That Monica Lewinsky got a standing ovation after giving a speech isn”t the part of the story I”d have picked for my headline.
It would be news if Monica”or your second grader, or the cast of a tepid community theater production of Carousel“didn”t get one. Formerly reserved for those rare instances when mere applause seemed insufficient, the standing ovation morphed into just another hollow social obligation some time ago.
As evidenced in this video, Lewinsky is a passably poised and polished speaker, in the ever-so-slightly stilted manner of a perpetual runner-up pageant contestant. But her oratory wouldn”t have brought anyone except her own parents to their feet in any era but our own.
That Monica spoke at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity wasn”t surprising, either. This is the advertising-industry body that hands awards to whichever slick, innuendo-stuffed Eurotrash commercials are least likely to air on U.S. TV because Americans are so prudish and uptight, etc., soooo sleeepppyyy zzzzzzz….
So Lewinsky”whose name, she reminds us early in her address, is dropped in over 40 rap songs as lyrical shorthand for fellatio“wasn”t a particularly startling choice of speaker. And on that (largely mythical) puritanical front, recall Robin Williams imagining the French shrugging off the presidential scandal that made Monica an overnight celebrity: “So what did he do? F—- a chicken?”
And it’s the topic of “overnight celebrity” upon which Lewinsky expounds, as befits her newish identity as an anti-cyberbullying activist. (Her previous incarnations as author, accessories designer, and television performer having since fizzled.)
Monica described herself to the Cannes crowd as “patient zero” of a disease that once”nearly 20 years ago”had no name: cyberbullying, or online public shaming, the phenomenon “of losing a personal reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously” through the machinations of the nascent Internet.
In Monica’s mind, the Drudge Report”which broke the story of her affair with President Clinton and immediately became (and stayed) one of the biggest sites on the Web”was her digital pillory. Her name became a byword among the nations. She contemplated suicide.
Lewinsky is quick to couple her non-death with an actual one, to show how fatal such shaming can supposedly be. Although less familiar than hers, the name Tyler Clementi has also become a synonym of sorts, this time for the “epidemic” of cyberbullying-induced suicide.
Except that, in The New Yorker of all places, back in 2012, we learned this about poor Tyler Clementi:
It became widely understood that a closeted student at Rutgers had committed suicide after video of him having sex with a man was secretly shot and posted online. In fact, there was no posting, no observed sex, and no closet.
Lewinsky seems unaware or unconcerned with the facts of that case, in which the real victim of bullying was Clementi’s roommate, who was charged with”you guessed it”a “hate crime.”
And of course, no such suicide epidemic exists except in the fevered imaginations of professional victims and activists like Monica. Let’s call this industry”what else?”Big Bully.
I can”t prove it, but I”d bet more people committed suicide over the untimely, decidedly pre-Internet deaths of Rudolph Valentino and James Dean than have offed themselves because somebody called them a slut on Twitter. But then, Big Bully can”t prove any of its claims either, yet continues to metastasize.
Having watched, by sheer coincidence, the 1945 production of The Picture of Dorian Gray on TCM last night, I was struck by Monica’s appearance in this TED-like talk. She still wears her hair and makeup the same way she did two decades ago, and appears not to have aged terribly much. But if that’s evidence of some sort of deal with the devil, it clearly hasn”t worked out. She is still unmarried and childless, and now, at 41, her chances of altering her status drop daily.
On June 24, NBC News prominently featured a story on its website headlined “White Americans Are Biggest Terror Threat in U.S.: Study.” Clicking the link took readers to a site called GlobalPost, and an article that begins, “White Americans are the biggest terror threat in the United States, according to a study by the New America Foundation.”
Not only is the GlobalPost story false, but the author, a leftist restaurateur named Peter Gelling, has himself been ensnared in a controversy involving antiblack racism (more on that later). GlobalPost is a “content partner” of NBC’s, and it occupies that unique space in the blogosphere between hoax news sites like Daily Currant and clickbait sites like Upworthy. Sites like these”I”ll call them “click-fake” sites”take genuine stories and exaggerate them just enough to up the chances of getting hits and shares.
