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Friday, September 03, 2010

Culture and anarchy

Hey folks!  You remember The New Criterion, the very serious intellectual journal founded by Hilton Kramer and Samuel Lipman in 1982 as an antidote to the low moral and aesthetic standards associated with liberalism.  It is very serious:

A monthly review of the arts and intellectual life, The New Criterion began as an experiment in critical audacity—a publication devoted to engaging, in Matthew Arnold’s famous phrase, with “the best that has been thought and said.” This also meant engaging with those forces dedicated to traducing genuine cultural and intellectual achievement, whether through obfuscation, politicization, or a commitment to nihilistic absurdity. We are proud that The New Criterion has been in the forefront both of championing what is best and most humanely vital in our cultural inheritance and in exposing what is mendacious, corrosive, and spurious.

So I’m especially pleased to see that The New Criterion is engaging with those forces dedicated to traducing genuine cultural and intellectual achievement by smacking down the obscene wingnuttery and demagoguery surrounding the Park51 project in lower Manhattan.  Finally, a voice of sanity and reason on the right!

Oh, wait.

One of our summertime avocations has been watching the controversy unfold over the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque,” the $100 million, thirteen-story Islamic “community center” avec “prayer space” planned for a spot just around the corner from the crater that once supported the Twin Towers. When we first heard about the plan, early in May, our reaction oscillated between incredulity and outrage: “A mosque? At Ground Zero? The spot where nearly three thousand people were incinerated by Muslim terrorists on 9/11? Surely it’s an unfounded rumor.”

No, it was a report, an accurate report, not a rumor.

Well, no, it was not actually an “accurate” “report,” in the sense that the Ground Zero Mosque is not technically a mosque and is not planned for Ground Zero, or for a spot just around the corner.  But to be fair, I do believe that the first half of the second sentence above is entirely true.

Then there’s some eloquent fulminating about how Obama double-stirred the turbid waters, and a bit about how white male Protestants are discriminated against at Yale, and oh yes, what about a Shinto shrine at Pearl Harbor and what about Muslimic countries are intolerant and what about putting a gay bar next to the mosque, huh?  Huh?  Also what about the name “Cordoba”?  Did you ever think about what that might mean? Did you?

But we digress.  Let’s get to the bottom line.  Pray tell, what is the bottom line?

The bottom line is this: Islam is a proselytizing, intolerant religion. Its aim is to institute Sharia as the “sole reference point for ... ordering the life of the Muslim family, individual, community . . . and state.” That is the end. The means are multifarious. Steering commercial aircraft into American skyscrapers is only one tactic. Using and abusing liberal democratic freedoms in order to promulgate an ideology that is neither liberal nor democratic is less ostentatious but may in the end be more effective precisely because it is less dramatic. This is the lasting significance of the case of the Ground Zero Mosque. It represents another step on the march to Islamize the West.

Ladies and gentlemen, The New Criterion, the leading intellectual journal of the American right.  Its motto: We Are All Pam Geller Now.

And for extra extra intellectual seriousness, the journal is proud to announce that it is now featuring the work of Andrew C. McCarthy, who champions what is best and most humanely vital in our cultural inheritance and exposes what is mendacious, corrosive, and spurious by revealing how the machinations of Saul Alinsky inform the life and work of You Know Who: “As a young Alinsky acolyte, Barack Obama worked closely with acorn, schooling operatives of an organization now infamous for its Marxist platform, ‘direct action’ tactics, and rampant election fraud.”

Forthcoming in the October issue of The New Criterion: how Malcolm X wrote Dreams From My Father and plotted the FEMA death camps with his illegitimate son Barack.

Posted by Michael on 09/03 at 09:28 AM
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Monday, August 30, 2010

Cure for the common TV show

I know I’m not due to post on Mad Men at this place until next week, but I might as well say now that I was thinking of doing something on the new “pathetic” Don.  Last night, I’m afraid, may have made the topic too obvious for words.  All I can say is that the meeting with the guys from Life cereal was excruciatingly unwatchable, so of course I watched it three times.  Somehow, Don’s “I got this” is even more horrifying than his lost weekend.

On the other hand, Peggy.

