People often claim to have cultivated their inner child as if this were a good thing to have done. They are proud of it, in fact. The “inner child” that each of us supposedly has somewhere deep within his being retains his fundamental goodness and innocence: he is like the little boy who sees that the emperor has no clothes and has not yet become too worldly-wise, which is to say cynical, not to say so.
From my own recollections of childhood, I do not think childhood is quite like this. I do not think I was a particularly bad or wicked child, but I do not remember an age when I was not sometimes devious, deceitful where I thought that it was to my advantage to be so; cruel, malicious, bad-tempered, greedy, and envious. If there was a time of innocence, I don”t remember it, and I think, on the whole, I have improved since then.
But not completely. Ever since I started reviewing books and doing medico-legal work I have cultivated my inner pedant. The inner pedant in all, or at least in many, of us is that inner creature that takes delight in pointing out the errors of others, not so much because he loves truth as because he likes to advertise his own cleverness and knowledge. But of all the many forms of pride, that in knowledge and cleverness is the most vulgar, because knowledge and cleverness should lead to wisdom and modesty rather than pride. After all, knowledge is always finite, ignorance infinite, and this is true even for the most knowledgeable person in the world. In fact, it is obvious.
I try to keep my inner pedant under control and sometimes I succeed. For example, the other week I was reviewing a book about medical history, generally a very interesting book, but it had one howler. The author said that one of the main characters about whom he was writing met the Emperor Franz Josef in 1917, when in fact he had died in 1916. But to have mentioned this in the review would have been merely for the sake of showing off or establishing that I had read the book carefully; it would have told the general reader (at whom my review was aimed) nothing of value about the subject of the book, nor whether or not it was any good. It would have created an unfair impression of the author as careless and ill-informed, while in fact his book was a good one. I therefore passed over the error in silence. But I would not be telling the truth if I claimed that the detection of the error did not give me pleasure; somehow it put me in a more equal relationship with the author, who became fallible for me rather than omniscient.
But some errors are important, and one sees them more insistently the older one grows. For example, the other day I read an article in Le Monde about the forthcoming referendum in Scotland on independence from the United Kingdom. The author of the article was clearly sympathetic to the cause of independence, but that was not the cause of my irritation with the article, nor the fact that he quoted an old man, a former trade union militant, who said that he was in favor of independence, among other reasons, because the United Kingdom was the fourth most unequal country in the world. If old men in Scotland can be as ignorant of the world as that, it is an interesting sociological observation; and the author of the article is almost certainly right that those in favor of Scottish independence favor a state even more extensive in the name of equality than the one that they already have.
No, I was irritated rather by the fact that the author of the article accepted that the policy of the present British government can properly be described as one of austerity. What the alleged austerity amounts to is this: that in the current year the government will borrow only one in six of the pounds it spends instead of one in five, as it did last year. As to the reasons for this less than startling decline in its borrowing requirements, it was not because the government was spending less but because it was receiving more taxes, from the speculative housing bubble which it has done much to fuel. If that bubble should burst, the borrowing necessary to maintain current levels of expenditure (already very high) would rise again, possibly higher than ever.
The Week’s Most Bureaucratic, Problematic, and Symptomatic Headlines
FEDS TO MONITOR ONLINE “HATE SPEECH”
If you ever doubted that the concept of “hate speech” was designed primarily to prevent any criticism of the government, cast your doubts into the ocean.
The federal government has allocated nearly $1 million to Indiana University to track “misinformation” and “false and misleading ideas” on twitter.com, which is currently the world’s seventh most heavily trafficked site.
The database is named “Truthy””a reference to liberal comedian Stephen Colbert’s routine about Republican fact-mangling.
According to the Truthy website:
We also plan to use Truthy to detect political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution…we rely on users like you to flag injections of forged grass-roots activity. Therefore, click on the Truthy button when you see a suspicious meme!
“Social pollution.” Why, that sounds downright Soviet! According to the university’s grant:
This service could mitigate the diffusion of false and misleading ideas, detect hate speech and subversive propaganda, and assist in the preservation of open debate.
OK, so it’s going to encourage “open debate” while urging users to snitch on anything they deem to be “hate speech” and/or “subversive propaganda”? Got it. Doublethink mode is on full blast here. Why not simply call it the Ministry of Truth?
Despite claims of non-partisanship, Truthy’s lead investigator is Filippo Menczer, whose personal webpage reveals that he supports only progressive political groups such as Move On, Greenpeace, True Majority, Amnesty International, the Sierra Club, and Barack Obama’s Organizing for Action. Obviously moveon.org, which is financed by billionaire George Soros, does not qualify as “forged grass-roots activity” in Menczer’s view.
In addition to Truthy’s chilling rollout, this week yielded ample evidence suggesting that the self-contradictory mental tapeworm “free speech does not include hate speech” has firmly taken root inside gullible minds both nationally and internationally.
Protesting an upcoming event by a satanic group, Oklahoma City’s Archbishop Paul Coakley said, “Not all speech is protected if there is hate speech and it is intended to ridicule another religion. I don”t believe it is a free speech matter.”