There are click-fakes on the left and right. A good example on the left is Addicting Info, and a good example on the right is Independent Journal Review. What they have in common is that they usually employ non-journalists. Addicting Info’s star columnist Nathaniel Downes is a videogame designer. IJ Review’s ace scribbler Michael Hausam is an insulation installer. The routine use of non-journalists makes it easier to ensure that no one carps about being asked to “embellish” the truth. Authors can”t strive to adhere to ethical rules they never learned.
And this is what GlobalPost, a site that trails Addicting Info and IJ Review in Alexa stats (who”d have thought that partnering with NBC would lead to low ratings?), did with the “white Americans are the biggest terror threat” story. To quote from my email to NBC News execs:
The “GlobalPost” story began with the line, “White Americans are the biggest terror threat in the United States, according to a study by the New America Foundation.” This is a blatant misrepresentation of the report, which studied homegrown terrorism, and which only mentions race in passing. And the mention it DOES make of race blatantly contradicts the fraudulent way in which “GlobalPost” presented the story. According to the report, since 9/11, of homegrown terrorists who have been charged (or who died following the commission of their acts), 277 were “Jihadists,” and 183 were non-“Jihadists.” Broken down by race, the report describes 198 homegrown terrorists as Caucasian, and 262 as non-Caucasian.
Here’s the response I received from GlobalPost editor Lizzy Tomei (who was cc”d in my email to NBC):
The numbers you cite are correct, but they have to do with numbers of people charged with terror-related crimes. We instead focused on the number of attacks carried out””lethal terrorist incidents” since 9/11 on US soil”as the measure of threat. The New American Foundation found that almost twice as many lethal terrorist incidents were perpetrated by non-Muslims, and nearly all of those perpetrators were white Americans”many of them with explicit ties to white supremacist/non-jihadist extremist groups. Attacks by these individuals caused 48 deaths in the period studied, vs. 26 deaths from jihadist attacks.
Gelling blatantly misrepresented the report. The study did NOT conclude that “White Americans are the biggest terror threat in the United States.” You can define “threat” any damn way you like, including only “lethal incidents.” Fine. That’s your editorial decision. But you can”t say THE REPORT defined “threat” that way. You are free to redefine it as you wish, but don”t claim that’s how the report defined it. The foundation’s review of terror attacks included those in which there were injuries and no fatalities, those in which the only fatality was the attacker, those that were thwarted, those that resulted in no injuries or fatalities, and those that included fatalities. That is how THE REPORT defined “threat.”
Hence, the lines “White Americans are the biggest terror threat in the United States, according to a study by the New America Foundation,” and “The Washington-based research organization did a review of “terror” attacks on US soil since Sept. 11, 2001 and found that most of them were carried out by radical anti-government groups or white supremacists” are false because you are substituting your own definition of “threat” and “attacks” (lethal ones only) and claiming it’s the report’s definition, which it is not. I can only conclude that you allowed this demonstrable misrepresentation on purpose in order to get hits. Bravo.
Naturally, there was no further response from Lizzy. But there is another interesting angle to this story.
Peter Gelling, the author of the fraudulent GlobalPost story, is co-owner (along with his wife, chef Retno Pratiwi) of a Boston catering service and gourmet food wagon called Kaki Lima. Typically, one doesn”t find extremist ideologues running this type of customer-service-driven business. If Ann Coulter were to open a taco stand or Al Sharpton a kosher deli, there”d be trouble. Most people don”t want to buy food from someone who appears hostile to them because of race, religion, or ethnicity. Gelling has no problem spreading racist misinformation in his posts, and attacking white people as racists via his tweets, yet even with contempt for a sizable part of his audience, he still wants to be hired”by the very people he denounces”for catering gigs.
Or does he?
After establishing cordial email contact with Gelling, I asked him if he is okay with serving customers who are white. He refused to answer. That’s a bit troubling. I also asked if he is okay with having black customers, and he refused to answer that question, too. Why did I include black people along with whites as people who might not feel totally comfortable paying good money for Kaki Lima’s wares? Racist limes, that’s why! Gelling and Pratiwi (who was named “the queen of Indonesian street food” by Boston magazine) list their favorite specialty as “kaffir limes.” Kaffir limes are often referred to as makrut limes. Why is the word “kaffir” avoided? Because it’s the equivalent of the N-word. “Kaffir” was adapted from the Arabic kafir (infidel) by white South Africans as a way to describe black people as heathens and subhuman beasts. Its use in present-day South Africa is legally actionable.
