Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Patriotism of Palestinianism

Each century brings forth its own patriots. Once upon a time we had Patrick Henry, today we have Senator Patrick Leahy, who declared in the Senate that his opposition to an amendment that would  distinguish how much of the UNRWA's funding goes to actual refugees versus fake refugees was a patriotic act.

"Refugee Camp"
"I always look at what is in the United States’ interest first and foremost, and this would hurt the United States’ interests,” Senator Leahy stated firmly. It is of course difficult to find as compelling a national interest as the UNRWA, a refugee agency created exclusively for the benefit of five million Arabs, approximately 30,000 of whom are actual refugees, but all of whom hate the United States.

Senator Leahy, who could not discover a national interest in the Balanced Budget Amendment, drilling for oil in ANWR or detaining Muslim terrorists, all of which he voted against; finally discovered a binding national interest 5,500 miles away in Jordan, where "refugee camps" like Baqa'a (pop. 80,000), which are virtually indistinguishable from local towns and cities, complete with block after block of residential homes, stores and markets, multi-story office buildings, schools, hospitals and assorted infrastructure, must not be looked at too closely.

As a city which will soon celebrate its 50 year anniversary, Baqa'a is older than many modern Israeli cities and is as much a refugee camp as any of them. The only difference between Baqa'a and Ariel, is that no one in Baqa'a does anything for themselves because they are all eternal refugees with an entire UN agency dedicated to wiping their bottoms for them. A unique and singular honor in a world full of authentic refugees who have been driven out by rape squads and genocide, without getting their own minders in blue.

Senator Mark Kirk's heretical proposal to begin reforming the UNRWA by distinguishing between people who could have some claim on being refugees from the vast majority who cannot, met with Leahy's declaration that; "Frankly, Mr. Chairman, as a member of this committee, I always look at what is in the United States’ interest first and foremost, and this would hurt the United States’ interests.”

Samuel Johnson said that, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel", but even Johnson would have had trouble understanding how a refusal to count who American aid money is going to, is in the nation's best interests. It is no doubt in the best interests of the denizens of Baqa'a and their Jordanian rulers, who need to spend that much less money taking care of their people, but ignorance certainly doesn't do the United States and its interests any good. A refusal to seriously examine the books does, however, benefit the UNRWA and politicians like Leahy who continue to support this boondoggle.

Jordan, the location of Baqa'a and many other aid sinkholes like it, has a population notoriously hostile to the United States. After September 11, Al-Qaeda enjoyed some of its highest approval ratings there, and most Jordanians still do not believe that Muslims carried out the attacks. Despite half a century of aid, 67 percent of Jordanians blame the West for their lack of prosperity, and majorities there support suicide bombings against civilians and American soldiers. Clearly, if there's one place that there is a compelling national interest to plow aid money into, without doing the math, it's Jordan and its refugee camps.

Where exactly is the compelling national interest in standing behind the UNRWA's 1.23 billion dollar biennial budget, and not just the budget, but a refusal to reform the methodology for accounting where all that money is going to? Before Washington D.C. cuts another quarter-of-a-billion dollar check to one of the biggest wastes of money in an organization that excels at wasting money, even more than D.C., it's entirely sensible to ask whom the money is going to and how long we will be making out these checks?

There are currently five million people living off the UNRWA dole. Sooner or later there will be fifty million. Jordan's government has done everything possible to inflate the UNRWA welfare rolls and keep cities like Baqa'a and their people on the Western dole. One day the Jordanian government, the British-appointed monarchy ruling over the original Palestinian state, may decide to give up the farce and put all their people on the UNRWA rolls as refugees. And we'll have to keep on paying without asking any questions-- after all, it is in our "national interest".

Thomas R. Nides, the Deputy Secretary of State, took a position against the amendment, calling the number of refugees a "Final Status Issue" that can only be resolved when Israel and the PLO militias complete their negotiations, at some unknown date. Diplomats have developed a bad habit of insisting on a dysfunctional status quo tilted toward the Muslim side, until the messiah of final status finally comes. There can be no Jewish housing in Jerusalem, because it's a final status issue, we can't count the refugees because it's a final status issue, and we can't question the final status, because that too is a final status issue.

