February 22, 2016

What any five-year-old would know was murder

[I wrote this in September of 2015, but didn't find a publisher.  - emc]
The recent videos of Planned Parenthood officials behaving abominably has drawn out an abominably bad argument in Planned Parenthood’s defense.  The argument is that the sale of fetal organs is justified because the organs would only go to waste if Planned Parenthood didn’t sell them, and that the money raised by selling them is used for good purposes.  Now, if one were to take any of the bodies that are big enough to harvest useful organs from and lay it on a table it would be a recognizable human being – not a mere clump of cells, but a baby – with human arms and legs and a human face.  Seeing it would make most other human beings, even most liberals, uncomfortable and sad in the way that seeing any dead child makes any decent person feel uncomfortable and sad.  A five-year-old would recognize it as a person.
Generally, we do not think of dead human beings as scrap material, or as slabs of meat.  We grant them a kind of instinctive reverence – an acknowledgment of the fact that what we see in front of us was once the dwelling place of feelings and a mind like our own, however inexperienced or unknowable.  In other words, we see in a dead human body a reflection of ourselves.  We would not think of our own bodies as something to be chopped up so they could be put to some better purpose than we could achieve by our own lives.  We might be willing to donate our organs for others to use after our deaths – but that is a moral choice we are allowed to make as grown-up human beings.  That is a choice.  We would not want someone else to decide our organs mattered – but that we did not.  We have a certain inner sense that our own lives are sacred, and, if we open our hearts, we know that other peoples lives, no matter how humble or how small, are sacred too.  Our society has a new phrase to express this inner understanding.  In the language of the left, the supreme court, and many well-educated people, this form of compassion is simply known as religious bigotry.  It is our fate to live in such a modern and enlightened age.
The argument Planned Parenthood’s advocates make is much the same as Josef Mengele might have made for performing unspeakable experiments on child prisoners in Auschwitz.  The children were going to die anyway, so why let their little bodies go to waste?  The answer, in both cases, is that the crime began not with an act, but with an idea.  The idea is that a few helpless lives, more-or-less, are unimportant.  That certain people can be arbitrarily declared not persons.  Normal, reasonable practices don’t get built on a foundation of the execution of the innocent.  When a society pretends that a certain kind of murder ought to be engaged in for the greater good, when it de-values the lives of the innocent and helpless, its moral pretensions become an empty joke.  It sticks a knife into the very concept of morality.
At the mere mention of the Holocaust, I imagine the proponents of Planned Parenthood will roll their eyes and accuse me of inflammatory name calling.  I stand by the comparison.  Find another instance of the taking of human life in such a cold, systematic, institutional way.  Legalized abortion is not the unfortunate random bloodletting of war, but a cool, planned, careful implementation of someone’s idea of what is best for society.  It is not merely killing, but premeditated, intellectualized murder.
Nor is the similarity between the Holocaust and Planned Parenthood’s actions a mere coincidence.  Both the Holocaust and Planned Parenthood have their origins in the same eugenics movement of the early twentieth century.  Eugenics, simply put, was the idea that, by the selective breeding of good human specimens on the one hand, and the prevention of breeding by inferior human specimens on the other, the human race might be perfected.  We all know that Adolf Hitler carried this idea to its gruesome conclusion.  Fewer know that Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, followed the same idea to a similar conclusion.  Both believed that, to make a better society, some blameless lives would have to be thrown out like so much garbage.  While legal abortion is no longer usually practiced for the misguided purpose of building a better race at any cost, it is still in every way the bloody legacy of that idea.  An idea which, in the case of the Holocaust, cost 13 million people their lives.  Abortions – in the United States alone – exceeded that death toll decades ago.
What the film makers from the Center for Medical Progress has done in its Planned Parenthood videos is little different from what US Army photographers did at Buchenwald and Dachau.  They have simply exposed reality to the light of day.  In neither case was any embellishment necessary.  The only thing surprising is our own surprise.  Did we expect that people who earn their wages by dismembering living human beings would somehow do that ghoulish work with loving compassion and respect?  Were the people who ran Dachau a kind and gentle species of men?  When a person deals, year in and year out, in human butchery and the callous sale of body parts – can he or she retain some moral compass worth the term?  We have only seen what has really always been there, hidden discreetly behind dignified walls.  We have only seen what we should have expected.  What any normal five-year-old would know was murder.

