Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rally for the Sake of Rallying

No, I didn’t make it to Washington for the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. I didn’t make it to Woodstock either, so I didn’t want to ruin my record.

If I didn’t go to Woodstock when it would have been age appropriate, I certainly was not going to hop on a bus and go to a rally designed to appeal to adolescents, young and old.

Before saying anything, let’s be clear about one thing. The Rally was run by two comedians; it was led by two showmen who appear on Comedy Central. Jon Stewart is a fake newsman and Stephen Colbert is a fake commentator.

So, I get the joke. I may no longer be a teenager but I do recall that when you are a teenager the most important thing is to be in on the joke. It makes you cool. It makes you part of the in-crowd.

What teenagers, young and old, do not know, is that you can present something as a joke, as a general all-around good time, and still communicate information and ideas.The one does not preclude the other.

To the adolescent mind, it may be necessary to present serious ideas under the guise of humor. It’s called manipulation and indoctrination.

You agree to certain ideas because you are part of a crowd that finds them funny. You have not really thought through the meaning of these ideas, so you do not know what you have committed to. Later, you might be chagrined to discover that what appeared to be so fun and so reasonable on Saturday feels like a bad hangover on Sunday morning.

A Pied Piper who wants to lead you off a cliff seduces you with music and fun. He does not show his hand. And you do not know what’s at stake until it is too late.

Run masterfully by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert the Rally was surely a great success. In principle, it had no political message, but the major media outlets that refused to allow their journalists to attend obviously were not in on the joke.

What was the Rally’s message? Tunku Varadarajan summarizes it well: “Stewart's overt message is that those who embrace his Daily Show orthodoxy are part of a tribe that transcends the idiocies of our age, a tribe that is lucid, cool, and discerning—in a word, "sane." Joy Behar is, by this token, sane. Most Republicans, by definition, are not. As for Americans who espouse the Tea Party in any way: Why, they're overwrought, moonstruck psychos; in a word, insane.” Link here.

We’ve come a long way from Woodstock, where losing your mind was considered to be a revolutionary act. But Stewart has certainly tapped into the left’s current mantra.

As a desperate John Kerry expressed it: "It’s absurd. We’ve lost our minds. We’re in a period of know-nothingism in the country, where truth and science and facts don’t weigh in. It’s all short-order, lowest-common-denominator, cheap-seat politics.”

This argument was out in full force on the Mall in Washington yesterday. What is wrong with us, a college student told a television interviewer, when all the world likes Barack Obama and we Americans don’t?

Duh. As always, I am happy to provide evidence of the power of educated thought.

Rationally speaking, one might reply to said student with some facts. Since it took office the Obama administration went to Germany twice and insisted to the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, that Germany needed to flood its economy with fiscal stimulus.

Twice, the German Chancellor demurred and sent the Obami packing.

Today, the unemployment rate in Germany’s vibrant economy is 7.5%. In Obama’s America it is 9.6% and these college students who massed on the Mall yesterday are looking at a decidedly dim economic future.

As the old saying goes: Who’s crazy now?

Be that as it may, no one begrudges anyone a good party.

But the more important point, as Varadarajan said, is the simple fact that the Rally is one of the most starkly divisive political events in recent times.

A rally that divides the nation into the sane and the insane can hardly claim to be trying to unite the nation. There's something wrong with saying that we are not Democrats and Republicans, not liberals and conservatives, but sane and insane.

When your opponents are insane, you do not need to listen to them. You have effectively stigmatized them.

The insane need to be medicated or locked up. After all, the organizers of the Rally, who were mostly playing for ratings, surely did not recall that in the old Soviet Union dissidents were often declared to be insane and were locked up in psychiatric hospitals where they were tortured.

Jon Stewart has taught a generation of American youth that the people who disagree with their liberal pieties are frankly insane. Therefore, you need not listen to anything they are saying.

But Stewart did have a serious message, and we owe it to him to take it seriously. His message: cable news and the twenty-four hour news cycle has driven us mad, has made us crazy, has deprived us of our rationality.

While we are at it, why not add the blogosphere, Facebook, and Twitter. We are awash in information and ideas; we are bombarded by shrieking denunciations and we have therefore lost our ability to reason clearly and to vote Democratic.

The latter is implied, not stated.

Is Stewart saying that we were better off when the mainstream media had an unchallenged monopoly over information and ideas? I hope not.

Is he attacking the free market in ideas? That would place him at odds with the first amendment, to say nothing of the great Western tradition of free speech.

Is he saying that the American people have been duped by noise-mongers into voting against their best interest? If he is, he is also saying that American citizens do not have the right to cast their votes as they see fit, that they have no right to determine what is and is not in their best interest. If their judgment does not coincide with Jon Stewart’s, then they are frankly insane.

That is the message. Take it or leave it. The least we can say is that it is not a joke. A zealous youth could easily hear it and decide that Fox News and MSNBC needed to be shut down. That might sound fair and balanced, but the relative influence of the two media outlets is so thoroughly disproportionate that many so-called liberals would happily throw MSNBC under the bus if they could also silence Fox News.

Back in the world of side-splitting humor, what could be funnier than to open a Rally to Restore Sanity/Fear with Ozzy Osbourne. That’s so funny that even I get it.

Unfortunately, the man sharing the stage with Ozzy was Yusuf Islam, aka Cat Stevens. As many have pointed out, that was not nearly as funny. Link here.

You may recall that in February, 1989, the Ayatollah Khomeini called for the assassination of author Salman Rushdie for having blasphemed Islam in his book: The Satanic Verses.

At the time Yusuf Islam was asked his opinion. He replied that, according to Islamic law, he had to support the fatwa against Rushdie. He qualified his wish for Rushdie’s death with the statement that he himself would oppose vigilante justice.

The Wikipedia article on the dispute quotes Yusuf’s words, from the Christian Science Monitor: ”In Islam there is a line between let's say freedom and the line which is then transgressed into immorality and irresponsibility and I think as far as this writer is concerned, unfortunately, he has been irresponsible with his freedom of speech. Salman Rushdie or indeed any writer who abuses the prophet, or indeed any prophet, under Islamic law, the sentence for that is actually death. It's got to be seen as a deterrent, so that other people should not commit the same mistake again."

The same article quotes Yusuf’s interview by Geoffrey Robertson on the BBC, as reported by the New York Times:

“Robertson: You don't think that this man deserves to die?
Y. Islam: Who, Salman Rushdie?
Robertson: Yes.
Y. Islam: Yes, yes.
Robertson: And do you have a duty to be his executioner?
Y. Islam: Uh, no, not necessarily, unless we were in an Islamic state and I was ordered by a judge or by the authority to carry out such an act - perhaps, yes.
[Some minutes later, Robertson on the subject of a protest where an effigy of the author is to be burned]
Robertson: Would you be part of that protest, Yusuf Islam, would you go to a demonstration where you knew that an effigy was going to be burned?
Y. Islam: I would have hoped that it'd be the real thingThe New York Times also reports this statement from the program: [If Rushdie turned up at my doorstep looking for help] I might ring somebody who might do more damage to him than he would like. I'd try to phone the Ayatollah Khomeini and tell him exactly where this man is.”

As it happens, Yusuf claims never to have called for the death of Salman Rushdie. Besides, he added, he was really joking. It was just an instance of dry Islamic humor.

Are you in on the joke? Do you find it all amusing? Salman Rushdie did not. Nor did those who were associated with the book and who were murdered as a result of the fatwa.

How did Jon Stewart come to choose Yusuf Islam, a man who is so flagrantly opposed to the great tradition of free speech to headline his Rally?

Did he know, as Roger Simon reports, that Yusuf’s wife is veiled and that he himself refuses to speak with women who are not his wife. If they do not wear a veil he does not even acknowledge their existence. So much for free speech.

I suspect that Stewart simply did not know or did not think it through. And yet, for being insentient and for not having thought things through Jon Stewart gave a stage and a platform to a man who believes that novelists should be murdered for exercising their rights to free speech and that unveiled women should be treated as nonentities.

Are you in on the joke?

Saturday, October 30, 2010


It’s a little too easy to say that we are what we eat, but it is certainly true to say that we all need to watch what we eat.

The same applies to the mind. It is too easy to say that we are what we read, but we should not read just anything.

Ask yourself this: are you as judicious in choosing what to read as you are in choosing what to eat?

We try to avoid junk food, and we should also avoid junk books.

What you eat, coupled with how you exercise and what hygiene you practice, contributes mightily to your body’s health. As steward of that body, you should to treat it with respect.

We think we know what junk food is. Are we as confident that we know what junk books are? Surely, it is better to read than not to read. Besides, one person’s junk is another person’s page turner. In his day Charles Dickens wrote popular fiction.

And then, what about junk thought? I am not speaking about the intellectual productions of people who do not have Ph.D.'s. I am really thinking of thoughts that do not nourish your mind, largely because the people who propose them do not respect your mind.

Some people offer up ideas and invite you to partake of them. Some try to educate you, to help you to learn new facts or new ways to analyze facts. Others present their point of view and try to persuade you of its value.

Such people are not selling junk thought.

Those who do try to impose their view on you. They do not try to persuade; they browbeat you. They threaten and terrorize you, and attack you if you do not think as they want you to.

Many purveyors of junk thought are supremely intelligent. They will induce you to absorb their wares, to believe what they want you to believe, because they convince you that their junk thought is the only thing that stands between you and mental starvation.

If you’re starving, anything tastes good. But if you are starving and you do not absorb food in moderation, you will do your body some serious damage.