After twenty years of negotiations, that have led to nothing except a rump terrorist state that is one big Baqa'a inside Israel, it's ridiculously clear that there will never be any final status negotiations, if only because the PLO militias don't actually want the job of taking care of their own people. Even if they did, in less than a decade, the PLO thugs in suits, subsidized, armed and trained by the West, will be consumed by Hamas. And Hamas, despite whimsical statements from Peter Beinart to the contrary, has no intention of entering into final status negotiations.

Final status, for all intents and purposes, means forever. It's an excuse for maintaining Baqa'a and the United Nations budget, and nothing else. But suppose that we might one day look forward to final status negotiations, there is no reason why an objective quality like, what makes one a refugee, cannot be addressed by the nation funding the refugees. Final status agreements cannot defer the dictionary or common sense. And unless we are expected to keep on funding Baqa'a on its 100 year anniversary or its 200 year anniversary, sooner or later the numbers have to be added up, and people whose only claim to the bottomless aid bucket is that their great-grandfather was on the losing side of a war of conquest, started by their side, will have to get a job.

According to Senator Leahy, raising such issues is not in America's national interest, but apparently it is in America's national interest to keep on funding the UNRWA, which employs terrorists and acts as a welfare state for some of the most Anti-American people in the world. But Palestiniasm as patriotism is not an original formulation. When times get tough and policies get senseless, backing the terrorist militias is described as a national interest for the United States. But is it really?

What conceivable national interest has there ever been in picking up Soviet leftovers like the PLO, and pouring billions of dollars into a sewer, which only spits up more terrorism, hate and chaos? When Senators and Deputy Secretaries talk about national interests, what they really mean is the interest of Muslim monarchies in the Gulf, who bring up Israel and the plight of its terrorists every time an American diplomat or general drops by Riyadh, Doha or Kuwait City.

The UNRWA, Baqa'a and the PLO aren't an American interest-- they're a Muslim interest. What Leahy and Nider really mean is that it's in America's national interest to cater to Muslim interests. Nider comes closest to saying that, when he writes that cutting UNRWA aid would place a heavy burden on our allies in the region, who despite their billions in oil wealth and their passionate feelings on the subject, somehow can't be bothered to cover the cost of feeding, teaching and caring for Baqa'a.

The King of Jordan found 1.5 billion dollars to build the Red Sea Astrarium, a local version of Disneyland, but the Hashemite monarchy, like the House of Saud, the Al-Thanis, the House of Sabah, and every other bunch of burnoosed tyrants with palaces and investments across the world, can't be asked to care for their own people in their 50 year old refugee camps, who are kept that way because it's an easy way to sock the gullible West for another few billion dollars to fund their terrorist training bases.

Even if there were a valid reason for the United States to champion Muslim interests by carving up Israel in order to create yet another Sunni Muslim state, it would not be a national interest, it would be appeasement. Palestine is as much in America's national interest, as the Sudetenland was in Britain's national interest. A foreign policy of feeding other people to the beast, in the hopes that he won't feed on us, is not a national interest-- it's craven cowardice that has no hope of succeeding.

Is it really in America's national interest to turn over its foreign policy to the Muslim monarchies who birthed Al-Qaeda and conduct a covert war against the West? Is it in our interest to to keep funding terrorist training camps like Baqa'a without asking any questions? And are politicians like Senator Leahy, who treat questioning the UN bureaucracy, that has empowered terrorists while draining budgets, as an unpatriotic act, the real patriots or are they the pawns of tyrants who have one hand on their shoulder and the other on the knife in their back?

After World War I, King Feisal conspired with British officers to proclaim himself the ruler of United Syria, a territory that was to include Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and parts of Turkey. Feisal couldn't keep his kingdom, and the Hashemites eventually lost everything else, including Saudi Arabia and Iraq. All they have left is Jordan, a country whose population is indistinguishable from the Arab Muslims on the Israeli side of the border, and a crown secured by American aid and the fiction that a country where 70 percent of the population sees themselves as Muslims rather than Jordanians has a future.

