Wednesday, June 30, 2021

The Precipitous Decline of the American Media

You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time. These words should be blazoned over the great office towers that contain the giants of American media.

While it is certainly true that you can make fools out of a lot of the people a lot of the time, comes the reckoning, and it is not pretty.

Unfortunately, for our media giants, the American people have their number. These venerable and august institutions have lost the trust of the American people. In fact, as Joe Concha reports, based on a Reuters Institute study, the American media is last in the world when it comes to being trustworthy.  (via Maggie’s Farm) Then again, if you read the media you might also want to conclude that our media is first in the world in worthlessness.

As the ratings of MSNBC and CNN tank, we can cheer for the free market. What the idiots running the media cannot do for themselves, the marketplace seems apt to do. That is, hitting these media companies where it hurts, on the bottom line. You can only spend so much time lying to people before the people catch on. And, dare we say, you can only spend so much time ginning up negative emotion before people tire of the shtick.

Obviously, the Reuters report only covers mainstream media outlets. As for the lying that passes for fact checking on social media-- surely they will eventually lose all credibility.

Of course, to be totally fair, the media has become the propaganda wing of the Democratic Party. Why, it was only yesterday-- or the day before-- when media commentators breathlessly announced, echoing a Biden administration talking point, that the Republican Party favored defunding the police. The reason, Republicans had voted against a recent piece of legislation that contained some funding for local police. 

No one mentioned that a miniscule portion of police funding comes from the federal government in the best of times. No one mentioned that the riotous insurrection against the police and against government authority had been ongoing since last spring-- well before the legislation was even a gleam in Joe Biden’s eye. No one mentioned that police officers are retiring at unprecedented numbers, and this, long before the Biden legislation. No one in the mainstream media mentioned the fact that the people committing the crimes are certainly not members of QAnon or the Proud Boys. No one mentioned that the cities suffering the most were being run by Democrat mayors and prosecutors. No one mentioned any relevant details. Apparently, the mere fact that some Biden administration apparatchiks dreamed up a talking point sufficed for our ever more dishonest media. They repeated it like the parrots they are.

Only a certifiable idiot could have dreamed this up. Only certifiable idiots could have believed it. Even if we graciously imagine that the news commentators who were hawking the story did not believe it, what does this tell us of the general intelligence level of their audience?

Anyway, Concha reports:

The U.S. media is the least trustworthy in the world, according to a comprehensive new Reuters Institute survey encompassing 46 countries. 

Yes, you read that right. The country with among the most resources in this arena – human, technical and otherwise – finished dead last. Finland ranked the highest, with a 65 percent trust rating. In Kenya, the trust rating clocked in at 61 percent. 

But here in the U.S.A., the home of global media giants including the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN, we’re trusted by a whopping 29 percent of those reading and watching. 

Is anyone really surprised? Because in looking at polls over the past few years (even pre-Donald Trump) we’ve been trending in this dubious direction for some time.  

For example, one Axios/Survey Monkey poll in 2019 found that nearly 8-in-10 independent voters said they believed that news organizations report news “they know to be fake, false or purposely misleading.” 

Ninety-two percent of Republicans felt the same way, as did even a majority of Democrats. 

Which means readers and viewers believe that the "mistakes" we so often see, particularly in the political media that dominates the national landscape, are not happening because of human error, which is a convenient excuse offered up from left-leaning "journalists" when "bombshell" reports end up being false, fake or purposely misleading. 

The point is, news media are no longer interested in reporting the facts. They have become propaganda organs, purveying rightthink. It used to be called dogma.

One ought to remark that while we are all up in arms about state media censorship in certain foreign countries-- guess which one-- we would take a giant step toward an international free press by seeing our own media set an example of honest, objective fair reporting.

As of now, such is not the case. And nearly everyone knows it. It used to be, Concha opines, that the public trusted Walter Cronkite and Chet Huntley and David Brinkley and Bernard Shaw. No more:

Fast forward to 2021, and the likes of Chris Cuomo, Jim Acosta, Brian Williams and Yamiche Alcindor are given the same prestigious titles of anchor or correspondent. 

These aren’t anchors, of course, they’re patently partisan opinion hosts. All share their feelings, their opinions – which always support the blue team – and pass it off as objective news reporting. Which, of course, is an insult to those who have eyes and ears and brains. 

How can the media regain the trust of the people? Concha says that it cannot. Perhaps he is being slightly too pessimistic, but still, one place to start, he writes, is for major American newspapers to act as though they know that there are two political parties. They might endorse Republicans-- something that they never do.

And trust is like toothpaste: Once it’s out of the tube, it’s impossible to regain. Example: The New York Times hasn't endorsed a Republican presidential candidate in 65 years, which means the so-called paper of record endorsed Walter Mondale in 1984 and Michael Dukakis in 1988, who lost a combined 89 states. 

Talk about being out of touch. The Washington Post has never endorsed a Republican presidential candidate in its history. CNN – once a beacon of solid, objective reporting in the Bernard Shaw/Gulf Wars era – has become a parody of itself in losing nearly 75 percent of its audience since the beginning of the year, an unprecedented drop. 

