Category: US politics

Democrats vs. men

Readers might remember that in the wake of 9/11, there was a school of thought that the Republican Party was the “daddy party” and the Democratic Party was the “mommy party.”

Alex Perez might have something like that in mind:

A year after the 2016 election, I overheard my first conversation in which two young men of color discussed the political issues of the day. I don’t remember what they were going on about, but the fact that they were going on about politics—and with such fervor! — was what struck immediately, as young men discussing politics was a rarity in my working-class Miami neighborhood, where typically it was older men who engaged in these sometimes heated discussions.

Sitting across from them at Starbucks, I noted their interaction as an entertaining anomaly and chalked it up to the current hyper-politicized cultural moment in which anyone, at any time, might surprise you with their clearly newfound interest in politics. Which is to say that I expected to encounter no more than a handful of these political squabbles between young men of color in the ensuing years of the Trump era, as the possibility of a broad political realignment driven by this traditionally disinterested demographic went against all conventional wisdom and seemed far-fetched, even to someone on the ground witnessing its inception — boy, was I wrong.

In the months and years to follow, all over Miami, in bars, coffee shops, and at the gym, I would overhear–and was sometimes pulled into — these rudimentary political conversations between young men of color. What was immediately obvious was that a majority, if not all, of these young men were brought into their nascent political awareness by issues relating to their masculinity and manhood. An archetype emerged: these were young men who never thought about politics until politics knocked on their door and made them aware of its existence. Like so many, personal grievance is what drove them into the political arena and what was driving their politics. The gist of their beef: When the hell did it stop being okay to be a regular dude?

My initial impulse was to think that these encounters were statistical outliers, the product of living in a community that sometimes suffers from overly chauvinist tendencies, but as their frequency increased, I realized that if you come up against enough anecdotal evidence, at a certain point it stops being anecdotal. There was clearly a trend, and my amateur hypothesis at the time was that this phenomenon wasn’t localized to Miami, but that young Hispanic and African-American men all over the country were politicizing, and whether they knew it yet or not, would play an important role in the next presidential election. I suspect that this trend has been obvious for some time now to anyone who lives in an urban center, but recently, New York Times columnist Charles Blow was recently caught off guard by the new reality and tweeted:

“Today my friends in Atlanta (black) saw a Facebook message from their old barber (black) imploring them all to vote for [President Donald] Trump. Don’t think that Trump’s message doesn’t resonate with a certain sector of black men. Also, barbers have a lot of sway in the black community.”

Blow’s alarm comes from the realization that this new voting bloc — a young, multicultural male coalition — might not be traditionally conservative, but on account of the progressive left’s post-2016 stance on masculinity, definitely won’t be voting democratic if they vote at all. The size of this coalition is not yet known, but if the polls showing Trump drawing support with Hispanics and slightly increasing approval among African-Americans are accurate, we might already have the answer — large enough to play a significant role in the election. The upcoming election will be won on the margins, and if this multicultural male coalition shows up and votes, there’s no doubt who they’ll be pulling the lever for—Trump.

The responses to Blow’s Twitter warning range from disbelief to outright rage, but what these hardcore progressives are really saying is, “Why? How can this be? Aren’t all minorities and people of color on our side?”

The race-essentialist line of thinking that has taken over the Democratic Party in which race determines worldview and political affiliation — and everything else for that matter — leaves one blind to other traits and beliefs that play a significant role in constituting a person’s identity. In this case, they missed what is painfully obvious to anyone who isn’t blinded by race obsession: most men, irrespective of color or creed, think of themselves as traditionally masculine. The political awakening of young men of color, then, can be traced to the media’s treatment of white Americans, and more specifically, white men, after Trump’s victory in 2016. Unable to look inward and reassess as to why they’d completely misread what was going on in the country, the media and its acolytes in the Democratic establishment needed a villainous scapegoat in order to explain the catastrophic failure of understanding that had delivered the final blow of obsolescence to the expert class. The new narrative was as quickly constructed as it was lacking in nuance: white Americans, seeped and soaked in white rage and white privilege, wanted to take the country back to its racist past.

“Toxic masculinity,” a new catchphrase that had escaped academia and taken root in the demented Internet hive-mind, was added to the mix, and the post-2016 explanation was set in stone: white men, who suffer from toxic masculinity more than other men — due to the weakness of their whiteness, of course — were specifically to blame for Trump and the rest of the country’s ills. If you were online during this time, I don’t have to remind you that for months on end, a steady stream of articles and essays and tedious explainers were published on a near-daily basis by mainstream outlets.

In short, the idea behind toxic masculinity is simple: traditional conception of masculinity, even in its most benign facets, is at the root of all civilizational rot — men must be rehabilitated, lest they continue ruining the country and the planet. The mainstreaming of this narrative cleared the way for what would become a full-on assault on masculinity and the cultural uprisings that followed. There was the rise of the well-intentioned Me Too movement and the overreach of said movement; the derangement of the Kavanaugh hearings, in which anything said by a woman, no matter how unbelievable it may sound, was to be believed.

And on top of all of this, the media landscape, academia, the corporate world, and other institutions which had been feminizing and increasingly catering to an effete woke mindset, accelerated their efforts in creating spaces devoid of men and masculinity. All of this cultural engineering was framed as a way to remove toxically masculine white men from positions of cultural and political power, but once again, the expert class was blind to a major unintended consequence of all their maneuvering: young men of color started to catch wind that this anti-white male hate would soon come for them. What had started as a project to get rid of those evil white men had transformed into a war against masculinity itself.

The Aziz Ansari case, in which the comedian/actor was pilloried and Me-Too’d for what was essentially a bad date, signaled to men of color that they weren’t going to be exempt from the anti-masculinity crusade on account of their POC status. This was a huge problem for men of color — specifically African-American men — as they’ve historically been the greatest victims of false rape accusations.

Much ink was spilled during this time by cultural critics and blue-check experts on the masculinity scourge that must be eliminated, but the “toxic masculinity” narrative was codified when, in early 2019, the American Psychological Association released a document stating that “traditional masculinity ideology” often negatively affected the mental and physical well-being of young men — the APA, shockingly, had said the quiet part out loud.

The cultural engineers declared victory, completely unaware that a multicultural male coalition had been watching and coalescing. These young men who grew up online and attended the institutions that first cultivated and disseminated this anti-masculinity ideology were the same young men I was encountering on my rambles around Miami—the very same men Blow fears might now vote for Trump.

Is this demographic of young multicultural men the new “hidden Trump voter” that might deliver him a victory? Blow, and others in his cohort, seem to think it a distinct possibility.

Even if the Me Too movement hadn’t gone off the rails and if the APA hadn’t pathologized traditional masculinity, young men of color were already drifting toward the right anyway, if at a less accelerated rate. For years now, the Democratic Party has rejected any masculine sensibility in favor of a gung-ho girl power aesthetic that caters strictly to the highly feminized, whether male or female. The Democratic National Convention was the apotheosis of this progressive feminization, a four-day event that resembled a weepy all-girl sleepover more than a political function. I was half-expecting Joe Biden to give his convention speech wearing a dress, but mercifully the old coot was allowed to wear a traditionally masculine and toxic suit.

All this to say that the Democratic Party is now the party of women and those who identify with the overly feminine sensibility. There’s nothing wrong with this being your cup of tea, of course, but Democrats shouldn’t be surprised when young men of all stripes are turned off by a party that is completely devoid of any masculine energy.