If we can tolerate such things and do nothing we are as guilty as the Germans were.  Or rather we are worse, because at least the Germans could claim they didn’t know, or didn’t know the details, of what was happening around them.  You and I have known all along.  I myself have driven past Right-to-Life demonstrations with their terrible grizzly signs and did nothing but shake my head and wish that they would take their awful images away.  I have quietly accepted this ongoing atrocity as the perverse expression of a civil right, and left it go unnoticed and unconsidered – out of sight and out of mind.  Who am I to condemn the girl or young woman who, desperate and confused, accepts the lies and evil advice of calm, credentialed people in white coats?  We have all been lied to, and most of us have lied to ourselves.  What appears obscene and wrong at first – almost always truly is.  The price of that kind of error, sadly, is often paid in innocent blood.

The war we lack the will to fight

America has developed an unrealistic aversion to losing soldiers.  I do not mean to undervalue, in any way, the people on whom our freedom ultimately depends.  I am saying that, as a nation, we’ve forgotten what a real war is.  On an average day in World War II, America suffered the deaths of 302 combatants.  Not on D-Day or during the battle of Iwo Jima, but on an average day during the conflict.  The current general conflict with Islamic fundamentalism has cost the US about 1.5 combatants on an average day.  If you consider the difference between these two wars on a per capita basis, the ratio is not 200-to-1, but closer to 500-to-1 – since we now have more than double the population.  Nevertheless, the comparatively tiny number of deaths in the current conflict (along with a somewhat more substantial number of wounded) has left America fatigued and gun-shy.  Even conservatives complain bitterly about any hint of “more American boots on the ground.”
We are also much more sensitive to enemy civilian deaths than we were during World War II.  The number of civilian dead the US is responsible for is hard to determine for a variety of reasons, but the qualitative policy differences are plain.  During World War II we heavily bombed both German and Japanese cities with very little political backlash.  Now, we hear public outcries at the occasional smart-bomb that finds its way – quite accidentally – onto a group of non-combatants.  We bomb ISIS oil trucks with reluctance because they might be driven by civilians.
The origins of these changes in the public tolerance for bloodletting would be interesting to examine, but for my purpose it is enough to simply understand that these changes have occurred.  Together, these two essentially sociological factors have forced us to fight our wars the way we do – using tactical air power almost to the exclusion of other means.
Bombing a technologically inferior enemy from sophisticated tactical aircraft has to be one of the safest forms of warfare ever devised.  Drone attacks are even safer.  Though the financial costs of these methods are spectacular, the personnel losses are minimal.  Likewise, compared to the mass, unguided bombing campaigns in World War II, modern tactical bombing kills a minimum of enemy civilians.  The “bad-guy-to-bystander” ratio is quite high, the obvious trade-off being, again, the astronomical cost of smart munitions.  A variable imbedded in the equation is the use of special forces teams to locate targets for the planes.  More teams = more dead soldiers (on both sides).  Fewer teams = more dead bystanders (and lower overall effectiveness).  The overriding consideration in employing air power this way is not the age-old goal of military victory, but the goal of avoiding incidents that journalists might publicize as atrocities.  War, the planners imagine, can be conducted without the mess.  The lives that are wasted through the unnecessary prolongation of the fighting do not seem to bother journalists or politicians as much as individually bloody events.  Their concern is about today’s news cycle, not the retrospective view of history.
Unfortunately, our enemies are rarely either as stupid or as sensitive as our politicians or our press corps.  The experienced jihadist knows perfectly well that the safest place to deploy a rocket launcher is in a populated area – preferably next to a school.  Hamas has used the heightened sensitivities of the western world against Israel and ISIS uses them against us.  Moreover, our enemies also know that the second-tier anti-aircraft weapons they are stuck with don’t have much chance of downing American aircraft.  Unable to fight American soldiers or shoot down American planes, terrorism against our population is the only option left.  It seems to be their preferred option in any case.  I am sure that whatever fraction of our officer corps that has eluded political castration knows all of this and more.  I am equally certain that the progressive politicians now in power consider professional officers untrustworthy and think of warfare as a dirty subject – unworthy of study by sophisticated people like themselves.  We have only to look at the Obama administration’s prisoner exchange policies, their unjustified faith in their own diplomatic effectiveness, and their penchant for releasing militarily significant information to the press, to see their cold contempt for military considerations.  Making war has always been a tragic, wretched business – but many contemporary politicians seem to think the new millennium has somehow made warfare an entirely optional undertaking.  It is not.
No amount of air power is capable of occupying even enough land for the skinniest of diplomats to stand on.  Aircraft, broadly speaking, can only perform two operations.  They can find potential targets and they can destroy them.  The cannot search houses or occupy streets.  The continual call, from presidential candidates of both of our political parties, for a gaggle of Arab allies to do the dirty work of dying for American national interests is a frank admission of our national impotence.  From a foreign policy perspective, it is also desperately shortsighted.  The people that do the dying have an understandable expectation of getting victory on their terms.  Their aspirations and ours are not the same.  Even with our ground troops present, neither Afghanistan nor Iraq showed much interest in rebuilding themselves as modern, democratic, western nations.  Culture has never been that conveniently malleable.  Afghanistan and Iraq are the same tribal, corrupt, politically and morally backward places they have been for centuries.  Eliminating ISIS with a group of proxies will not put an end to Wahhabism, but will merely disturb its focus temporarily.  History has let the caliphate out of the bag, and the destruction of one provisional Islamist state is not going to put it back again.  Unless we are driven to the level of public outrage necessary to either occupy the entire Muslim world or reduce it to a depopulated smoking ruin, the jihadists will continue to rise from their own ashes with a new name and the same old 7th century objective.  Campaign rhetoric is unlikely to arouse that kind of public will.
Donald Trump, to be fair, has a different bad plan from all the others.  He wants to “take the oil.”  There is no way to do this without a massive ground operation.  One cannot exactly fly off with the oil in a special forces helicopter.  “Taking the oil” would mean permanently occupying not only the oil fields themselves, but also enough secure territory to run a pipeline to the closest defensible port – without any pretense of ever leaving.  The “Trump pipeline” would indeed rob the enemy of considerable wealth, at the cost of a slow trickle of dead American soldiers for a very long time.  It is militarily possible but politically unthinkable.
Despite what you might think, I am not a defeatist.  I believe that war and air power have a valid role, it just doesn’t happen to be the role of playing king-maker between competing tribal nations.  It is not a good thing when one tribe of barbarians butchers another, but we have neither the public will nor the responsibility to stop them.  The role of the American military ought to be the protection of the United States.  In our time that should probably include the suppression of nuclear weapons programs in hostile nations, and hard but measured retaliation against the known state supporters of terrorist acts.  It should not concern itself with maintaining familiar borders on middle eastern maps.  In a sane world, nations that chant “death to America” or hold our citizens for ransom ought to be considered enemies.  If they declare themselves at war with us – we ought to take them at their word.  They should be punished – they should not be managed.  If tactical air power is the only tool the public will let our military use, we should at least employ it effectively – more against nuclear facilities and valuable enemy assets, and less against illiterate fanatics with Kalashnikovs. 

