Wednesday, March 28, 2018


Last week I made my feelings known about Kevin D. Williamson, the latest wingnut hire in the not-exclusively-wingnut press, and so did lot of other liberals who were surprised (as I was not) that The Atlantic would hire a guy who said, in so many words, that women who have abortions should be executed.

Now I see conservatives are extremely butthurt that anyone would speak harshly of Williamson -- which, given Williamson's own viciousness, is pretty rich right off the bat. But the defenses -- oy. Get a load of Bill Kristol, an unrepentant Iraq Warmonger sometimes unaccountably celebrated by liberals for being anti-Trump:

I can't guess what he means by "reality-based," unless Kristol accepts as empirical truth that women who have abortions should be killed, or that in our rich land it's morally acceptable that white working class people must either move hundreds of miles to find subsistence-wage jobs like the Joad family or die, or that the Republican Party remains black Americans' best friends and the only reason they don't accept that is because they're stupid. And I wouldn't put it past him! As for "indomitable," I assume he means Williamson can't be moved off his ridiculous ideas for anything -- but why should he? He's one of the more successful professional assholes of our time.

But the weirdest thing is the reference to the "philistine progressive mob."  First, some mob -- they couldn't keep the New York Times from employing David Brooks, Bret Stephens, and Ross Douthat, nor the Washington Post from hiring Megan McArdle,  nor Williamson from joining a masthead once occupied by James Russell Lowell. Also, I don't know what he finds "philistine" about them, given that, compared to the advocates of welfare, universal healthcare, and public education, the epithet more closely fits Williamson; maybe Kristol is even dumber than I thought, and thinks Williamson's frequent forays in Roget's Thesaurus mean he's an intellectual.

But wait, there's more -- h/t @Trillburne for this:


Nobody knows the trouble they've seen! And Reason's Cathy Young actually posted something called "The Kevin Williamson Two-Minute Hate," as if he were being driven from The Atlantic instead of publicized for joining it. Young criticized people who accurately reported Williamson's abortion comment as "outrage mobs"; then she offered this defense of Williamson:
About those “hang women who have abortions” tweets: I’m reasonably certain this was not a statement of Williamson’s actual views, especially since he has expressed qualms about the death penalty in general. 
How could someone possibly be hypocritical by being pro-life yet wanting to kill pro-choice adults?
Williamson is no Milo Yiannopoulos, but he can be a provocateur. 
What's especially funny about this is, Young was a big fan of Milo before things got too hot for her.
Assuming that he was trolling, it was definitely not one of his best moments... 
This, not to put too fine a point on it, is bullshit; Williamson doubled down on his statement when pressed. But at least it isn't as weak as when Young tweeted that what Williamson said wasn't so bad because he was only endorsing the execution of future abortion-having women, not women who'd had them in the past. 

Meanwhile at National Review David French does a whole argle-bargle-you-are-persecuting-this-fine-man shtick without once mentioning what Williamson said about women who had abortions -- he just says liberals persecute Williamson because he "holds a lot of bad opinions — opinions about abortion," but doesn't articulate the one homicidal opinion that people are complaining about, probably because moderates and bothsiders anxious to believe Buckleyite conservatives are just their brothers from another mother, and even some conservatives, might be dismayed to see it and have to pretend they hadn't when Williamson's column finally launches with, in the spirit of comity, a call to kill both women who have abortions and women who use cell phones in theaters. Look, he's meeting you halfway! Sheesh, you guys are such a mob.

It's very interesting that conservatives who would not themselves publicly call for the executions Williamson favors -- because that's a little too hot for the early-show crowd, I guess -- cheer on Williamson for doing so. It perfectly fits the Age of Trump, in which credentialed conservatives roll their eyes when the brute does something gauche, but cluck over their good fortune when he stuffs a reliable anti-Roe vote onto the Supreme Court and rub their hands at the probability that he'll give them the Iran invasion they've been dreaming about -- sure, he'll only do it to save his own electoral skin, but who cares so long as they get the conflagration and the contracts that go with? Williamson rolls his eyes at Trump, as well, but in his own way he too is a berserker, and his followers excitedly anticipate the creative destruction he may wreak on their behalf. And if anyone has the gall to say out loud how ridiculous this all is, they'll flop to the soccer pitch holding their dignity and scream that they've been fouled.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018


RedState jumped into Crisis Actor Storyland last night:
On Monday evening, conservative site RedState ran an article that initially implied Marjory Stoneman Douglas student David Hogg — who in recent weeks has become an outspoken advocate for gun control — wasn’t actually at school the day of the tragic Parkland shooting. Within hours, the site ended up issuing two major updates to the story and striking through the original text of the article.
Conseratives are mainly praising RedState writer Sarah Rumpf for correcting her story -- which in righting world is pretty remarkable, I guess. Usually they don't bother -- just as other conservative sites haven't bothered to correct this bullshit story either. (The brethren also blame CBS for confusing her. The damned MSM is even responsible for RedState's mistakes!)

The point isn't that she made a mistake -- I've made plenty. But it’s one thing to chase a story and stumble, and another to legitimize obvious conspiracy-theory chum because “CBS included a very confusing quote without context.” As the Stoneman Douglas kids drive the right crazier -- because they're focused and popular and the usual wingnut sputtering isn't bending the curve -- it's forcing loony Alex Jones gibberish like this further up their media chain, from haunts of coot and hern into the allegedly respectable outlets like RedState.

Expect National Review to report soon that the Stoneman Douglas kids should be discounted because they're suffering from PTSD -- not (as Jonah Goldberg has already farted) from the shooting, but from being raped in Pizzagate.

Monday, March 26, 2018


...about the March For Our Lives and rightwing reaction thereunto. I wrote it last night and there's been a lot of froth since; Rod Dreher's post, mentioned briefly in the column, has metastasized with many updates since I first saw it into a full-body freakout, including supporting quotations from Jonah Goldberg (!), a reference to "Piss Christ," and more of that patented Dreher "I Don't Endorse Trump But Because of X I Endorse Trump" routine. But the real howler is this bit:
One more thing about all this. As longtime readers know, I lived in New York on 9/11. Stood on the Brooklyn Bridge and watched the first tower fall. Smelled the sweetness in the smoke for days, and learned from a friend who had lived through the war in Beirut that it was burning human flesh....

I cringe to think about some of the things that surely must have come out of my mouth in the year that followed. David Hogg-like stuff, no doubt. The hate felt good. It really did. It also felt good to hate those who cautioned me and others about our rhetoric. Fools and cowards, they were, as far as I was concerned.

I allowed that righteous anger to justify my cheerleading for the catastrophic Iraq War. I was the fool, and I was the coward, because I was afraid to interrogate my own rage. I regret bitterly being so eager to hate, and thinking of myself as someone who got a free pass on that, because hey, I lived a mile or two from Ground Zero, so who are you to tell me that my feelings are wrong, huh?!

