Is The Media Really Trying To Take Down Trump?

TrumpAndLesterHolt

There is no doubt that the vast majority of media coverage of Trump has been negative.  That’s not merely my opinion, nor the opinion of most Americans, but has been confirmed in a study released in May.  

According to this Shorenstein Center study, headed by Professor Thomas Patterson, 80% of the tone of coverage of President Trump in his first 100 days was negative, compared to 41% for Obama, and 57% for Bush.  Furthermore, it should be noted that most major media outlets gave higher than 80% negative coverage, with CNN and NBC topping the chart at 93%.  The overall average is only as low as 80% because of FOX News, which gave Trump only 52%, thus lowering the overall average significantly.  And it should also be considered that FOX’s ratings have been declining in the last year

Is the media just doing their jobs?

It’s certainly possible that Trump is simply so bad, that the media is giving him such negative coverage simply because the news is really that negative.  Trump has been President for seven months now, and I doubt that a further study on the tone of media coverage would reveal that the media is any less negative than they were during Trump’s first 100 days.  So if the coverage is this negative, than in seven months, surely Trump should have done something, or a series of somethings, terrible enough to warrant such negative coverage.

The Media and Candidate Trump

First, let’s think back to media coverage of Trump during the Presidential race in 2016.  During the Republican Primary, the media didn’t seem all that negative towards Trump.  Mainstream media, such as NPR, sometimes highlighted how Trump was actually reaching out to LGBT persons, which was a daring and probably principled move for a Republican candidate.  

Once it was down to Trump v. Clinton in the General Election, however, the tone became particularly negative towards Trump.  With Trump struggling to gain support among women, the media just happened across an 11 year old audio recording of Trump making his infamous comments about his ability to grab certain women in their intimate areas because he’s “rich and famous”.  These comments were disgusting, and the American people certainly had a right to know this about a candidate on the ballot for the highest office in the land.  

But consider the timing!  The first presidential debate was over.  Trump was being criticized for having interrupted Hillary Clinton repeatedly during that debate, and accused of “manterrupting” and “mansplaining”.  This may have been hurting him with women voters.  So right before the second debate, this story about Trump making those comments, 11 years before, just happened to come out?  Did Access Hollywood just happen across that story at that particular point in time?  Right before the second debate?  In a very narrow election?  When Trump really needed to not lose women voters in droves?

Despite poll after poll showing that Trump was sure to lose, Trump actually won.  The media was more than happy to report these polls, but in fairness to the media, most of these polls were not conducted by them, and they were pretty consistent.  

The Media, President Trump, and Russiagate

Since the election, CNN in particular has focused heavily on the accusation that Russia hacked some aspect of the election in order to favor Trump.  If it could be proven that Trump engaged in illegal – key word “illegal” – collusion with Russia during the election, that would certainly be grounds for impeachment.  If Russia was indeed hacking the DNC (and RNC by the way), releasing both real and fake news, and trying to influence our election, wasn’t it just as much news, maybe more so, during the presidential race as it is now?  

The Media Research Center has conducted a recent study of three major news networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) from May 17th – June 20th.  The study shows that these three networks spent nearly half or more of their air time covering the Russiagate/Comey story.  ABC was at the top of the list, with the program ABC World News Tonight having devoted 63% of its air time to Russiagate/Comey.  

Is the story really that big?  Maybe.  However, we’ve heard something about possible Russia interference since the middle of last year.  We’ve heard about possible collusion with Trump at least since the election.  During all of this time, despite ongoing investigations by the FBI and CIA, we have yet to see any solid evidence of illegal activity.  

There is some evidence that CNN is pushing this story just for ratings.  Project Veritas managed to get CNN Sr. Producer John Bonifield on camera admitting that “it’s ratings”.  He also admitted “it’s mostly bullshit right now”.  It is true that this was a hidden camera, and Bonifield was asked leading questions.  However, it does show that there has been pressure from the highest ranks at CNN to keep pushing the Russia story.  If you are questioning the validity of this story, that’s fair.  Project Veritas should be taken with a grain of salt.  But USA Today did report shortly following this video that CNN did confirm that this is legitimate, but stood by Bonifield despite his comments.

Consider the timing

If the media really wants to take down Trump, how would they go about it?  During the Presidential race, the best way would be to appeal to voters.  Would the Russiagate story really have had any effect on the election had the mainstream media focused on that in October and November of 2016?  Clinton’s base, it’s safe to say, is most concerned about this.  But the fickle Berniebros, whom Clinton needed, were likely far less concerned about Russia.  But women’s rights?  Sexual assault?  Of course!  Either it’s an amazing coincidence that the media just happened across that Access Hollywood recording from 11 years before at that point in time, right before the second presidential debate; or, it was the perfect time to both cripple Trump’s reputation among women voters and demoralize Trump right before his second debate, knowing full well that Trump was already worried about how he was perceived by women following the first debate.

And Russia!  For months and months we’ve been subjected to ad nauseum interviews with the media asking everybody who’s somebody what they think about the Russia probe, even though until a few weeks ago, there was zero evidence of collusion.  Only now is there a shred of evidence, that being the revelation that Don Trump Jr. admitted to meeting with a Russian lawyer in the hopes of obtaining negative information on Hillary Clinton.  With Trump 3 ½ years from his re-election bid (assuming he runs again), there’s not much point in influencing voters if you hope to take down Trump any time soon.  The best bet at this point is to obstruct him from getting anything done, and take a long shot at impeachment.

