Civics 101

Here’s a free civics lesson for fake news organs like CNN:

“Freedom of the Press” means that you can print and broadcast whatever you like — short of outright libel or slander — and can’t be arrested or charged for it, or have your business shut down.  It doesn’t mean anyone is required to talk to you or pay any attention to you.  If someone refuses to answer your questions or kicks you out of an interview session, your freedoms have not been violated, only your pride.  The reporters at my local newspaper and TV stations out here in flyover country don’t have White House press passes, so why should you?  Because you’re a Big Cheese in the Beltway?  Give us a break.

Your dominance of the political conversation was an historical accident arising from the centralized mass communications of radio and television in the mid-20th century.  FDR was the first president to invite a select group of reporters into the White House for regular interviews.  He thought that by flattering the major news outlets in this way, he could guide the message they put out — and he was right.  Subsequent presidents followed suit.  When there were only a few TV networks, it made a certain amount of sense to bring them all in and let them carry the news out to others.

That doesn’t make sense anymore.  We don’t need you.  If I want to know what a politician said about something, I can watch the video of him speaking.  If I want to know what happened at a riot, I can watch video taken from a bystander’s phone and make my own conclusions.  I don’t need you to tell me it was actually a peaceful protest — or bury the story altogether if it doesn’t fit your narrative.  If I want to know what’s happening in Sweden these days, I can ask some Swedes.

Not only don’t we need you, but we don’t trust you.  Your approval levels are at an all-time low because Americans are tired of your lies.  Even leftists don’t trust you; they just like the lies you tell.  Generation X, my generation, never learned to trust you in the first place.  Millenials never even learned to pay attention to you.

If you were smart, you’d purge your organizations of people dedicated to pushing a political narrative and replace them with people who only care about discovering and reporting the truth.  You’d dedicate yourself to hard-nosed but fair journalism, and work on earning back the trust of the American people by adding something to the conversation instead of trying to control and suppress it.  Give that a decade or two, and you might gain back some ground.

You won’t do that.  You’ll double-down, because that’s what you do.  You’ll complain, lie more about your non-existent rights, and throw around words like “fascist” and “racist” twice as much, not realizing that no one cares about your shrieking anymore.  You’ll still be shrieking as you file bankruptcy, and no tears will be shed for you.

Along the way, you’ll also try to get your buddies at big Internet corps like Google and Facebook to help you out by shutting down your competition online.  This will be the best part, because it’ll be like watching a sumo wrestler wearing oven mitts try to catch a greased pig.  We can’t wait.

Prologue

And thou hast taken thy sons, and thy daughters, whom thou hast borne to me: and hast sacrificed the same to them to be devoured. — Ezekiel 16:20

In the early 1600s, rumors spread across the kingdom of Hungary that the Countess Elizabeth Bathory was abducting and killing young girls in occult rites. Although a minister complained directly to the crown, an investigation didn’t start until several years later, after the countess ran out of local peasants (who learned to hide from her) and began to kill daughters of the nobility whom she invited to stay with her to learn courtly etiquette. When she and her servants were finally arrested in 1610, the investigators found dead, dying, and tortured girls locked in her castle. Around 300 people testified against her at her trial. Her associates were executed, but the countess was too connected to nobility for that. She was bricked up in a room of her castle, with just a slit for passing in food, where she died four years later.

In 1986, a Belgian named Marc Dutroux was convicted of kidnapping and raping five young girls. He served three years of a thirteen-and-a-half year sentence. A couple years later, he abducted and abused two 8-year-old girls, recording the acts as pornography, and soon kidnapped a 17-year-old and a 19-year-old. His wife at the time knew about it all, and he had at least one accomplice. He was arrested again, but for involvement in stolen cars. When police searched his home, they failed to find two girls locked in his basement dungeon, even though a locksmith said he could hear someone calling. Those two girls starved to death while Dutroux was in custody. After being released again, Dutroux kidnapped more girls, until he and his accomplices were caught in 1996. A vast quantity of pornography was found in his homes, along with buried bodies. Dutroux claimed to have been supplying a sex ring that included influential members of the government and the police force. The original judge on the case requested armed guards and a bullet-proof car because of evidence that contracts had been taken out on the lives of the judges. About 450 people testified at the trial, and the jury found Dutroux and his accomplices guilty, but the investigation was inconclusive beyond that.  Many Belgians still think a much larger criminal circle was covered up.

