Friday, September 13, 2019

David French’s Pyrrhic Victory?

It’s now common wisdom that David French won his September 5th debate with Sohrab Ahmari. Though more #TeamSohrab myself, I think it’s true French came out the better. The decisive factors in this outcome were more than merely intellectual however. Ahmari’s microphone kept shorting out, repeatedly interrupting his train of thought. Why this was not fixed the first time it happened is anyone’s guess. Ahmari looked tired (his wife had given birth to their second child literally the day before), whereas French, on his side, looked rested, showered, caffeinated … and angry. Probably Ahmari should have requested a reschedule for a month later. But was French’s debate win really so decisive?

Both men made powerful arguments, but in large part kept talking past each other. It’s not perhaps that one was usually wrong and the other right, but that their stresses are so differently placed. Many of us, I’m sure, can get behind a vision of conservatism going forward that combines the two approaches. Still, it’s clear Ahmari is the one bringing something new and necessary to our sense of where we’re at. His call-out against “David-Frenchism” that appeared in First Things and set the whole process moving was long overdue, regardless of any personal ill-will it stirred, and notwithstanding the fact that both men are Christians facing the same enemy.

Far from crestfallen, Ahmari has since come out with a hard-hitting piece revisiting some of his wider concerns. He channels arguments compellingly made by Patrick Deneen in his brilliant Why Liberalism Failed. Among these, especially, the argument that liberalism, choosing “value neutral” individual autonomy as the highest good, has also necessitated an increase in state intervention to keep the newly “autonomous” barbarian hordes in some semblance of order:

Overthrowing these limits [those recognized in previous Western social orders] prevents us from making lifelong commitments and plunges us into sterile decadence. Our consequent dysfunction frequently necessitates restrictions more onerous than any imposed by nature or tradition. The vast administrative state arises in order to regulate societies that have been deregulated by an individualistic liberalism.

Our combination of dysfunction and growing Panoptical state overreach is obvious, no? But that state overreach, in our liberal West, is also increasingly value-laden, and geared toward punishing those who offend left-liberal SJW hypersensitivities. I do think one of Ahmari’s tacit points all along, deafness to which has led many to misread him, is that “value-neutral liberalism” has proved to be a pipe dream. What we’ve ended up with instead, pragmatically speaking, is something like: Their values are “neutral”, ours are just “bigotry”.

And worse: Given that “bigotry” is “harmful”, our values will ultimately need to be censored.

Isn’t it clear that this is the endgame envisioned by all the Democratic presidential candidates now on offer? The First Amendment protections David French has done so much to buttress are crucial, yes, but will they really prove decisive when the electorate swings leftward again? Isn’t a more aggressive strategy necessary to keep our tired troops united in the face of such a united aggressor? And doesn’t, per Ahmari, populism offer much as part of this strategy?

To return to Drag Queen Story Hour, the Rainbow-inspired atrocity that set off the Ahmari-French conflict, one thing that kept striking me watching the debate was the uncanny recognition that French (and thus potentially millions of smart conservative liberals) didn’t even think it possible or wise for sane Americans to come together to protect the sexual integrity of children. Children!

As an American in my fifties, who clearly remembers the ’80s and ‘90s with their overriding concern to keep kids separated from sexual deviants, this new caving to the “autonomy” and “rights” of perversion is downright eerie. It’s an entirely new ground that’s appeared, a vast island of muck arisen out of nowhere just yesterday. And David French already sees it as unassailable territory, because of what, “value neutrality”?

This is an instance where French’s blindness to the big cultural picture is deeply troubling. In Britain and the US, the number of trans-identifying kids, slated for hormone suppression and worse, has risen roughly 4,000% in the past ten years. Yes: 40x! But Drag Queen Story Hour does not represent a real crisis?

At the same time, where the liberal state apparently cannot allow conservatives to intervene in DQSH because of “value neutrality”, it has no problem seeing my career ruined if I commit the “offense” of typing here or there on social media that “Same-sex marriage is not marriage.” And yes, although my loss of career at present would only be the woke market, rather than the state, talking, all our mainstream Democrats are now on board with their “Equality Act” to make sure the state follows my loss of career with fines or jail time.

Given all this, the poison fruit of a mere decade during which the left did not even monopolize power, what can be expected if they do gain any lengthy stretch of power? And French can scoff or laugh at Ahmari’s mention of potential “Colosseums” in the near future? (French is scoffing along with mainstream liberals, as one can see in this Yahoo fluff piece. Me I think Rod Dreher’s “Law of Merited Impossibility” is more apt: “It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it.”)

While on stage, French also indicated that in his view pornography is not protected under the First Amendment. It did seem a strange disconnect from his arguments on value-neutral liberalism and his legal indifference to things like DQSH. Is pornography unprotected by the First Amendment because its obscenity is an assault on the sexual integrity of the viewer? If so, is that not also a viable argument vis-a-vis DQSH—that sexual integrity, in this case of children, is being assaulted? Yes, conservatives’ ideas of sexual integrity will not be accepted by the left, and as for the left’s ideas—they are constantly shifting and hopelessly self-contradictory. Still, if it’s true that sexual integrity has any relevance to what is or is not afforded First Amendment protection, French has some explaining to do.

At one point in the debate Ahmari quoted something French had written in the years before Obergefell, to the effect that “if the gay couple down the street gets married, how would that affect me?” French quickly responded that his thinking had since changed, implying that quoting him from that era was irrelevant. But I’d say it was French’s response here that is irrelevant. Ahmari’s point was clearly that French’s brand of liberalism, before Obergefell, had set him up to minimize the conflicts SSM would bring. Why then should conservatives trust French to read the writing on the wall now in 2019?

As a Christian concerned with religious liberty, I have enormous respect and gratitude for French. But I think he is misreading the larger cultural issues, and that his Never-Trumpism is part and parcel of a perhaps too self-congratulatory optimism about the status quo. Though I’m not a pessimist by nature, I cannot accept French’s rosy depiction of where America’s Christians now stand in relation to the liberal state. Which is why I predict Ahmari’s voice will only prove more prescient as time passes. Thus my title here.

(For a more trenchant argument than mine as to why French’s debate victory is ultimately Pyrrhic, Michael Warren Davis’ piece in Crisis is a MUST READ. In brief: It’s the Overton window, stupid.)

Check out my novel A Taipei Mutt, now in second edition. More bark, nastier bite.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Vulnerable Ones

Salute to the vulnerable ones—
for remaining tender in this insensitive world,
for your hesitancy in the midst of the world's dead certainty,
for your ability to feel others as if they were you, and to take on each and every of their pains,

for being afraid of the world with its blind and bottomless conviction,

for your need to brush even the invisible dirt off your hands—


Salute to the vulnerable ones—
for your dread of the absurdity of existence,
for keeping subtly quiet about what you see in others,
for your clumsiness in the ordinary matters and your ability to commune with the extraordinary;
for your transcendental realism and your utter lack of practicality,
for being ill-adjusted to how things are, and being lucid about how they ought to be,
and for all that is endless—unknown—unspoken,
hidden in you.

Salute to the vulnerable ones—
for your creativity and ecstasy,
for your hungry friendships, love,
and for your fear that love might die even before you do.