In other words, don’t expect the new Cronkites and Brinkleys of the world to swoop in and save journalism in the U.S. anytime soon. 

Behind it all is a systematic disdain for facts. It is almost as though the millennial generation that has come to infest America’s newsrooms has overdosed on therapy. They do not care about facts. They care about feelings.

Concha concludes:

Not exactly facts first, but feelings first. 

The U.S. is the least-trusted country of 46 when it comes to the way consumers view the news. If that isn't a wake-up call for the industry, I’m not sure what would be.  

Feelings first.

Seriously, at a time when we all want there to be less sexual harassment in the workplace, do we really imagine that placing more of an emphasis on feelings will promote good professional relations. Or does the emphasis on feelings make it more likely for Jim to confess to Beverly that he has feelings for her-- and that he feels compelled to express them, because he cannot just bottle them up.

Obviously, those who live to express their feelings have no concern whatever for whether the feelings are reciprocated.

Go figure.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Does Gwen Berry Hate America?

She may not have won the hammer throw but Gwen Berry has drawn far more attention for her stunt at the closing ceremony. As you know, in the ceremony that finalized the results of the Olympic throw, Berry, who qualified to compete in Tokyo in the woman's hammer throw by coming in third, threw a tantrum. She turned her back on the national anthem and wrapped herself in a tee shirt that proclaimed her to be a black activist.

Piers Morgan described the scene well in The Daily Mail:

As the two other competitors who had beaten her turned respectfully to face the American flag and placed their hands on their hearts, furious Berry turned the other way, placed her hands angrily on her hips, and then held up a T-shirt proclaiming the words 'ATHLETE ACTIVIST' before putting it over her head.

She preened, she sulked, she sighed, she frowned, and she eye-rolled in one of the most pathetic tantrums I've ever seen from anyone supposedly representing their country.

Berry claimed she'd been 'set up' by organizers who knew she would hate standing on the podium as the Star Spangled Banner played.

'I felt like they did it on purpose,' she moaned.

Really, Gwen?

You think the people running a huge and very complex logistical operation like the US Olympic trials during a global pandemic had nothing better to do than secretly plot to annoy you, the third best female performer at the Hammer?

God, the mind-blowing dismissive arrogance of this statement.

No offence, but to borrow a line from Top Gun, methinks your ego's writing cheques your body can't cash.

Naturally, the White House, in the person of press secretary Jen Psaki rushed to defend Gwen Berry. Claiming that President Biden is a great patriot, Psaki declared that Berry was merely protesting against-- whatever. Just as the rioters who burned and looted America’s great blue cities, who attacked the police and government offices, were really just protesting.

Naturally, we would prefer to think that Berry was merely speaking for herself. We would prefer that her act, which is not a protest, but is a repudiation of the nation, be limited to her. The country can tolerate an unhinged athlete throwing tantrums. And yet, once the White House embraces such a grotesque repudiation of the country, once it gives the OK to a flagrantly unpatriotic expression, it has generalized the gesture, and has made it a defining gesture. 

Thanks to Gwen Berry and the White House, and also thanks to the Black Lives Matter protesters, we have now been told, in no uncertain terms, that the American Democratic Party and minority Americans hate the country. If you imagine that this will advance the cause of civil rights or of racial integration, you are smoking the wrong kind of cigarettes.

In other words, it’s one thing for a distempered Colin Kaepernick to repudiate the country. Once Nike takes up his cause and makes him a rich national hero, his gesture comes to define more than his person. Once other black political leaders rush to defend him, they are saying that if you are black you can act like you are not part of the country. But that means, other people can reasonably question your loyalty and trustworthiness. Is this really what we want?

Of course, once blacks tell non-blacks that you are not loyal or trustworthy, this affects the way they treat you. Sorry to put it so starkly, but the goals of social harmony and racial integration have been thrown out, not only by the hapless and hopeless Gwen Berry, but by the Biden White House-- and by anyone who supports her. 

As calls rose up for her to be thrown off the Olympic team, Berry tried to defend herself. She said this-- apologies for the illiteracy:

'I never said I hated this country!' she tweeted. 'People try to put words in my mouth but they can't. That's why I speak out. I LOVE MY PEOPLE. These comments really show that: 1.) people in America rally patriotism over basic morality. 2.) Even after the murder of George Floyd and so many others; the commercials, statements, and phony sentiments regarding black lives were just a hoax.'

If you want to be very literal minded, you can say that she never said anything-- with words, that is. Her actions, however, spoke loudly. They said that she hates her country. We do not really know what she means when she says that she loves her people. Would that be the American people or the black people of Missouri. She never said that she loves her country or that she feels any sense of loyalty to her country. 

She makes clear that she does not consider her people-- what does it mean to use the possessive pronoun here-- to be her fellow Americans. 

I have no idea what she means when she says that people in America “rally patriotism over basic morality.” I imagine that it’s a typo. So, she was standing up for basic morality by standing against America. She was trying to divide the country, to advance social and racial divisions in the name of basic morality.