In the mid-1990s, social workers in the area of Rotherham, England, began to notice a large number of child sexual abuse and prostitution cases. Local officials investigated, but higher-up authorities balked because the suspects were predominantly Muslim men from Pakistan, and they didn’t want to cause a racist backlash. A 2002 report suggested there were more than 270 victims, but there were no arrests and trials until 2010, when five men were convicted of rape and trafficking in girls as young as twelve. More arrests followed, and by 2015, 300 suspects had been identified. Reports estimate that 1400 children were sexually abused by this ring of Pakistani gangs. The investigation continues — slowly, because it doesn’t fit politically correct wishes.

In a span from the 1970s to the 1990s, hundreds of Catholic priests molested thousands of minors, mostly teenage boys. This happened in dioceses all across the US and in some other countries. It was frequently covered up by bishops, diocesan officials, parish councils, local police, and even the boys and their parents. While it’s likely that no one person knew the full extent of the scandal, thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of people knew of at least one of the crimes, and kept silent. Many others suspected this or that priest, but did not investigate.

Last week, a massive pedophile ring was uncovered by European police, after a three-year investigation. As of last Wednesday, they’ve identified 670 suspects, arrested 184, and taken 230 children to safety in 30 different countries. They expect to find more children, and think the ring could have as many as 70,000 members who partake of the child pornography produced by the central culprits.

I could go on with many other cases, recent and historical, but that should make the point. And what is the point?

The point is, when stories like this first come out, don’t shrug them off as conspiracy theories too fantastical to believe. Don’t say, “That could never happen here.” It has and it does. Don’t say, “They could never cover up something that big.” They can and they do. After the fact, it always seems like people should have known sooner. Don’t say, “Why have no victims come forward?” Sometimes they can’t, sometimes they do come forward and aren’t believed; but it always seems like there aren’t any victims until suddenly there are, sadly, more than anyone imagined.

Don’t assume that such stories are true, but don’t assume they’re false either. Keep an open mind and watch for the evidence. I think a story of this sort is about to break in the U.S., and there will be a great deal of pressure on people to disbelieve it. It will be compared to crackpot conspiracy theories, and likened to the fears of Satanic kidnappers that were popular in the 1980s, so that everyone will laugh it off. Don’t fall for it. Keep an open mind, keep the cases above in mind, and judge for yourself.

Analyzing Trumpism on the Quick

Vox posted this morning about people trying to get a handle on Trump’s ideology — a tall order, since he doesn’t really have one in the sense we’ve come to expect from politicians.  He has beliefs and goals, of course, but they weren’t formed by years of fitting into a political party and being instructed by special interest groups.  They come from a lifetime of seeing what works — and maybe more importantly, what doesn’t work, because he’s had plenty of failures too — and applying those lessons to situations as they come along.

The irony of so many conservatives attacking Trump is that his viewpoint and attitude are much like that of their idol Reagan. Reagan was more intelligent and educated than people thought, but he didn’t have an ideology based on white papers and party politics either. He had a common-sense, small-town conservatism that came from growing up and working in the Midwest. That gave him an optimism about America that may have led to some mistakes — most notably the immigration amnesty in 1986 — but which also helped him to inspire people and lead them to accomplish things which hadn’t been thought possible.  He had a “Hey, this isn’t right, let’s fix it” mentality that’s very traditional American.

Trump is the same way. His image of America may not always be entirely realistic, but goals don’t have to be. What matters is that he’s going to walk into the office each day asking what is being done to move America in that direction, instead of what needs to be done on the other side of the world today, or what he can say to look good in the media.