Among today’s leading purveyors of junk thought we find the overly credentialed Paul Krugman: Princeton professor, Nobel laureate, and New York Times columnist.

Given his pretense that his junk thought is really the product of scientific deliberation and rational thought, I usually ignore columns by Paul Krugman.

His columns stand out for being rude and disrespectful, even shrill, a strange mix of frenetic and splenetic. They consistently reveal a boundless arrogance that never admits to error. Krugman takes it for granted that anyone who disagrees with him is flat out wrong, if not dangerous.

In and of itself, the tone of Krugman’s columns tells you that they do not present rational thought. The cold light of reason dims when placed next to his overheated rhetoric. His arrogance is such that he lacks the humility that a true scientist would bring to his labors.

Reading Krugman is like listening to a fingernail scratching a blackboard. I find no redeeming mental virtue in the experience.

My own predilections notwithstanding, Krugman is highly influential. In matters economical he seems to be one of Pres. Obama’s philosopher-kings, someone who gives us a glimpse into the kind of thinking that defines the Obama presidency.

Krugman supports Obama, yet he, like Jon Stewart, does not believe that the president has gone far enough.

If you’ve tried something and it’s failed, the Krugmanian approach is to try it once more, to double down on failure.

This morning I was reading through some columns on the Times website when I noted that Krugman’s column: “Divided We Fail” had been emailed more than any other. Link here.

Krugman is worried about divisiveness. That is as rich an irony as I could imagine. No columnist today is more divisive, more contentious, than he.

Facing an electorate that seems primed to repudiate the Obama presidency and just about everything Krugman believes in, Krugman is preparing for the aftermath.

As he tells you to be very afraid, of Republicans, he is whetting his appetite over the prospect of having an opponent, someone to beat up on, someone to attack and blame for everything that goes wrong in the country.

Like a good dialectician, someone who sees the world as a mythic conflict between two irreconcilable extremes, Krugman is trying to construct a narrative where the forces of good will be clashing with the forces of evil.

Given that he is telling a story, Krugman does not need to get his facts right.

First, he pretends that Obama will want to work hand-in-hand with Republicans, the better to solve the nation’s problems, while Republicans will refuse to work with Obama.

On what does he base his contention? Krugman states the following: “In a recent interview with National Journal, he [Obama] sounded a conciliatory note, saying that Democrats need to have an 'appropriate sense of humility,' and that he would 'spend more time building consensus'."

The nation is about to render a verdict on Obama’s governance, repudiating it for failing to be conciliatory, for failing to respect the will of the American people, for governing from the left and not the center, for never reaching across the aisle to bring Republicans into the process... and Krugman ignores the evidence in favor of a sound bite.

How divisive has Obama been? Patrick Caddell and Douglas Schoen offer the evidence in this op-ed piece. Link here.

Keep in mind, this most demagogic of presidents went on Univision last week to explain to Hispanic voters that Republicans were “the enemy” and that they needed to be punished.

And this conciliatory president held his first one-on-one meeting with the Senate Minority leader, Mitch McConnell, on August 5, 2010.

All the evidence suggests that Obama knows as much about humility as Paul Krugman does.

For those who want to drink up what Krugman is offering, to think that Republicans are the new irreconcilables, Krugman quotes Mitch McConnell to the effect that he wants to ensure that Barack Obama is a one-term president.

But, isn’t that part of the job description of an opposition leader? Wasn’t McConnell just saying that that even with a Republican Congress very little would get done as long as Barack Obama was president?

Were Paul Krugman and the Democratic Congressional leadership were spending the Bush years trying to help George Bush to be a successful president?

From the pen of Krugman all of that is predictable, and therefore, boring. What is more interesting is that Krugman is laying down a predicate,the better to profit from what he sees as a coming financial collapse or crisis.

If anything goes wrong after November 3 Krugman will be part of the intellectual vanguard blaming it all on the Republicans. If anything goes right Krugman will shower the Obama administration with all of the credit.

Neither Krugman nor Obama will feel humbled in defeat. They will not seek to conciliate, but will want to continue to divide the nation.

Krugman may well be right to say that we are facing some very bad economic times. After all, as Amity Shlaes has shown, the Obama administration has been enacting policies that risk turning the recession into a depression. Link here.

As of now we know that: the stimulus has failed; the economy is not in a normal recovery; the Federal Reserve feels that it must mitigate the effects of Krugmanian spending by printing money; the dollar has been descending precipitously; unemployment is probably not going to improve; millions of the unemployed are going to fall off of the unemployment insurance rolls; the housing market has not really stabilized.

We could go on. If Krugman sees what many other economists, both Republican and Democrat, see, then we are facing hard times indeed.

But Krugman does not want Republicans and Democrats to get together to solve the nation’s problems. Nor does Barack Obama. Both are joined in their effort to create a narrative that demonizes the opposition. They want people to be afraid, to be very afraid, of Republicans. That way, they will be able to use the crisis to their political advantage.

Friday, October 29, 2010

In the News Today

1. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, famed Saudi investor, has chosen to share his thoughts on the Ground Zero mosque: “'Those people behind the mosque have to respect, have to appreciate and have to defer to the people of New York,' the prince was quoted as saying by the magazine, which said the full interview will be published Sunday. 'The wound is still there. Just because the wound is healing you can’t say, ’Let’s just go back to where we were pre-9/11.’” Link here.

This implies that the mayor of New York does not have to respect or appreciate or defer to the feelings of the people of New York. He has become the very incarnation of elite power.

As you might expect, the great conciliator and mastermind of the project, Imam Rauf does not much care about what Prince Alwaleed thinks and has no plans to change his plans. This link offers a recent picture of Imam Rauf with his new best friends, Mayor Bloomberg and Arianna Huffington. Link here.

2. More good news: the National Organization for Women, NOW has joined those who have denounced Gawker for publishing a hit piece against Christine O’Donnell.

Here is part of the NOW press release:“Sexist, misogynist attacks against women have no place in the electoral process, regardless of a particular candidate's political ideology.

"Today the tabloid website Gawker published an anonymous piece titled 'I Had A One-Night Stand With Christine O'Donnell' that takes the routine sexual degradation of women candidates to a disgusting new low. NOW repudiates Gawker's decision to run this piece. It operates as public sexual harassment. And like all sexual harassment, it targets not only O'Donnell, but all women contemplating stepping into the public sphere.

"NOW/PAC has proudly endorsed women's rights champion Chris Coons, O'Donnell's opponent in the Delaware Senate race, and finds O'Donnell's political positions dangerous for women. That does not mean it's acceptable to use slut-shaming against her, or any woman."
Link here.

We welcome NOW to the fray. If we were cynical we might ask where they were when Sarah Palin was suffering misogynist attacks, but, as they say, better late than never.

We are waiting to hear NOW denounce Joy Behar for calling Sharron Angle a bitch.

If Gawker is sufficiently important, then surely a co-hostess of a very popular television show, The View, should be repudiated for bitch-slapping a senate candidate.

3. We now know that Gawker paid for the Christine O’Donnell story, and that its author was named Dustin Dominiak. Link here.

Of course, and the point is worth underscoring, the person whose reputation is going to suffer the most damage here is Dominiak.

For a lousy four figure payday, Dominiak has made his own name infamous.

Remember the concept of the gentleman. Most people are so sophisticated that they believe that it is an archaic, sexist notion.

Yet, if Dominiak, or the culture at large, had any notion of what it meant to be a gentleman, he would never have imagined doing such a thing.

Let's not overlook the greatest irony here: Dominiak has proudly announced to the world that he couldn’t get it up. Surely, that's a first.

4. Why is there so much nastiness, so much character assassination and slander in this election? Simply, because the Democrats are unwilling to run on their record. Often, they are not even willing to identify as Democrats.

Stephen Colbert provides analysis. Link here.

5. Much of what needs to be said about Jon Stewart’s interview with the president has already been said. I have certainly had my say. See my previous post.

For those who are shocked and surprised that Jon Stewart did not throw softballs at the president--I am confident that Barack Obama was the most shocked--Jennifer Rubin explains:

"But here’s the thing about the leftist elites — nicely personified for this purpose by Jon Stewart. They don’t like a loser. Cool kids are not losers. Their spin doesn’t get by the cynics and the wisecrackers. So, pretty soon, the cool kids have something in common with the rest of America: they conclude that this president is a bumbler and not, after all, the change they were hoping for." Link here.

6. And now, another hit by current Youtube sensation, Gov. Chris Christie: Link here.

Christie is showing how to govern when you do not hold majority party control of the legislature. Considering that Barack Obama has just shown us how not to govern when you do hold majority party control of the legislature, it is, to say the least, refreshing.

But is Christie going to run? If you saw the Today show interview, link here, you might have noticed that while Gov. Christie denies any interest in running, his wife seems thrilled by the prospect.

Who do you listen to? The governor or his wife? I put my money on his wife.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Obama's Surprise Party

As soon as you become an adult, you stop playing in sandboxes. You would think that the corollary is too obvious to mention, but apparently not. So, here it is: If you are the President of the United States you should not be playing in Jon Stewart’s sandbox.

As the King James Bible tells us: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

Which means, when you are President of the United States you do not go on a fake news show to trade quips with a comedian.

Forgive me the inexact analogy, but we can understand the problem this way: if you are the parent of a teenager, you should not pretend to be a teenager. You are not going to fool anyone, but you are certainly going to make a fool of yourself.