Salute to the vulnerable ones—
for your talents, never in use,
(lack of appreciation for your greatness will not help in recognising the greatness of those who come next)
salute—because, instead of taking your example, they want you to adjust,
salute—because, instead of healing the world, it is you who get treated,
salute—for all your divine abilities getting ravaged by lower animal force,
salute—for your incredible uniqueness and for the solitariness of your ways.
Salute to the vulnerable ones.

by Kazimierz Dabrowski

Trans. from the Polish by Alexandra Gruszczynska, 5 August 2018

Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. and begin the long, hard reckoning.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

John Poch Agoniste: On TEXASES

Is this the most beautiful book ever written on Texas? I haven’t read enough of the others to say. But the beauty here is brimming, stark, almost at times pounding, like the Texas sun that batters down in so many of the poems. John Poch hammers out beauty on an anvil.

I’ve been following Poch since his collection Dolls. He just keeps getting stronger. In Texases, he shows himself master of the poetic non sequitur—a taut movement of misprisions that don’t let one go. This is not just a matter of striking images and mellifluous language; we have rather sustained tension, mental wrestling.

How many books begin with lines like these:

Imagine something lifeless as a road
even makes meat for the crooked crow
or a necessary perpendicular walk on the caprock
without barbed wire might have made a man
a man from the expanse. And that man post-holing
could feel freedom’s labor in his molars—
could see the cedar post would one day boast a meadowlark
like a trophy of Western flight.

So again: Is this the most beautiful book ever written on Texas? If you’ve a stronger contender, let me know in the comments.

A challenge.

John Poch’s Texases at Amazon.

Check out A Taipei Mutt. More bark, nastier bite.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Mader's Law

82% of things “new and improved” are actually worse and messed-up.

This applies to products, customs, legislation, art forms, beliefs.

The upshot is clear. The 18% of things that bring actual improvement are suffocated by the 82% that bring something worse than what was before. Thus we continue to decline via our very “improvements”.

The belief that we are progressing with each passing year, that the new is naturally the improved, is itself an example of the law in action. Or rather, it's this Enlightenment-spawned belief that greases our ongoing general decline. New itself in the Early Modern Period, reiterated as "new" with each generation, this belief greases the engine of the slow-motion train wreck we have become.


Check out my novel A Taipei Mutt, now in second edition. More bark, nastier bite.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

An Unwelcome Guest

I’d been in the apartment a little more than six months. Centrally located but quiet, well-furnished, 7th floor. Perfect for me. There were enough small takeout restaurants nearby that I didn’t have to cook much, and the bar scene was just right. I even got the idea that the apartment had a certain feng shui that helped me lure women to it. Since moving in, I’d brought home many, something that had seemed harder in my previous place.

Of course it was sheer superstition about the feng shui. The women I brought back--they hadn’t yet seen the building when they stumbled with me out of this or that bar. So how could the building be working on them in my favor?

No matter. At 32, with a new job and new digs, staying fit at a gym around the corner, women like never before, I finally felt set up in this new city. It had taken awhile, but the town was starting to seem right.

During my fourth month in the new apartment something odd happened. A girl I’d brought home, Maureen was her name, had dragged herself from my bed at about three or four a.m. to find something to drink in my fridge. I was in bed, drunkenly asleep, when she began to scream in the kitchen. Startled awake and stumbling out from the bedroom, I saw she’d switched on the kitchen light and stood against the wall, frozen in panic.

“What’s wrong?”

“You … you …” she began.

“What? What happened?”

“There’s someone in your fridge! Your father! He glared at me. He’s in your fucking fridge!”

Her eyes were wild. She said every word at the top of her lungs, unhinged. She would wake the neighbors, and probably had already.

For a minute I didn’t know what to do. Like everyone, I’d had to deal with nut cases now and then, but this was different. Once her words really sunk in—I was buzzed and half-asleep—I thought that either someone must have put something in her drink at the bar, or the girl was a bona fide psycho.

“You think my father is in my fridge?”

“He said he was your father!”

“But … it’s impossible!”

There flashed through my mind the trouble I might be in—that she’d somehow accuse me. Just recently there’d been a widely reported case in town of a rich young perv who’d been slipping date rape drugs in aspiring models’ drinks. That guy was headed to jail.

I tried to calm her down.

“Listen. There’s no one in the fridge. Just think about it. It’s impossible.”

“I saw him.”

“And besides, my father lives a thousand miles away. So you must have been sleepwalking or dreaming.”

“He’s there. I saw him.”

“But it’s impossible. Really. Here. I’ll show you.”

I stepped toward the refrigerator door.

“No! Don’t you open it! He’s … horrible.”

She was blinking, her breathing uneven. She did look drugged. What was I going to do?

“Okay,” I said. “But my father doesn’t even live in this town, much less in a fridge. Don’t you realize what you’re saying is literally impossible? Just try to be calm, think it through. It’s the middle of the night. Come back to bed. We can talk about it.”

“You’re sick!” she yelled at me, really angry this time. “I can’t stay here. This is SICK.”

She scampered past me to the bedroom.

“Where’s the light switch!” she yelled.

I went and turned it on for her. She dressed quickly, muttering curses as she did, then rushing back to the living room grabbed her purse.

I followed her to door, tried to say something to calm her down, but it was no use. She slammed it on the way out.

It took me awhile to get back to sleep, but that I finally did so made me feel somewhat proud of myself. I got in a good three or four hours before work. No use letting a psycho ruin my night and the whole following day. And as for worrying about trouble, if she was going to cause any, I’d just have to face it. I’d done nothing illegal.

Two days passed without any appearance from the police. I breathed a sigh of relief. Crisis over.

Then one evening about two months after Maureen’s fit I was putting a styrofoam carton of takeout pasta in the fridge when something pinkish caught my eye in one of the door racks. I reached down and fished it out.

It seemed to be half of a set of dentures—the top half. What the fuck? It looked real enough, but was too small, about a third the size normal adult dentures would be. Was it maybe a denture made for a kid? But why was it in my refrigerator?

I took it and sat on the sofa near the lamp, to look it over more carefully. I thought back to the state of the refrigerator when I’d moved in. In fact there’d been a few items from the previous tenant: some condiment jars, a few drink bottles. Had I not noticed the denture when I cleaned them out?

Then it came to me. Looming up like a wall, solid and white and menacing: the memory of that night with Maureen.

I put the denture on the coffee table, then picked it up again. Then put it back down. With a tightness forming in my throat, I went back to the fridge and stood staring at its closed beige door.

Then I laughed at myself, at how absurd it was.

But still. Why was there a denture in my refrigerator?

I opened it and peered in, scanning the spaces, the shelves. Drinks, white plastic bags of uneaten takeout. It was a mess. I swung the trash bin out from under the sink and, my heart starting to pound, began to empty the top shelf where most of the takeout was. Toward the back of the shelf I noticed an empty white bag stretched lengthwise, covering something. I seized the corner and yanked it off.

There he lay on his side, blinking.

“Okay, okay!” he snapped suddenly. “It is what it is. I like the cold. What are you gonna do about it?”

I’d recoiled four or five steps, eyes trying to take it in.

“Huh?” he said. “What are you gonna do about it?”

“What the FUCK!” I yelled. “What the fuck is THIS?”

“It is what it is,” he repeated louder, glaring at me with beady black eyes.

He wore what looked like a threadbare hospital gown. Nearly bald. Shriveled in an unnatural way. From head to toe he seemed a bit over two feet. The head was too large for the body. An obscene doll.

“Who are you?” I demanded. “What are you?”

“Oh is that any way …” he began. Then: “And who are you—if it comes to that? Who are you?”

“This is my apartment. I’m renting it. How long have you been here?”

“Not quite sure.”

“You told a girl you were my father!”

“I didn’t want to scare her. She caught me awake.”

“Didn’t want to scare her?! You think finding a shriveled man in the fridge in the middle of the night is not going to scare the shit out of someone!”

