National Review: The New Infowars

Last week, Pope Francis became the first pope in history to do a Google Hangout.  He did so, the Vatican explained, because so much of young people’s time is now online that virtual reality becomes their reality.

And it’s not just kids anymore. Man has always been the symbolic animal. We live by and through symbolic representations of reality that create communal identities, direct communal action, and provide communal meaning. No other animal creates a flag, or dies for it. But the newly cheap but profound visual power of video, magnified by the availability of the Internet for mass transmission of cultural productions, is changing power dynamics.

If cultural power is the power to “name reality,” as James Davison Hunter pointed out, bad men are busily learning ways to manipulate our realities. That process, once called “propaganda,” has been amped up into infowars, at a whole new level.

Take Vladimir Putin, just for example. NATO’s chief military commander, General Philip Breedlove, just announced that Russia is waging “the most amazing information warfare blitzkrieg we have ever seen in the history of information warfare.”

…But consider this, as well, when it comes to the new infowars:

With two Internet videos of two evil deeds in a world of evil deeds, the Islamic State has succeeded in getting inside the heads of the vast majority of American people, creating dramatic new fears among Walmart moms who are among the swing voters in the next election. With two murders and two obscene Internet videos, terrorists prompted a prime-time address by a president who clearly prefers publicly to downplay and downgrade the threat that jihadist terror poses to American national security. (Unlike most of my readers, I am not sure he is entirely wrong about that, even though I think the president was wrong to withdraw from Iraq, and to conduct foreign policy by poll, but that’s a topic for another day). In a different era, there is no way that killing two American journalists, however gruesomely, could potentially affect an American election and change American foreign policy.

Read the Full Article at the National Review Online

Washington Times Covers Catholics in the Public Square Event

The Washington Times covered the recent “Catholics in the Public Square” event held in Phoenix, Arizona, as well as Maggie Gallagher’s discussion on defending traditional marriage:

Maggie Gallagher, senior fellow of the American Principles Project and co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage, focused her talk on the national discourse promoting “gay marriage” and its threat to religious freedom.

“Marriage is a universal, human, social institution and exists in virtually every known human society,” Gallagher said. Nevertheless, Americans are being asked to “accept the basic untruth” that “gay marriage” and traditional marriage are the same thing.

“We are seeing an unprecedented effort to enact their world point of view. You are like a racist if you oppose gay marriage, and the tools that are available both in government and in applied society to oppress racism are now going to be directed at people who stand with the Catholic faith.”

At the conclusion of her talk, Gallagher spoke of the recent string of victories in favor of “gay marriage” in the court system.

“The big question on the table is if the Supreme Court rules that ‘gay marriage’ comes to all 50 states, is that going to be, as our opponents hope, the Brown v. Board of Education of America or will it be the Roe v. Wade? The answer is up to you.

Read the Full Article at the Washington Times

Meghan Trainor and Fifties’ Sass Feminism

A reader of my essay on Beyonce and Taylor Swift points me to a breakout new young singer songwriter, Meghan Trainor, whose first hit “I’m All About That Bass” has had almost as many views (48 million and counting) as Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off.”

Her latest release “To My Future Husband” is a long list of demands that he treat her “like a lady.”

Interesting it’s making a connection out there.

National Review: Beyoncé and Taylor Swift as the New Good Girls

I was reading a recently published study, “Good Girls: Gender, Social Class, and Slut Discourse on Campus,” by Elizabeth A. Armstrong and colleagues in Social Psychology Quarterly.

It was based on a longitudinal study of 53 women who enrolled at a Midwest university in 2004.

“Slut discourse was ubiquitous among the women we studied,” these scholars found, though interestingly they say the label was fluid, shifting around rather than attaching permanently to a particular woman or set of women.

Instead these mostly sexually experienced, typical American college women used “slut discourse” to define “their virtue against real or imagined bad girls.” I am not like one of those girls, in other words. Nonetheless, “women feared public exposure as sluts. Virtually all expressed a desire to avoid a ‘bad reputation.’”

One of the things girls and young women have to negotiate in the way we live now is the pervasiveness of raunch and the absence of rules. Nobody knows how much sex it takes to turn you into a “slut,” a state of affairs that, while it can be anxiety-provoking, also allows women to have quite a lot of it while still retaining their own self-image as good girls.