Amid all the empty, gaseous, fear-mongering bullshit we constantly hear about “terrorism,” lost is the fact that what were arguably that USA’s first anti-terrorist laws were designed to crush the KKK in the South during Reconstruction.
The Enforcement Acts of 1870 and 1871 expanded federal power under the guise of protecting Southern blacks. These laws were so aggressively enforced that they basically wiped out the Klan’s first incarnation within a year. At least temporarily, this flexing of federal muscle protected many Southern blacks. But just like the Civil War, it grossly extended federal power…as has the recent War on Terrorism.
Would it be “racist” of me to suspect that ever since the War Between the States, every political move designed to protect the “oppressed” was also designed to enhance federal power? Is it paranoid to ponder whether under all the nonsense we hear about civil rights and hate crimes and terrorism are convenient covers for what is essentially a bald-ass, butt-naked power grab?
In the wake of the recent mass murder of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, SC, many have asked why accused killer Dylann Roof isn’t being depicted as a terrorist or charged as one. They argue that if he had not been a white male basking in white privilege like a lazy beluga whale sunning his snow-white belly somewhere in the Arctic Circle, everyone would have immediately called him a sweaty, smelly, swarthy, dark-skinned terrorist.
As Osama bin Laden would have said were he alive today, that’s all a crock of shit.
When crazed psychiatrist Nidal Hasan went bonkers with a gun at an Army base in Fort Hood, TX in 2009 while shouting “Allahu akbar!” and picking off 13 victims, the feds refused to prosecute him as a terrorist. But the US Justice Department announced this past Friday that it’s investigating the Charleston shooting as a possible terrorist incident. So enough with your baseless whimpering about how white privilege will protect Dylann Roof from being charged as a terrorist. I’ve just demonstrated that reality is the complete opposite of what you’re claiming it is, and maybe one day you’ll have enough decency and honor to not only admit your errors, but to thank me for correcting you.
Dylann Roof should be tried for murder, and that’s it. Any attempts to criminalize his thought processes during the course of the alleged murders are by their very nature totalitarian.
But apparently nine counts of murder aren’t enough for some people. And apparently even a “hate crime” enhancement”which isn”t a separate charge, merely a recommendation for a longer sentence if “hate” was somehow involved in the crime”isn’t sufficient for them. They’re clamoring for the feds to take it to the hoop and also charge Roof with domestic terrorism.
They also whine louder than a nursery full of squalling newborns about how when a white person shoots up a bunch of people, the “media” depicts them as mentally ill lone wolves, whereas when a nonwhite person goes on a shooting spree, all nonwhite people are implicated and defamed and stereotyped.
Sure. That must be why last week was a gleeful orgy of blaming Roof’s rampage on every white person who ever lived. That’s why the Rebel flag was almost entirely taken out of circulation for perpetuity last week. That’s why there were at least 1,000 editorial homilies last week about how all white people need to swallow a pint glass fulla guilt and take responsibility for creating and maintaining a culture where black people are always afraid of being attacked and bludgeoned and spat upon and billy-clubbed and shot dead in church.
That also must be why, whenever there’s an Islamist-inspired mass murder, most of the American media, as well as the president, urge us not to blame Islam as a whole.
By the way, what is the difference between a hate crime and a terrorist attack?
There’s no difference at all because both terms are essentially meaningless.
It’s bitterly ironic to hear any established government fanning fear of “terrorism,” because all political regimes retain power through systemic psychological terrorism and the threat of punishment. And they enjoy the fulsome semantic luxury of using the word “terrorist” to smear anyone who threatens their power.
The Week’s Most Convoluted, Persecuted, and Prostituted Headlines
OUT, DAMN”D RACIST SPOT!