Then again, morality is designed to produce and to sustain harmony, to help people to function within a cohesive nation. Now, Berry has undermined that, with the aid, more importantly, of the Biden White House.

As for morality, Emile Durkheim, one of the founders of modern sociology and social science, explained its purpose in his 1897 book, The Division of Labor in Society:

... the need of order, harmony, and social solidarity is generally considered moral.

In truth, there is nothing moral in grandstanding against your country, in trying to produce division and antagonism. It is altogether possible to love your country-- or even your spouse-- despite its flaws. But to argue that its flaws are the only thing that matters, does not express pride or loyalty or love of country.

Piers Morgan recommended that Berry resign from the American team. It would be the proper way to show how ashamed she is in her country. If she refuses, then she should be removed from the team. I do not believe that America should send her to represent the country. Morgan writes:

But I would simply ask her this: if you genuinely feel such shame in America's anthem and flag that you feel the need to throw such a pathetic tantrum, why would you WANT to represent your country?

Surely the braver, more principled thing to do is withdraw, and let someone replace you who feels pride, not shame, in representing America? 

As far as America is concerned, Gwen Berry’s repudiation of America is a bad sign. It is a bad sign when large segments of the population hate the country. It is divisive and corrosive. It stokes hostility and antagonism. As Gerard Baker wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

In most countries in the world, if a talented athlete had been trained, developed and selected from thousands to represent the nation, then went and publicly trashed it all, the public opprobrium would be unrelenting.

In America, you disrespect the institutions of your country, and you get lionized by the media. You take a knee or turn away from the flag or refuse to take the field or the court while the national anthem is played, and you get nodding assent from the authorities who control the sport. You can denounce what your country stands for and get elected to Congress.

Baker’s remarks echo a statement made by Durkheim in the aforementioned work:

There is no society where attacks against national sentiments or national institutions have ever been tolerated.

Surely, that is stark. But it is clear. And it does not refer to our country in particular. It suggests that when attacks against national sentiments or national institutions are tolerated, even praised from the office of the presidency, America is in very big trouble-- and that it lacks the will to address the issue.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Keeping Therapists in Business

I do not need to tell you, but therapy is a business. The more we mint therapists the more we, as a society, feel compelled to keep them in business. So, we redefine all of our human ailments, all of our torments and tribulations, as mental health problems.

It’s good for the therapy business. And besides, don’t we, for having created the degree granting graduate programs, have a moral obligation to fill up therapists’ daily calendars.

In that, if I dare offer an analogy, therapy is like lawyering. No sensible soul should dispute the fact that we have too many lawyers. And yet, we do not just keep producing them, but we have large numbers of legislators who are hard at work keeping them in business. 

And yet, how many of the inefficiencies and the expenses that have produced our bloated medical establishment have resulted from the fact that we have too many lawyers in the health care industry. Apparently, it’s all about guaranteeing our fundamental human right to sue, but still, does the presence of so many lawyers-- and the malpractice industrial complex-- improve or damage medical care?

Surely, it makes medical care far more expensive, because are hiking up fees in order to pay protection-- against lawsuits. Aside from the obscene malpractice premiums, when a physician thinks first of how to avoid a lawsuit, he is not thinking first about the best medical care. Too many tests producing too many false positives adds considerably to the cost of medical care. They also make patients into consumers.

In the meantime, you cannot turn on the television without hearing that there is a stigma on mental health treatment, and that more people would be availing themselves of therapy if only we erased the stigma.

The concept is obviously ridiculous. At a time when more and more celebrities are wearing their time in therapy as a badge of honor-- beginning with the hapless Prince Harry-- the problem, as Julie Burchill remarks in a recent column, is that you cannot escape talk about therapy:

Mental illness has gone from being an ailment that we dare not speak of to one that we cannot escape; whenever I turn on Radio 4, I guarantee that the words “mental health” will be spoken within ten minutes.

Worse yet, therapy is no longer just a bourgeois affectation. Courts, in England, at least, are letting criminals go free because they have unresolved mental health issues. Is the same practice being perpetrated by American prosecutors? I suspect that as they open prisons and let miscreants go free without bail, they are reflecting the same mindset.

Burchill continues:

Meanwhile, criminals are being spared jail for the sake of their mental health, the most recent example being when a cocaine-crazed driver left a nursery nurse with a fractured skull after running her over while talking on the phone and doing 63mph in a 30mph zone. Yasmin Jenkins was left in a coma and she is unable to return to work. But when sentencing her attacker, Clare Cassidy, earlier this month, Recorder Robert Lazarus noted: “You have a history of long-term mental health problems and I accept you are genuinely remorseful. I also note your mental health problems may deteriorate if sent to prison.” So that’s alright then!

As I have occasionally noted on this blog, those who are most responsible for proselytizing and propagating therapy culture nostrums are advice columnists. Exception given to the wondrous Miss Manners, who never indulges such nonsense. Other columnists are filling the pages of newspapers and writing books filled with pseudo-profundities-- inanities that unfortunately have a wide readership and a wide audience.

