1984 with Reagan and 1988 with George H.W. Bush (who was unquestionably better than any Democrat running in 1988 would have been), and 1986 with Tommy Thompson.

Smith is correct that politics didn’t inundate our lives in the ’80s, even though there was more daily politics at UW–Madison than in normal places. The culture was also less forgiving of public statements that are self-evidently stupid, such as the idea that there are more “genders” than male and female, or that anyone’s free expression is valid whether or not there’s anything correct, logical, moral or sensical about whatever they have to say. (But I was used to that from UW, where one day I read an assertion that Jesus Christ looked like Yasser Arafat.)

Someone wondered on social media how a generation raised on “South Park” could have become so emotionally fragile and prone to offense at the slightest imagined excuse. I have no answer for that, since I come from the ’80s, the decade of irony and sarcasm, courtesy of David Letterman. (“Dukes of Hazzard” reruns haven’t been shown on TV due to the Confederate flag painted on the roof of the Duke boys’ car, the General Lee.)

Trump came into prominence in the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” ’80s, where celebrities started to exert inappropriate influence on the culture, so maybe it’s appropriate he is now president.


Cancel cancel culture

John Tierney:

A modest proposal for my fellow journalists: Could we declare a bipartisan amnesty for the stupid things people did in high school and college—or at least stop pretending that these things have any relevance in judging a middle-aged adult’s professional competence?

I realize that this suggestion will trouble the many liberal journalists who have worked diligently to reveal what might or might not have happened at a party at Yale that might or might not have been attended by Brett Kavanaugh during his freshman year. (The definitive conclusion from thousands of hours of investigative reporting: people at the party were really drunk.) Nor will it appeal to the conservatives now savoring the seemingly endless series of photos of a young Justin Trudeau in blackface. (The Babylon Bee, a news-satire site, delivered the coup de grace: “Rare Photo Surfaces of Trudeau Not in Blackface.”)

I also realize that it’s futile to appeal to my colleagues’ sense of perspective or feelings of compassion. These qualities have always been in short supply in our profession, and they’re rarer than ever in the age of “cancel culture.” We can convince ourselves that anything is newsworthy if it embarrasses the other side and generates enough clicks. Exactly how many beers did Kavanaugh drink in high school? A nation’s fate is at stake! Precisely how many parties in the early 1990s did Trudeau attend in blackface? The public has a right to know!

But now journalists have a selfish reason to behave decently: mutual assured cancellation, a strategic doctrine that has emerged from the recent media furor involving Carson King, a security guard in Iowa. He’d become a media sensation after holding up a sign on ESPN’s College GameDay asking people to send him money so that he could buy Busch Light beer. As the money rolled in, he decided to redirect it from beer to charity, raising more than $1 million for a children’s hospital. Anheuser-Busch kicked in money and planned to include him in a marketing campaign.

It should have been a feel-good story, but then a Des Moines Register reporter unearthed a couple of racist jokes that King had tweeted seven years earlier, when he was 16. The Register’s editors decided that this information needed to be included in the article. Meantime, just before the story ran, Anheuser-Busch independently found out about the tweets and announced that it would honor its donation pledge but sever all ties with King. Just like that, King was demoted from philanthropist to pariah.

King dutifully issued groveling apologies for his teenage sins—the ritual act of contrition for the newly canceled—but then the story took another turn. Newspaper readers and beer drinkers rose to his defense. Other businesses stepped up to contribute money to the cause. The organizers of an Oktoberfest celebration in Iowa declared that they would stop serving Busch Light. In a letter posted to a local news site,, Eric Dolash, the father of a girl who had been treated at the children’s hospital, declared that he would no longer read the Register or drink Busch Light. “You cut ties with a man with objectively superb values whose coat tails you rode in a marketing flurry,” he told Anheuser-Busch, and added ominously, “It must have been an exhausting effort to review all social media posts of your entire workforce, knowing you certainly wouldn’t associate them with your brand for any past mistakes.”

The Register was besieged by readers outraged at its treatment of King, and they didn’t just write letters to the editor. They retaliated by studying the social-media history of Aaron Calvin, the reporter who had written the article—and who’d made a few offensive posts of his own, before joining the paper. The saga was nicely summed up and given a label by a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Balaji S. Srnivasan, who tweeted:

1) Man goes viral

2) Man uses attention to raise ~$1M for charity

3) Journalist finds old posts to attack him for clicks

4) Man apologizes

5) Journalist’s old posts now surface

6) Journalist is now getting canceled

Mutually assured cancellation.

As a form of deterrence, mutual assured cancellation—let’s call it MAC—should not be underestimated. After all, the Cold War nuclear strategy of mutual assured destruction (MAD) produced one of the most peaceful eras in human history. But if the response by Carol Hunter, the Register’s executive editor, is any indication, journalists still haven’t adjusted to the MAC era. The sensible strategy for the editor would have been to deescalate: apologize to King, make a penitential donation to the hospital, and vow to stop punishing people for youthful mistakes irrelevant to what they’re doing today. Instead, Hunter wrote two columns defending the editors’ decision and primly announced that her reporter had been fired for his past sins.

It doesn’t seem to have occurred to Hunter that she and the rest of the paper’s management are now prime targets for cancellation themselves. Perhaps they’ve been more careful in their tweets than King or Calvin, but did none of them ever do anything stupid? By their standards, anything from high school onward is fair game. And judging by the reactions of many mainstream journalists, an evidence-free accusation based on a distant memory from an anonymous accuser is damning, as long as it seems “credible.”

Journalists in the MAC era should review the seminal text of character assassination, Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky’s 1971 book. Liberals eagerly employed his strategies against their political enemies, particularly rule number 5 (“Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon”) and number 13 (“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”) The tactic proved so effective that the standards for smearing got lower and lower. It didn’t matter how long ago the offense had taken place, whether it had anything to do with the person’s job, or whether it hadn’t even been considered wrong at the time. So long as journalists had a monopoly on public shaming, they were happy to judge yesterday’s behavior by today’s standards.