The only difference between the Hashemites and the houses of Saud, Sabah and Thani, is oil. America ships money and soldiers to the Gulf, and the Gulf monarchs ship back terrorists, oil and mosques. That's the formula that got us into two Gulf Wars, one War on Terror and a Clash of Civilizations, and men like Senator Leahy insist that we shouldn't scrutinize the disastrous policies that the Arab League, the catspaw of the Gulfies, has pawned off on us, and that doing so is somehow unpatriotic.

Gulfism in all its forms, whether it's Syrianism, Palestinianism or the jack-of-all-trades, Islamism, is not patriotism. The future of the United States will not be secured by turning Washington D.C. into the front office for a bunch of medieval tyrannies that have no future. The House of Saud, and all the other houses, don't enjoy popular support, have parade guard militaries and nothing on their side but money and foreign support. The only thing they have to offer us is more Baqa'as, in Jordan, in Israel, in Lebanon, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan and all across Europe and the United States. And once that's done, they'll tell us that it's in our national interest to foot the bill.





Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Nocturne in Black and White

The respected black commentator and philosopher Thomas Sowell has described the growing toll of black-on-white violence as a race war. I would take issue with that only because "war" implies a level of organization that supersedes that of the flash mobs.

Most of the riot organizers have moved on to cozier job titles, like Al Sharpton, who has gone from organizing riots and boycotts to holding down a desk at MSNBC and serving as the unofficial White House liaison to the black community. The old riots were usually a combination of organized protest and opportunistic violence. The organized riot is on the decline, but the opportunistic violence is still very much with us.

There are no shortage of what, the media occasionally describes as, "racially-motivated-attacks". Every society has its outside groups targeted for opportunistic violence. The people you beat up and rob when you're bored and there's nothing good on television. These are people whose lives are worth less than yours, against whom your group holds an enduring grudge against and whom the authorities will not intervene to protect.

In America, the outsider is perversely the majority. There was a time when opportunistic violence was white-on-black, but the authorities, both legal and cultural, have done an excellent job of stamping that out. Black-on-white opportunistic violence remains commonplace because it's safe in the same way that a 19th Century lynch mob was safe. While technically illegal, there is little public outrage over it, and the odds of being prosecuted for it are better than any other form of violence. The flash mob, like the lynch mob, relies on safety in numbers, the complicity of the authorities and the weakness of the system to beat the law.

Imagine for a moment that you are a black teenager or twenty-something, living in a blighted neighborhood, with few job prospects, a lot of free time and a lot of social networking. You know that white people are "bad", not so much because of the street agitators telling you that white people are the devil, but because the entire society that you live in has been telling you that from Day One.

If you made it through high school, which you probably did because every city and town is obsessed with making sure that every student gets through twelve years of educational promotion, then you learned that there is a race war on. A war of white-on-black that began with the slave ships, continued through segregation, and continues today with every report on white racism. Everything you learn tells you that you are on the losing side of a war, that your people are just as good, if not better, yet are being kept down, kept in prison and kept out of power, because of white power.

The Nation of Islam believes that white oppression is genetically coded, but that's a view that is marginally distinguishable from mainstream liberalism, which insists that white privilege makes all people part of the oppressive side to an extent that leaves them unable to understand the oppressed or to pass judgment on their suffering and outrage.

Your textbooks, unlike Malcolm X, a man you are far more likely to respect than Martin Luther King, who was a doughy preacher type, don't say that white people are the devil. They do however convey that same exact message. The world is a messed up place, and most of your textbooks tell you that white people made it that way. The news, when you watch it, talks often about white racism. The movies only occasionally have black heroes, but they always have white villains.

