Hong Kong’s protest leader Joshua Wong recently Tweeted this image of a painting, which imitates Liberty Leading the People (1830) by French romanticist painter Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), whose painting is at the Louvre in Paris. This brave young anti-Communist and his fellow rebels in Hong Kong fight as I write this for their freedom, lives and future. To paraphrase Ayn Rand, those supporting and participating in the Hong Kong protests fight for the future by living in it today.
Nothing on earth, based on what I know, matters more to the West’s survival at this moment than Hong Kong. That few think about, let alone grasp the meaning and magnitude of, this assertion is a fact of reality. Those that don’t want to know or do not care about Hong Kong, the West, America, rights and individualism are, ultimately, of no consequence.
Among those who do, it’s additionally discouraging to know that few choose to stand with Hong Kong. Rare friends, who on these issues are more like brothers, such as Andrew, Maryallene, Rohit, Amy and Mark, make a point to take the lead, express support and in clear and explicit terms.
Most do not, even among those who claim to know better, as I recently reaffirmed while skimming social media. After reading a portion of an extended comments thread from a post about a dispute between the author of an innocuous commentary about being gay and an anti-sex critic, this inversion became clear. The thread chiefly consists of aimless speculation about what one might do about this or that in response to (!) an arbitrary assertion. The comments are posted by those who claim (or ought) to know better as Hong Kong hangs in the balance. The frenzy’s not an occasional occurrence. Posting about trivial issues “while Rome burns” is chronic. Today’s best minds are consumed by memes, pictures and nonsense.
Meanwhile, Communist China, which poses a military threat to the U.S., Taiwan, Japan, Australia, South Korea and every pro-Western nation, allied with America’s worst enemies, Iran and North Korea. This comes as Hong Kong’s rebellion spins Communist dictator Xi Jinping and his dictatorship into turmoil. Today’s New York Times reports that
… at a meeting that has not been publicly disclosed, Mr. Xi met with other senior officials to discuss the protests. The range of options discussed is unclear, but the leaders agreed that the central government should not intervene forcefully, at least for now, several people familiar with the issue said in interviews in Hong Kong and Beijing…Now Mr. Xi faces an even bigger trade war, with much higher tariffs and greater tensions. The [dictatorship] appears to be hewing to a strategy of waiting out Mr. Trump, possibly through his 2020 re-election campaign, even as the dispute has become a drag on the economy…[Red China’s puppet in Hong Kong] offered a candid assessment of Beijing’s views, even if one she did not intend to make public. She said Beijing had no plan to send in the People’s Liberation Army to restore order because “they’re just quite scared now.”
“Because they know that the price would be too huge to pay,” she went on. “Maybe they don’t care about Hong Kong, but they care about ‘one country, two systems.’ They care about the country’s international profile. It has taken China a long time to build up to that sort of international profile.”
… State television and the party’s newspapers now refer to [Xi] as “the People’s Leader,” an honorific once bestowed only on Mao. “The People’s Leader loves the people,” The People’s Daily wrote after Mr. Xi toured Gansu, a province in western China. Mr. Xi’s calculation might be simply to remain patient, as he has been in the case of Mr. Trump’s erratic shifts in the trade war. In his remarks on Tuesday, Mr. Xi also gave a possible hint of the government’s pragmatism.
“On matters of principle, not an inch will be yielded,” he said, “but on matters of tactics there can be flexibility.”
Journalist John Stossel once told me during an interview in New York City that real news, i.e., the first draft of history, happens slowly. I think this is true. What happens in Hong Kong matters.
I’ve been writing about Asia, China, Korea, Vietnam and the Orient for decades and it’s impossible for me to ignore that, in this singular act of rebellion led by brave Mr. Wong and his comrades, the East comes to a climax which has the potential to uproot Communist China and pivot to buy time to save the West. The rational individual ought to dispense with the meaningless and instead watch, think, evaluate, judge and exercise free speech to support the rebellion for liberty in Hong Kong.
Joshua Wong, who was arrested for crimes against the state and is out on bail, strikes me as savvy enough to know that even the best minds in the West are too easily distracted by pictures and other sensory diversions. So, he’s posted a painting as propaganda to support his noble cause. But in words and deeds, nothing less than his life, and his love of it, is at stake.
The newest cluster of mass shootings finally shows a ray of light. I’ve stopped writing about these premeditated acts of mass murder with my summer of 2017 post about what I call the hush of Charlottesville. I think the status quo on mass shootings is wrong and the level and quality of discourse is low to none and getting worse fast.