Now that social media has ended that monopoly, non-journalists can pass judgment, too, and they’re following Alinksy’s rule number 4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” Journalists would be wise to rewrite these rules, and to remember the adage about people in glass houses. In the age of MAC, everyone has stones.

Trump vs. Christians, and Democrats vs. Christians

Mario Murillo:

There are Christians who hate Trump.  Let’s call it for what it is: hate.  It is their hate—which is very strange for those who name the name of Jesus—that dulls their ability to see the inaccuracy of their comments and their myopic views.

One sanctimonious ranting Christian said, “There’s nothing Biblical about Trump.”  Actually, there’s nothing Biblical about that statement.  The prophet Daniel served Nebuchadnezzar.  Daniel recognized the role that this pagan king played in God’s unfolding drama.  The church’s ability to work with Trump is totally Biblical.

Now, I must clarify something, lest I incur the wrath of Trump supporters.  I am not calling Trump a pagan king—I’m sure he is much more moral than his enemies realize—I am saying that if Daniel could work with the Nebuchadnezzar how much more can we work with the Donald.

I have tried very hard to figure out what causes believers to hate Trump.  Our side won a long overdue and miraculous victory at the polls, and yet these believers choose to aid and abet the other side.  Is it because their favorite “Christian” didn’t win? Is it a case of sour grapes?They didn’t require any President to be a squeaky clean pastor, until Trump.

Yes, his tweets can be a bit much.  And okay, President Trump is not as smooth as Reagan…but, we don’t need smooth right now.

Here is something else that is really strange, (hypocritical is more like it): why didn’t these guardians of morality speak out against Obama?  Franklin Graham was attacked for questioning Obama’s Christian Faith.  They told him not to judge a brother.  Hold that thought as we explore another question…

How could you not question Obama’s Christianity?  Obama begged the question by dropping the Christian-card whenever it suited him (something Trump never does).   Meanwhile, Barack fought for same sex marriage, late term abortion, gave billions to Iran, and was the most Biblically hostile President in our history.

Click on this link to see a list of 89 acts of hostility toward Christians:  

So why do so many Christian leaders—who said it was wrong to judge Obama—judge Trump?

Trump is not a pastor.  He is a businessman who loves America.  As far as his faith?  I am not qualified to determine his spiritual depth, since I’ve never had the chance to meet the man. But there are many photos of Christian leaders laying hands on the President, praying for him, and he is cooperating.

“He is like Hitler and the church is being fooled,” said another comment.  At this time, those of you who are wearing tinfoil hats, please remove them, and listen.  Hitler never had 98% of the media against him.  Trump has never called for a new constitution.  Hitler never tried to protect Israel.  I could go on and on.

Maybe if Trump had addressed the March for Life.  Maybe if he had chosen an on fire born-again Vice President.  Maybe if he had rescinded executive orders that banned federal funds from Christian organizations.  Maybe if he overruled the Johnson Amendment that banned the free speech of pastors.  Maybe if he had moved the American Embassy to Jerusalem, and shown himself to be a true supporter of Israel.  Maybe if he had put someone on the Supreme Court who helped Christian bakers to exercise their right to freedom of religion.  Maybe then you would support him.  Oh wait…he did all those things…

God has done a miracle and the enemy wants to make short work of the amazing breakthroughs we are witnessing by dividing the church.  Instead of being a religious outlier you should be thanking God, praying for and supporting the President. And voting for righteousness, and against the enemies of freedom.

This may seem a bit much for those who count themselves as Christians and are not fans of Trump. Books have been written about the evangelical movement’s apparently noncritical support of Trump in violation of my favorite Bible verse, Psalm 146:3: “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.”

But what are Christians supposed to think of this? Miranda Devine:

Anyone wondering why religious people still support Donald Trump, despite his flaws, need only watch a recording of the Democrats’ fanatical LGBTQ town hall last week.

From Elizabeth Warren mocking religious males as incapable of finding a wife to Beto O’Rourke’s promise to strip tax benefits from religious institutions, or Cory Booker’s assertion that Catholics use religion to justify discrimination, you see the ugly face of militant secularism and coercion.

It is frightening that every one of the nine Democratic candidates who took part in the CNN event has signed up to extreme policies that attack religious liberty and radically redefine gender.

But it is also baffling as a political strategy designed to win hearts and minds next November.

Warren’s insult to religious voters was an echo of Hillary Clinton’s disastrous characterization of Trump supporters as “deplorables … racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it.”

Asked what she would say to a supporter who opposes same-sex marriage, Warren replied: “Well, I’m going to assume it’s a guy who said that,” as if no woman believes in traditional marriage.

“And I’m going to say, ‘Then just marry one woman.’ I’m cool with that. Assuming you can find one.”

It’s such a cheap insult, as if no man with socially conservative views could be appealing to a woman, when the opposite so often is the case.

The answer encapsulated the nasty, condescending tone of the candidates toward the one-third of Americans who believe in traditional marriage.

But it was tame compared to the gender-related aspects of the proceedings, with interjections from the floor by transgender activists. There was a woman who talked about her “9-year-old transgender daughter,” as if the child spontaneously had made such a life-changing decision.

Another transgender woman berated CNN’s Nia-Malika Henderson for inadvertently mispronouncing her name: “It’s violence to misgender or to alter a name of a trans person.”

When Kamala Harris introduced herself with the pronouns “she, her and hers,” as if there were any doubt, the comical element of mainstream candidates tying themselves up in knots to pander to gender ideology proved irresistible for CNN host Chris Cuomo.

“Mine too,” he quipped, ensuring the wrath of the rainbow gods and an abject apology on Twitter later.

It just went to show that you can never be woke enough to meet the rapidly escalating demands of modern identity politics.

Every candidate dutifully did what was expected in that forum, affirming the notion of gender identity as unmoored from biological sex and embracing a transgendered reordering of society far removed from the real lives of most voters.