Posted by Michael on 08/30 at 12:58 PM
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Friday, August 27, 2010

Arbitrary but Frantic Friday

Wow, the past two weeks completely got away from me.  And no wonder!  Classes began this Monday, and I am doing 23 things at once—not just directing Penn State’s Institute for the Arts and Humanities, which involves holding meetings, making plans, holding more meetings, thinking up stuff, getting in touch with people who might know where to put stuff, scheduling things, looking around for places in which to schedule things, calling people, redesigning the website, writing letters, sending out notices, configuring two new laptops with a new email program, writing the copy for the film festival, planning peoples’ itineraries, devising a new alphabet, inventing a wheel, and holding some meetings, but also writing my syllabus for my first-year seminar on disability studies and putting it on the interwebs and making sure all the hyperlinks to essays on electronic reserve actually work and then scrambling to find a new classroom when it turns out that the one to which I was assigned has no (a) computer (b) wireless capacity or (d) air conditioning.  Oh yes, and looking around for places to show the three films I’ve assigned.

Also, I’ve had a whole bunch of incredibly minute personal things to attend to.  I did manage to get the bicycle fixed up and get myself a new helmet and mirror and bottleholder, but then forgot to get the kind of water bottle that you can use while wearing a hockey helmet and full face-guard—you know, the kind with a long built-in strawlike thing.  I did remember (just today) to bring my spacey dreamy ambient music to my new office (there’s a personal stereo mounted on the wall!), and I remembered to get all my asthma meds refilled, which I can do now that I’ve finally seen a doctor for the first time in five years, but the sneakers I ordered still haven’t come in, and I have to get stuff dry-cleaned before Geoff Harpham shows up next week to deliver our Inaugural Fall Lecture, so that I can look nice when I crash into his car.* Also, the lawn could stand another mowing.  Funny, I don’t even care.

Need I add that Jamie doesn’t start school until next Tuesday?  He came to my class yesterday, and he came to my pickup hockey games Monday night and last night, and he’s been setting up shop in the Institute conference room with his laptop and his movies and his Harry Potter games every day this week.  He’s a good good kid.  And he likes the strawberry-kiwi juice we keep on hand here.

So, dear readers, I apologize for being away for so long.  I haven’t really been paying attention to the news, either—apparently Alan Simpson flipped out when Shango Shabazz X walked by the Catfood Mosque?  And Ken Mehlman is boycotting Target?** Did I miss something? 

Oh, well, at least some things are clear—the Washington Post editorial page is kinda sleazy and corrupt, but on the other hand, Oaktown Girl and Michael O’Hare have some great things to say about economic justice.  Go read those things.

I don’t know when I’ll be back—I have to hold some meetings and read a lot of stuff.  But for your enduring listening pleasure, here’s this week’s Dueling Covers of Sixties Classics:

(H/t to Jamie, who found this in an obscure corner of the webs.)

(From my parents’ record collection, just like the Baez from last week.  Yes, I grew up in that kind of house.)

_________

* Comment 11 in that thread still makes me laugh so hard.  Comment 51 is pretty great, too.

** Mr. Gregg Steinhafel Target CEO sir, if you’re reading this far, thank you for spending all that money to help save my marriage from Teh Gays!  Janet and I are one in our strong and very heterosexual decision to take the four or five thousand dollars we drop in your stores every year and spend them elsewhere.  We thus totally refudiate your First Amendment rights, though we have to add that we’re glad that nasty Moveon.org “Bush is Hitler” crew can’t show their ads on the teevee, because that would be bad for democracy.

Posted by Michael on 08/27 at 01:18 PM
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Friday, August 20, 2010

It’s all over now

Now that the public sphere has disintegrated, we have only two options.

I leave the choice to you, the public.

Posted by Michael on 08/20 at 09:14 AM
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Monday, August 16, 2010

In the in box, part deux

So here’s my response to my hate mail.  No, I did not alert the authorities; I did not (and do not) think letter-writers like Angry Guy pose any credible threat to me and my family. And no, I did not reply with snark.  Reader, I parried him.  Seriously, I tried to talk sense.  Like so.

I pointed out that he was sending angry screeds to someone he didn’t know, with absolutely no evidence that that someone had done or said anything on Journolist to which he might object.  I also pointed out that for all his talk about “idiots,” this is not something that sane, well-adjusted people do.  He replied that what I had said or done was beside the point; the point was that Journolist provided a way for liberals to plot against their enemies and practice the “politics of personal destruction,” and that I (a) had associated myself with Those People (and was therefore guilty!) and (b) had not objected when one of them proposed making spurious charges of racism.

Aha!  Now I knew what he was talking about.  The reason the Journolist archives are important—to Tucker Carlson, to the Daily Caller staff, to Andrew Breitbart, and to random angry guys on the Internet—is that Spencer Ackerman once suggested, in response to the Jeremiah Wright Crisis of aught-eight, that “we” should call Fred Barnes or Karl Rove a racist and throw a right-winger through a plate-glass window ... rhetorically.  (I believe Ackerman added, “Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear.”)

