The Tears of the Juice Bar Brigade

I have recently had reason to be up later than normal some nights. Rocking and shushing a wide-awake newborn as the hours crawl toward midnight and beyond was, at first, kind of a lonely thing—you think you are the only person in the world up so late, and for such reasons—but you very quickly get used to it. Older parents, eager to impart some kind of gnomic prudence on the younger generation, love to tell new parents that they’re going to be stressed out and sleepless and frustrated after the baby arrives, but this really isn’t as inevitable as it’s made out to be. Our rather dramatic and histrionic culture of parenthood mandates that parents describe the whole thing in the worst terms possible, which is silly and counterproductive and usually just flat-out inaccurate.

In any event, we have discovered something interesting as the long nights have worn on: when you are attempting to quiet a fussy baby late at night, you are not really interested in any kind of high-thought stimulation. You kind of just want to watch garbage. So we have turned to the dredges of Netflix to keep us awake and entertain us, and we have invested more than a little time in the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, the hit Saban classic emblematic of 1990s children’s television.

There is something almost shockingly bad about this television show. I don’t mean jaw-dropping gasp-out-loud shocking, but rather a more subtle, all-encompasing disquiet, a sort of unbelief that such a show could ever get made, let alone broadcast, let alone for several seasons. Even by the low standards of children’s television, it is a miserable enterprise, so bad it’s almost genuinely depressing.

There is the flat-out dismal quality of it all, for one: the cheapness of the production value, the sets rendered so shoddy and so obviously transient that you feel like you’re watching an action show set in a gypsy village. Some television sets are built to appear both authentic and long-lasting. Think Seinfeld’s apartment, say, or the workspace in The Office, or the meth superlab in Breaking Bad: these are settings you can imagine remaining in place after you leave. Power Rangers accomplishes no such thing: one gets the opinion that, the minute the cameras stop rolling, the gypsies move in to hastily deconstruct the walls and tables and lockers and build them back up into rickety caravans to move on to the next circus town. Everything feels cheap and useless, something made out of lowbrow necessity rather than genuine artistic desire.

Well, so sue them: it’s a 90s kid’s television show, a cobbled-together Japanese knockoff starring a gay robot and a gnarled raisin-man. I don’t suppose we should expect too much of a television show that asked us to accept the premise that the most evil being in the galaxy couldn’t outwit a group of slow-witted teenage goobers. Just the same, there is a deep and abiding emptiness to Power Rangers, a kind of profoundly heartbreaking nothingness that sets it apart from other 90s kid’s shows, even when you adjust for watching it at 12:45 AM with baby spit-up on your shoulder.

It is hard to quantify why this is the case, other than that it seems like everyone involved in the show, from the producers on down to the gay robot, is really not all that interested in being there. When I was quite young, Power Rangers seemed like serious business, the real deal: these guys were fighting to protect the world from the heinous Rita Repulsa and her army of anthropomorphic garbage pails and armadillos, the stakes couldn’t be higher, the action more intense and heart-stopping. The flirtatious relationship between Kimberly the Pink Ranger and Tommy the Green Ranger seemed like one of the great love affairs of modern fiction to my very young eyes. Zordon, meanwhile, seemed like the wisest of the sages, a timeless father figure who watched over the Rangers with a stern yet competent eye

All of that was false. The idea that the galactic forces of evil would select Angel Grove as the strategic nexus of world domination beggars belief: the city was barely large enough to have its own public transportation system. The romance between Kimberly and Tommy is very possibly the least-inspiring liaison in television history; Archie Bunker and Meathead had more sparks between them. And Zordon is more or less a useless and stupid old man, a floating balloon that babbles at the Rangers every now and then without really doing anything productive.

All of this might still result in some honest, if stupid, entertainment—but for the fact that, as I said, nobody seems to really want to be there. The performances—all of them—are listless, depressed and unenthusiastic. Even the mischievous pranksters Bulk and Skull, whose main narrative functions seem to be starting food fights and throwing banana cream pies at the high school principal, add no levity to the mix. If the sets of Power Rangers feel temporary and makeshift, so to do the characters, none of in whom one feels any desire to invest emotionally. Picture one of those little office water cooler paper cup cones. Now picture hiring several of those to act in your children’s television show. Congratulations, you have cracked the Power Rangers formula of success.