In the meantime, the candidate who created the most consternation in conservative circles was O’Rourke.

Asked if religious colleges, churches and charities should lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage, Beto answered “Yes!” without a moment’s reflection.

“There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone … that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us,” he said.

To his credit, Pete Buttigieg, the only gay candidate and the most rational, later said Beto didn’t understand the implications of “going to war not only with churches, but I would think with mosques and a lot of organizations that may not have the same view of various religious principles that I do.”

But for all Mayor Pete’s common sense, the extreme intolerance against religion and social conservatives that Beto unthinkingly embraces suddenly has become the default Democratic position.

The illiberal left is not even hiding its desire to impose its will on the majority.
The antidote to all this nonsense was a brilliant speech Saturday by Attorney General Bill Barr at Notre Dame.

The militant secularism on display at the Democrats’ town hall is what Barr calls “organized destruction … an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.”

We see “the steady erosion of our traditional Judeo-Christian moral system and a comprehensive effort to drive it from the public square … By any honest assessment the consequences of this moral upheaval have been grim.

“Virtually every measure of social pathology continues to gain ground …

“Secularists and their allies have marshaled all the forces of mass communication, popular culture, the entertainment industry and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.

“These instruments are used not only to affirmatively promote secular orthodoxy but also to drown out and silence opposing voices and to attack viciously and hold up to ridicule any dissidents.”

The irony, he points out, is that militant secularism is a form of religion, with “all the trappings of religion, including inquisitions and excommunication.”

Whether the Democrats know it or not, Barr was describing how socially conservative and religious Americans feel about their policies.

It’s why President Trump received a rapturous welcome Saturday night from religious conservatives who underpinned his 2016 election victory and are even more rock solid today, despite the scandals and “potty mouth” for which Warren likes to scold him.

“They’re coming after me because I’m fighting for you,” Trump told the Value Voters Summit in Washington, DC. Ain’t that the truth. The Democrats spelled it out Thursday night.

About Barr, David Blaska writes:

The Constitution prohibits establishing an official, favored government religion contra the U.K., where the Queen is the head of the Church of England. But the Freedom From Religion party has largely succeeded in turning that freedom upside down. The day is coming when Capitol guards will demand you deposit your rosary with any firearms you may be carrying.

“Beto” O’Rourke, for instance, demands religious adherence to the Democrat(ic) party platform. Denounce same sex marriage at risk of a knock on the door from the IRS.

Attorney General William Barr gave a speech at Notre Dame, that Catholic university in Pete Buttigieg’s village that has the Left writhing in conniption fits.

Of Barr’s speech, McGurn writes that the waning of religion’s influence in American life has left more of her citizens vulnerable to what Tocqueville called the “soft despotism” of government dependency.

“The secular project has itself become a religion, pursued with religious fervor,” Barr said. “It is taking on all the trappings of religion, including inquisitions and excommunication. Those who defy the creed risk a figurative burning at the stake — social, educational and professional ostracism and exclusion waged through lawsuits and savage social media campaigns.”

Mr. Barr blamed secularism for social pathologies such as drug addiction, family breakdown and increasing numbers of angry and alienated young males.

“Whereas religion addresses such challenges by stressing personal responsibility, Mr. Barr argued, the state’s answer is merely to try to alleviate “bad consequences.”

“So the reaction to growing illegitimacy is not sexual responsibility, but abortion,” he said. “The reaction to drug addiction is safe injection sites. The solution to the breakdown of the family is for the state to set itself up as an ersatz husband for the single mother and an ersatz father for the children. The call comes for more and more social programs to deal with this wreckage — and while we think we’re solving problems, we are underwriting them.

Barr’s apostasy undermines the entire Bernie/Warren/Pelosi/Satya/Maduro enterprise. (Full text of his speech)

Bernie fanboy John Nichols’ colleagues at The Nation are livid. Writer Joan Walsh pulls out all the Catholic conspiracy libels. “William Barr Is Neck-Deep in Extremist Catholic Institutions,” The Nation screams. Barr’s “extremist talk body-surf[ed] the fever swamps of Catholic paranoia.” 

Barr is “a paranoid right-wing Catholic ideologue who won’t respect the separation of church and state.” Barr holds “global grudges.” The attorney general didn’t warn, he “intoned darkly.” 

Those “extremist conservative Catholic institutions” include the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (perhaps best known in recent years as the firm behind the Hobby Lobby case) and (believe it or not!) the Knights of Columbus, a fraternal order of Catholic men. 

Hans Bader adds:

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke expressed the deep, heartfelt desire of many progressives: to punish conservative religious people for their beliefs. At a CNN Town Hall on Thursday, he was asked if he believed that “religious institutions like colleges, churches, charities” should “lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage.”

“Yes,” said O’Rourke, an answer met with raucous applause and loud cheers from the Democratic crowd. “There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone or any institution, any organization in America that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us.”

Although the progressive audience enthusiastically and overwhelmingly supported O’Rourke’s proposal, it was later criticized by legal experts and religious people. Progressive commentators responded by going into damage-control mode. Recognizing that O’Rourke’s proposal might be unpopular with the broader public, commentators aligned with the Democratic Party sought to downplay its significance. They pointed out that O’Rourke is a second-tier presidential candidate with little hope of becoming president.

But O’Rourke’s proposal plainly is popular with the progressive base of the Democratic Party, and other candidates at the CNN Town Hall made no effort to distance themselves from O’Rourke’s position. In response to the same question, Sen. Cory Booker said that religious institutions would face “consequences,” and that he would “press this issue.” Booker avoided “saying” whether he would take away their tax-exemptions, “because … this is a long legal battle.”

Most legal commentators said that O’Rourke’s proposal is unconstitutional under Supreme Court rulings like Speiser v. Randall (1958). Those rulings forbid withholding tax exemptions based on the viewpoint advocated by a person or organization. Such viewpoint discrimination is forbidden by the First Amendment.