I thought of that study, and of the anxieties young women navigate, while watching the twin performances at MTV’s Video Music Awards (via YouTube, naturally) of Queen Beyoncé and Taylor Swift.

These two have had a curiously entwined history, for performers so different, what with Beyoncé graciously stepping in to share her spotlight with the young Taylor Swift in 2009, after Kanye West dissed Swift for beating out Beyoncé in the best-female-video category.

Camille Paglia actually compared Swift unfavorably to Beyoncé in a 2012 column, which accused Swift’s “bleached out” persona of “ruining women.”

For a woman scarcely a quarter century in age, Swift has been a lightning rod for a remarkable amount of criticism, ranging from the Village Voice’s criticism of her “traditional femininity” to the vile Westboro pretending-to-be-Baptist church’s protests of Taylor Swift as “the whorish face of doomed America.” Her dating life somehow came to be the subject of national gossip, because, well, she would go out with a guy for a year and then break up with him and get another boyfriend, stay with him for a year and break up. She was 22 at the time these shocking accusations started rocketing through cyberspace.

The irony of trying to slut-shame Taylor Swift is that not only is she a fine songwriter and performer, she is the ultimate nice girl.

Read the Full Article Here

NRO: The Normalization of ‘Spiritually Polygamous’ Marriages

A Utah judge bizarrely casts opposition to polygamy as racist.

Judge Clark Waddoups, in striking down Utah’s ban on “spiritual” polygamous marriages, noted that the Republican party was founded with the goal of eliminating the “twin relics of barbarism” — slavery and polygamy.

He didn’t mean it as a compliment to the GOP.

Waddoups, appointed to the federal bench by George W. Bush in 2008, is clearly deeply hostile to laws that limit marriage to monogamous couples. Laws against polygamy are not just wrong, they are also racist, he writes in his ruling.

Why, he asks, did the United States oppose polygamy so fiercely that it hounded Utah Mormons into abandoning the practice as a condition of statehood? Using Edward Said’s work as a conceptual framework, Waddoups answers:

19th-century hostility to polygamy was based, in part, on polygamy’s association with non-white races. As the U.S. Supreme Court wrote in Reynolds v. United States, “Polygamy has always been odious among the northern and western nations of Europe, and, until the establishment of the Mormon Church, was almost exclusively a feature of the life of Asiatic and of African people.”

When he notes that the Republican party was founded in opposition to slavery and polygamy, he doesn’t see in that pairing the irony of his casting moral opposition to polygamy as racism.

Read the Full Article At the National Review

Maggie at Religious Liberty Event in Phoenix, September 6

The Catholic Sun reports that Maggie Gallagher is attending the “Catholics in the Public Square” event held by the Phoenix Diocesan Council of Catholic Women and the Knights of Columbus.  From the article:

With the general election little more than 60 days away, those who want to be informed about their civic responsibilities as Catholics won’t want to miss the upcoming “Catholics in the Public Square” event in downtown Phoenix Sept. 6.

Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, the public policy arm for the Catholic dioceses of Arizona, said the biannual event has drawn a capacity crowd each time it’s been held.

“It’s a really good time to reflect upon what it means to be Catholic and the issues that are most important to us,” Johnson said.

The Phoenix Diocesan Council of Catholic Women and the Knights of Columbus are hosting the event, which features Mass at St. Mary’s Basilica followed by a program at the Diocesan Pastoral Center with big-name speakers. This year’s lineup includes Alan Sears, president of the Alliance Defending Freedom, and Maggie Gallagher, senior fellow of the American Principles Project and co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage.

Ongoing threats to religious liberty and the upholding of marriage as the union of one man and one woman are two concerns the U.S. bishops have addressed repeatedly. Sears and Gallagher are expected to address both, as well as other issues, in their presentations. John Garcia, public relations director for the Knights of Columbus of Arizona, said religious liberty is a top concern of the Knights.

Read the Full Article Here

NRO: Temptations of Tribalism in Ferguson

stayed silent, like a lot of white folks, while events unfolded in Ferguson, Mo.

I was flabbergasted at the anger of the protesters and their certainty, which seemed to doubt any narrative but the one presented by the family attorney, who replayed his Trayvon Martin appearance: Brown was “executed in broad daylight.”

A young man — not a boy — lay dead in the streets of a quiet suburb that, whatever its flaws, does not fit our usual image of the inner-city crime scene. Ferguson is a quiet, majority-black, middle-class suburb full of educated, hard-working, law-abiding, decent Americans of all races.

