Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Libsplaining “The Star-Spangled Banner”

Colin Kaepernick. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images.)
“Mansplaining”, originally defined as the tendency of men to explain the frickin’ obvious to women in a patronizing tone, lost its unique vitality and appropriateness by being applied to any situation where men dared contradict feminist dogma. Eventually it met its conservative matches in “femsplaining” and “libsplaining”. Any portmanteau word which includes -splaining can pretty much be taken to mean “ideologically-motivated bulls**t”. While libsplaining is often employed to defend visible-from-space liberal hypocrisies, like George Takei’s labeling Clarence Thomas “a clown in blackface”, it has a more subtle use: rewriting history.

Kaepernick Sits It Out

On Saturday, August 27, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the National Anthem at the beginning of an exhibition game against the Green Bay Packers. Explaining his refusal, the biracial Kaepernick, who is a supporter of #BlackLivesMatter, said, “There is police brutality. People of color have been targeted by police. So that’s a large part, and they’re government officials. They’re put in place by the government. That’s something this country has to change. There are things that we can do to hold them more accountable, make those standards higher.”

Predictably, there was outrage, and it wasn’t confined to white conservatives. Many NFL players admitted Kaepernick’s right to not stand, but felt his decision was wrong. Said New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, “Regardless of how you feel about the things that are going on in America today and the things that are going on across the world with gun violence and things of that nature, you’ve got to respect the flag.” Retired Army lieutenant colonel and former Florida congressman Allen B. West chided Kaepernick:

Mr. Kaepernick, a biracial young man adopted and raised by white parents, claims America is oppressing blacks at a time when we have a black, biracial president who was twice elected. We’ve had two black attorneys general and currently have a black secretary of homeland security, along with a black national security advisor. Here in Dallas our police chief, whom I know, is an outstanding black leader. The officer in Milwaukee who shot the armed assailant after issuing an order to drop his weapon was black. Is Mr. Kaepernick following suit and cherry-picking what he terms “oppression?”

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Liberal Intelligence Premium is Oversold

Image Source: Institute for Competitive Intelligence.
Over the last few years, liberals have had their egos stroked by studies which report that they are smarter than conservatives. For instance, a few months ago the Pew Center reported that people who had attended graduate school had more consistently liberal positions. These reports have fostered a “smart urban sophisticates vs. dumb rural hicks” mindset among liberals that, if you listen to some people, feeding and encouraging was the sole raison d’être for The Daily Show during Jon Stewart’s tenure. Finally, it got so egregious that even some liberals became uncomfortable with it.

Contemporary Liberalism “Lacks Humility”

Back in April 2016, Vox.com launched a 7,000-plus word essay by deputy First Person editor Emmett Rensin, titled “The smug style in American liberalism”. That liberals have tended to smug condescension has been a complaint of conservatives for some time now. Rensin’s article, however, drew a bigger impact because it came from a liberal writing on a liberal platform, one Kyle Smith of the New York Post described as “typically [combining] childlike oversimplification …, high-school-student-government-nerd idealism, just-arrived-on-campus humorcidal earnestness and the millennial generation’s pretend fealty to big data.” For conservatives like Smith, this was a liberal safety or an own-goal: a member of the opposition had finally scored their point for them.

Oddly enough — odd, because conservatives tend to take it for granted that postmodern liberals are incapable of substantive self-criticism — Rensin’s screed did provoke some internal agreement. Kevin Drum of MotherJones.com (mirabile dictu) commented, “We’re convinced that conservatives, especially working class conservatives, are just dumb. Smug suggests only a supreme confidence that we’re right — but conservative elites also believe they’re right, and they believe it as much as we do. The difference is that, generally speaking, they’re less condescending about it.” “The great virtue that contemporary liberalism lacks and needs,” lamented Ramesh Ponnuru in Bloomberg.com, “is neither civility nor solidarity. It’s humility — and sadly, even some of liberalism’s most thoughtful internal critics can’t see it.”

Even more recently, lawyer-activist Nikki Johnson-Huston took a swipe at “... the cocktail party liberals, the elites, who wear the cloak of liberalism to protect themselves from criticism and so they can keep a clear conscious [sic]” … in Huffington Post, no less. Johnson-Huston’s criticism, however, was aimed at white liberals who used their leftist concern more to assert their moral superiority over conservatives than to actually get involved in problems like racism.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Four Life Issues and Catholic Social Doctrine

There are several political issues commonly wrapped in the social-justice banner that are also issues affecting life and the family. In theory, a Catholic ought to support those policies which support life and family regardless of which party proposes them. However, when the two parties split on abortion and (later) euthanasia, so did American Catholics. Now the nation is so polarized politically that, as Scott Eric Alt explains, any Catholic who demands we pay attention to life issues outside of abortion and euthanasia is accused of “trying to kill opposition to abortion”.

“A Catholic CANNOT Vote Democrat”

On August 23, my friend and Catholic Stand colleague Matthew Tyson published “Yes, You Can Be Catholic AND Vote Democrat” on his Patheos blog Mackerel Snapper. On the face of it, I can’t conceive a more quixotic and desperate cause than trying to convert the Democrat Party to a “whole life” position, as the Democrats for Life want to do. Besides, the demographics have been shifting leftward (and away from party labels) for the last three generations, and the Republican Party is shredded in two. There’s arguably as much hope for converting the Democrats to the “seamless garment” as there is for converting the Republicans. (Yes, I went there.) But, as GKC said, hope only begins to be really useful when things appear to be hopeless.