But O’Rourke’s unconstitutional proposal plainly appeals to many Democratic voters, judging by their defenses of it on Twitter, and enthusiasm for it at the CNN Town Hall. A Twitter user named Travis Bell defended it by saying:

Taking away tax-exempt status is not forcing anyone to believe anything. If people wanted to hold outdated, bronze-age beliefs, then that is their right. But we as a society don’t need to subsidize it. Tax-exempt status is a privilege, not a right.

Bell had plenty of company. An Episcopalian feminist wrote that “churches should lose nonprofit status if they are exclusionary.” “They can continue their backwards beliefs if they want, they just won’t get indirect subsidies anymore,” Miguel Chavez said. “I agree” with Beto, said Sallie Hopper. “Absolutely — religion is not to be used as a crutch to” justify bigotry, said a Louisiana Democratic activist. A self-described member of “The Resistance” praised O’Rourke’s comments, calling him the “one candidate consistently speaking truth to power.” A Democratic dentist in New Jersey praised O’Rourke, for sending the message to churches “that it’s wrong to have prejudicial views and use the Bible & ‘religious beliefs’ as a veneer to justify them.” “Taking away the tax exempt status of ‘politically motivated’ religions is a great start,” raved Peter Swisher. A New York Democrat enthused that opposing same-sex marriage is one of the “excellent reasons for churches to lose tax-exempt status.” “Finally!! The debasement of human beings according to one’s religion is coming to an end,” agreed a liberal psychologist. “I am with Beto on that,” said a progressive YouTuber.

This position by progressives isn’t surprising. Most progressives support forcing churches to marry gay couples, and long have. Even back in 2013, when support for gay marriage was much lower than it is today, Democrats mostly supported coercing churches to perform gay marriages. A poll by the “center-left” think-tank Third Way found that 28% of voters felt that churches should not “be able to refuse to perform” same-sex marriages, while 61% felt that they should have that right. That 28% amounted to most of the Democratic Party, which comprises less than half of America’s population. And that was back in 2013, when public support for same-sex marriage was at least 14% lower than it is today.

Progressives also often view opposition to same-sex marriage as hate speech. Democrats overwhelmingly want to ban hate speech. Fifty-one percent of Democrats supported banning “hate speech,” while only 21% opposed such a ban, in a widely-cited You.Gov poll. Under campus speech codes and social media rules aimed at preventing hate speech and “harassment,” people have been punished just for criticizing “homosexuality, gay marriage, or transgender rights.”

The Supreme Court struck down a hate-speech ordinance as a violation of the First Amendment in R.A.V. v. St. Paul (1992). But progressives are much more hostile to free speech today than they were back then. So a future, more progressive Supreme Court might be willing to reconsider that decision, which many progressive legal scholars passionately condemned.

Some progressives define even single-instances of “hate speech” as a civil-rights violation: New York City recently warned residents that it may fine them up to $250,000 if they use the term illegal alien in the workplace or rental housing, even if they do so only once. New York City views illegal alien as a pejorative term that constitutes illegal discriminatory harassment when it is uttered to offend or demean such immigrants — even though the term is found in federal laws.

Even if the courts wouldn’t let churches be stripped of their tax exemptions based on their beliefs or statements about same-sex marriage, they might let churches be targeted for some of their actions in not facilitating same-sex weddings. Legal commentator Walter Olson persuasively argues that current Supreme Court precedent does not allow churches to lose their tax exemptions based on refusal to marry gay couples.

But the Supreme Court did allow Bob Jones University to be denied tax-exempt status by the IRS for discrimination against interracial couples, even though interracial relationships were against its religious beliefs. LGBT rights groups cite this ruling to argue that churches can be punished for not recognizing gay marriage in religious schools they operate,  or for not hosting same-sex marriage ceremonies in public accommodations such as pavilions that they own. CNN quoted “Camilla Taylor, director of constitutional litigation for Lambda Legal, one of the oldest organizations focused on LGBT rights.” She told CNN, “In the past, the Supreme Court upheld the IRS when they issued a revenue ruling that educational institutions that discriminate on race do not qualify as charitable institutions given that they are acting contrary to public policy.”

In the years to come, LGBT groups will argue that religious schools (and perhaps even churches) do not qualify as tax-exempt charitable institutions, if they don’t recognize gay marriages between their students or parishioners (for purposes of decisions like where to house or seat them). They have already sued religious colleges for not allowing gay couples to live in housing specifically reserved for married students. One such lawsuit was successfully brought by an unmarried gay couple in liberal New York City, over a religious college’s refusal to let them stay in housing for married couples. They objected to being in housing for unmarried students.

Similar challenges to churches over their membership practices are likely to fail. That’s because the Supreme Court’s Bob Jones decision suggested in a footnote that churches are different from religious schools in terms of when they can be denied a tax-exemption based on discrimination.

At some point someone (sometimes a Christian, always a liberal) would intone “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” misunderstanding what Jesus Christ said in Matthew. (Short version: The sin is not in judging someone; it’s in hypocrisy.) Christians are supposed to call out sin. (The story of the woman about to be stoned for adultery but forgiven by Jesus includes five words you usually don’t hear: “Go and sin no more.”) If conservative Christians are not supposed to call homosexuality a sin, liberal Christians should not judge for themselves how Christian someone is who doesn’t have the same views.

What our cultural civil war is about

Joel Kotkin:

The intellectual class across the West—encompassing its universities, media, and arts—is striving to dismantle the values that paced its ascendancy. Europe, the source of Western civilization, now faces a campaign, in academia and elite media, to replace its cultural and religious traditions with what one author describes as a “multicultural and post-racial republic” supportive of separate identities. “The European ‘we’ does not exist,” writes French philosopher Pierre Manent, assessing the damage. “European culture is in hiding, disappearing, without a soul.”