It is possible that Russiagate just happens to be the news right now.  Even though there’s a major healthcare bill working its way through Congress, even though ISIS is being driven out of Iraq, even though unemployment is historically low in the US right now, even though police shootings are still a major problem in the country, even though…I could go on…but maybe Russiagate really is more important that all of this.  Or maybe, despite minimal to no evidence after all this time, maybe it’s just the perfect time to bog Trump down with scandal, hurting his ability to get anything passed through a Congress nearly as divisive and partisan as the Reconstruction era following the American Civil War, and constantly raising the possibility of impeachment.  

Either the timing and relevance of these stories are an amazing coincidence, or many in the media really are trying to take down Trump.  

Coincidence?  Or is the media fiercely anti-Trump?

In a short email conversation, Professor Patterson (from the aforementioned study on negative coverage of Trump’s first 100 days) stated:

The day journalists wake up thinking their job is to take down the president is the day that they lose their claim to the public trust. Journalists need to act as watchdogs on those in power but the same standards need to be applied to officials of both parties.”

Considering that media coverage of Bush was only a little more negative than Obama, I don’t suggest that the mainstream media is particularly partisan.  I actually thought CNN’s coverage of the 2012 race between Obama and Romney was very fair, and I remember Anderson Cooper taking then DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Shultz to task for misquoting the LA Times and exaggerating Romney’s position on abortion.

It’s certainly possible, even very likely, that for whatever reason, that much of the mainstream media, particularly CNN, really doesn’t like Donald Trump.  Whatever you might think of Trump, you should be far more concerned that the mainstream media would abuse their power and the public trust this way.

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28 Reasons This Christian Liberal Is Done Talking To Conservatives

Tiffany Willis’s insightful article saddens me.  In 2015, she laid out 28 reasons she is done talking to her conservative Christian friends and family.  I’m saddened that America is getting to where we can’t discuss our differences anymore without wanting to strangle each other, but I do, nonetheless, understand where Ms. Willis is coming from.

I respond only as myself.  I’m a devout Christian, very political, but I don’t identify with the religious “right” or “left”.  In an Episcopal Church with a very left of center parish on average, I’m the “token conservative”, but put me in a room full of southern Baptists, and I turn into the liberal faster than Jesus makes water into wine.  

So, that’s enough context.  Let me go through each of her points, and I’ll try not to Tu Quoque each of her points, though that will come up in many cases.  From here on I’ll be addressing Tiffany Willis directly.

  1. You support revisionist history.

Here’s my first Tu Quoque.  Yes, I’ve seen the revisionist history that comes from the right.  I’ll use Civil War history as an example.  I’ve grown up white in the south, and am very familiar with the neo-confederate narrative.  “It wasn’t about slavery, it was states’ rights.”  Yet right now, I see revisionism coming from the left.  Just because neoconfederates go above and beyond to deny the importance of slavery, doesn’t mean that the exact opposite must hold true.  I’m not interested in defending the Confederacy.  But a fine man on the wrong side of history is getting his name dragged through the mud lately.  I’m talking about Gen. Robert E. Lee.  He was a complicated man who didn’t want to secede from the Union, and wanted slavery to be phased out.  Yet he fought for the Confederacy.  I, now, here bold faced lies claiming that Lee was a “white supremacist” who supported slavery.  While neoconfederates should be held accountable for their historical cherry-picking and denial, the victors shouldn’t be free to tell bold faced lies about the side they defeated just because – social justice!   

This is just one example, and I want to move on to the other 27

2. You cite Jesus as your reasoning for rejecting marriage equality.

I’m with you on this one!  I’ll defend someone’s right to believe what they will, but that’s not the same as defending the belief.  Jesus never once mentioned same-sex marriage, I’ve talked about my own views on this in detail.  

On the theology I’m with you.  Though I wouldn’t stop talking to my fellow Christians who are die-hard “traditional marriage” advocates.  I would say to them, however, gay marriage hasn’t hurt the sanctity of my marriage, nor your’s.  

3. You use Biblical scripture to excuse yourself from feeding the hungry.

9. You assume that everyone who needs help are losers and parasites who refuse to work.

I’ve see this too, and honestly, it reminds me of Satan quoting scripture to Jesus in his efforts to tempt Him.  I share your position on this.  If you’re tired of talking to the Christian right about this, I understand.  But I usually point out to them, as you did somewhere in this article, that the majority of welfare recipients have a working head of household.  They do work.  It’s just hard to feed a family on 40 hours of minimum wage.

4. You lie when you say you value “freedom of religion.”

Tu Quoque number 2.  Yes, I know.  They say “freedom of religion” and then try to suppress Islam and justify by saying “Islam is an ideology, not a religion.”  Apparently one politician gets to decide what Islam is.

With that said, I don’t know if you, Ms. Willis, are like this.  But anyone who supports punishing a cake decorator for not wanting to provide a wedding cake for a gay wedding, or some grandma for not wanting to provide flowers; anyone who supports this is a bully, and has no respect for religious freedom.  And don’t give me all that “Jim Crow” stuff!  A gay couple having to go to 1 of the other 29 bakeries instead is not the equivalent of a black family sleeping in their cars because no hotel would give them a room.  

5. You claim God speaks to you and tells you to do things.

I always get uneasy about this.  I long ago made the mistake of thinking God had “a plan for me”.  Maybe He does, but if He does, it’s best that I not try to figure it out.  Yes, the religious right does this, and I think it’s dangerous.  If people think they’re doing God’s work, is there anything they won’t do?