Nevertheless, when FBI agent Christopher Combs described the Odessa, Texas, shooter, Seth Ator, as one who’d reached out to police in advance of his attack and rambled about his “perceived life’s tragedies” adding that the 36-year-old “was on a long spiral of going down”, I saw a spark of intelligence in the currently prevalent approach to mass American murder.
“[The mass murderer] was on a long spiral of going down,” the FBI agent had said. It’s a crucial statement. His judgment bears repeating, thinking about and contemplating, even examining. Combs went on about Ator’s act of evil: “He didn’t wake up Saturday morning and go into his company and then it happened. He went to that company in trouble and had probably been in trouble for a while.”
As someone who has conducted a kind of cultural study of these mass murders since a mentally disturbed woman went on a shooting rampage on Chicago’s North Shore in the late 1980s, after having been in and out of mental health institutions and the judiciary for crimes against her husband for decades, with the complicity of many in the health care and judicial systems but especially her parents, I’ve come to the conclusion that the predominant voices on mass shootings are fundamentally wrong. With the current atmosphere so highly charged, it’s nearly impossible to have a reasonable discussion of these events.
Combs makes progress, however, by emphasizing — really stressing — the shooter’s death spiral. The policeman is, as America’s president has been trying to do, shifting the focus from residual or secondary issues such as access to guns, safety precautions, etc., to more fundamental issues such as mental health. In the case in Chicagoland, the murderess Laurie Dann could have been prevented from slaughtering and maiming the innocent including her children victims had her parents and others held Dann to account for her mental illness, crime and wrongdoing. Policeman Combs is saying the same thing about the Odessa, Texas, killer.
In fact, nearly every act of mass American murder in recent years, from the Islamic terrorists who gunned down gays in Orlando and athletes in Boston to the gambler who gunned down concert-goers in Las Vegas, sent multiple messages in advance of each siege. In some cases, such as the Boston and Orlando jihadist assaults, police had been warned in advance by the family or intelligence. In others, such as the Las Vegas massacre, women knew something was wrong in advance. But in each case, clear signs of evil, mental distress or impending breakdown were demonstrated, often in repetition. Yet warnings and signs went ignored, denied or evaded.
Why? I’ll leave that to historians and scholars. It’s clear to me, however, that the nation’s in a mass delusion about the philosophical rot eroding us from within, which is why the FBI agent’s comment is somewhat encouraging in today’s context. Few are able or want to acknowledge the reality that bad ideas, such as altruism, also collectivism, are accepted and practiced with consistency in these murderous attacks. These are at least contributing causal factors in most of these mass shootings. It’s not just white men doing the killing. From the Beltway sniper and his partner in crime at the turn of the century to foreigners, women such as Dann, Susan Smith and lesbians driving off cliffs with their children, among others in Santa Barbara and Virginia Tech, the rot spreads and claims countless lives. No one should be shocked to find that those who accept our era’s basic thesis that selfishness is a vice practice this rotten ideal.
Will Americans ever learn that those trained to seek to annihilate themselves are more likely to annihilate others? The ethics of selflessness breeds mass death, damage and disability.
As Fred Rogers once said:
“Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.”
For all their professions of civility, compassion, nuance, intelligence and decency, those who consider themselves to be liberal in my experience are often the most damaged, deficient and disabled in this regard. Again, what the FBI agent says about the spiraling down of the man who shot police and civilians in Texas is that he needed help for himself, cried out and sought help to some extent and ended up going down without help. People should pay more attention to the disaffected, the dejected, the maligned — anyone who’s being ridiculed, persecuted and confused by living in the divisive, strident, hostile society America has become. Especially, though not exclusively, the white male.
Twenty years ago, I wrote an op-ed for newspapers arguing that so-called hate crime legislation pushed by religious conservatives and leftists alike would lead to total suppression of speech, more hatred and total contempt and disregard for thought, as such, as a crime. Read my essay, reprinted in publications such as the Los Angeles Daily News, Philadelphia Inquirer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Casper Star-Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle, here.
Hate crimes became law anyway and, sadly, my forecast became reality. Hate crimes, which are tantamount to thought crimes, evoking Orwell’s dystopian literature, led to the asinine, anti-conceptual term hate speech, which poisons American society with suppression of thought, ideas and civil discourse. With now-daily mass murder coupled with calls for total government control of speech, media, guns, medicine and life, as the troubled individual about whom the FBI’s Christopher Combs spoke sacrifices himself as instructed, each American should challenge and reject the idea that hatred is bad, wrong and toxic.