That’s what’s happening here too.
So, to recap: in 2001 Dreher favored blowing up Ay-rabs because the 9/11 bombers were Ay-rab, and because he was in Brooklyn and smelled the WTC. (I myself lived in Brooklyn then and also smelled the WTC, yet never called to blow up Ay-rabs. My immunity is called "common sense.") Now Dreher repents, and compares his intemperate, racist foamings to David Hogg's rather tame and definitely not racist calls for gun control. This is, in form anyway, the sort of stop-and-think by means of which Christians are traditionally encouraged to "judge not, lest ye be judged" -- but even Jesus can't stop Dreher from judging, so he doesn't withdraw his judgment that Hogg is a "disgusting little creep," or anything else: Instead he just calls his younger self names, too, and bids his readers attend his current wisdom, which is sure to be infallible.

The punch line is that Dreher spends a lot of his time ragging on other religious conservatives for endorsing Trump. Those guys are certainly hypocrites, but at least they're not nuts.

UPDATE. Dreher just can't let go -- from a new damn-kids post:
Second, this movement is not going to stay focused on gun control. The passions of the left, and the media, won’t allow it. Emma Gonzalez gave a memorable speech at the rally. But the media can’t let the speech stand for itself. They’re already celebrating the intersectionality of Gonzalez, a self-defined bisexual who has shaved her head...
Dreher was, too, going to come out for gun control, really he was, but then the liberals had to turn him off with a bald lesbo.

Friday, March 23, 2018


I see Kevin D. Williamson has been promoted from National Review to The Atlantic. Here is the alicublog archive on Williamson; I don't have time to get too deep into it, but many people have learned today about Williamson's declaration that women who have abortions should be executed -- which, if you're going to only know one thing about Williamson, is a good choice because it is typically stupid and vicious, the kind of snot-nosed contrarianism in which he specializes. I will only add that Williamson was sneering at victims of gun violence before sneering at victims of gun violence was cool (and his sneer-object actually got shot!); that he has actually compared contemporary American liberals to Mark Twain and H.L. Mencken as an insult, and American public schools to a Communist dictatorship, and Cliven Bundy to Gandhi -- analogies seem not to be his strong suit; and that he first achieved a moment of fame by throwing a fit (and a stranger's cell phone) in public. Check the archive if you like, but the short version is, he sucks.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


I've been a bit of a downer lately, interrupting the cheers given Ralph Peters for turning against Fox News by reminding everyone that Peters, like a lot of guys who get crowned with Woke Laurels and taken for a shoulder rides by liberals these days, is still terrible and his conversion is probably a PR stunt. And I'm afraid I have to do that again with these heds and ledes that have given some good folks aid and comfort:
Breitbart’s readership plunges
The onetime voice of the pro-Trump alt-right struggles to find a niche without its driving force, Steve Bannon. 
Breitbart News is experiencing a massive decline in traffic, Politico reports, losing about half its total readership in just six months. 
Breitbart readership is in free fall, report finds
The wingnut web empire's hits have been halved since last October, and pundits are guessing it's because Steve Bannon has been too long away from the bridge ("Without Bannon at the helm, the website has faltered"), or because of "Facebook’s war on fake news," or because of Trump ("it’s no surprise that Breitbart’s influence is waning as the country grapples with the harsh realities of a Trump presidency"), etc.

I started covering Breitbart and his media outlets close to a decade ago;  I have seen their malign influence on our body politic, and it gives me some pleasure to see his successor Fat Goebbels embarrassed, if only for the moment. But even assuming Breitbart does not bounce back -- and that's not a fair assumption; we've heard stories of their numbers "cratering" before -- that doesn't mean that the audience for their rightwing bullshit is lessening. In fact, it may just be finding Breitbart too tame anymore.

Like other web users with loathsome habits, I get creepy promotional emails based on my usage, and lately I've been getting digests from new rightwing sites that make Breitbart look like The London Review of Books. One is called "Fear and Blood," and its headlines sound like they're being screamed by Michelle Malkin while Michael Savage fucks her in the ass: "BRAINWASHED PARKLAND SURVIVOR MAKES A FOOL OF HIMSELF IN DIY COMMERCIAL [VIDEO]," "CLINTON GUTTING HER PARTY FROM THE INSIDE: ANOTHER DEM RUSHES TO SLAM HILLARY [VIDEO]," "TRUMP PROUDLY EXPLAINS WHY HE SUCH A BIG ADVOCATE OF THE MARINES," etc.

There are also the links I get from something called Red Right Videos, which, while it does have a website full of video features padded with shitty written-by-bots copy, such as "MSNBC Anchor Mocks Trump Advisers Christian Faith,“ it also sends me links to different wingnut outlets (often Fear and Blood!) with similar characteristics, offered in the same manner and with the same intent as a guy who, having shown you a bukkake video and gotten even a mildly approving response, will immediately excitedly show you every vom-porn clip in existence. The titles include “It’s Unbelievable What Both Bush JR and SR Said About Trump, Sad,” and “LIBERALS ARE GATHERING FOR AN EVENT THAT YOU WON’T BELIEVE."

Further down the Mariana Trench we find Independent Minute which, while it does feature Trump-worship features like "UNCATEGORIZED TRUMP OFFERS 7 FIGURE REWARD FOR INFORMATION ON ONE OF THE MOST EVIL PEOPLE WALKING THE EARTH," also offers politically indistinct trash-trawls like "She Learns His Vile Secret After 10 Years Of Dating, Has SWAT Team Swarming His Property [VIDEO]" and "Any Chance Of Oprah Running In 2020 DESTROYED With This Leaked Sex Tape." I think the idea here is, if you like Trump, you'll enjoy anything else that, like Trump, includes at any given time violence, guilty sex, and just plain braying stupidity.

And that's where it's going, I think: inchoate rage and depravity linked, maybe even just tangentially, to rightwing politics. It's perfect for the age of our porn-star-fucking, death-penalty-threatening, bellowing asshole president. His connection to conservatism is mainly visceral -- unlike the pipe-puffing, patched-elbowed dopes at National Review and other such places, he doesn't approve screwing the poor because of any abstruse intellectual or moral precept, he approves it because he's a vicious thug and that's what people like him get a thrill out of. So instead of just having ugly political content, his new avatars mix it up with ugly non- or barely-political content -- online equivalents of some no-neck down the corner telling you about some little [insert racial slur] who beat up an old lady and how if he saw a  [insert racial slur] right now he'd fuck him up but good. Every once in a while they might stick "Trump" or "MAGA" to that, but it's not absolutely necessary.

So, in my view, if Breitbart is losing traffic, it's not for any extrinsic reason; it's because as low as they brought things, their audience -- its brains turned to harmless glue by long exposure to Breitbart's crap-- now wants to go lower still.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


Someone told me a Fox News dummy had turned and even the New York Times was covering it...
“In my view, Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration,” [he] wrote in his message, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times
“Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association,” he added. “Now I am ashamed.”
...and damned if the dummy didn't turn out to be Col. (Ret.) Ralph Peters -- better known to alicublog fans as Eleventy-Star General Ralph "Blood 'n' Guts" Peters! His alicublog archive is available for all to see.