The increasingly “woke” values of the educated upper classes reflect, as Alvin Toffler predicted almost half a century ago, the inevitable consequence of mass affluence, corporate concentration, and the shift to a service economy. The new elite, Toffler foresaw, would abandon traditional bourgeois values of hard work and family for “more aesthetic goals, self-fulfillment as well as unbridled hedonism.” Affluence, he observed, “serves as a base from which men begin to strive for post economic goals.”

The driving force for these changes has been the ascendant clerisy, which, reprising the role that the Church played in medieval times, sees itself as anointed to direct human society, a modern version of the “oligarchy of priests and monks whose task it was to propitiate heaven,” in the words of the great French historian of the Middle Ages, Marc Bloch. Traditional clerics remained part of this class but were joined by others—university professors, scientists, public intellectuals, and heads of charitable foundations. This secular portion of society has now essentially replaced the clergy, serving as what German sociologist Max Weber once called society’s “new legitimizers.” The clerisy spans an ever-growing section of the workforce that largely works outside the market economy—teachers, consultants, lawyers, government workers, and medical professionals. Meantime, positions common among the traditional middle class—small-business owners, workers in basic industries and construction—have dwindled as a share of the job market.

The educated, affluent class detests President Trump, whom many in the Third Estate support, and has rallied to its preferred candidate, Elizabeth Warren, who emerges from the legal and university communities and voices the progressive rhetoric common to this class. (Warren’s less brainy left-wing rival, Bernie Sanders, fares better among struggling, often younger workers.) Warren’s clerisy supporters represent what French Marxist author Christophe Guilluy calls the “privileged stratum,” which operates from an assumption of moral superiority that justifies its right to rule. They are the apotheosis of H. G. Wells’s notion of an “emergent class of capable men” that could “take upon itself the task of “controlling and restricting . . . the non-functional masses.” This new elite, Wells predicted, would replace democracy with a “higher organism” of what he called “the New Republic.”

For generations, the media embraced an ideal of impartiality and the validity of diverse viewpoints. Now, as Andrew Sullivan recently noted, it’s almost impossible to consider the mainstream news as anything other than a partisan tool. Perhaps nothing illustrates this more than the media role in the resistance to Trump; however awful he may seem, no president, even Richard Nixon, has suffered such total opposition from powerful media, with an estimated 92 percent negative coverage from the networks, even before he assumed office.

The media’s anti-Trump lockstep reflects broader changes in the industry. Reporters rarely come, as in the past, from the working class but instead from elite universities. They tilt overwhelmingly to the progressive side. By 2018, barely 7 percent of U.S. reporters identified themselves as Republicans; some 97 percent of journalist political donations go to Democrats. The ongoing media takeover by tech leaders is certain to accelerate this trend. Nearly two-thirds of readers now get their news through Facebook and Google, platforms that often “curate,” or eliminate, conservative views, according to former employees. It’s not just conservatives who think so: over 70 percent of Americans, notes a recent Pew study, believe social media platforms “censor political views.”

Similar patterns can be seen in Hollywood, once divided between conservatives and liberals but now heavily slanted to the left. Liberal columnist Jonathan Chait, reviewing the offerings of major studios and networks, described what he called “a pervasive, if not total, liberalism.” Virtually all mass-media cultural production follows a progressive script, from the music industry to theater—and now including sports, too.

Perhaps nothing has so enhanced the power of the clerisy as the expansion of universities. Overall, the percentage of college graduates in the labor force soared from under 11 percent in 1970 to over 30 percent four decades later. The number of people enrolled in college in the United States has grown from 5 million in 1964 to some 20 million today. Universities, particularly elite institutions, have emerged as the primary gatekeepers and ideological shapers for the upper classes. A National Journal survey of 250 top American public-sector decision-makers found that 40 percent were Ivy League graduates. Only a quarter had earned graduate degrees from a public university.

Orthodoxy of viewpoints in contemporary higher education is increasingly rigid. In 1990, according to survey data by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, 42 percent of professors identified as “liberal” or “far-left.” By 2014, that number had jumped to 60 percent. Another study of 51 top colleges found the proportion of liberals to conservatives ranging from at least 8 to 1 to as much as 70 to 1. At elite liberal arts schools like Wellesley, Swarthmore, and Williams, the proportion reaches 120 to 1.

These trends are particularly acute in fields that affect public policy and opinion. Well short of 10 percent of faculty at leading law schools, such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Columbia, and Berkeley—schools that graduate many of the nation’s leaders—describe themselves as conservative. Leading journalism schools, including Columbia, have moved away from teaching the fundamentals of reporting and adopted an openly left social-justice agenda.

Once largely a college phenomenon, progressive ideology is now being pressed upon elementary school students, a development that could transform our politics permanently. As authoritarians from Stalin and Hitler to Mao all recognized, youth are the most susceptible to propaganda and most easily shaped by the worldview of their instructors. This process has been most apparent in the environmental movement, which has elevated as its ideological battering ram the unlikely figure of Greta Thunberg, a seemingly troubled Swedish teenager. With her harsh millenarian rhetoric about the end of the world, she reprises the role played by youthful religious fanatics during the “children’s crusade” of the thirteenth century or, more recently, the Red Guards, whom Mao mobilized to silence his critics.

The politicization of basic education, particularly concerning American history, is notable throughout the country but most entrenched in liberal regions such as New York City and Minneapolis. In California, schools are scrapping measures such as exit exams for more ideologically correct policies. Once a leader in educational innovation and performance, California now toils near the bottom of the pack, ranked 40th on Education Week’s composite score of school performance. These poor results mean little to progressives in places like the Los Angeles Unified School District, which has banned “willful defiance” removals and suspensions in the name of racial equity. A bill that would do the same statewide is moving through the legislature, along with a massive campaign to weaken the state’s charter schools. Nothing has been more illustrative of our educational establishment’s far-left, racialist agenda—tinged with a strong dose of anti-capitalist indoctrination—than the draft proposal for an “ethnic studies” curriculum for the state’s schools. The program has provoked fierce opposition and is unlikely to be adopted in its present form, but activists will surely keep trying.