There are a whole mess of things going on here, but let me start with the obvious: Ackerman is a smart guy and much of his published work is great, but that rant was nasty and foolish.  It’s your basic Internets Tough Guy Talk, and surely if it had been written by Erick Erickson or Ace of Spades (even in an email), we would be mocking it now with a mighty mockery.  What’s more, it was totally unnecessary: there really are legions of racists on the right.  You don’t want to confuse the meaning of racism even further by throwing around bullshit charges at people.  At the moment, the right’s standard for legitimate charges of racism are quite high: as Chris Rock once put it, you have to have shot Medgar Evers to be a racist.  Sliming civil rights leaders, depicting Obama as a thug or a monkey or a watermelon-eating pickaninny, writing about Michelle eating ribs all day—that’s not racist.  Shooting Medgar Evers, OK, that’s racist. 

Ackerman’s rant from aught-eight thus did wonderful work for conservatives and Tea Party Patriots™ in 2010: remember, the Journolist Outrage was compensation for Breitbart’s profoundly dishonest (but briefly, spectacularly successful!) attempt to smear Shirley Sherrod, which was also Breitbart’s profoundly dishonest attempt at a tu quoque aimed at the NAACP, which had just had the uppity temerity to denounce racism in the Tea Party.  As with the right’s spittle-flecked reaction to the Skip Gates Incident of aught-nine, there are some new rules in play: one, black people are no longer allowed to be angry, or even to have been angry at some point in the past.  This goes double for black ministers, of course, and quadruple for black government officials whose fathers were killed by white farmers and whose relatives were lynched (because, after all, those relatives weren’t really lynched, they were merely beaten to death).  And two, attacks on those angry or formerly-angry black people, including essays about how their relatives weren’t really lynched but merely beaten to death, are not racist.  The real racists, as usual, are black people themselves, and their white liberal enablers like Ackerman, who hurl spurious charges of racism at poor innocent white guys like Barnes and Rove.

OK, glad that’s all cleared up.  No, I didn’t say all that to my Angry Email Guy.  I simply pointed out that in response to the right’s Jeremiah Wright freakout, one guy on a listserv of 400 made a nasty suggestion—a suggestion that, evidently, no one else on the listserv thought was a good idea.  That’s why there never was a coordinated campaign to smear Barnes or Rove—or anyone else—as a racist.

I then addressed the bit about my complicity in Ackerman’s evil plan.  I said that if I had seen it at the time, I might have objected to it. Or I might not have; I can’t say for sure, because my relation to Journolist was like my relation to my other three large-group listservs: I read about ten or twenty percent of the material on them.  Just the stuff that interests me.  On Journolist, I was most interested in the debates over Afghanistan and health care—subjects on which there was a wide range of opinion.  Anyone combing through the Jlist archives will find that I also expressed my deeply-held belief that hockey is a far better sport than soccer.  Just fyi.  But I didn’t see the offending post at the time, because when Ackerman wrote it, I was not a member of Journolist.  The only reason my name is on that FreeRepublic list is that I signed the seekrit open letter decrying Charles Gibson’s and George Stephanopolous’ ridiculous performance in one of the Obama-Clinton debates.  So, I said to my outraged correspondent, here’s the deal.  The “conspiracy” you name consists of a bunch of people who signed an open letter.  The letter was circulated to me by ordinary email, not by secret Journolist email.  When I joined Journolist, I found that it consisted of a bunch of liberals writing liberal emails to each other liberally.  Last but not least, I noted that Ezra Klein had asked the list about the possibility of adding Carlson to it.  As Ezra has pointed out, Carlson knows this perfectly well, but doesn’t admit it, because ... well, because he’s a lying sack of excrement, that’s why.  In my humble opinion.  And if I saw him today, I would say

I didn’t add that the whole thing involved stolen private correspondence, because, of course (as my first hate-mailer—not this guy, an Angry Penn State Alum—made clear), the right now thinks that stealing private correspondence is a good thing, so long as the correspondence in question involves evil scientists and their hockey sticks or evil liberals and their liberal liberal something or other.