The United Nations, aided by “ethnic Koreans living in Japan,” is prodding Japan to enact “hate-speech laws“ that would criminalize the activities of nationalist group Uyoka Dantai.
African journalists have convened to “turn the tide against the rise of hate speech on the continent” and are urging one another not to report facts as objectively as is humanly possible, but rather to become partisan political advocates in a quest to draw “the public’s attention to the devastating effects of hate speech.” Forget about the concomitant devastating effects on public discourse.
BURGER KING ABDICATES HIS AMERICAN THRONE
Despite the company mascot’s name, Burger King has been perennially thwarted by Ronald McDonald as America’s fast-food alpha dog. But on Tuesday the chain announced it is buying out Canadian coffee-and-donuts giant Tim Hortons in a move that would make Burger King the world’s third-largest fast-food conglomerate. (McDonald’s remains at #1, while Yum! Brands”which handles Pizza Hut and Taco Bell”is #2.) Although Burger King officials deny it, many are viewing this move as an “inversion transaction” in which an American corporation merges with a smaller foreign company and relocates to avert America’s nominal corporate tax rates, which are the highest of all OECD countries. Barack Obama has dubbed such companies “corporate deserters” because within their sinister sociopathic hearts, they wish to avert paying monstrous taxes to fund an inept and corrupt governmental leviathan. Ironically, Warren Buffett“a huge Obama cheerleader who has urged higher taxes on the rich”is funding Burger King’s inversion transaction.
Gstaad—Can somebody tell me when was the last time America got it right? Uncle Sam’s track record in selecting leaders in faraway places reminds me very much of my own, where libel is concerned: Plaintiffs 5, Taki 0. Let’s see, the good Uncle overthrew Mohammad Mossaddegh in Iran back in the early 50s in order for the Shah to become his man in Persia. The Shah went gallivanting in St. Moritz, threw very expensive parties in Persepolis, and spent money like a Saudi camel driver-turned-prince for American weapons. But once the Shah became a pariah, the home of the brave chickened out. The Shah became Shah who? Only Henry Kissinger admitted knowing him and even managed to get him a bed in a cancer hospital.
What about the Diem family before that? They were bosom buddies with Eisenhower and the Kennedys until insiders in Washington started to talk down Madame (Diem’s sister-in-law) Nhu’s habit of spending lotsa moolah while Buddhist monks ignited themselves in protest of her Catholicism and corruption. The Diems were slain by generals who had been given the go-ahead by JFK, whose life was also terminated three weeks later. And America’s man in Panama, old Pineapple Face, was overthrown by Papa Bush once it became obvious he was selling happy dust to Gringos, the very same dust George W. must have been on when he invaded Iraq in order to make Israel safe to bomb women and children in Gaza.
Nah, I’d rather be an enemy than a friend where America is concerned. Netanyahu craps on American presidents and gets three billion smackers annually in return. And just look at the camel drivers. They sponsor terrorism everywhere with their financing of schools that teach how to kill the infidel, and the Yankees openly genuflect in front of these savages almost as much as the Brits do. Not to mention the Qataris, who paid ISIS cold hard cash to get them going in their chopping off heads business. There is no end in sight. As they say, Washington doesn’t know its ass from a hole in the ground, but it means well. The folly of forcing freedom on those who don’t want it makes Americans feel good when they get home and turn on the TV. Nothing is as important as that.
Which brings me to old Vlad the Impaler, no, not the Romanian Count Dracula, but Vladimir Putin, the man everyone in America and Europe hates, which is very good news for Russia. Putin is no Shah, nor Diem, and no Pineapple Face either. He will go on the offensive against any signs of foreign interference. What the bureaucrooks of the EU forget is that economic embargoes and trade sanctions are a form of strategic warfare. Washington can push small Central American countries around, as the EU did when Austria tried to go to the right some time ago, but Russia is now again a strong state that will not take crap or outside interference. And many Russians are eager to get revenge for what they see as a humiliation after the fall of communism. Putin’s annexation of Crimea made him a hero in many Russian eyes. Now that America and the EU see him as the baddest guy on the planet, Putin’s theory that America uses its power to foment revolution has come full circle. He knows that one cannot be Washington’s friend and long survive. He also knows that America uses covert force against regimes it doesn’t like. He most likely thinks that Uncle Sam covertly financed the jihadists in Chechnya. And why is that so crazy? Uncle Sam financed the Taliban against the Soviets and gave them missiles that are still used against American and NATO troops in that miserable country. He also knows the neocons in Washington rule the roost and want him encircled and humiliated.