Ethnic-studies programs are aimed at high schoolers who often lack even the most basic understanding of American history. Incapable of meeting national standards for basic grade-level English language arts and mathematics, many of these students would instead learn academic jargon like misogynoircisheteropatriarchy, and hxrstory—which ethnic-studies advocates, such as R. Tolteka Cuauhtin, a member of the advisory committee that worked on the draft, defend in the name of legitimating the discipline. “AP Chemistry, for example, has some very complex academic terms, difficult to pronounce, but it’s expected because it’s AP Chemistry,” Cuauhtin explains.

The clerisy is working to undermine basic liberal democracy. In the years ahead, technology will help shape attitudes on everything from the environment to the existence of “unconscious bias” against racial and sexual minorities. China’s efforts to control and monitor thought, sometimes assisted by U.S. tech firms, are likely a hint of things to come in Europe, Australia, and North America. Already we see the rise of a new political generation with little use for the Western political tradition or the cultural values that shaped it. American millennials—despite, or perhaps because of, their high educational attainment—are increasingly inculcated with the idea that America is hopelessly racist and oppressive. Their worldview includes embracing limits on free speech. Some 40 percent of millennials, notes Pew, favor limiting speech deemed offensive to minorities—well above the already-depressing 27 percent among Gen-Xers and 24 percent among baby boomers. Among the oldest cohorts, though—those who likely remember fascist and Communist regimes—only 12 percent support such restrictions. European millennials also display far less faith in democracy and fewer objections to autocratic control than Americans or previous generations. Young Europeans are almost three times as likely to see democracy as failing than their elders, and many in countries as diverse in Sweden, Hungary, Spain, Poland, and Slovakia embrace the far Right, while others, notably in Great Britain and France, favor the far Left.

With lower levels of cultural literacy and reduced interest in history, the new generation could reprise the intellectual deterioration of the Middle Ages, when, according to Belgian historian Henri Pirenne, “the very mind of man was going through degeneration.” Just as the feudal prelates disdained classical culture, today’s clerisy seeks to unmoor liberal culture and the Western political tradition; nearly 40 percent of young Americans, for example, think that the country lacks “a history to be proud of.” Far smaller numbers than previous generations prize family, religion, or patriotism.

If one does not even know about the complex legacy underpinning democracy, including the drive for individual freedom and open discussion, one is not likely to understand when it is in peril. If we are to save our uniquely open civilization, we must counter the clerisy’s efforts to discredit our past and demolish our future.

What happiness is not

Earlier this week I pointed out the numerous flaws in a “news” release ranking states as places for journalists to work. (Which included a huge math error.)

Maybe I was grumpy about that because I had to write a story about making objective and societal the subjective and individual definition of happiness. (Really.)

The good thing about my job is that while I am required to write objectively about what I cover, I can also add my two cents worth in the appropriate place. Which I did.

Several years ago I passed on an opinion from a Roman Catholic priest who quoted C.S. Lewis as saying that there is no right to happiness, only to, as the Declaration of Independence says, pursue happiness. He concluded:

So we do not have a right to be happy. The assumption that we do lies behind the utopian turmoil of our times. The attempt to guarantee our right to be happy invariably leads to economic bankruptcy and societal coercion. By misunderstanding happiness and its gift-response condition, we impose on the political order a mission it cannot fulfill. We undermine that limited temporal happiness we might achieve if we are virtuous, prudent, and sensible in this finite world.

The column mentions retired UW Band director Mike Leckrone’s phrase “moments of happiness.” (Which he didn’t come up with until after I graduated. Which makes me think my leaving may have been one of his “moments of happiness.”) The column mentions that in the past few months I’ve had a few, including two sportscasting firsts (announcing the right team in a state football championship game and announcing an Illinois substate game), performing at Leckrone’s final three UW Varsity Band concerts, and seeing Chicago with my trumpet-, trombone- and guitar-playing sons.

I suppose my own definition of temporal happiness could be listening to this and this while driving a Corvette with Mrs. Presteblog as passenger on a beautiful summer day, perhaps on the way to or from eating a bacon cheeseburger, steak or shrimp, on the way to or from announcing a sporting event. But I think the aforementioned priest has it right when he says that there is no guarantee of earthly happiness.

The world vs. Christianity

David French:

It’s happened again. For the second time in three weeks, a prominent (at least in Evangelical circles) Christian has renounced his faith. In July, it was Josh Harris, a pastor and author of the mega-best-selling purity-culture book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. This month, it’s Hillsong United songwriter and worship leader Marty Sampson.

For those who don’t know, Hillsong United is one of the most popular and influential worship bands of the modern era. It was born at Hillsong Church in Australia and its albums routinely top the Christian charts — in fact, Billboard’s chart history gives it no fewer than eight number-one Christian albums.

It’s a powerhouse in what my former pastor derisively referred to as the “Jesus is my boyfriend” style of worship music. Their songs featured heartfelt, simple lyrics pledging undying Christian love and devotion. They also happen to inspire millions of Christians across the globe.

The relative lack of theological depth to much of Hillsong’s music has brought a predictable response to Sampson’s announcement — shallow songs, shallow theology. But I’m not sure that’s right. Of course only Sampson knows his own heart, but I want to focus on something else. Parts of his Instagram announcement of his change of heart just don’t ring true. I won’t paste the entire statement, but this part stood out to me:

This is a soapbox moment so here I go . . . How many preachers fall? Many. No one talks about it. How many miracles happen. Not many. No one talks about it. Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it. How can God be love yet send four billion people to a place, all ‘coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it. Christians can be the most judgmental people on the planet — they can also be some of the most beautiful and loving people. But it’s not for me.

What is he talking about? “No one talks about” preachers falling, miracles, alleged biblical contradictions, or the challenge of hell? I take a backseat to no one in decrying youth ministries that concentrate more on ultimate Frisbee than on catachesis — or on pastors who focus on self-help to the exclusion of sound doctrine — but you simply cannot grow up in an Evangelical church without discussing many of these topics incessantly.