As a parent, you avoid adolescent slang and the lingo; you dress like the adult you are; you speak with a certain gravitas and authority; you exercise responsibility; and you set a good example of the kind of behavior your child should aspire to.

Whether you are a parent or an executive, as soon as you arrive at a place where others are prone to emulate you, you should make a decided effort set a good example. It’s basic to the job description.

If you fail to fulfill these duties, then your adolescent child will, naturally, not respect what you say, not aspire to become more like you, not set his moral compass by your behavior, not believe that there is a higher authority, and therefore, not really believe that he or she needs to follow rules and behave properly.

George Washington notwithstanding, there are still some differences between fatherhood and the presidency. Most prominently: the electorate does not consist of a bunch of child-like beings who need guidance and direction and care.

When you are President of the United States, you should know that, politically, you symbolize the unity of the nation, and that you should provide an example that inspires people to hope for a brighter future.

Ronald Reagan was a master of inspiration; Barack Obama is not.

If you act your age and embody the dignity of your office you will be giving people something to feel proud about. And that is far more important than the gauzy blather about hope and change.

A president who spent no small part of his first year apologizing for America should be doing everything in his power to embody a nation’s pride, not its adolescent coolness.

From pride comes confidence; from emulation comes the promise of a better future. If you cannot fulfill those ceremonial requirements of office, people are simply not going to respect you. And if they don’t respect you, they are probably going to lose some respect for themselves.

If you are Barack Obama, you have missed this point. You think nothing of allowing yourself to be dressed down by a stand-up comic-- that is, after all, Jon Stewart’s business-- in exchange for his giving you yet another opportunity to gin up young voters in the forthcoming election.

When I said “dressed down” I was referring to the moment when Obama mentioned that Larry Summers had done “a heckuva job.“

To which Jon Stewart retorted: “You don’t want to use that phrase, dude.”

Thus Stewart gave us yet another glimpse of the incredibly shrinking Obama presidency. It used to be that no one outside of his family addressed a president by his name. Now our president is: Dude!

How did Obama reply to Stewart’s dressing down? He declared: “Pun intended.” Nancy Franklin of The New Yorker replied: "Which would have been fine if it had been a pun."

This tells us that serious writers are no longer willing to declare that Obama’s gibberish is a sign of consummate brilliance.

If Obama had been using the phrase to ironic effect, he would have been comparing Larry Summers to former FEMA Director Michael Brown, of Hurricane Katrina fame.

Since he seemed to be saying that Summers had really done a great job, his retort was incoherent.

But, you have to ask yourself:What they were thinking. Surely, someone at the White House took a college course in public relations.

Didn’t anyone learn that if you are perched atop the status hierarchy people should come to you, to rise to your level, to be their best. Don’t we motivate ourselves, don’t we strive to work harder, because we want to better ourselves?

You do not think to descend to the level of a stand-up comedian, on the comedian’s set… lest the nation, to say nothing of the world, start thinking that you are just not up to your job.

You want to be respected for the dignity you embody, not for the hip coolness that you are pretending to possess.

Moreover, a president appearing on a fake news program gives the impression of being a fake president.

Of  course, Obama defended his administration’s accomplishments with passion. And yet, given the setting and the situation he could never have come out ahead.

If you lie down with stand-up comics you are going to end up looking like a joke.

What happened to hope and change, the high rhetoric of the campaign, Jon Stewart asked. How is it, he continued, that Democrats are running away from the Obama presidency as fast as they can? As he expressed it, Congressional Democrats are running this year on: “Please, baby, one more chance.”

Obama replied by descending into complaining mode, asserting that people did not recognize his administration’s accomplishments.

To which Jon Stewart replied with a devastating retort: “Are you planning a surprise party for us, filled with jobs and health care.”

That, pretty much, says it all. When you are a pretend adolescent on a pretend news show, you cannot really be expected to take real responsibility for what has been happening in the country.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Gender Neutered

In a prior post I offered a very positive view of Maggie Arana and Julienne Davis’s book: Stop Calling Him Honey and Start Having Sex: How Changing Your Everyday Habits Will Make You Hot for Each Other All Over Again. Link here.

The book is addressed to married or committed couples and makes the radical suggestion that they can improve their sex lives by changing the way they address each other.

Arana and Davis advise us that our sex lives will improve if we stop using neutered terms of endearment and to start calling each other by our proper names.

It may not be intuitively obvious-- it may even fly in the face of logic-- but Arana and Davis are saying that Jack and Jill will have better sex than Pookie and Honey.

It is not self-evident, but you can try it at home. It costs nothing, and, whatever it does for your libido, at the very least your husband or wife will appreciate the new sign of respect.

This makes it feel like a win/win proposition.

One reason that sex is better between Jack and Jill is that the proper names are gender specific. Calling your spouse by his or her name seems to make him or her feel more like a man or a woman, thus, more like what he or she really is.

Can you imagine two neutered beings, filled with as much affection as you can muster, attempting to have sex? To do so you would need to have a very rich fantasy life, indeed.

Being recognized for who you are seems to have a salutary effect on your sexual desire. Being treated as neutered seems to drain the desire out of your marriage. And the latter works its black magic whether you know it or not.

We should not be too surprised to learn that increased self-respect leads to greater libidinous urges. Studies of depression have consistently shown that people who feel demoralized or disrespected feel diminished sexual desire.

Given that I am interested in the Arana/Davis book, I was happy to watch Dr. Helen Smith’s fascinating PJTV interview with the authors yesterday. Link here.

As I was watching I was struck by a simple fact, one that pointed me toward the next place their idea might next lead us to.

I could not help but notice that Arana kept describing the person she is currently involved with in terms that were gender neutral. After asserting that proper names mattered because they were gender specific, Arana began describing a person as her significant other or her partner. When it came time to use a pronoun, Arana referred to this person as “they.”

If language affects the way we feel about other people and the way we behave toward them, how do you think that this man felt about not being named, about not having the nature of his relationship revealed, and about being linguistically neutered?

There was no way, given Arana‘s language, to know the gender of her significant other or the nature of their relationship. We were informed that it was a good one of whatever it was.

We know that Arana earned a degree in English literature, so we know where she learned to use neutered terms for boyfriends and husbands.

I promise you, if you do not learn to neuter your generic pronouns, you are never going to receive a degree in English literature or any other subject in the Humanities at an American university. If you write for most publishers or publications you will find that when it comes to pronouns, political correctness reigns unopposed.

While male generic pronouns are strictly forbidden female generic pronouns are becoming de rigueur for the politically correct crowd.

You cannot say: the engineer and his compass.

You may say: the engineer and their compass.

If you have advanced to the point where you know the difference between singular and plural, you may also say: the engineer and her compass.

If we agree that Jack and Jill are going to have more and better sex than Tootsie and Big Top, is it also true to say that he and she are going to have more and better sex than they and they?

Over the past three decades culture warriors have fanned out across our nation, in schools and the media, to enforce these new ways of using language. Without the least bit of legislation or court decision, they have changed the way most people use language.

They did it because they wanted to change the way people behaved. Most especially, they wanted to change the way men and women related to each other. If they were right to think that the way we use language effects the way we relate, then we can also say that they have succeeded.

That means that the cultural revolutionaries should feel responsible for how men and women do or do not relate to one another.

This might not have been the change they had in mind, but, as the old saying goes: they broke it; they own it.

Banning generic pronouns was a blow against the empire and the patriarchy. Terms like man and woman were outlawed in favor of the more neutered person. Mankind was replaced by humankind. Fireman was replaced by fire fighter; policeman by police officer; postman by postal carrier.

At the same time, everyone was encouraged to overcome terms like husband and boyfriend, wife and girlfriend and to replace them with more gender neutered terms like significant other and partner.

What difference does it make? For one, husband and wife involve a higher, contractual commitment. Significant others and partners do not. Even boyfriend and girlfriend assert and affirm a level of commitment, and, as with husband and wife, one that is gender specific.

Or, ask yourself this: what matters more, how you define your relationship or how you feel about each other? Keep in mind that only the first involves commitment.

Is there a difference between marriage and a long term meaningful personal relationship? Of course, there is. And what about hooking up and friends with benefits? Is it an accident that dating has pretty much gone out of style in our brave new politically correct universities?

If terms of endearment diminish sexual desire, what happens when relationships are redefined into connections of endearment. Is the lack of gender specificity, the kind that would be involved with boyfriends and girlfriends, husbands and wives also going to cause a lower level of animal lust?

Would it be fair to say that college students, having been brainwashed and terrorized into using aberrant grammatical forms, are less likely to date, to become boyfriend and girlfriend, and to see themselves married with families?

I’m sure you are thinking that that the young hookup generation is having plenty of sex. Wouldn‘t this prove that the new way of speaking of relationships is not having a negative effect on their libido?

The problem here is: not all sex is created equal.

Sex is going to express itself one way or another. As Shakespeare put it: “the world must be peopled.”

When you create cultural institutions or ways of speaking that militate against the normal expression of sexuality perhaps that merely causes people to find other, less normal ways to express their sexual desires.

If you become numbed to subtle sexual stimuli, you are likely going to seek out more bizarre or outrageous stimuli. Or you are likely to create strange, theatrical situations which will be the only ones in which you really enjoy sex.

These all fall within the category of fetishism. As many members of the young generation find themselves linguistically exiled from the worlds of dating and marriage, they find themselves drawn to slightly bizarre, even aberrant, situations like hookups where they can function sexually on the condition that no commitment is required, and, in many cases, neither partner knows the other‘s name.