The trouble with Putin is he’s no Saddam. Even Assad was no Saddam. So the neocons in cahoots with the EU crooks have declared an undeclared war on Putin’s Russia, one that doesn’t exactly make the Kremlin shake in fear. After the Cold War was over, George Kennan, an expert’s expert on the Soviet Union, fiercely opposed the eastward expansion of NATO and other measures that would take advantage of Russia’s weakness. He also advised against humiliating a great country like Russia, whose soul is somehow different to that of, say, Puerto Rico or Monaco. Kennan also fulminated against America’s hypocrisy. He insisted that America should put its own house in order first—I write this as Ferguson, Missouri burns—and become a republic known for its decency and humanity and social success. Putin has read Kennan and looks at Brussels the way I look at the Papandreou clan in my own country, a bunch of crooked midgets who couldn’t punch their way out of a wet paper bag.
I was walking through the Fox News building a while ago and a producer introduced me to a young black man by saying, “This is the engineer you”ll be working with tonight.” We shook hands and the engineer said, “I know who you are. Look, I want you to know, I don”t agree with all your beliefs but I respect you for speaking your mind.” I said “Thanks” because we were in a hurry but what I really wanted to say was, “What beliefs? I”m not a Scientologist. I don”t really have “beliefs.” I have opinions based on the information provided. If you have data that contradicts that opinion, well, let’s get busy as a stump-tailed cow in fly time!”
I”d love to change my mind about something. That’s called learning. My views aren”t radical. They”re benign. I just want people to be happy and free and live full lives that are liberated from bullshit. It’s everyone else who’s radical. For example, I think …
Four men from North Carolina State University decided to take a break from oppressing women and invented a nail polish that can detect the rape drug Rohypnol. Unfortunately, feminists have decided this is stupid because we should focus on teaching men not to rape instead.
I went through this same logic on Hannity when I suggested you should worry more about your daughter attending Spring Break than your son. “They have different genitalia,” I was forced to explain.
Of course we should tell men rape is bad. We do. We throw them in jail. That doesn”t mean there won”t always be mentally deranged sociopaths buying rape drugs. The utopian feminist can talk about Eden all she wants. Here on earth, we”d like to prevent some rapes from happening.
BLACK LIVES MATTER
No matter what the true story is with Michael Brown, it was an anomaly. Young, black murder victims are almost always shot by young, black criminals. If you want to help prevent this, read More Guns, Less Crime.
The gun control lobby seems to be predicated on the opposite belief. They spend billions promoting Hitler-esque laws that prevent pretty much anyone decent from being armed. Here in NYC, getting a handgun legally is virtually impossible but I know of at least two guys who will sell me one illegally for $500. You can”t get paintball guns here but we still have almost a murder a day because only bad guys have guns.
I think it would be cool to have a gun in the city, but you know who really needs one? The old lady in the ghetto walking home from work and the blue-collar father who can”t afford to leave a sketchy neighborhood. Gangsters will always be killing each other, but innocent people can only protect themselves sometimes.
Similarly, stop-and-frisk sounds like innocent black dudes getting harassed. It actually disproportionately stops whites but whatever. The big picture here is it makes poor black areas safer.
Once again, I like the sound of the gun control advocates” utopia, where nobody gets murdered and innocent people are never harassed, but it leads to more deaths than a pro-gun stance.
THE POOR DESERVE AN EDUCATION
We tried giving teachers four months off a year and paying them almost $60 an hour to leave at 3:20 but it didn”t work. Test scores haven”t budged in half a century. I blame the teachers” ironclad contracts that the overfed unions created. We”re told it’s systemic and “not one change” is going to fix it, but charter schools did. They followed the market and made it possible to fire teachers and now the schools are thriving, especially for poor black kids. You can keep flogging the dead horse of public schools, but I think kids in Harlem deserve an education, don”t you?
THE POOR DESERVE JOBS, TOO
Tap water has been flammable since way before fracking existed, but this naturally occurring reaction has caused an overreaction that’s cost millions of jobs. Obama did the same thing when he stonewalled on the Keystone pipeline. Are all these moves being made so we can prolong this war in the Middle East? I thought war and unemployment were bad things.
Also, mass immigration isn”t about allowing Mexicans the same prosperity we derived from Ellis Island. It’s about making rich white guys in both countries wealthier. It devastates the Mexican towns these workers come from and it kills the American towns these workers go to. Liberals tell us we need to raise the minimum wage while encouraging a border policy that is pricing the American poor out of the market, especially working-class blacks in California. The more I learn about liberal policy, the more it sounds like a war on black America.
WE MUST PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT
When you tell a farmer he can lose his land if a rare owl is spotted on it, you get solutions like “Shoot, Shovel, and Shut Up.” When you privatize game and make it profitable to preserve, you end up with situations like Zimbabwe where their entire wildlife went from skinny elephant carcasses to roaring lions going “Hell, yeah!”
The free market handles environmental protection on its own. Sure, China is making a mess of it right now, but so did we when we were at that stage. Then we fixed it. And it wasn”t the EPA’s annoying laws. Their budget has no effect on our air quality. If you really care about Mother Nature, you”ll make her profitable. As Greenpeace cofounder Dr. Patrick Moore says, “by buying wood you are … sending a signal into the market to plant more trees.”