I've been following the General since he was an Iraq War cheerleader for the New York Post ("America is, indeed, the modern Rome. And Rome does not ask permission of Thebes or obey the orders of Gaul"). I was late to the General generally: Back in 1996, he was talking about using military invasion tactics on American cities. But it was Iraq that made him a true public buffoon.

Back then he was very concerned that the hippies were going to spoil this war for him -- and as the war got more spoilt, Peters got more mad (as in crazy as well as in angry):
In the War Against Terror, no other power or organization can defeat America. But America remains dangerously capable of defeating itself... 
The terrorists will seek to convince American voters that the War on Terror is failing, paving the way for the electoral victory of a weakling [John Kerry] and allowing them to surge back into vacuums created by an American retreat... 
The media weren't reporting. They were taking sides. With our enemies. And our enemies won. Because, under media assault, we lost our will to fight on...

Make no mistake -- The anti-war voices long for us to lose any war they cannot prevent... 
Forget about our dead soldiers, whose sacrifice is nothing but a political club for Democrats to wave in front of the media...

The media are now combatants -- even if we're not allowed to shoot back...
He wasn't sentimental about Iraqi democracy, either: "We're overdue to take a lesson from the Romans and the British before us," barked the General, "and recognize the value of punitive expeditions… we need not feel obliged to rebuild every government we are forced to destroy… Where you cannot be loved, be feared.." (Also: "We didn't even have the common sense to declare martial law. It convinced our enemies that we were naive and weak." And see his tribute to Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf, "who sought the best for his tormented country but never knew how to package himself.")

Oh, and for those of you who are big on stories about how SJWs are the Real Threat to Free Speech, Blood 'n' Guts was there waaaay ahead of you:
It's fashionable in left-wing circles to describe anyone who admires America as a fascist. But the real totalitarian threats of our time come from the left. And no public figure embodies the left's contempt for basic freedoms more perfectly than Howard Dean.
Amazing we have any free speech left after Dr. Dean's reign of terror!

In the waning days of the Bush Administration the General seemed becalmed and unfocused. In 2008 the specter of Obama sometimes excited that ol' Blood 'n' Guts insanity ("There was a good reason the assassins of 9/11 attacked the targets they did, rather than steering those planes into Columbia University or Harvard Yard: They knew that the potency of the intellectual is illusory, that it dissolves at the first shot"). But after the election the General withered, as if his troops had abandoned him as the enemy breached the perimeter and the enemy wouldn't do him the honor of an execution; he was reduced to complaining that Obama was escalating the war in Afghanistan -- yes, that's how low he fell. The General became a TV clown, occasionally getting ink for calling Obama a pussy. I assumed he'd die in the saddle, slumping into some Fox blonde's lap.

But this new attention-getter shows that the General is at least trying to come back. Peters' current gripe is that Trump is in hock to Putin and Fox has been covering it up ("Despite increasingly pathetic denials, it turns out that the 'nothing-burger' has been covered with Russian dressing all along" -- now there's some of the old Blood 'n' Guts!), which is interesting, because back in 2004 Peters was soft on Putin himself ("An angel won't replace Putin in the Kremlin. But Putin isn't entirely a devil. The glass is dirty, but it's nearly three-quarters full"). Putin hasn't changed much; has Peters "evolved"?

Ha! Men like RB&GP don't evolve -- evolution's for liberal traitors! What changed is, back then George W. Bush liked Putin and Peters liked Bush; more to the point, Bush was popular. Trump, on the other hand, looks to be destroying the national Republican Party and the nation is turning against him -- which may explain why the General is turning against Trump. There will be a Morning After, and with it a Morning Show After, and the General wants to be on the dais. Let Sean Hannity go down with the ship; the General Shall Return.

UPDATE. Comments, as always are worth a look, particularly those of BigHank53 and glen_tomkins, who have followed Peters' career as a Soviet-watcher in the U.S. military and have intelligent speculations on his motivations that somewhat contradict my cynicism. I accept that the General may have legit feelings about the Bear, but before Trump conservatives generally reacted to Putin's intransigence with tough talk and calls to drill more oil. All these years after the Soviet Union collapsed, they generally treat adversaries as opportunities to enrich their donors, such as the oil and gas industries and the military contractors who will profit when we invade Iran.  It may be Peters is simply responding to a patriotic impulse, but as he's been in the propaganda service almost as long as he was in the armed forces, I'm not inclined to interpret his actions charitably.

Monday, March 19, 2018


...about Conor Lamb's special election victory in PA-18 and how conservatives claimed it had to have been a case of mistaken identity -- i.e., Lamb was mistaken for the actual Republican candidate. Lamb's kinda bluish-doggish, but in the current environment that is still way left of the GOP's Rick Saccone, who closed his campaign by raving that the Left hated God.

Wingnuts console themselves that Democrats aren't putting up DSA firebrands in red zones, but given that, as I said at the time, last Election Day looked like a liberal revenge fantasy in which "A trans woman beat an anti-trans bigot; a droopy-drawered BLM protester won a City Council seat; a victim of gun violence beat an NRA shill; [and] a freaking Democratic Socialist defenestrated the Republican Virginia House majority whip," they should be happy they don't, because given the egregious mismanagement of Trump and the Republicans, the Democrats could nominate undead Lenin and might still win.

Friday, March 16, 2018


You know, some of the new groups aren't bad.

• It takes a fuckton of chutzpah to warn against "Borking" CIA director nominee Gina Haspel, as National Review's Rich Lowry does today. Actually that whole use of Bork's name to imply persecution is ridiculous, since Bork himself was clearly nuts and unfit to serve on the Supreme Court. But Lowry sinks even lower, talking about America's torture of enemy combatants in the Bush years as if it were an unfortunate necessity rather than a straight-up war crime. Haspel has been accused of supervising the torture of Abu Zubaydah; he may not have been part of her portfolio (though she is more credibly accused of destroying evidence of CIA torture, either to preserve herself or her colleagues, or both). But Lowry defends Zubaydah's torture at length nonetheless:
The enhanced interrogations were brutal. Zubaydah was struck, placed in stress positions, confined in small boxes and repeatedly waterboarded. During one session, he became unresponsive. By any standard, this was extreme and right up to the legal line.

The CIA didn’t learn of any planned attack in the U.S.; it did become confident that Zubaydah wasn’t holding back anything about one. From his capture to his transfer to the Department of Defense on September 5, 2006, information from him produced 766 intelligence reports.

In the cold light of day, we would have handled all of this differently. The Bush administration shouldn’t have been as aggressive in its legal interpretations. We should have realized that we had more time to play with, and that the program itself would become a black mark on our reputation overseas and such a domestic flashpoint that we would basically lose all ability to interrogate detainees (droning became the preferred alternative).
"Right up to the legal line"; "become confident that Zubaydah wasn't holding anything back"; "aggressive in its legal interpretations." This is the language of manicured depravities -- euphemisms common in the Abu Ghraib era and, apparently, primed for a comeback. It's odd that, a while back, some people were saying Trump is so bad he made them miss Bush. They'll get a chance to test that theory soon!