Fetishism is the natural outgrowth of this abuse of language. Maybe we do not have to keep blaming it all on internet porn and the social media.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Healing Power of Shame

For most of its history psychotherapy has been at war with shame. This makes some sense. If you are in the feel-good business, you don’t want to appear to be making people feel bad.

But what happens when feeling bad is a necessary step on the road to change? In that case, you change your business model: you want to help people to feel better about not changing..

It also makes sense to be at war with shame if you are trying to promote free sexual and emotional expression.

Shame makes us modest and decorous. It tells us not to show off our sexuality and our private feelings in public.

Strangely, this pretends that shamelessness is the key to sexual fulfillment. In truth, modesty will do more for your libido and sexual enjoyment than will shamelessness.

As readers of this blog and my last book know, I am an unabashed fan of shame. Because I want to help my clients to affect substantive change.

Of course, it is not necessarily a bad thing to feel bad. When you have done something wrong you ought to feel bad. If you feel good after having done wrong, then clearly you have a different problem, one that is probably intractable.

A sense of shame causes you to cover up your intimacy. Therefore, it makes you into a social being.

Social beings conform to norms. They do as others do, habitually. The trouble arises when the norm is a bad habit, or even depraved.

Whether the habit is bigotry, as I discussed a few days ago, or the ancient Chinese custom of foot-binding, when a bad habit become the norm, it can only be broken when the people who practice it start to find it shameful.

In the matter of foot binding, Kenneth Anthony Appiah explained the situation well in a recent New York Times article, adapted from his book:The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen. See the Times article here.

In his words: “And you can’t overstate the force of convention: Chinese families bound their daughters’ feet because that was the normal thing to do.”

Appiah offers two different ways for cultural change to take place. Thus, two different ways for a culture to overcome aberrant and depraved habits.

In one, a feeling of having indulged in shameful behavior leads to this behavior being replaced by institutionalized good habits.

In the other, bad habits and evil customs are suppressed by force. Those who have been practiced them do not have any choice. They must stop what they are doing… be it foot-binding or female genital mutilation.

While we have no qualms about stopping these evil habits by force, Appiah shows that the first shame-based way is more effective in the long run.

Foot-binding had existed for nearly a millennium before it was stopped over the period of a generation beginning at the end of the 19th century. How did China suddenly come to the realization that it was indulging a barbaric practice?

It started concerning itself with how it looked to other people. In a self-contained community, you only need worry about manipulating the people in that community. But, once the community is opened to the outside world, once its culture is subjected to outside scrutiny, what once was seen as a point of pride can become a disgrace.

Appiah emphasizes the words of Confucian scholar Kang Youwei: “In 1898, Kang sent a memorandum to the emperor. 'All countries have international relations, and they compare their political institutions with one another,' he began, 'so that if one commits the slightest error, the others ridicule and look down upon it.' And he added, 'There is nothing which makes us objects of ridicule so much as foot-binding.'”

As Appiah points out, Kang does not condemn the practice, though it is certainly condemnable. He does not criticize it or become contentious and self-righteous about it. He does not express moral outrage.

He simply introduces a new fact into the cultural equation. He informs the Emperor that the practice is making the Chinese look ridiculous in the eyes of the world.

Kang does not tell the Emperor what to do. He leaves it to the Emperor and the Chinese people to choose to end the practice, of their own free will.

He does not recommend force, but employs moral suasion.

If you want to change bad habits, think about how you look to other people when you are doing them. If the therapy culture tells you to ignore what other people think of you, that culture will never be able to help you to overcome your bad habits, except by teaching you how to force yourself to stop them. 

The second aspect of the reform campaign involved replacing foot-binding with new social institutions that valued women with unbound feet.

In Appiah’s words: "A second essential reason for the campaign’s success was that it created institutions; it didn’t content itself with rhetoric. In particular, it created organizations whose members publicly pledged two things: not to bind their daughters’ feet and not to allow their sons to marry women whose feet were bound. The genius of this strategy was that it created both unbound women and men who would marry them. To reform tradition, you had to change the shared commitments of a community."

No one would have any difficulties with the idea of banning aberrant cultural practices through force of arms. Yet, as Appiah notes in the case of efforts to ban female genital mutilation in Kenya, if you ban something through force, as soon as the threat of force is lifted, the practice will come back.

Using shame involves allowing people to change their own minds based on new evidence, the evidence of how the practice looks to the world. Strangely,  it shows respect… in relation to practices that do not deserve respect. And it allows them a measure of freedom.

This assumes that even when people are visiting unspeakable brutalities on their wives, their neighbors, or their friends, they are still moral beings, albeit overtaken by a pathological habit that has come to be a societal norm.

The alternative point of view, one that you will probably recognize, says that when people bind feet or keep slaves or enter into other forms of depravity they are revealing the truth about their natures. And if this is their truth, then their moral sense cannot be trusted to end it. They must be condemned, punished, and suppressed… or at least, strictly regulated.

Are we moral beings whose moral sense can be counted on to correct our depraved practices or are we immoral beings who will only stop being depraved when an outside force compels us to?

That is the question.

Appiah has offered a strong argument in favor of shame and its culture, and against guilt and its culture. I concur.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Daddy's Little Girl

The war against men has claimed another victim: their daughters.

In today’s America a man knows that he can be sued for workplace sexual harassment if he looks at a woman in the wrong way, if he makes a sexually suggestive remark, or if he touches her inappropriately.

He also knows that children, especially female children, are strictly off limits. Speak to his daughter in the wrong way and a man can find himself charged with child molestation. Even when the charges are false, it is very, very difficult to restore a reputation tarnished by the suspicion of child abuse.

It isn’t easy being a man in America today. The culture has made men into a threat, into the enemy of women and girls.

Not everywhere, not for everyone, but enough of the time for men to be wary in their dealings with female children.

The attacks on men, the stigmatization of men, the distrust about their motives have created a cultural miasma. If you were a father living in such a culture, would you want to talk about sex with your preteen daughter?

The toxic environment produced by the war against men has made men more likely to shut down lines of communication with their daughters.

Then, these same men are criticized for being too reticent, for not opening up, and for not expressing themselves.

The culture strongly encourages girls to discuss intimate matters only with other women. Who but a woman would understand a woman’s experience?

Of course, this deprives girls of a good relationship with the most important man in their lives. And it also tells them that the only people they should listen to are people who are just like them. So much for empathy. Narcissism, anyone? 

And let’s be clear. While Time Magazine sexes up the topic by referring to sex talks, most girls do not want to sit around talking about gross anatomy with their fathers.

What they do want, and what they would find helpful, is an open line of communication, through which they could learn how boys see them, what it means when boys behave this way or that, how best to negotiate the difficulties of adolescent flirtations. 

Wouldn’t it be a good idea for girls to learn something about the male mind, and, at the same time, to learn how to confide in an adult male whose primary desire is to protect them and help guide their growth and development?

Today Time Magazine reports two surprising facts: first that girls who enjoy “open communication” with their fathers have a healthier attitude toward sex and dating than do girls who have less communication. Link here.

As Time Magazine says: "Previous studies have concluded that girls who have open communication with their fathers — about everything — tend to have intercourse later in life and also have fewer sexual partners, both of which can be very good for sexual and mental health."

And second, that that, for all of the information that they have gleaned about human sexuality-- and they have certainly gleaned a great deal-- young women wish that they had learned more about men from their fathers.

College aged women reported this in a recent survey.

In Time’s words: "And, surprisingly, a lot of the women, most of whom were sexually active, wished their fathers had told them more. Specifically, they wanted to hear stuff only guys would know, about how to communicate with men and what the carnal landscape looked like from a male's vantage point."

If Time and the researchers are surprised, they are also saying that they had not imagined that girls who had not discussed relationship issues with their fathers were being deprived of anything of value.

[I am happy to welcome those of you who have arrived at this post via Instapundit or Dr. Helen.  As always, I am grateful to Prof. Glenn Reynolds and Dr. Helen Smith for linking my blog.]

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Enhance Your Creativity

Two decades ago I was chatting with a well-known and highly successful artist at a cocktail party that was being held in the salon of an art collector.

As we were getting acquainted, our eyes fell to a work of art on prominent display. It looked very cutting edge, to the point where it made no sense to me at all.

Yet, the hostess who had chosen the piece knew far more about it than I did, so I decided to keep my opinion to myself. Besides, I was not going to offer an uninformed judgment it to a world-renowned artist.

My problem solved itself when the artist turned to me and said, a propos of the piece we were examining: “He needs to work harder.”

Given that the man who uttered those words produces works that seem effortless in their grace and beauty, I understood that he was saying that it takes a lot of very hard work to make art look easy.

It’s the art world version of Dolly Parton’s line: “You’d be surprised how much it costs to look this cheap.”

Great art, then, is more perspiration than inspiration. Perhaps this allows us to overcome the idea that if we destroy the Protestant work ethic we are going to give rise to a world filled with brilliant manifestations of spontaneous creativity.

Since we have already done significant damage to said work ethic, we should know that when a culture overcomes it, it produces jejune splatterings and pompous psychodramas that pretend to be art.

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal published an article by the superb novelist, Allegra Goodman. In it she describes a moment when, as a teenager, she came to realize, from reading Aileen Ward’s biography of John Keats, that talent and inspiration were not enough to make great poetry. It was more important to engage the hard work of editorial revision. Link here.

