Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Reality of Transgenderism

At a time when transgenderism has become trendy, even fashionable, it is good to hear about the experience of someone who actually transitioned. Since the transgender lobby, with the full support of mainstream media outlets and leftist politicians, has gotten into the business of producing transgenderism, it is morally obligatory to question the belief. As I have often mentioned, transgenderism is fundamentally a belief… and it is a belief that is at variance with anatomical and chromosomal realities.

Today, we read the story of one Lee Anthony Mills, a man who became a woman and renamed herself Leanne. She transitioned over twenty years ago and is telling her story so that other young people do not get duped into imagining that they are transgender. It’s a sobering story, the kind you can only find in The Daily Mail.

The newspaper presents her case:

Yet a few minutes later, as she serves coffee in her sitting room, Leanne says with feeling: ‘I can never be a woman. I was born male and it has taken me years to accept the truth that I am biologically still a man, whatever female hormones I swallow and whatever bits have been cut off me.

‘Today it’s trendy to be trans, especially among the young. I want to warn them that a man can never become a real woman, or vice versa. They are being oversold an impossible dream. They are being tricked.’

How has her life worked out?

She is a transsexual who, at 34, had sex reassignment surgery — as it was then called — on the NHS at a clinic in Hove, East Sussex, after years of dressing sometimes as a man and sometimes as a woman. She is now 57 and says that, since then, she has lived in a twilight world where — despite being bright and having passed the 11-plus — she has had only a string of dead-end jobs, has never found the love she craves, and remains to this day (as male or female) a virgin.

As a child she liked to dress up as a girl, but she learned about transgenderism from a book:

The teenager had learnt about transsexualism — a term coined only a decade or two before — from a Seventies book by a U.S. psychiatrist that was on her parents’ shelves. It was called Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid To Ask) and contained a short reference to transsexuals.

Willfully, the child insisted that she be mutilated. If her parents and the National Health Service would not comply, she threatened to kill herself:

To the horror of her distraught parents, Leanne then threatened to commit suicide if she couldn’t become a girl. Her determination to change sex marked the start of a rift with her parents that lasted, on and off, until they died.

Now she wants to show the reality of being transgendered.

‘I have seen my family torn asunder, friends turning away and my hopes of ever finding love dashed,’ she says. ‘I have been denied children and, therefore, grandchildren — the important relationships that other women enjoy at my time of life.

‘I want to warn others of the reality of being a transsexual, and the tragedies it can bring.’

She is especially concerned about the fact that Britain’s attitude toward the condition has produced so many more trans people:

Yet the Equalities Committee estimates that there are now between 200,000 and 500,000 trans people living in the UK (compared with only about 1,000 in 1980) and waiting times for treatment at gender identity clinics, particularly among under-18s — some aged just 11 and 12 — have grown hugely.

She is especially opposed to the notion that any individual can declare him or her a member of the opposite sex, without any medical testing:

‘Today’s rather reckless and, if I may say, irresponsible “trendy to be trans” culture (which social media helps to promote) is pushing many of them towards making life-changing and irreversible surgical decisions.

‘I cannot stress enough that it is absolutely essential to have in place medical checks and adequate preparation (which the Bill seeks to remove) before “crossing over”. What if he or she discovers too late that they are not trans after all but, in fact, gay, a cross-dresser or asexual?’

Leanne transitioned in 1995. How has life been since then?

She added: ‘I once had high hopes of realising my teenage dream when I left hospital after surgery in 1995. All was well for some “golden years” when I went clubbing and living life as a woman. However, it all unravelled because I cannot entirely escape the chains of my male origins.

Things did not go very well when she started dating boys.

She also began to see boyfriends. That raised the thorny question of when to tell her date she’d had sexual reassignment. Should it be on the first date or later, after the relationship had begun to grow?

She remembers two occasions, both at a bar near her then home in Birmingham, when dates walked out on her after she told them the truth.

‘I’d met the first guy through a singles group. When I said what had happened to me, he just started shouting at me in front of the other customers before driving off, leaving me there with everyone staring,’ recalls Leanne.

The second date — a man with whom she was ‘getting on great’ — suddenly said to her: ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if you turned out to be a bloke?’