The knee-jerk perspective says that a man who owns casinos and is on his third marriage can’t hold a Norman Rockwell-like ideal of America.  But maybe owning casinos and being through divorce, and seeing what that world is like, makes a man long for a better America.

I Am the Leader of the Alt-Right

(This is a piece I wrote for some family and friends a month or two ago, to explain to them what the Alt-Right is and where it came from.  They tend to be conservative in temperament, but moderate and Nice, as you find in the Midwest.  So they don’t want to be associated with a movement that is too mean — and certainly not with Nazis of any sort — but they’re willing to listen to reason.)

I am the leader of the Alt-Right, and you can too. (I’ll explain that odd sentence later.)

Now that the Old Media have driven their approval ratings to historically low levels with their lies and omissions and complete failure to understand anything about this past election, they’ve decided to make themselves relevant again by attacking a small group of thinkers that has won some victories against them — the Alt-Right. This is stupid and will fail, but it means they’ve attacked some people I respect and consider friends. Since the media seem determined to make the Alt-Right a household word, I suppose it’s time to explain it.

First a little history. About 60 years ago, some liberals were unhappy with the direction of the left wing in American politics, especially its coziness with Soviet Communism, so they switched to the conservative/Republican side. Their most prominent members were writers for the Jewish magazine Commentary. Conservatives welcomed these new allies (during the Cold War, opposition to the USSR was the main issue), and because they were well-known thinkers and writers, they soon gained influence in conservative circles.

However, they weren’t really conservative, except for the anti-Communist part, so they called themselves neo-conservatives. They were still fairly liberal on social issues like abortion and guns. Their primary concerns were war — using military power to achieve their goals in other countries, especially where it could benefit Israel — and free trade and the free movement of labor, which they believed would benefit the global economy. They drew support from Wall Street and others who wanted a booming economy more than anything else.

Ronald Reagan wasn’t one of them, but by the time of the first Bush presidency, the neo-conservatives had pretty much taken over the Republican party and the prominent conservative organizations and magazines, and they solidified that during the Clinton and Bush II presidencies. They still paid lip service to conservative social issues, but their focus was war and global trade. Others on the right wing who weren’t on board with neo-conservatism began to form their own groups and organizations, and looked for a new term to describe themselves since “conservative” had been taken over.

Various names have been tried over the past few years, from Dissident Right to Dark Enlightenment, but none of them really worked. A couple years ago a guy named Richard Spencer came up with Alt-Right, short for “alternative right,” and it caught on. It seemed like a pretty good umbrella term for everyone who opposes the left wing and the neo-conservatives who claim to represent the right. So that’s where it comes from.

That means the Alt-Right includes a wide range of people who don’t necessarily agree on much else except who the primary enemies of Western Civilization are (and sometimes not even that). I disagree with some in the Alt-Right on things (including Spencer, but he still came up with a good name). But most Alt-Righters I talk to are like you and me: people who think we’ve been going the wrong direction for a while and want to get back to common-sense values, putting your family first, and governance that puts Americans ahead of foreign interests. If I had to describe us in one sentence, it would be that we refuse to lie to ourselves about what our eyes can see. We don’t let political correctness prevent us from pointing out problems or offering solutions because someone somewhere might be offended.15578612_10154643500591421_5586703992157428550_n

When I said I was the leader of the Alt-Right at the beginning, that was a half-joke. It comes from a related fight that took place recently called GamerGate, when computer gamers and creators got sick of the corruption in gaming journalism and decided to root it out with an overwhelming email and social media campaign. GamerGate never had leaders; everyone simply pitched in and did what he thought would help. So the motto developed: “I am the leader of GamerGate, and you can too.” (One thing about the Alt-Right, similar to GamerGate: we’re kind of a bunch of smart alecs who don’t take ourselves too seriously, so there are a lot of jokes, and we’re irreverent to a fault. The picture below kinda expresses the general attitude, and I cleaned it up for you.)

