Of Curmudgeonly Interest This Week – 20 February 2017

A bit of a break

I’ve been travelling on family business, so I missed last week’s post of Things Interesting. Here’s a couple that I did manage to catch.

The Age of Civilizational Self-Loathing

Many years ago, I worked in a printing factory. The storeman was a lovely, gentlemanly Indian named Alastair. Talking on the tram home one afternoon, I discovered that Alastair was actually a qualified English teacher. To achieve this qualification, back home in India, among other things he’d had to learn at least three of Shakespeare’s plays, word for word.

Yet, in Australia, heir to the English-speaking tradition of Shakespeare, Alastair could not find work teaching the language of the Bard. This, in a nutshell, sums up the civilizational ignorance Steyn talks of – a deliberately cultivated culture of contempt for the Western heritage.

It’s not just that our children are ignorant of the glories of Greece and Rome, as Steyn says, but they’ve actually been taught to hate them. They’ve been taught to hate Shakespeare … and this is a horrible thing to do to children: to maintain them in a state, not just a state of ignorance, but a state of ignorance that is intended to breed civilizational self-loathing.

I’m reminded of Orwell’s warning, in The Road to Wigan Pier, of “the intellectual, book-trained Socialist, who understands that it is necessary to throw our present civilization down the sink and is quite willing to do so”.

In the second part of this conversation, Steyn touches on the culture of snitching:

If you know anything about East Germany … any of these countries, one of the most evil things the state did was  … that you could never really trust anybody, even members of your own family, because the state had turned them into state snitches.

We have that now … The idea that people will snitch on people, that they will say, “oh yes, he implied in private life that he’s not fully on board with gay marriage, so we have to leak that to the world and do something about it – a culture of snitching … you make the wrong joke and somebody overhears it, and your life is destroyed. We should be ashamed of going down that road.

Imaginary News

Scott Adams’ has written some excellent blog pieces over the past eighteen months or so – and now he wades into the “fake news” phenomenon.

One suspects that the mainstream media are beginning to wish that they’d never conjured up the “fake news” bogey-man, given that its been used against them to such devastating effect. Now every stuff-up, misrepresentation, and downright lie peddling by the ever-more blatantly partisan mainstream media is excoriated as the very “fake news” that they tried to take down their competitors with.

Talk about an own goal: if American media (in particular) is in a state of unparalleled crisis, as some have argued, then that is largely of their own making.

Anyway, as Adams argues, much of what is gleefully tarred as “fake news” could more properly be described as “imaginary news”, in that it is not reporting entirely fake events, but its reporting is literally imaginary. The reporter is seeing the same thing as everyone else, but imagining things that others just don’t see.

Trump’s unexpected win forced the Huffington Post to rewrite their mental movies from one in which they were extra-clever writers to one in which they were the dumbest political observers in the entire solar system … when reality violates your ego that rudely, you either have to rewrite the movie in your head to recast yourself as an idiot, or you rewrite the movie to make yourself the hero who could see what others missed.

The Comments on the Adams blog: it’s worth reading the comments discussing the way news organisations choose photographs of Trump v Obama. This is what’s known in the game as visual framing.

Milo Yiannopoulos spars with Bill Maher, panel in ‘Real Time’ debut

Bill Maher personally irritates the hell out of me – smug, condescending git – and I daresay much of the foaming hatred of Milo arises from the fact that he does the same to others.

Yet, I’m willing to give this to Maher: he’s no hypocrite. He really does practise what he preaches. He is the quintessential irritating New Atheist, but unlike nearly all of them, he has the guts to give it to Islam with both barrels, every bit as much as he does to Christianity. Similarly, with free speech, Maher doesn’t just pay lip-service to the idea, and graciously dole out free speech to people he agrees with: if I banned everyone from my show who I thought was colossally wrong, I would be talking to myself.

The live-to-air segment with Maher was excellent, with some of Milo’s barbs particularly underscoring how “liberal” audiences are so conditioned to policing language and thought that they cannot even understand humour any more – something Maher obviously picked up, as he read out a list of some of Joan Rivers’ most vicious one-liners. The message was plain, Rivers was a “national treasure”, but Milo is a “hate figure”, even though both made much the same jokes (and both were conservatives) – the only difference was that one (Rivers) was perceived to be one of the tribe.

But as Milo noted, policing humor for racism and sexism is utterly wrong-headed. That’s how we build bridges, not how we break them. When you make jokes, that’s how you connect with somebody. This was much the same point made by another flaming Englishman, some years ago, when Julian Clary was asked why he made so many jokes about gay sex.

But, as Milo said, authoritarians hate the sound of laughter. Tyrants are terrified of being laughed at.

This was on full display in the online-only “Overtime” panel discussion, which doesn’t show Milo at his best, but frankly shows the panel being much worse, as they proceed to repeatedly shout over, and finally hurl childish expletives at the court jester who’s pricked the bubble of their self-importance.

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