Yes, you can pass in and out of church — attend casually without going to Sunday school — and sometimes hear only therapeutic messages from the pulpit, but if you live in the church, as he did, you have real trouble believing his words. You also have seen the same thing many times — adults fall away in the face of the pressures of the world, rationalizing their departure with words that ring true to everyone except Christians who know what the church is really like.

As our culture changes, secularizes, and grows less tolerant of Christian orthodoxy, I’m noticing a pattern in many of the people who fall away (again, only Sampson knows his heart): They’re retreating from faith not because they’re ignorant of its key tenets and lack the necessary intellectual, theological depth but rather because the adversity of adherence to increasingly countercultural doctrine grows too great.

Put another way, the failure of the church isn’t so much of catechesis but of fortification — of building the pure moral courage and resolve to live your faith in the face of cultural headwinds.

In my travels around the country, one thing has become crystal clear to me. Christians are not prepared for the social consequences of the profound cultural shifts — especially in more secular parts of the nation. They’re afraid to say what they believe, not because they face the kind of persecution that Christians face overseas but because they’re simply not prepared for any meaningful adverse consequences in their careers or with their peers.

C. S. Lewis famously said that courage is the “form of every virtue at its testing point.” In practical application, this means that no person truly knows if he possesses any virtue until it’s tested. Do you think you’re loving? You’ll know you truly love another person only when loving that person is hard. Do you think you’re truthful? You’ll know only when telling the truth hurts. Soldiers are familiar with this phenomenon — most men who travel to the battlefield believe themselves to be brave, but they know they’re brave only if they do their duty when their life is on the line.

Earlier this summer, I spoke at an event in Georgia and discussed what I called the “courage cure to political correctness.” Are you afraid? Speak anyway, with humility, grace, and conviction. The law protects, but the culture resists you. After I spoke, a man came up to me and said, “That’s fine for you to say, but you don’t know what corporate America is like.”

I told him that I did know, and that I’ve experienced its bite.

He said no. He said, “It’s like East Germany now.” I asked him if he had tested that proposition, if he’d shared his beliefs in any meaningful way. He said no. He’d preemptively silenced himself.

That’s one version of failing in the face of adversity. Another version is represented by the person who simply wilts, who adopts the critiques of the secular world and lobs grenades back at the church as he leaves.

Are you faithful? I’d submit that you don’t know until that faith is truly tested — either in dramatic moments of crisis or in the slow, steady buildup of worldly pressure and secular scorn. As the worldly pressure and secular scorn continue to mount, expect to see more announcements like Josh Harris’s and Marty Sampson’s. Expect to see more friends and neighbors retreat and conform.  The church has its faults, yes, but the blame will lie less with a church that failed to instruct than with a person who didn’t, ultimately, have the courage to believe.

What you won’t hear in church today

David Fiorazo has a message that applies to Christians and non-Christians:

Two more mass shootings over the weekend sparked another frenzy as liberals in the media renew their calls for gun control, others demand solutions to the mental health crisis, still others say it’s because of the alienation of young men today, and progressive politicians – including former president, Barack Obama and many 2020 Democrat hopefuls blame President Trump.
Few seem to suggest let alone address man’s greatest problem: sin.
In a culture where discipline and respect for authority is lacking, where people have bowed to the god of self-fulfillment, where narcissists abound, and where young people are coddled and not given healthy boundaries, it’s no wonder darkness and violence are increasing.
But there is a natural and spiritual law that affects every human being, like it or not: you will reap what you sow.
In the Old Testament of the Bible, the Prophet Jeremiah said,

“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it? “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds. (Jeremiah 17:9-10)

One glaring problem in our society is the rejection of any fixed moral anchors with which to guide and govern people. Chaos and godlessness are the result. Another clear consequence of removing the one true God from public places is that the culture of death spreads like a disease. …

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock movement, a rebellion aimed at eradicating God and moral authority using music as an escape from reality. Those same ideas and philosophies are popular today: spirituality without religion, sex without consequences, relativism without moral absolutes, and salvation without repentance.
The ongoing, residual affect is hopelessness. The Apostle Paul warned:

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, …disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, …without self-control, …haters of good; conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God;” (2 Timothy 3:1-4)

Sounds like American culture and the world today, doesn’t it? The truth is human beings were born with a sin nature and we all fall short of God’s standard.
Monday, Tucker Carlson of Fox News quoted author and cultural observer, James Howard Kuntsler on the recent mass shootings and violence he believes results in part from isolation and the modern void of lacking social interaction:

“[T]his is exactly what you get in a culture where anything goes and nothing matters. Extract all the meaning and purpose from being here on earth, and erase as many boundaries as you can from custom and behavior, and watch what happens, especially among young men trained on video slaughter games.”

Last year in the first weekend of August, 66 people were shot, 12 fatally, in Chicago. Shootings across the city this past weekend have left seven people dead and another 52 people wounded. This is the unreported new normal for Chicago and many inner cities in America.
When we forget the value of life and what’s important, apathy and hopelessness result.
Depression and suicide rates among teenagers continue to climb, and it seems answers are difficult to come by. According to the Pentagon, military suicides reached an all-time high in 2018.
And now, a majority of Americans support physician-assisted suicide. You can lawfully murder an elderly person in five states so far. It’s time to expand our discussions about mass shootings and guns to include abortion, suicide, euthanasia, and we need to go deeper than mental health.
But we’re simply unwilling. Evil is something God neither intended nor created. But we’re not robots. If we are truly free, then we have the free will to choose moral evil rather than good. This is why we need laws and morality.
The things we see increasing in America should be a warning for Christians who have found lasting peace and salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. We shouldn’t deny or ignore what’s happening. The Bible says, “because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:12)
We must not be overwhelmed by death and decay or become indifferent to the suffering of others. Control what is within your control. We can’t allow our hearts to grow cold because without love, it is impossible to show compassion to those who are suffering and to obey God’s command to love our neighbor.
As for those who commit lawless deeds such as murder, there will be a day of reckoning.
Solutions aren’t easy, but in the book of Ecclesiastes, one of the wisest men to have lived on earth put it this way:

“The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

God bless you and keep speaking the truth about things that matter!