“Well … I did my best.”

“FUCK!” I yelled, stepping closer to the open door.

“Yes, that’s the way. Get it off your chest.”

“Off my chest? FUCK! This is ABSURD. How did you even get in here?”

“I’ve been here a while. I like the cold.”

“But why? And why my fridge? You should be dead staying in there. Are you in there all the time?”

“I think I told you. I like the cold. It helps me sleep.”

“You should be dead! You’re in a fucking refrigerator!”

“But I’m not dead. I can hibernate. Since I was young. I can do it. I think I’m part bear. Hah! Funny, hey?”

His hand did a little kind of pirouette, as if to underline the joke.

“How old are you?” I demanded.

“I don’t keep track. It’s better that way. Sometimes I’m out cold for three, four days. So as for months and years, who knows?”


“C’mon now. Let’s just get along. It’s no skin off your back. I only nibble a bit of your chow now and then. Couple times a month I figure. What’s it to you?”


“Just be a good sort and put my bag back over me and close the door. This light bothers my eyes. C’mon then.”

“NO. Fuck!”


“You are OUT OF HERE.”

I snatched up the bag he’d been using as a sheet. I wrapped it round my right hand so I could seize hold of him. I didn’t want to actually touch him.

“No no no!” he started, covering his face with his hands when he realized my plan. “You’re not really gonna …?”

I moved closer so as to reach in toward him.

“I’ll bite you!” he barked. “I’ll bite you good!”

“I have your dentures,” I said.

“You only have the top one! I’ll bite! I swear I will!”

Lunging forward, I got my hand round one of his deformed legs. He twisted himself round to make good on the threat to bite. I yanked him out of the fridge in a single swoop.

I held him up in the air, upside down. He was screaming and writhing, trying to grab my arm to bite me. Holding him out away from me, I got to the apartment door and managed to open it. I swung him out onto the hallway floor, far enough that he wouldn’t have time to scurry back. I slammed and bolted the door.

Cussing, heart racing, I retreated to the living room. I stood glaring for a while at my locked door. He didn’t knock, didn’t make a sound. I heard nothing from the hallway.

I needed to get my wits about me. It was too much. A hibernating imp. In my fridge!

I sat back on the sofa, trying to think. Then: “My dentures,” I through the door.

I didn’t reply.

“My dentures!” he said a little louder. “C’mon. Be a sport.”

To be finished with the whole thing, to get him to leave, I took the dentures to the door, unbolted and opened it just an inch, then flicked them through the crack near the floor. I heard them drop against the hallway tile just before reslamming the door.

“Aw, you could’ve broke ‘em!” he said.

“Go away!” is all I said.

I listened for movement, but heard nothing.

I went back to the sofa. A few minutes passed. He made no more noise from outside.

A half hour later I decided to go out myself and look around, to be sure he was gone. I didn’t find him in the hallway, nor on the stairs going down (he was too short to use the elevator) nor anywhere near the building’s entrance. I glanced both ways down the street. Nowhere.

That was a week ago. There have been no problems since. I did clean out and disinfect my fridge. And I called my father. Why I’m not quite sure.

I’m still only half convinced it happened. But no, I know it did. It is all seared in my mind. Nobody drugged me.

And so a question: If I run into Maureen again, which I suppose is possible, should I apologize? Should I tell her?

I’m not decided.


Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. and begin the long, hard reckoning.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Stop Lying About Sohrab Ahmari

EWTN Screenshot: Sohrab Ahmari

I’ve been roundly disappointed in reactions to Sohrab Ahmari’s piece decrying “David French-ism”. Reading through the first flurry of pundit weigh-ins, I kept thinking Huh? Did I miss something in the original? So I went back and reread it. No, in fact, on second reading I still don’t see any blanket rejection of the liberal order. Ahmari was not, as many claimed, declaring himself a theocrat. It’s just not there.

Ahmari’s position, it seemed to me, was far more nuanced. In brief: The liberal order is such that it will typically end up imposing one or another vision of the good. For any liberal state to hold together, this is perhaps even a necessity. Our current left (with its hysterical identity politics playing on constant loop, with its penchant for censoring critics in the name of a bogus “safety”) has nearly succeeded in establishing its own vision of the good as paramount. The problem is that that vision is a disaster, whereas conservative ideas of the good, at least the kind held by Ahmari, have the imprimatur of a long history of cultural flourishing.

Given the stakes, given the left as it stands, Ahmari is arguing that conservatives need to begin playing hardball if they are not to be utterly silenced. This is the main thrust of his argument. Not reject the liberal order as such: rather, play a louder, more aggressive game within that order. Conservatives need to stop dreaming that mere proceduralism will save the American future.

Is that beyond the pale?

To reject David Frenchian proceduralism as a fix-all approach is not equal to becoming a fascist. Many of Ahmari’s critics don’t seem to get this. He is not arguing for an end to the Constitution or some kind of Catholic sharia; he simply seeks more direct engagement in areas of pubic life besides just the courts and staid conservative political reviews.

I myself think there’s a large and disgusted demographic of Americans who would agree with him on this. They want pushback. Why, they wonder, don’t our conservative leaders stand up to these pinkshirt bullies?

This is not to reject polite debate in arenas where it is necessary—say, in the courtrooms where David French has accomplished so much. I point this out because Ahmari was also widely attacked for stating what seems to me a necessary truth about our moment. He finished his essay with the words:

Progressives understand that culture war means discrediting their opponents and weakening or destroying their institutions. Conservatives should approach the culture war with a similar realism. Civility and decency are secondary values. They regulate compliance with an established order and orthodoxy. We should seek to use these values to enforce our order and our orthodoxy, not pretend that they could ever be neutral. To recognize that enmity is real is its own kind of moral duty.

Ahmari’s critics were horrified that he called civility and decency “secondary values”. But these critics at best misread his point, and at worst show that they’ve lost all sense of the hierarchy of values that comes with any serious thinking about the good. Luckily Matthew Schmitz of First Things debunks these misreadings in an excellent essay that you should take the time to read.

Ahmari’s post-battle talk with Mark Bauerlein (on podcast) confirmed me in my first reading of his piece. Since I think a lot of people still aren’t getting this, and others are tendentiously pretending not to get it, I’ll type some out by way of transcript.

Bauerlein mentions the Drag Queen Story Hour, which set off Ahmari’s argument with French, and wonders if conservatives who believe in proceduralism above all have any means of stopping this debased new institution.

AHMARI: If your conservatism is merely the upholding of procedure and maximal autonomy, with harm and consent as the only limiting principles, then you may win X, Y, Z legal battle over religious liberty in the courtroom, but the thrust of the culture will sweep you away. Because the ideology that we are up against says not only is drag to be tolerated in the drag queen bar or whatever … not only will it be legally tolerated, but it must be treated as normative, [that] for me [as drag queen] to feel fully autonomous in my identity, you will have to acknowledge that everything I’m doing is fine … Or if it’s a matter of the transgender thing, it’s not enough that you say So-and-so has a right to surgically transition: you must say that this person was always the gender that they became, and that their old name is now a taboo, it’s a dead name. That’s the full exercise of my autonomy [as trans], and it will [have to] destroy your autonomy for me to feel autonomous.