James Hohmann:
Trump has decided to remove H.R. McMaster as his national security adviser and is actively discussing Fox News contributor John Bolton as a potential successor.

A leading contender to replace Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is Pete Hegseth, the co-host of “Fox and Friends Weekend.”

The president named CNBC analyst and former host Larry Kudlow to replace former Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn as his chief economic adviser on Wednesday.

Heather Nauert, a former co-host of “Fox and Friends,” got promoted on Monday from being a spokeswoman for the State Department to acting undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs

...Trump’s plot to poach from green rooms is an additional proof point that validates two important themes I’ve written about: Trump has debased the value of expertise and supercharged the celebrification of American politics.
Trump's grift in general is like a monkey-see reflection of conservative values, true to their horrible essence but dumbed down for mass appeal, so I take this as his distillation of the Right's endless culture-war caterwauling that liberals have all the artsy people to make their values look good, and it's no fair and conservatives have to "take back the culture" to redress the balance, even if they have to tell fart jokes to do it. It makes sense that their debased idea of "culture" would be asshole TV presenters appointed to top government offices.

Thursday, March 15, 2018


So when Putin poisoned his latest victim in the UK, I thought I was making a joke:

End Times broadcaster Rick Wiles appeared on his “TruNews” program on Friday to suggest that the recent mysterious poisoning of a former Russian spy was carried out by someone with ties to Hillary Clinton in order to cover up information about the Trump-Russia dossier.
There are also several rightwing/Russian front sites peddling the Hillary-did-Skripal story, and your senile Aunt in Pennsyltucky, your burnout friend in Oregon, and your old school buddy who's been living in a survivalist treehouse since election day 2008 have probably told everybody on their mailing lists. That's why Trump has been so reticent to acknowledge even the possibility Putin did it -- - he doesn't want to upset the crackpots; they are, after all, his base.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


Looks like Conor Lamb took what had been a 20-point-Trump-victory district in 2016 and turned it into a Democratic victory in PA-18. The spin from the brethren: This is good news for John McCain Donald Trump!

The idea is, since Lamb ran as a moderate and talked smack about Nancy Pelosi, he was the actual "not anti-Trump" Republican in the race -- notwithstanding that there was a Republican running named Rick Saccone, and his party and their conservative cat's-paws dumped over $10 million into his cause and sent Trump to campaign for him just to (fail to) hold a "safe" district.

You knew the White Working Class Whisperer herself had to get in on this action:

Zito laid the groundwork when the jig was clearly up, not only pumping the moderate-Democrat angle -- praising the "older, white" Dem party operatives who picked Lamb and prevented "primary voters, who tend to be to the most ideologically extreme wing of their party" from nominating Vladimir Lenin IV -- but also, and I gotta say I'm impressed by this, declaring Saccone a victim of the elites:
And fourth, the establishment Republicans have embarrassed themselves with public hissy fits about Lamb's challenger, Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone — his lack of fundraising polish and his panache. You have to wonder if their bitterness towards this Western Pennsylvania candidate — whose military and diplomatic experience are impressive on paper and manifest in person — is deeply rooted in their persistent resentment of Trumpism.
Yeah, it had to be that the polished-and-panachey, chardonnay-swilling Republican elite stabbed Saccone in the back -- not that voters nationwide have proven themselves sick to death of Trump and are throwing off whatever vestiges of it they can lay their hands on.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


Things at The Federalist are weird -- well, they always are, but lately nearly all the writers are spiking Stella Morabito levels of dysfunction. That's what happens, I guess, to junior debate club kids trying to exert moral authority in the Time of Trump -- their internal gyroscopes go kerflooey with the strain, and their thinkholes emit weird monsters of broken logic. Take D.C. McAllister -- always terrible, true, but usually in the ordinary wingnut "You're The Real [Fill In The Blank]" manner. But this week she's outdone herself. Take in the hed and dek:
The Return Of ‘Queer Eye’ Could Be A Win For The Right Kind Of Tolerance
If we focus only on how we’re different and demand approval of those differences, we will never live peacefully with one another.
Sounds like a temporizing, come-let-us-reason-together thing, doesn't it? It even has "Tolerance" in the title, and starts with McAllister talking about how she likes those queer-eyed guys:
Each of the original Fab 5 was a delight to watch, and the new Fab 5 doesn’t disappoint. Fashion savant Carson Kressley was my favorite in the original, and Antoni Porowski takes the prize in QE 2.0. He’s the handsome food guru with a sweet, almost shy, smile and authentic empathy that reaches out and grabs your heart through the camera.
Grrrl! Then she gets to an episode where the QE guys have to work with a Trump voter, which sounds like the sort of Lesson In Love and Life that makes ratings soar and me vomit. McAllister seems to be down with the yay-tolerance theme: "'Queer Eye' says it wants to bring some civility and love to our country again. Who can oppose that?" But then:
However, as I watched the series, two feelings wrestled within me — an appreciation for the positive, open dialogue and a creeping sense of being manipulated.
Grrrl, I know, this is ratings bait bullshit, let's ditch this Very Special Moment, binge on Ben & Jerry's and watch Berlin Alexanderplatz!

Then McAllister had something to get off her chest -- a deep-seated memory of her childhood days at revival meetings (picture McAllister a few feet shorter, no makeup, wearing a potato sack and a big purty bow) where the pastor "called sinners to come forward" and "converts would line up with tears on their cheeks, and church members would surround them with hugs and words of acceptance."

But this was "often just emotionalism," McAllister sees now, "ginned up to sell 'Jesus.'" The scales have fallen; she's not going to be fooled by such appeals again!
...this is a feeling I can’t deny as I watch “Queer Eye,” and it’s not about the political and cultural issues being addressed, which is so needed; it’s about the core “product” I’m ultimately being sold through feel-goodisms and the staged tears of reality television: approval of homosexuality.
[Blink. Blink.]
...what they really want is not common understanding between people who disagree — this is the essence of tolerance, which I support wholeheartedly — they want to fight for approval. And this is my main problem with the show.
McAllister just wants to tolerate those sassy gay boys -- she doesn't want to have to approve of them!
...In the same way, some people, who think homosexual marriage is wrong because they believe marriage, as a public interest, is between a man and a woman, can still love a gay married couple.
"Won't you and your abomination come over for dinner sometime?"
...Yet, “Queer Eye” wants more than tolerance. The creator of the show, David Collins, told ET, that the biggest difference between now and when the show first aired is that, “People are ready to have a dialogue" ...we are ready to have that dialogue because it has been foisted on us through activism and the courts. That’s both a good and bad thing, though the ensuing dialogue might not go the way he and LGBT activists want.
So watch it, gay people, because while McAllister wants you to know she loves you, she also wants you to know the dialogue she's so tolerantly engaging might not go the way you want, and once dialogue time is over and President Pence is bringing on the Time of the Handmaids, she'll cheer as your so-called-marriage certificates are burned in the church, and blow you a kiss as you're marched off to conversion therapy. She's all for tolerance, and she'll tolerate you a lot better when you've been straightened out.