EVEN POOR KIDS DESERVE DADS
When looking at a map of single-parent families and comparing it to murders, you can”t help but notice that more dads = less murder. The left’s view of feeding our nation’s poor with food stamps and helping out some impoverished, single mom who’s down on her luck sounds good. However, what accidentally happened is we”ve rewarded women for choosing single motherhood. Welfare culture has created a culture where dads are redundant and this has been especially hard on the black and Hispanic communities.
I got in trouble for saying food stamps get abused and our poor are now obese, but “freeloading doesn”t help the freeloaders,” as Stossel put it. Welfare has been bad for the poor since FDR rammed the “New Deal“ down their throats, and it has made the black dad obsolete. Once again, the liberal stance kills innocent people with kindness.
WOMEN SHOULDN”T BE MISERABLE
While trying to prove women are just as good as men, feminists actually fell into “women are men.” They”re just as strong and have all the same proclivities and want to be a mom just as much as men do. The result is a “roll call of regrets“ where women with expired ovaries have come to the realization that not selling out and never giving in has left them unable to enjoy motherhood, the best and most defining part of being a woman.
With friends like liberals, who needs enemies?
WOMEN SHOULDN”T BE EXTERMINATED, EITHER
Speaking of women being oppressed by feminists, how did the abortion debate become a feminist cause? About half the women in America are pro-life and they deserve to be heard. Also, as I”ve said many times before, abortion is leaning toward a gender-based decision, and that usually goes badly for the females. Call me sexist but I don”t like the idea of millions of women’s beliefs being ignored while we support a procedure that promotes female genocide.
HATE IS WRONG
As patriotism falls out of fashion, fascism has moved in to fill the void. The Boston Bombers were radicalized in the West. So was the kid who decapitated James Foley. In the name of tolerance we are allowing terrorist training camps on our own soil. I”m all for free speech but this is like having a Hitler Youth Camp on American soil in 1943. Radical Islam sees women as second-class citizens, hates gays, is totally opposed to democracy, and wants to kill us. Tolerating this isn”t multiculturalism. It’s treason.
I noticed a fair few mentions of the phrase “death penalty” from UK news outlets last fortnight; little surprise, given that the antepenultimate Wednesday marked the half-century since this Sceptered Isle’s last execution. No doubt, papers and petabytes were packed with philippics decrying the dead and deadly practice (at least the broadsheet-based brands). Can”t say I paused to check, agreement aside.
That said, one editorial succeeded at snagging my attention two weekends ago. Written by no less than the notorious Nigel Farage, the Independent Voices piece put forward the perspective of the UKIP leader in terms both clear and concise; whilst personally opposed to capital punishment, he wishes to see it put to a vote in the name of “sovereignty” and “direct democracy.” To buttress his point, he cited public opinion polls, as well as the words of fellow UKIPer Louise Bours.
I first and last saw Bours back in May on BBC’s Question Time, where she castigated “brains in [his] feet” footballer Joey Barton for his “offensive” likening of British political parties to “four really ugly girls” (thereby making a point of missing the point”and the joke”in tragicomic fashion). Bours” boorishness found fresh vent on the aforementioned Wednesday, with her calls for the culling of cop and kiddy-killers along with the heads of those who severed that of Fusilier Lee Rigby. In a recent YouGov poll, 45 percent of respondents echoed her bilious bloodlust, outstripping the 39 percent opposed to such measures.
For me, such outcries do nothing beyond reinforcing my already low opinion of demagogues and demos alike.
Whilst not exactly the bleeding-heart type, I find myself at odds with the death penalty for reasons similar to Farage’s; the potential for questionable and mistaken executions looms too large on my mind for me to think a reintroduction anything other than a bad idea, and a posthumous pardon strikes me as a pathetic substitute for getting it right the first time. Yes, Mr. Legislator, I”m sure the Bentleys, Tibbses, and Evanses (no longer) of this world will be absolutely thrilled by the news of their exonerations! Such gestures, however, do nothing to dry the tears of poor Bill Blackstone.
With Blackstone’s ratio in mind, who would be eager to endorse the state wielding such power over life and death, especially in a land where trial by hearsay becomes increasingly attractive in the wake of Paedogeddon panic? With populists often advocating the death penalty for rapists and pedophiles, and femorrhoids declaring the presumption of innocence and the attention given to bogus allegations to be merely symptoms of “rape culture,” what would the state of play be if UK legislators reintroduced capital punishment? With such a toxic cultural mash making assaults on basic procedural justice, I suspect lowering the noose into the mix could prove especially … asphyxiating.
Of course, the very presence of a democratic framework increases the prospect of such a sorry state of affairs taking shape in the UK. As such, I think Farage errs to the extent that he indulges”lionizes“what Padraig Deignan calls “the counting of heads, not what’s in them.” Were I to sit down with him, I”d honestly have to ask the bloke what the hell he sees in the big D. Whilst it may not be so awful in small doses (a pub-round allocation here, a group movie choice there), on a scale larger than a gang of mates, the damn thing proves at best a disappointment, at worst a ballot box of disaster; the fact that the average Brit, Westerner, global villager pays at least lip service to it, mistaking it for the apex of freedom and civilization, makes matters all the more exasperating.