This is obvious to anyone who has ever associated with young Hispanic and African-American men, but as the Democratic Party is run by ultra-white and woke coastal elites who only ever pander to, but never actually associate with people of color—especially men—let me spell it out for them: Black and Hispanic young men, most of whom don’t reside in progressive coastal cities, are traditionally masculine and do not respond to the overly feminine posturing found in progressive circles. To most men of color, traditional masculinity isn’t a toxic ideology, or, for that matter, an ideology at all, but simply the natural order of things. They think and behave like men because it is what’s demanded of them and what it is necessary for survival in the real world. To tell a young man of color living in the inner city that his way of thinking is toxic is to place him in peril, as his survival depends not on buzzwords or the tampering down of his masculinity, but on signaling masculine strength when confronted by a world that is not beholden to the passive-aggressive femininity of elite cultural spaces.

It’s an open question as to whether young men of color will turn out for Trump, but if the Republican National Convention was any indication, the Republican Party is making a play for their vote. Much has been said of the convention’s America-is-great message, but what was played up almost as much, whether intentionally or not, was the power and virtue of traditional masculinity.

There was Sen. Tim Scott’s speech, in which he traced his family’s rise from slavery to the highest reaches of American power, delivered in the oratory style of a man who had never given up, whose familial legacy of overcoming nearly insurmountable odds would make the thought of accepting his plight inconceivable. The speech spoke to all Americans, of course, but it can’t go unnoticed that it was delivered by a man of color who had risen to the top, in large part, due to classic masculine virtues — stoicism and stick-to-itiveness.

Then there was Cuban-American old-timer Maximo Alvarez, a self-made businessman, and like Scott, the epitome of the American Dream, who spoke with the masculine ferocity and power of Vince Lombardi. Here was a man who other men would listen to, unlike Billy Porter, the actor who sang at the Democratic Convention and is best known for parading up and down red carpets in dresses, who is seemingly only famous among the brunch-attending career gals who make up the Democratic Party.

The greatest example of masculine strength at the Republican Convention occurred when Madison Cawthorn, the disabled young man running for North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District, stood up from his wheelchair after delivering a barnburner of a speech. It was an incredibly moving moment, made all the more so by the fact that he was flanked by two friends who assisted him as he stood. Here was a prime example of masculine strength, as well as brotherly kinship, being displayed for all the young men of America to see. It was not toxic or problematic, but simply good and true, and it hearkened back to times when such virtues were considered indispensable and undoubtedly American.

These three speeches — two delivered by men of color — made a case for the nobility of traditional masculinity, and I have no doubt, spoke to young men of color in a way they can understand: You are an American man. Stand up. Do what needs to be done.

I can’t imagine a better message, not only for men of color, but all men—a message that might drive them to vote in record numbers in November.

The news social media doesn’t want you to know

Fox News:

The Chinese government intentionally manufactured and released the COVID-19 virus that led to mass shutdowns and deaths across the world, a top virologist and whistleblower told Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Tuesday.

Carlson specifically asked Dr. Li-Meng Yan whether she believed the Chinese Communist Party released the virus “on purpose.” “Yes, of course, it’s intentionally,” she responded on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

Yan said more evidence would be released but pointed to her own high-ranking position at a World Health Organization reference lab as a reason to trust her allegation.

“I work[ed] in the WHO reference lab, which is the top coronavirus lab in the world, in the University of Hong Kong. And the thing is I get deeply into such investigation in secret from the early beginning of this outbreak. I had my intelligence because I also get my own unit network in China, involved [in] the hospital … also I work with the top corona[virus] virologist in the world,” she said.

“So, together with my experience, I can tell you, this is created in the lab … and also, it is spread to the world to make such damage.”

Yan’s comments conflicted with the opinion of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and White House coronavirus adviser, who previously cast doubt on the idea the virus was artificially created. In May, he told National Geographic: “If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats, and what’s out there now is very, very strongly leaning toward this [virus] could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated — the way the mutations have naturally evolved.”

Other scientists have panned the idea that COVID-19 served as a sort of bioweapon or was released by a lab.

Fox News previously reported on Yan back in July, when she blew the whistle on China’s alleged attempts to suppress information about its handling of the virus. With a vast network of contacts in Chinese medical facilities, Yan attempted to gather more information about the virus as China blocked overseas experts from conducting research in the country.

Her revelations fueled ongoing complaints that the Chinese government failed to tell the world early on about the virus’ threat. Specifically, she believes the Chinese government ignored research that could have saved lives. The State Department did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

In response, her former employer, the University of Hong Kong, criticized her account. A press release noted “that the content of the said news report does not accord with the key facts as we understand them.”

“Specifically, Dr Yan never conducted any research on human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus at [the University of Hong Kong] during December 2019 and January 2020, her central assertion of the said interview.”

Yan, who said she was one of the first scientists in the world to study the novel coronavirus, fled China and currently fears retaliation. She was allegedly asked by her supervisor at the University/WHO reference lab, Dr. Leo Poon, in 2019 to look into the odd cluster of SARS-like cases coming out of mainland China at the end of December 2019.

What was social media’s reaction to this? Fox News again:

Facebook and other tech giants have engaged in a troubling pattern of censoring speech surrounding major issues in the coronavirus debate, Fox News host Tucker Carlson argued during his Wednesday night monologue.

Carlson’s comments came after Facebook slapped a warning label on video of his Tuesday interview with Chinese virologist Dr. Li-Meng Yan, who claimed to have evidence showing China “intentionally” released COVID-19 onto the general population.

“Within a few hours of her interview last night,” Carlson said, “a video of the segment reached 1.3 million people on Facebook.”

“And why wouldn’t it? The coronavirus pandemic has touched the life of every American. And justifiably, people want to know where it came from. But Facebook still doesn’t want you to know that. So Facebook suppressed the video, presumably on behalf of the Chinese government. Facebook executives made it harder for users to watch our segment. Those who found the video had to navigate a warning that the interview ‘repeats information about COVID-19 that independent fact-checkers say is false,” he added.

“Instagram, which Facebook also owns did the same thing. Twitter suspended Dr. Yan’s account entirely. It did not explain why. Nor did the tech companies explain how they would know more about disease transmission than an MD, PhD virologist like Dr. Li-Meng Yan. Instead, Facebook and Instagram linked to three so-called fact checks which supposedly proved Yan was lying.

“But if you clicked on the provided links, you’d noticed something odd. The fact checks were all published months ago, many months — in January, February, and March, and they had nothing whatsoever to do with what Dr. Li-Meng Yan said on our show… One of the fact checks attacks a completely unrelated claim, the virus was patented and that a vaccine was prepared and ready to go.

“What does that have to do with the interview we did last night? No one will tell us that. The truth is, and you know it if you’ve watched carefully, experts have been wrong frequently throughout this pandemic … They have changed their prescriptions many times.”

Carlson argued that the solution to experts being fallible was more speech. “The solution to this age-old problem, and we used to understand this intuitively is more informed voices in the conversation. That’s how you make wise decisions, that’s how you get to the truth. Diversity of view. Facebook doesn’t believe this,” he said.

“They believe in censorship. Censorship does not make us wiser. It does not make us better informed. If it did, we’d be speaking Russian right now, the Soviet Union would run the world. It would have worked. But instead the Soviet Union is extinct. It collapsed under the weight of its own absurdities — absurdities abetted by censorship. And that’s the most basic lesson of dictatorships, all of them. Anything built on lies falls apart over time.”

Carlson also defended Yan and her research. “COVID-19 is not from nature, she said. It was created in a lab in Wuhan, China. The Chinese government intentionally unleashed it on the world. Those are her claims. Are they true? We have no way of verifying them. We do know that Dr. Li-Meng Yan is not a quack,” Carlson said.