Amid the national moral panic that’s been engineered and whipped up subsequent to the recent Charleston church shooting, dunderheaded moral crusaders everywhere are buzzing around like brainwashed worker bees attempting to permanently erase what they feel is the innately sinful and malodorous stain of white history.
Next symbol targeted for elimination: the Stars and Bars.
The mere fact that alleged shooter Dylann Roof was photographed sullenly holding a Rebel flag is being used as a blanket excuse to permanently take the flag out of circulation. As we all know, even seeing that flag causes tremendous pain for black people and therefore constitutes a hate crime. That evil, sinful, hateful, horrible, terrifying, unacceptably problematic flag also hypnotizes lone wolves with bowl haircuts to go on murder sprees at black churches.
Despite what its supporters may lie to your face about, the Confederate flag only represents one thing: intolerance. Therefore, it must not be tolerated.
South Carolina’s governor Nikki Haley called for the flag’s removal from outside the State House in Columbia last week. Last Saturday morning, a black female “activist” named Bree Newsome took the job upon herself to actively scale a 30-foot flagpole and snatch the Confederate flag from outside the State House. She was arrested and of course became an instant social-media hero.
In Alabama on Wednesday, Governor Robert Bentley ordered the removal of four Confederate flags that had been flying at the State Capitol. State Sen. Vivian Figures, who is nominally black but appears to have at least a half-cup of cream in her coffee, applauded Bentley’s decision:
That flag is a message of hatred, bigotry, negativity, white supremacy, shackles, whips, segregation, church bombings, beatings, lynchings, and assassinations.
What about boiled peanuts? Cornbread? Sweet tea? Jerry Lee Lewis? Junior Johnson? Does it all have to be bad? Obviously it does.
On Saturday, a hundred or more protestors gathered outside the State Capitol hoisting Rebel flags and signs that said #SouthernLivesMatter. A pro-Confederate protester named Tim Steadman told a reporter:
Right now, this past week with everything that is going on, I feel very much like the Jews must have felt in the very beginning of the Nazi Germany takeover. I mean I do feel that way, like there is a concerted effort to wipe people like me out, to wipe out my heritage and to erase the truths of history.
Last Monday saw the beginning of a huge corporate purge of Confederate imagery from vendors such as Walmart, eBay, Amazon, Google Shopping, Sears/Kmart, and Apple.
eBay said in a statement:
We have decided to prohibit Confederate flags and many items containing this image because we believe it has become a contemporary symbol of divisiveness and racism.
But why should anyone stop there? Last week Memphis Mayor A. C. Wharton suggested disinterring and moving the corpses of General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife from a city park:
These relics, these messages of this despicable period of this great nation, it’s time for those to be moved. I despise what the Confederacy stood for.
Wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute there”isn’t “despise” a synonym for “hate”?
Sodomites the world over erupted in one giant spermy rainbow-colored spurt of joy last Friday when a US Supreme Court ruling proclaimed that homosexuals had a constitutional right to get married and be as miserable as everyone else.
Ice-cream giant Ben & Jerry’s is celebrating the SCOTUS decision by dedicating an ice-cream flavor to gay marriage all summer.
In fact, and to our extreme irritation, the acronym “SCOTUS” (Supreme Court Of The United States) was repeatedly used during online celebrations. That’s easily the most repulsive acronym of all time. It sounds like some incurable skin disease affecting the scrotum. And now we have SCOTUS approving of scrotums touching scrotums.
As evidence that not everyone on Earth has come around to venerate the holy glories of same-sex soixante-neuf, a man in Sacramento has been arrested for allegedly stabbing three other men whom he accused of being “faggots for wearing tight jeans.”
Over the past few years I don”t know how many hours I”ve wasted reading articles in newspapers about the Greek debt crisis. It isn”t as if I could have affected it in one way or the other. Moreover, newspapers these days, which cannot compete with the immediacy of the electronic media, devote more and more of their space to the future than to the past: what might happen, what might not happen, what must happen, what mustn”t happen, what can happen, what can”t happen. What actually did happen is by comparison now of small account.