“Why rip on democracy so much?” you might ask. Because, dear reader, it amounts to a low-intensity assault on the very concepts it ostensibly symbolizes in the minds of modern men. In the name of equality, the disciples of democratism declare the word of the simpleton as valid as that of the sage, proclaiming him not only fit to run his own affairs, as would be agreeable, but also those of the latter. Indeed, such overreaching arrogance finds itself recast as “self-rule,” obscuring its invasive and predatory nature to all but the most perceptive.
In short, democratists sell their constituents the snake oil that their freedom lies with the ballot rather than beyond it.
Some may counter by invoking the (classical) liberal traditions prevalent, to some degree or other, in Western democracies; however, to the extent that such survive, they do so not because of democracy but in spite of it; a result of determined minorities asserting them against “the will of the people.” Over time, many of these liberties find themselves eroded, courtesy of vote-whoring politicos and the droves who elect them; cartas and constitutions can only stand against the unceasing juggernaut of the popular will for so long.
Under the “direct democracy” Farage favors, things would be ever the more brazen, with peaceful yet unpopular minorities easily oppressed on grounds of color, creed, conduct, or plain circumstance. Just ask Socrates, the girls at Salem, or preceding generations of American blackfolk; more recently, ask white Zimbabweans, if not the more marital-minded queerfolk who endured Proposition 8 in California.
Only an adolescent, overgrown or otherwise, thinks that all his friends are leading lights of their age and demands that they be hailed as such. And there’s as much evidence online for my friendship with the writer Andy Nowicki as there is for my noisy dismay at the iron fist of cronyism that rules the arts.
But enough folks either love or hate Nowicki that to snub his recent releases for the sake of ethical purity would make for a silly gap in coverage. Co-editor of the Alternative Right webzine and author of a slew of strange works of fiction, if Andy’s books weren”t worth recommending, I’m too much of a homebody to have spared the time to befriend him in the first place.
I”ve never understood, however, how Nowicki reconciles his devout belief in the teachings of the Catholic Church with the enthused depravity of his fictional universe. The Nowicki-verse is a psychosexual torture chamber, where God is either a monster or absent. In real life, Andy enjoys a loving, Christian marriage. On paper, he’s a lonely, rape-mad agnostic.
His tales of sex and revenge are more than a safe catharsis, more than wanking to prevent oneself from fornicating: he doesn”t write about sexual desires that he’s too moral to act on, he writes about acts that disgust him too sincerely to be tempting. But this summer, he’s released a truly odd couple of books, which, in their very mismatches, bring his modus operandi into clearer focus.
In synopsis, they don”t even sound like they were written by the same author. This Malignant Mirage is a lurid collection of dark tales that are marketed as “erotica.” Just out this week, on the other hand, Confessions of a Would-Be Wanker: A Memoir/Manifesto is a call to sexual inaction. In a half-philosophical, half-personal argument, Andy describes his lifelong unease with sex and its consequences”the power plays, the fall from grace, the ugly obsession with status it unleashes in the young”adding only a light dressing of personal anecdote.
But these few stories from his life are tellingly spaced. Except for descriptions of movies that resonated with him as an adult (hardly a “life experience” in the mundane sense), all of his written recollections are from childhood. And the vast majority are from adolescence, which he paints as a cloud sliding ominously over the sun of boyhood innocence. He describes the influx of “normal” adolescent hormones as though they were a viral infection of the brain:
My soul, I felt, was corrupted by its manifestation, as my body would have been by a cancer; my sex drive made me into a beast, not just in the sense of causing me to burn with lust in an unseemly manner that robbed me of dignity, but also for the fact that it made me desirous to backstab my friends and sell out my integrity to gain social status.
Sex ruins everything, including the very masculinity the male libido is supposed to express. Most of the stories in This Malignant Mirage articulate male rebellion against female sexual power, a power that corrupts like any other. The path to revenge is rarely clear or simple, however, and his characters” lust for erotic revenge is often tamped down till it spills over into madness or the supernatural.
In Confessions he’s candid about why he never got laid in high school. His unease with sex itself conspired with his tendency to crush on cheerleaders who were out of his league to keep him a humiliated virgin. Now his fictional imagination circles round and round that exit gate from childhood’s Eden. Even when he focuses on adult male protagonists, instead of taking material from his real adulthood, he speculates on the shrew-ridden fate that would have awaited him had he somehow married one of the mean cheerleaders who were the first objects of his desires.
Women also suffer in the Nowicki-verse, both from their own embarrassing sexuality and from the seductive wiles of powerful men, who coldly delight in taking them down a peg or two. (He isn”t part of the majority of fiction writers who struggle to depict the opposite sex; his women are as convincingly miserable as his men.) Several stories from This Malignant Mirage aggressively blur the line we draw around what’s consensual.