After 20 years of nonstop, incessant preaching against hate, as such, distorting a perfectly legitimate emotion by extrapolating it universally as inherently and always wrong, bad and evil, the nation is utterly consumed by Americans’ hatred of one another. The hatred manifests in mass death as lonely, troubled people lash out against anyone who seems responsible for the nation’s or their real or perceived downward spiral.
The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution does not preclude steps toward laws governing guns, as Trump and some in Congress support.
But America’s epidemic of daily mass murder can only be causally mitigated by listening, not sniveling, to others. The snide, hostile, vitriolic quips, memes and digs substituting for discourse destroy one’s ability to project a better, happier future. Every time a leftist, an anarchist or a conservative hurls invective, the otherwise decent human is dehumanized, demoralized and more susceptible to bad ideals, especially self-abnegation as an alleviating solution to his — or her — pain, suffering and agony.
This is compounded by the confusion, experienced as causeless among generations taught not to think but instead to go scoreless, refuse to judge and instead prattle slogans to reduce, conserve and recycle or just blank out, feel, gaze at one’s navel and go toward God, “the light” and whatever rave, idiotic video challenge or drug-induced mania is trending. Self-denial and confusion are a volatile mix for mass death.
The solution? Listening, really listening, and speaking in turn but with civility, strength, purpose, benevolence and, above all, rationality. This means knowing, understanding and loving the First, before the Second, Amendment. And this means hating — really having contempt for — those who seek to wipe it out and replace it with government control.
Hong Kong’s rejection of Communist China’s extradition rule and the governance of Communist China puppet ruler Carrie Lam is an unsurprising recent development. With its British colonial history, Hong Kong has been an outpost of Western civilization in the Orient; an Occidentalist center for trading food, especially seafood, goods and services bridging east and west. Much of the city’s population went along with Britain’s adherence to a pre-Communist agreement to return Hong Kong to China in 1997, which Leonard Peikoff once observed may have been influenced by Reagan’s refusal to back Thatcher’s withdrawal or refusal to recognize the agreement on the grounds that its terms were voided by dictatorship.
Hong Kong’s cosmopolitanism and independence endures. From freedom fighter and activist Joshua Wong to millions waving American flags and uniting to sing “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from the Broadway musical version of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, Hong Kong yearns to be free, not ruled by the government that cracks down as I write this.
Privately, I’ve supported China’s liberalization to make progress toward capitalism. But I am proud to have never endorsed, let alone romanticized, the People’s Republic of China. This is true from my newspaper commentary calling for Bush’s secretary of state, the utterly incompetent Colin Powell, who is one of America’s worst military leaders and statesmen, to resign over his appeasement of China’s refusal to return a U.S. military crew and plane to my denunciation of China’s sponsorship of sporting spectacles. I think too many, including businesses such as Apple, artists and Objectivist speakers, and, of course, elected politicians, coddle, appease or ignore Communist China. It is in this sense that I think President Trumpis right to oppose China.
I am not a foreign policy thinker, though I’ve covered China in my writing and journalism. I am not a war, military or other type of historian. I do not study Asian history or military strategy for a living. I am certainly not an economist. I’ve read some books about the relevant topics. I’ve taken some courses. And I study philosophy. So, I recognize the implications of China’s threat to the West. Currently, I follow a range of several thinkers, commentators and scholars, including, in the past, the late John David Lewis, the forementioned philosopher Dr. Peikoff and Gordon Chang, among others. Accordingly, with Trump’s tariffs and trade war and Hong Kong as a potential flashpoint, I think China is in some sort of internal turmoil and poses a serious danger to the West. China recently allied with North Korea, a Stalinist state threatening nuclear attack on the U.S. and invasion of South Korea, which is currently governed by an anti-American who recently reneged on an agreement to share intelligence with Japan.
The U.S. has tens of thousands of troops in South Korea and not merely to protect that country, which, like Taiwan, Japan, Southeast Asia, Australia and U.S. Pacific territories and states, is crucial to sustaining America. China’s militarism, coddled by Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama, including its advancement on the South China Sea, like its ally Islamic Iran, is dangerous. This is to say nothing of China’s constant attacks on Americans’ property. To his credit, and I am among the first to critique the nation’s president, before he was elected president and before bashing him became an American cultural fixation and leftist dogma, Donald Trump’s is the first American government to stand up to China. Whatever Trump’s motives, mistakes and complete lack of principles, and whatever the ominous signs of what his presidency and its often mindless following means, Trump on China is a step in the right direction.