Monday, March 12, 2018


...about how conservatives, and not just Jeff Sessions, beat up on California in order to make their own fucked-up red states look less like hellholes.

Among the many outtakes trimmed for space was this limited but telling bit of slander: When Mexican Presidential candidate Ricardo Anaya Cortes recently spoke to Mexicans in San Francisco, exhorting immigrant “Dreamers” to “not forget that you are not alone,” the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that a “pro-immigrant group… said Mexican immigrants in the U.S. may be a deciding factor in the elections in Mexico due to their ability to cross south of the border and vote.”

The “pro-immigrant” group to which they referred and linked was the Center for Immigration Studies, run by the notoriously anti-immigrant Mark Krikorian of National Review, and there is no evidence Cortes had asked for California-dwelling immigrants’ votes; yet conservative sources such as The Daily Caller and Fox News reported the Mexican candidate “campaigned” in California, and Daniel Horowitz of Conservative Review straight-up claimed, “this man is seeking the votes of Mexican nationals living in the United States under the promise of being tough with Trump.”

But do read the column -- the basic stuff is funny and infuriating enough.

Friday, March 09, 2018


I love this version, but there's a more garage-band version out there
and I can't remember who did it. Anybody?
UPDATE: Thanks to commenter Skeeter Jarvis 
for unearthing the Vice-Roys' version! 

• As if the Bari Weiss debacle hadn't already put a rancid cherry on the shit parfait that is the New York Times Op-Ed section, here come the radioactive sprinkles in the form of Reason's Katherine Mangu-Ward, who explains to Times readers, as libertarians will, how conservatives are bad but liberals are worse; while the right is "churlish" and "politically incorrect," they can hardly be blamed as they are responding with a "hold my beer" to the provocation of liberals, who assail them with their greatest weapon,  “barely concealed smugness," from their "elite enclaves on the coasts." (Mangu-Ward, her Reason bio tells us, lives in Washington, D.C., but I'm sure someday she'll live somewhere more downhome-American, like McLean, Virginia.) Policy, and the effectiveness or counterproductiveness thereof, are not really meaningful -- what's important is whether you're being smug (the word and its variants appear 10 times in her essay). She even matches "'the dirtbag left' of the 'Chapo Trap House' podcast" with "the alt-right," presumably on the grounds that making fun of Megan McArdle is the moral equivalent of a neo-Nazi march. "Due for reconsideration" in Mangu-Ward's estimation, therefore, are "transpartisan coalitions," with liberals replaced by "Blue Dog Democrats" (like liberals only with more racism and fundamentalism, an obvious improvement!) and conservatism with "cosmopolitan libertarianism" (i.e., conservatism). Well, nothing left for the Times to do to top this but enlist a Koch brother for an Op-Ed -- whoops, they've been scooped by the Washington Post. Damned liberal media!

• As to the allegedly upcoming North Korea talks, here's my main question: Who here was the slightest bit concerned about getting bombed by the Norks in 2016? The problem being solved, if that's the word, is not America's, but Donald Trump's. Anyway it's already been definitively proven a bad idea.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018


I've been seeing a bunch of sites saying some variation of "California has the worst quality of life in the 50 US states, and some conservatives are celebrating," so I went to see the McKinsey/U.S. News & World Report stats this was based on. Turns out in overall ranking Cali's at #32, which seems low to me -- I mean, Connecticut's #24; would you rather spend a weekend in Hartford or San Francisco? -- but chacun à son goût.

Turns out while McKinsey ranks the state #4 for business (something I thought conservatives appreciated), #11 in health care, etc., McKinsey put them last for "quality of life" -- which they say has to do with "air quality, pollution, voter participation, social support and more." Their #1 for quality of life: North Dakota. Well, it takes all kinds, and if you think Minot's where it's at, God go with you.

But rightwing randos take this to mean California's a hellhole and, from their perches in Bumfuck deliver between spurts of tobacco juice jeremiads like "Liberalism Has Finally Gone Too Far in California… State’s Beyond Repair," from Conservative Tribune's William Haupt III:
This progressive state is facing an epic shortage of trained workers and business start-ups.
Haupt provides no citations, natch, but the trained workers thing, which makes no sense in the here-and-now, seems to come from the Public Policy Institute of California's projection that the state is trending toward a shortage of such workers by 2030 --  which is another way of saying that California will have more good jobs than they can fill. (The fact that North Dakota has to recruit workers for fracking is generally considered a plus by conservatives.)  As for the start-ups crack? Not likely.
Imported unskilled labor lured by a lucrative welfare system has turned capitalism into quasi-socialism. New cottage industries have replaced real businesses and economic cleavage between the haves and have-to-depends reeks havoc on the mostly highly taxed state in the U.S. Liberalism has turned all prosperity into poverty.
The weird thing about this cartoon vision, which has become common on the Right, is how it slides from traditional conservative tropes like slurs against Mexicans to a woke-ish pretense of concern for income inequality. Them big cities got big fancy buildings, an' people sleepin' on the street! I sawr it on Law & Order! Most Americans want to address this rich-poor split by taxing the rich, but Haupt blames it on furriners and the evil generosity of liberals toward same.

The longer Haupt's rant runs, the more florid his prose becomes, until:
When they euphonize [?-ed.] Prop 13 next election, this will be the holocaust of methodic genocide. This will pacify every Left Coast progressive vying to emulate the failures of Barack Obama. Just as Jim Jones did, voters will drink a fatal dose of liberal Kool-Aid and embolden the progressive dream of social Darwinism paid for by taxpayers. This will nail the coffin shut on the goose that laid the golden egg, as the few remaining entrepreneurs and tax-paying elites abandon California to escape the calamity of the liberal morgue...
This metaphor melange reminds me of the predictions of doom conservatives made when Bill de Blasio became Mayor of New York in 2013 -- remember? (My favorite derangee then was Daniel Greenfield, who forecast that terrorists would flood the subways with poison gas and, if citizens tried to escape by air, the terrorists would blow their planes out of the sky.) They all looked pretty dumb when de Blasio got reelected while racking up the lowest New York City crime numbers since the 1950s.

And I suspect these criers of doom for Cali will look dumb down the road, too -- hell, they look dumb to me now. But then, I get around a bit; most Americans don't, and many only know what the blowhard in the red hat tells them. And they're highly motivated to believe scary stories like this: They live in Republican states where services are sparse, workers get bait-and-switched, poverty's a crime and being black's an aggravating circumstance, the national parks are being sold off, etc. If you lived somewhere like that, and perhaps dreamed of fancy places like Los Angeles and New York, and some fellow came along and said no, those places are dumps, why some of those people don't even have cars and have to ride in a hole in the ground, plus they're all being killed by Mexicans and the liberal media's covering it up, and look at this picture do you see all the black people -- well, maybe you'd prefer to think those golden places are shit, too, just so's you could stand to live where you're stuck living.