Children have much lower standards of quality, to be sure—which explains why Power Rangers was such a smashing success (and why my brother and I forced our kind and patient father to take us to see the equally-terrible major motion picture). I suppose new parents on a late-night fussy baby binge have still even lower standards, which explains, too, why we even bothered to watch the show in the first place. Still, it is something of a marvel to watch this show and realize that more than a few people probably made quite a bit of money off of it. The world is an unfair place, an injustice even the Power Rangers are powerless to thwart.

The Man Who Was Asking For It

There is a genuinely uncomfortable pettiness to much of liberalism, an habitual crossing of the line that suggests progressive politics is, frequently, a fundamentally vindictive enterprise. It is fashionable these days, of course, to adopt a “both-sides-do-it” attitude when it comes to criticisms of political ideology. But you simply do not see the level of spite on the Right as you do on the Left; or, rather, while there are surely plenty of nasty and hateful conservatives, such things are overwhelmingly discouraged and condemned by the nominal leaders of popular conservative thought. The same is not true for liberalism, the standard-bearers and authority figures of which are often the nastiest and most malefic of the bunch.

It is easy enough to produce examples aplenty. Consider Bill Maher publicly berating Sarah Palin’s child as “retarded,” for instance, or Dave Letterman joking about a baseball player banging her 14-year-old daughter and then issuing an admitted phony apology about it. Sarah Palin, of course, inspires no small amount of genuinely shocking vitriol from the Left. But the direction of liberalism’s cruel and juvenile anger is not limited merely towards successful conservative women; consider the more recent matter of the GOP baseball shooting, where in the wake of the tragedy liberal darling George Takei tweeted:

I am not quite sure what “the universe” is supposed to mean in this context; it seems to be the word people use to refer to God when for whatever reason they don’t want to actually say the word God. But never mind that. Consider the circumstances surrounding this tweet: at the time of its composition, Steve Scalise was still in very serious condition; he was likely undergoing surgery at the very same time that George Takei was accusing him of being “bigoted” and “homophobic.” A man was very possibly lying at death’s door, a victim of a homicidal maniac who shot him while he was playing baseball with his friends, and George Takei’s impulse is to smear him for his politics and chortle about an idiotic manufactured identity politics incongruity. It bears repeating: George Takei actually typed this, and he actually tweeted it, and then it was retweeted almost twenty thousand times by thousands upon thousands of delighted fans, all while Steve Scalise was struggling to survive.

It is, of course, possible to imagine a conservative—somebody, somewhere—writing such trash from the other side. What is far more difficult to imagine is a highly prominent and celebrated conservative writing such trash and being lauded and rewarded for it. Imagine if some outspoken, unapologetically progressive politician was gunned down, ended up fighting for her life in a hospital, and a conservative celebrity took to social media to say, “Well, gee, isn’t it funny, this hateful and bigoted liberal was saved by a straight white conservative Christian male, har-de-har-har, the universe is incredible isn’t it?” Imagine the armageddon that would result. Now ask yourself why George Takei was able to avoid such a fallout.

Perhaps we have simply gotten used to this kind of hate; we have come to expect it from the Left and are thus not liable to get all worked up over it. Maybe. But it is still something of a mystery. Steve Scalise, thank goodness, looks to be pulling through. The same cannot be said of American progressivism, which is mired in this kind of enmity and shows no signs of recovering.

Do Who You’re Gonna Do

The Bachelor Bachelorette television series is interminable enough, but the producers of these shows have an ace-in-the-hole known as Bachelor in Paradise, a spinoff series where the loser nitwits from previous iterations of the show are sent to an island somewhere to drink themselves into oblivion and lazily bang each other in a swirl of scandal and ninth-grade drama histrionics. Naturally it sells like hotcakes—not good hotcakes, mind you, but McDonald’s-style, styrofoam-container, corn-syrup-and-wheat hotcakes, the cheap stuff.

Apparently, however, the show may have recently gone too far; word is that the franchise may be in mortal danger:

“So production on Bachelor in Paradise was suspended. And all the contestants were sent home. And that was because there was some kind of incident between two of the contestants where one or both of them may have been too drunk to consent to sexual activity. That happened just yesterday. Corinne Olympios identified herself as the female contestant involved in that and said that she is a victim. She is pursuing both therapy and legal action to deal with the fallout from what happened.

And the other person involved, DeMario Jackson has identified himself and said that the allegations and all the reports that have sort of come out, mostly anonymously, are inaccurate and false and that he intends to pursue legal action, as well. So right now we’re really unclear exactly what happened between them or whether or not it was filmed by crew members. But there’s definitely a lot of questions.”