But just for you, dear readers, I will add this: the Journolist outrage is small beer.  Very small beer.  The really outrageous outrage, instead, is all about the so-called Ground Zero 9/11 All Glory to Al-Qaeda Mosque, about which the right is deploying (surprise!) the very same tactics: lie, lie, lie, lie, and lie—and do so in such a way as to inflame the legions of the vicious and the stupid.  It looks like a winning strategy to me, folks, especially now that the Democrats’ Bedwetting Caucus has gotten together with the National Center for Concern Trolling to express their dismay at Obama’s defense of the First Amendment:

“I would prefer the president be a little more of a politician and a little less of a college professor,” former Rep. Martin Frost (D-Texas), who once ran the House Democratic campaign arm, wrote in POLITICO’s Arena. “While a defensible position, it will not play well in the parts of the country where Democrats need the most help.”

I don’t want to sound like a college professor, now, but this is what we call textbook stuff: the winged monkeys attack.  Democrats can do one of three things: one, fight back; two, plead for mercy; three, admit that the winged monkeys have some good ideas about how to destroy Democrats, and pledge to work together with reasonable centrist members of the Winged Monkey Brigade to find bipartisan common ground.  Obama, to his credit, chooses option one for a change—whereupon his party, having no idea of how to be a political party, goes running to the press to complain:

Democratic aides say that, at the very least, the president has again knocked his party’s candidates off local messages and forced them to talk about a national issue that doesn’t appear likely to play well with important swing voters.

These officials planned to spend the weekend talking about Social Security’s 75th anniversary—the topic of Obama’s Saturday radio address—or the progress made in containing the Gulf oil spill. Instead, they played defense on an issue at the intersection of religion and terrorism—two hot buttons Obama won his 2008 election partly by downplaying.

“The main reaction is ‘Why? Why now?’” said one House Democratic leadership aide. “It’s just another day off message. There have been a lot of days off message.”

The chief of staff to one politically vulnerable House Democrat said it “probably alienates a lot of independent voters” and “it’s not a good issue to be talking about right now.”

He said he suspects “there are a lot of [Democrats] who are spooked in tough districts today” and “a lot of Republicans licking their chops right now.”

So no, I’m not terribly concerned about stupid vicious hatemongering lying about Journolist.  It’s of a piece with, but on a far smaller scale than, stupid vicious hatemongering lying about the Downtown YMIA Cultural Center Ground Zero 9/11 All Glory to Al-Qaeda Mosque.  And gauging from craven Democrats’ responses to said stupid vicious hatemongering lying, I’m thinking that the Ground Zero 9/11 All Glory to Al-Qaeda Chrysler Cordoba House might be enough, leaving aside even the illegal gay Mexicans and their terror babies, to send Gingrich and Palin to the White House in ‘12.

________

P.S.  My use of the phrase “stupid vicious hatemongering lying” might seem, on a casual reading, to suggest that I have adopted Rich Puchalsky’s way of understanding stupid vicious hatemongering lying, as elaborated in the preceding thread.  I have not.  I continue to believe that the lesson of the great Procter and Gamble Satanism Hoax is that things are 15 percent more complicated than Rich makes them out to be when it comes to how people deal with stupid vicious hatemongering lying.

Update, August 17:  And to follow up on this theme (and my own comment # 17 below), here’s one Mister Roy Edroso:

With extremely rare exceptions, you can go now through all rightwing sites and publications, from the high-end to the low, and find the same thing: A willingness—actually, an puppy-like eagerness—to exploit the basest religious and racial fears for political gain. (More than usual, we mean.)

We might adopt a lofty pose, scratch our chins, and say this speaks poorly of the state of the conservative movement. But whom would we be kidding? There is no conservative movement, intellectually speaking—merely a consortium of crackpots and bigots who believe that gays are threatening their marriages, rich people are overtaxed, black people are the real racists, and the building of a mosque at the site of a disused Burlington Coat Factory somewhere near Ground Zero presents a graver danger to American liberty than the other mosques already near Ground Zero.

About the most charitable thing you could say for them is: Maybe they’re only pretending to believe this nonsense.

Is that really more charitable?  As I say in comment 17, there are known knowns, etc.

Posted by Michael on 08/16 at 12:53 PM
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Friday, August 13, 2010

In the in box

You know, the Journolist “scandal” was pretty weird. Tom Tomorrow has a sane perspective on it all, but even for seasoned culture-war observers like me, it was surprising.  I mean, I can understand wingnuts getting all spittle-flecked about Michelle Obama going to Spain or feeding homeless people who happen to own cellphones.  But shrieking and pearl-clutching about the fact that liberalish writers had a liberalish listserv on which they debated liberalish things liberally?  Really?  That’s more of an outrage than gay marriage or having to press “one” for English?