Among those I had never heard of is an author named of Matt Haig. Thankfully Buchill has spared us the indignity of having to read the blather that fills his book, The Comfort Book

She summarizes:

There’s so much to loathe: “We are all things. And we connect to all things. Human to human. Moment to moment. Pain to pleasure. Despair to hope.” “You were born worthy of love and you remain worthy of love. Be kind to yourself.” “Walking one foot in front of the other, in the same direction, will always get you further than running around in circles.” “It’s okay to be the teacup with a chip in it. That’s the one with a story.” It’s like that all the way through.

Nowadays, this passes for wisdom. And you were wondering why Western civilization is so thoroughly messed up.

And then, Burchill makes an important and salient point. Mental health issues are the least interesting thing about us. Why would anyone care about our washing our dirty emotional linens in public? One might say the same thing about other aspects of our private life, and perhaps one should be saying so more often.

Of course, the mentally ill have always been with us, and always will be. But surely every other person didn’t have issues until they realised that it would get them attention? Rather like what one does in bed, a person’s neuroses are generally the least interesting thing about them, unless they are profoundly dull. Look at Churchill; a lifelong sufferer from severe manic depression, frequently suicidal — “I don’t like standing near the edge of a platform when an express train is passing through… I don’t like to stand by the side of a ship and look down into the water” — but he never let it get in the way of leading a tiny nation into battle against the might of the Nazi war machine.

I imagine that if people have done little to nothing to distinguish themselves, they can plead for attention by making a spectacle of their mental health issues. Would it not be better if we were to revive the work ethic-- and have it replace the ethic that defines us by our suffering.

But, then, we must ask, is this obsessive interest in mental health improving anyone’s emotional well-being? Or is it giving people a good reason to indulge their mental health issues, the better to gain the sympathy and the empathy of their fellow sufferers?

Certain therapists have claimed that we are our suffering. It is a strange, even pathos-laden assertion, one that we ought all to laugh off. After all, how many Americans are joining local cults in order to regale us all with their grievances? And how many young Americans are so thin-skinned that they suffer an intolerable bout of hurt feelings any time anyone pronounces the wrong words?

I was going to say that they are triggered, but I had a vague recollection that Brandeis University, more woke than thou, has just declared that the word trigger was, you guessed it, triggering. After all, to the minds of our notoriously incompetent and inept and thin skinned young people, the word trigger invokes the image of a gun and that produces images of gun violence. Bang, bang....

How did it happen that the Biden administration, with its absurd anti-crime proposal, forgot to include a general ban on the word-- trigger. There, that will reduce gun violence, because the triggered young people who are committing the crimes will stop committing the crimes if only they no longer have to hear the word trigger.

Just when you thought that American universities could not sink any lower, they pull a stunt like the one that Brandeis did.

The point, obviously, is that university life and life in general must now be therapeutically correct. It must shield vulnerable and weak young people from the least inconvenient word.

Bullets, not a problem. Urban gunslingers, not a problem. Urban riots and arson, not a problem. But, using the word “trigger”-- now that’s a problem. Our therapy culture has pronounced it. You must obey-- lest you be attacked for promoting mental illness.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

General Milley Laments

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, is going into therapy. What other conclusion can you draw from his idiotic statement, to the effect, that he is going to examine, introspectively, his white rage. 

In his words:

“I want to understand White rage. And I’m White,” Milley said, focused on learning more about the mostly White, mostly male mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.

“What is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America. What caused that?” Milley asked. “I want to find that out.”

It was perhaps the most idiotic statement we have ever heard from a leader of America’s armed forces. 

Of course, Gen. Milley does not much care about what caused the violent insurrection mounted by Black Lives Matter and Antifa rioters. He does not much care about why America’s cities burned, why police were routinely assaulted, why government buildings were attacked, why stores were looted and pillaged, why innocent citizens were attacked on the street for the crime of being Asian or Jewish.

No, Gen. Millery does not care about that. He wants to know about his very own white privilege and white rage? 

Compared with the tens of thousands of people who attacked the government in the name of George Floyd, the hundreds who walked into the Capital were a piddling group indeed.

As it happens, the rioters who looted and burned and attacked the country last spring and summer have largely been excused by our civil authorities. Precious few of them will be indicted. Their hatred of white people has largely been explained away as a normal reaction to injustice. And yet, many of the January 6 protesters have been held in jail for months now, on the grounds that they are an imminent danger to the Republic.

As for Gen. Milley’s question, we can relieve him of his agony and spare him the indignity of searching his soul. Well, one reason must be that the generalized attack on white people, on white supremacy, on white privilege has been ongoing for quite some time. Its origins like in the Black Liberation Theology of Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Those white people who are fed up with being scapegoated and blamed every time a person of color commits a crime, are simply giving back what they have been getting. 