In her words: "Like many literary teenagers, I believed that art was a matter of instinct—that the artist's first impulse is the most authentic, that revision is something you do to essays but hardly applies to poetry or fiction. I pictured revision as drudge work, spoiling all that was fresh and original. But what if revision actually improved ideas?"

The key to good writing is the writer’s ability to edit his writing, to step back from it, and to look at it objectively with fresh eyes.

To achieve greatness, a great writer will have to know how bad initial drafts are, and will be able to overcome the chagrin he feels when he recognizes that the good feelings he had while writing the draft did not translate into supple or even interesting prose.

A great writer will go through many, many drafts. Coleridge notwithstanding, no one produces great lines of poetry without reworking them over and over again.

[FYI-- I am referring to Samuel Coleridge’s contention that he dreamt his poem “Kubla Khan” and simply wrote it down when he woke up. Whether this is true or false, the notion has surely led many young artists astray.]

This is not just about art: being able to step back from your work, and to look at it with fresh eyes, is crucial in other occupations.

If you are an executive or a professional you should try to step out of yourself to see how you look to others. Do you look like you are in charge or do you look like you are scared? Do you look like you grasp the situation or do you look like you are in over your head?

This is not introspection. It does not involve empathy. It requires a harsh objectivity, an ability to judge your work  without thinking that you are judging yourself.

Perhaps you will be surprised-- I was not-- to learn that if we follow the advice that the therapy culture has been meting out, we will all become bad artists, unsuccessful executives, and probably not very good people, either.

As Goodman says: "We grow up hearing that we should just be ourselves, and listen to our inner voices. But what if your authentic self won't shut up? What if your inner voice is boring? In revision you cut excess verbiage. Revising, you can experiment with other voices."

As for those therapists who believe that artists are in closer touch with their unconscious minds, Goodman writes: "It's great to tap into your unconscious, but remember how impressionable the unconscious can be, how quick to absorb the tropes of television and romance and life-affirming or cautionary memoir. Revision means testing and questioning conventions, forging a path through the cultural clutter that we mistake for our own creativity."

It’s not just about prose stylings; it’s also about ideas. Goodman is saying that many of our most dearly held beliefs are unexamined ideas that we pick up willy-nilly from television or the movies. Once we discover that these ideas have some value as cultural currency, we adhere to them with conviction.

It is essential to test one’s beliefs, to question them, to look at them as though they might not be gospel truth, as though they might not be the perfect expression of the warm feelings we had when we thought them up.

For Goodman the process of revision is more science than alchemy, more experimental than inspirational. She concludes: “Like a scientist, I test my ideas and hone the words I use as instruments. Revision is a form of experimentation, art a method for discovery.”

Turning a Great Recession into a Great Depression

When the Great Depression befell the nation there were no blogs. There wasn't even a Fox News. Thus, the narrative, or better, myth that emerged from the experience cast Franklin Roosevelt as the hero who saved us from economic oblivion.

More recent scholarship has disputed this narrative. Among the most recent we must count Amity Shlaes: The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression.

As Shlaes sees it, the Hoover and Roosevelt administrations made policy mistake after policy mistake, turning a stock market crash into a Great Depression. And the Federal Reserve did not exactly cover itself with glory either.

Narratives matter, especially when they become dogmatic belief. Given that the Obama administration believes in the classical narrative, whereby Roosevelt saved the world, our president has just spent twenty months repeating all of Hoover and Roosevelt's mistakes.

So explains Amity Shlaes, in this adaptation of a lecture she gave at Hillsdale College. Therein Shlaes explains draws out the parallels between the errors that led to the Great Depression and the policies of the Obama administration. Link here.

The comparisons are positively frightening.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Juan Williams, "the 21st Century's Rosa Parks"

When bigotry becomes the norm, no one really notices that it’s bigotry. People can blithely go about inflicting harm on their neighbors without giving it a second thought… because they are conforming to societal norms.

Many people knew that segregation was dividing the races. They consoled themselves with nostrums like: separate but equal.

The continued to do so until a Rosa Parks sat down and said: enough. When Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus she ripped the veil off what had become the norm and forced us to face the truth of our nation’s segregationist practices.

Among the  comments on my last post about the Juan Williams imbroglio, I was especially struck by Dennis’s remark that Juan Williams might be the 21st century’s “Rosa Parks.” Link here.

For some people it was not news, but many liberals were shocked and surprised to discover that a major organ of liberal opinion is a hotbed of illiberality? By firing Juan Williams NPR revealed the workings of the liberal mind control scheme.

Judging from the reaction coming from the left, I would say that no small numbers of liberals, people who believe that freedom of speech is sacrosanct, just had a very rude awakening.

It’s not just the liberals who appear on Fox News, serious liberals like Bob Beckel, Pat Caddell, and Lanny Davis, all of whom were outraged at the firing, but mainstream media liberals like Howard Kurtz and Mickey Kaus.

As Kaus wrote in Newsweek: "Here's some punditish speculation: Schiller's in trouble. Whatever her intent, she fired a black man for not abiding by his second-class speech status! Then she snarked at him. Might not play well, no matter how PC she was trying to be. When you've lost Howie Kurtz, you've lost respectable." Link here.

Note the expression, “second class speech.” Does it not remind you of Dennis’s suggestion that Juan Williams is the century’s Rosa Parks.

I will offer my suspicion Williams was not fired just for expressing his own qualms at seeing Muslims in Muslim dress board an airplane.

He also violated one of the sacred dogmas of modern political correctness: he spoke out in favor of integration and cultural assimilation. He opposed the dogma of multiculturalism.

Williams did not say that he feared all Muslims; he said that he feared unassimilated Muslims.

Not too many days earlier, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel had declared that multiculturalism had failed in Germany. The notion of separate but equal, which in reality translated into separate but unequal, had produced a permanent underclass, a large group of people who had failed to become fully a part of the nation. Link here.

As I recall it, Juan Williams tended to agree with Merkel. As a staunch supporter of the American Civil Rights movement, Williams argued on Fox News in favor of assimilation and integration.

He was not just fired for what was taken to be bigotry, or for appearing on Fox News. Williams had also disagreed with a fundamental dogma of political correctness: the separate but equal idea of multiculturalism.

This makes you a heretic, even an apostate. Worse yet,  he was consorting with the enemy.

If you reject one liberal dogma, that means that all of the liberal opinions you have ever offered-- in Juan Williams‘s case, that is quite a lot-- count for nothing.

NPR sees itself as engaged in a culture war. The enemy is not radical Islam; it is Fox News, purveyor of heresies.

Consider the case of another NPR employee, Mara Liasson. The powers that be at NPR have been wanting to fire the utterly harmless Liasson for some time now, too. Her crime: she appears on Fox News.

It isn’t even that Liasson ever offers any opinions that might stray from the politically correct orthodoxy: Liasson never says anything that can be taken to be objectionable.

To the political correct thought police, Fox News stands in the way of their imposing their views on everyone, in making sure that everyone know that its opinions are the only acceptable and normal opinions.

Ideological conformity is more difficult to see than behavioral conformity. Those who wish to enforce it, like Vivian Schiller at NPR, understand that they must ensure that certain politically correct opinions are the only opinions that a normal person could possibly hold.

Of course, this time they seem to have picked on the wrong man, and wrong network. With Fox providing Williams a platform to get his message out, he has taken the fight to NPR.

Do not underestimate the importance of the media platform that Fox provided. Surely, Roger Ailes and the Fox News personalities were thrilled to have the opportunity to stick it in the eye of NPR. Even more, they were surely happy to  stand up for an African-American who just happens to be a liberal.

And they are surely thrilled by the rating bonanza that comes from being, not just reporting, the news.

To the chagrin of many, Fox does not seem to be bothered that it has just given a new contract and new prominence to a man whose opinions are clearly and cogently liberal.

And let's not ignore the unavoidable fact that many of the Fox newscasters are also personal friends of Juan Williams. We would be shortsighted if we did not see their defense of Juan Williams as a defense of their friend.

Considering how often the liberal media accuses Fox of trafficking in bigotry and bias, it is not the least irony, as Victor Davis Hanson noted, that while NPR was outraged that Juan Williams or Mara Liasson were appearing on Fox, Fox never had a problem with their appearing on NPR.

Will the real bigots, the ideological bigots, please stand up now? For many liberals in this country, the episode will surely be a chastening experience. How did the defenders of free speech get suckered into supporting such a flagrantly illiberal enterprise?

Woman Will Marry Herself

By now we have all been browbeaten with talk about the importance of self-actualization, independence, and autonomy. We have been told, by the therapy culture, that we need to learn to love ourselves before we can love anyone else.

Surprisingly, this gospel has even reached Taiwan. There, a woman is going to love the illusion… by marrying herself. Link here.

The denizens of the therapy culture, like Anna North at Jezebel, find this a wonderful thing to do. Why not marry yourself? Isn’t this a supreme realization of self-love?

It has other advantages: No more problems with an unruly or untidy spouse. No more dirty laundry on the bathroom floor. No more toilet seat left up. No more fights about who is going to take the garbage out.

If you marry yourself you can have sex with your spouse whenever you want. He, she, or it will never be late, will never be out of synch with you, will never be out of touch, will never fail to return a phone call.

Put this way, how many people do you know who would happily marry themselves? Less frivolously, how many people make themselves unhappy because they compare their marriages to the kind of self-marriage that the woman in Taiwan will soon be entering.

Chen Wei-yih will invite friends and family to witness her nuptials. Then, we must imagine that she will consummate the union by having her way with herself. (We owe the original of this phrase to Elizabeth Gilbert.)