When Leanne confessed that she had indeed been born male, he got up and departed, too, saying he needed time to think.

Whatever the law says, the social stigma remains:

Then there is the social stigma, which has not gone away despite the UK’s generally more enlightened attitude.

She was out shopping recently when she saw a man who used to be a pupil at the same school as her when she was still Lee. The old schoolmate was standing in front of Leanne, who said: ‘Hello, don’t you recognise me? It’s Lee.’

She explained she had transitioned and was now a woman. His response was to shake her hand, after which he turned on his heel and walked off.

She offers this final observation and warning:

No wonder Leanne says her life now is lonely. When I visited, she’d not had a caller at home for five weeks. So it is little surprise that she warns others who feel they were born in the wrong body not to make hasty decisions, especially when young.

‘The propagandists tell them it’s a bed of roses and they will be accepted by society. They think they’ll find the right partner, that it will all be wonderful.’ She shakes her head sadly.

Al-Sisi to Muslim Migrants: When in Europe, Do as the Europeans

Considering the source the statements are remarkable. Coming from the leader of one of the world’s largest Muslim nations, they are especially remarkable. In truth, they are so remarkable that the mainstream press has, to my knowledge, ignored them. Thus, we found them in The Daily Mail (via Maggie’s Farm).

Coming in the midst of our own great debate about immigration, aimed especially at Muslim migrants in Europe, Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi offered them some sound and sane advice. Defying the gods of multiculturalism, al-Sisi echoed a remark attributed to none other than St. Ambrose. In its most common form it states: when in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Al-Sisi, the man who caused considerable dismay in the Obama administration because he overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood president of Egypt, has now struck out against the madness of multiculturalism. One remarks in passing, for whatever it’s worth, that al-Sisi is a close ally of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. One wonders whether his statement echoes sentiments of those governments and shows a movement within Islam. One also notes that he is distancing himself from the concept of jihad, of holy war, which suggests that Muslims must impose their religion on others and that others must submit to Islam. He is taking a step toward bringing Islam into the modern world.

If you want to resettle in the West, al Sisi told his largely Muslim audience, you should assimilate. You should integrate into their culture.

The Daily Mail reports:

Egypt's President has told his people they should not expect the West to 'open their doors' to migrants who refuse to integrate.

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said that 'every country has the right to protect its people and their interests.'

Speaking at a World Youth Forum in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt, the country's leader told guests they had to 'completely abide by the laws, customs, traditions and culture' of a country they moved to.

His comments came last month but have only now been reported by U.S.-based research institute MEMRI.

Not only should Muslims embrace the culture of the nations they want to inhabit, but they should understand that Western nations have a right to keep out people who cannot get along with each other, who are constantly fighting among themselves:

The Egyptian President told the audience that the West could not be expected to allow in people from countries who 'fight amongst ourselves'.

He said: 'Every country has the right to protect its people and their interests. It must generally respect human rights in a framework that preserves its national interests.

'Instead of asking me why countries [in the West] close their gates to us, you should ask yourself why the people of Afghanistan don't take better care of their own country.  
'Why have they been killing one another for 40 years?

Shifting the emphasis away from Angela Merkel’s open armed empathy mongering toward the question of why the peoples of the Muslim world cannot produce a functioning culture of their own… is worth noting.

This happens in other countries as well – in Pakistan, in Egypt, in Syria, in Libya, in Iraq, in Yemen, and in Somalia.

'We fight amongst ourselves in our own countries, and then we expect countries that work day and night to achieve progress to protect their people and to maintain a certain standard of living for them – we demand that they let us in so we can have part of their [success].'

Sisi, 64, told the audience that the leaders of 'Germany, England, Italy or any other European country' would protect their borders 'in order to protect the achievements of many long years'.

He said: 'Do you expect them to open their doors so that we can go there demanding to keep our own culture?

Shouldn’t we also notice that these remarks apply rather well to migrant refugees from Honduras and el Salvador, who want to enter America in order to profit from success that they did not produce themselves.

He continued:

'We demand to keep our culture, which could be very different from the work ethic in those countries.

'You demand to go there with your culture which you consider to be non-negotiable. You say, "this is how we are and you must accept us [because of] human rights". No.