And, let’s not forget the four years of non-stop abuse and harassment that many American leftists, joined by liberals and progressives, directed at one Donald Trump. As noted before on this blog, many people felt empathy for Donald Trump and were outraged at the treatment he had been receiving, from the media and from politicians. In a country that values free expression, silencing a former president on major social media platforms might easily provoke rage. After all, the principle of free expression values open debate, as an alternative to open warfare. If Gen. Milley were really so concerned about thought crimes, and if he had the least understanding of empathy, that would be a good place to start.

And, dare we mention, that Gen. Milley and his fellow travelers in the Biden administration have declared war on America. They are not worrying their pretty little souls about foreign enemies. They are effectively trying to appease the mullahs in Iran. They are even removing defensive missiles from Saudi Arabia, the better to punish the Gulf Arab states for doing business with Israel. They recall the halcyon days of the Obama presidency where the ISIS caliphate was enjoying its glory years. They have no problem with Islamic terrorists and they are certainly not going to compete against China over things like 5G technology. Nevertheless, they are happy to fight their fellow Americans. 

The only caveat is that, when they are not fighting against their fellow Americans-- and thus, as a matter of policy, dividing the country-- they are going to war against the weather.

And don’t you dare suggest that they are a bunch of wimps who do not know how to win wars. When President Trump told them so, in a July, 2017 meeting in the bowels of the Pentagon, they were outraged. Of late, one J. D. Vance suggested as much, and people accused him of never having fought for America-- even though he served in the Marines.

Anyway, as Glenn Greenwald explains, the American left is thrilled, to the depths of its marrow, to have a commanding officer spouting leftist academic theories. Now it can accuse anyone who takes issue with Gen. Milley of being anti-military.

Whatever else is true, it is creepy and tyrannical to try to place military leaders and their pronouncements about war off-limits from critique, dissent and mockery. No healthy democracy allows military officials to be venerated to the point of residing above critique. That is especially true when their public decrees are central to the dangerous attempt to turn the war posture of the U.S. military inward to its own citizens.

As Greenwald also notes, deciding that the white Americans are the principal threat to the nation, is preposterous and appalling.

But it is preposterously naive and deceitful to divorce Gen. Milley's steadfast advocacy of racial theories from the current war strategy of the U.S. military that he leads. The Pentagon's prime targets, by their own statements, are sectors of the U.S. population that they regard as major threats to the national security of the United States. Embracing theories that depict “white rage” and white supremacy as the source of domestic instability and violence is not just consistent with but necessary for the advancement of that mission. Put another way, the doctrine of the U.S. intelligence and military community is based on race and ideology, and it should therefore be unsurprising that the worldview promoted by top generals is racialist in nature as well.

As you know, the current Secretary of Defense has already ordered a purge of all white counterrevolutionaries. Because, nothing promotes unit cohesion than sowing distrust among the troops. 

To be fair, the military top brass, from Gen. Milley to Sec. Austin declared that they are not trying to police thought and beliefs, but that they want to police behavior. Of course, this is nonsense. And they also claim not to be teaching woke ideology. In some sense, this is true. They do not care about your beliefs; they care about the color of your skin.

At the same time West Point is offering courses in racism and gender discrimination. Such courses send precisely the message that you had best keep certain beliefs to yourself. Otherwise, before you know it, you will learn that expressing an unpopular opinion, expressing support for a certain past president, counts as action, not as a belief-- and damages your career prospects. Why else is the American academic establishment, the social media titans trying to suppress unpopular opinions and even to shut down the accounts of a certain past president.

Now the American military has declared war on thought crimes. This is not going to end well. 

Saturday, June 26, 2021

What Is a Desire for Dignity and Recognition?

If you want to burnish your credentials as a deep thinker, you should toss around Greek words. It never fails. Try this one.

The word in question, thanks to one Francis Fukuyama, is “thymos.” As you know Fukuyama fashions himself a big thinker. In order to maintain his status, he regales us with neo-Hegelian bull. Of course, since Hegel is the godfather of Marxism, it is ironic to see a somewhat conservative thinker leading us down the path toward radical leftist ideology.

Apparently, the word thymos has something to do with desire. And we all know what desire is. We feel it in our loins or perhaps even in our gut. Freudian theory is filled with references to desire. Those theorists who do not mewl about feeling your feelings tell you to discover what you really, really want and then to go for it.

Yes, I understand that I am echoing a Spice Girls song, but still, that’s the level we are at. We are in the world of adolescent girls.

One notes that in terms of finding out what you want, the only fair statement we can make is that if you have something-- a house at the beach-- you cannot properly be said to want it. You might have wanted it in the past, but if you have it, you do not want it. 

So, you can only desire what you do not have. By definition. And yet, just because you do not have something you do not necessarily want it. You might not have a shack in your backyard but that does not mean that you want to have a shack in your backyard. This means, if I may, that there is no objective or empirical basis for determining that you desire something. That means-- therapies that want you to get in touch with your desire are usually conning you. Surely, they are not about science.

For those who do not know it, Freudians get around this problem by saying that you can only really, really want something if it is tabooed. Like incest or pedophilia. It's not just that you do not have what you want, but that you are not allowed to have what you would then desire. Always wanting something that you can never have-- that's the Freudian way to produce desire. It doesn't really work, but don't tell anyone.