6. You question my faith.

I can only think of once when I was talking to someone on the religious right, who questioned my faith, and it didn’t offend me.  He was your typical creationist type, and I was talking about science, and the universe, etc.  And admitted that scientifically, I can neither prove nor disprove God.  He said it sounds like I have a “weak faith”.  He was right.  

That is the only exception.  Otherwise, who is anyone to question my faith, or your’s?  I know exactly what you mean here.  It’s like if I don’t embrace their particular brand of Christianity, they speak to me like I’ve never heard the “good news” before.  I cannot stand supposed Christians trying to “convert me” or “save me”, when I’ve already there!  I don’t question their faith, though I may question their understanding of scripture.  

7. You care more about your guns than you do about children.

This is a tough one.  But you’re thinking – It shouldn’t be!  Choice between guns and children, children win – hands down!  But is it really that simple?  The problem runs much deeper.  Our society is hurting.  People have no sense of hope, they felt alone, unloved, unimportant.  They want to matter.  They don’t get the psychological treatment they need.  There are ticking time bombs walking around every day.  And one of them goes off.  Banning guns, or restricting guns, isn’t getting at the root of the problem.  

8. You get excited about people dying.

18 You love war, death, and destruction.

I won’t Tu Quoque, because at the time this was written, 2015, it wasn’t quite applicable, yet.  But in 2017, we’ve just seen the Democrats nominate the biggest warmonger they could find – Hillary Clinton.  I just watched my loving, compassionate Church full of the tolerant left, rent their clothes and gnash their teeth, all because they didn’t get their warmongering “first woman president”.  

Ms. Willis, on the issue of war, and Christianity, I’m with you.  But it seems that since 2015, the tables have turned.  I hope that you did not in 2016 engage the same kind of hypocrisy you’ve criticized the religious right for by supporting that warmonger-in-chief just because – “first woman president”.  

10. You weren’t concerned about uninsured people– including me.

I know what you mean.  Jesus healed the sick.  

I have different reasons for opposing Obamacare.  Obamacare is a mandate to buy private insurance from for profit companies, with no incentive to keep rates down.  Rates have nearly doubled since Obamacare was implemented, and more than doubled for some.  I’m all for affordable healthcare, but this is not affordable health care.  If you personally benefited from it, then good for you.  But many have not.  What we need is at least a limited form of single-payer.  I’m sure you’re familiar with what that is.  But I’ll point out that by entrenching the private sector insurance, we’re only making single payer that much more difficult to obtain.  So I support the intention behind Obamacare, but I don’t support Obamacare.  It’s not what was intended.

11. The Creation Museum — that is all.

Agreed.

12. You’re liberal in youth, yet grow conservative in age.

Interesting story there.  Hardly seems a reason to be angry at someone.  (Calling you a “baby killer” is certain reason to be angry)  But for becoming conservative, in and of itself – people change.  I don’t want to be entrenched in an ideology my whole life.  I change my positions in light of new evidence, and my views are still evolving.  I’d encourage others to do the same.

13. You don’t want people who disagree with you to vote.

I know what you mean.  A former student of mine was earning his US citizenship.  I congratulated him.  He was proud he’d be able to vote.  I again congratulated him, even knowing full well he was about to vote for the aforementioned “warmonger in chief”.  

I share your disdain for gerrymandering, and wish we’d do more to ensure that districts are geographically logical, rather than political.  

14. Some of your best friends are black. Or Mexican.

There’s a difference between “prejudice” and “racism”, and I think that’s what you’re seeing here.  I see it all the time.  The reason your conservative friends deny being racist is because they don’t have an ideology of racism.  They are, however, prejudiced.  They tend to prejudge people based on such characteristics as skin color.  But they don’t flat our refuse to associate with people who are different.  That’s how they manage to have their “black friend” and still have their negative attitude towards blacks more broadly.  It’s sad.  But I think you’ll get through to them better (if you’re interested in trying anymore) by knowing the difference and discussing their prejudices with them.  Make it clear you know they aren’t in the KKK, and go from there.  Just my advice.

15. You scream about undocumented immigrant children at the border, but you hire Mexicans to do your dirty work.

Definitely hypocritical, and disgusting behavior if they’re exploiting these people.

16. You insist on calling undocumented immigrants “illegals” and “aliens.”

This is a tough one for me, from a religious perspective.  I know we should “welcome the stranger to our land”.  I also know we’re a sovereign nation with laws, and “he who bears the sword bears it not in vain.”  If people cross the border illegally, then I’m sorry, but they are illegal immigrants.  I’m not calling them less than human, but it is criminal behavior.  There is a difference I realize between crossing the border illegally, and crossing legally but overstaying your visa.  But I have no problem calling illegal immigrants – illegal immigrants.  I don’t wish them any harm, but I do want the law enforced.  They should be deported.  I’ll welcome the stranger to our land who comes here LEGALLY.  

17. You don’t mind using force against “lesser” groups to get what you want.

Tu Quoque time!  Have you not seen all the suppression coming from the left lately?  As despicable as the Westboro Baptists are, they aren’t suppressing freedom of speech.  But what about people shouting down speakers at universities?  What about people blocking the Sec. of Education from doing her job and visiting a public school?  Obama calls them out!  Will you call them out?  I have no problem calling out anyone, left wing, right wing, chicken wing on a string; who suppresses freedom of speech.

19. Speaking of war, you think draft dodging is OK and military service is for the little people.

This is a better description of Republican elites than your conservative friends and family.  But I share your disdain for chicken-hawks.