'By the way, if you go to another country as a guest, you must completely abide by its laws, customs, traditions and culture. You must abide by them completely. If you are not willing to do this, don't go.

'Don't expect them to open the door for you so you can go into their country and cause trouble. No.'

So, for those refugees who are high school dropouts, who cannot contribute meaningfully to the American or the European economies, al Sisi is recommending that they adopt the Western work ethic.

If the media was semi alert and semi conscious, it would have noted these remarks and offered them as a contribution to our own debates about immigration.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Christmas Wishes

A tip for Christmas (via Maggie's Farm)

Democracy And Her Magic Ponies

America has never had a direct democracy. It has never had a government where the majority of the people decide matters of policy. If you don’t believe me, recall what happened when states passed referenda about same-sex marriage. The courts overturned the results, as everyone knew they would.

America does not have a direct democracy because our founding fathers feared the tyranny of the majority. They cared about minority rights, especially about the rights of states that had smaller populations. They did not want the populous states to impose their will on everyone else. Thus, the electoral college and the United States Senate.

In the meantime radical Democrats, the media and the intelligentsia are running around trying to destroy Donald Trump… for his offenses against democracy. That’s right, they declare themselves to be proud and intrepid defenders of democracy while doing everything in their power to overturn a fair election. Fortunately, today’s Democrats have enough enablers in the media and the bureaucracy… so that no one will ever call them out on their mindless hypocrisy. And let’s not forget the Trump executive orders that have been stayed or overturned by federal judges. If you want to tar Trump as an autocrat or a dictator you would to explain why a single federal judge can so easily undo his executive actions.

As  a sidelight, and to gain a sense of the state of mind of media figures, we note that Mika Brzezinski yesterday spewed forth a gay slur against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. YOu and I know that no one at NBC will call her out on it and that no one will punish her for it.

The more interesting part of the story is this: recall when her father Zbigniew Brzezinski was National Security Advisor for President Jimmy Carter. We are living with the fallout today. Recall that Carter oversaw the overthrow of the Shah of Iran and facilitated the return of Ayatollah Khomeini to turn the country into an Islamist hellhole. And let’s not forget the Iran hostage crisis, so incompetently conducted by Carter and Brzezinski. Let’s take a gander at Mika’s father’s record in foreign policy… and then we can talk about who is whose butt boy.

But I digress.

By now we are all aware of the fact that American liberal democracy and Chinese authoritarian capitalism are competing for world cultural dominance. It’s the latest chapter in the clash of civilizations. We do not know who will win out. We do not know the outcome. We would be monumentally naive to imagine that the course of world history will necessarily lead to a victory for liberal democracy. One might even suggest, with good reason, that liberal democracy peaked when Francis Fukuyama announced that history was over and that liberal democracy had won. Of course, Fukuyama pretended to have gotten the idea from a great philosopher by name of G. W. F. Hegel. And we know that great German philosophers are never wrong.

Unfortunately, Fukuyama misread Hegel. The great philosopher saw the end of history in the image of a conquering imperialist hero, Napoleon, riding through his Prussian city of Jena. Trust me, Napoleon did not invade Prussia to bring it anything resembling Anglo-Saxon liberal democracy. You do not even need to read Hegel’s impenetrable prose to understand that. Strangely enough, no one seemed to much care that Fukuyama had completely misread Hegel. It says something about the quality of thought indulged by our intelligentsia.

Anyway, if you were feeling optimistic about the future of liberal democracy you should recognize a point that I have occasionally made, on this very blog. If we want liberal democracy to prevail we have to make it work. If the world sees a functioning society in China and a house divided against itself in America it is not going to embrace liberal democracy. It is going to think that liberal democracy’s flaws are too egregious and too dangerous to court.

Consider the angle that Peggy Noonan raised in the Wall Street Journal today. Do liberal democracies invariably choose competent leaders or are the people more often seduced by what she calls magic ponies?

Noonan emphasizes American presidents, but we are well within our rights to examine some of the leaders of the West’s great liberal democracies. Once-Great Britain is being led by Prime Minister Theresa May… not, of course, as a result of a direct election. May has had exactly one job: to negotiate Brexit, Britain’s exit from the European Union. In that she has failed miserably, most likely because of her basic incompetence. Think that she is the best Once-Great Britain can do... and gnash your teeth.