One of the key planks of modern sexual politics is that people are entitled to do whatever they want, with whomever they want, whenever and however they want it. To a generation of Baby Boomers raised in the relatively innocent era of postwar American morality, I suppose that sounded like a great idea. In practice it ended up being a raw deal. Out-of-wedlock births, for instance, now account for nearly half of all births (for black women it’s a staggering near-three-quarters); the relative acceptance of aberrant sexual behavior over the past three or four decades, meanwhile, has brought with it staggeringly high numbers of sexually-transmitted infections among gay men, who are astronomically more likely than the general population to contract HIV, syphilis, and various other diseases. Nobody really wants to talk about the profoundly negative side effects of sexual liberationist politics—the disease, the broken families, the fatherless homes, the generation of vulnerable young men the deviant sexual pathologies of which society has tolerated and even encouraged, the countless instances of sexual assault spurred by alcoholic behavior—but it’s all there.

Which is why this Bachelor in Paradise scandal is really not that surprising, and by the standards of our sexually broken society is hardly even that scandalous. There is precisely nobody on Planet Earth, after all, who believes that this hasn’t been going on for as long as the show has been on the air. It is essentially a truism that when you get a bunch of young people together in a tropical resort getaway, give them an open bar, and nudge them towards mindless and loveless copulation, there is going to be perverted and in some cases criminal behavior. “I didn’t see that coming!” said nobody, ever, anywhere.

Except people do say that. If there is one thing to which modern sexual politics is committed, it is pretending that there aren’t likely to be any negative consequences for a society’s drastically loosening the bonds of sexually restrictive mores. There is a pervasive belief throughout sexual liberationist rhetoric that a civilization can have essentially no sexual ethic whatsoever while still maintaining a base level of civilized sexual behavior: do whatever feels good, just so long as you do it in this pre-approved way. But human beings aren’t as linear as we’d like them to be; they don’t behave in the tidy and pre-packaged ways laid out in campus sexual health brochures and wellness center website FAQs. “Do what feels good!” we shout from the rooftops. You know what feels really good, at least for a while? Unprotected, self-indulgent, wanton, unrestricted sexual behavior. “Wait, wait, not that good!” we then shout—but by that point it’s too late

This sordid affair on Bachelor in Paradise, then, is not very shocking at all. Bachelor in Paradise is less a television show and more a monument to an age of publicly-accepted and -encouraged profligacy. Indeed, “two people get heavily intoxicated and become sexually entangled,” if true, is one of the less-alarming things to come out of network television this year so far. And that says something fairly dispiriting about where we are.

Over the Big Dumb Target

For all the hubbub, there seems to be very little to make of the Alexandria shooting apart from the usual alarming features: a psychopath with a gun (may he rest in peace) attempted to kill numerous innocent people for some insane, inscrutable reason. Surely, politics played a nominal role in the whole affair—there’s a reason the guy didn’t shoot up the National Zoo, for instance—but nominal was very likely as far as it get: one is obliged to point out, after all, that there are surely many millions more people who believe more or less the exact same things as the shooter believed but who are not shooters themselves. Rabid political liberals are one breed of animal; crazy wannabe mass murderers are another.

No, after the shock wore off, the aspect of the affair that was most striking to me was the response from the rest of the liberal establishment, which ranged from victim-blaming to lying to rank hypocrisy. All of this is part-and-parcel of the liberal treatment of guns: there is perhaps no issue, aside from abortion, that the Left so regularly, so completely and so aggressively gets wrong. It’s just pandemic.

Take, for instance, David Frum, who in the midst of the chaotic news reports about the shooting tweeted out this insta-viral hit:

Frum’s first assertion is so flatly untrue that it is almost literally unbelievable that he tweeted it: I mean that in reading it you should ask yourself, “Am I dreaming? Am I hallucinating?” There are, indeed, background checks in Virginia; federal law stipulates it. Frum eventually issued a correction, which was retweeted a grand total of 241 times. That’s right: Frum’s stupid anti-factual hysteria tweet was a global sensation, while his mea culpa setting the record straight got nine-tenths of one percent of the coverage. This is how fake news works. People like David Frum understand it, and act accordingly.

The last two items on the rundown are silly enough to be almost comical. Who on earth would want to conceal a long gun? How would that even work? And what does open carry have to do with a crazy man shooting up a baseball field? None of it makes any sense. And as for Virginia’s scandalous habit of “no licensing” and “no registration:” what, exactly, does Frum think would happen in the event of such laws? Are we supposed to believe that registering a gun somehow makes it unavailable for use in a crime? That firearm licensing has some ameliorative effect on the psyches of madmen? There must be some logic here, some reason we’re supposed to be shocked that gun laws in Virginia are so lax. But why?