Take all that in, bake it in a 103-degree oven on a hot summer day, mix it with the natural xenophobia that every group has for outsiders, baste it with some envy, throw in gangsta culture's fake macho posturing, so typical of a generation of feral men with broken families and absent fathers, and the rest is utterly unsurprising.

Why would our hypothetical assailant have any great degree of respect for a white person's humanity? Asking that question is far more dangerous than speculating on IQ points, because it cuts at the heart of the cultural blight. Humanity, in its natural state, is vicious. Civilization is imposed on man from without, it does not develop naturally from within. The question is never why is an evil committed, but what influences are there to keep it from being committed.

Americans of all races, are subjected to a constant stream of information and innuendo that trains them to see one race as oppressive and the other as oppressed. This narrative shapes their worldview, it feeds their prejudices and makes it impossible for them to see past it. The narrative teaches them to disdain objective laws as cold and sterile, and to view racism as a fixed pattern that emerges out of any power wielded by a white person. The rest is just a matter of opportunity on a hot summer day.

For the most part it isn't black people teaching other black people to be racist, the white liberal establishment has done much of that on its own. The Nation of Islam is penny-ante compared to network newscasts bombastically turning the Zimmerman-Martin story into another episode in the tale of white racism.

Black people came north, like so many immigrants, to take on jobs in an industrial sector that died away leaving them stranded. The plight of the urban ghetto and that of the Rust Belt have more in common than either side realizes. The manufacturing jobs that might have made a thriving black middle class possible have gone to China, and there aren't nearly enough government jobs to compensate.

The new generations of immigrants have hacked their way up through street-level retail, often in black communities, to finance their children's education and progress up the ladder, as the only remaining access point to the American Dream. But that's a narrow ladder, and not one to which Irish, Jewish or Italian immigrants were limited. Immigrants adapt, the black community has not. Instead, its adaptations have all been maladjustments, destructive responses that leave them with fewer options than before.

Black leaders, individually, wield a great deal of power, but the black community has little power. Their "helplessness" is an excuse for the exercise of power on their behalf. That "helplessness" is what makes men like Obama or Sharpton or the neighborhood fixer and machine politician so powerful. He wields a collective tool of group votes, racial grievance and simmering violence-- but the practical benefit of this is limited. Black communities receive a sizable proportion of taxpayer money directed at services and entitlements which leave them more maladjusted than before.

All those gifts carry a dangerous price with them, creating an addiction to freebies and learned helplessness. And when the latest government giveaway implodes, as the housing market did, they are left stranded with no clue how to get back up without government intervention. The more community centers open up, the fewer businesses remain. The fewer people in the community that have real jobs, the more blighted the neighborhood becomes.

Crack is a minor addiction compared to entitlements. You can break the drug habit because you know it's killing you, but how do you break a habit of getting free things and special benefits because of the color of your skin? It's a hard habit to break, and despite racist claims otherwise, white people are not any better at breaking that habit. It's just that white people are given far less of the free stuff to learn to be fully addicted to it.

Imagine for a moment that you didn't really have to work, that you were surrounded by ads offering you free food, endless free training programs and benefits, special opportunities to get everything from jobs to government contracts, without having to work for them. Imagine that at any job you held a "Get Out of Work" card by filing an accusation of racism. What's more, imagine if you were surrounded by ads and people encouraging you  to do just that? Imagine if you had been brought up in a dysfunctional community by a broken educational system and its even worse entertainment partners to believe that all of this was just because you were oppressed by white people? Then go ahead and break the habit.

This isn't typical life for black people in America, but it's the background that's always there. Most black people know someone that lives this way. They've known people who behave this way at work or who go from job to job, or never hold down any job at all. And while they may not admire them, the blame is assigned to a white society which made them that way.

Black America has been robbed of responsibility and once you take away responsibility from people, it doesn't just grow back. What began with labor slavery turned into serfdom and then into political slavery. In all these incarnations black people helped sustain a broken system with their bodies. They are still doing it now, except the system that they are sustaining is the liberal system, which depends on warm bodies to collect benefits and justify task forces and collectives to provide social justice.