While we must react forcefully in the international sphere to re-establish our credibility, the larger problem of terrorism cannot be solved with high explosives or American troops on foreign soil.  The idea of Jihad is simply too widespread.  The greatest supporters of terrorism against the US are not Saudi princes or the Islamic Republic of Iran, but the weepy, hand-wringing advocates of open borders and multiculturalism.  Neither the 9/11 bombers, Major Hasan, the Tsarnaev brothers, nor the San Bernardino shooters lived in places one could use a Hellfire missile against.  Through the power of self-destructive immigration policies – they all lived right here.  That is where our present focus should be.

How progressives murdered Bat Boy

Originally Published by American Thinker

For those of you who are very young, or who have spent your days so glued to your cellphones that you haven’t noticed the trashy newspapers in supermarket checkout lanes, Bat Boy was a monster – half boy and half bat – the creation of the Weekly World News.  Bat Boy was supposed to have been discovered in a West Virginia cave in 1992.  He was two feet tall at the time of his discovery, but grew – as most kids do.  He did all sorts of interesting things, including fighting terrorism with the Army on some occasions.  He had what might be described as a love-hate relationship with the US government.  A perceptive boy if ever there was one.

The institution of the supermarket tabloid goes back as far as I can personally remember.  In the 1970’s their pages were about evenly populated with fictitious monsters, UFO sightings, the wild discoveries of Soviet scientists, and assorted celebrity gossip.  Stuck in line with your mom and the groceries, you couldn’t help but look.  Sensible people never took the pre-Photoshop creations of these vulgar newspapers very seriously, but they have always had a certain appeal to the high school sophomore that lives on quietly in most of us.  When I was young, whether a kid’s family actually bought the National Inquirer amounted to a kind of rough IQ test.  If they not only bought it but actually believed it, one could assume they were not exactly overachievers.

If you are thinking I am going to tell you how Bill and Hillary kidnapped Bat Boy, and how he subsequently died during salacious activities on Jeffrey Epstein’s “orgy island,” I will have to disappoint you.  Bat Boy died a more humdrum, more pedestrian death.  He was simply upstaged by the increasing circus-like condition of the real world.  The Clintons were accessories to the crime of course, but Bat Boy’s murder was committed by progressives and their culture en masse – and, as usual, no indictment has ever been filed.