The truth is, I’m not a leader, just a guy writing and doing things online. On the other hand, the Alt-Right doesn’t want or need leaders, so anyone who has a good idea is encouraged to run with it and be his own leader, along with anyone who wants to join in. If someone claims to be a leader of the Alt-Right, he’s probably lying and we don’t recognize him as such. The real leaders are focused on exchanging ideas and getting things done, not posing for the camera.

So that’s the Alt-Right: ordinary people who value Western Civilization, who don’t refuse to see what’s happening to it, and who hope to come up with some solutions before it’s too late. And we’re having fun, which drives our opponents batty most of all.

There’s Wrong, and Then There’s Crapping Your Pants in Public Wrong

People are often wrong, and most of the time, I don’t hold being wrong against anyone. (I’m talking about being wrong about judgments of fact and predictions here, not “wrong” in the sense of sinning.) We all see the world imperfectly through different filters, so being wrong is just part of life. The important thing to me is that, if I’m wrong, I want to figure out why I was wrong so I can be right more often in the future. Was I missing information or did I have bad information? Was there something wrong with my logic? Did I let my emotions override my reason? I want to know, because I don’t like being wrong. When someone else is wrong, I assume he’s going through the same imperfect process, so I don’t assume he will always be wrong, and I certainly don’t assume he’s a bad person.

But once in a while someone is so breathtakingly wrong that I have to step back and say, “Okay, that guy has a ‘being wrong’ problem, and I need to make a note of that.” One unimportant example came on a sports radio show I listen to, where one day one of the hosts said that Philip Rivers is one of the top quarterbacks in the league, ranking him at #3, I think. That’s so stupid that I (and his co-host) thought he had to be joking, but he was serious. At that moment my mind stepped back and said, “Okay, never take judgments by this guy seriously again.” I assume he’s not actually in love with Rivers, and that Rivers’s agent isn’t paying him for that opinion, so all that’s left is that he has a major screw loose in his ability to judge players, at least. That doesn’t make him a bad person or mean he can’t do an entertaining radio show, and I’ve continued to listen. But I wouldn’t let him make personnel decisions for a peewee league team — or much of anything else, because I don’t know how many other reasoning processes might depend on that loose screw.

A similar thing happened this weekend over Trump’s locker room bragging, though this time there are hundreds of loose screws all wobbling in unison. Now, you can think Trump was wrong to say what he did, whether it was bragging or lies. You can think it should disqualify him in voters’ minds for the presidency. You can think he should drop out of the race, or that his party should kick him out. You would be wrong about most of those judgments in my opinion, but they’re judgments that a reasonable person with a grasp on reality could honestly come to, and I wouldn’t hold them against you.

But when you claim that locker-room bragging is the same thing as sexual assault, that’s when I again step back and say, “Okay, mental note: never take a word from this guy seriously again.” Because there are only a few reasons someone claiming to be a conservative, a Republican, or just a reasonable inhabitant of reality might say that:

  1. You’re already working for the other side anyway. Done with you.
  2. You’re virtue-signaling: saying what you think will make the right kind of people like you. Done with you.
  3. You know it’s bullshit, but you’re trying to maintain your sinecure as Righteous Conservative Blogger #2138 or whatever niche you’ve carved out of the punditry for yourself. Done with you.
  4. You’re actually deranged enough to believe bragging==assault. In that case, no one should ever listen to you about anything again. You should never be allowed near a jury or any position of leadership, and quite possibly should be kept away from sharp objects. Done with you squared.

So as you can see, the result regardless of what brought you to this state of unreality is the same: Done with you. Somewhere in my mind is an assortment of stuff that I think about you, and somewhere in that mess is a little meter that’s labeled “credibility”, and it just pegged to zero and got nailed there. It doesn’t matter if you’re right 90% of the time, or even if I’ve liked your opinions in the past. You’ve exposed yourself as someone whose opinions may not just be wrong at times, but can come completely detached from reality, so I have no more interest in them. Besides, Conservative Blogger #2139 is also out there writing, and just might not be deranged, so there’s no great loss.