Terrell Clemmons adds:

In the 1980s, Madonna captured the image of one girl’s shallow, self-absorbed life with her pop song, “Material Girl”:

You know that we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl.

The era’s personal materialism of “I like stuff” or “Stuff is all that matters” was also captured in TV teen Alex Keaton of the sitcom Family Ties. Individuals may not be so enamored today of material things, but there’s another kind of collective materialism that holds undue sway in our culture. I’m talking about “materialism” as a philosophy.

Materialism as a philosophy is simply the idea that the material world is all there is. Put differently, materialism is the belief that matter and energy, interacting according to the laws of chemistry and physics, constitute the sum total of reality. Philosophical materialism, then, is a belief about the nature of reality.

Sometimes, we hear it stated overtly, such as when celebrity scientist Carl Sagan intoned, “The cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be.” Most often, though, it’s subtle. It is assumed but not stated. This is especially true in the realms of the natural sciences. Consider, for example, the children’s book You Are Stardust, which encourages young children to feel good about themselves because the atoms that make up their bodies were forged in the stars. Author Elin Kelsey doesn’t come right out and say, “There is no God” or “The universe is all that exists.” She has simply assumed that materialism is the truth about reality, and then written a whimsical children’s book from that philosophical perspective.

Today, philosophical materialism is almost universally conflated with science. You Are Stardust is categorized as a (what else?) science-based picture book for children. We can also discern this conflation behind statements like, “I don’t believe in God; I believe in science,” as if theistic belief and science are inherently incompatible. But they’re not incompatible, and despite what celebrity scientists like Neil deGrasse Tyson or Bill Nye the Science Guy might say, there’s nothing that says materialism and science necessarily go together.

So, the question thinking people should be asking is, Why should materialism enjoy such a privileged, unquestioned position in our culture? And the answer is, it shouldn’t.

Enter Science Uprising, a project of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and CultureScience Uprising burst onto the scene this past summer with a series of short, edgy videos challenging this materialistic metanarrative on the ground it’s been squatting on for far too long: the natural sciences. The first episode sets things up by explaining what materialism is, demonstrating how its pretensions have become deeply embedded in our culture, and showing how it actually runs counter to many aspects of life we all believe to be true and value. Subsequent episodes look at neuroscience and the reality of the mind, DNA and the reality of coded information in the cell, evolutionary biology and the failure of the neo-Darwinian hypothesis, and more. The upshot of it all is that philosophical materialism fails to adequately explain reality as we know it and live it. Moreover, it fails when put to empirical tests.

How do such concepts as love, compassion, justice and the human soul fit into a narrative that says only matter and energy are real? They don’t. And this should be our first tipoff that maybe materialism isn’t the whole truth about reality. No one–not even materialists themselves–actually lives as if materialism is true.

You don’t have to be a working scientist to think for yourself about science. Research shows that a big reason young people are abandoning Christianity in droves is because they’ve been told it’s incompatible with science, when the truth is, it’s materialism that is incompatible with both Christianity and science. We are instructed in Scripture to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5), and if ever there were a lofty pretension lifting itself up against theistic belief, then materialism should be crowned as king of the whoppers.

Thankfully, the consumeristic materialism of the 1980s has less appeal to youth today. The task for today is to pull back the curtain on this whopper of a lie about reality, an idol of the mind that is even more destructive to the soul. So, check out Science Uprising here, and let the demolishing begin.

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput:

Exactly 20 years ago, in U.S. Senate testimony just weeks after the Columbine High School massacre, I offered these thoughts:

The real problem [of Columbine-like violence in our culture] is in here, in us … In the last four decades we’ve created a culture that markets violence in dozens of different ways, seven days a week. It’s part of our social fabric. When we build our advertising campaigns on consumer selfishness and greed, and when money becomes the universal measure of value, how can we be surprised when our sense of community erodes? When we glorify and multiply guns, why are we shocked when kids use them?  …

The Columbine murders will mark my [Denver] community for years to come. They’re a wound felt by the entire country — but I don’t think they’ll be the last. We live in the most violent century in history. Nothing makes us immune from that violence except a relentless commitment to respect the sanctity of each human life, from womb to natural death. The civility and community we’ve built in this country are fragile. We’re losing them. In examining how and why our culture markets violence, I ask you not to stop with the symptoms. Look deeper. The families in Littleton and throughout the country deserve at least that much.

In separate incidents over the past two weeks, gunmen have killed three persons and wounded 13 others in Gilroy, CA; killed at least 20 and wounded 26 others in El Paso TX; and killed at least nine and wounded 27 others in Dayton, OH. These are just the latest in a long pattern of mass shootings; shootings that have blood-stained the past two decades with no end in sight.

Now begins the usual aftermath: expressions of shock; hand-wringing about senseless (or racist, or religious, or political) violence; bitter arguments about gun control; heated editorials, earnest (but brief) self-searching of the national soul, and eventually — we’re on to the next crisis.

I buried some of the young Columbine victims 20 years ago. I sat with their families, watched them weep, listened to their anger, and saw the human wreckage that gun violence leaves behind. The experience taught me that assault rifles are not a birthright, and the Second Amendment is not a Golden Calf. I support thorough background checks and more restrictive access to guns for anyone seeking to purchase them.

But it also taught me that only a fool can believe that “gun control” will solve the problem of mass violence. The people using the guns in these loathsome incidents are moral agents with twisted hearts. And the twisting is done by the culture of sexual anarchy, personal excess, political hatreds, intellectual dishonesty, and perverted freedoms that we’ve systematically created over the past half-century.

So I’ll say it again, 20 years later. Treating the symptoms in a culture of violence doesn’t work. We need to look deeper. Until we’re willing to do that, nothing fundamental will change.​

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