And then, for those who concern themselves with the survival of human community, she could try parthenogenesis… or maybe she could be cloned.

Friday, October 22, 2010

"South Park" on the Psychotherapy of Hoarding

I have never seen any definitive clinical studies about how and whether psychotherapy works for people who suffer from extreme hoarding.

Nevertheless, I am happy to provide some pertinent information on the topic, via a recent episode of South Park. Some of you might find it slightly cartoonish, but the episode does provide us with serious insights into one possible way that psychoanalytically-inspired psychotherapy might deal with hoarding. The link will bring up the full episode.

Link here.

My thanks to Ari Mendelson for bringing this to my attention.

Comparing Cultures

It’s one thing to offer cogent analysis of cultural differences on a blog or in a book. It’s quite another to see it played out on the evening news or in the streets of Great Britain and France.

The new British government, a strange mix of conservative and liberal politicians, has just introduced a new austerity budget. It will lay off nearly 500,000 state employees and cut public spending drastically. From the BBC to student subsidies, the British government will be cutting just about everything.

By all appearances, the British people are reacting stoically to this bad news. They are taking it all in with their own proverbial stiff upper lip.

And this, as Anne Applebaum reminds us, is essential to the British character and British culture. Link here.

As everyone knows, the British queue up; they have a strong sense of propriety and decorum; they attach great importance to good manners. Above and beyond everything else, but especially in time of trouble, Britain plays by the rules.

Their national stoicism does not allow them to complain, to protest, to express their deepest feelings, or to tear their country apart. It limits their capacity for self-indulgence and for life's more delicate pleasures. Britain is far better known for its beer; France for its wine.

Across the Channel the government of Nicholas Sarkozy has been trying to reform the pension system. It has proposed increasing the retirement age from 60 to 62 and moving the age at which one can receive a full pension from 65 to 67.

The result has been chaos. Labor unions have pretty much declared war on the Sarkozy government. Millions of people went on strike; most of the country has been shut down; the French economy has been crippled.

Students, seeing this as a reprise of the now legendary May ‘68 demonstrations, have joined the fray. They do not seem to care that if the protests succeed, they will be paying for the increased pension costs.

Student participation is not about self-interest. If I were to guess, I would say that it is a rite of passage that makes them feel authentically French.

If being English means adopting an attitude of stoic forbearance and learning to play by the rules, being French means storming today’s version of the Bastille. In other words, it means re-enacting one of the supposedly glorious moments in French history.

Again, the difference is primarily cultural. It shows how different peoples conduct their lives. In Britain what matters is sportsmanship. Win or lose you must observe the rules of proper decorum.

In France, what matters is drama. Young and old the French are masters of political theater. They love the arts. And they love sentiment and emotion. They do not believe that they were put on earth to work; they are here to enjoy the finer, more sensuous pleasures, and to show the world how to live.

The French love love; they are accomplished gastronomes; they are masters of fashion and style; they appreciate the finer things in life. They see life as a work of art. Life should provide exquisite pleasures, intense emotions, and as much enjoyment as you can squeeze out of it.

They do not much like playing by the rules because that reduces drama, and makes emotions less intense.

We are far more cognizant of what is happening on the streets of France than we are of what is happening in the British parliament. Strangely, we are so transfixed by the French strikes that we are only barely aware of what is going on in the French legislature.

Public theater will always attract the most attention. It lends itself most naturally to narrative. It leads the news; it is eminently cinematic; and it provokes extensive mythmaking.

In the end, it accomplishes little. Except that you can will have great stories to tell your grandchildren.

The British seem ready to buckle down, to put their collective noses to the grindstone, and to get back to work. The French, as Charles Krauthammer suggested, are indulging in political decadence.

Theirs is a fight against work. Strangely, the French protestors are fighting for more leisure. They are defending a culture that guarantees every full-time worker five weeks of annual vacation. They are expressing their deepest feelings in street protests and political drama.

As for the realities, the protesters seem to be wildly oblivious to the basic requirement to pay one’s bills. They, like their counterparts in Greece, seem not to be aware of budgetary realities. They want to enjoy life and they do not much care who pays.

That is why the French invented the concept of the Other. The Other is always the one who pays.

It is a strange culture, one that seems alien to America. But, then again, who knows which way America will turn when its bills start to come due.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Thought Police Ride Again

It is not that difficult to promote groupthink. You must first tell everyone what is and what is not the correct way to think. Then you must sanction any speech acts that do not conform to the acceptable opinion.

The first is easy enough. The mainstream media and liberal opinion organs will always tell you the correct opinion. Those who stray from orthodoxy are shunned from polite society. At times, they even lose their jobs.

Witness the cases of Bill O’Reilly and Juan Williams.

First, some background.

Last week on The View renowned stand-up comedians Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar walked off the show because Bill O’Reilly dared to say that Muslims attacked the nation on 9/11. O‘Reilly offered this statement to explain why the vast majority of New Yorkers and Americans opposed the Ground Zero mosque.

Outraged by the snub, and by the effort to enforce groupthink, O’Reilly decided to fight back. He seemed to understand the symbolic importance of the gesture and made it an issue on his television show.

In later interviews Whoopi Goldberg declared that no one had the right to say that Muslims attacked us on 9/11 because that amounted to racial stereotyping and hate speech. It was like saying that all blacks had certain characteristics.

In her view you had to say that extremists attacked us on 9/11. It was wrong to say that “all” Muslims were responsible. As though O'Reilly had said that.

Goldberg was making a simple mistake by conflating “Muslims” with “all Muslims.“ To the best of my knowledge O’Reilly did not say “all Muslims.”

You cannot introduce a universal quantifier, like "all," and expect that the meaning will stay the same.

Surely, it would not be wrong to say that the people who attacked us on 9/11 were Muslims. Not only is that true, but it is equivalent to saying that Muslims attacked us.

It is also true that the Muslims who attacked us on 9/11 attacked us in the name of Islam, as an act of jihad.

Those who try to analogize the act to what happens when Catholic priests molest children, would have to say, if they want to sustain the analogy, that the offending priests were molesting children to advance Christianity.

Yet, some will respond that it is also true to say that we were attacked by al Qaeda and that al Qaeda does not represent all Muslims.

Again, we should avoid the universal quantifier (all) here, because  when the Japanese attacked us in Pearl Harbor, we were not attacked by all Japanese: if only one of the Emperor's subjects opposed the attack, then all Japanese did not countenance the attack.

Saying that the Japanese attacked us does not mean that all Japanese attacked us-- which would make the entire nation into an army-- or that all Japanese approved of the nation’s actions.

Yet, al Qaeda is not just a bunch of outliers or an organized criminal gang whose actions are rejected by all Islamic nations.

In fact, al Qaeda has enjoyed the protection of nations. Al Qaeda was harbored by the Taliban-led government of Afghanistan. It was, effectively, an arm of that government.

Also, Al Qaeda was and still is an arm of the government of Pakistan. Some will say that it is merely being protected by the Pakistani intelligence services, but this has been happening for so long that it is fair to say that Pakistan harbors the terrorist organization and must be deploying it as something of an instrument of its foreign policy.

We all know that numerous terrorist groups are being supported and funded by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

All of this is happening in the name of Islam.

None of this suggests that all Muslims support Al Qaeda-- even though significant numbers that do. But it also does not mean that al Qaeda has nothing to do with nation states or with a specific religion.

The problem concerns reputation. The actions of al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist organizations have regrettably damaged the reputation of the Muslim religion and Muslims themselves. The upsurge in Islamic terror has made it far more difficult for Muslims to proclaim or practice their faith with pride.

Certainly, this is a bad thing. Terrorists want to alienate the West from Islam and want to alienate Muslims from modern civilization.

We must also note that 9/11 was not a singular event. The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center was one of a thousands of terrorist attacks, committed in the name of Islam, that have been occurring on a regular basis around the world.

Muslim terrorism has most often been directed against Muslims. This does not preclude its having been perpetrated in the name of Islam. And this does not prevent it from damaging the reputation of people who are its targets.

While it is wrong to say that "all" of today's terrorist acts have been committed by Muslims, or in the name of Islam, the vast majority have.

Logic and reason dictate that one’s attitudes toward Muslims take this into account at some level or other. To ask people to blind themselves to the reality of Islamic terror, state sponsored and state condoned, is simply not reasonable.

Then the question arises: is it for non-Muslims to protect the reputations of Muslims?

America has worked very hard to ensure that Muslims be treated with respect in this country, and that all Muslims not be blamed for what happened on 9/11.

If that reputation continues to suffer beneath the weight of continued Islamic terrorism, it is not the fault of Bill O’Reilly or Juan Williams. Actions committed by members of a community have the strongest influence on the reputation of other members of the community. Ultimately, the responsibility for controlling those actions rests with the community itself.

While all non-Muslims should respect the Muslim religion, they are not ultimately responsible for the reputation of Muslims. As with any reputation, that responsibility falls to the Muslim community.

How can the Muslim community do this? By being conciliatory and by being affirming its loyalty to the American nation, upholding its values and respecting its traditions.

The wrong approach was the one taken by the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) did in the Juan Williams situation. CAIR wrote a letter to NPR asking that Williams be sanctioned.

By insisting that Williams be punished, CAIR is acting like an agent of moral terror. It is trying to intimidate anyone who would fail to adhere to its point of view. It is surely not a gesture of conciliation.