“She’s authored peer-reviewed papers on coronavirus transmission in both Nature Magazine and The Lancet. Those are two of the most respected publications in all of science. Her paper on the origin of COVID-19, which she has published online, is not frivolous. In it, she points to specific evidence for the claims that she makes. She identifies so-called cut sites which are frequently used in genomic engineering that would allow scientists to swap in sequences from other viruses to create what she described last night as a Frankenstein bioweapon.”

Whether or not the doctor is correct, Carlson certainly is. The solution to speech you disagree with has never been censorship. The solution to science you think is incorrect is more science. Liberals used to believe these sorts of things.

Kind of ironic for this to take place the week of Constitution Day, isn’t it?

 

When your governor gets your national party’s attention, and not in a good way

Politico:

Tony Evers pulled off one of the Democratic Party’s biggest feats of 2018: ousting liberal villain Scott Walker after earlier attempts to take out the Wisconsin governor fell short.

But having one of their own atop the critical 2020 battleground isn’t turning out to be the boon that Democrats hoped or expected.

Evers, a longtime school administrator who’s prone to peppering his speech with “by golly” and “holy mackerel” — and who voters chose in part for his no-drama approach to politics — has been thrust into a cauldron of racial tension and violence. It’s an awkward fit for the subdued 68-year-old, and the reviews of his response to the turmoil in Kenosha — among other facets of his job performance — aren’t encouraging.

Evers is drawing heat from some in his own party for not moving quickly enough to tamp down rioting in Kenosha. Like Walker before him, Evers is facing a nascent effort to recall him from office. He’s been steamrolled by Republicans who dominate the legislature and have repeatedly blocked his initiatives, including police reform.

And while Evers is still above water in polls, his approval rating slid 6 points after his handling of the Kenosha unrest.

Democrats say it’s obviously better to have Evers at the helm than Walker heading into November — if nothing else, to protect against what they said would have been an assault on voting access if Republicans controlled both legislative chambers and the governorship.

But interviews with more than two dozen activists, strategists, local officials and voters surfaced serious concern that in such a pivotal year, in such a pivotal state, Evers is diminishing what should be a significant advantage for the party. Rather than act as an attack dog or savvy politico who helps amplify Joe Biden’s message to combat President Donald Trump, they say, Evers instead has allowed Republicans to cast him as weak and ineffective.

That is because Evers is weak and ineffective.

Wisconsin makes the New York Times, and it’s not about politics (but it is)

The graphic du jour comes from the New York Times:

About The Times, Tom Woods:

Every once in a while a bit of truth leaks out from the New York Times.
Don’t worry, though: the next day the Times will just pretend they never said it, and continue with the official nonsense.
So on one day they’ll say: lockdowns are going to lead to 1.4 million excess TB deaths, 500,000 excess HIV deaths, and 385,000 excess malaria deaths over the next five years.
Then the next day they’ll say: lockdowns sure are super.
Or one day they’ll say: up to 90 percent of all so-called “cases” of COVID turn out to be of people who are not infectious, because in America the tests have been calibrated to be absurdly sensitive.
Then the next day they’ll say: look at all the cases in the Midwest! Panic!
[Tuesday] there were 38,000 new “cases” in the United States.
That means as many as 34,200 people who are not infectious were forced to quarantine — with all the dislocation and wealth destruction that involves — for no reason.
[Today] it will have been six months since “15 days to slow the spread.”
Meanwhile, Adar Poonawalla, chief executive of the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines, just said that “it’s going to take four to five years until everyone gets the vaccine on this planet.”
So the deranged “wait for a vaccine” people just got more deranged. Life-giving pleasures must now be canceled for years?
And they propose measures against the virus that clearly lead to the loss of other lives, and which take away (especially from young people, who cannot get their youth back once it’s gone) so many of the joys that make life worth living, and are therefore themselves a kind of death.
All this over a virus that clearly does not overwhelm our hospital capacity, and certainly appears to be manageable (to say the least).
The so-called experts genuinely have no idea what they’re doing, but their white coats, advanced degrees, and clipboards have superstitious Americans convinced that this particular priesthood will save them.
Punish every politico who encouraged this, and (much as I hate to say “reward” and “politico” in the same sentence) reward the handful who kept their wits about them.
I hope South Dakota booms as a result of all this.
Surely there are still some people out there who want alive. I cannot be alone in this.

I wonder when The Times will report how Gov. Tony Evers’ unconstitutional shut-down-the-state mandates and his administration’s failure to address COVID properly (as in a disease that has hospitalized 7 percent of people who test positive and killed — depending on your definition of that word — 1.32 percent of the people who test positive so far, instead of a disease that, if you believe the blathering of the Department of Health Services, will kill 100 percent of people who test positive) killed one of Wisconsin’s iconic tourism destinations.

 

Self-defense of property rights

Dustin Siebel:

In the wake of the shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, by Kyle Rittenhouse, there have been a lot of arguments made against his actions, mostly from the American left, but even some from libertarians. A quick perusal of articles from various left-leaning outlets, and the comments sections therein, reveal Kyle to be anything from a mass shooting murderer, to a right-wing nut in search of trouble. In the time since the shooting, a lot of new information has come to light, including a remarkably fair analysis of the footage by the New York Times.

To get some basic arguments out of the way, I think it’s clear from NYT’s analysis that Kyle acted in self-defense. Another argument might be that his claim to defending property is illegitimate because it was not his property, or because he crossed state lines. This, in my view, is a ridiculous proposition. To argue that you have no right to protect the property of another would imply that you would be acting outside your rights if you prevented a kidnapping in process. After all, the victim is not your property – they own themselves. The claim that people don’t have a right to defend the property of others also undermines the entire premise of protesting on the behalf of another. The argument that Kyle’s claim to property defense ends across state lines also draws arbitrary boundaries on where your rights to aid others begin and end. Would you honestly refuse a request for aid from a friend, or relative, because they live in another state? This undermines any protests on behalf of George Floyd, or Jacob Blake, that occur in other states.

I’ve seen a different kind of argument against Kyle’s actions as well, from self-avowed Marxists, the left, and even libertarians, to varying degrees. That is the argument against lethal force in defense of property. From the Marxists, they claim that private property shouldn’t even exist. From the left, and some libertarians, the value of property doesn’t exceed that of a human life.

Let’s define property rights, which are the right to exclusivity over a thing – someone’s property. A person has the right to exclude others from the use of their property.

To dispute the dismissal of property rights as a whole, let’s first identify where property rights come from. The primary right from which all other rights are derived is the right to ownership of one’s own body. From the right of self-ownership, we can derive a right to self-preservation, as you have the right to sustain, or destroy, that which you own. In order to sustain the body, a person must be able to make claims to unclaimed resources in which they have invested their labor to transform. If a person cannot make claims to the resources they utilize to sustain themselves, then self-preservation is impossible. If theft, or destruction, of property cannot be a violation of rights, then the use of violence to impede a person’s survival is not a violation of their rights. Therefore, to imply that a person has no right to defend their property is to imply that they have no right to self-preservation.

Let’s move on to the more common argument, that lethal force is not acceptable in defense of property. This argument is often based on a premise that the force utilized to protect property should be proportional to the threat against the property. However, a requirement of proportional response makes the claim to property rights contingent upon an individual’s ability to use marginally superior force in response to a threat. If you cannot repel a threat without using more force than necessary, then your right to that property is surrendered. Therefore, the claim to property would be relative to one’s own ability to exercise force. This strips property rights from those who cannot exercise force only marginally greater than the aggressor.