So that’s why I think that this idea that Sohrab Ahmari, by challenging David French-ism or this sort of conservatism, is proposing, you know, the restoration of the Papal States, or a kind of Catholic sharia—all these extremist labels that have been thrown at me—also reveals the kind of limits on the conservative imagination, that there’s only one configuration. And anything that suggests that we could go back to, for example, decency laws, or obscenity laws, must mean, you know, Vichy, or Pius IX, or Papal States. You know, there were people who were firmly in the liberal tradition—I cite Matthew Arnold in the essay—who say, Yeah, liberalism and autonomy in their proper spheres, but there have to be other limits [besides mere autonomy]: there are spaces in which the moral authority of the community must override individual rights, or free trade, blah blah blah. To be a bit pragmatic actually. Who’s the dogmatist [here]—the one who says, “In the face of Drag Queen Story Hour, if you want to do anything about it, you must want sharia,” or the one who says, “No, in its proper sphere, OK, but don’t try and make it normative for my children.”

Bauerlein then asks if Ahmari considers this development a result of the excess influence of libertarianism from the 1950s forward. Ahmari agrees, and points out that since the 1960s especially, conservatives may have grumbled about this or that development, but nonetheless pursued a deregulatory approach in all spheres of life, one which, he implies, has given the left carte blanche to remake the culture according to its own perverse blueprint.

Honestly I’m tempted to type out more, but I think the main point on Ahmari’s supposed “illiberal turn” is clear. Listen to the whole thing.

And speaking of blueprints, I myself would like to see conservatives with a bigger voice than my own start getting on board with more concrete initiatives. There is news of a “Straight Pride” rally planned for Boston later this year. That seems a good start, though to me the choice of name, merely derivative, is not ideal. I’ve long thought about the need for some kind of celebration or rally to counter the Rainbow Cult Processions that now gyrate through our cities. I’d call the event the Back to Basics Rally.

Why "basics"? Because our bodies, male or female, are one of the basic grounds on which our health and wholeness depend. It is this basic ground, the beauty and goodness of healthy development as male or female, that is being rebelled against. We should never be seducing youth into rebelling against their bodies and then, insanely, affirming and celebrating them when they do. But that is precisely what America's elites are doing.

Participants in Back to Basics would stress a few central truths:

1) Transgenderism is not a matter of “discovering one’s true gender”, but a dangerous psychosexual disorder, one which quickly spreads (cf. Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria) among youth.

2) Wise Americans raise their boys and girls to become healthy men and women, not sexually confused mannequins prey to a cultural fad.

3) LGBT activists currently have far too much sway in our schools.

4) During elementary and high school, boys and girls should only be identified based on their physical bodies and should use corresponding restrooms and locker rooms. The respective pronouns are he, him and she, her. Public schools that do not uphold these basic standards should be sued, boycotted, and protested by parents. Such schools, through their pandering to a destructive sexual cult, gravely endanger American youth--as is already happening.

Back to Basics Rally participants would also, of course, celebrate: 

1) the goodness and givenness of the body;

2) heterosexuality and the goodness of traditional marriage and family;

3) a sane return to basic biology;

4) healthy, age-appropriate education of youth.

In short, participants would celebrate the opposite of what our mainstream culture now promotes--a rebellion against the body via an LGBTQ dogma that demonstrates an ever-deepening fetishization of sexual and gender disorders under the rubric “Pride”.

There are millions of American parents who see how this cult has run rampant over our schools and media. Back to Basics Rallies would allow them to come together to push back against the destructive ideology being spoon-fed to their children. If these parents were to unite under a platform stating basic biological truths, in defense of their children's healthy development, they could turn the tide against this cult. I propse Back to Basics, B2B, as an effective slogan for this needed movement.

And really: How far are responsible parents going to let this go before they take a stand? Studies now suggest that the number of young people identifying as "trans" or "nonbinary" has increased as much as 4000% (!) in recent years. The reason is not difficult to grasp given the climate created by the LGBT movement and its trendy cheerleaders in the entertainment industry. Young people see gender-bending as a vehicle through which to gain the attention youth always crave, as well as a route by which they may dramatically mediate the suffering and confusion that come with growing up. That this gender-cultism often ends with hormone-blocking therapy and surgery is what makes the phenomenon truly tragic. Youth are defacing their natural bodies and scarring themselves for life, and medical and educational authorities are helping them do it. Many of these youth will end up sterile, will arrive at age thirty and wonder: “How could they have let me do this to myself?” That this will happen, that it is happening already, is as obvious as Wednesday follows Tuesday.

Would Ahmari, or other conservative writers, get on board with such initiatives as Back to Basics? I’m not sure. But such a movement as I sketch out here, with raucous in-your-face rallies and parents up in arms against our sexually corrupted education system, seems the kind of thing Ahmari is calling for. This is not a rejection of the liberal order, but a rejection of the new gaythoritarianism that is corrupting American culture and endangering American youth.

Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. and begin the long, hard reckoning.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

The Clown Goes Rogue

The Disassociated Press, June 3, 2019

by Eric Mader

[Collaborative juvenilia. Written with ideas from my teen students here in Taiwan.]

Now with an Interpol warrant on his head, police in several countries are still seeking to apprehend Ronald McDonald, the famous mascot clown of the McDonald’s restaurant chain, after a string of crimes for which he is the prime suspect.

Authorities believe the clown went rogue some time early last month.

Though the clown’s reasons for dropping his role as symbol of the McDonald’s Corporation are still unclear, investigators now believe he initially sought to launch his own new restaurant chain in the US northwest.

Under the alias Ronny Green, it appears the clown opened two restaurants in the Seattle area in April, offering “organic food for folks on the go”. Featuring “drive thrus”, kiddy playgrounds, “Earthy Meals” and a towering green plastic “G” in front of each location, the company sought to employ strategies successfully used by the McDonald’s chain.

Investigators are also convinced the restaurant’s mascot was Ronald McDonald himself in disguise. For his new venture, the clown dyed his hair green, used earth-tone make-up instead of white for his face, and sported a clown suit in green and white stripes with huge brown clown shoes instead of the huge red shoes he’d worn previously.

A McDonald’s company representative, who asked to remain anonymous, has acknowledged by phone interview that the parent company suspected their former clown was involved in the new effort, and that they were considering legal action. They had just prepared documentation to file suit, the source said, when several Seattle children recognized “Ronny Green” as Ronald McDonald and the story hit local media.

In the media frenzy that followed the children’s claims, “Ronny Green” disappeared, absconding with the new company’s earnings. Employees at the two locations were never paid their first weeks’ salaries.

Investigators have also verified that the spinoff restaurants’ products, including a hamburger-like sandwich called the “BigGeo”, did not contain the organic ingredients advertised.

“They were all substandard ingredients,” Darren Schnorr of the Washington Bureau of Public Health said. “They were even using illegal things. We discovered animal feed being used to make the burger patties.”

On the Lam

Fleeing Seattle, the clown headed east, appearing in the greater Chicago area as main suspect in a string of burglaries and muggings. Again children brought in to view CCTV footage of one of the break-ins confirmed that the clown in the video was Ronald McDonald.

“That’s Ronald!” several children screamed out simultaneously when shown CCTV footage of one break-in at Chicago apartment complex.

Authorities believe the clown then headed south. In a daring move, he changed back to his original McDonald’s costume and dyed his hair bright red.

The clown is believed to have impersonated a bus driver for two days in the Little Havana district of Miami. Offering “Free Medium Fries with Every Ride”, Ronald McDonald was reported by several passengers to be driving recklessly and playing loud Marilyn Manson music on his bus. Police have now confirmed the bus in question was removed from a Miami Metro Transportation Authority lot.

Police also believe the clown may have been lacing the free French fries with barbiturates, as many passengers, once dropped off, remembered little of their ride or were later found unconscious on area sidewalks.