I know that the crisis affects the real lives of millions of Greeks, who used to make a decent living by recycling the money obtained from loans (as millions of the British still do), but I cannot help thinking that the best way of conceptualizing the Greek debt crisis is as a soap opera. It has been going on for ages, it has its ups and downs, it has its heroes and villains, every episode ends on a high point of tension until the next, which always starts anticlimactically, and there is no end in sight. There is melodrama, tragedy, farce. Make “em laugh, make “em cry, make “em wait: That was the recipe of the 19th-century British writer Charles Reade for the successful concoction of serial novels, and the Greek government, the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission have certainly followed that recipe closely.
I suddenly realized how foolishly I had frittered away so much of my time, relatively little of which remains to me, when I read the following in a newspaper today: “”Having had a couple of days to absorb the details of the new Greece debt deal, equity markets have continued to remain upbeat, despite the fact that the [Greek] proposal is economically illiterate and probably doomed to fail,” Michael Hewson of CMC Markets said.”
Economically illiterate and only probably doomed to fail? In other words, the link between economic literacy on the one hand and success or failure on the other is uncertain at best. Economically illiterate but possibly will succeed? Economically literate but possibly will fail? Mr. Hewson of CMC Markets clearly doesn”t want to put all his eggs in one predictive basket. Therefore I say, throw economics to the dogs; I”ll have none of it.
The real star of the soap opera, of course, is Alexis Tsipras, and the most important question raised by the series is when will he wear a tie? The economic precedents set by leaders who wouldn”t wear ties are not altogether happy: Mao, Nyerere, Mobutu, to say nothing of the Iranian revolutionaries. If I may be allowed another metaphor, Mr. Tsipras” neckwear is the canary in the mine. No tie, noxious gas in the mineshaft.
But I am beginning to take the whole thing seriously again. Here are a few of the titles of the episodes of the soap opera of only the past two months, taken from the newspaper:
Alexis Tsipras and Angela Merkel hold press conference.
Alexis Tsipras flies to Moscow.
Alexis Tsipras seeks interim deal.
Alexis Tsipras sees “happy ending” for Greece.
Alexis Tsipras claims Greece is close to securing deal.
Greek exit would trigger eurozone collapse, says Alexis Tsipras.
Alexis Tsipras to meet Putin.
Alexis Tsipras summoned to Brussels.
This, of course, is just a small sample.
Last Wednesday, June 24, Pugs held a luncheon in honor of our first member to depart for the Elysian Fields, or that large CinemaScope screen up above, Sir Christopher Lee, age 93. Pugs club is now back to 19 members, the ceiling being 21. Our president for life, Nick Scott—I actually was the first chief but was overthrown in a bloodless as well as voteless coup by Nick—gave a wonderful address while breaking yet another custom, this one about having ladies present. Our guest of honor was Lady Lee, Christopher’s widow. Now, there’s nothing more that a poor little Greek boy can add to Sir Christopher’s obituaries, which were numerous, glowing, detailed, and well deserved. Except to say that he personified that smoldering restraint of a long-ago England, with his perfect manners and diction, and his ability to be interested in what other people had to say. The big ME was unknown to him.
Christopher loved the members of Pugs, all 20 of us, and was equally loved in return. At last year’s annual lunch on an outdoor terrace of a Chelsea restaurant, he was recognized as he got up to leave and was given a standing ovation by the luncheon crowd. Here’s what fellow Pug and knight Sir Bob Geldof had to say about him: “Christopher, what a bloke. What a Pug. Lives don’t come more lived than that.” What struck me was the fact that Christopher wore his Pugs club tie for his investiture by the Queen in 2009, and was outspoken about the increasing depravity of film. If ever there was a palimpsest of present and past, it was Sir Christopher.