Under such conditions, only a person with unlimited access to power, across the spectrum of power, at all levels, has a claim to property. If a person’s right to keep their property is limited by their ability to defend it, then those with limited power must delegate the protection of their property to an outside force. This, in turn, makes the right of property ownership by the powerless subject to the discretion of those with power to enforce it. Because property is derived from self-preservation, this in turn means that self-preservation is limited by one’s ability to enact marginal violence.

That lethal force is permissible in defense of one’s property is based upon the premise that a person’s right to self-ownership, self-preservation, and property, is absolute, not relative. Obviously, there is a reasonable degree of force which is acceptable as a response to a threat. If you shot a person who dared stray onto your property, you’d clearly be in the wrong. However, in the demand for proportional response, it is implied that property rights are relative to one’s ability to exercise force, or are subject to the discretion of those to whom we delegate property enforcement.

The view that it is okay to destroy property, but not to defend property, that it is okay to batter and kill, but not to defend yourself, is a violation of natural rights. The claim that you don’t have a right to defend your property erodes the basis on which people can claim self-ownership, self-preservation, and property.

An outstanding newspaper editor last week wrote about the trillions lost in the economy due to the country’s overreaction to the pandemic. A doctor claimed that was valuing money over lives. That is the kind of attitude (whether the doctor has this attitude or not) that fails to grasp what businesses mean to their owners — not merely profit, but providing customers with products and services, putting food on employees’ tables, and giving back to their communities. All of that is brought to you by property rights.

 

The sinking ship of journalism

Jacob Siegel:

On June 3, a week after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, New York Times employees took to Twitter en masse, claiming that the paper had “put Black staffers lives at risk” by publishing Sen. Tom Cotton’s call to use the military to suppress riots. That same day, Lee Fang, a reporter for the Intercept, tweeted a short video from a Bay Area protest that showed a young man named Max questioning the movement under whose banner he appeared to be marching.

“When I as a Black person look at the Black Lives Matter movement, I have questions,” Max said through a gray face mask. “Like I always question, why does a Black life matter only when a white man takes it.”

The full interview was 2 minutes and 6 seconds long. On June 6, with his job reportedly at risk for posting the video, Fang was forced to issue a public apology. The following day, a top editor at the Times responsible for publishing the Cotton op-ed resigned under companywide pressure.

What had Lee Fang done wrong? His colleague at the Intercept, Akela Lacy, accused him of “being racist,” of pushing “narratives about Black on Black crime after repeatedly being asked not to,” and of “using free speech to couch anti-Blackness.” Since June, more than 30,000 people have liked Lacy’s accusation against Fang on Twitter and over 5,000 have retweeted it, including a number of prominent left-wing journalists who endorsed the smear.

Fang arrived at the Intercept with impressive credentials. He’d made his name in progressive media as an investigative reporter focused on exposing corporate concentrations of power and showing how money buys political influence. But in the aftermath of Trump’s election, he expressed a number of opinions that made him a controversial figure within the Twitter left cohort: questioning the effectiveness of violence as a tactic to achieve social change, defending the principle that free speech extends to unpopular ideas, and criticizing identity politics and performative ideological militancy.

On May 31, a few days before posting the video that got him in trouble, Fang had tweeted: “Seeing so many manipulate the MLK quote that riots are the ‘language of the unheard.’ Read the actual speech. It’s a passionate argument against riots and in support of nonviolence at a time when much of the radical left despised MLK and embraced violence.” This, too, got him in trouble with fellow left-wing journalists whose objection rested on the strange claim that by defending Kingian nonviolence, Fang was somehow in league with the white supremacist forces responsible for murdering the civil rights leader.

The pluralist and democratic tradition on the left that Fang was identifying himself with put him at odds with the anti-majoritarian party line that progressive journalists have policed with growing intensity since Trump’s election, leading them to denounce Fang and others who hold similar views as “racists” and “crypto-fascists.” For these journalists, who now dominate the American media class, the “democratic majority” is a vehicle for the dangerous majoritarian mob lurking in the middle of the country plotting to oppress vulnerable minorities. The proper aim of politics, therefore, isn’t to try and convince the undecided—let alone the “deplorables” who disagree with them—but to wield the power of elite institutions to enforce right-think.

Yet the idea that a reporter could be tarred as a racist by his colleagues simply for quoting MLK and publishing an interview with a Black protester expressing an opinion that’s not at all uncommon in the Black community did not sit well with everyone. While dozens of high-profile journalists joined in publicly denouncing Fang, his fellow left heretics and hate-magnets Zaid Jilani, Matt Taibbi, and Michael Tracey were among the most prominent in coming to his defense.

“I worked at the Intercept for a while and my perception was that a lot of people who work there don’t think of crime as something that happens around them,” Jilani, who writes for Tablet, said. “They probably view invocations of crime as a political cudgel used to distract from things that they really care about, which is police reform. They care intensely and see it as a struggle between bad people, police, and good people, which are primarily Black people.” The Manichean struggle that Jilani describes would seem to leave no room for people like Max, whose commitment to police reform did not preclude his concern over the nonpolice related murders of two of his cousins in East Oakland.

“The reality,” said Jilani, “is that if you go to any high crime place in America, you’ll meet people who say exactly what that young man said to Lee. You’ll meet people who have the exact same concern, but they don’t view their role as just being part of a political narrative—as if they only exist to serve someone else’s political agenda.”

The secret motive driving people in the news business is the fear of standing alone. Most journalists look around to see what the journalists they imagine are important are doing, and they copy that. In today’s online journalism, the natural impulse to be part of the pack gets supercharged by social media algorithms that reward split-second conformity and, voila, you have big outlets independently pushing the same stories at the same time, with the same framing, all without any need for a larger conspiracy.

Over the past four years, the big names in journalism have shared a single overriding preoccupation: consolidating an emergent ruling-class social consensus that justifies itself in large part by the claim that Donald Trump’s presidency is an existential threat that makes every action by the White House a national emergency. The media both demonstrates and justifies its role in opposing this extraordinary threat by hyping one crisis of American democracy after another. Fascism is upon us! The Russians are taking over! The Russians are behind the white nationalists who are taking over! Kavanaugh! Ukraine! Impeachment! The Post Office!

None of these explosive revelations has managed to unseat the president or address the root sources of his support, but they’ve been great for business: A recent article in the Columbia Journalism Review showed that “news media have basically been running with 2016 campaign-level attention on Trump for four years straight now.” The strategy has provided a big boon to national media companies that had been near collapse even as local outlets continue collapsing.

The larger framing for the new social consensus is found in efforts like The New York Times’ 1619 Project that aim to replace the faltering, postwar patriotic mythology of America as the paragon of liberal democracy and individual rights with a new normative understanding of the country as a machine for identity-based systemic oppression. The project’s ostensible challenge to the establishment hasn’t prevented it from being endorsed by large corporations and entering the official curriculum of public schools and government bureaucracies.

What’s left is an image of the American media as a one-party system controlled by an unstable alliance of security state liberals and “woke” progressive identitarians. Militant progressives who denounce The New York Times and MSNBC for not being woke enough perform the angry id that pushes the media complex to be more extreme while reaffirming its fundamental premises. Occasionally, they go too far and have to be scolded for ruining the atmosphere by saying the quiet part out loud, like coming out in defense of looting; such instances of bad taste help to define the parameters of “good taste” within the media system.

Some of the bitterest attacks launched by the one-party media system are reserved for the few internal critics that dissent from the party line while remaining on “the left.” The small grouping of left-wing heretics exists more as a social affiliation or moral stance than a coherent political ideology. It includes people like Fang, Taibbi, Jilani, Tracey, Glenn Greenwald, Angela Nagle, Chris Arnade, and the hosts of the What’s Left and Red Scare podcasts. Despite their considerable differences, the outline of a broad, common sensibility is evident in the overlapping cluster of insults directed at these people. They are called racist, obviously, but they are also accused of being vulgar class reductionists, mere contrarians and provocateurs, transphobes, Strasserites, social conservatives, and closet reactionaries.