Federal investigators, put on the case after the incidents in Miami, believe Ronald McDonald then decided to lay low for a time. They picked up the clown’s traces two weeks later in Atlanta, and nearly caught him this time, when it became clear he was posing as a local grandmother.

Timmy Shears, 8, suspected something was wrong with his grandmother when he visited her at her Atlanta suburban home two days before his birthday.

“She looked different, kind of sick,” Timmy later told local news channel WSB-TV. “She smelled bad too. I mean, grandma always uses lots of perfume and body lotion, but this time her smell was different. And really really bad.”

Timmy’s parents became suspicious when Timmy, returning home in the evening, told them that his grandmother had offered to help him shower in her house, but did not pursue the matter.

Then, on Timmy’s birthday two days later, the boy brought home a birthday cake his “grandmother” had made him with his favorite strawberry frosting.

After eating a piece of the cake, Timmy became ill, and his parents, checking the cake, found that several dead goldfish “frosted onto the cake’s surface” along with “other unidentifiable scraps”, according to police. Timmy’s grandmother kept goldfish in her home.

Mrs. Shears rushed her son to the hospital, but got no answer on her mother’s phone.

“I was afraid my mother had gone mad,” she says.

Going to her mother’s house an hour later with her husband, she found the woman tied up in the basement and delirious, covered with ketchup and mustard, the floor strewn with French fries. Her goldfish were gone from the fish tank.

But before police could arrive on the scene, the clown had again gotten away. A police report later confirmed the French fries fed to the old woman contained the barbiturate pentobarbital.

Authorities believe the clown next headed southwest. Federal officials suspect he eventually crossed the border into Mexico at Laredo. In Mexico city he apparently boarded a flight to Paris, though on what passport is unknown.

Paris: Interpol Warrant

In the French capital, Ronald McDonald again upped the ante. Borrowing from his Miami tactics, but this time armed with an AK-47, he commandeered a city bus on the Rue de Rivoli just before the dinner hour, crashing through one of the north walls of the Louvre Museum. Seven passengers and one pedestrian were injured in the crash, but the clown was seemingly unscathed.

Having thus gained entry to the Louvre, the clown proceeded to run the through the galleries firing randomly, laughing with glee and spray-painting obscene graffiti on several masterpieces of European painting. One security guard was shot during the rampage, but only sustained minor injuries.

The clown escaped before French military police could enter in pursuit.

The following day, May 12, as Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo was giving a press conference on the event, shots were heard from an adjacent rooftop. Ms. Hidalgo ducked to the ground, but one of the would-be assassin’s bullets critically wounded a city legislator standing at her side. The clown was filmed fleeing across rooftops and again escaped before authorities could apprehend him.

It has now been confirmed that Ronald McDonald spent around two hours that same night reveling in the chic Paris night club La Java, where other revelers took numerous selfies with him. No one at the club contacted authorities. Several reports suggest the clown still had his spray paint can with him and was spray-painting fellow clubbers and furniture.

It was after these Parisian incidents that Interpol put out a warrant for the Ronald McDonald’s arrest.

Jakarta: Metamorphosis

After Paris, the track went cold for almost a week before reports surfaced that the clown had appeared in the Indonesian capital Jakarta. Authorities are still uncertain, however, if these reports are trustworthy.

Rumors of what is now being called serangan badut Amerika, the “American clown invasion”, began with Sarif Suryantono, 26, whose family owns a parking garage in the capital’s Tanah Abang district.

Mr. Suryantono claims he was working one night in the small office attached to the garage when he heard a man’s laughter coming from among the parked cars. He said the man sounded drunk or deranged.

When he went to investigate, he said he found “the McDonald’s clown, dirty and drunk, leaning against a parked car”. The clown, he claims, was “licking the car’s driver side window, as if trying to clean it,” according to a report in the Jakarta Post.

Mr Suryantono said that when he spoke to the clown, demanding to know if that was his car, the clown stood up, gestured toward the buildings outside the lot, and said, “Yes. And all this city is mine.”

“Suddenly,” Mr. Suryantono said, “he broke apart into many pieces, like in a horror movie, and he became thousands of cockroaches. The cockroaches spread out over the floor like oil and began to scurry away.”

Mr. Suryantono said he fled the scene in terror. He said his parents did not at first believe his story, and that later, returning to the parking garage with them, they did not find any of the roaches, though he could point out the licked places on the car’s window.

Mr. Suryantono and his family initially decided not to tell anyone else of the incident. It was only later, the next day, when they returned to the garage, that they found two of the roaches in the alley behind it. They immediately contacted the Jakarta Post and asked a journalist to come investigate.

“The roaches are different,” Mr Suryantono claims. “There is reddish hair around the head. They’re larger than normal roaches.”

Mr. Suryantono didn’t attempt to catch any of the roaches, however, because he considered them “evil”.

Since his story hit Indonesian media, many in the Tanah Abang district of Jakarta have reported seeing the “clown roaches”, and some have managed to kill them and post photos on social media, but capital city authorities so far have declined to comment on the “American clown invasion”.

Asked in a follow-up television interview if he would be willing to lead authorities to find some of the roaches, Mr. Suryantono said that he personally hadn’t seen any of them since, but that he regularly hears vendors and others in surrounding neighborhoods talking of them.

“I have one man who told me he thinks it’s a biological weapon of some kind,” Mr. Suryantono said. “He thinks it was developed by the CIA. We are very fearful. And the police still pretend that nothing happened. We will see where this all leads. It is not good.”

South America: La semana de tres lunes

Whether by airline or some other means, some are convinced the clown next appeared in South America, where, impersonating the day Monday, he is believed to be responsible for what is now infamously referred to on the continent as “la semana de tres lunes”--the week of three Mondays.

Thousands of people across several South American nations reported waking up on the morning of Monday May 20 from disturbing dreams involving “el payaso McDonald”--the McDonald’s clown. Already during the early working hours, such dreams were widely remarked and commented in local social media as an odd coincidence in Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Chile and Argentina.

Subsequently, according to reports, workers and students in these countries noticed the hours until lunch break dragging on and on, seeming much longer than usual, and many reported feeling hungry and ready for lunch by 10:00 a.m.

“By 10:30 my kids were going nuts,” reports Luisa Contreras, 29, a Chilean elementary school teacher. “I could tell something was wrong, but couldn’t figure out what.”

When the noon bells finally rang, the clown apparently managed to make the hour from noon to one o’clock pass in a mere handful of minutes, forcing people across the affected regions back to work before they could finish their lunches.

“The afternoon of that day was a nightmare,” avers Juan Vasquez, 34, a bank clerk in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires. “I think it lasted at least twenty hours.”

Last week protests demanding a long weekend to make up for the “three Mondays” were organized in several South American capitals.

By the following day, Tuesday, the clown had again disappeared.

At present it is unknown whether international authorities are investigating this South American lead or whether the clown will turn up somewhere else.

McDonald’s representatives have assured customers that these unfortunate events linked to their former mascot Ronald McDonald will not in any way influence their pledge to continue serving “fresh and healthy food”.

More cowbell at Minor Scratches

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Arguing Against Same-Sex Marriage, from a Secular Point of View

Traditional Christians will tell you that marriage is only between man and woman. And sure enough, if you follow the battle over marriage in our swiftly unraveling West, especially if you to listen to left-liberals, opposition to same-sex marriage is presented mainly as a “Christian” or “biblical” thing. By this they mean to imply that those who aren’t Christian should have no good reason to oppose it.

But that represents a gross distortion. One can in fact give very compelling non-Christian arguments against same-sex marriage, and one of the strongest is based on what we know of human practice across cultures, whether secular or religious.