 20. You claim to care about the Constitution, but in reality you don’t.

Tu Quoque number…4?  Who’s counting?

Yeah, speaking of “undocumented immigrants”, what’s your attitude toward “sanctuary cities”?  If you care about the Constitution, that includes the authority of Congress, not local governments, to make laws regarding immigration and naturalization (Article I, Sec. 8, clause 4).  If you don’t support enforcing our immigration laws, than you care no more for the Constitution than many authoritarian “conservatives” who strip our civil liberties in the name of “national security”.

21. It’s impossible for you to see your privilege.

I’ve no disagreement with this statement, in and of itself.  But I hope this isn’t a thinly veiled reference to “white privilege”.  

  1. You don’t care about children.

I know.  If we’re going to be pro-life, we should be pro-life all the way.  I’m with you!

23. You’re greedy and miserable.

Mixed opinions here.  I know what you mean about being thankful and all.  As we see the wealth gap between rich and poor widen, however, I don’t see why the declining middle class should just put up with it in silence just because there are others worse off.  A stronger middle class is good for the poor, also, as it means more opportunity, and therefore a better chance for them to escape from poverty.  I won’t “check my privilege” while some politicians send our jobs to China.

24. You think our religion is the only one.

Half Tu Quoque.  The right is much worse about this than the left.  But on the left, I see a different version of this.  I’ve encountered some on the Christian left who think THEY are the true Christians.  I might agree with them on welfare, aversion to war, gay marriage, etc. but the second I suggest that we should not encourage promiscuity, that Jesus spending time with the prostitutes was NOT an endorsement of that lifestyle, they shun me!  I actually got banned from a rather large Christian Left group on facebook just for adding some context to their cherry picked Bible verses.  I think they interpreted it as “slut shaming”.  

25. You are lazy and you refuse to read.

We should all listen to each other.  Your conservative friends are like this not because of laziness, but because they feel entrenched.  It’s FOX News vs. Every Other Mainstream Media Source In America.  That’s how they see the world.  I’m sure you’re not like this, but some of your liberal friends might be the types who get all smug and act like CNN is the “real news”.  We should take it all with a grain of salt.  But we should listen to each other.

26. Your misfortune is God’s blessing.

Like with number 5, I agree with your point, but maybe not for the same reason.  I prefer not to claim I know God’s plan.  It’s dangerous, and I won’t tempt the Lord.

27. “Everyone has their lot in life.”

28. You think you’re the only one working and paying taxes.

I’m with you on this, and I’ve even seen it with government programs.  I had this man, Southern Baptist, railing against welfare recipients who “won’t work”, so he says.  Yet this same man will fight to the death for Medicare Part D, which, much like Obamacare, is about the most expensive and inefficient way to make healthcare (prescription drugs in this case) affordable.  It’s just subsidizing private, for profit Big Pharma with no incentive for them to lower prices.  

So yes, I’m with you here, too.

 

In Conclusion

Tiffany Willis, this may have been an odd way to go about it.  My original purpose in writing this is to hopefully get you to change your mind, because I fear this breakdown of communication, both in our country, and in our faith, will only make hostilities fester into something that will make the next generation suffer.  

As you can see, we agree on some things, and not on others.  But even with those “on the right” with whom you disagree on nearly everything, like me with those “undocumented immigrants”, you may not agree with their behavior, but remember they are human.  You can reach them!  Just regroup!

The Benefits of Reactionary Politics

Seemingly reactionary politics are actually a far more complex ideology that has for too long been marginalized by mainstream establishments in western civilization.  In this response to a New York magazine essay, I consider the merits of this “reactionary” ideology.

 

Andrew Sullivan’s recent essay for the New York magazine is a good example of how something can be insightful, and yet fundamentally flawed.  His subtitle “An open-minded inquiry into the close-minded ideology…” puts the article off to a rough start.  I do think Sullivan is genuinely open-minded after reading the entire article, but he is too quick to call these “reactionaries” close-minded.  Are they close minded for being skeptical of globalization?  Are they close minded for rejecting what most in academia swear by?  Or is most of academia close-minded for not giving serious thought to the possibility that globalization will do more harm than good?

Despite Sullivan’s inconsistent critical thinking, I do think this article is a genuine effort to understand this movement he’s calling “the reactionary right”.  First, he draws a brilliant distinction between conservatism and reactionism.  This is spot on!  Conservatives, as the very name suggests, seek to conserve the status quo, and implement modest, incremental changes.  The changes they seek are to build upon what is already there, rather than change it fundamentally.  In this last Presidential race, Clinton was actually the conservative.  Clearly, the conservatives are not who elected Trump.  As many in the media stated many times over, Trump voters were “thirsty for change”.  While I think the term “reactionary” doesn’t do this movement justice, Sullivan’s description of these reactionaries is astute:

“Reactionary thought begins, usually, with acute despair at the present moment and a memory of a previous golden age. It then posits a moment in the past when everything went to hell and proposes to turn things back to what they once were. It is not simply a conservative preference for things as they are, with a few nudges back, but a passionate loathing of the status quo and a desire to return to the past in one emotionally cathartic revolt.”

Sullivan’s first-hand experience, and my own

In the essay, Sullivan discussed his own background as a “reactionary”.

“Growing up steeped in traditional religion, in a household where patriotism seemed as natural as breathing, I became infatuated with a past that no longer existed. I loved the countryside that was quickly being decimated by development, a Christianity that was being overwhelmed by secularism, and an idea of England, whose glories — so evident in the literature I read, the history I had absorbed, and the architecture I admired — had self-evidently crumbled into dust.”