And speaking of the modern world and the ache for an unreachable past at times, it takes labyrinthine logic to turn a decent, Nobel Prize-winning scientist into a pariah because of a joke. England is now as bad as America, and that’s no laughing matter. Misandry, thy real name is no sense of humor. Anyway, who today knows what’s fish and what is fowl? Sexual identity is no longer clear. Which makes me wonder about The Spectator and even Takimag. The Spectator is full of young ladies, but none of them have fallen in love —certainly not with me—and I’ve never seen any of them cry. Maybe they’re all men, after all. My, my, things are getting very complicated. In America, things are straight to the point. They take everything seriously, even their newsreaders. They call them anchors and they expect them to act like true gentlemen. No fibs. One of them, Brian Williams of NBC, lost his job worth $10 million per annum for claiming he came under fire in Iraq when he hadn’t. “He has lost the trust of his viewers,” said a pompous NBC executive. Personally, I have never trusted newsreaders because they read what their bosses choose for them to read. And news channels are all left-wing, starting with the BBC. The only one I trust is Emily Maitlis, and that is because she has lovely arms and legs. For absolutely no other reason. At last year’s Spectator summer party, I cozied up to Emily and told her that she looked like Andromache. “Er, wasn’t she the one who killed her children?” said a puzzled Emily while trying to get far away from me in the crush. No, Emily, you have to brush up on your classics. Andromache was the wife of the noblest Trojan, Hector, and you were thinking of Medea, wife of Jason, and the original child molester. And original feminist, I might add.
Oh well, one cannot have everything or everybody. But let’s not forget, desiring is often better than getting, or so those who never get it tell us. There is longing and belonging and all sorts of things that come to mind when drinking, and I’m looking forward to drinking with my buddy Jeremy Clarke this week for his book party. I have written the forward, or think I did, and I only hope he does not bring the bottle of absinthe that he brought to the Spectator party four years ago, the one that made me write foolish things about certain ladies who work there. Jeremy and I are a very bad-for-our-health combination. Our upcoming cruise in late August is going to be a test for both of us. I am in better health, but my liver is old and tired. So is my ticker. Jeremy’s holding bravely against his cancer and is much younger. We might both survive it, and then we might not. I don’t think either of us is too concerned about survival. Having a good time is far more important. Who was it who said, “Young men do, old men die”? It was half Oscar, half Taki. See you this Friday at your book launch, Jeremy, but for God’s sake don’t bring the absinthe. It’s supposed to be illegal anyway, or perhaps I’m wrong, so bring it, what the hell.
The American flag is a symbol of Native American genocide. We need to take it down. While you”re at it, take down the Union Jack. It symbolizes 700 years of war against Scotland. The Kiss logo has an SS that looks like Hitler’s SS. That’s offensive to all the Holocaust survivors in the audience. The Young Turks is offensive to the 1.5 Armenian Christians they murdered. They need to #ChangeTheName. I”m offended when rednecks call themselves rednecks because the term comes from Scotch-Irish slaves who couldn”t handle the Southern heat. That word should be as illegal as “kaffir” is in South Africa. White people themselves are a symbol of hatred and oppression, which is why I”ve begun a social media campaign called #TakeUsDown where white people post pictures of themselves facedown on the pavement. Anything that anyone deems offensive should be taken down immediately. Except, of course, for depictions of Mao or Stalin. They may have collectively killed more than 100 million people, but they did it for the greater good so it’s cool. Also, if a massacre killed rich people, it’s funny.
Just kidding. Going back over history and taking out the naughty bits is about as un-American as it gets. Yet here we are. South Carolina may be taking down the Confederate flag from its “perch in front of the State House” at the end of the month. Alabama removed the Confederate flag from capitol grounds on Wednesday. Mississippi is talking about removing the Confederate emblem from its flag, while Virginia and Maryland will be taking it off their license plates. Apple is removing App Store games with the Confederate flag. Walmart, eBay, Sears, Target, Etsy, and Amazon have banned it too (rumor has it Amazon was instructed by the government to do so). All this because a lunatic shot up a church.
A common refrain during all this controversy is that it’s no big deal and nobody’s banning the flag, they just want it relegated to museums where it won”t hurt anybody’s feelings. They said the same thing about Pamela Geller. Why bother having an art contest if it’s going to make people mad? Well, because capitulating to the perpetually offended is a thankless task that never ends. Did Veruca Salt cheer up when she finally got a ticket to Willy Wonka’s factory tour? No, she kept bitching until she ended up in the garbage. We”re heading to the same place.