From a neutral, secular point of view, it is only anthropology and history that could offer us something like a “universal human  meaning” of marriage. Surveying what we know from historical research, we can in fact speak of a general human understanding of marriage. In this rubric, as one quickly sees, it’s the self-confident liberals who appear out of bounds.

Across the six inhabited continents and millennia of recorded history, across literally hundreds of distinct cultures, we do find a dizzying array of marriage customs. But the agreement on one thing, at least until the recent decade, is striking: well over 99% of human groups recognize marriage as only between male and female. Interestingly, this holds true even for cultures, such as that of ancient Athens, where homosexual love was seen as legitimate.

In fact the historical record gives us only two solidly attested outliers—i.e. cultures that normalized one or another form of same-sex marriage.

In the African Kingdom of Dahomey, now Benin, elder women of means were for a time allowed to marry a younger “wife”.  In some North American Indian tribes, chiefs already married and having fathered children were  allowed to take an additional male, a berdache, as “wife”. 

That’s it. A list of two against literally hundreds of cultures on all the continents over the course of millennia. Note also that in neither of these outlier cases were the same-sex marriages anything like what we see being pushed in our postmodern West. 

Human experience looked at as a whole is nearly unanimous: 99.7 percent or so of cultures,  with all their teeming religious and social differences, would find the idea of same-sex  marriage incoherent.

Do our left-liberals really want to be "diverse"? If so, they should maybe face up to the weight of real cultural diversity and not just the so-called "diversity" they find in a New Haven Starbucks.

If on the same-sex marriage side of the argument we have one African kingdom and a few Amerindian plains tribes, on the other side we have the Austronesians, Hittites, Mongolians, Aztecs, Chinese, Spaniards, Ethiopians, Finns, Hindus, Greeks, Tibetans, Persians, Australian aborigines, Etruscans, Vikings, Thais, Akkadians, Inca, Celts, Inuit, Japanese, and many many more.

The upshot? Rejection of same-sex marriage is not just “Christian” or “biblical” and is not a matter of "bigotry". Rather, the belief that marriage is always and only between male and female is secular and Buddhist and Zoroastrian and classically pagan. It is Islamic and Taoist and Mayan. It is Korean and Taureq.

It is, arguably, well nigh universally human.

Christians who insist on the traditional meaning of marriage need to remember they are in good company. They stand not just with their Scriptures, but with the whole of recorded human history. When challenged on their supposed "bigotry", they should point out that millennia of human experience across continents and oceans is nothing to sneeze at (although much that passes for "progress" from our current left surely is).

Further reading: Additional insights on this question can be found in anthropologist Peter W. Wood’s hard-hitting piece "Sex and Consequences", written years before the Obergefell debacle.

Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. and begin the long, hard reckoning.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Top Dems Mourn for the "Easter worshippers"

“Easter worshippers.” Hats off to Mr. Khachatrian for his graceful call-out. And the truth is, we have had more than enough of this.

The linguistic brush-off from Obama and Clinton is carefully calculated and clear as day. Don't think so? Just watch how the whole team takes it up:

These people don't dare sympathize with actually named Christian victims. It is against their religion.

Of course the Obama years were rife with this kind of linguistic sleight of hand. Exhibit 1: Obama almost never referred to religious freedom, but used freedom of worship instead.

Why? "Freedom of worship" suggests that Americans of faith should keep their religion INSIDE their churches or other houses of worship rather than live it in the public sphere. Obama's language was an intentional betrayal of the stronger vision of our Founders.

And the reality can no longer be denied. The language of our Democratic Party big wigs, even the “Christians” among them, is intentionally corrosive of Christianity. Here again, after this horrendous massacre, they pretend to reverence the many victims in Sri Lanka even as they subtly erase them.

Given the grievous persecution of Christians globally, it is disgusting. #WalkAway


No problem there. Of course not.

Eric Mader

Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. and begin the long, hard reckoning.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Superhero Needed: Adultman

Question: How old are you now?

Getting off the subway in Taipei today, I was assaulted by yet another poster for YET ANOTHER lame Hollywood superhero flick. Ironman 27? The Avengers: Dawn of Drool? I have no idea what it is. I just want it to go away.

Here in Taiwan we’re 11,000 km from California, but of course we’re not protected from this nonstop infantilism. Year after year they plaster our eyes with the same tired vomit.

Walking past this new poster, I suddenly realized what kind of superhero I could root for.

My superhero would have the ability to splinter, with a glance, any Hollywood production site in the process of making a superhero movie. He could make Robert Downey Jr.’s nose fall off with a swipe of the finger at thirty yards distance—yes, as if he were swiping a cell phone screen. When my superhero passed on the sidewalk, Spider-Man and X-men and Shazam (what in the fuck already!) posters would bleach pure white, then fall from the walls. Wonder-Woman would gain sixty pounds.

My superhero would also have the ability to enter packed movie theaters of people watching superhero films and simultaneously slap every face of every single person over age 14. WHAMMO! The drinks would go on their heads. Back in the parking lot to go home, hair all sticky, faces red, they’d find their cars replaced by four-inch-tall toy cars made of cotton candy.

These are the superpowers we need. That would be a superhero I could root for. I’d even watch the movie.

But what would his name be? GrowTheFuckUpman? Too long. How about simply Adultman? Yes.

Because really, what in the hell is all this? Shit that stopped interesting me when I was nine years old is constantly regurgitated and is the staple of “adult” entertainment in the developed world. It’s pathetic. What in the hell is going on?

Tell me. What in the hell is going on?


Answer: Age 4-7. DORK!

Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. and begin the long, hard reckoning.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Human-Giraffe Hybrid Scandal: BREAKING

In 1979 UC California Berkeley geneticist Yevgeny Vinogradov announced that he had successfully combined giraffe and human DNA. A later announcement indicated that Vinogradov and his research team thought they could “even create viable embryos”.

The scientific community was rightly scandalized by the suggestion in the announcement, and Prof. Vinogradov apologized.

Jump to 1985, when a leaked research log from one of Vinogradov’s team that referred to “average 65-82 IQ” and “speech abilities” led to suspicions that the project was secretly continued.

TONIGHT on Fox News:

A possible breakthrough in the human-giraffe hybrid scandal. Were hybrids actually somehow brought to term? If so, to what end?

Tune in to find out!

"Now that isn't funny."

Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. and begin the long, hard reckoning.

Friday, March 29, 2019

After Russiagate: Why the “High Road” Needs to Lead to Orange Jumpsuits

Lying liar John Brennan photographed while lying

The Russiagate scam is finally dead. But it would be a grave mistake to see it as just another example of “partisan politics as usual”. Nothing like it has ever happened before.

The scam was truly massive in scope. It was run through various branches of government simultaneously and included dozens of government officials, from Obama’s CIA chief John Brennan to the FBI’s James Comey down to whiny little Adam Schiff. Many of these officials, repeatedly, lied brazenly to the public about “evidence” they had “seen”. We now know they lied because there never was any evidence.

The Democratic Party’s attempted coup against an elected Republican president involved myriad felonies as well as Deep State attempts to hide those felonies. It’s no exaggeration to say that the actions of this cabal make Watergate look like child’s play.

So how are we to proceed? Many who were not duped by this scam to begin with are now insisting that whatever we do, we must not let Russiagate just drift out of the public consciousness. I think they’re right.