I can see that Sullivan is genuine in describing his own experiences, but also that he doesn’t do it justice.

Like Mr. Sullivan, I too have, in the past, fit this description.  In my early adult years, despite my mixed heritage and German surname, I strongly identified with my English heritage to the point of wanting to “go back”.  I romanticized England, the land of my forefathers, and imagined it much like Sullivan describes above.  I’ve discussed my dismay at what I actually found before.  I too know the despair of modernity, when compared to a glossy and cherry-picked image of a past I’ve never experienced except in my mind.  I admit that to this very day, this “reactionism”, which I prefer to call “nostalgiaholism”, is my instinct.  This level of nostalgia really can have an intoxicating effect, and I think of myself now as a recovered nostalgiaholic.  Despite this, the ideals of “reactionaries” should not be dismissed, and may have merits.

Sullivan makes two assumptions that should be challenged.  1. That looking to the past equates to resisting progress, and 2. That change is necessarily good.

The benefits of nostalgia in moderation

As drinking in moderation has proven health benefits, I contend that nostalgia in moderation can also benefit the health of society and human progress.  What Sullivan is calling “reactionism”, Roger Scruton calls this “restorationism”, and distinguishes it from mainstream conservatism, and this label is probably the most accurate.  Reactionaries, after all, would not be proactive, nor have any particular goal other than to impede some sort of change they don’t like.  But restorationists see something from the past they’d like to restore.

While trying to fully restore an entire era is not only dangerous but impossible, this does not mean that the past should be ignored.  Many times in human history, great leaps forward have been motivated by nostalgia.  It was nostalgia for ancient Rome that drove Europe out of the Dark Ages and into the Renaissance.  It was nostalgia for the logical thinking of ancient Greek philosophers that motivated the creation of the university.  What is more civilized than the critical thinking skills developed out of the early modern university?

Sullivan refers to the Roman Catholic “Counter Reformation” as part of this “reactionary” tradition.  However, it should be noted that the Counter Reformation brought about much needed reforms in the Roman Catholic Church, much to the benefit of those nations that were predominantly Catholic, such as finally ending the practice of “selling indulgences”, and disciplining corruption among the episcopate.

The United States of America was motivated also by nostalgia.  Go back in time to 1776.  Monarchies and oligarchies are the norm.
Republican form of government?  Isn’t that the primitive government the early Romans had before they became an empire?  Oh yeah, they also tried that in England under Cromwell.  Didn’t he turn into a dictator and massacre Irish priests, nuns, and laity in their parish?  Why would anyone want a Republic?

But the Founding Fathers looked to those few examples of a successful republic in the ancient world with fondness.  They also saw the failures of the Cromwell Republic in England, and were careful not to repeat those failures.  (The first amendment guarantee of “free expression” of religion is a crucial component of that.)  Rather than living in the now of 1776, the Founding Fathers lived in the past, the ancient past.  Thanks to the ancient past, they were able to restore a republican form of government.

The Church of England has made leaps forward not only for the Church itself, but also for Great Britain, motivated by nostalgia.  In the 19th century, many in the Church of England started longing for their Catholic roots.  Few desired a full reunion with the Roman Catholic Church, but they did push for the restoration of many Catholic styles of worship.  Consequently, they also found themselves increasingly sympathetic to the plight of their long oppressed Catholic brothers in Ireland.  In the political sphere, they pushed for better treatment for the Irish with some success, and at least brought an end to formalized suppression of Catholic worship in Ireland.

Then comes the Irish themselves.  Around the time of World War I, they began looking to the past.  Ireland was free once, wasn’t it?  They began pining for an independent Irish nation.  They also looked to the United States for inspiration.  This all sparked the Irish revolution, leading to a now small but thriving Irish Republic.  How fortunate that the Irish looked to the past, rather than embracing the now of 1916.

The Fallacy of Novelty – Change isn’t always good

People don’t necessarily resist change just because they are stubborn and set in their ways.  Most academics would in principle agree with the statement – skepticism is a healthy component of critical thinking.  Yet, when it comes to “progress”, suddenly skepticism is to be viewed as the anti-thesis of critical thinking.  But this is not so.

Many of these salt-of-the-earth Americans are more intelligent than recognized by those in the ivory towers of academia, the Washington beltway, and the mainstream media.  There are many changes that they do embrace, some of which Sullivan has identified, such as a desire to fundamentally transform the administrative state.  But their skepticism of many proposed changes that are imposed upon them is perfectly healthy.  Rather than seeing it as a stubbornness that should, at best, be coaxed out of them, or a worst, should be broken by brute force; perhaps we should be humble enough to admit that they might actually be right, or at least partly correct.  Human history is full of examples, after all, of a nouveau elite imposing massive changes on a people with disastrous consequences.

The Cromwell example in England mentioned above is one such.

The Soviet Union is another such example.  Massive changes were imposed on the people of Russia.  Their historic Orthodox faith was suppressed.  Their economy was radically reorganized.  Dissenting opinions were not tolerated.  It was assumed that anyone who doubted communism was “insane” and they were institutionalized.  The Bolshevics never had the humility to consider the possibility that they may not have known what was best for everyone, all the time.  And the result was nearly a century of suffering, mass murder, starvation, and the final collapse of the Soviet Union.  Communism in China went similarly, though they managed not to collapse.