For the first time in America’s modern history, and this goes to the issue of America’s future and retaining or reconstructing what makes America great, the United States acts primarily in the interest of the United States with regard to China. Mine is not an endorsement of tariffs in general or in specific. I disagree with most of what Trump thinks, including his positions on Snowden, the surveillance state and health care as a right, to name a few. I’ve said so and under my own name. But I think his standing up to China, if and to the degree he does, is important, possibly crucial, and good. If progress means advancement of civilized humankind with living on earth as the standard and I think it does, Trump on China in terms of demanding certain terms and conditions for trade and military policy, is progressive.
This brings me to Trump’s detractors, the so-called ‘progressives’ running for president.
The 2020 Democrats are a band of goons, thugs and loons. Democrats want to rob Americans for slavery reparations. Nearly every Democratic Party presidential candidate seeks to ban, control or dictate property, livelihoods, medicine, exercise of speech and cars. Many endorse socialism, socialized medicine and fascism. The frontrunner says he wants to dictate the automotive industry and force Americans to drive electrical cars. One candidate seeks to impose a national collective income. The same candidate plans to install gigantic mirrors in outer space to fight the sun’s rays in the name of opposing a change in earth’s climate, which Democrats believe is a kind of apocalypse caused by humanity. Every Democrat running for president seeks total government control of the medical profession. Even an otherwise reasonable candidate such as South Bend, Indiana’s mayor, Pete Buttigieg, has come out for slavery reparations.
This fact alone makes Trump’s re-election more plausible and, while I didn’t support Trump in 2016 and actively spoke out against and oppose his protectionism and other anti-capitalism, I am willing to consider voting for the ex-Democrat as against a candidate who supports socialism, opposes pure capitalism and pledges to violate my right to speech, association and life to ban my car and confiscate my property for slavery reparations, a national income and socialized medicine, college tuition and whatever other lunacy they have in mind.
The premise of the Democrats’ totalitarian environmentalism and socialism is altruism. Why would you trust one who explicitly opposes egoism to defend the United States of America? Trump is bad, terribly anti-intellectual, and it’s true that he’s an authoritarian at least in psychological terms. However vulgar, nationalistic and anti-capitalist his presidency, which is marginally better than I forecast, he’s looking better than the alternative, each of whom shares the same moral premise and economic ideal as China.
As the West watches the world’s danger zones — Venezuela, Cuba, Sudan, Yemen, Israel, Seoul, Kashmir, Kabul, Taiwan, the Sea of Japan, Straits of Hormuz and South China Sea — especially Hong Kong, which once not long ago granted refuge to an American who defied the Obama administration to challenge the status quo and cripple the surveillance state, whose citizens seek to live in liberty, I think it’s important to stand up to China. For the first time in my life, the American president (an anti-intellectual made possible by his thoroughly anti-American predecessor) does.
Recent reports that cancer has returned in Olivia Newton-John for the third time are unfortunate. But I know that Olivia, who turns 70 this month and whose mother and sister died of cancer, intends on thriving, as against merely surviving, as she once told me during one of our interviews.
The singer, whose work I’ve long covered and admired, released a statement that she is currently undergoing treatment, emphasizing her use of natural healing methods and cannabis oil for the pain. Olivia founded the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre in Australia.
Buy the Album
So, letting her own idea of “love and light” guide her, Olivia continues to live large, brave and graceful by example. And I continue to draw from her strength, encouragement and balanced, peaceful reality checks, in her appearances, statements, movies, performances and music. When one in my own family was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, I turned to Olivia Newton-John’s positive-themed 2008 duets album, A Celebration in Song, as both a source of clarity and as a gift for the loved one. The impact and gratitude for her album is now a cherished memory.
A Celebration in Song, as well as ONJ’s other softer, more personal albums since the height of her popularity, inspires. I listen to and appreciate every tune, though I consider “Courageous” the perfect song for summoning one’s innermost abilities to thrive in the face of hardship.
I first met and interviewed ONJ nearly 20 years ago and mine was her premier Las Vegas headliner show’s first review. I would love to meet Olivia again for an interview to discuss the publication for her forthcoming memoir. Once again, I wish Olivia a speedy recovery and the best of everything…with love for this phenomenal woman.
The distinction between media and social media is, as I’ve forecast, disappearing. Years ago, when gossip tabloids first started reporting, accurately as it turned out, about the American president’s sexual dalliances, the establishment media, such as the New York Times, driven by competition with the rise of the Internet and sites such as Matt Drudge’s aggregation website, followed suit. This smut-based media coverage came to dominate the Clinton presidency, causing some to accuse the president of launching military strikes against Islamic terrorist camps as a diversion. The strikes, as has been reported, were very limited, extremely ineffective — the president refused to approve bombing the terrorist planning to attack the World Trade Center, for instance, because intelligence indicated that he was in a tent being used as a mosque — and America was attacked on September 11, 2001.