Tracey, Taibbi, Jilani, Fang, and others in their orbit all have political views that put them well to the left of the Biden-Harris ticket. Where they dissent is on core issues of the progressive media consensus like Russian collusion, the value of identity politics, and the legitimacy of rioting and political violence. To varying degrees, all four fit the mold of the elusive political creature known as the left populist (Bernie Sanders’ 2016 run, though not a perfect fit, was the closest thing to reach prime time in modern American politics). Left populism balances left-wing labor and economic policies with moderate, normie liberal social values and a strong aversion to the post-1960s temptation to treat political radicalism as an exercise in therapeutic self-expression for the upper middle class.

“I think a lot of this has to do with people within the press believing that Trump was such an extreme threat that they had to change the way they go about their business,” Taibbi said when we spoke by phone.

It’s telling that The New York Times didn’t write a correction to what happened in the anarchist zone in Seattle until two months after it started, and that it was a tech reporter who did it.

For Jilani, the Trump years have proved to be a reversal of his experience during his early days in progressive media during Obama’s second term. “When I started my career at Think Progress, I was much more left wing than the people I was working with,” he told me. “My colleagues generally felt like Bill Clinton was a really good president and Barack Obama was maybe a little bit squishy on some things, but overall a really good president. My feeling was that the Democratic Party was overall too driven by elites, too driven by donors, and wasn’t democratic enough.”

At the time, Jilani recalls, his political priorities were markedly different from those of his colleagues. “I used to write a lot about criminal justice over the years. I’ve reported a number of stories about police abuses, the drug war, and police militarization. And it’s funny, some people I worked with thought I was too radical and too out of the mainstream because I was so interested in those topics.”

These days, for heresies like disputing the claim that systemic racism is the main driver of police violence and rejecting fashionable proposals like police abolition, Jilani is regularly vilified as a racist and reactionary despite the fact that his views have stayed fairly consistent. “I think over the past few years, there’s been a kind of new groupthink developed on a number of topics among institutional progressives and a lot of people who are involved have the same zealousness as the convert to a new religion.”

On Substack, the independent publishing platform where Taibbi recently set up shop after leaving his longtime gig as a staff writer at Rolling Stone, he published an article on June 12 under the headline: “The American Press Is Destroying Itself.” The piece contained a strong defense of Fang’s journalism and decision to publish the video interview but went further than that. “It feels liberating to say after years of tiptoeing around the fact, but the American left has lost its mind,” Taibbi wrote. “It’s become a cowardly mob of upper-class social media addicts, Twitter Robespierres who move from discipline to discipline torching reputations and jobs with breathtaking casualness.”

Michael Tracey had been even less restrained. He went on the attack, tweeting a response to Lacy’s accusations of anti-Blackness, in which he called her “a giant fucking baby … coddled by colleagues who are petrified of offending you” and condemned Fang’s colleagues at the Intercept for failing to stick up for him. In response, the author Naomi Klein, also a writer for the Intercept, called Tracey a “fucking troll,” one of several insults directed at him on Twitter by left-wing luminaries. Tracey, whose temperament seems especially well-armored against the napalm tactics of online debate, responded to each insult in turn.

For a person under attack, of course it’s better to be defended than not. But for social pariahs and heretics there are special considerations. “There’s this thing that happens when these denunciations really get rolling,” Taibbi told me. “The aim is to create this ‘ick’ factor around the name. People will even say to you on social media, ‘you’re being a Michael Tracey,’ or, you know, ‘way to take sides with Bari Weiss on that one.’ It sounds like it’s not a big deal, but in this environment people find themselves not wanting to get the ‘ick’ on them, and they will keep at arm’s-length from those figures.”

Life outside the one-party media state can be lonely, but it also has rewards—like being able to actually do reporting on stories that the collective has decided to censor. Tracey has spent several years supporting himself as an independent journalist by fundraising online. For the past three months he’s been covering the fallout and damage from the looting and riots that have taken place in hundreds of cities across the country, an assignment that puts him at odds with the chorus of media figures who have minimized the severity of the destruction or justified it on ideological grounds.

Tracey and Taibbi were both early skeptics of claims about the Russiagate collusion myth. Taibbi’s reporting on the story, one of many acts in his career that burned bridges with fellow journalists, was informed by his own years in Moscow. In turn, it has clearly informed his view that the press is self-immolating. “I’m at a loss to explain why conducting surveillance of a presidential campaign is not an explosive story or as explosive a story as something like Watergate,” he said.

Taibbi thinks the press’s role in constructing the debunked Russia collusion narrative is now pulling back the curtain on how the news gets made. “It’s really instructive for people who don’t understand how the media works that you can have one set of circumstances and facts presented as the biggest outrage in the history of mankind, and 10 minutes later you could have exactly the same set of circumstances, but the politics will be a little different and it won’t even rate a page 15 mention.”

That basic pattern could describe at least a dozen different revelations that have come out about the probe into the Trump campaign: the brazen suppression of exonerating materials, the documents forged by FBI lawyers, the fact that the whole thing was based on a flimsy dossier presented as an intelligence product when it was actually a contracted political hit job.

“If this situation were reversed,” said Taibbi, “and the fact pattern had involved an incoming Democratic president and an outgoing Republican administration, the howling would still be going on. Personally, I’ve never voted Republican in my life and I would never vote for Donald Trump. But I still don’t understand why this story doesn’t resonate from a purely journalistic point of view.”

In fact, the standard of a purely journalistic point of view has changed, the result of profound economic and technological transformations that have empowered the ideologies best suited to the new political economy.

“I saw a poll recently showing that 85% of Americans think that people rioting and committing arson should be arrested,” Jilani told me toward the end of our conversation. “Yet it would be very hard to go through progressive media and find arguments against just illegal nihilistic violence taking place, like in Portland and Seattle. It’s telling that The New York Times didn’t correct the record on what happened in the anarchist zone in Seattle until two months after it started, and that it was a tech reporter who did it.”

Like the name implies, populists believe that the instincts driving the mass of American voters—mostly related to core material interests and the desire to get a fair shake—are a positive force, not a threat from which the country needs to be saved. The media establishment operates on a different axis. It is increasingly driven by top-down narrative constructions based on theories of identity and power. Considerable emphasis is put behind symbolic issues like the adoption of the ethnic designation “Latinx” that generate enthusiastic support from large corporations and elite institutions but are alien to the lives and sensibilities of ordinary Americans including the groups on whose behalf such measures are justified (according to a recent Pew poll, only a quarter of Latino respondents had heard of “Latinx” and out of those who had, 65% do not favor its use).

Spectacles like the ritual denunciation of left heretics can help enforce cohesion among journalists and within the larger educated professional class. They provide an effective deterrent for anyone tempted to notice the yawning gap that separates elite moral crusades from the priorities of ordinary Americans. The disinterest evinced by the media complex toward the violence and destruction carried out over the past three months that cannot be blamed directly on Trump or white supremacists is a striking early case of the collectivized decision-making process that now governs the larger American information space, in which a self-appointed elite decides which riots Americans will be told are mostly peaceful—and which ones they won’t be told about at all.

Millennials and socialism

P.J. O’Rourke:

America’s young people have veered to the left. Opinion pollsters tell us so. According to a November 2019 Gallup poll, “Since 2010, young adults’ positive ratings of socialism have hovered near 50 percent.” A March 2019 Axios poll concurs, saying that 49 percent of millennials would “Prefer living in a socialist country.” And The Hill puts it more strongly, citing an October 2019 YouGov Internet survey in a story headed, “7 in 10 Millennials Say They’d Vote for a Socialist.”