Race wars need soldiers, but this isn't a race war, no more than World War I was about the Huns raping Belgian nuns; it's about power. The racial element justifies the power of those looking for power and adds a moralistic element to their tyranny. They aren't oppressors, rather they are liberating the oppressed from their true oppressors, wielding absolute power in the name of social justice.

Like all things, this one is not new under the sun, but it can be hard to see it when staring directly at it. Fish know little of the water they swim in and the 21st Century Homo Americanus, fed racial mythology along with his mother's milk, often knows less. He sees the racial tensions, but not the reason why. "Divide and conquer" is something he associates with ancient Greek generals or episodes of Survivor, not with the tactics of the unelected bureaucracy that has seized control of his country in the name of an ideology that he thought died when the Berlin Wall fell.

21st Century America is a strange place, bankrupt and omnipotent, bristling with advanced technology in every pocket, yet barely able to keep its infrastructure operating; the least racist place on earth that imagines it is the most racist of all places and times. It isn't torn by a war between races, but by a conflict among its elites over how it will be run. This conflict only marginally involves the common man, who is occasionally hustled out to march for a cause and then sent home so the big men can talk it over a closed-door meeting..

This isn't about race or class, it's about power and the ideology of power. That conflict has its collateral damage. The kid who knows little else but that white people are fair game is damage, but he's not an innocent victim, for, while he may not know the nature of the game, his cruelty is active. The man or woman he attacks is more innocent, but not truly innocent either if they have played a role in sustaining an ideology that makes this entire dysfunctional cycle possible.

The players in the conflict care very little for either of them. They are not completely inhuman, but they are playing for different stakes, and both believe in a Post-American order with no borders and no national identities. The only question is how this Utopia will be run and on what principles. But they both agree that it can only be properly created by destroying the nation in the name of some post-national virtue, whether it's social justice or free enterprise.

On the streets though, when it's 103 degrees in a hot summer, the plans don't matter, the men cutting deals over the body of a great nation, over its decaying cities, are an afterthought. Human power is an ephemeral thing. It is better at destroying than at creating. It leaves behind scars easily. These streets are scars, the racial tensions are scars, the attack is a scar. It is not the first and it will not be the last.





Monday, May 28, 2012

In the Sixteenth Year of Obama

A Scientific Romance of the Year 2024

In the sixteenth year of Obama, Marc and Julie obtained a carbon pass and set off on a light rail journey in a comfortable semi-transparent carriage traveling at a top speed of 30 kilometers per hour whose motive power came entirely from sunshine. As it was a cloudy day, the train moved slowly, often stopping for hours at a time, before sluggishly stirring into motion again, but the young couple did not mind. Obtaining a carbon pass was difficult enough that the very experience of traveling was new to them, as it was to most citizens of the USNAE or the United States of North America and Europe as the grand unified republic was known.

Marc and Julie had been in their mid-thirties at the dawn of the USNAE, thought by many to be the greatest achievement known to mankind, but even so its parade of accomplishments often left them awed and proud to be living in such an astounding time and age.

"Just think," Marc said. "Twenty years ago we might have made this trip in an hour, while releasing countless carbons into the aether, at a dangerous and unhealthy speed. But today as we roll slowly across the wetlands that reclaimed the polluting wheat farms that once soiled this landscape, we are a living part of the solution to the human disease that once marred the earth."

At that moment the train rattled onto the bridge connecting the mainland to the Isle of Endless Education and the young couple gasped as they saw the shining white towers of its many educational institutions shimmering in the distance.

Like most educated people, they had spent the better part of their lives at various schools, colleges and universities. Marc had only completed his basic education last year at the age of forty-two, while Julie was due to complete hers this year. Armed with these diplomas they would finally qualify for certain entry level jobs, but would need a more advanced degree for a serious career. And it was at the Isle of Endless Education that the next stage of their education would begin. Marc was not yet ready to enroll, but he had wished to begin their honeymoon by showing Julie the intellectual feast awaiting them on the isle that held the premier education facilities in the entire USNAE.