Nor do you look like a conciliator if you choose to put up a mosque in the shadow of Ground Zero, and then, seeing the amount of emotion you have provoked, tell people that you are going to ignore their feelings.

Once you say that, as Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf did, you are saying that yours is religion that is not about conciliation compromise, but about defiance. You are calling on others to submit to your will, not to work together with you.

Back to Juan Williams.

In the course of a discussion on The O‘Reilly Factor this week, Williams made some remarks that caused NPR to submit to the will of CAIR.

Williams has had a long and distinguished career in journalism; he has been an ardent supporter of the civil rights movement. You might have thought that he would have enough credit on his account to survive the firestorm. Unfortunately, when it comes to policing thought, none of that mattered.

The firing of Juan Williams was certainly intended to be an object lesson in ideological conformity. The liberal and progressive left, through the medium of NPR, was telling its people that if they go over to the other side, that is, work on Fox News, and, worse yet, if they find any merit in the arguments proposed by Fox News hosts, they will be expelled from the leftist fellowship and will lose a goodly portion of their livelihood.

Juan Williams will land on his feet. He has always manifested the highest level of intellectual integrity.The firing is intended as a threat to anyone on the left who would consider collaborating with the enemy.

The intellectual left is clearly involved in cultural warfare. And that requires that everyone submit to what is enshrined as politically correct opinion.

IN case you missed it, here is what Juan Williams said: "But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they're identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."

If this is beyond the NPR pale, what about an identical statement by Jesse Jackson, uttered in 1993: "There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery—then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved."

Is Jesse Jackson a bigot? Or is Juan Williams being fired because he works for Fox News?

Clearly, our nation's intellectual elites are losing their monopoly power over the marketplace of ideas. It looks like they have decided to go down fighting.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Gov. Chris Christie on the Today Show

You might have missed it-- I did-- but Jamie Gangel's profile of New Jersey governor Chris Christie on the Today Show is strangely compelling. Link here.

NBC News is not a bastion of Republican thought. Its kid brother channel, MSNBC, leans very clearly toward the political left.

So, what are we to make of the fact that the Today Show runs what is essentially a puff piece about Gov. Christie, one that makes no real mention of his political opponents.

In a time of great political contentions and divisions, NBC trots out Chris Christie as someone who can get the job done while bringing all segments of the electorate together.

It's almost as though Chris Christie is what NBC and its friends on the left had hoped to find in Barack Obama.

Strange stuff. It's an episode in a story that is unfolding against the backdrop of the election, but one that we do well to follow closely.

Apologies, Apologies

It doesn’t take too much to get me going on the subject of apology. I have written extensively about it, both in my last book and on this blog. I join those who consider it to be a basic social skill, a primary way to correct error and to reassert good character.

Elizabeth Bernstein’s report about recent research on apology was amply sufficient to inspire a post. Link here.

People who never apologize suffer hubris. Whatever they feel about themselves, when they fail to apologize (ever) they are saying that they never make mistakes.

Why so? Because they are acutely aware of the fact that an apology bespeaks a loss of status, stature, authority, and dignity.

When you apologize, you humble yourself. People who refuse to humble themselves are generally very thin-skinned and very unsure of their position. They see themselves as frauds and worry that an apology will reveal, in an instant, their pretense.

Someone who never apologizes is asserting that he never makes mistakes. If things go wrong on his watch, someone else must be at fault.

Those who are victimized and scapegoated will eventually tire of their burden and will reject the authority or friendship of the person who never apologizes.

And then there are people who apologize all the time, so often that you begin to feel that they are sorry that they are walking on the planet.

Making themselves excessively submissive, or excessively self-effacing, such people always present themselves as being at fault, and thus are constantly trying to ingratiate themselves with others.

Once they define themselves as inhabiting the bottom of the social hierarchy, they are saying that they should be treated with pity.

Apologizing all the time projects weakness, and is a sign of lower social status. If you keep saying that you are sorry, people will think you are sorry. They will simply not pay any attention to your words or actions, because, after all,  you have defined them all as mistakes.

You are not going to get very far in this world if every other word out of your mouth is: “Sorry.”

As Bernstein reports, people who never (or infrequently) apologize tend to be of the male persuasion. People who apologize all (or most) of the time tend to be of the female gender.

Even then, it is not as simple as it looks. Because it depends on what counts as an apology.

Apology is a ritual, not an art. In order to count as an apology, the words must fulfill certain structural requirements.

At its best, an apology should be sincere, and meaningful. When someone sees you apologize, he should see the pain etched into your face. Apology involves a loss of face, and when you offer one sincerely your face will look as though it has been contorted beyond recognition.

Evidently, any cosmetic procedure that makes it impossible for you to move your face will inhibit your ability to offer a sincere apology.

One sincere apology is worth far more than saying “sorry” all the time. Yet, as Bernstein notes, if the best you can do is a pro forma apology, that, in itself, is better than none at all.

Saying you’re “sorry” is insufficient to count as an apology. When tossed into a conversation like sprinkles on an ice-cream cone, the word feels like an add-on, improving the taste, but not, itself, the real thing. If a sincere apology is accompanied by intense and visible feelings of deep shame, it never looks like a topping.

An apology cannot include the word “if.“ You are not sorry if you say that you feel badly if the other person has taken offense.

An apology is an admission of personal wrong-doing. It takes full responsibility for said wrong-doing.

If you did wrong, you did wrong. You can apologize for your own bad behavior. You cannot imply that it only counts as an apology if the other person feels hurt.

That would be like saying that you feel badly for having shot the arrow into your neighbor’s back yard if it hit someone. Otherwise, you do not.

Apologies should never be accompanied by an explanation of why you made the mistake. If you try to excuse or rationalize your error, you are, by definition, not taking full, personal responsibility for it.

“My mother made me do it” compromises the apology. When therapy teaches you how to understand why you made the mistake, it is also teaching you how not to apologize, thus how to undermine your good character.

You should not accompany your apology with the offer of a gift. Your sincerity is not affirmed by tacking on an iPad or a trip to Hawaii.

When you apologize you are implicitly pledging to rectify your behavior. If you apologize and continue to make the same mistakes, your apology, however it sounded or looked, becomes insincere.

If you offer a gift, you are trying to buy off or shut up the person you have offended.

I was also intrigued to learn in Bernstein’s article that researchers have found out that we apologize most to friends, and least to family members.

Also, we apologize to strangers more than we do to romantic lovers.

To whom do we apologize: first, friends; then strangers; then lovers; then family members.

As I read it, this confirms a suspicion that I have long harbored: the more a relationship is purely social, the more we manage it actively, and the more we are on good behavior.

It was not an accident that Aristotle saw friendship as the most exemplary instance of ethical behavior. Nor is it an accident that Freud and his followers, trapped as they are in an amoral torpor, define all human relations around family and romantic ties.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Multiculturalism Fails in Germany

Whatever its virtues, European social democracy has a dark underside, an unassimilated underclass that is wreaking havoc in many of its nations.

Segments of the French suburbs are off-limits to the French police and French laws. Abuse of the welfare system, coupled with increased violent crime by unassimilated immigrants, has bedeviled many European nations. David Frum reports here.

Last weekend German Chancellor Angela Merkel took the bull by the proverbial horns and declared that the German experiment in multiculturalism had failed.

Of course, multiculturalism has slightly different meanings in different cultures. In Germany it meant allowing different peoples from different cultures to live as their native cultures demanded, as long as they were loyal to the state. Link here.

To grasp the issue, we can turn to George Friedman of  Stratfor. He explains the historical and political context of German multiculturalism here.

German multiculturalism grew up around the problem of Muslim, especially Turkish, guest workers.

Having been invited into the country to help in post-war rebuilding efforts, many of them stayed and either failed to assimilate or were not allowed to assimilate into the larger German culture.

According to Friedman, Germany tried to deal with the problem by striking a grand bargain. It allowed these immigrants to maintain their own culture, their language and their values. In exchange they would be required to pledge loyalty to the German state.

In one sense it sounds like the invidious American principle of “separate but equal,” but in practice it reflected the reality behind the American principle. A group of citizens was taken to be: “separate but unequal.” Not just unequal, but inferior.

It is a recipe for social anomie. German Muslims were Germans, and yet they were not. They were isolated and separated, forming a class, even a caste, of their own. They were supposedly loyal to Germany but they did not speak German and did not respect German customs.

As we discovered on 9/11, it created a perfect place to recruit terrorists.

Where Germany was proposing a separation of cultures, America had been built precisely on cultural assimilation.

In Friedman’s words: "Anyone could become an American, so long as they accepted the language and dominant culture of the nation. This left a lot of room for uniqueness, but some values had to be shared. Citizenship became a legal concept. It required a process, an oath and shared values. Nationality could be acquired; it had a price."

Of course, many self-identified American multiculturalists reject the notion of assimilation and integration. They especially reject the idea of cultural dominance. In their minds all cultures should be respected, and be treated as equals.

It resembles nothing other than the old, discredited idea of the Tower of Babel, a formula for economic inefficiency.

American multiculturalism is not about separate but unequal. In its denial of a cultural hierarchy, it seems to be aiming at: separate but equal. At the least, it rejects the old American model of assimilation.

Not only does it reject assimilation, but it finds that there is a fundamental injustice in the notion of a “dominant culture.”

Why, American multiculturalists ask, should one culture dominate others? Doesn’t a dominant culture oppress other cultures, demanding adherence to its values while disparaging the values of other peoples?