In America, the early progressives implemented some very positive changes that transformed out economy and led us to victory in World War II.  However, some of their imposed changes make up the darker chapters of American history.  Many of the early progressives sought to advance the human species with eugenics, which also influenced early Nazi Germany.  They also studied diseases on some “lesser human beings”.  Sadly, this meant the long oppressed African Americans, some of whom were denied treatment for syphilis as part of the Tuskagee Study in order to study its effects.  A growing number of blacks became skeptical of all that change.  They were right to be skeptical.

How fortunate that in Spain, many reactionaries resisted change!  Led by Franco, the seemingly benign center-left Republic was overthrown.  The momentum to overthrow this Republic was not a desire fascism, nor even Carlism (Spanish conservatism), though those elements were there.  The momentum that led Franco to victory came from the genuine fear that the Soviets were about to use the Spanish Republic to ultimately turn Spain into another Soviet satellite.  Spain could have been like Romania under Ceausescu.  Instead, it went from an authoritarian right government under Franco, to a monarchy, to a now a thriving democracy structured around a constitutional monarchy, much like Great Britain and several Nordic states.

As we should not hold on to tradition just for the sake of tradition, we should also not embrace change simply because it’s new.  Ideas old and new should be scrutinized, and it is the scrutiny of the new that is an essential function performed by these “reactionaries”.

 

Make America Great Again – What does this mean?

Many have dismissed this slogan as a racist desire to return to the Jim Crow era.  As a recovered nostalgiaholic, I can tell you that when I was on the wagon, I had no desire to restore white supremacy.  Actually, I had great sympathy for some of the most radical African Americans who wanted to embrace their African roots.  I wanted to embrace my English roots, they wanted to embrace their African roots…makes sense.  To me, the desire of any people to reconnect with their ancestors, their traditions, and the land of their forefathers, is a perfectly natural desire.  The philosopher Roger Scruton (the aforementioned restorationist) has argued that Islam is incompatible with the West, but he likewise has shown respect for the right of the Islamic people to be autonomous, and not have western values imposed upon their part of the world.    In so doing, Roger Scruton shows greater respect for the Islamic world than many a self-righteous neoliberal, who preaches compassion when calling for admitting refugees, but doesn’t hesitate to bomb entire nations into submission because they think that the west knows what is best for the whole world.

This claim that “reactionaries” or restorationists are racist is absurd, and is a cheap tactic by the globalists to racially isolate this movement as an exclusively white movement.  But people of all races across the world face different threats from the forces of globalization.

Sullivan, fortunately, is open minded enough not to dismiss this movement as “racist”.  But this is only a matter of strategy, rather than intellectual inquiry in the merits of “reactionary” politics.

“The American elite’s dismissal of these truths, its reduction of all resistance to cultural and demographic change as crude “racism” or “xenophobia,” only deepens the sense of siege many other Americans feel.”

It’s commendable that Sullivan seeks to reach out to these American under siege, but how can he expect them to be open to his ideas, if he is not also open to their ideas?

Sullivan himself not only acknowledges that globalization is very new and fragile, but admits to the negative consequences of globalization.  He refers to the work of Robert Putnam, who found that “people living in ethnically diverse settings appear to ‘hunker down,’ that is, to pull in like a turtle.”  I saw this firsthand during my time in London.  You’ll never meet a more unpleasant Englishman than the one who lives in London.  But I found the English I met anywhere outside of London to be far more pleasant and welcoming, contrary to stereotypes.

In America, we are more accustomed to multiculturalism, given our long history as a nation of immigrants.  While the 1950s were, admittedly, “whiter”, it is not the “whiteness” that so many in Trump’s base pine for.  My father tells me of a time in America when you could walk into a factory and get a job the same day.  As a political scientist, I look at a time in the past when there wasn’t as wide of a gap between rich and poor, and America had a strong middle class.  Do I really care how “white” the middle class is?!

The great thing about restorationism is that you don’t have to restore everything.  If we can restore America as a manufacturing giant, it doesn’t mean we have to restore Jim Crow.  Manufacturing in no way depends on racial segregation.  (If anything, segregation was an impediment, and manufacturing thrived in the 1950s despite it.)

We can debate whether or not restoring America’s manufacturing sector is possible, or a good idea if it is.  But to claim that this is “racist” is a cheap straw man argument designed to impede any legitimate debate.

The stale intellectual elites, and Mr. Sullivan 

At the risk of getting back on the wagon, I must lament at the changes I see in academia.  I joined academia in the hope of becoming a part of an institution that valued knowledge and critical thinking.  Many in academia still do.  But I see this under assault by a violent wave of political correctness.  The short term feelings of students and faculty takes precedent over the development of their minds.  Expanding the mind is sometimes a painful process, which involves challenging everything you know, or think you know.  But when doing so is “offensive”, it is increasingly suppressed by those claiming to be the open-minded advocates of the oppressed.  I see this in academia, but others on the #trumptrain see it all around them.

This is not progressive, but the antithesis of progress!  We do not move people forward by shielding them from scrutiny.  We do not move society forward by embedding a strict set of social norms and ostracizing those who challenge those norms.  It makes no difference whether those norms are conservative values or politically correct values.  As John Stuart Mill stated, “This mode of thinking makes the justification of restraints on discussion not a question of the truth of doctrines, but of their usefulness; and flatters itself by that means to escape the responsibility of claiming to be an infallible judge of opinions.”  This assumption of infallibility I see increasingly from academic elites, as well as beltway bureaucrats and media pundits.  Those Sullivan comes from that ilk, he is fortunately more humble.