People like me did not see how to respond to the unfolding story in a way that might make sense, might make things better. This is the polarized America we live in, one in which factions with dueling narratives battle for political power so they can beat the delegitimized other into submission and silence. The worst are full of passionate conviction.

I could not dismiss the good people of Ferguson as just a mob, and I could not understand how a decent cop would just shoot a man for no reason at two in the afternoon. The dueling narratives seemed to exclude many of us. Consider the video of what police describe as Mike Brown roughing up a store clerk who is trying to get him to pay for cigarettes. If you see this video – and the decision to release it — as anything other than an outrageous effort to taint the jury pool, then you, too, are one of the terrible people who think black lives don’t matter.

A family member of mine, who was born in India, noticed what others without his experience might’ve missed: “That Indian clerk he roughed up was so small. He must have been so scared.” There is no organized lobby for South Asian store clerks who make a modest living serving neighborhoods of every color. (Ask Joe Biden.)

Read the Full Article Here

NRO: Organizing Groupthink

The Left applies lessons learned from gay-marriage victories to the next war.

Politico treated it the way we treat news stories nowadays, in our celebrity-driven culture in which a beloved actor’s suicide can drive front-page news for a whole week: “Media Matters’ David Brock expands empire,” it reported.

David Brock may not be exactly an A-lister, but he is one of a contemporary cluster of insiders who have changed the way the “mainstream media” game is played. Bias, once the offshoot of genteel groupthink, has become progressively, aggressively organized.

Under the old model, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which played a key role in bringing down Jack Abramoff and the once powerful GOP congressmen Tom DeLay and Bob Ney, felt the old-school need to burnish its credibility by targeting some Democrats alongside a majority-Republican target list. (CREW’s widely covered “Most Corrupt Members of Congress” lists included 25 Democrats among its 88 featured members since 2005.)

No more. Brock was elected chairman of the board after laying out a new aggressively partisan plan to transform CREW into what the Washington Examiner called a Democratic “lapdog.” From Politico:

The reconfigured CREW, which is searching for a new executive director, will add a more politically oriented arm, expand its focus into state politics and donor targeting and will operate in close coordination with Brock’s growing fleet of aggressive Democrat-backing nonprofits and super PACs — Media Matters, American Bridge and the American Independent Institute.

“CREW gives us some potentially powerful tools in the tool box,” said Brock, who founded his flagship organization Media Matters in 2004. “We have been in the accountability [business] for 10 years very successfully. It is kind of a one-stop-shop now.”

Read the full article at the National Review Online

Why Catholic Marriage Matters

From the National Review Online

Pope Francis has called for a reexamination of how the Church treats Catholics who have divorced and (civilly) remarried. Because a valid marriage between baptized Christians is considered indissoluble, a Catholic who remarries after a civil divorce is living in open adultery and so may not take communion. A synod of bishops this October will lay the groundwork for all the world’s bishops to gather in 2015 and consider how the Church treats sex and marriage.

This new call has sparked enough conversation about prominent thinkers, from theNew York Times’ Ross Douthat to this July 30 commentary by Peter Berger, to make me think that my two cents, my widow’s mite, is worth offering.

This conversation takes place in a particular context: first, the challenge to the Catholic Church to combine truth and love, teaching and mercy.

The overall trend in the Catholic Church has been to hold tight to dogma but retreat from discipline, leaving more matters to the individual conscience of the believer, who has presumably both the teaching of the Church and the door of the confessional always open for him to receive Christ’s forgiveness for his or her sins. Hence the American bishops have mostly resisted calls to refuse the Eucharist to pro-abortion politicians like Nancy Pelosi, and even disciplined priests who withheld communion from partnered lesbians.

I personally don’t think this dogma-without-discipline plan has worked that well, overall, especially given the failure of the Church to communicate its teaching to the children in its schools and to the people in its pews on Sunday, and sometimes apparently to priests in its seminaries. But nobody made me a bishop, and it is understandable, at least in theory, given the havoc the sexual revolution (not to mention consumerism) has wreaked in ordinary people’s lives.

But that strategy doesn’t work at all for the problem of divorced and remarried Catholics. Remarried Catholics cannot just go to confession for their sins, because they intend by their public act of remarriage to keep on sinning against their original vow.

Read The Full Article Here