Traditional liberalism still exists. In a March 2018 Pew Research Center study of Americans aged 22–37, 57 percent called themselves “mostly” or “consistently” liberal.

But “mostly” or “consistently” liberal may not be enough for young voters. This was evident in the 2018 congressional elections. Ten-term incumbent congressmen Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) and Joe Crowley (D- NY) were as mostly consistently liberal as they come. And they were kicked to the curb in Democratic primaries by leftists Ayanna Pressley and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

What’s the matter with kids today? Nothing new. A large portion of the brats, the squirts, the fuzz-faced, the moon calves, the sap-green, and the wet behind the ears have always been “Punks for Progressives.”

As soon as children discover that the world isn’t nice, they want to make it nicer. And wouldn’t a world where everybody shares everything be nice? Aw … kids are so tender-hearted.

But kids are broke — so they want to make the world nicer with your money. And kids don’t have much control over things — so they want to make the world nicer through your effort. And kids are very busy being young — so it’s your time that has to be spent making the world nicer.

For them. The greedy little bastards. Kids were thinking these exact same sweet-young-thing thoughts back in the 1960s, during my salad days (tossed green sensimilla buds). Young people probably have been thinking these same thoughts since the concept of being a “young person” was invented.

That would have been in the 19th century — during America’s first “Progressive Era” — when mechanization liberated kids from onerous farm chores and child labor laws let them escape from child labor.

This gave young people the leisure to sit around noticing that the world isn’t nice and daydreaming about how it could be made nicer with the time, effort and money of grown-ups.

I’m all for sending them back to the factories or, at least, the barn. If I hear any socialist noise from my kids I’m going to make them get up at 4 a.m. to milk the cows. And this will be an extra-onerous farm chore because we don’t have any cows, and they’ll have to search for miles all over the countryside to find some.

They’ve got it coming. Young people are not only penniless and powerless, they’re also ignorant as hell. They think of wealth as something that’s limited, like the number of Hostess Ding Dongs on the 7-Eleven shelf. They think rich people got to the 7-Eleven first and gobbled all the Ding Dongs, leaving poor people to lick the plastic wrappers.

Young people don’t know that more Ding Dongs can be produced. They don’t know how or why more Ding Dong production is possible. And they certainly don’t know how to get the cream filling inside.

(Leaving aside the wild indignation of young people about the very existence of synthetic industrial and undoubtedly poisonous food such as Ding Dongs. They eat them anyway. Watch them shop at the 7-Eleven when they think nobody’s looking. But I digress.)
Young people believe that the way to obtain more wealth is to take it away from rich people.

You can’t do it. Well, you can do it. But you can only do it once.

You can take the Ding Dongs from the Hostess factory for free, but once you’ve eaten them you can’t go back to the Hostess factory and take more Ding Dongs for free. The Hostess factory is out of business. (Which may protect our health, reduce environmental pollution, and preserve various species of animals such as the high fructose corn weevil, which, for all I know, is endangered. Although, considering that Pew Research claims even more millennials [69 percent] favor cannabis legalization than favor socialism, somebody’s going to be sorry when they get the munchies. But I digress again.)

Young people are so ignorant about wealth that they think wealth is limited to what arrives at the 7-Eleven with the Hostess deliveryman. The reason they think this is because young people are still in school or have been recently.

School, while not without its benefits, carries the risk of over-exposure to intellectuals. And intellectuals, when it comes to understanding economic realities, are Ding Dongs.

The 19th century spawning of idle, dreamy, feckless young people arrived just in time for the Marxist intellectual fad. And Marxist thinking among intellectuals is a fashion trend that has never gone away.

Intellectuals like Marxism because Marx makes economics simple — the rich get their money from the poor. (How the rich manage this, since the poor by definition don’t have any money, is beyond me. But never mind.)

Real economics are more complicated than anything that intellectuals can make sense of.

Also, living in an ivory tower teaches few economic lessons — even fewer now that intellectuals have banned the ivory trade. Marxism puts inarticulate notions of a sharing-caring nicer world into vivid propaganda slogans. Slogans such as: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” Which may be the most ridiculous political-economic idea that anybody has ever had.

My need is for Beluga caviar, a case of Chateau Haut-Brion 1961, a duplex on Fifth Avenue overlooking Central Park, a bespoke suit from Gieves & Hawkes in Savile Row, a matched pair of Purdey 12-bore sidelock shotguns and a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO that recently sold at Sotheby’s Monterey auction for $48.4 million.

My ability is … Um … I have an excellent memory for limericks …

There once was a man from Nantucket …

What kind of totalitarian mind-meld would be required to determine everyone’s abilities and needs? What kind of dictatorship body slam would be necessary to distribute the goods of the able to the wants of the needy? We know what kind. The kind that the USSR and Mao’s China did their best to create.

The Soviet Union and Maoist China are two more reasons that millennials love socialism. This is not because young people learned left-wing lessons from the Soviets and the Red Guards. It’s because they didn’t.

Kids don’t get it that communists are bad people. It was too long ago. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989. Deng Xiaoping began market reforms in China in 1978.

I have two millennial daughters. The end of the Cold War and the beginning of China’s economic boom are, respectively, as distant in time from them as the Great Depression and the Coolidge administration are from me.

To millennials, hearing the USSR and Mao’s China used as examples of how socialism can go very, very wrong is like me hearing about the Kellogg-Briand Pact and the Smoot-Hawley Tariff. I did hear about the Kellogg-Briand Pact and the Smoot-Hawley Tariff in American History class. And I was not listening as hard as I could. Taking a guess, I’d say one was an international breakfast cereal treaty and the other had to do with the price of smoots.

For young people today, the only communist societies they know anything about are that goofy outlier North Korea and Cuba, where the Marxist-Leninism comes with cheap rum, ’57 Chevys, and “Guantanamera” sing-alongs.

Or, I should say, these are the only communist societies young people know anything about, except one … the communist society in which all young people grow up.

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” is deeply stupid and completely impractical. And yet there’s a place where it works. This place is my house. And your house. And anywhere else there’s a family.

To each according to his need … What don’t kids need? My 16-year-old son needs Mom to drive to school with his lunch, his homework and one sock. Never mind that she packed his lunch, did his homework and washed his socks — one of which he left behind this morning along with his homework and his lunch so that she has to drive back to school even though she just returned from driving him to school.

From each according to Mom’s and Dad’s ability, not to mention the ability of Mom’s and Dad’s Visa card credit line and the bank loans we took out to pay for school tuition.

The grim truth is, kids are born communists.

The latest depravity

The Wall Street Journal:

No one other than the shooter is re­spon­si­ble for the gun­fire am­bush Sat­ur­day of two Los An­ge­les County sher­iff’s deputies as they sat in their pa­trol car. But the same can’t be said for the pro­testers who blocked the en­trance to the hos­pi­tal where the two are be­ing treated, and chanted “we hope they die.” The lat­ter is a cul­tural poi­son nur­tured by the left-wing anti-po­lice move­ment sweep­ing the coun­try.

The two deputies were “am­bushed by a gun­man in a cow­ardly fash­ion” in the Comp­ton neigh­bor­hood, said Sher­iff Alex Vil­la­neuva at a press con­fer­ence. The deputies hadn’t been iden­ti­fied by name as we write this, but press re­ports say one is a 31-year-old mother and the other a 24-year-old man. Both have been with the de­part­ment a lit­tle more than a year.