Monday, March 05, 2018


There's been a lot of nonsense written about the Oscars, but Rod Dreher has surpassed everyone and even himself, through the agency of a "reader" "mail":
“The Academy used to play it safe with controversy, but now it’s moving the Overton window faster than in real life,” he wrote. “Who’d have thought one decade ago that the most prestigious award in the film industry would go to a film about bestiality, and casting it in a positive light?”
Yes, he's talking about The Shape of Water, which I told you about here -- but even if I hadn't, if you've had a halfway decent liberal arts education you'd recognize it from even a summary as a fable, like Ovid's Metamorphoses or Penny Marshall's Big.

But not Dreher. "I don’t pay attention to the Oscars, or Hollywood," he sniffs, "because I’m interested in other things' -- oooh he's an intellectual, look at his eccentric glasses! -- but though actually exposing himself to Hollyweird mindrot is beneath his dignity as a pedant, Dreher asks his readers to tell him about the movie -- and then he can’t even wait for that expedient before giving forth with the crack-brain hooey:
Could it be in this film, what happens at the Occam facility is Elisa, who works there as a janitor and first encounters the creature, learns to separate morality from matter, so that she can open herself to a sexual relationship with an aquatic creature? In other words, if there is no intrinsic meaning to matter, including humanity, then we can do with it whatever we want. Including submitting sexually to animals, or any creatures that give us pleasure and affection?
Here's another clue for you all -- the Walrus was Paul.

I don't know whether Dreher's gurus actually let him watch movies except to get something to yell about-- I remember him denouncing The Hours in 2003 as an "apologia for evil" -- but I like to imagine him leaping from his seat at A Midsummer Night's Dream when Titania makes love to the donkey-headed Bottom, screaming SACRILEGE, LIQUID MODERNITY! (I could go on like this all day -- e.g., Dreher sees Carl Dreyer's Day of Wrath and when it's over cries "I knew it! Witches are real!")

Imagine getting this far in life, and in a writing career no less, and having no fucking idea what art is nor what it's for. As I've said many times before: For these maroons, culture war is war on culture.

UPDATE. Dreher got mad because people made fun of him:
You guys, knock it off with “you didn’t see the movie so you don’t have the right to say anything about it.” I conceded early on that I hadn’t seen the film, and that my comments are based only on the Wikipedia description of its plot, and things both the director and others favorable to the film have said about it. Of course I could be wrong! If I’ve made a mistake in my description of the plotting, then I welcome correction. Nobody has yet said that I got that wrong...
It says right here in the review that she fucks a fish, so it's propaganda for fish-fucking -- because what else could it possibly be?

UPDATE 2. I saw a headline at Media Matters -- "Fox News keeps running columns from the same guy explaining, 'I'm a Democrat but [insert agreement with GOP]' -- and it put me in mind of two things: First, Harlan Hill; second, Rod Dreher, whose "reader" "mail" from Liberals Who've Had Enough is legendary. And he has a beautiful one today! Excerpts:
I read what you said about having spoken with four people recently who didn’t vote for Trump in 2016 but are considering it now because of the left’s recent behavior. I’m not quite in that camp, but am close to it; I suspect my progress on the issue largely resembles those of your friends and (I suspect) a substantial minority of other Americans as well.
Oh that's another thing -- all Rod's apostate liberal "readers" have their finger of the pulse of America.
...I’m certainly not a typical Trump supporter — I believe in climate change and America’s responsibility to take policy steps to reduce our contribution to it, I’m anti-NRA, pro-Obamacare to an extent, and detest the Republican Party generally. The day after Trump got elected, I posted a scathing denunciation of everyone who had voted for him, which got the millennial social capital gold: hundreds of likes and almost 40 shares, including by several people I didn’t even know.
This is where all the folks on the Mourner's Bench go "oooooh!" 'cuz they know a conversion narrative's a-comin'.
...But leaving the nuclear issue aside, the Left’s behavior in the last year has pushed me steadily more and more in the direction of being willing to vote for a sort of lower-key Trump (someone like Ben Shapiro)...
I wonder if Dreher owed Shapiro a favor; if I weren't quite sure he's humorless, I would suspect him of making a joke.

UPDATE 3. Just had to share Dreher's sputter-back in his Shape of Water comments section:

I wonder if Rod really means to posit the Ancient Greeks as his socio-sexual model.


...about the Trump tariffs and the enduring embarrassment of conservatives having to either back this shit in contradiction of everything they pretend to believe in, or try to explain those alleged beliefs to the totally uninterested grifter who represents them to the world and to history. It couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch of guys.

Sunday, March 04, 2018


I saw Phantom Thread and The Shape of Water — couldn’t get to Call Me By Your Name before the Big Show, but I’ll take a stab at the Oscar thing anyway.

(As to those last two movies: I’ve been trying to figure out whether the last part of Phantom Thread is meant to be taken literally, which inevitably gets me to wondering whether the first part was meant to be taken literally. The odd meet-acute in the Blackpool tearoom, in retrospect, looks like someone, or two, acting out their first meeting, either as a sentimental gesture or for therapeutic purposes; and the integration of Alma into the House of Reynolds, from his sister sniffing her over to her near-erasure among the other white-coated votaries, seems like a highly distilled version of experience, at least. I started out, perhaps influenced by the writing about it, thinking Phantom Thread was about gender roles, but I’m willing to consider that it’s about the weird power of love itself. Definitely the most rumination-worthy of the bunch.)

(Oh, and as to The Shape of Water: This is the Pan’s Labyrinth guy, alright, and another fable, but without the hard fatalism of the Spanish Civil War one, because we’re in America and Americans aren’t fatalists — though if you like you can think of the ending as non-literal, but if you do what’s that make the rest of the movie? [Publicity for the 1978 Superman said, “You’ll believe a man can fly”; The Shape of Water can boast, “You’ll believe a fish can fuck!”] It was thrilling to see the magic realism blend so seamlessly with the caper-suspense elements, and also to see the good guys and bad guys — though, as fable demands, clearly assigned and starkly painted — all get their little bit of humanity; even the Michael Shannonical scumbag moved me when he asked his general for permission to be just decent. [The general, however, can go fuck himself. I hate that guy.] I can see now why kulturkampfer Kyle Smith hated it so much — the black and the gay and the sex vs. The Man! — and, well, that’s just the icing on the fishcake.)

OK, let’s have a crack at these nominees:

Best Picture: The Shape of Water. Sure it’s odd — but it feels like what we used to call a movie-movie. I think Three Billboards has a chance, but Moonlight’s victory last year probably has voters thinking that would be just too much Quiet Brilliance in an industry mostly devoted to producing special effects extravaganzas.

Best Actor: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour. You get old and play a British Prime Minister in heavy makeup, they have to give it to you.