Even at the time of Bat Boy’s discovery, Michael Jackson was well on the way supplanting him in the tabloid press.  Fake freaks do not compete well against real ones.  Bat Boy’s pointy ears and pointy teeth were no match for Jackson’s pointy nose and hideously angular face.  Simply escaping from one captor after another didn’t compare with the sensationalism of Jackson’s real life.  When faced with a half-black, half-white celebrity pedophile wearing a single white glove, what’s a half-boy, half-bat to do?  Run like a bat out of hell?  This, I think, is why Bat Boy abandoned his life of minor crime, turned over a new leaf, and pursued a life of national service.  Being a good conservative Appalachian kid at heart, he believed that America would warm to a military hero more than it would indulge its baser curiosities about a freak.  Unfortunately for Bat Boy, and for ourselves, times and sensibilities had changed.  No amount of heroism could halt his inevitable demise.

The Weekly World News stopped printing physical papers in 2007, following their readers into the netherworld of cyberspace a couple of years later.  Bat Boy faded away, his final resting place unknown.  Bat Boy’s less patriotic successor is the equally bizarre but sadly less fictitious monster, “Caitlyn” Jenner.  “Caitlyn,” we all know, is half-man and half-woman.  “She” was popularized on another well-known supermarket magazine, Vanity Fair.  Jenner, then named Bruce, was also a feature of my childhood grocery memories – appearing on Wheaties cereal boxes as the greatest of America’s Olympic heroes.  The 66-year-old self-made hermaphrodite is still a hero to some, winning the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.  I know you already know these things.  The problem is not that “you cannot make these things up”.  The problem is that you no longer have to.

Pretty soon, if we don’t change the culture’s direction, all forms of satire from the crudest to the most refined will follow the late Bat Boy into the abyss.  As people have begun to turn their cellphone cameras on themselves the job of freak has far more applicants than available positions.  Freakishness used to be something I could pick up or leave in the rack like a pack of chewing gum.  Now I live in a thoroughly freakish world.  Open YouTube and click the “Trending” button if you feel my assessment has been unduly harsh.  The shrinking list of traditional tabloids must struggle to think of anything shocking left to print.  They are now overwhelmingly populated with pictures of celebrities turned fat and ugly – something to make supermarket customers feel a little less bad about the eight packages of Oreos and two gallons of ice cream nestled in their carts.  If you cannot entertain the public with the bizarre, a bit of schadenfreude will have to do.  At the bitter end, if the trend continues, perhaps the tabloids will start showing normal people on their covers.  People with any sort of lasting standards are rapidly becoming the monsters of tomorrow.

The Academic War on Facts

Originally Published by American Thinker

When I was in college back in the 1980s, a couple of new degree programs, Women’s Studies and Afro-American Studies, were starting to gain in popularity.  The purpose of these programs, everyone knew perfectly well, was to advance the cause of political activism for these two demographic groups.  Activism isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Without a doubt, there really had been barriers to women’s advancement, more social than legal, but by the 1980s these were clearly fading – more as the result of the huge number of women advancing themselves than as the result of the efforts of radical feminists.  Similarly, there had also been genuinely oppressive Jim Crow laws constraining black Americans, but those laws had been almost entirely knocked down in the 1950s and 60s.  America of the 1980s was not a perfectly gender-blind or color-blind society, but we were clearly on the right track.  True sexism and racism were well on the decline.  But along with the real progress there came a class of professional progressive activists.  Their more courageous predecessors having all but won the war, this new generation of reformers established permanent institutions in academia to re-fight it.  Never mind the notable lack of sexist or racist stalwarts in authority to oppose.  If an activist runs out of enemies, it is no great challenge to reinvent them.

An institution of reform has the same core priority as any other institution.  That priority is to survive and grow.  Institutions provide good jobs for the people who make the decisions, promote the cause, and shuffle the paper.  I have often suspected that if a scientist arrived in the lobby of the American Cancer Society with a cure for all forms of cancer, the managing director’s first impulse would be to jump for joy – but a moment’s reflection would reveal the need to take the wretched troublemaker to the basement and beat him to death.  What’s the American Cancer Society without Cancer?  And what’s an activist without a cause?

Not wanting to be called either racist or sexist (the postmodernist equivalent to being accused of witchcraft) university administrations were not inclined to hold their new activist programs to any sort of standards.  Whatever inflammatory theories emerged from them might have been greeted with an inward cringe – but this absolutely had to be accompanied with an outward nod of approval.  The phrases “moral courage” and “university administration” rarely come together in a single sentence.