Po­lice haven’t iden­ti­fied a sus­pect, but the ran­dom­ness of the am­bush sug­gests some­one look­ing for any avail­able po­lice tar­get. We’ve seen this be­fore when anti-po­lice fever is hot. A gun­man shot and killed two of­fi­cers in their car in New York in 2014 fol­low­ing the death of black sus­pects be­ing ar­rested in Fer­gu­son, Mo., and New York.

The protests are worse this year fol­low­ing the death of George Floyd in Min­neapolis, and the anti-po­lice vi­o­lence is more wide­spread. An of­fi­cer was stabbed in the neck in Flat­bush in New York City in an am­bush in June. The of­fi­cer sur­vived.

De­mo­c­ra­tic mayor Eric Garcetti called the chants and protests at the hos­pi­tal “un­ac­cept­able” and “ab­hor­rent,” but he and other De­moc­rats need to do more to con­demn and os­tra­cize these pro­testers. De­moc­rats may fear the wrath of Black Lives Mat­ter, but the back­lash else­where in Amer­ica will be far greater if plea­sure at cop killing be­comes com­mon on the left.

Policing reform is impossible amid a war on police. Mr. Garcetti and other mayors should abandon their cuts to law-enforcement budgets and express regular solidarity for cops on the beat. Without such a signal, police will continue to retreat from enforcing the law in crime-ridden neighborhoods, and those who suffer most will be the law-abiding in the likes of Compton and Flatbush.

The latest American division

Rod Dreher:

Gallup’s new poll has some pretty interesting news about the widening schism in American life. It seems that the Great Awokening of professional sports has alienated a lot of white non-liberal Americans:

The sports industry now has a negative image, on balance, among Americans as a whole, with 30% viewing it positively and 40% negatively, for a -10 net-positive score. This contrasts with the +20 net positive image it enjoyed in 2019, when 45% viewed it positively and 25% negatively.

This slide in the sports industry’s image comes as professional and college leagues are struggling, and not always successfully, to maintain regular schedules and playing seasons amid the pandemic. Professional football, baseball and basketball games have also become focal points for public displays of support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

While it’s not clear how much the various challenges and controversies swirling around the industry are each responsible for its slide in popularity, it is notable that sports has lost more support from Republicans and independents than from Democrats. In fact, Democrats’ view of the sports industry has not changed significantly in the past year, while Republicans’ has slipped from a +11 net-positive score in 2019 to a net -35 today, and independents’ from +26 to -10.

The sports industry’s image has also deteriorated more among women than men, and among older adults than those younger than 35. Sports has also lost more support from non-White than White Americans, but given the extraordinarily high ratings from non-White adults a year ago, this group continues to view the sports industry positively on balance today. That is not the case with White adults, who now view the sports industry more negatively than positively, and by a 22-point margin.

Here’s a graphic:

That is remarkable. Sports used to be a unifying phenomenon in American life, but no more — not since athletes got woke.

I can’t find the crosstabs for Gallup’s results about the media and the entertainment industry, but we know from other polls that conservatives feel quite negatively about them.

Look what the Madden video game announced yesterday:

Colin Kaepernick can’t get a job on a professional football team, but he has been affirmative-actioned into virtual football by the woke capitalists at Madden. Insane.

What does it portend for American life to have so many millions of Americans alienated from pop culture institutions (sport, entertainment, media)? Sports, of course, is the big one, because sports never before was politically charged. Now it is. The NFL season is going to be the big one. If conservatives and independents turn off the TV because they don’t want to be preached at by woke football players, it will signal a sea change in American life.

9/11

Sept. 11, 2001 started out as a beautiful day, in Wisconsin, New York City and Washington, D.C.

I remember almost everything about the entire day. Sept. 11, 2001 is to my generation what Nov. 22, 1963 was to my parents and Dec. 7, 1941 was to my grandparents.

I had dropped off our oldest son, Michael, at Ripon Children’s Learning Center. As I was coming out, the mother of one of Michael’s group told me to find a good radio station; she had heard as she was getting out with her son that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.

I got in my car and turned it on in time to hear, seemingly live, a plane hit the WTC. But it wasn’t the first plane, it was the second plane hitting the other tower.

As you can imagine, my drive to Fond du Lac took unusually long that day. I tried to call Jannan, who was working at Ripon College, but she didn’t answer because she was in a meeting. I had been at Marian University as their PR director for just a couple months, so I didn’t know for sure who the media might want to talk to, but once I got there I found a couple professors and called KFIZ and WFDL in Fond du Lac and set up live interviews.

The entire day was like reading a novel, except that there was no novel to put down and no nightmare from which to wake up. A third plane hit the Pentagon? A fourth plane crashed somewhere else? The government was grounding every plane in the country and closing every airport?

I had a TV in my office, and later that morning I heard that one of the towers had collapsed. So as I was talking to Jannan on the phone, NBC showed a tower collapsing, and I assumed that was video of the first tower collapse. But it wasn’t; it was the second tower collapse, and that was the second time that replay-but-it’s-not thing had happened that day.

Marian’s president and my boss (a native of a Queens neighborhood who grew up with many firefighter and police officer families, and who by the way had a personality similar to Rudy Giuliani) had a brief discussion about whether or not to cancel afternoon or evening classes, but they decided (correctly) to hold classes as scheduled. The obvious reasons were (1) that we had more than 1,000 students on campus, and what were they going to do if they didn’t have classes, and (2) it was certainly more appropriate to have our professors leading a discussion over what had happened than anything else that could have been done.

I was at Marian until after 7 p.m. I’m sure Marian had a memorial service, but I don’t remember it. While I was in Fond du Lac, our church was having a memorial service with our new rector (who hadn’t officially started yet) and our interim priest. I was in a long line at a gas station, getting gas because the yellow low fuel light on my car was on, not because of panic over gas prices, although I recall that one Fond du Lac gas station had increased their prices that day to the ridiculous $2.299 per gallon. (I think my gas was around $1.50 a gallon that day.)

Two things I remember about that specific day: It was an absolutely spectacular day. But when the sun set, it seemed really, really dark, as if there was no light at all outside, from stars, streetlights or anything else.

For the next few days, since Michael was at the TV-watching age, we would watch the ongoing 9/11 coverage in our kitchen while Michael was watching the 1-year-old-appropriate stuff or videos in our living room. That Sunday, one of the people who was at church was Adrian Karsten of ESPN. He was supposed to be at a football game working for ESPN, of course, but there was no college football Saturday (though high school football was played that Friday night), and there was no NFL football Sunday. Our organist played “God Bless America” after Mass, and I recall Adrian clapping with tears down his face; I believe he knew some people who had died or been injured.

Later that day was Marian’s Heritage Festival of the Arts. We had record attendance since there was nothing going on, it was another beautiful day, and I’m guessing after five consecutive days of nonstop 9/11 coverage, people wanted to get out of their houses.

In the 19 years since then, a comment of New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has stuck in my head. He was asked a year or so later whether the U.S. was more or less safe since 9/11, and I believe his answer was that we were more safe because we knew more than on Sept. 10, 2001. That and the fact that we haven’t been subject to another major terrorist attack since then is the good news.

Osama bin Laden (who I hope is enjoying Na’ar, Islam’s hell) and others in Al Qaeda apparently thought that the U.S. (despite the fact that citizens from more than 90 countries died on 9/11) would be intimidated by the 9/11 attacks and cower on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, allowing Al Qaeda to operate with impunity in the Middle East and elsewhere. (Bin Laden is no longer available for comment.) If you asked an American who paid even the slightest attention to world affairs where a terrorist attack would be most likely before 9/11, that American would have replied either “New York,” the world’s financial capital, or “Washington,” the center of the government that dominates the free world. A terrorist attack farther into the U.S., even in a much smaller area than New York or Washington, would have delivered a more chilling message, that nowhere in the U.S. was safe. Al Qaeda didn’t think  to do that, or couldn’t do that. The rest of the Middle East also did not turn on the U.S. or on Israel (more so than already is the case with Israel), as bin Laden apparently expected.