The terrorist group that launched the attack still exists. Other terrorist groups have been created. The states that sponsor Islamic terrorism have, or can get, nuclear weapons.
The media matters. How reporters approach topics matters. So, when social media, with its instant and direct access to the public and lack of proofreading, fact-checking, editing, selectivity or curation and double and triple-checking, came to dominate the media — the news media is now driven by social media and vice versa — the facts, stories and analysis became less reliable, less credible and more suspect (as I wrote here).
No where has new media’s impact been greater than in the Me, Too movement targeting, naming, accusing, maligning and attacking men for sex crimes and transgressions. Stories with unsubstantiated allegations, anonymous sources and multiple discrepancies, claims which often cannot be corroborated, would have been spiked before going to press. The media knew, for instance, about President Kennedy‘s dalliances, which include accusations of drugging at least one subordinate woman for sex, and did not report it. Similarly, there were rumors about Clinton, Bush and other powerful men for decades which went unreported unless legal or publishing, i.e., an accusatory memoir, action had been taken. As recently as a few years ago with the rape claims against Bill Cosby, the media was cautious in its reporting and careful to point out that these were, whatever their volume, claims and allegations, not proof of guilt.
Not anymore. Ever since the New York Times and New Yorker reported at random on certain claims against Harvey Weinstein, ushering in the wave of countless, largely unsubstantiated and difficult to corroborate sexual assault and harassment allegations against numerous men, the Me, Too movement marches on. Even before that, the media was becoming as salacious and smutty as the gossip tabloids. The San Francisco Chronicle published a column by an ex-wife detailing alleged infidelity of movie director Joss Whedon. As I forewarned in a post about the public campaign to destroy Harvey Weinstein, dozens of men in prominent positions in business, many of outstanding ability, have been maligned, most without charges or evidence, accused and marked for total ruin in a national frenzy conflating sex claims of varying degrees of accused wrongdoing. Though some of the men admit to actions they claim to regret, most of the accused deny wrongdoing.
Note that most of the accused men are neither charged with crimes nor named in civil court proceedings by the victims. Weinstein, for instance, has not been charged with a single crime, though he was, in fact, physically attacked by a stranger who photographed the attack. The Me, Too campaign to persecute accused men by public opinion through social media rages on. Any woman who makes a claim is instantly branded a heroine. Any man who is accused is instantly branded a monster.
I first questioned this herd mentality and mob action through social media with posts questioning the punishment of Brian Williams. Last year, with the coordinated attack on the nation’s top cable news host, I questioned the firing of Bill O’Reilly. By last October, New York’s vaunted publications were publishing major pieces accusing a studio boss of rape and sexual harassment. I questioned then, too, swift and sudden pronunciations of guilt without evidence or trial of moviemaker Harvey Weinstein, who, like Brian Williams, had immediately admitted certain transgressions, showed remorse and sought to make amends — in each case, not on the grounds of innocence or guilt but because the means by which the accused, maligned man was being judged, persecuted and punished was deeply flawed, lacking or disproportionate.
Recently, others started questioning this mob mentality, expressing doubts and criticism of the Me, Too movement. Challenges and questions have recently been raised by Margaret Atwood, Liam Neeson, Catherine Deneuve and others.
As I forewarned, the Me, Too movement is becoming an anti-sex movement intent on imposing government controls on people’s private affairs, dictating work terms, contracts, sex training, demanding the purge of men from the workplace to be replaced by women because they are women. The Hollywood commission proposed by Disney’s powerful Lucasfilm boss, Kathleen Kennedy, who demanded that feminists, activists and college professors be put in charge of strict new workplace controls, already exists. The commission boss is Anita Hill, who embraces the aim to restrict contracts and impose programs designed to spread workplace egalitarianism based on one’s sex.
The Me, Too movement, which has been heralded by the left and the right alike, not only threatens sex, privacy and free trade; the movement suppresses free speech. Again and again, anyone who speaks out against the Me, Too movement is castigated and maligned — observe the Me, Too response to Ms. Atwood or The Atlantic reporter whose article questioned comedian Aziz Ansari’s accuser — and any dissenter, no matter her nuance or deviation, is crushed on social media. Meanwhile, daily claims based on pictures, posts and Tweets destroy careers within hours.
Even men who are not accused of sex crimes are presumed guilty. The deal to adapt Jeffrey Toobin’s bestselling book about convicted felon Patty Hearst as a movie was terminated hours after Hearst attacked Toobin’s book on the grounds that she was a sex crime victim.