This is the standard response to any gun incident of this magnitude: pretend as if a bunch of disparate and immaterial facts somehow apply to the situation in exactly the right way. I think the takeaway is supposed to be: if only Virginia had all of these laws in place, these shootings would not happen. But that is a highly doubtful proposition at best. What seems more likely in these cases is this: a lot of people—people like David Frum—honestly just do not like guns and will use every opportunity, no matter how tenuous, to rail against them. It’s a profoundly dishonest and subversive exercise, but it’s also one that will get you over 27,000 retweets. So there’s that.

The Great 77% Off Sale

Every so often a fairly silly meme takes off and makes the social media rounds—it’s invariably the silly ones, rarely the meaningful or thoughtful ones—and this week’s lucky winner is a tweet from tweeter and evolutionary biology professor Katie Hinde, who took it upon herself to do this:

Yes, yes she did, and some time later some poor tired old Target retail associate came along, saw those tank tops on the rack, sighed, and moved them back to the boys’ section. And life went on, as it does.

There is a certain subset of feminism that believes, with no evidence or else with the stupidest evidence imaginable, that the only thing keeping more women out of Mars-bound rocket ships is—well, the placement of tank tops in Middle America retail stores. There has been an enormous drive in recent years to get more young women involved in science and technology, and I guess this is another shot fired across the bow of  what Katie Hinde apparently believes is some sort of Grand Sexist Conspiracy to keep young women out of Merritt Island, I guess.

Consider the facts, however. If indeed, there were this massive untapped retail potential that Target were severely underutilizing—if they could reasonably expand their marketing strategies to effectively advertise all of their children’s lines to all of their child customers, regardless of sex—then surely they would do it. Put another way, who do you think knows better how to make Target customers buy more Target clothes: Target, or a college professor? Put yet another way: why does Target divide its clothing styles between boys and girls, and why does it make those styles different—NASA on one side, floral prints on the others?

Consider this possibility: on average, most young girls are not really all that interested in NASA stuff. They are, quite frankly, probably more interested in “girly” stuff like flowers and kittens and other cute things. Surely there are some girls who want to buy rocket-ship-themed summer clothing, and that’s fine—they’re welcome to it, as welcome as they are to fly those rocket ships one day. But there is a reason that massive cutthroat retailers, to a man, organize their clothing by sex: it’s because girls and boys, men and women, overwhelmingly want to purchase different things, and retailers want to cater to those desires. And that’s okay.

Hysteria Now!

What has become of this country? Oh, every living American is sure to ask himself that question at some point—I myself wonder where we went wrong regarding Saturday morning children’s television programming, for instance—but the Age of Trump has engendered a specially dispiriting turn of social collapse across the nation, and in the most irritating way possible.

James Comey’s star turn in front of the Senate last week was just the latest iteration of this. In a frenzy usually reserved for the run-up to new Taylor Swift album releases, the Left was salivating to see Comey go before Congress and—somehow—render some terribly devastating and possibly indictable testimony against Trump. Progressives have undergone a strange kind of transformation in the Trump Era, their political instincts having come to resemble, more or less, the worst effects of marijuana as portrayed by Reefer Madness: paranoia, delirium, pointless mania, and in some cases even outright violence. Every day brings with it fresh implications of intrigue unto which the liberal base desperately gloms on, positive, absolutely positive, that this latest scandal-accusation-whatever will be the thing that gets Trump impeached and removed from office.

Comey’s testimony, predictably, was not that thing. The expectations surrounding the event were so high compared to the eventual reality of it that a fair number of media outlets and pundits were rendered humiliated in its wake: CNN, for instance, felt compelled to rewrite an article after its wild predictions turned out to be completely wrong. Indeed, the entire debacle, which received extensive coverage from every media outlet worth mentioning, ended up being what the kids in Washington today call a “nothingburger,” at least when stacked up against the expected outcome. Everyone wanted a bombshell; Comey gave them something closer to a low-grade stink bomb.