Best Actress: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. I was thinking Johnny Belinda II but great as Sally Hawkins is, voters may be wondering why Hillary Swank has two Oscars and McDormand only has one.

Best Supporting Actor: Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water. This is my sucker bet, some everyone expects either big prize-taker Willem Dafoe or Billboards’ Sam Rockwell to win, but my instinct, such as it is, is that the collision of the two favorites (and Woody Harrelson, who they’d love to give an Academy Award to sometime) will make an opening for a dark horse. Plus Jenkins’ arc is deeply moving.

Best Supporting Actress: Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird. I haven’t seen Allison Janney, but Lady Bird needs an award.

Best Director: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water. I thought they were going to give Christopher Nolan this but

Best Original Screenplay: Get Out.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Call Me By Your Name.

Best Cinematography: Dunkirk.

Best Production Design: The Shape of Water.

Best Film Editing: Baby Driver.

Best Foreign Language Film: The Square.

Best Costume Design: Darkest Hour.

Best Original Score: Phantom Thread.

Best Original Song: “Mighty River,” Mudbourne.

Best Makeup: Darkest Hour.

Best Sound Editing: Dunkirk.

Best Sound Mixing: The Shape of Water.

Best Visual Effects: Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

And in the Who The Fuck Knows categories:

Best Documentary Feature: Last Men in Aleppo.

Best Documentary Short: Traffic Stop.

Best Animated Short: Garden Party.

Best Live Short: Watu Wote/All of Us.

And now -- magic time!

UPDATE, 8:18: I'm already losing!

UPDATE, 8:32: 1 for 3. There goes the rent money.

UPDATE, 9:30: [tears up his tickets and walks away slowly, in the rain]

UPDATE, 11:50: Well, I got the Big Five right, but otherwise wiped out -- 11 of our 23. I'd like to blame the Academy -- huh, Best Costume Design for a movie about fashion! So predictable! -- but really my mistake was paying attention; I always do better when I've seen like three movies all year. 

Friday, March 02, 2018


(I only have three more movies to see for my Oscar push since I saw these two and, my friends, I am going for the cycle!)

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. This may be the modern version of old-fashioned character-driven Nice Movies like Driving Miss Daisy; small-bore, humane, poignant -- only with more swears and a lot more violence. Though its wide dark streak will turn a lot of people off, Billboards still reflects, in its funhouse-mirror way, the values of the Nice Movie: the main characters progress toward understanding, notwithstanding that the Missourians' understanding is incomplete, and based more on existential despair than Christianity. Mildred Hayes, seeking vengeance for a daughter who met a particularly grisly fate, is the hardest of hard cases — calling her a bereaved mother and a domestic abuse survivor would be accurate but absurdly inadequate; she is nearly fearless and not only capable of violence but as comfortable with it as a carpenter is with a hammer. She’s also brilliant — her snappy comebacks are downright aphoristic and, as her nemesis Chief Willoughby of the local PD notes, the billboards she puts up constitute a “chess move” to get action on her daughter’s case. But though intelligent and directed, she is also unmoored — by grief or, we get the impression from many clues, life itself. She’s smart enough to know that, but damaged enough to go on anyway, and her comic-tragic implacability sets off a series of funny-horrible incidents — the greatest example being a man absorbing the message that love may be the answer while a molotov-cocktail fire rages behind him. (Billboards’ other great coup de cinema is a reflex that innocently coats Mildred’s face with blood, which should be a hint as to the movie’s tone.) In the end, we get the best we can hope for: for the madness to wear itself down if not out, and the makings of one hell of a buddy-comedy sequel. As Mildred, Frances McDormand is shrine-worthy; when, struggling with her son for a fire extinguisher, she screams his name, it's like Mildred's whole biography has flashed like lightning across the screen. Woody Harrelson’s Willoughby is now in my Top Ten Good Guys With a Badge. Big ups also to Peter Dinklage as the rare spurned swain whose angry comeback actually has a point, and especially Sam Rockwell as a white trash dumbass in whose foggy mind may be sown a seed of grace.

Darkest Hour. I guess everyone watches this for Oldman’s Churchill, since the movie treats a turning point in World War II as the PM’s personal trial at least as much as Britain’s. Oldman is very good; his great insight is to play Churchill as a brilliant but undisciplined diva; childish, messy (did Churchill really eat like that in front of his King?), so devoted to his genius that any contradiction of it feels to him like betrayal -- and when he's forced to hear what the philistines call reason, he goes practically catatonic; Blimey, 'e's lost 'is mojo!  Lest we feel that civilization was only saved by Winnie’s pique, he is given a shy and doting secretary (Lily James, who is obviously great at dialects) who appears to inspire him, and a bull session with The British People in the Tube that bucks him up for the Never Surrender speech and turns the tide. Even this absurdity Oldham carries off by his devotion to the character, which banishes at least some of our reasonable doubts. The film looks great, indeed has an impressive unified design, from the giant newsreel-font credits to the now-moody, now-brutal photography to the slightly florid clothes and etching-specific sets; only now and again does it seem to be a bit pushy, as if Joe Wright thought we could only be made to buy the In Which We Serve uplift with music video tricks. (I wonder if the near-extinction of World War II vets from movie audiences might have something to do with these liberties.) But, look, I liked The King’s Speech and it was no less pushy; sometimes it's just nice to see the good guys win.

(Previously covered here: Get Out, Dunkirk, Lady Bird, and The Post.)

Thursday, March 01, 2018


It's hard to rank the members of Trump's cabinet for awfulness. Rex Tillerson might seem just ineffectual, spalshing around in his whirpool bath of bullshit ("Rex Tillerson May Be Finally Settling in at the State Department," wrote The National Interest -- on February 26, 2018), but by surrendering the histroic purview of his office to the President, who is just ignorant, and proxies like John Bolton, who want war with North Korea, he may be doing the most damage. On the other hand, Ryan Zinke's active destruction of the environment is going to be pretty hard to undo.

But don't sleep on Ben Carson, who has done fuck-all as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development except cut his department's budget, but whose tenure I think also serves a more sininster purpose.

We only hear about Carson anymore when yet another story about his insane mismanagement of the department comes out. Recently the HUD inspector general began looking into allegations that Carson's son, who runs a private equity company, was leaning on people with business before the department -- something by which no one who will be suprised if they read Alec MacGillis' story on Carson in New York magazine last August ("I watched with some amazement as the younger Carson, clad in tinted aviator shades, circulated among those seeking his father’s attention..."). And we've all heard about his bitching that his furniture wasn't grand enough and firing an underling allegedly because she wouldn't help him spend more than he was allowed on it; this has led to a number of embarrassing stories like "See HUD's $31,000 mahogany dining set."

It has not been lost on me that the most prominent African-American members of Trump's presidential retinue have been individuals likely to bomb in their respective positions: Omarosa Manigault, a contestant on Trump's TV game show before becoming Public Liaison comms director, and Carson who, after distinguishing himself as a surgeon, was the most buffoonish of the 2016 Presidential contenders -- in fact during the campaign Trump made fun of the ridiculous autobiographical stories Carson told on the trail to cover his inability to grasp public policy on even the simplest level.