The hysteria is stirred by short-term gains in ratings and ad revenue but the feeding frenzy continues to inflict real damage to and prohibition of the free exchange of thought, speech and ideas. The most diligent observer and rational consumer can’t avoid today’s constant onslaught of posts, headlines and articles about the flimsiest of claims. A barrage of vulgar and lurid sex scandals, as against a thoughtful examination of sexual assault and impropriety, regardless of the legitimacy of any claims, overshadows crucial and urgent news about more deadly and imminent dangers.
Consider, for example, an Islamic terrorist’s June 12, 2016 act of war at a gay nightclub, in which the jihadist, Omar Mateen, gunned down 49 Americans and clubgoers (and wounded 68 people). The trial of the woman charged with lying to investigators and aiding and abetting the Moslem terrorist, Mrs. Mateen, Noor Salman, who admitted seeing her husband leave the day of the shooting with a backpack full of ammunition, starts March 1. How widely is this fact known? How many in the news media reported this fact, which is based on actual evidence, and how deeply was it examined?
Do you know about the disclosures of facts about Mrs. Omar Mateen? Did you know that she knew her husband “was going to do something very bad” before the Islamic terrorist attack?
Did you know that the fingerprints of the Las Vegas shooter’s partner, Marilou Danley, are reportedly all over the weapons used in the attack, which killed 58 Americans and wounded 851 concertgoers, replacing Islamic terrorist Mateen’s assault as the worst mass gun murder in modern U.S. history?
You may have known that she had left the United States and was traveling but did you know that Danley deleted her Facebook account before the attack? Did you know that she has not been charged with a crime? Did you know that she was considered by the FBI to be “the most likely person who aided or abetted Stephen Paddock”, according to federal court documents made public last week?
As hysteria replaces journalism and the New Yorker, New York Times and broadcast news mimic the tabloid gossip they once, not long ago, routinely dismissed as speculative sensationalism, blowing accusations out of proportion, publishing what amount to smears and insinuations and dropping the context of someone’s claims while failing to report news that matters, consider the toll this takes on how you know what you know. Whether you knew that Marilou Danley knew that Stephen Paddock was acting strangely before the mysterious attack on over 20,000 concertgoers may be a byproduct of chronic media attention to gossip that is not news.
Or consider whether you know how an errant missile launch alert happened this month in Hawaii. And who, in particular, down to his (or her) name, rank and specific job responsibilities, activated the missile warning. When one knows only that a man is accused of sexual wrongdoing, and that, hours later without a legal claim let alone criminal charge against him, he’s lost his job, his career, and, possibly, his livelihood for life — but you do not know the name of the person who sent millions of civilians running for cover from a nuclear strike — the free press is severely diminished and compromised. So, too, is your ability to learn, sort and judge facts, information and new knowledge.
When the free press becomes a farce, and the exercise of free speech is mocked, maligned, suppressed, attacked and all but vanished — when, in essence, only the claim “Me, too” is reported and tolerated — your rights and your life are more than ever at risk.
Twenty seventeen is the year of the purge. After binging for decades on the biting, flat and blank cynicism from The Honeymooners in the Fifties and Saturday Night Live in the Seventies to Seinfeld, The Simpsons and South Park in the Nineties, Americans hardened after Black Tuesday (September 11, 2001) and split apart following the vacant, divisive presidency of Barack Obama. This year, it’s as though some Americans sought to purge America of its founding ideals and proudest practices.
While it is true that the nation’s founding principle, individual rights, has been under attack since the Industrial Revolution, and the U.S. has been coasting on its sense of life ever since, this year in review demonstrates signs that a certain segment of Americans showed real contempt for rights. Whether support for state-run bureaucracies and programs which violate rights such as the TSA, ObamaCare or NSA, or hostility for freedom of speech, property rights and capitalism, these Americans proved eager to violate rights. What once might have been opposition to breaching man’s rights — the Constitutional right to travel unmolested by the state, the right to choose one’s health care and the right to life which is the right to be left alone — turned to silence, submission and explicit sanction. This year saw the regression of the freedom of speech in the executive branch, which threatened to silence the press, and on college campuses.
After this year’s attack on a protest in Charlottesville, one of several assaults including Islamic terrorist attacks and citizen assaults on government officials, came the silence of self-suppression. As foreign and domestic murder of Americans worsens, so does rational discourse between them.