Sullivan, like me, laments the rise of left-winged authoritarianism on university campuses.  Maybe, like me, he also looks fondly on the past, on the foundation of the university, as a place of open minds, thoughtful questions, and the pursuit of genuine, objective answers.  Restorationism deserves to be a part of the conversation.  It is not merely reactionary, it is a method of critical thought, rooted in the principle that human history contains many examples of past glories that can be revitalized in new and interesting ways.  Don’t get drunk on it, but we could all use a nightcap of nostalgia.

Why was Jesus crucified, really?

DarknessSoul

This is not going to be a predictable Christian theology lesson about how Jesus was a sacrifice for the sins of the world.  Though I’m a Christian, that explanation rings hollow to me.  Why would a just God punish his innocent son so gruesomely, effectively unleashing his rage towards mankind for all of our sins?  Is God so full of rage, and unable to control it, that He must unleash it somewhere, so He chose His son, because He is so merciful?  I think God is greater than that, and does not NEED to punish anyone.

But this does make me better understand our Islamic cousins.  Like me, they too cannot believe this explanation, which defies all logic and our most basic sense of right and wrong.  In Islam, they teach that Jesus wasn’t actually crucified, but that he ascended into Heaven, and Judas the betrayer was turned into the image of Jesus, and crucified in His place.  That is certainly a more just narrative, that Judas would suffer the very tribulation that he was prepared to subject Jesus to.

Despite that, I don’t actually believe the Islamic narrative of the crucifixion.  When I hear the words, “Jesus died for our sins”, I think of something very different.

Suffering

About 4 years ago, an attractive Serbian performing artist named Marina Abramovic subjected herself to what could be 6 hours of torture.  For 6 hours, she let anyone do whatever they wanted to her, using anything in the room.  The items included:

A rose. A feather. Grapes. Honey. A condom. A whip. A scalpel. A gun. And a single bullet.

Marina  So, as a man, I can imagine many possibilities.  What would you do?  You can be a gentleman.  Hand her a rose, feed her some grapes.  Sit her down, make her comfortable.  You can be silly, put her on one leg, tickle her with a feather, see if she can keep standing.  You can give in to your baser instincts, and take all manner of sexual advantage of her to your own immediate pleasure, with no regard for Marina’s feelings whatsover.  Selfish, indeed, but it can get worse.  You can engage the darkest corners of your soul.  You can torture her, whip her, cut her, you can even kill her.

In our lives, most of us like to think we are good people.  Most of us are “nice” to others.  A few of us maybe even volunteer to help others from time to time, and then go out to lunch and pat ourselves on the back because we are such “good people”.  But what happens when we are really put to the test?

Abramovic was willing to risk 6 hours of pain, molestations, and possible death, to answer this question.  Not surprisingly, she was groped.  We all knew that was coming.  But that was just the beginning.  She was undressed, cut in many places, someone was very close to shooting her, and another nearly raped her!  Fortunately, when it came to rape and murder, some people had the decency to stop it from going that far.  But for hours, she stood there, or moved into any position they put her in, while she was sexually violated, while a scalpel cut into her flesh, while someone drank her blood, while she stared death in the face.

When the act was over, she walked towards the audience, naked, bleeding, with tears in her eyes.  They all ran away!  She was human again, and none could confront what they had done to her!  Not only could the would-be rapist not face her, but even those who stopped it from going that far.  To look at her, was to look into the darkest corners of their souls.

 

Jesus dying for our sins

I’m glad that during Holy Week, the week leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, that I came across this article about Marina Abramovic.  I was probably about 5 years old when I was first told this gruesome story, exposing the darkest depths of the human soul.  In Sunday school, a man told us every sadistic detail of the crucifixion story.  Jesus was flogged 50 times, His blood covering the ground around Him, hardly any flesh remaining on His back.  A crown of thorns was placed on His head, piercing his skin, the blood dripping down His face.  His beard was ripped from His face.  In all this pain, he was forced to carry the cross, the very instrument of His death.  He didn’t have the strength, and an innocent man was forced to carry it for Him.  One by one, the nails were driven into him, two for his wrists, and two for his ankles.  As He anguished on the cross and passed out from the pain, a rag soaked in vinegar brought Him back to consciousness, insuring that He would find no release from the pain until death, finally came mercifully to Him.

As I heard this story, I sat stunned in silence.  What would you have done?  Would you have begged them to stop?  Would you have been as the penitent thief, asking Christ to remember me in His kingdom?  Would you have done as Peter, and Pontius Pilate, and the many “good people” who ran from Marina Abramovic?  Pilate tried to avoid the crucifixion, but gave in to the masses.  He then washed his hands of it, and likely tried to forget.  Peter almost worked up the courage to join Him on the cross, but when confronted with what that meant, he backed down.  If that wasn’t enough, he then denied Christ three times.  He was probably afraid that he too would be crucified.  But he was also ashamed.  Here, Jesus was being humiliated, in addition to all of the excruciating pain.  Peter didn’t want to admit that he was associated with that seemingly pathetic man who can’t even carry His cross!

Would you be as the Pharisees and Sadducees, fearful of losing their power, disdaining the way this gentle man has outsmarted you in debate; would you turn Him over to such a horrible and unjust demise just to be rid of Him?