Manigault is out, and Carson may not be too far behind. And I wonder if maybe Trump wasn't planning on this all along. His former "Apprentice" had at least a journalism degree and Washington experience to recommend her -- but her better known showbiz celebrity left her vulnerable to the impression that her appointment was unserious. When she was fired, the reason Trump obviously leaked to the press was "improperly using the official White House car service." Come on. I used to be a dispatcher; misusing car vouchers is something for which messengers get fired, not executives -- let alone White House executives.

All Trump appointees are by definition shit, but being shit is only one of the qualifications. Admittedly it's important, because it cements their loyalty to this criminal administration; they all realize honorable people won't work with them, and so will do anything to keep this golden opportunity (though it seems Jeff Sessions, of all people, may be losing patience).

But they also have to have some other utility. Former HHS Secretary Tom Price, for example, was hired because he could be counted on to fuck over Obamacare and to step aside and gesture invitingly toward Medicare and Medicaid as Congress came to kill them; that he was also a greedy pig meant he could be counted on, but his greed got so obvious he was making it look bad and Trump replaced him with someone who, more like Tillerson, would wreck the country on behalf of a specific corporate sponsor rather than just for himself, and thus give an impression of responsibility to something, even if it wasn't the United States.

Now, I know they've fired or pushed to resign dozens of white people, but I doubt that when those worthies were shot out of the airlock, Trump's base thought, "reckon white people can't handle the big jobs." Carson and Manigault represent the Administration's half-assed attempt to confuse white people who don't see (or don't care about, or actually approve of) the President's obvious racism. When Carson goes, however, I think I know how they'll take it.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018


Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, the granddaughter of French literal fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen, spoke at CPAC last week, and Rod Dreher went gaga for her. Yet he has trouble admitting that she's pretty much what you'd expect National Front royalty to be -- he keeps saying he just doesn't know enough, though he really likes her! I think there’s more than one reason for that.

Calling Le Pen's CPAC speech "dynamic," Dreher swooned, "she went on to condemn euthanasia, gender theory, and transhumanism." She even quoted Mahler! "Continental conservatives in the Le Pen mold are more traditionalist, focusing on natural law, religion, and culture," Dreher explained approvingly.

But he wanted it made clear: "To the extent that she represents his racist, anti-Semitic views, Marion ought to be ashamed," said Dreher later. Still,  he said, "despite having read Bill Wirtz’s TAC piece about her, it is not clear to me what she believes on race and Judaism." Wirtz's piece notes that in 2016 Le Pen's National Front "ran on banning the kippah in public places" -- though he did not cite, possibly because he could not find, Mademoiselle Le Pen explicitly affirming (or, for that matter, denying) her party's position.

"I prefer the flawed attempt of Marion Maréchal-Le Pen to address from the traditionalist right the most pressing problems of our time to the doubling down on the same tired dogmas of the US conservative establishment," said Dreher. Again, he really, really wanted it known that he abjured her grandfather -- "To be clear — pay attention here — Jean-Marie Le Pen is an actual fascist, an anti-Semite, and a disgrace" -- and said elsewhere that he also doesn't like "her secular nationalist aunt Marine, whom I find unappealing" (though he was much more sympathetic to her when she ran for the French Presidency).

And, to make his gutless equivocation even more obnoxious, he added, "Do not take me as endorsing Marion Maréchal-Le Pen! I honestly don’t know enough about her to do such a thing, and I certainly condemn the racism and anti-Semitism of her grandfather — and, if she espouses it, then her own racism and anti-Semitism."

But he kept on about her. In another post contemptuously dismissing Mona Charen and other anti-Trump and anti-Le Pen conservatives as dainty "Principled Conservatives," Dreher wrote, "Marion Maréchal-Le Pen’s [CPAC] speech can only sound like blood-and-soil nationalism to Principled Conservative ears... whatever the sins of Marion Maréchal-Le Pen and her family, Anglo-American conservatism has something important to learn from the European conservative tradition, and needs to think about it, does not make one an anti-Semite or a blood-and-soil nationalist."

Among other things, Le Pen said at CPAC, "We do not want this atomized world of individuals without gender, without mother, without father, without nation" -- a quote that was promoted on Twitter by the straight-up Nazi Defend Evropa. In fact, Defend Evropa was altogether more forthright about what Le Pen was about and why they liked her than Dreher in their own coverage of the speech:
Marion talked about pride, guilt, atomization of society, identity, enrootment to the land, peoples, legacy, survival of nations, family and many more. A beautiful speech, well received from the American public. The tide is turning, Le Pen reminded us, the Nationalists, why we should fight. And we will fight!
DU also cheered when Le Pen condemned the European Union as "an ideology without land, without people, without roots, without soul, and without civilization." She didn't mention blood, though, so Dreher's still in the clear.

And that's what his hard sell with soft details is all about. Dreher's always tergiversating about Trump -- saying he dislikes his "vulgar" style, but implying that maybe there's something valid about his movement; doesn't he attack the same people Dreher reflexively hates, after all? -- and he does something similarly sneaky with Le Pen, in fact, overtly associating Trump with Le Pen and not in a negative way:
The fact that we have Trump has a lot to do with the failures of establishment conservatives — and they still don’t seem to have any real idea why they failed. Is it really the case that the only reason people like Trump and Le Pen find traction on the right is racism and bigotry? The only reason?
You see what he's doing -- he's saying sure, maybe there's a leeedle bit of racism there, and maybe you find it disturbing -- but look, she represents a new kind of conservatism: She doesn't like trans people, either! And if that doesn't turn you on, she's also a nationalist ("Let me be clear here: I’m not offended when I hear President Trump say America first… I want France first for the French people!"). And if that doesn't do it for you... well, like he said, he's not sure what she really believes, we shouldn't judge her by her grandfather, and wasn't that speech stirring...

For her own part Mademoiselle Le Pen makes a valiant effort in her public appearances to keep the potentially less attractive features of National Front ideology quiet, but sometimes the mask slips -- as when The Guardian asked her about mixed marriages and she said, "I'm not against it... For me, marriage is a very personal choice. The only thing I'd say is that I know, from people who've told me firsthand, that sadly mixed marriages can be a bit conflicted on everyday issues. For instance, the naming of children – Muslims need children to take Muslim names, often they want women to convert to Islam..."

I'm sure Dreher knows, as it is not (yet) Le Pen's business to, how something like that might go over in the States -- like gangbusters with the Trump base, perhaps, but not so well with the more soap-and-toothpaste-involved middle Americans. But he also knows that you might could sneak it over the plate if you keep it vague and, if someone smells a rat, make sure to protest that you don't approve of the old version of this exciting new conservatism, from which the new thing is, in some ineffable way, just different. There'll be plenty of time to sort out the details later -- when it's too late.