Leading the purge of ideas from political discourse, President Trump failed this year to grasp how to salvage what is left of capitalism, failing to engage Congress and Americans in debate, let alone repeal, over the debacle ObamaCare. Instead, Trump conspired to keep ObamaCare’s worst parts, failing to galvanize support for repeal of the worst law in recent U.S. history (read my post on rational reform). With a barrage of insults, outbursts and vulgarities, Trump — acting as ringmaster distracting people and the press with an abundance of sideshows — also purged decency from the White House.
As deficient a president as Trump is, despite any partial and/or accidental success he’s managed, Trump’s vice-president, conservative Mike Pence, is worse. Pence is a religionist of the Roy Moore ilk who, like Trump, fraudulently claims to be for capitalism when the opposite is true. For instance, he claimed as a congressman to support Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) while, in fact, he refused to support expanding HSAs when it mattered most and would have advanced rational health care reform. Vice-President Pence, who agrees with Roy Moore about persecuting gays, would replace Trump if necessary, even as Pence reportedly schemed in 2017 to purge from Trump’s administration any who doubt or question the authoritarian president. These two politicians — both made possible by today’s cynical welfare state collapsing into faith-based authoritarianism — and their mixed band of government interventionists, such as Steve Bannon, seek to purge facts from the press and the press from reporting on matters of state.
If Washington’s a swamp, Trump-Pence are Swamp Things. They want to drag, not drain, the filth out of the swamp and spread the muck all around.
Harvey Weinstein depicted as predatory clown from “It”.
But Trump-Pence can be (and have been) stopped from implementing some of their worst plans. Another 2017 trend, which ignited this fall, similarly seeks to purge reason and render in its place prejudice: today’s incessant jumping to purge the individual from a livelihood because one is accused of wrongdoing. Whether, in fact, the publicly maligned person is accused in the judiciary or is named via unconfirmed claims is, in this alarming approach, beside the point.
I first noticed the trend with the demise of a TV host I find deplorable, Bill O’Reilly, a conservative whose show on Fox News was awful but whose takedown, based on unsubstantiated claims, was troubling. Then, a left-wing movie businessman, Harvey Weinstein, was suddenly accused of outrageous claims in a frenzy of public shaming and mob action. These two men of wealth, success and power thanks to hard work on extremely enduring and popular enterprises, had something besides accusations of sexual impropriety and worse in common: they were targeted for exposure with intent.
By whom and by what means? To what end? Why? O’Reilly’s demise was more coordinated than Weinstein’s but both were purged in swift and serious campaigns. In a year in which foreign infiltration of media — specifically, social media, though other media have in the past proven corruptible, too — is known and admitted, these questions about the press (which I alluded to here) ought to be examined and resolved. If it is legitimate to ask why NBC News rejected a pitch to broadcast a hit piece on Harvey Weinstein, it is legitimate to ask why The New Yorker accepted the pitch and why the New York Times decided to publish an article without a news peg with unsubstantiated charges against Weinstein. The media now routinely speaks of accused persons in disparaging terms and presumes the accused as guilty by insinuation, mimicking the gossip press. Discerning consumers should ask why. Indeed, NBC News reports that one of the gossip media, an operation called BuzzFeed, recently received a tip from Trump operatives about a Democrat who now stands accused of sexual impropriety.
Is it possible that some, many or all the sex-related claims are part of a proxy war between operatives seeking to influence, disrupt and distract Americans — and, if so, why and to what purpose? — with the press as proxy?
In any case, even if every sex claim is true, and I am not asserting whether I think they are or are not true, when accusation is regarded as a matter of fact, we’re likely to get everything but the truth. Besides Weinstein and O’Reilly, accused producers, artists and businessmen include:
This list of accused men is partial. Add to this list executives, directors and associated persons, agencies or companies branded as perverts or enablers, cast out and smeared, ruined or judged and, in any case, insidiously maligned, often without an opportunity to contemplate, let alone respond to, unsubstantiated charges against them.
Most of the men being swept into oblivion with their enterprises, endeavors, accounts, affiliates and partners are being maligned without the benefit of the doubt or closer scrutiny of allegations, many of which were posted on social media. Some of the men are on the left — David Corn, Russell Simmons, Charlie Rose, as well as persons at NPR and MSNBC. Some are on the right: the late Roger Ailes, who has since died, Bill O’Reilly and Eric Bolling, whose son was found dead within hours of his father’s termination from Fox News. Politicians also accused of sex crimes and impropriety such as Al Franken, John Conyers and Roy Moore, as current or aspiring government officials, ought to be held accountable to the people and taxpayers should not be forced to pay their settlements. But the people should decide elections based on political philosophy, not on rumor and lurid allegations.