Anyway, Fukuyama screws up his courage and explains that the ultimate desire is a desire for a desire. He then goes on to sow confusion by saying that a desire for a desire is really a desire for recognition.

We might well imagine that ultimately you want the person you desire to desire you back. It sounds erotic and romantic, and it even involves consent. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with a desire for recognition, whatever that means, or even a desire for dignity and respect. When someone desires someone else, the issue is not dignity and respect. Intimate relations are not the same as social relations.

Strange to have to say it, but if you desire Pat or Amy you certainly want your desire to be returned. But, that does not a relationship make. It is a useful rule when it comes to an assignation, but that is all it is. Besides, when you desire Pat or Amy how do you know that your desire merely reflects the fact that Pat or Amy wants you.

In any event, here is the muddle that Fukuyama has found himself in, from the Wall Street Journal.

The Greeks called it thymos. It’s the desire for a desire, and it says that the deepest form of desire is to have another person desire you. It’s not a desire for something. It’s not a car or a nice house or a vacation. There are many people who are angry right now because they feel they’re not respected. They feel that people disregard them or look down on them. Capitalism is very good at fulfilling material desires, but it’s not so good at fulfilling the desire for others’ desires. It also produces a lot of inequality, and one of the problems with being poor is not only the lack of materi-al resources but the problems it creates with regards to respect. If you’re poor, you’re not remarked upon. Politicians don’t pay attention. Capitalism may be able to satisfy some of those material desires, but the desire for dignity is something different.”

Fair enough, people get angry because they are not respected. He might have mentioned that respect must be earned. It is not enough to desire to be respected. And you can earn respect without desiring it.

One might also notice that many politicians manipulate those who have not earned very much respect, by pretending to respect them. About this Fukuyama might have something to say, but it does not appear in the above paragraph.

As for the presumed indictment of capitalism, it does not make very much sense. As opposed to certain other systems of political economy, capitalism allows for more opportunities to work. That is, to earn respect. Obviously, your salary will help you to satisfy some of your material desires-- you might even purchase the favors of someone who will pretend to respect you and will even pretend to want you-- and this will also produce an increase in your self-respect and dignity. Analogizing this process to make it correlate with the satisfaction you feel when you are hungry and eat an apple feels like a step into a theoretical void.

We do not work to fulfill a desire. We work because we have a moral obligation, a veritable duty, to our community, our family and our company. 

Acting as an ethical individual does not necessarily correlate with a desire. You would not say, for example, that you have an appetite for recognition or even for dignity. You would not say that you are yearning for recognition. No one properly talks of an appetite for dignity. It merely sows confusion, and we have enough of that already.

In Chinese thought, to take an obvious example, when your face, that is your dignity, is threatened, you have a moral obligation to save face. Hopefully the concept sounds somewhat familiar. It is not because you have a desire welling up inside, but it is duty dictates certain actions.

Moreover, you do not have dignity and respect because you wanted to have them. You have them as your birthright-- in the same way that you are respected because you belong to a certain family. It's called having a good name.  

To be more precise, face and dignity and recognition are conferred on people because they belong to social groups. If your nation has achieved a quantity of success, you gain recognition as a member of the group, even before you have contributed to the group success. And if your group loses the respect of others you are obliged to work to restore it, even if you were not directly responsible for the loss. 

So, your relationship to group dignity is defined ethically as a duty that you have to yourself as a member of the group, but especially to others as members of the same group. You have a duty to your community, your family and your nation. You may or may not want to do your duty, but strictly speaking, the duty precedes your desire and your duty should be the basis for your action.

As for thymos, it does appear in one English word in particular. It appears in a psychiatric diagnosis, of something called dysthymia. It refers to a chronic depressive state, and is characterized precisely by the absence of desire.

You may or may not know it but depression, by most diagnostic manuals, involves a loss of desire, a loss of appetite and a loss of libido. In the clinical world, desire is limited to food and sex. It is not a good thing to confuse the issue by thinking that it correlates with a desire for recognition.

A clinician treating a case of dysthymia will not succeed if he tries to activate a desire; there is effectively no desire to activate. That is why Freudian treatment has always failed with depression. Even the Freudian suggestion that depression is really anger directed against the self does not lead to effective treatment. If it induces people to express their anger, they do not thereby save face-- because they often recognize, after the fact, that histrionic displays of anger cause you to look foolish, and thus to lose face.

A clinician will only succeed when he teaches the patient to do what needs to be done, even when he does not want to do it. In short, he will be exercising authority. He teaches his patient to function as a responsible social being, one who will fulfill the obligations that make him a member of society, even if he does not know why he is doing so.

Admittedly, the distinction is somewhat subtle, but treating depression is not about desire. It is about the ethical duties that one has, not only or even especially to oneself, but to one’s group identity. When one succeeds in doing one’s duty, one is often recognized, not for having satisfied a desire, like a desire for lunch or for a vacation in Tahiti, but because one has performed an action that does not merely benefit oneself, but that benefits others.