For the record: Though I probably agree with many if not most of Matthew’s positions (I don’t fully know what they are), I refuse the label liberal. Classical liberalism, as I recently pointed out, was and is premissed on a faulty anthropology; the postmodern left’s social liberalism is progressing towards an authoritarian statism, and the postmodern right’s economic liberalism enables crony capitalism. Precisely because I am a Catholic, I hold neither the Republicans’ nor the Democrats’ ideological biases and policy preferences to be above challenge or criticism.

The post’s title was guaranteed to attract a knee-jerk contradiction. Sure enough, a reader (whom I’ll call Cato) declared, “A Catholic CANNOT vote Democrat,” and that “being a [Catholic] Democrat is indistinguishable from being a pro-equality KKK member, a Catholic Nazi, or a Catholic Stalinist.” Why? Apparently, because Cato, bless his heart, believes the national platform makes all the party’s members co-conspirators, despite the fact that individual candidates are not and cannot be required to support every platform plank. It’s stupid sweeping generalizations like this which are driving Gen-Xers and millennials away from party identification.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Mark Shea the Ephraimite

Image Source: Mark P. Shea, I presume.
If you want an example of the damage done to the Catholic Church in America by the surrounding culture’s increasing hyperpartisanship and ideological tribalism, consider this: Mark Shea’s blog at the National Catholic Register has been dropped, and his even-Christians are happy about it. Rejoicing, even. Good riddance, Shea, you heretical librul (because, of course, to be a librul is to be a heretic and vice versa). The Circular Catholic Firing Squad has finally claimed a victory/defeat.

“Do Not Rejoice”

I have not found the official statement from NCRegister. Apologist Steve Ray posted it and linked back to a Fr. Peter West’s Facebook post. Who Fr. West is, where he got the statement, and whether he has a relationship with NCRegister, the deponent saith not.

Added Fr. West, “With this in mind, I ask you to pray for Mark Shea. Hopefully, this will be an opportunity for personal reflection for him. He has many gifts that he can use in the service of the Church and the pro-life movement. Recall the words from the Book of Proverbs: ‘Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and when they stumble, do not let your heart exult, Lest the Lord see it, be displeased with you, and withdraw his wrath from your enemies.’ (Proverbs 24:17[-18 NABRE])” I expect God to withdraw His wrath fairly soon.

Note that Mark wasn’t dismissed because of anything he wrote at NCRegister, but rather because of his social-media activity. I’ve watched with some concern as Mark’s Facebook posts became increasingly caustic, strident, and hyperbolic in his condemnations of the Republican Party, Donald Trump, and the pro-life PACs associated with them. If there’s anything we should have learned by now, it’s that our social-media activity isn’t private, that employers can and will fire people for their off-work behavior.

Furthermore, we who publicly proclaim and defend the Catholic faith have a special duty to be the same people in our bedrooms as we are in the public square — especially now that the line between public and private is thinning and blurry. I too have difficulty being charitable to critics, so I empathize with Mark’s frustration. However, to be anything more than a pose, charity must inform everything we do. To instruct the ignorant and admonish the sinner are spiritual works of mercy; the intent, however, doesn’t justify the manner.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, and the Trump Campaign

Jesse Bernstein of Tablet blames Donald Trump on Jon Stewart. Well, partially, at least; he does admit upfront that there are plenty of factors in the matter. But apparently Stewart and his The Daily Show compatriot Stephen Colbert are partially to blame because they “helped to create the very specific type of internet-era liberal smugness (and, consequently, ignorance) that, though far from the sole cause by any means, has been a significant factor in both the rise of Trump and our current political fracturing.”

The Daily Show’s Liberal Smugness

Here’s the centerpiece of Bernstein’s argument:

[Stewart’s] show [The Daily Show] was a cultural touchstone that dealt in mockery and ridicule, as good political comedy should. It parsed the bluster to find the nugget of insincerity that drives selfish politics. But as the democratization of media made it easier and easier to hear only from the sources you wanted to hear from, those who counted The Daily Show and its even jokier spawn, The Colbert Report, as news sources slowly but surely created an echo chamber.

The process went something like this: Someone said something on Fox News that mainstream liberalism didn’t like; Stewart and/or Colbert aired a sustained critique of the idea and the thinking behind it; liberal internet publications hailed it as the greatest rhetorical victory since Darrow argued for Scopes; liberals’ Facebook feeds full of liberal friends filled up with clips of the takedown. No one learned anything, no one engaged with an idea, and nothing outside of a very specific set of ideas was given any real credence. As Emmet Rensin so perfectly put it:

Finding comfort in the notion that their former allies were disdainful, hapless rubes, smug liberals created a culture animated by that contempt. The result is a self-fulfilling prophecy. … Over 20 years, an industry arose to cater to the smug style … and culminated for a time in The Daily Show, a program that more than any other thing advanced the idea that liberal orthodoxy was a kind of educated savvy and that is opponents were, before anything else, stupid.

As Rensin deftly discerns, this sort of intellectual elitism is probably part of the reason that the Democratic Party went from getting 66 percent of the manual laborer vote in 1948 to outpolling the GOP by just 2 points in 2012. It’s the inevitable consequence of eight years of reducing George W. Bush and all of his supporters to dumbass hicks, and choosing to denigrate the poor and uneducated (if only they read The Atlantic!), rather than doing real outreach to them. But as Christopher Hitchens learned on Bill Maher’s show, people don’t want to consider that possibility[.]