Before long the train pulled to a halt and they, along with three or four other passengers disembarked at the foot of a massive alabaster statue of a giant umbrella, three figs, a pencil and a drowsing cat.

"That's interesting," Julie said, frowning at the strange display.

Marc knew that this signified she did not understand what it meant. As a mere forty-two year old undergraduate, whose specialty was not in the field of aesthetics, he did not comprehend the rational scientific principles behind the sculpture, though he knew that they were there. "It's symbolic."

"Of what?"

Now it was Marc's turn to frown. "Of wisdom?"

"Nonsense," came the sharp retort. The young couple turned to find Professor-General Harumph Brown standing behind them. Marc had known the old man in his first decade of higher education and had still retained a fondness for him, even though he had not likewise retained a single thing that the professor had taught him.

"So very good to see you," Marc said delightedly.

"Wisdom is for the ancients," the Professor-General continued, "but we in our enlightened modern age know that there is no such thing as wisdom, just as we know that there are no ghosts or fairies. There are only attitudes. Take this sculpture. What does it mean? It's an umbrella, three figs and a kitten. That's all it is and nothing else."

"So why is it here?" Julie ventured to ask.

"To test attitudes," the Professor-General said. "That is the entire purpose of education. We are constantly testing attitudes to separate healthy and unhealthy attitudes. Education is curative. Knowledge does no good if it is not integrated into a healthy operating social model. Take you, my boy, a fine student. One of the finest I ever had."

"Thank you, sir," Marc said.

"Now tell me one thing that you learned in all your thirty-six years of schooling?" the Professor-General insisted.

Marc scrambled to think of something. "Basic addition?"

"Then tell me what six times eight is? No, I thought so," the Professor-General said."Not that I know it either. But try again."

"That wisdom is nonsense," Marc said.

"Very good, and you'll forget that in a minute or two," the Professor-General said. "But that is the true answer. In thirty-six years, you have learned absolutely nothing. Not a single thing. All that you have learned is nothing."

Marc beamed, proud of his achievement.

"The State educational institutions have spent over a quarter of a century filling your head with absolutely nothing and then rigorously testing to see that you had learned absolutely nothing, all to cultivate the exact attitude you display. The State has convinced you that you know everything, while ensuring that you know absolutely nothing," the Professor-General said, raising one arm to encompass the sweep of the giant umbrella, figs and sleeping cat. "This is the attitude that we have cultivated at great expense. This is the true meaning of the statue before you. A graduate, such as Marc, will be convinced that he understands it, although he does not. The statue is the meaning of meaninglessness, emptiness in form, a void with substance."

"But couldn't the State have saved money by not teaching him anything at all?" Julie inquired.

"That would entirely miss the point," the Professor-General said. "Anyone can learn nothing, but not everyone can learn a nothingness so thoroughly that it prevents any other knowledge from being absorbed Our education is like a vaccine. It prevents actual knowledge from being absorbed. We could just as easily have put nothing here, but then students might envision what should be here. By putting a completely senseless thing here, we block them from constructively using their minds. Similarly through our prolonged education, we prevent students from learning anything on their own."

While Marc and Julie struggled to take this in, the Professor-General snapped his fingers. "But that is only half the reason."

"What's the other half?" Marc asked.

"Debt," the Professor-General said cheerfully. "There was a time when men said that money makes the world go round, they were wrong. It's debt that makes the world go round. Now how much debt do the two of you carry on your shoulders?"

Neither of the two knew, though they knew they ought to have the answer. Every week they received a new notification from the government credit bureau announcing their total, but it was a staggeringly large sum, and had been since they were born. Each time they signed another student loan application, they paid little attention to the tremendous amount, which for all its size, was only a small increase in the already sizable amount that every USNAE citizen owed from birth.

"There was a time when the government owed the majority of its debt to its own citizens, but that meant any man or woman could be considered a creditor for the State," the Professor-General said. "It became necessary for the roles to shift, for the State to become the creditor of every citizen. And this was done with education."