Across the channel, France’s Wunderkind is having his own problems-- namely, a popular uprising against the French taxation regimen. Emmanuel Macron surely counts among the brightest politicians working today. And yet, he introduced a regressive diesel fuel tax and provoked an insurrection. Dare we mention it, yet again, but Macron married his mother and marrying your mother does not put you in the running to be an alpha male. It does not command respect.

One country to the east, Germany is being led by the retiring Angela Merkel. Her greatest contribution to her nation will be her absurd open arms policy, admitting far more Muslim migrants than the nation could assimilate, and thus launching a crime wave and a rape culture. Eventually, it will damage Germany, perhaps beyond recognition. Merkel keeps winning elections, but she is finished politically… for having shown weakness when strength was required.

As for America, we will leave it to Noonan. By her lights our current and past president have been magic ponies who won office by manipulating emotion, ginning up hope and underperforming. When you live in a therapy culture that values feeling over rational thought, you get magic ponies. American democracy is increasingly incapable of electing a presidential candidate who is qualified, accomplished and who manifests sufficient gravitas. Yes, I understand that Barack Obama once said that Hillary Clinton was the most qualified candidate ever to fun for the office of the presidency. If enabling sexual harassment counts as a qualification perhaps he is right. In truth, Obama was being ironic. Hillary Clinton was such a bad candidate, such an incompetent public official, such a manifest fraud, so thoroughly unlikeable… that she could not beat Donald Trump.

Considering that he just passed away, George H. W. Bush counts as the last president who had the requisite qualities of experience not to be a magic pony. Noonan explains her idea:

Politics is part theater, part showbiz, it’s always been emotional, but we’ve gotten too emotional, both parties. It’s too much about feelings and how moved you are. The balance is off. We have been electing magic ponies in our presidential contests, and we have done this while slighting qualities like experience, hard and concrete political accomplishment, even personal maturity. Barack Obama, whatever else he was, was a magic pony. Donald Trump too. Beto O’Rourke, who is so electrifying Democrats, also appears to be a magic pony.

In a serious country, Beto O’Rourke would be a joke. His primary qualification seems to be that he reminds people of John F. Kennedy, America’s most revered magic pony.

Noonan limits herself to Obama and Trump:

Messrs. Obama and Trump represented a mood. They didn’t ask for or elicit rigorous judgment, they excited voters. Mr. Trump’s election was driven by a feeling of indignation and pushback: You elites treat me like a nobody in my own country, I’m about to show you who’s boss. His supporters didn’t consider it disqualifying that he’d never held office. They saw it as proof he wasn’t in the club and could turn things around. His ignorance was taken as authenticity. In this he was like Sarah Palin, another magic pony.

Obama effectively sold hope. And yet, hope is not a political agenda. It is not a program for leadership. It is an unguent to salve your wounds.

After two wars and an economic crisis, Mr. Obama gleamed with hope and differentness. This shining 47-year-old intellectual—surely he’ll turn things around. He’d been an obscure and indifferent state legislator who was only two years in the U.S. Senate when the move to make him president began. It was all—a feeling. He was The One.

True enough, it was nothing more than a feeling.

The trouble is, we keep finding ourselves led by people who lack the basics of good leadership:

But sober judgment, serious accomplishment, deep knowledge and personal maturity are most important in our political leaders, because of the complexity of the problems we face. History will be confounded that at such a crucial time, trying to come up with a plan to address such issues as artificial intelligence and robotics and the future of work and a rising China and the stresses of the nuclear world, we kept choosing magic ponies and hoping for the best.

Point well made… in the civilizational clash with China, we are hoping for the best. Because, if we cannot make democracy function effectively, all we have is hope. Which is hopeless.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Case of the Frustrated Writer

Another week means another chance for New York Magazine advice columnist, Polly, to offer some dumb advice. And, of course, to miss the point entirely. Nothing very surprising about that… because it’s what she does. And apparently she has an audience for it… which tells us that today’s millennial generation is in bigger trouble than we think.