Also, American multiculturalists believe that there is nothing very special about America, and that the sources of American pride are corrupt and polluted.

Here’s the rub. It’s one thing to argue that you should conform to the culture in which you are living, that you should speak its language and adhere to its values. That could be argued as: When in Rome, do as the Romans.

But what happens, when the argument becomes: Do as the Romans do, because the Romans are better than the Carthaginians?

When you tell ethnic Turks that they can or should no longer pretend that Germany is a suburb of Istambul, you are asking them to renounce their culture and to join another culture whose values are largely incongruent with their own.

But, you are also inviting them to join a stronger and more successful culture. Or so it will appear. On the most obvious grounds: namely, that the new culture can, in most cases, provide a better life for them than their old culture could.  Exception made for those who are persecuted in their home countries.

If they choose to stay in Germany, and adhere to German culture, are they not saying that this new culture does a better job of providing for them? Otherwise, why would they not return to Turkey?

For reasons that probably lie at the core of human nature, cultures, even civilizations, compete for dominance.

And when you join a culture, you become part of a team that is competing with other teams, that has had its share of victories and defeats and that will invite you to take pride in its achievements and to ensure that you not aid in repeating its defeats.

When you join a winning team, you are expected to draw moral sustenance and motivation from its achievements.

If you cannot see anything other than the faults, foibles, and failings of your culture, you are going to find yourself morally bereft, rudderless and unmotivated.

Part of the problem with Merkel’s insistence that German Turks learn to speak German and adopt German values, lies in the question of whether or not it is possible to feel pride in being a German. Given the horrors that Germany perpetrated in the last century, can today’s Germans put all of that behind them and feel pride in what Germany has accomplished in the post war period?

For the length and breadth of its history, America has justifiably provoked feelings of pride in those who belong to the nation and, equally, in those who have assimilated and integrated.

Yet, America as a nation did systematically exclude one group of people from full membership in its community.

Since the model of cultural assimilation can only work if it works for everyone, America has been at considerable pains to right the wrongs in its own past and to offer everyone full membership in the culture. Along with it should come feelings of pride in America’s achievement and loyalty to its principles and values.

If, as most of us believe, the good largely outweighs the bad in American history, it makes no sense to try to induce people to fail to assimilate into America.

To do so would be to produce the kinds of anomie that are threatening European social democracies today. As Frum suggested, the solution seems not to be to make America conform more to Europe, but to have Europe become more like America.

Multiculturalism, in whatever the guise, does not work. In this, Chancellor Merkel is merely echoing the conclusions of a study conducted by Harvard Professor Robert Putnam. Link here.

Failing to encourage people to assimilate, teaching them that all cultures are fundamentally the same, that no culture should inspire more pride than another, is simply a formula for cultural decline, and a new, special form of anomie.

The Right Network: "Charity Never Solved Anything"

The wonderful new site, The Right Network, has just posted a revised version of my post: "Charity Never Solved Anything." Link here.

If you read through the comments my first post elicited, you will have noticed that some commenters were kind enough to point out that I got a couple of facts wrong.

I am grateful for their being gracious enough to point these out to me. Where they were right, I have corrected the errors in the revised version that Right Network just posted.

I don't mean this as an excuse; rather, an explanation, but the original post was written on a Saturday morning, a time when my exceptionally talented fact-checkers are enjoying a well-earned weekend repose.

Again, I appreciate having had the opportunity to correct the record for The Right Network. I have not changed anything in the original post. If I had, the commenters' objections would not make any sense.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Is Spanking a Feminist Issue?

Jessica Wakeman likes being spanked. She has liked it for some time now, and has happily shared her fetish with the rest of us. Link here.

Wakeman has no real moral qualms about liking being spanked. Nor does she have qualms about exposing her predilection to the rest of the world.

Yet, she has been very concerned about whether or not her spanking-induced thrills disqualify her from being a good feminist.

She wonders whether she  selling is out her cause when she enjoys being sexually submissive. In her first essay on the topic, she concluded that she could like to be spanked and still be a good feminist.

Admittedly, Wakeman wrote about her issue last year. I prefer to open with her because the word “spank” is far more decorous than the word that heads Jaclyn Friedman’s latest interview. Link here.

I have written about Jaclyn Friedman before, because she is supposed to be something of a rock star in the sex positive feminist crowd, and also because she hands out an awful lot of bad advice.

In her recent interview, she opines on the correct way for feminists to have sex and to have relationships. Apparently, there are right and wrong ways for feminists to conduct relationships.

In addressing the issue, and in provoking much conversation, Friedman raised an important philosophical question: who owns your sexual experience?

I am happy to give her credit for raising this issue. In her article “My Sluthood, Myself” Friedman she echoed the title of a well-known book, Our Bodies, Ourselves: A New Edition for a New Era which contributed mightily to women’s efforts to assert ownership of their own sexuality.

Friedman took it a step further. After confessing to a series of anonymous sexual encounters, she declared that while society might want to call her a slut, she would deprive them of pleasure, by embracing the label herself. Thereby she felt that she was striking a blow for female sexual liberation.

For my part I have no opinion on either woman’s sexuality. It is none of my business. As I mentioned in previous posts, I would seriously caution everyone against exposing their sexuality in public.

Not so much because Wakeman and Friedman cannot handle such exposure-- they seem to say that they can-- but because theirs will be an example that younger, less competent, adolescents might follow.

So, the discussion involves two separate issues. It is good to distinguish them.

First, if you must make your sexual experiences conform to certain feminist principles, does that mean that feminism owns your sexuality?

You can sense that Jessica Wakeman is at some pains to wrest her sexuality from feminist control.

If your standard for good and bad conduct involves conforming to an ideology, then you are also saying that the ideology, not you, owns and directs and judges your behavior. 

Second, if you decide to expose your sexual experiences to the world, doesn’t that also mean that they are no longer your private property, but belong to the world outside.

Surely, you may share your intimacy with another person. Once you start sharing it with multitudes, it is, effectively, no longer something that you own. If you give it away, it will no longer feel like yours.

Sex is about private parts. It is not, for the most part, about public display of said private parts or about public discussion of experiences involving said private parts. That’s why they are qualified as “private.”

I have insisted that young people, in particular, should not be encouraged to believe that exposing their own or anyone else’s sexuality in public is a good or reasonable or acceptable thing to do.

More than a few young people have been traumatized, some to the point of committing suicide, because their intimacy has been exposed to the public.

Sometimes they have consented to limited exposure, only to find that their teenaged friends do not understand how to keep secrets.

At other times, they have tragically been victimized by people who have spied on them against their will and exposed or outed them.

This is not about society’s attitudes toward straight or gay sexuality. Even though a recent case involved a gay college student, most of the cases involve teenage girls who are mortified beyond anything they can imagine once they discover that their intimacy has gone on public display.

Shame is an extremely powerful emotion. A young person might think that it is basically a good and innocent thing to go public with their own or someone else’s sexuality. It is not.

Young people do not have the experience to judge for themselves what it will feel like to suffer such exposure. And they often do not have the emotional or psychological tools to deal with the negative emotional fallout, the shame.

The first and most important way to deal with shame is to avoid it. To avoid it by all means necessary. That means not just keeping your private parts private, but behaving in a courteous, decorous, and proper fashion at all times.

A culture qualifies as a shame culture when it produces a large variety of customs that ensure that people will be able to maintain their dignity by not shaming themselves or being shamed by others.

Such a culture offers several ways to overcome the effects of shame, from apology to rectification to self-exile.

What can be done when a young person’s sexuality has been publicly exposed?

Take the example of sexting. Surely, all young people should be strictly encouraged against it. And yet, as experiences of shame go, it is far from the worst or the most irremediable.

The embarrassment of sexting does not rate with the shame associated with making mistakes that cost you your company and cost your employees their jobs. It does not compare to a commanding general’s failure to prepare his troops for battle or for his being on the losing side of a war.

Yet, for an adolescent who is socially dependent and has very little experience dealing with shame, the possibility that compromising photos exist and have been seen by many people counts as an extremely painful experience.

Given that what is online is supposedly forever, a young person will surely have a great deal of difficulty understanding that reputation is elastic, that it can be stretched without being broken.

Every teenager makes mistakes. It goes with the territory. And every teenager who makes a mistake thinks that it is more important than it is.

How many of today’s politicians have made egregious mistakes in their youth? How many of them risk seeing their campaigns undermined by youthful indiscretions? More than a few. As an example, check out the college photos of Congressional candidate Krystal Ball.

When a child who does not know how to deal with shame, exposure is a catastrophic event, one that threatens his or her social existence. For an adult, it is an embarrassment that offers a challenge to be overcome.

If it does happen, it is best for a child to understand that the vast majority of youthful indiscretions are ultimately of no real interest to anyone but the person involved.

So long as he or she does not choose to self-identify as the person who loves to be spanked or who embraces her sluthood, most of the world does not really care.

And try to recall the old rule: if you get caught with your pants down, you should pull them up and walk away as though nothing has happened.

Feel confident that with time the image will fade from people’s minds. As long as you do not act as though you have been exposed, most people will find more interesting topics of conversation.

If it is not possible to ignore the violation of your privacy, it might be a good idea to fight back, by taking legal action.

More than a few celebrities have used legal means to ban compromising photos of them from being exposed.

Whether it involves criminal prosecution or civil suits, once you initiate legal action you have declared to the world that you have not and do not approve the exposure. Once people know that you have been victimized, they will tend, naturally and normally, to forget that they ever saw it.