"But education is free for everyone," Julie exclaimed.

"Indeed it is," the Professor-General said. "Everyone is entitled to an eternal education for life. That is in the USNAE Constitution. But even free things must be paid for. Those who receive an education go into debt for it. Those who do not, go into debt for those who do. That way everyone is in debt and most of the populace is educated to know nothing. Not even how much they owe."

"But won't the debt have to be paid for?" Julie asked.

The Professor-General clucked his tongue at her foolishness. "Whom could it possibly be paid to? If everyone is in debt, then debt is the new currency. The more debt you run up, the wealthier you are. This is the New Economic Plan of our Beloved Leader which rewards consumption of government services as the ultimate form of productivity. Since everyone is in debt and everyone's debt is owned by everyone else, every man and woman will compete to maximize their utilization of government services, so that they will benefit from the services that they are indebted for."

"That's why no one earns money anymore," Marc said loudly. "When we get jobs for the first time, we'll get paid in debt. Each time we're paid, the money is directly collected by the government and our debt is reduced by a little."

"The debt economy is an extension of a phenomenon that began in the previous century where men and women no longer labored to earn money, but to pay down their debts," the Professor-General said. "The more the government gives you, the more debt you have, but you would be a fool not to take it, for your neighbors are running up government debt on your credit. Take the government house, car, education, tofu growing grant and anything else you can get."

While Marc and Julie thought this over, the Professor-General gestured for them to follow, and he led them past many gleaming white towers, senseless pieces of art, public performances, student protests, faculty protests, protests against the protests and celebrations of education, until they reached a movie theater.

"You remember your first graduation, don't you?" the Professor-General asked them.

The young couple nodded, each of them recalling the ticker tape parade through town, which encourage graduates to continue their education, rather than drop out in their twenties as many did.

"I mentioned attitudes before," the Professor-General said. "Here we are testing an entirely new approach that will revolutionize education. And you two are privileged to see it for the first time."

The couple followed him up the stairs to the projection booth while below them the newest class of graduates filed in and took their seats waiting for the movie to start. The Professor-General carefully examined a bank of screens in front of him. Each screen had a number on it and as they glowed to life, a name appeared in each dark space.

The red curtains lifted and image and sound filled the theater. There were speeches by the Beloved Leader, some from his early days in politics and some from his sixteenth year in office. There were images of violent protests, scenes from history, homosexual pornography, wars, irrational statements, and a hundred other things.

As the images flashed by, lines appeared in the dark spaces under each name. The Professor-General studied the lines carefully, approving of some, while frowning at others. When it was over, some of the students were led out the front, while others were directed to the back into a sterile white room.

The old man led Marc and Julie downstairs and allowed them to observe behind a glass partition as a student was seated in a chair and a metal prod was directed at the back of his head.

"What is that?" Julie asked.

"That is a Ray of Enlightenment," the Professor-General said. "It uses electro-chemical principles to destroy the frontal lobe of the brain. What the ancients used to crudely describe as a lobotomy, but far more sophisticated."

"Isn't that a bit excessive?" Julie asked.

"Not at all," the elderly gentleman said. "His responses, like those of all the students here, were measured by the metrics. His attitude toward the film was unhealthy. He reacted negatively toward the positive scenes and positively toward the negative scenes. The Ray of Enlightenment will educate him in a way that not even our finest educational systems could."

"I suppose it's for the best," Julie agreed.

"It is. Come," the Professor-General said, and they left the room, while behind them the student dumbly remained in the chair.

"What will happen to him?" Marc asked.

"The same thing that will happen to all of them," the Professor-General said briskly. "They will be sent to participate in cultural exchange programs in China or the Caliphate, those governments will weigh their service in the coal mines and oil fields against a fraction of the debt that we owe them."

Outside the air was refreshing and they could not help but think how twenty years ago it would have been reeking with carbon, hydrogen and even worse pollutants, but now in the best of all worlds, it was clean.