But this is the Age of Trump, and so everything involving Trump, whether it’s testimony from an ex-bureaucrat or the distance Trump walks in front of his wife, has to be an extinction-level-event-sized revelation. The progressive reaction to Comey’s testimony was most aptly summed up by the New York Times editorial board, which claimed that Trump and Comey’s fractious professional relationship represented “a clash between the legal principles at the foundation of American democracy, and a venal, self-interested politician who does not recognize, let alone uphold, them.” This declaration comes, mind you, after the Times last year described Comey’s professional behavior as “breathtakingly rash and irresponsible,” and that Comey had “undermine[d] the American people’s trust in the nation’s top law enforcement agencies,” and also that Comey had done damage to “the election…his own reputation, and…that of the FBI,” that he had perpetrated “harmful intrusions into the democratic process,” and that he had erased “the credibility of his leadership.” What a difference a few months makes!

The transformation of James Comey from “harmful intruder into the democratic process” to a protector of “the legal principles at the foundation of American democracy” is hardly surprising: we will see this kind of whipsaw realignment many, many times over the next four years. What is so comical here is not the opportunistic posturing but how profoundly misguided it is. Comey’s testimony was nowhere near as momentous as the Times makes it out to be. It was beneficial to Trump in some ways; damaging to him in some others; and altogether did not tell us anything we did not already know about Trump, namely that he is not a very good president and is apparently open to engaging in unscrupulous behavior to further his own aims, but also that he’s not, you know, Satan incarnate.

Trump’s own response to Comey’s testimony, that it represented “complete vindication” on the former’s part, was equally misguided: Trump did not come off looking very good at all in the wake of the hearing. But Trump has never really looked good: we have known from the start what type of person he is and what kind of things he’s willing to do. Yet a middling and unsatisfying analysis of this whole affair—that Comey basically reaffirmed our priors about Trump with some new troubling evidence while also quashing the wildly speculative anti-Trump rumors of the media—is above much of the anti-Trump class; they can only respond with frothing, wild-eyed fury to every single bit of Trump news that comes to light. People, we are in for four years of this—assuming, after 2018, that Democrats do not impeach Trump for holding his salad fork the wrong way at a state dinner, which at this point could easily be a distinct possibility.

Girls Just Can’t Help But Have Fun

Very possibly one of the worst aspects of the Affordable Care Act—aside from its having raising health insurance prices, constricted the health insurance market, destabilized that same market, done serious damage to our constitutional order, and a few other similarly minor considerations—is the effect it has had on the popular perception of American womanhood. Public opinion of American women now seems to be: before the Affordable Care Act women were terrified, helpless waifs, buffeted by the heartless winds of a merciless pre-Obamacare marketplace and social landscape. Consequently, this opinion holds, if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, then women will be put into a perilous situation wherein their saving grace legislation will have been ripped away from them and they’ll be on their own. Don’t take it from me, take it from the Washington Post, which argues that “The Trump administration’s birth control overhaul could do serious harm:”

The draft of a proposed regulation, dated May 23 and obtained last week by Vox, would dramatically overhaul the government’s contraception coverage mandate. It would, if finalized, expand the exemption that currently applies to religious organizations and private employers with religious scruples to any employers or insurers expressing “religious beliefs and moral convictions” against birth control. No formal notification to the federal government would be required. “Moral” is not defined. And even for-profit, publicly traded companies would be able to lay claim to moral convictions. “The rule essentially would allow any employer to drop birth control coverage in employee health plans virtually at whim,” wrote Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times…

Without insurance — which, it should be noted, women pay for — birth control can be out of reach. A recent survey from PerryUndem found that 33 percent of women could afford to pay only $10 or less out of pocket for oral contraceptives, and 14 percent said they couldn’t afford to pay anything. Before the mandate went into effect, co-pays ranged from $15 to $50 a month. Again, this is of little concern to the Trump administration, which argues in the draft proposal that women can turn to federally subsidized family planning programs, a maddening if not insulting argument since the administration has also proposed cuts in Medicaid. Moreover, if Republicans had their druthers, Planned Parenthood, the main source of birth control for low-income women, would lose federal funding.

As an aside, the survey that the Post found that 33 percent of women could only afford $10 or less “if they needed it ‘today‘,” which is an entirely different consideration from, “at all, ever.” But maybe the Post didn’t think that was an important distinction.

In any case, the Post is mad: “Never mind,” the editors write, “the scientific studies showing that as the use of contraceptives increases, the rate of unintended pregnancies decreases. Or that the decline in the rate of teen pregnancy in recent years is believed to be a result of the greater availability of free long-term reversible contraceptives.”