Black people in America are far from spoiled English girls, but the culture of shame has the same effect no matter who it touches. Capitulation leads to more capitulation until you simply cease to be. I”m a Canadian immigrant hailing from a province that made the English language illegal. French Canadians claim we treated them like the “white niggers of America” so we lay down and let them enforce French from coast to coast. The English made Montreal into one of the strongest cities in the world, but that all changed in 1970 when French terrorists drove the country into a state of emergency. Today, Montreal is an economic dead zone where the few English who didn”t leave have sequestered themselves to the West Island, sorry, “l’Ouest de l’Ã®le.”
Coming at this from an outsider’s perspective and without hundreds of years of shame to cloud my judgment, the whole thing looks ridiculous. History is written by the victors, and they tell me the Civil War was all about the racist South refusing to abolish slavery. I”m sure this has some truth to it, but it appears that the South just didn”t like being told what to do. I think Lincoln made the war about slavery as a PR stunt and it was really about secession. This act of treason was something many states tried to do. Today, about a third of Texans feel they should have the right to secede. Making the entire four years that killed 620,000 men all about slavery is like saying the 37 million people who died in WWI did so for Archduke Franz Ferdinand. 620,000 is about how many Americans died in all other wars combined. With today’s American population it would be like losing 6 million. In that sense, it’s an American Holocaust. I thought it was verboten to forget those. Soldiers don”t die for ideology. They die for their brothers. I don”t know where liberals get this idea that every private gets to have a brandy with his superiors and discuss the finer points of the war. You go over the hill with your fellow soldiers because you don”t want them to go it alone. That’s not about slavery. As an immigrant, that flag is a symbol of hundreds of thousands of men who died in the most devastating war in America’s history. To remove it from view is to denigrate those soldiers. Sure, racists and lunatics might like it. So what? All cats are mammals. All dogs are mammals. All cats are not dogs.
In upstate New York, the flag seems to mean “redneck.” They wear it on their clothes to say they are proud to be working-class and they ain”t got much time for city folk (which sounds weird because they all have that New York accent). Basically, it means “Fuck Manhattan.” When I was shopping for PVC pipe at a Home Depot up there last week, an old lady asked me what it was for. I explained that I was making a potato cannon and that confused her more. I said, “It’s a redneck gun,” and she replied, “Ooh, well, I”m probably a redneck so I ought to have heard of it.”
“I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you.”
So said Nadine Collier, who lost her mother in the massacre at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, offering forgiveness to Dylann Roof, who confessed to the atrocity that took the lives of nine churchgoers at that Wednesday night prayer service and Bible study.
If there is a better recent example of what it means to be a Christian, I am unaware of it. Collier and the families of those slain showed a faithfulness to Christ’s gospel of love and forgiveness that many are taught but few are strong enough to follow, especially at times like this.
Their Christian witness testifies to a forgotten truth: If slavery was the worst thing that happened to black folks brought from Africa to America, Christianity was the best.
Charleston, too, gave us an example of how a city should behave when faced with horror.
Contrast the conduct of those good Southern people who stood outside that church in solidarity with the aggrieved, with the Ferguson mobs that looted and burned and the New York mobs that chanted for the killing of cops when the Eric Garner grand jury declined to indict.
Yet, predictably, the cultural Marxists, following Rahm Emanuel’s dictum that you never let a crisis go to waste, descended like locusts.
As Roof had filmed himself flaunting a Confederate battle flag, the cry went out to tear that flag down from the war memorial in Columbia, South Carolina, and remove its vile presence everywhere in America.
Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post appeared front and center on its op-ed page with this call to healing: “The Confederate battle flag is an American swastika, the relic of traitors and totalitarians, symbol of a brutal regime, not a republic. The Confederacy was treason in defense of a still deeper crime against humanity: slavery.”
But if Jenkins’ hate-filled screed is right, if the Confederacy was Nazi Germany on American soil, then not only the battle flag must go.
The Confederate War Memorial on the capitol grounds honors the scores of thousands of South Carolinians who died in the lost cause. And if that was a cause of traitors and totalitarians and about nothing but slavery, ought not that memorial be dynamited?
Even as ISIS is desecrating tombs in Palmyra, Syria, the cultural purge of the South has begun.