One thing wasn’t surprising, though: the guy who “broke” the “story,” Tucker Carlson, was the very guy Ezra Klein was thinking about adding to the listserv.  Evidently, Ezra thought Carlson was one of those “reasonable conservatives” with whom it is possible to have a “dialogue.” Don’t get me wrong—I’m sure they exist somewhere in the American mass media, because people keep telling me they do.  But I doubt whether Ezra or anyone else is going to make that mistake with Tucker again. 

There’s a little story I like to tell about encounters like this.  You may have heard it before—it’s the story of what happened to the “liberal” journalist in the PC wars:  one day in 1991 he came across a right-wing attack dog who was nosing around the dumpsters in the back of the American Enterprise Institute, barking about all this crazy deconstruction and radical feminism that leftist professors were foisting on unsuspecting American undergraduates.  “Gee, I hate deconstruction and radical feminism too,” thought the liberal journalist.  “This right-wing attack dog doesn’t seem so bad.” So he brought the dog home, gave him a big, ten-thousand-word spread in the Atlantic, a regular spot on a half-hour cable opinion show, and a plate of leftover steak scraps.  “I’ll call him ‘Fluffy,’” said the liberal journalist.  But imagine the journalist’s surprise a few days later, when his dog Fluffy began barking that liberal journalists were “traitorous scum”!  “But I fed you and gave you a home,” said the liberal journalist, mortally wounded.  “Yeah,” replied Fluffy, “but what did you expect?  Come on—I’m a right-wing attack dog.”

Anyway, the Journolist “scandal” has now metastasized, thanks to Free Republic, and apparently my name, along with 150 or so other names, is all over the interwebs.  Yes, I’ve been found out.  And how?  Because of the super sleuthing of one BuckeyeTexan in Freeperville: yes, this intrepid fellow has found the seekrit “open letter” a bunch of people published on the Internets and in the Nation back in 2008.  From there, it was only a matter of time before someone else connected the dots from that open letter to George Soros, ACORN, Saul Alinsky, the New Black Panther Party, the Democratic Socialists of America, and “the D.S.A.’s ‘brain,’ the Washington DC-based, far left ‘think tank,’ the Institute for Policy Studies.” (Real quote!  I couldn’t make that up—I’m not that creative.)

And from there, it was only a matter of time before I received this email.  I know, I don’t often publish the emails I receive, and by “not often” I mean “never.” But this one was just about perfect, and gave me Wingnut Bingo three different ways:

There is and old saying, “you can judge someone by the friends they hang out with”.  In the case, of your secret online chat with your comrades in arms gives me an indication of the idiot, arrogant, “intellectually-challenged” class who call themselves journalist.

The bigger point I want to make is that those journalist with progressive ideas are the most stupidest assholes in the world.  The know nothing about economics, international relations, taxation, and how everyday human beings live.  Their progressive thinking is based on utopian ideas that have no basis in reality.  They failed with Marxism and they failed with Socialism.  Included in this class are tenured professors who think their shit doesn’t stink.  They can be compared to the aristocracy during the French Revolution and should come to the same fate.

I read some of the articles these people have written in the Huffington Post, New York Times, etc.  I saying to myself, these people are idiots, they are stupid.  It is apparent, amoebas have more critical thinking skills than these morons.

They are so full of class envy, they are race baiters, they are whiners, etc.  This is why this nation is going downhill because they have an asshole in Washington that is so pathetically stupid because he makes bad policy decisions based on ideology, which is reflective of your comrades in arms.

Discovering the Journolist was the ultimate stab in the back by those idiots who the have inability to establish dialogue with those of opposing points of view.  The alternative is to stab people in the back with lies, just like what Joseph Goebbel did.  They have done a great disservice to freedom of the press and to this country.

If the idiots had their way, they piss on our Constitution, steal the wealth of the productive class and turn our country into a dictatorship.

Thank goodness for the 2nd Amendment because there are many citizens who would have no hesitancy in taking the fuckers down along with their families and blowing their fucking brains out.  They want anarchy they will have it.

The people of this country are not going to put up with the shit these morons dish out.  This is why the majority of people do not listen to the mainstream media.  You can listen to idiots for so long before you shut them out.

Shorter angry email guy: we need to kill liberals because they don’t engage in dialogue.  The “stab in the back” is a nice touch, though.  It’s almost as if he’s been reading Kevin Baker!

I actually do have a response to this kind of thing ... you know, being committed to dialogue as I am.  I’ll tell you what it is on Monday.  In the meantime, kudos, Mr. Tucker Carlson!  I think you’ve won the right to say mission accomplished.

Posted by Michael on 08/13 at 09:38 AM
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