Yet note what is so terminally absent from virtually every public debate about birth control that we have in this country: the notion that a woman, if she is unable to lay her hands on some birth control, might be able to—I don’t know—avoid having sex. Every contraception debate we’ve had over the past seven years or so has apparently started out with the presumption that women are incapable of exercising sexual restraint in the event that they’re unable to have contraceptive sexual intercourse. It’s just not something women are able to, you know, do.

This is the political landscape that the Affordable Care Act has wrought: a national public policy presumption that women are helplessly unable to control their own sexual urges and desires in any really effective way at all. It would be beyond the pale, I guess, for someone to say, “Hey, ladies, if this highly expensive and ineffective health insurance law is repealed, and you suddenly find yourself without an IUD or a pack of pills for a while, be careful and maybe don’t have sex if you don’t want to get pregnant.” Perish the thought: such a declaration, if it came from anyone of any consequence (present company excluded), would be a national scandal. In any event, I, for one, believe that women are more than capable of making smart decisions without the help of the federal government when it comes to both contraception and sex. It is odd that, in this day in age, such an opinion apparently makes you out to be a retrograde sexist.

Facts Be Not Proud

Bizarre socio-political and pop culture trends tend to spread only when nobody really questions them. This is why, for example, we have a deeply stupid and expensive system of employer-provided health insurance in this country, and also why Country Crock was so insanely popular for a long period of time. Nobody ever stops to think, “Hey, is this even a good idea? Why do we do this?”

The same is true of transgenderism, which thrives upon—indeed, which is built almost entirely upon—a populace that is either uninterested in (or else fearful of) questioning the orthodoxies of transgender philosophy. I belabor this point on this blog from time to time, only because it feels somewhat important as both a political and a cultural matter: there is no other phenomenon that I am aware of, other than perhaps Biblical creationist fundamentalism, that is so hostile to logic and factual inquiry.

(Even that, however, is an inapt analogy, because creationists are nowhere near as monomaniacal and aggressive as are transgender activists; even at their “worst,” Biblical fundamentalists almost always ask that, in the public sphere, their beliefs be taught alongside of evolutionary biology rather than in place of it. Transgender activists can brook no such compromise: to them, teaching medical facts in the way they were taught universally up until about six months ago constitutes nothing less than a Nazi-level hate crime event.)

I thought about this deliberate hostility to logics, facts and rational inquiry when I read a dispatch from the Daily Wire that addressed “what it means to be transgender.” At its heart this is the most necessary question surrounding the transgender phenomenon: what does it mean to be transgender—how do you define transgenderism? The Daily Dot does so in the following way:

Gender identity is the innate, internal understanding that one has of their own gender. It’s the subconscious realization that one is a man, a woman, or doesn’t fit neatly into either of those categories.

Traditionally, Americans have treated sex and gender as interchangeable terms, but they do not describe the same things. Whereas “gender” refers to how one perceives themselves, “sex” describes the physical build of a person’s body. A transgender person’s gender does not align with their assigned sex at birth.

Here is the fundamental untenable conceit of transgenderism writ large. Notice that the Daily Wire‘s definition of transgenderism draws a strict demarcation between “gender identity” and “sex;” the former is a perception, while the latter is a physical fact. If this is true—and this is as good a distillation of transgender theory as any—then it fundamentally makes no sense. How, after all, could a “perception” ever align (or mis-align) with physical fact, particularly when the perception and the physical fact “do not describe the same things?” Put another way: imagine you heard someone say, “My gender identity doesn’t match my earlobes,” or, “My self-perceived gender doesn’t line up with my wrist muscles.” These two things are not merely different by degrees; they are different by qualitative categories. You can’t match up two radically dissimilar concepts, nor, consequently, could they ever be “not aligned!”

The Wire goes on to point out that some scientific studies point to a physiological component to the transgender experience: “A transgender man’s and a cisgender man’s brain structures mirror each other in important ways, and the same goes for trangender women and cisgender women.” But this does not address the confusion surrounding transgenderism, it deepens it. If “sex” and “gender” indeed do not describe the same thing,  after all, then a neuroscientific explanation of gender still does not address the fundamental irreconcilability of the two categories; nor does it explain why one physical component (brain structure) should take precedent over another (phenotypical sexual characteristics).