Madison Avenue’s Uniformity of Diversity

Here’s a very typical TV commercial these days, which reflects the elite view of the future.  It’s a Hewlett-Packard tie-in with the next Star Trek movie, but either they didn’t want to pay for the real actors or the real actors wouldn’t have presented the right sort of diversity.

The ad features a tall black man as the captain, leading a crew of light-skinned people.  The crew is mostly women.  There may be some white men in the back of the crowd, but the one man near the front who speaks — perhaps the beta to the black man’s alpha — appears to be Asian.

This is what diversity in advertising has come to.  It’s gone way past trying to achieve some sort of racial quota or equality, and created an artificial world where normal white men almost don’t exist unless they’re needed to look bad so a woman or a black man can look good by comparison.  In an ad which is set in the future, they’re free to portray their ideal mix: a black leader who is definitely not at all the result of affirmative action, with a large harem of women, plus a few beta males (eunuchs?) to make sure some actual work gets done.  Sounds like a federal government office today, coming to your corporation tomorrow.

Why Conservatives Lose (#1?)

This was a comment for a post of Vox’s that got too long. Maybe I’ll write more about this topic of what “conservatism” as a political movement really is (was) and why it’s bound to lose. But here’s a major reason, riffing off another comment there:

Conservatives refuse to entertain the thought that the left means business, and plays for keeps.

Conservatives, most being at least nominally Christian, believe that “the truth will set you free,” but they mistakenly apply that to politics and social issues, instead of only faith where it belongs.

Thing is, no one’s born politically conservative, and they don’t teach it in schools. You might be born with a conservative temperament in a conservative family and neighborhood, but then you get a steady diet of liberalism from society as you grow up. So usually, conservatism is something you discover later. (This is probably why Republican politicians seem so fake, by the way. Their bios will talk about how they were president of their Young Republicans chapter by age 15, or as one Cruz ad said, spending “a lifetime fighting for conservative ideals.” Normal people don’t work that way.)

Conservatism (ditto libertarianism) comes in “Aha!” moments later in life, when you read something or listen to someone and it clicks and you say, “Well, of course that’s how it works. It’s so obvious. Of course people will be lazy and unproductive if you feed them from the common weal. Of course more private gun ownership leads to less crime.” Or whatever that moment of clarity is about. And since it’s now so obvious to you, it seems like it should be obvious to others if they would just listen.

So you don’t need to deport anyone, or even defeat anyone, really — all those unpleasantries can be avoided — you just need to spread the Good Word of Conservatism.

And what’s better for sharing the Word than a big ol’ revival tent? It needs to be really big, so you can get all the people in there who think conservatism is their enemy: the freaks and libertines, the socialists, the illegal invaders, the recipients of government checks — yep, a realllllly big tent. And you may have to compromise on many things to get all those people to enter your tent long enough to hear the Word. But it’ll all be worth it, because it’ll be easy to roll back those compromises when we’re all one big happy conservative family.

That’s part of what we’re seeing in the Trump frenzy, with basically decent people who have been fighting a losing battle all their political careers saying, “What was wrong with our big-tent-outreach approach?”  Well, nothing, except that you consistently lose.  There have been two of what might be considered conservative victories in my lifetime: the election of Ronald Reagan (and you could argue how much that had to do with conservative policy stances, and how much because he gave people a sense of pride and hope in America), and the Contract with America in 1994, which was an exciting moral victory that had no lasting effect because they didn’t pass the most important point — term limits.

So now the proletariat of the Republican Party — many of them “gut conservatives” even though they couldn’t pick Russell Kirk out of an NBA lineup — wants to try something different, something that kinda feels a bit like 1980 again, and the elitist leaders don’t want to allow it?  Well, screw them.  Their way hasn’t worked, doesn’t work, won’t work.  We may not get conservative victories from Trump, but we just may.  We certainly wouldn’t have gotten them from the same old pack of fools with the same old tactics of strategic retreat.