The bad news is all of the other changes that have taken place that are not for the better. Bloomberg Businessweek asks:

So was it worth it? Has the money spent by the U.S. to protect itself from terrorism been a sound investment? If the benchmark is the absence of another attack on the American homeland, then the answer is indisputably yes. For the first few years after Sept. 11, there was political near-unanimity that this was all that mattered. In 2005, after the bombings of the London subway system, President Bush sought to reassure Americans by declaring that “we’re spending unprecedented resources to protect our nation.” Any expenditure in the name of fighting terrorism was justified.

A decade later, though, it’s clear this approach is no longer sustainable. Even if the U.S. is a safer nation than it was on Sept. 11, it’s a stretch to say that it’s a stronger one. And in retrospect, the threat posed by terrorism may have been significantly less daunting than Western publics and policymakers imagined it to be. …

Politicians and pundits frequently said that al Qaeda posed an “existential threat” to the U.S. But governments can’t defend against existential threats—they can only overspend against them. And national intelligence was very late in understanding al Qaeda’s true capabilities. At its peak, al Qaeda’s ranks of hardened operatives numbered in the low hundreds—and that was before the U.S. and its allies launched a global military campaign to dismantle the network. “We made some bad assumptions right after Sept. 11 that shaped how we approached the war on terror,” says Brian Fishman, a counterterrorism research fellow at the New America Foundation. “We thought al Qaeda would run over the Middle East—they were going to take over governments and control armies. In hindsight, it’s clear that was never going to be the case. Al Qaeda was not as good as we gave them credit for.”

Yet for a decade, the government’s approach to counterterrorism has been premised in part on the idea that not only would al Qaeda attack inside the U.S. again, but its next strike would be even bigger—possibly involving unconventional weapons or even a nuclear bomb. Washington has appropriated tens of billions trying to protect against every conceivable kind of attack, no matter the scale or likelihood. To cite one example, the U.S. spends $1 billion a year to defend against domestic attacks involving improvised-explosive devices, the makeshift bombs favored by insurgents in Afghanistan. “In hindsight, the idea that post-Sept. 11 terrorism was different from pre-9/11 terrorism was wrong,” says Brian A. Jackson, a senior physical scientist at RAND. “If you honestly believed the followup to 9/11 would be a nuclear weapon, then for intellectual consistency you had to say, ‘We’ve got to prevent everything.’ We pushed for perfection, and in counterterrorism, that runs up the tab pretty fast.”

Nowhere has that profligacy been more evident than in the area of homeland security. “Things done in haste are not done particularly well,” says Jackson. As Daveed Gartenstein-Ross writes in his new book, Bin Laden’s Legacy, the creation of a homeland security apparatus has been marked by waste, bureaucracy, and cost overruns. Gartenstein-Ross cites the Transportation Security Agency’s rush to hire 60,000 airport screeners after Sept. 11, which was originally budgeted at $104 million; in the end it cost the government $867 million. The homeland security budget has also proved to be a pork barrel bonanza: In perhaps the most egregious example, the Kentucky Charitable Gaming Dept. received $36,000 to prevent terrorists from raising money at bingo halls. “If you look at the past decade and what it’s cost us, I’d say the rate of return on investment has been poor,” Gartenstein-Ross says.

Of course, much of that analysis has the 20/20 vision of hindsight. It is interesting to note as well that, for all the campaign rhetoric from candidate Barack Obama that we needed to change our foreign policy approach, president Obama changed almost nothing, including our Afghanistan and Iraq involvements. It is also interesting to note that the supposed change away from President George W. Bush’s us-or-them foreign policy approach hasn’t changed the world’s view, including particularly the Middle East’s view, of the U.S. Someone years from now will have to determine whether homeland security, military and intelligence improvements prevented Al Qaeda from another 9/11 attack, or if Al Qaeda wasn’t capable of more than just one 9/11-style U.S. attack.

Hindsight makes one realize how much of the 9/11 attacks could have been prevented or at least their worst effects lessened. One year after 9/11, the New York Times book 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers points out that eight years after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, New York City firefighters and police officers still could not communicate with each other, which led to most of the police and fire deaths in the WTC collapses. Even worse, the book revealed that the buildings did not meet New York City fire codes when they were designed because they didn’t have to, since they were under the jurisdiction of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. And more than one account shows that, had certain people at the FBI and elsewhere been listened to by their bosses, the 9/11 attacks wouldn’t have caught our intelligence community dumbfounded. (It does not speak well of our government to note that no one appears to have paid any kind of political price for the 9/11 attacks.)

I think, as Bloomberg BusinessWeek argued, our approach to homeland security (a term I loathe) has overdone much and missed other threats. Our approach to airline security — which really seems like the old error of generals’ fighting the previous war — has made air travel worse but not safer. (Unless you truly believe that 84-year-old women and babies are terrorist threats.) The incontrovertible fact is that every 9/11 hijacker fit into one gender, one ethnic group and a similar age range. Only two reasons exist to not profile airline travelers — political correctness and the assumption that anyone is capable of hijacking an airplane, killing the pilots and flying it into a skyscraper or important national building. Meanwhile, while the U.S. spends about $1 billion each year trying to prevent Improvised Explosive Device attacks, what is this country doing about something that would be even more disruptive, yet potentially easier to do — an Electromagnetic Pulse attack, which would fry every computer within the range of the device?

We have at least started to take steps like drilling our own continent’s oil and developing every potential source of electric power, ecofriendly or not, to make us less dependent on Middle East oil. (The Middle East, by the way, supplies only one-fourth of our imported oil. We can become less dependent on Middle East oil; we cannot become less dependent on energy.) But the government’s response to 9/11 has followed like B follows A the approach our culture has taken to risk of any sort, as if covering ourselves in bubblewrap, or even better cowering in our homes, will make the bogeyman go away. Are we really safer because of the Patriot Act?

American politics was quite nasty in the 1990s. For a brief while after 9/11, we had impossible-to-imagine moments like this:

And then within the following year, the political beatings resumed. Bush’s statement, “I ask your continued participation and confidence in the American economy,” was deliberately misconstrued as Bush saying that Americans should go out and shop. Americans were exhorted to sacrifice for a war unlike any war we’ve ever faced by those who wouldn’t have to deal with the sacrifices of, for instance, gas prices far beyond $5 per gallon, or mandatory national service (a bad idea that rears its ugly head in times of anything approaching national crisis), or substantially higher taxes.

Then again, none of this should be a surprise. Other parts of the world hate Americans because we are more economically and politically free than most of the world. We have graduated from using those of different skin color from the majority as slaves, and we have progressed beyond assigning different societal rights to each gender. We tolerate different political views and religions. To the extent the 9/11 masterminds could be considered Muslims at all, they supported — and radical Muslims support — none of the values that are based on our certain inalienable rights. The war between our world, flawed though it is, and a world based on sharia law is a war we had better win.

In one important sense, 9/11 changed us less than it revealed us. America can be both deeply flawed and a special place, because human beings are both deeply flawed and nonetheless special in God’s eyes. Jesus Christ is quoted in Luke 12:48 as saying that “to whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” As much as Americans don’t want to be the policeman of the world, or the nation most responsible for protecting freedom worldwide, there it is.

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