But what about the masses?  Would you be as they were?  Despite all of the kindness Jesus has shown, healing the sick, feeding the hungry; would you then cheer for His humiliating and needlessly torturous death?  What about the Roman soldiers, who went beyond merely “following order”, and took particular pleasure in torturing and taunting Him?  Given the opportunity, would you unleash the desires of the darkest depths of your soul, knowing that you could do so with no legal of social consequences?

A few came to Abramovic’s rescue when she faced rape and death, but none came to rescue Jesus.  This is why Jesus allowed this to happen.  Abramovic seemed weak, but she showed great strength.  She could have stopped it at any time, but she endured the full 6 hours.  But Jesus showed even greater strength.  He knew exactly what was about to happen, even begging His Father in Heaven to release Him from it.  But He still went through it, every lash, thorn, and nail.

The evil that men do

My Jewish friends are likely disturbed by my reference to the Pharisees and Sadducees above.  For them, this touches on something deeper.  There’s a long history of Jewish people being tortured and murdered in retribution for what was done to Jesus.  This, of course, is fundamentally and theologically flawed.  It rests on the assumption that it was the sin of the Jews.  Yet Jesus died for the sin of the world.  In our Palm Sunday liturgy, we do not say “The Jews did it”.  We ALL did it!  Even Peter.  Peter was as close as anyone to taking up the cross, but even Peter couldn’t.  Even Peter denied Jesus.  Jesus died for the sins of Peter too.

When certain Christian blame the Jews and persecute them, they are really punishing themselves.  They’ve decided to take what they know is the darkness deep inside them, the darkness that crucified Jesus, and place it onto the Jews.  They think in punishing the Jews, they are punishing what crucified Christ.  But in truth, they are the crucifiers.

This last Palm Sunday, while Coptic Christians were worshiping in Egypt, ISIS bombed two Coptic Churches, killing at least 49 people.  This they do in the name of Islam!  Islam!  That religion that is so horrified at the crucifixion that they can’t even accept that it happened!  ISIS does not do these things because they are Islamic, any more than Christians who have persecuted the Jews do so because they are Christians.  Christianity does not teach us that “the Jews” murdered Christ, and Islam certainly doesn’t teach that Christians who are peacefully worshiping deserve to die.  It actually goes directly against the teachings, and promises, of their prophet Muhammad, who promised that Christians living under Islamic rule would be protected.

These things have been done because of the darkness that exists in all of us.  Jesus didn’t come to deny the darkness.  He came to face it, and to suffer it.  The Pharisees tried to deny the darkness, and in so doing, in their cleanliness and “Godliness”, in their strict adherence to laws and traditions, they were just as guilty as the Roman soldiers.  But Mary Magdalene (See note), a prostitute, found forgiveness and a new life.  The tax collector, penitent and asking the Lord’s forgiveness, found it, while the Pharisee, not facing his darkness, which was likely far less dark than the tax collector, was not forgiven.  We can only find forgiveness and renewal in penitence, and we can only be penitent by first seeing the darkness.

That is why Jesus was crucified.

 

Note(s):

Since writing this, I’ve learned that the claim that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute is entirely based on assuming that the prostitute who washed the feet of Jesus was also Mary Magdalene.  There is actually no evidence of this, and it is highly unlikely that Mary Magdalene was the same woman.  But I would stand by my point that the prostitute did find forgiveness by confronting the darkness.

CNN is not exactly “fake news”, but…

cnnignoringalleppogasattack

When Trump and some of his supporters call media outlets like CNN “fake news”, establishmentarians love to snort in derision.  “Oh you Trump supporters.  You just hate facts.”  Neither Trump nor his supporters are known for their eloquence, but that doesn’t mean they are wrong.

The civil war in Syria has been raging since 2010, and it is absolutely crucial for us to understand it.  ISIS has emerged out of the civil war, and as I write this, a new group is emerging called Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, which includes the former Al Qaeda affiliate Al Nusra Front.  As this group seems to have some of the characteristics of Al Qaeda, and some of ISIS, it is a group that Americans should seriously be warned about.  Instead, CNN would rather devote most of their time to mocking Trump’s gaffs, or something as trivial as eating fried chicken with a knife and fork, and defending their wounded pride (ya know, from the Clinton loss despite expert predictions to the contrary) with more elitist arrogance.

CNN isn’t fake news because of fake facts.  It’s more an issue of relevance.  All mainstream media has done a poor job of informing the American public of what is going on in Syria.  As I’ve explained many times before, if Americans knew about these dangerous terrorist groups, and the fact that the Assad regime, for all their faults, are fighting AGAINST these terrorist groups, we wouldn’t even be considering regime change in Syria.  The only thing we’d be debating at this point is whether to help Assad, or just stay out of the way and let him take care of it.

But, ya know, Trump just says all those crazy things, and we just gotta report that.  And as a southerner, I take deep offense to Trump butchering that fried chicken with a knife and fork.  Pick it up with your hands, foo!

As Trump would say,

Sad!

Now, let me do CNN’s job for them.  The above briefly mentioned gas attack.  We aren’t yet sure who did it.  It may have been the Assad regime, as air craft were likely required.  But it very well could have been a rival terrorist group.  The area that was attacked is firmly held by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham.  So, the attack was on an area held by an Al Qaeda linked group, though this group has no present official ties to Al Qaeda.  It’s just another example of the kind of ruthless tactics that are used in this ongoing, brutal civil war.  If it was indeed by the Assad regime, we should remember that it was directed at a very dangerous terrorist group that is clearly hostile to the US.  But it should also be noted that the attack showed no regard for civilian lives.

There, CNN!  That’s how it’s done!