“The Interview,” one of Mirage‘s standouts, treats that line with god-like contempt: nothing is consensual. The story reads like de Sade and Kafka writing an episode of The Office together: A young woman applies to work at a strange firm, where the secretary subjects her to a lesbian grope, apparently for the sole purpose of disorienting her, before sending her to meet the boss. This shadowy figure strips away her personal identity to make her not just his sex slave, but his soul slave.
Aside from its frightening metaphor for the modern cubicle farm, the weird, oppressive atmosphere of this story suddenly made it clear to me why classifying Nowicki’s strange tales as erotica is dead wrong. Author, publishers, and reviewers alike have been calling them such because that seems like the best label for the subject matter.
But in structure, they are classic horror stories. Nowicki may belong to a subgenre all his own, but he is a horror writer at heart. His dark energy comes from the friction between what he believes and what he suspects.
Following every national crisis, the Internet serves as a community bulletin board where anyone feels free to tack on his inane beliefs. Regarding Michael Brown, millions of opinions on the teenager’s death are popping up on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit. In all this proselytizing, armchair commentators are discovering something new: not all social networks are playing along.
According to the Washington Post, Facebook is using its algorithm to control the flow of news. While social media platforms like Twitter are broadcasting information in real time, Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild is filtering “upsetting” content”including the rash of violence in Ferguson. Think of it as a trigger warning to protect delicate sensibilities. Or more accurately: information suppression.
Some people are surprised by this deliberate manipulation of news. As a social network, Facebook is supposed to spread information at breakneck speed. But a new marketing ploy is disrupting the organic trading of stories. Facebook is purposefully hiding negative content. The social juggernaut is boosting positive news stories to provide a happier, more carefree environment.
Facebook’s “feed” manipulation is just one among the increasing number of pitfalls in the digital era. For all the benefits of peer-to-peer instant communication, someone is attempting to alter the flow of information to their own benefit. The Internet was supposed to provide a revolutionary means to spread news and ideas. No question it succeeded; but what are we really learning from it?
Recently, two videos depicting gruesome murders received a massive amount of attention. One video is of the questionable police shooting of a mentally ill man in St. Louis. The other is the beheading of journalist James Foley by an Islamic State jihadist. Both show human beings losing their lives to their fellow man. Both show unnecessary death. And both videos are heated topics of conversation. It’s almost if we”ve grown accustomed to the virtualization of tragedy; such macabre imagery no longer horrifies us. Is this the enlightened freedom the digital age was supposed to usher in?
Viewing horrendous death with a passive shrug is a by-product of the virtual immediacy we now rely on. There’s an addictive aspect to stimulation that man’s nature often falls prey to. The seemingly infinite depths of the Internet have become a kind of Siren song; luring the weak-minded into a stream of constant imagery and satisfaction. Pornography, for instance, taps into brain chemistry in a way that demands increasing amounts of gratification. One naughty picture leads to another, until ethical decision-making is rendered foggy and obscure. As Catholic bishop Paul Loverde writes, porn remaps the brain, and “it becomes very difficult for one to “reset” to a sense of normality in the future.” Grim videos of murder have the same psychological effect as lurid sex tapes.
This is just one way in which the Internet serves as an emotional roller coaster. Another comes in the form of custom-fit lifestyles. We aren”t just giving away our personal values to the World Wide Web; we are transferring our very conception of self to cyberspace. Writing in The Week, Michael Brendan Dougherty avers that as digital “networks learn from our personal habits,” we in turn demand “automation and intelligence.” That means our smartphones recognizing our daily commute. It means our personal information shooting out to various third parties without explicit consent. It means social networks exploiting and controlling favorable news before we see it. In the end our cognition becomes predicated on what exists in the digital realm, instead of the other way around.
The ride-sharing service Lyft recently launched “Lyft Line,” a program to help people carpool using the same personal driver. Lyft advertises the new service as an affordable way to travel. What it doesn”t acknowledge is that the service is based on a computer program that memorizes personal commutes. User customization is celebrated, without recognizing the negative repercussion: daily life becomes an automatized piece of data. The small device we carry in our pocket acts as a homing mechanism. All movement is catalogued; all actions are recorded and put through a complex formula.
And it doesn”t stop there. Earlier this summer, Apple announced “HomeKit,” a kind of “smart” program that totally integrates your house with the Internet. The idea is that home appliances will “talk” to you via your cell phone, and act according to your wishes. Conservative writer David Walbert says that Apple is trying to bank on “our desire to rationalize everything, intellectualize it, control it.” The ability to control one’s abode from a smartphone screen sure sounds like the height of civilization. But did anyone ever stop for a second to think: why should man be put in control of everything? Or why should private space become one with the Internet?
In an interview last week with Taleeb Starkes, podcaster Adam Carolla asked the author of The Un-Civil War: Blacks vs. Niggers: Confronting the Subculture Within the African-American Community a cut-to-the-chase question:
If Starkes, who is black, could wave a magic wand and change one thing about his “community,” what would it be?
I figured he”d pick violence, education, or family structure. Instead, to my surprise, Starkes said he”d abolish his race’s corrosive cultural conformity.