It is mildly maddening to attempt to discuss this stuff, chiefly because it is, from the start, an absurdist pseudo-theory presented as scientific fact. The crazier and less reality-based a cultural phenomenon is—and the more institutional and cultural support it has, as is increasingly the case with transgenderism—the harder it is to confront it with any degree of effectiveness. Imagine someone came up to you and said, “Clouds aren’t actually  made of water; they’re made of quacky ducks and cotton candy farts.” How would you engage such a person, someone whose train of logic is so demonstrably divorced from reality that they believe that? Moreover, how would you fight against such a perception if, increasingly, colleges and celebrities and politicians and media figures all, one by one, began to accept the quacky-duck-and-cotton-candy-fart theory of cloud formation? Where do you start chipping away at such an impenetrable brick wall?

The ideal scenario would be this: most people (who, in their heart of hearts, probably know better anyway) will slowly but eventually become deeply embarrassed at championing such an obviously false proposal, and—bit by bit—public and private support for such claptrap will eventually fade, like the mystical movements of the early 20th century or the denim crazes of the early 21st. But it may take a while yet, particularly when you consider both the militancy of cultural progressivism and the shrieking media chorus that swells every time a parent has misgivings about his little girl going into a bathroom with a grown man. In any event, I invite any of my readers who are on board the transgender train an opportunity to convince me, in the comments section of this post, that the transgender theory described by the Daily Wire actually makes even the slightest bit of sense. If you can do so, I’ll dedicate an honorary blog post to you as congratulations—a dubious honor, to be sure, but nonetheless you’re welcome to print it out, frame it, and show it off to your grandkids some day.

The Bomb on the Bus

I want to write about “the latest terrorist attack in England,” but of course by the time this blog post goes to press there may have been another one or two of them, so it’s probably necessary to be specific. After Saturday’s massacre at London Bridge, the Washington Post decided to address the real problem at hand: 

In the early confusion of Saturday’s attack in London, as police urged people not to spread rumors, those world leaders who did speak out early were largely circumspect. Restrained. Sympathetic.

“My thoughts go out to the victims and their loved ones,” French President Emmanuel Macron said on Twitter. “Awful news,” wrote Canadian Prime Minster Justin Trudeau the same evening, adding, “We’re monitoring the situation.”

And then there was President Trump.

Before London police or anyone else had announced that the attack was linked to terrorism — the president of the United States retweeted an unsourced blurb from Drudge.com: “Fears of new terror attack after van ‘mows down 20 people’ on London Bridge.”

London authorities at that point had confirmed only a few details. Shortly after the Drudge tweet, British police again warned against spreading unconfirmed information.

It is a deeply, almost profoundly rich irony that the Post—which has spent the last few months helping perpetrate several dozen industrial-sized fake news events—is now so suddenly, breathlessly concerned about “spreading rumors” and “unconfirmed information.” Gee, what’s different this time around? What is the distinction between an anonymously-sourced, wholly unconfirmed (and eventually on-the-record denied) story about James Comey’s resource request on the one hand, and yet another European truck / knife murder spree on the other? Can you spot the difference? Why would the Post run with the one yet exercise breathless forbearance with the other?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote that Western civilization frequently displays a queer kind of deference towards Islam, and in no area is this clearer than that of terrorism. Several days after the Manchester Islamist terrorist attack but a few days before the London Bridges Islamist terrorist attack, Medhi Hasan wrote that “white far-right terrorists” are in fact the more dangerous terrorists, at least in the United States, because, “Since September 12, 2001, the number of fatalities caused by domestic violent extremists has ranged from 1 to 49 in a given year. … Fatalities resulting from attacks by far-right wing violent extremists have exceeded those caused by radical Islamist violent extremists in 10 of the 15 years, and were the same in 3 of the years since September 12, 2001.” But, as Hasan concedes, Islamists have actually racked up a higher body count overall during the same time period—and if you move the data window back a single day, the Islamists are ahead by about 3,000 bodies, which strikes me as—I don’t know—a bit of a scale-tipper, call me crazy. (Most deferential arguments regarding Islamic terrorism tend to strategically clock their terrorism statistics starting at 12:01 AM on September 12th, 2001.)

You do not see the same rhetorical pathology arise in the cases of, say, American mass shootings: every time some lunatic shoots up a mall or a school or a disarmed Army base, there arises a fresh series of demands to scrap the Second Amendment, confiscate all American firearms Australia-style, and finally castrate the American citizenry of their sick fetish with guns. For good measure progressives will often throw in a strident “You’re-more-likely-to-be-killed-by-a-mass-shooter-than-a-Muslim-terrorist-excluding-Sepetember-Eleventh-of-course.” Leaving aside the fact that guns in America are a constitutional right and thus a bit of a difficult ban to wrangle, the comparison neglects the practical difference between guns and Islam: the one is an inert tool, while the other is a fungible ideology the demographic implications of which are much more concerning. Put another way: a Pew report a number of years ago found that, in France, well over a third of Muslims believe that “suicide bombing of civilian targets to defend Islam” can be justified at least some of the time. In other words, within the largest religious minority in France, over thirty percent have at least some genuine sympathy with terrorists. Might that not be cause for concern? By comparison, do you think you could scare up a third of all United States gun owners who believe that psychopathic mass shootings are ever justified? Hell, do you think you could scare up a tenth, or a twentieth, or a fiftieth?