The letter writer calls herself, “In My Way.” Apparently, she means that she is doing it her way, but Polly points out, correctly, that she is also getting in her own way. Thus, Polly concludes that the woman needs a pep talk filled with empty-headed bromides.

I would point out that a writer who uses a key phrase that she does not control does not seem to be a very capable writer.

The problem is simple: “In My Way” wants to be a writer or thinks that she is a writer. Her so-called writing career is going nowhere because, as she imagines, she is tormenting herself by comparing herself with other more successful writers. She seems to think that she can solve it all with therapy. Big mistake.

Now, it does not take too much perspicuity to see that the issue is not her mental state and emotional turmoil. The issue is: does she have the talent to be a writer? After all, she is providing us with a writing sample, one that-- in a flash of unconscious awareness-- opens with the phrase: “I feel stupid even writing this….” Perhaps somewhere she knows that she does not have the talent to be a writer and should be directing her energy elsewhere.

Without further ado, here is the letter:

I feel stupid even writing this because an integral part of my issue is that I never look to myself for answers, I always have to look to someone else, but here goes: I have crippling self-doubt that manifests itself in seething envy of others. I compare myself constantly to everyone and anyone else, and it causes me a lot of grief.

I’m trying to be a writer and am constantly comparing myself to writers who were hungry to break in at a younger age. Writers who are published now, struggling but excited, hip to the scene, comfortable, confident.

I am envious of smart people, people who went to grad school at a younger age (I am just starting to apply now and I feel old and insecure).

I am financially unstable and constantly compare myself to people who got out of school and pursued careers that now allow them to comfortably have things like nice apartments and furniture they care about and health insurance and yoga-studio memberships. I know these things will not fix it, but I can’t help but want the lives they represent.

I pursued, aggressively and stubbornly, a freelance position I no longer care for that is difficult to transition out of. I did it because it was hard to get in and I wanted to prove that I could. Well, I did. Now, I’m stuck and almost 30 and petrified that I won’t ever be able to recover the years I lost doing stupid things instead of focusing on something that could have brought me closer to where I wish I were now. I KNOW this is petty, I know this is silly, but it feels inescapable …

I feel like I made this massive mistake when I left undergrad and just started fucking around while other people were doing internships and building contacts and studying abroad.

I want to know how I can stop comparing myself to others and learn a little bit of self-love, patience, and respect for my journey.

Thanks,

In My Way

As for the salient question, one that you should now be able to answer. Does she have the talent to be a writer? For my part, I vote No. Admittedly, Polly is not a very good writer either, so perhaps there is still hope. But, in truth, wishing does not make it so, wishing to be a writer, tormenting yourself for your unrecognized talent… does not make you a writer.

Perhaps Polly is simply too discreet to tell this woman the truth. So, she offers up some drool saying that the real issue is enjoying the work. Trust me, if you have no talent and no one reads you, you are not going to be enjoying the work.

Here’s Polly’s everyday vapid mode:

All that matters is that you enjoy your work. So learn to enjoy it, right now, first and foremost. One day, fountains will dance to your song and it will make you sad. Or fountains will never dance to your song and thatwill make you sad. You are the author of this moment. You are the center of this day. Stop looking over your shoulder. No one knows anything. No one is ahead or behind. No one is better or worse. You hold all of the answers. Learn to look inside, to hear your heart, to treasure what it tells you, in all of its uneven, fearful, bewildered, bewitching glory. Learn to honor your bizarre, freakish, amazing gifts. Once you do this, you’ll also learn how to honor other people’s gifts instead of fearing and resenting them.

Give yourself some time. Give yourself some credit. Give yourself a break. Do it YOUR way. Celebrate your cutthroat soul, on the page and out in the world, and SAVOR THIS MOTHERFUCKING DAY.

So, the real question is whether Polly herself has any real talent. When you feel compelled to show off how cool you are by flinging obscenities at your readers, you probably lack confidence and have run out of things to say.

Is Anti-Zionism Anti-Semitism?

Last week I commented on New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg’s attempt to distinguish anti-Semitism from anti-Zionism. Being a weak, timid and cowardly soul Goldberg channeled the Hamas party line… namely that Palestinian terrorism was a justifiable reaction to Israel’s refusal to grant terrorists their full human rights.