The media magnifies the purge and prejudice which, in turn, ultimately harms the media. I think the issue of reporting unconfirmed claims is complicated by major changes in the media industry, changes caused or exacerbated by what I think is a disproportionate boom in technological advances which possibly would not have been brought to market in any but a mixed economy. This boom, in turn, may hasten the major shift in today’s media which, in turn, entices formerly and even currently credible sources, such as the Washington Post, to stop reporting essentially based on facts, the truth and what matters — such as nuclear, Islamic terrorist and domestic government control threats to America’s existence — and instead focus on sensational journalism equivocating on the truth of certain assertions.
The adage that if it bleeds, it leads, applies because sex claims against the famous get clicks and customers and, as actions pertaining to sex are denounced and regulated, the cycle spins faster.
Hollywood’s blackballing — sometimes, without as much as a workplace complaint — is driven, as I wrote here, by Puritanical tyrants allied to control people’s lives, from workplace conduct to moviegoing, through a belief system about sex — a set of sex commandments — which, in turn, becomes government control. As I wrote in the post about Weinstein, today’s priests and priestesses seeking sex commandments, ranging from an ex-beauty contestant and Fox News hostess to Hollywood’s most influential titans and institutions, propose rigid, new work rules and regulations concocted by college professors, activists and feminists prohibiting sex-related association, contracts and action.
Trump supports Saudi purge
Speaking of repressive religious regimes, nonstop coverage of unconfirmed sex claims obscures reporting on news that matters, such as Saudi Arabia purging itself of the closest such a dictatorship could have to freethinkers, such as Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. The now-imprisoned or detained prince’s wealth among many others’ has been confiscated by the fundamentalist Islamic state in a sweeping purge of what the dictatorship calls “corruption”, even as the kingdom claims it’s liberalizing dictates against women. The Trump administration — the president and his secretary of state participated in a Saudi Arabian sword ceremony this year in a distinctly un-American display — approves of the purge.
With Saudi Arabia in a proxy war with the world’s other Islamic totalitarian state, Iran, the Saudi purge, amid rising religious influence within the oil kingdom, further destabilizes the region and threatens the West. As historian John Lewis told me in our last interview, whichever Islamic dictatorship emerges from the war between these two jihadist states is an emboldened enemy of civilization; the victor, Dr. Lewis forewarned, poses a catastrophic threat to the United States.
Sen. John McCain infamously spoke at the turn of the century of a 100-year war against religious fundamentalists. Unfortunately, America is well into what appears to be a 100-year war for nothing, about nothing, accomplishing nothing but mass death of Americans — citizens and soldiers alike — as America appeases Islamic statism.
Neglecting the national defense and purging men from power based on sensationalized, unsubstantiated claims hastens America’s disintegration into an uninformed, distracted and unguarded nation in which every thought, expression and action is subject to the whims of a bureaucrat — leaving every American at the mercy of those who hate humanity, civilization and progress.
You see this moral submission to evil in the acceptance of mass death as a matter of course. You see this in every trending shooting, vehicular mowdown or stabbing. You see this in the subsequent lockdown, backslapping, praying and candlelighting and the calls for more of the same irrational laws, checkpoints and practices that fail to stop each attack. You see it in the people’s belief in a national leader, surveillance or other statism such as a transportation agency which fails 90 percent of the time, according to its own bureaucrats.
You see it, too, though, when there’s a car chase, a new wave of allegations or another presidential meltdown. Day by day, year by year, America is being purged of thoughtful discourse about what matters, sacrificing reason for gawking over, as against grappling with, unchecked half-truths. Jumping to conclusions to purge those in power comes at the expense of making judgments about defending the nation and achieving nothing less than victory.
The year’s greatest unsolved mystery — why Stephen Paddock opened fire on a musical concert in Las Vegas in an act of mass murder — is, in this sense, emblematic of the year 2017. The act got everyone’s attention for a few weeks. There were the knee-jerk expressions of belief, prayer and political commentary. Then, the unsolved mystery of why a mass murderer did what he did, including basic discrepancies in the timeline, faded into oblivion.
This evil, empty attack, apparently premeditated by Paddock simply to purge life on earth — including his own, reducing himself to zero as we’re told is the highest morality; selflessness — happened, passed and was, like ObamaCare, the surveillance state and the TSA, accepted as the new normal. Slaughter in Las Vegas was as forgotten as every other act of mass murder. In a year in which Americans showed greater outrage over unproven accusations than over unsolved motives for the mass murder of innocents, what is being purged from America is the sound of the voice of reason.