As for a desire for dignity and a desire for recognition-- the bottom line is-- there is no such thing. Better to run off trying to catch a chimera than to imagine that we desire dignity and recognition. Of course, that does not mean that we do not want to have them, but when we have them and when we increase them, we are not doing so because we have a burning desire to do so.

The Humiliated Father

So much for the patriarchy. So much for oppressing poor, powerless women. In yesterday’s letter to Carolyn Hax a woman wrote of her father, who cheated on his wife (her mother), got divorced, married his mistress, and has effectively cut off contact with the children from his first marriage. Evidently, these children are now adults. 

As for strictly limiting contact with his children, he has done so because his new wife abuses him verbally every time he tries to speak with them. When the father remarried, his children were explicitly excluded from the ceremony. The new wife’s children were in attendance.

The letter writer feels, not unjustly, that she has lost her father because his new wife has been policing her contact with him.

So, the letter writer feels that she is facing two unsavory possibilities. Should she accept the situation as it is or should she cut ties? And she asks Hax if there is a third way.

For that question, I applaud the letter writer, who calls herself, Still Hurt. She is asking the right question. Hax misses the point and will tell her to remain in the status quo.

Dare we mention, because no one else seems to care, that said father seems like a perfect wimp, a pathetic weakling who cannot stand up to his wife, even when it comes to maintaining good relationships with his children. He is being systematically humiliated by his new wife, a woman who stole him from his first wife.

So, for your edification, here is the letter:

Eight years ago, my dad cheated on my mom and ended their marriage. A month after the divorce, my dad married his mistress. While her adult children were in the wedding party, neither my brother nor I were even invited. I didn’t meet her until a year later, when I was told she didn’t feel comfortable with me staying with them in the house I grew up in, and they demanded I leave. The one other time I have seen him in the years since, she insisted on chaperoning the visit.

Now my dad insists he wants a relationship with me, but he reaches out only sporadically, and only with superficial emails — updates on his favorite baseball team, etc. — as though nothing has happened. He rarely answers my calls, and when she is in the room, he will usher me off the phone as quickly as possible.

I have written him exhaustive emails telling him how badly he has hurt me and how I need more of a reckoning to move forward. These have been met with unwillingness to engage.

I am tired of being hurt and sad. I don't want to lose my dad forever, but I don't know how to reconcile if he doesn't want to put in any real effort. I live abroad, so a low-stakes in-person meeting isn't possible.

Is there a third option that is neither cutting him off completely nor accepting this status quo?

— Still Hurt

To be fair, here is Hax’s response.

So here’s what I suggest: View your father’s actions through the lens of his attachment to an extremely controlling person. It might explain what has seemed inexplicable to you, like his professing to care about reconciling with you while mustering only a sporadic effort toward it. It might explain why “this status quo” isn’t actually the face-slap you’ve believed it to be, and instead grounds to stay patient and in touch.

It is bad advice. It veers toward trying to understand the poor man. It should not. In truth, said father needs something like an intervention. The issue is: who can perform it? The letter writer does not tell us how her brother is adapting to the new regime. 

As for making contact, it is possible that the father is retired. But, if he is still working, the daughter should contact him in his office, or through a work number.

Apparently, she lives abroad and cannot easily schedule a lunch. But still, any time she is in town she should drop by his work office-- the better to embarrass him in front of his colleagues. Does she know any of his friends. Does she have contact with any of his and her other family members?

If she was excluded from the wedding, who did attend? Did any of the attendees remark that it was strange to see the new wife’s children in attendance and the man’s children absent?

One understands that she does not want to wash the dirty family linen in public, but, seriously, isn’t there anyone she can contact who can act as an intermediary? That is, who can tell this man how pathetic he seems to be, and how unfair he is to his daughter.

The third way is thus to bring the situation to the attention of a third party. And to ask the third party to speak directly with her father. Surely, he needs help and he needs to learn that he has become completely whipped, as the saying goes.

And of course this man, who seems to think that he is still keeping in touch with his children, ought to be put on notice. If he cannot stand up for himself, if he cannot grow a spine, he is going to lose his daughter… forever.

The one thing she should not do is passively to accept the situation as it is. Aside from her hurt feelings, the man is in serious trouble. He needs help.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Calling Out the Propaganda Media

The reputation of American journalism has reached all time lows. CNN ratings have been flushed down the proverbial toilet. It’s media maven, Brian Stelter, a reasonable facsimile of the Pillsbury dough boy, wrote a book that failed to sell. The New York Times has become a propaganda organ for the Democratic Party, as have, more menacingly, social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook. 

Dare we say that we applaud those Congresspeople who have voted to break up the social media monopolies. And that we disdain the Republicans who have taken to defending them. It takes a special kind of stupid for Republicans to defend the monopoly status of corporations that, if anything, are doing their best to destroy Republicans. 

Today, Jack Dorsey might be willing to pay lip service to Twitter’s dereliction in suppressing the Hunter Biden scandal before the election, but using a media platform to influence an election feels an awful lot like making a campaign contribution. Naturally, no one in the Justice Department is looking into this-- which tells us the extent to which the media has become a corrupt propaganda with the connivance of government authorities.