Michael Knowles underlines some of the issues:

Some people in the conservative wing, say that we need to just move on. Just move on, no more investigations, we've had enough — be a better person, just take the high road. There is nothing moral about just moving on. There is nothing on the high road about just moving on. This is not water under the bridge, it would be very wrong to just move on because they haven't apologized. And they are just going to do it again. All these people who lied through their teeth. People who were entrusted with the federal government. People who had the public trust. People who had the public trust as members of the media lied. They didn't just get it wrong. They lied through their teeth and they are totally unapologetic about it and they will do it again.

. . .

This is why it's so important to go after these guys with everything we've got — to bring more investigations, to bring them before judges and to put them into orange jumpsuits. It's not just a bunch of idiots on CNN. It's not just Jim Acosta. It's not just Ron Burgundy on CNN. It's a conspiracy. I don't know how else to put it. Is it a conspiracy when it's true?

We know that the federal government, the Democrats and the media conspired together to push a lie. We know that for a fact. Who exactly committed what improprieties is the next question, and that's what we'll find out with investigations. We know that for a fact, with such institutional support, all of the print media, mainstream media, the Pulitzer Prizes, and all of the accolades of this popular culture, all the way down to our pillars of government, the DOJ and the FBI. All the way down to the longest continually extant political party, the Democrat Party. All the way down to the Barack Obama administration spying on his political opponents, trying to prevent the Republicans from winning the next election. All of these institutions, working together to subvert the rule of law and to lie and to push lies through their teeth. It would be so wrong to just let this go as water under the bridge.

Knowles is right. Starting with Hillary’s server and massive destruction of evidence, moving on to high officials lying through their teeth about “evidence of collusion“ they never in fact saw, lies then blared through a fake news media 24/7 in literally thousands of reports for more than two years—this has been a criminal operation to undermine the Constitution.

Ask yourself: Has our republic faced anything like this in its 240-year history? Figures across different branches of government combining to overthrow a head of state on the basis of flat out lies and repetition of those lies?

No. This is unprecedented.

Given, again, the sheer scope of the scam, a reckoning is necessary. We must go back to re-investigate the Hillary campaign and its role. We need to investigate the FISA warrants, the lies, the seamless collusion with a toothless press corps.

The high road requires those responsible face responsibility for what they’ve done. The Trump Administration and the DOJ should get on it pronto.

A Taipei Mutt is now in print. The Asian capital unmuzzled.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Liberal America: Why You Are A Joke

So it’s nothing. Of course it is. Everyone using their noggin knew it was nothing from the start. Because the claims weren’t even coherent.

America had no need for the Mueller investigation. It was a witch-hunt-cum-smokescreen launched by a pissy Deep State/MSM cabal that couldn’t accept losing an election.

Sorry to blow my horn, but I figured this out before the end of 2016. And I’ve felt nothing but nausea watching half of America pretend for TWO YEARS STRAIGHT to believe something that isn’t even feasible on first glance.

“Trump colluded with Russia to win the White House” was predicated on an impossibility. Namely, that Putin’s government, early to mid-2016, recognized Trump as a serious candidate and potential future president. Which is frankly impossible, given that the sharpest American political analysts, through that whole period, considered the Trump candidacy a non-starter. NO ONE thought he could win the primaries, until he did. NO ONE besides Ann Coulter thought he had even a slight chance. But somehow the Russians knew months earlier? And the Russians were already backing him and even “colluding” with him to beat Hillary, who wasn't yet the official Dem nominee?

It’s not coherent. The whole collusion story itself, never mind the complete lack of evidence, was never even merely logical.

And now even CNN is admitting the president has been vindicated, proved right. CNN, the network that spent literally all of 2017 and half of 2018 on “Russia Russia Russia!”

CNN is a 24/7 farce. Utter joke. And sorry, but all of you who believed for a minute in this transparent two-year gaslighting operation that was blared at us—you are a joke too.

I write this as someone who wasn’t even a Trump supporter for most of 2016. I’d voted Democrat in every election since I reached 18 decades ago. But no more. Ever.

I will certainly be voting for the president in 2020. He’s done much better than I expected. Meanwhile my former party is offering nothing but shrill political correctness and hysteria. And now openly hates the United States Constitution.

Nonstop unregulated immigration, trans hormones for kids, Jussie Smollett hate crimes, Soviet-style speech codes on campus, the “Green New Deal”—that visionary document written by a teenager that warns of the climate impact of cow farts. Oh, and let's not forget infanticide as a woman's "right".

Left-liberal America: a sick joke on the verge of becoming a permanent nightmare. David Horowitz got you right: “Inside many liberals is a totalitarian screaming to get out.” Except the word many no longer applies. The word now should be most.

The gutter is where you all belong. I hope enough Americans besides myself keep voting to put you there.

#WalkAway #MuellerInvestigation #Gaslighting #Russiagate #JOKE

Eric Mader

Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. and begin the long, hard reckoning.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Rod Dreher's Facebook "Followers"

For years Rod Dreher at The American Conservative has been following the insanity of our sexual left, tracing its juvenile fads and fetishes, documenting its woke Kool-Aid authoritarianism. His blog there also has one of the sharpest groups of regular commenters on the Internet.

But when TAC posts Dreher's pieces on its Facebook page, the commentary is monochrome. Repeatedly, there's a literal horde weighing in within hours to savage him, nearly always in the same terms. What's interesting is that these are not mainly garden-variety trolls, I think, but actual readers of TAC who somehow love to loathe Dreher's cultural conservatism. Which reveals something: many of our young "political" conservatives, at least those on Facebook, don't have a moment's patience for religiously grounded critiques of the Sexual Revolution. (Yes, not only "conservatives" follow TAC, but I think it's safe to assume that many of those posting consider themselves one type or another of conservative.)

I'll just post some screenshots from today's salvo. And honestly, this is perhaps the most polite series of comments I've seen this bunch give Dreher in months. Usually the savaging reveals a deeper discomfort--what I read as the fear of many thirty-somethings (?) to be even tangentially linked to someone who might be accused of being a "bigot". Thus, in this group of readers, Dreher simply must be savaged.

I used to engage in these threads now and then. Now I see it as wasted time, though I did deliver a punch today.

The comments are on a piece in which Dreher formulates a new law of public attention--the Law of Motivated Noticing. These are motivated noticers of a certain type, I'd say--people who can't sit still if anyone dares suggest in their presence that our sexual anti-culture is a civilizational problem. These are noticers who are sadly downstream in the Andrew Breitbart sense.

Oh, and of course:

If mainstream culture and the education system is daily prodding kids to discover they're "trans", if gay men celebrate urinating on each other as a kind of public rite, that's because "people want to be accepted as they are". You should just take a lesson from Kindergarten (what Kindergarten?) and say nothing if you think these things are signs of anti-culture.

Check out my just-published book Minor Scratches, and stock up on Band-Aids while you're at it.

Monday, February 4, 2019

My Brother Sohrab Ahmari

Yes, I consider Sohrab Ahmari a brother of sorts. I’ll confess I laughed aloud more than a few times while reading his youthful memoir From Fire, by Water. Part of it was that Ahmari is in ways a laughable sort. Doubtless we’d all be laughable if we dared undertake such brutal self-revelation as he does. But even more than laughing at Ahmari, I laughed because his zigzagging intellectual youth traces my own nearly to a tee. Ahmari’s brave self-interrogation in this book is a mirror in which I was forced to revisit the stages I myself went through. It made me laugh at my younger self.

This coincidence is odd, given the stark difference in our backgrounds. Cultural/geographical: Ahmari’s Tehran childhood vs. my suburban Wisconsin childhood. Generational: Ahmari is a young man, in his 30s; I’m in my 50s.