More recently David Schwammenthal has called out those who rationalize their hatred for Jews by saying that anti-Zionism is not really anti-Semitism. He noted that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe today… thanks largely to Europe’s openness to Muslim migrants. Europe’s Jews live under seige today. Strangely enough, only a small minority of the anti-Semitic actions have been committed by members of right wing groups.

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights polled some 16,500 Jews in 12 countries that account for 90% of the EU’s Jewish population. Eighty-five percent say anti-Semitism is a problem in their country, and 28% report having experienced anti-Semitic harassment in the preceding 12 months—including 37% of those “who wear, carry or display items in public that could identify them as Jewish.” As a result, 34% avoid visiting Jewish events or sites, and 38% have considered emigrating.

Those who reported being harassed were asked to describe the perpetrator of the most serious incident. Only 13% said it was “someone with a right-wing political view,” compared with 30% who cited extremist Muslim views and 21% left-wing political views.

Respondents were asked about anti-Semitic statements they heard online, in other media and at political events. The most common one, which 51% said they hear “frequently” or “all the time,” was “Israelis behave ‘like Nazis’ towards the Palestinians”—a claim that demonizes the Jewish state while diminishing the crimes of real Nazis.

At the root of today’s anti-Semitism is a denunciation of Israel… for mistreating those poor Palestinian terrorists.

Leftists accept the propaganda, designed as it is to justify killing Jews. If Israelis are really Nazis in disguise, why would you not kill them?

The leftist counterargument is that anti-Zionism is a legitimate political position that has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. But anti-Zionists discriminate against the Jews alone among the peoples of the world and call for the Jewish state’s economic, cultural and academic boycott. What sense would it make to say: “I don’t think Ireland has a right to exist, but I’m not anti-Irish”?

Apparently, the European Union has not been gulled by leftist pro-terrorist propaganda. It has endorsed a definition of anti-Semitism that includes anti-Zionism:

Last Thursday the bloc’s justice and home-affairs ministers unanimously approved a declaration designed to tackle all sources of anti-Semitism. They endorsed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Anti-Semitism, which specifically includes as examples denying Israel’s right to exist or holding Jews responsible for Israel’s actions, real or imagined.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The No-Nonsense Coffee Guide


The No-Nonsense Coffee Guide (via Maggie's Farm).

Killing Art

If your name were Fine you would naturally be drawn to the world of fine art. If you were an academic scholar named Gary Alan Fine, a professor at Northwestern University, you would be drawn to study the Masters of Fine Arts programs in Chicago.

To guide us through Fine’s new book, Talking Art, we have a Harvard graduate student named Charlie Tyson.

If you had been holding out hope for the world of fine art, Tyson’s essay about Fine’s book will disabuse you of your illusion. In a slightly better world Tyson would have open his essay with a line from Italian poetry:

Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate.

You immediately recognize it as the slogan that welcomes you to Dante’s Inferno. In English, it reads: Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

Fine arts programs supposedly prepare some students to be artists. They prepare others to teach in universities or even to curate and criticize art. In itself, this is harmless. In reality, when translated into work, it descends into pure idiocy:

The book treats us to the spectacle of a distinguished, gray-headed scholar — Fine himself, of course — watching as a young artist commands her audience to spit Jell-O into her pantyhose. "I like to question the socially constructed notions of our sense of sex," she declares. Our hapless sociologist-hero scribbles notes as a male art student screens hard-core pornography as part of his "practice." Another artist-in-waiting reflects: "For me the vagina is the solution."

Will any serious and sentient adult consider this to be art. Does it not more closely indulge the infantilism of today's coddled children? Art students are initiated into a cult where people speak a foreign language, one filled with passwords that make no coherent sense.

The book’s main interest for those of us in academia, however, may lie elsewhere. The appeal of ethnography, by turns prurient and educative, comes from the privileged access it grants to an alien way of life. But the spectacle of a cohort of students trained to speak in a rarefied lexicon, vying for their professors’ approval, instructed to compete for a tiny number of unstable jobs while courting hostility from the larger world, will not strike anyone on a university campus as unfamiliar. The M.F.A. is graduate school in a funhouse mirror.