The deep stupidity will continue: there will be another massacre, another bomb, another truck, another knife, another Allahu Akbar—and quickly thereafter we will see the same old bizarre and irrelevant excuses trotted out: you’re more likely to die from a homicidal rapist great white shark than you are a Muslim terrorist, the terrorists aren’t actually Muslim, all religions are crazy, the Crusades were bad, too. It is a weird experience to witness a civilization trip all over itself attempting to explain away the people who wish to destroy it.  I am not sure what drives this impulse—though the impulses of the murderers at London Bridge two days ago are very clear indeed, and it is a wonder that we are so quick and so eager to deny it.

Let’s Get Crazy!

Earlier this year I wrote about Miley Cyrus, whom I called “a weird, capering kind of celebrity monster,” chiefly because she was and may indeed still be all of those things. But then again maybe I wrote too soon, because apparently she has had some sort of eleventh-hour change of heart and now “her nipple-flashing self is behind her.”

If true, this is an unalloyed good as far as American pop culture is concerned. For some time now Miley has been a gross and noxious presence on the pop culture scene, and her leaving that life behind can only be a good thing insofar as for years she has made our cultural discourse lower and baser and less pleasant. We “social conservatives” take a lot of crap for our “socially conservative” opinions regarding both popular media and lifestyle habits, but in the end very few people will deny that Miley Cyrus’s modus operandi over the last half-decade or so—a drug-fueled, sexually chaotic mess of perverted social and professional conduct—is an objectively terrible way to both live one’s life and inspire others to live theirs. If she’s calming down, that is a good thing. Nobody doubts this.

Oh, wait, of course someone does. At the New Yorker, Amanda Petrusich laments Miley’s “creepy return to wholesomeness:”

Cyrus’s arc—she was a fairly innocent kid who enjoyed a wild period in her early twenties, and, now that she’s about to become someone’s wife, she’s settling down, finding a new way to be (or act) virtuous—is culturally ingrained. Everyone seems to agree that this is an acceptable path forward. And that’s what’s so troubling about it. It’s not so much that Cyrus has changed (or that she has, at least, changed tack strategically; both are so ordinary as to be banal), it’s that this is what everybody thinks a grownup woman looks like: pretty, tamed, straight, still, white…

Performing adulthood becomes dangerous when the performance is so limiting…For young women, this is a narrow path forward: become less selfish and wayward only by embracing antiquated notions of femininity and propriety. Is there not some functional middle ground to occupy? Cyrus’s about-face is so sharp, it obliterates any chance for a more subtle and multitudinous understanding of personal progress. It’s hard not to pine for that wagging tongue.

It is easy enough, I guess, to write about “a more subtle and multitudinous understanding of personal progress” when you’re not coming from a five-year coke-, peyote- and ecstasy-soaked post-adolescent binge. But most people who have been there, and been lucky enough to escape with their lives and their health, are happy enough to move on without attempting to occupy a “functional middle ground.” There is, in fact, nothing at all wrong with being a grownup (or, in the insufferable rhetoric of Millennialism, “performing adulthood”) where “being a grownup” looks like “not taking a bunch of drugs and leading a fashionably trashy and dirty lifestyle.” When your entire persona revolves around a kind of moneyed white trash deportment, you should want to grow up and stop being a dipshit.

Miley is right to want to move on from all of this (if that is indeed what she’s doing). Petrusich is lamenting the loss of something utterly not worth lamenting. It is worth pointing out that Petrusich herself appears to come from a place of idyllic stability and propriety—a two-parent household with both parents holding down good jobs—a lifestyle, in other words, that is rarely possible if your “multitudinous understanding” of proper behavior involves the kind of crap Miley Cyrus was into. It is mildly pathetic to witness a grown woman lamenting another grown woman’s having left behind a life of debauched meaninglessness. It’s actually a good thing to grow up and “settle down.” Would that our silly and self-indulgent culture understood that more often.