In common we have the fact that we both became Catholic in the middle of the current decade (2015 for me, 2016 for him). But there’s much more commonality, as you’ll see.

Ahmari’s tale begins with his childhood in the Ayatollah’s Iran. Raised in a middle-class Tehran household by liberal-minded parents who kept their real lives hidden from the regime, Ahmari learned English young as was infected by an admiration for all things Western, especially American. His portrait of the double lives of those around him is sketched with a swift, light touch. Still, the memory of regime menace, always present in the form of school officials and morality police, and his sense of Iran as a land stuck in fatalistic nostalgia, burning with ideological rage, a land “[smelling] of dust mingled with stale rose-water”, clearly mark off the Iran chapters of his book from the intellectually madcap American chapters to follow.

At age 14, Ahmari immigrates with his mother to the US and starts a new life near an uncle in small-town Utah. In a narrative turn that will disappoint many an American patriot (and many a Mormon besides) the young Iranian is horrified by the cultural wasteland he finds himself in. His youthful dreams of the US as intellectually advanced, and deeply secular, are dashed. He’s repulsed by the numbingly shallow conversations Americans engage in when together (cars, sports, bargains, weather); he’s indifferent to his high school’s sports rituals; he’s amazed that his neighbors actually believe the Mormon scriptures; American girls his age are aggressively physical in ways he can’t process. These pages remind me of my own teenage years in Wisconsin. I never could grasp, and still can’t, Americans enthusiasm for sports. (A confession, of which I’m secretly proud: I have yet to watch a full game of American football from start to finish. Ever. To me “Super Bowl” refers to a vast toilet fixture, one large enough to flush the NFL and NBA simultaneously.)

But just when the disillusioned young Ahmari feels himself going irreversibly sour on America, he one day comes across a copy of Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra in a book store. He buys it, takes it home, devours it on his bed, and is reborn. Never a pious Muslim, still disappointed that Americans themselves are so religious, Ahmari declares himself a Nietzschean.

It’s here where I begin to laugh at myself. At age 16, in a Milwaukee book store, hardly knowing their content, I also picked up the hammer of Nietzsche in the form of two slim paperback volumes: The Antichrist and Twilight of the Idols. I took them home and was likewise electrified by what I found. Ahmari’s difference from me here is that he, as an Iranian from the capital, at least had some notion of what an intellectual was. My own milquetoast Midwest education hadn’t even hinted at the existence of such a class of being. My discovery of Nietzsche was thus a double revelation: 1) God was dead, as I’d already suspected; 2) one could use writing, and this thing called “philosophy”, to seize upon the world and maybe even wrench it into different forms.

I followed my purchase of the Nietzsche volumes by building up much the same small library of “existentialist” writers Ahmari did (Camus, Sartre, Dostoyevsky, Kierkegaard) though in my case Colin Wilson’s dour book The Outsider proved key in terms of suggesting new titles and deepening my sense of the crisis. Like Ahmari, as I gather from his hints, I became a brooding verbal scourge at my high school.

Ahmari’s Nietzschean awakening soon gave way, via the “existentialists”, to political engagement and Marxism. For me a similar phase began when I entered the University of Wisconsin-Madison to study Comparative Literature. In 1987, I was sent for a month to Gorbachev’s USSR as a citizen diplomat of sorts. Ahmari ended up studying philosophy and getting involved with a Trotskyite cell. We both at this stage became enamored of the Beats, especially William S. Burroughs.

These parallels may not be very interesting to readers of this review, who may find such an intellectual trajectory a bit banal, or common. If so, sorry to bore. But the pace, the concerns, the motives—to go by Ahmari’s memoir, they were nearly identical for the two of us. And what seems odd is that I went through the trajectory starting around 1983, whereas he began his more than a decade later.

Further, some may find this range of philosophical and literary obsessions (Nietzsche, Marxism, William S. Burroughs) bizarre for two men who were to end up Catholic. I don't find it odd in the least.

And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: … “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am going to spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:14-5)

One kernel of truth in this verse from Revelation is the following: those who burn most feverishly against God, who struggle heroically to reject God’s knocking, often only manage to mark themselves out as future faithful. Ahmari was such. His memoir demonstrates that his halting steps toward faith were nearly all made possible by his keen intellectual honesty combined with resistance to that faith. And the fact that grace finally reached him.

Ahmari’s conversion story is the heart of the book: those pages where cracks appear in the confident secularism to which he’d committed himself. He has finished university, begun work as a teacher. From one especially dedicated colleague, whose comportment in life contrasts painfully with his own often hungover self, he learns the worth of honesty and resolve. He is nagged more and more by the sense that academic leftist or left-liberal explanations for evil in the world are incoherent, just as he realizes that the identity categories of SJW politics don’t even half explain the dynamics of victim and oppressor in the real world.

He reads more widely, and is impressed by the horrendous failure of all the grand modern projects (particularly Marxism) predicated on the notion that man can be remade according to ideology—and that such remaking can be a recipe for progress. He begins to realize that it is rather the conservative vision, grounded in religious tradition, that makes sense of the arc of history. In fact, contrary to what Marx and Sartre might argue, human nature is both unchangeable and shot through with sin, and will remain so regardless of political revolutions or any new economic dispensation that might be effected. There are, instead, two things necessary. First: attending to human nature as it really is; accepting and understanding it with all its fatal flaws. Second: listening to that internal voice that calls in all of us, namely conscience, a voice that insistently prods us whenever we begin to move toward evil or injustice—that even prods us when the injustice we are about to commit has been justified by some utopian political program.

Basic experiential recognitions like these, which come like epiphanies to Ahmari as he continues his work as a teacher, join up with his keen understanding of the centrality of sacrifice in the human condition, and together prepare the way for his recognition of the central Gospel truth re-enacted in the Mass.

I won’t try to describe Ahmari’s pages on what actually happened to him, how he was finally shaken to his depths while attending a Mass in New York. His depiction of his doubts, his telling of how the stages each gave way to the next, his final decision to become Catholic and the process of joining the Church—it is all narrated with a compelling honestly that evidences no designs on the reader. One has rather the impression of a very careful observer of self doing his best to explain what that self has lived and seen in the world.

From Fire, by Water is a brave book and, for all its intellectual twists and turns, surprisingly readable. I’ve often read and been impressed by Ahmari’s articles in recent years, but this book stands out as a real gem. I’d highly recommend it to anyone engaged with current left-wing politics in the US. It will challenge you. Also, of course, Catholics, especially those who’ve been educated in the humanities in recent decades, will get much from the book—perhaps, like me, more than a few laughs.

But before closing, I’ll mention one more parallel between my brother and I. Ahmari married an Asian American architect from Xi’an, China. Myself, I married a Taiwanese poet and literary scholar from Taiwan. Unless I’m mistaken, Mandarin Chinese is also now on Ahmari’s plate, as it’s been part of my diet for many years.

Order Ahmari’s From Fire, by Water: My Journey to the Catholic Faith.

Have some deadpan with your coffee. Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. Dryest humor in the west.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

What It Does

What it does to you is a thing you would not want done to you. Not by any stretch of the time we fell under the sway of ending.

You’re here and be grateful it’s not you either. Should you see them coming to the end of your tether, look away. That you no longer trust each other they take for granted. They’ll grant it you as a given of their supposedly benign presence. Look away. And think only this: What was is the future we hope for.

Mutterings may console. And who do they expect to fool with these arguments that I for one find utterly persuasive?

We are in the place where all fear the one thing that has happened already.


Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. and begin the long, hard reckoning.