If you think that art has something to do with knowing how to draw, you would be seriously out of date:

the academic institutions that serve as gatekeepers for the art world praise the conceptual, the alienating, and the abstract while disparaging craftsmanship as "merely" pretty and "merely" illustrative — and a sure sign of political quietism.

It gets worse. Students do not study art history and they are taught to disparage anything that appears to contain the least smidgeon of beauty. Tyson continues:

In the programs that Fine surveys, students take no classes on technique, and most take no art history. One senior faculty member likens a course on drawing to learning Latin. Another scoffs at the "preciousness" of Northern European Renaissance painting. "I’m sure we could all make beautiful Monet paintings or Picasso paintings if we wanted to," one student says brazenly, "but that’s not what we want to do."

The M.F.A. programs identify beauty with commercialism and with naïve illustration devoid of ideas. Art that aims for beauty, Fine writes, echoing the assumptions of his interview subjects, creates a "merchandising aesthetic. … An emphasis on the beautiful suggests an absence of critical content." Yet there is a contradiction here, as Fine acknowledges: If beauty is commercial, then why do elite collectors, in step with art-world conventions, clamor after "ugly" art?

One notes, with chagrin and dismay, that collectors have drunk deeply of this swill. It’s not just about making non-art. It’s about adopting the right pose, looking the part. If your work cannot speak for itself, you can at least put on a beret and look like a starving artist. But you must also master the art of bullshit.

The M.F.A. trains artists to talk about their work with slickness and flair, in conformity with the lexicon of the art world. The premise of M.F.A. education, Fine says, is "helping students not only to be artists, but also to look the part." Making art is not enough; aspiring artists must be able to articulate and defend the political and conceptual interventions their work performs. Learning to "look the part" entails firm, sometimes punitive, lessons in self-presentation. This instruction takes place at the program’s central ritual: the critique.

It gets worse. Art students are supposedly being taught how to think. And yet, nothing about the process leads Tyson to believe that they have the least notion of what it means to think:

In today’s M.F.A. programs, Fine concludes, "learning to think takes priority over learning to make." But do M.F.A. students learn to think well? Art schools require students to justify and explain their art in highly theoretical terms, but give them no adequate instruction in philosophy, literature, or any other discursive field that prizes subtle distinctions or analytical clarity. M.F.A. candidates are assigned books by Fredric Jameson, Jacques Rancière, Alain Badiou, and other prophets bellowing down from the cliffs of high theory.

But the students seldom do more than skim the reading, Fine reports, so as to reserve the bulk of their time for work in the studio. Seminar discussions of these complicated theoretical texts — led, typically, by professional artists, not art historians, literary theorists, or philosophers — do little to explicate the ideas. Students are encouraged to invoke theory, Fine suggests, as a way of claiming authority. The actual texts often remain unread….

We can, and should, argue about the merits of the various theorists in the art-school canon, and about how much theory artists need in the first place. The problem is that this education in theory, supposedly central, is superficial: The thinkers are too often reduced to slogans or catchwords. (Scholars in the humanities are not immune to this kind of posturing, but judging from Fine’s account, it seems rarer there.) That we get artist statements quoted here that begin, "I question modernity, while constantly interrogating Cartesian duality …" — blind lumbering in the dark plains of philosophy — results not from student incompetence but from misplaced expectations.

To say that this education in high theory is superficial is overly generous. It is pure gibberish. Students have no idea what they are reading, and yet they learn to mouth the proper phrases. The point, Tyson correctly notes, is to affirm membership in a cult.

The student is asked to discard the values of the larger society and prove his loyalty to a subculture. He learns to speak, haltingly at first, a language of authority, redolent with Latinate abstractions. The dim professional prospects in the field are worried over, regretted. The advised solution is to double down, to win approval from the elders, to specialize and reposition until the work becomes bloodless trivia. The self-fashioning that the subculture requires for success inside the cloister opens a gash between the student and the world he has left behind; the glances he jealously casts outward seem to confirm a mutual disdain.

As we have noted, there is a market for this silliness. Thus, try as we might, we cannot dismiss it entirely. And yet, the marketplace has been so thoroughly corrupted. The result has been that the mania over multiculturalism and rage to be radically French has produced a subculture dedicated to nothing other than to killing art.