So, while we are all inveighing against Communist Party control over the media in China, we ought to look a little closer to home. If we did we would figure out that our press is free in name only.

Of course, some voices on the American left-- voices that have manifested considerable courage-- have called out the leftist media for completely compromising its principles. We have followed them whenever possible, because we ought to praise those who have stood up against their fellow leftists. We should praise integrity, wherever we find it.

Among them, is Glenn Greenwald. As you know, this gay British socialist has now been excoriated by the political left for the high crime of consorting with Fox News. 

He has been undeterred. In the unkindest cut of all, he recently declared that CNN and MSNBC have become worse than Fox News. The following is from The Daily Mail:

Firebrand journalist Glenn Greenwald has slammed mainstream media outlets including CNN and MSNBC for their 'dangerous' failure to investigate important issues while praising Fox News as the only channel willing to present differing opinions.

Greenwald launched his attack in an appearance on Aidan McLaughlin's podcast The Interview, saying: 'I do think that the Trump-era has transformed liberal outlets like CNN and MSNBC in a way that I do think makes them worse than Fox.' 

He said that during the Trump presidency, mainstream media outlets began to put more faith into security agency reports, and have not done their due diligence to investigate contrary claims.

'Mainstream media outlets are far too reliant upon and trusting of the security state agencies that exist in order to deceive and manipulate the public, and to disseminate propaganda and lies,' said Greenwald, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the Edward Snowden NSA leaks in 2014. 

And then, Greenwald takes out after the NeverTrump resistance:

'To watch these Bush-Cheney operatives - like Nicole Wallace and Matthew Dowd and so many other ones, the Lincoln Project scumbags, but also all those security state operatives like Michael Hayden ... or John Brennan, who was working with the CIA, and especially the neocons who were the worst of the worst from that perspective - like Bill Kristol and David Frum and Jen Rubin, Max Boot - now be turned into icons and leaders of American liberalism,' he said. 

'I can't find the words for how damaging and stunning that is.'

And then, Greenwald had previously said this, a few months ago:

'A new and rapidly growing journalistic “beat” has arisen over the last several years that can best be described as an unholy mix of junior high hall-monitor tattling and Stasi-like citizen surveillance,' he wrote in February.

'They have insufficient talent or skill, and even less desire, to take on real power settle on this penny-ante, trivial bulls*** — tattling, hall monitoring, speech policing.'

'These examples of journalism being abused to demand censorship of spaces they cannot control are too numerous to comprehensively chronicle.'

He added: 'They do it in part for power: to ensure nobody but they can control the flow of information. They do it partly for ideology and out of hubris: the belief that their worldview is so indisputably right that all dissent is inherently dangerous “disinformation.” 

'And they do it from petty vindictiveness: they clearly get aroused — find otherwise-elusive purpose — by destroying people’s reputations and lives, no matter how powerless.'

Consider that last to be a startling accusation. The leftist propaganda media lights are out destroying people’s reputations and lives because it makes them feel empowered, and because it arouses them. Seriously?

The fault, he continues, lies in Democratic Party political operatives who threaten the social media giants into canceling whomever they want to cancel. Recently, YouTube removed a discussion with Dr. Robert Malone, the man who created the technology that is at work in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines-- because they did not accept that he might have some authority to speak about the vaccine. 

One notes that Malone considers the vaccines experimental and does not recommend them for everyone. This runs completely counter to the Biden administration push to vaccinate everyone. Ergo, YouTube deplatforms him, for having a contrary opinion-- an expert opinion, dare we say.

Dare we note that we do not know anything about vaccines, and so do not offer an opinion. We do favor open public debate, something that the American left and their satraps in the media, mainstream and social, are now actively opposing.

The fact that these platforms are imposing groupthink on the American people is terrifying. And you were worrying about media constraints in China.

Greenwald continued:

He has also called out Facebook for censoring posts about the COVID vaccine, telling FOX News host Tucker Carlson in February that the social media giant did not want to take down posts about the vaccine, but did it due to pressure from liberals.

'They would rather stay as far away from censoring and arbitrating and intervening and kicking people off their platforms - not because they are noble or nice, but it's in their best interest not to do it,' he said.

'They are being pressured to do it. By CNN and NBC and The New York Times who are saying: every time you allow information over the platform that we think is wrong, we're going to shame you, disgrace you.

'And they have partners who are the Democratic Party who control the entire government were right or along with them, saying we demand you censor more.'

As you might guess, Greenwald is hardly a Trump supporter. For the record, we include a paragraph to that effect from the Daily Mail:

Some liberals have since called him [Greenwald] out for his remarks in recent months, claiming he must support former President Donald Trump, despite calling Trump a 'game show host and a charlatan, a real estate salesman' who 'ended up being a weak president, incapable of doing much of what his rhetoric suggested he intended to do' in the interview this week.

Like it or not, Greenwald counts today among the leading voices on the American left calling out the media for having become a propaganda machine.