One of the early products of this new activism was the feminist Susan Brownmiller’s concept of a culture of rape.  In Brownmiller’s view, rape is not primarily a crime of an unrestrained sexual impulse, but is instead an assertion of power.  It is not the personal violation of one individual by another, but is instead a political act – an expression of all men’s collective desire to oppress all women.  This strange idea annoyed me from the start.  To begin with, I had never been invited to the secret meeting in which all of the planet’s men had voted to embark on such a brutish plan.  More to the point, it was simply counter to the obvious facts.  Real rapists are morally deficient, either for uniquely individual reasons, or because they are members of some nameable degenerate or barbaric culture.  The barbaric culture that is currently overrunning Europe leaps to mind.  Does any sane person really think that what is going through a rapist’s mind is: “I feel an overwhelming urge to assert collective male dominance over women”?  Decent men are quite resentful at being lumped into the collective “men” so that they can be held jointly accountable with genuine predators with whom they have little in common, and over whom they have no control.  But preposterous ideas like this one suite the activist’s purposes.  Brownmiller’s theory has two characteristics we have now seen repeated as a kind of formula.  First, any critique of the theory brands you as part of the problem – a unfeeling and reactionary troglodyte whose views only offer proof of the theory’s correctness.  Second, the theory singles out no actionable causes, but simply drives an ugly wedge between two, largely artificial, classes.  True, there really were men and women in 1975 when Brownmiller published her book (now, even the basic division of humanity into two simple genders is considered oppression) – but there never was a polity of “all men” as distinct from a polity of “all women.”  Whether Brownmiller or some more straightforwardly political radical like Alinsky made this blueprint is a matter of academic interest – if you’ll forgive the play on words.  Either way, the pattern was set.

Academia has a special place in society as one of very few institutions expected to define and promulgate truth.  The more secular a society becomes, the more academia holds that power alone.  That is why the decline in standards of evidence within any branch of academia is so damaging.  Politics has always been the domain of liars and demagogues.  It has been the twin bulwarks of religious moral principle and hard, substantiated facts that have held politics in check in modern times.  We now live in a society where truths are no longer buttressed by either.  If tenured professors are not interested in facts, we should not be too surprised that no one else is.  Contemporary academic standards are not those of the hard sciences.  Instead, they are the soft standards of liberal arts – not of physics and chemistry, but of literature and narrative.  The question is no longer “Is it true?,” but “Does it make a compelling story?”  “Does it stir the audience’s feelings?”  “Does it have clear-cut heroes and clear-cut villains?”  This shift explains not only the weird synthesis of news with entertainment, but the equally bizarre prevalence of celebrity activism.  Why would anyone, thinking rationally, care what a sadism-obsessed deviant like Quentin Tarantino has to say about political or social issues?  People care because we live in a society without rational standards.  We do not have “credible authorities” – we only have “opinion makers.”

The government we are currently saddled with is saturated with officials from my generation.  We were taught, however subtly, that the standards of truth to which people should be held accountable depend on who they are and what they happen to be saying.  The grievances of minority groups, for example, can simply not be questioned.  The grievances of non-minority groups (white southerners are a perennial favorite) can be immediately reviled and dismissed.  Racism is back with a vengeance – the difference is that now you will be called racist if you attempt to point it out.  Relevant objective facts, like the prevalence of black-on-black crime, are excluded from consideration.  Politically acceptable “truth” isn’t to be found in facts, but simply in the recitation of the narrative.

If the current state of things is terrible, the possibilities for the future are nearly unimaginable.  What would happen if the self-indulgent, sexually ambiguous thumb-suckers that inhabit university safe-spaces today, demanding trigger warnings so that their hypersensitive feeling aren’t scratched by anything factual, find their way into positions of real authority?  These monsters scare even the liberal Professor Frankensteins who created them. Mercifully, we may never know what a world run by student cry-bullies would be like – but only because it will either collapse or change before they manage to ascend to the throne.  In times of real scarcity, the people who put up the front money for university educations (parents, banks, or the Federal government) will figure out that investing money merely to produce unproductive narcissists is not only unprofitable, but redundant work.  Even the worst middle school in the poorest inner-city ghetto can make losers out of any human raw material provided, bad or good.  Indeed, contemporary culture probably produces losers without any educational assistance at all.  Even now, the actual demand for educationally-induced political activism is minuscule.  One elite school was all we needed to produce the narcissistic loser that occupies the White House now – and one of him has been quite enough to nearly bring the country to its knees.