Rep. Steve Cohen wants the name of legendary cavalryman Nathan Bedford Forrest removed from Forrest Park in Memphis and his bust gone from the capitol; Sen. Mitch McConnell wants the statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis removed from the Kentucky capitol.
Governors are rushing to remove replicas of the battle flag from license plates, with Virginia’s Terry McAuliffe the most vocal. Will McAuliffe also demand that the statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson be removed from Monument Avenue in Richmond?
“Take Down a Symbol of Hatred,” rails The New York Times.
But the battle flag is not so much a symbol of hatred as it is an object of hatred, a target of hatred. It evokes a hatred of the visceral sort that we see manifest in Jenkins’ equating of the South of Washington, Jefferson, John Calhoun, Andrew Jackson and Lee with Hitler’s Third Reich.
In the realm of science fiction, few things are as much fun to read about as the near extinction of the human race.
Some awful catastrophe strikes humanity, wiping out all but a tiny remnant. Assuming the annihilated masses had some foreknowledge of the event, how did they behave as doom approached? How will the remnant get the species up and running again? Will they be able to rebuild technical civilization?
On the last of those questions, Greg Cochran recently hosted a good related discussion at his blog:
One of our local error sources suggested that it would be impossible to rebuild technical civilization, once fallen. Now if every human were dead I”d agree, but in most other scenarios it wouldn”t be particularly difficult, assuming that the survivors were no more silly and fractious than people are today.
If the planet Earth itself is to be killed off, sci-fi authors have usually set their stories in the future when space travel is sufficiently advanced that the survivors can head out to colonize elsewhere, as in Anthony Burgess” The End of the World News.
However, the fictional catastrophe works on the imagination most strongly when it is set in the present or very near future, in a world familiar to us. For authors, that has meant keeping the planet intact while culling Homo sapiens by war, disease, or starvation.
The premise of Neal Stephenson’s new novel Seveneves is that the human race of 2020 or so will have just enough of a toehold in space to give us”a few of us”some chance of surviving the destruction of all life on Earth, if allowed a couple of years” lead time. We don”t have the technology to colonize other planets, but we might survive in Earth orbit. Stephenson can therefore destroy the planet without having recourse to warp drives or multigeneration starships.
So the dread event arrives. The moon suddenly disintegrates, cause unknown. There are seven big pieces and innumerable smaller ones.
At first there seems no cause for alarm. The fragments are gravitationally bound. The single, solid moon has been replaced by a rubble cloud; that’s all. The big pieces”orbiting their common center of gravity”occasionally collide and shatter, but there seems to be no danger in that.
Then someone does the math. The number of collisions will increase exponentially, reaching a “hockey stick” upward turn in two years” time. Then trillions of moon fragments will fall from orbit onto the Earth, superheating the atmosphere and sterilizing the surface. The bombardment will last for millennia.
The first two-thirds of Seveneves describes the frenzied two-year effort to get enough people and materials into orbit for life up there to be self-sustaining. The International Space Station, somewhat enhanced from its actual current configuration, plays a lead role.
At this point in what we used to call “the Space Age” (remember?), ISS”now in its 15th year of continuous occupation”is deeply unglamorous. Probably most Americans are not aware of its existence. Neal Stephenson is very aware. He has researched ISS down to the last lug. It’s the toehold he needs to make his story work.
So this first two-thirds of the book is in fact not so much science fiction as engineering fiction. There are no just-barely-imaginable scientific possibilities in play here, only Newtonian mechanics and a relentless press of technical problems large and small. Large: Those trillions of falling rocks will fall through the orbital zone ISS inhabits. Small: The human eyeball loses its shape in prolonged weightlessness, so everyone needs new eyeglasses.
You either like this kind of thing or you don”t. I couldn”t get enough of it, and breezed through these first 566 pages. (Stephenson is not a devotee of minimalism in prose.)
What about the human element, though? Are there actual people here with characters that we can engage with imaginatively? There had better be, because Stephenson’s story, especially the latter third of it, works the human and social sciences almost as hard as it does the physical ones, drawing from a similarly deep well of knowledge (although I winced a bit at his appeal to epigenetics).