To Starkes, those other, more widely discussed problems stem in large part from blacks” stifling, self-imposed cookie-cutter culture:
There’s no diversity in the black community. It’s pretty much it’s just in our DNA to be one way, and if you”re not that way, you”re not (quote, unquote) “black.” And I would start there, because a lot of these kids are so urbanized, if you bring anything new or different outside of sports, hip hop, those two things mainly, you may be frowned upon, and that’s what I would change. What I”d like to do is get the kids out, let them see other things. Outside of the city. Again, they”re so urbanized, it’s foreign. … It worked for me as a kid. I got to see different things: trees, different place, it worked for me.
The word “urban” effortlessly became the new “black” sometime in the 1980s. If it’s really just a euphemistic code-word invented by whitey, that doesn”t explain why blacks themselves have so eagerly embraced it.
As that annoying adjective makes clear, blacks fairly boast of their hatred for nature. Their comedy routines are larded with gags about their aversion to camping and swimming. Before Tiger Woods (who, remember, isn”t 100% black) and Obama (who isn”t either), golf”with all that grass and shit”was nothing more than a Richard Pryor punch line.
Now expand this Amish-like orthodoxy to include every aspect of life”education, sex, parenting, music, food, clothing, work, crime”and you get a picture of an African-American culture that is, ironically, more suffocatingly conformist than white America (supposedly) was in the “boring/evil“ “Organization Man”/Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1950s.
(Actually, that’s another, particularly pernicious, myth invented by hippies to glorify their own advent and give their parents the collective finger.)
Black hostility toward Condoleezza Rice and Clarence Thomas has almost as much to do with her virtuosity at classical piano and his passion for RV travel than with the R after their names.
Look at this famous scene from Barbershop, and the hot-footed reaction the old barber gets when he mocks received “urban” wisdom”which, he admits, he”d never do “in front of white folks”:
“Rodney King shouda got his ass beat,” “O.J. did it,” and “Fuck Jesse Jackson.”
Yes, it’s fiction, but Barbershop is also one of the most financially successful “black” movies ever, which speaks to its emotional veracity.
The double-barreled subtitles Starkes chose for his book are instructive. The first one points to Chris Rock’s notorious 1996 “Blacks vs. Niggers“ routine”one he stopped performing because, well, white audiences liked it a little too much.
Starkes” dueling subtitles seem to signify a struggle to properly summarize one of the key ideas in The Un-Civil War, one that centers around the word “subculture.”
Because for Starkes, that all too familiar black subculture”hip-hop music and dress; defiantly illiterate slang and dialect; the apparent inability to stay quiet in movie theaters or attend parties without bringing along firearms; the paternity tests on Maury“is not “sub” at all. That culture has become, shall we say, “uber.”
“[T]he underclass isn”t the face of white people,” he told Carolla. “And you know with black people I think it’s the opposite, the black underclass is the face of the black race in America.”
And not because of “the media” in particular or “the white man” in general, but because millions of blacks themselves”of all ages and classes”have embraced the uniform “urban” aesthetic (and, to some extent, the ethos that goes with it).
A society’s understanding of history is shaped not so much by what they”re told, but by what is hidden from them.
After a white police officer shot and killed the undeniably black Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO on August 9, the story blew up in the nation’s face and has dominated headlines for two weeks running now.
But in South Salt Lake, UT on August 11″a mere two days after Brown was shot to death”a police officer described as “not white” shot and killed 20-year-old Dillon Taylor, whose pictures (HERE, HERE, and HERE) reveal him to be at least predominantly Caucasian, if perchance not a purebred Nordic snow bunny. Taylor appears to be mostly white phenotypically (if not stylistically) and is far whiter-looking than George Zimmerman, whom the liberal press initially described as “white” for reasons that appear to have suited an agenda. And unlike the Brown shooting, there is currently video evidence of the Taylor killing available for public consumption, which should inflame white passions to the point where they’d riot”that is, if modern American whites were like blacks in the sense that they were prone to torching cities when one of their own gets killed.
Then again, it’s hard to get upset when you’re not even aware that something upsetting has happened. As I type this, a Google News search for the phrase “Michael Brown” alongside “Ferguson” yields a fulsome 13,700,000 results, whereas “Dillon Taylor” and “Salt Lake” only coughs up a puny 4,250 hits.
Why is there such a high-decibel hubbub about the Brown killing but nary a cricket chirp about Taylor’s death?
It can’t be because police kill more blacks in America than whites, because that’s not true. Politifact claims that CDC stats from 1999-2011 show that “2,151 whites died by being shot by police compared to 1,130 blacks.”
Were you aware of that statistic? I wasn’t until I went searching for it.
Similar sins of omission and obfuscation pockmarked the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman fiasco. The left-leaning media repeatedly opted to run the baby-faced Travyon picture rather than the more current and relevant one, which shows him as a cold-eyed, bird-flipping douchebag thug. NBC almost singlehandedly ignited a race war by deliberately editing Zimmerman’s 911 call in a way to make it appear he was troubled by Martin’s skin color.
I lived in Los Angeles during the Rodney King beating and subsequent riots. I heard the media continually refer to “four white police officers,” although technically, one of them was Mexican. And it wasn’t until a year or two ago when I learned that on the night he was beaten, King had two friends with him who obeyed police orders and emerged without a scratch. Fifty-eight people died in those riots, but I doubt anything nearly as catastrophic would have happened if the public had been aware that it wasn’t a tale of rabid Nazi cops attacking a lone meek non-belligerent descendant of slaves. By omitting crucial factual details to sustain a prefabricated moral narrative, the press seemed to enable mass murder.
And the propaganda deck is so stacked these days, merely mentioning any of this automatically leads to accusations that you hate blacks. They only wish. Double standards, though”especially dangerous ones”drive me up a freaking wall.
You’ve likely heard of the 1998 truck-dragging death of a black man named James Byrd, Jr. by three white men in Texas. But you’ve probably never heard of the 2000 death of a six-year-old white boy named Jake Robel, who died after being dragged for four miles by a black carjacker. Google searches for the victims’ names reveal results as absurdly lopsided as the disparity between Michael Brown and Dillon Taylor’s relative media attention: James Byrd, Jr. yields 108,000 hits, while Jake Robel gets a mere 4,910.
As I’ve said many times, apparently not all dead bodies are equal.
I slept through the only riot I was ever sent to cover as a reporter. Having traveled a long way I was very tired, and by the time I woke the riot was almost over. Still, I was able to describe with some vividness the acrid smell of burning rubber in the streets and the smashed glass and emptied shelves of the storefronts, and I did see a few people adding fuel to the flames of a barricade not far from my hotel (I later saw one of the perpetrators in an expensive restaurant). Such was my description that no reader would have guessed that I had slept peacefully through the violent proceedings. Strangely enough, my experience of being a foreign correspondent, if that is what it was, has never caused me to doubt the veracity of what I read in the newspapers, which I swallow as a boa constrictor swallows a goat.
However, I have followed riots around the world vicariously ever since, and it seems to me that the principal precondition of such events in the modern world is clement weather. The association is much stronger than with, say, injustice, partly because there is complete agreement as to what constitutes clement weather, whereas what constitutes justice has been in dispute since at least the time of Plato. We all recognize good rioting weather when we see it, but injustice”well, we could go on arguing about it for days. Everyone can contain his anger in the rain.
The facts of the case of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, are unlikely ever to be known to everyone’s satisfaction. Leopold von Ranke, the great German historian, said that history is what actually happened, because what happened actually did happen, and surely we can all agree with that; the only fly in the ointment is in the determination of what actually happened. Anyone who has ever had a marital argument will know the difficulties involved. Personally, I should be surprised if any firm believer in civil rights concluded that Michael Brown was trying to grab Officer Darren Wilson’s gun or was otherwise threatening him, and was shot in self-defense”or if any calumniator of American negroes (as they were once known, not necessarily disparagingly) or deplorer of ghetto culture concluded that Michael Brown was an innocent, lovable chap gunned down out of sheer racial malice by said officer. Facts are much more malleable than prejudices.
Fortunately, we don”t have to know everything about the case to reflect a little upon it. Let us, for the sake of argument, take the worst possible case (worst, that is, from the point of view of the local police force), namely that the officer had absolutely no reason whatever to react violently and that he shot the young man dead from sheer, unadulterated vicious feeling towards the blacks of his town. What then?
Let me interject that I hold no brief for the police in America, at least in the cities. They inspire me with a frisson of fear every time I see one, though I break no law. Their manner is more that of masters of the public than of servants of the same; many of them seem to be the kind of people who wanted to be soldiers but couldn”t make the grade because they were not fit enough. They look menacing and seem to shoot to kill on relatively slight pretexts (or perhaps they are just bad shots). I have little doubt that if I were black my less than warm feelings toward them would be a good deal cooler still. Their increasing militarization, on the flimsiest of pretexts, is another reason to mistrust them. Alas, the British police are increasingly modeling themselves on the American, as if they were permanently on riot duty.
If the shooting of Michael Brown were as I have depicted it for the sake of argument, it would be a terrible crime, an injustice worthy of the condign punishment of the perpetrator. Moreover, if the crime were as described, without the faintest trace of justification, it would not be difficult to imagine that it was the summum malum of a pattern of injustice and oppression in the town.
But to hate injustice is not necessarily to love justice; and one might have supposed that the first duty of those who claim to hate injustice was themselves to act justly. Virtually by definition, those who riot violently (as did a small number of the protesters) do not act justly, for almost always they do damage, sometimes much damage, to the interests of those who have not caused the injustice against which they supposedly protest, and therefore commit an injustice against those who are unknown to them. Such is the case of the crimes against property, or rather, as my friend the economist Peter Bauer used to insist, against the owners of property, in Ferguson (property cannot suffer, but its owners can). Two injustices do not make righteousness.