Marc and Julie bid the Professor-General goodbye, promising to return to enroll for an advanced degree, and then sat waiting for another train. When it finally came, they got on board and slowly began the rattling journey toward the next stage of their destination. The Isle of Freedom.


(Author's Note: This is meant to be a parody of Socialist futuristic tracts from the late 19th century such as Looking Backward. It's a change of pace from some of the usual articles. If anyone would like to see more of it, let me know in the comments.)





Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Afternoon Roundup - Spot the Narrative



Wouldn't it be terrible if we lived in some kind of dictatorship where a tiny group of powerful men controlled the broadcast media and used it to justify abuses of power by the government?

Isn't it great that we live in a country where we don't have to worry about that kind of thing?

Yeah me too.



(Please note: Due to the Shavuot holiday, this blog will be on hiatus until Monday night)



THE NARRATIVE

It all starts with the narrative. Coverage of the lawsuits can be minimized as much as possible, but sooner or later it has to be reported on. The media is as lazy, as it is corrupt and stupid, so they usually garner their talking points from liberal talking point distributors like Think Progress and Media Matters.

The narrative on the Catholic lawsuits is problematic because it's a clear case of religious freedom being infringed on. That means this problematic fact has to be countered by...

Talking Point #1: The lawsuit isn't religious, it's political.

Talking Point #2: The lawsuit isn't from the Catholic Church, but from a small group of extremist bishops.

Talking Point #3: Most Catholics love abortion and the Catholic Church is out of step with modern American Catholics.

Talking Point #4: Both sides need to compromise. Obama has already faked a compromise. Not the Catholic Church needs to give in.

Talking Point #5: Molestation

You can see all four talking points in just the headlines of the news stories on the screenshot above. I didn't choose this screenshot, these are the first listed stories, which also tells you something. You have to click outside to find the fifth one, but it's there.

It's pretty sad when the propaganda is not only this obvious... but when you don't even need to read past the headline to see it.

This shows how much contempt the media has for us and for its own profession. This isn't between the lines stuff. This is talking point headlines. It's the journalism equivalent of a cop selling crack to crack babies. It's a level of treason to one's own integrity and professionalism that there's nowhere lower to go except printing actual press releases without altering a word.

I'll even go you one worse. Only one of the outlets listed is the Huffington Post and it has the mildest headline of the bunch. What does it tell you when HuffPo looks moderate compared to the Star Ledger or the Palm Beach Post?

Three words. Cancel your subscription. Don't take out ads in these papers. Kick the propagandists out into the cold hard new media world. If the Obama Administration is going to have a propaganda arm, it should be the one paying them out of its campaign coffers.



VIVE ISLAM

The Hollande victory is quite an ugly thing and as I mentioned last week, I covered some of the key figures in a piece at Front Page entitled, France's New Burqa Friendly Government.

But there's also this rather important point.

Hollande certainly did not discourage the estimated 500,000 Turks in France from coming to such a conclusion. A few days before the runoff election he sent out a letter which stated that he was very attached to the relationship with Turkey and that if elected he would increase the closeness of that relationship.

“Europe,” he wrote, “which has agreed to begin negotiations for full membership of Turkey, remains true to its principles “to bring together different peoples, cultures and beliefs.”

Hollande, who lost the Catholic and Jewish vote, but won the Muslim vote, has not done that; instead his government reflects the Leftist-Islamic alliance that brought him to power. It is a government, that for all its assurances, is likely to turn a blind eye to the burqa, a knowing wink to the repression of women, and a blind eye to the preaching of Jihad on French soil. And it will do its part to open Europe’s door to Turkey, which will mean the end, not only of France, but of Europe.





THE ARAB SPRING IS ALMOST OVER

The Egyptian election is about to wrap up with the likely runoff two to be a Muslim Brotherhood thug and a regime proxy. The election will come down to what it was always about, a showdown between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian government.

The Twitter activists that neo-conservatives fell in love with are weeping and wailing, but they're really nerving themselves up for the inevitable-- throwing in with the Muslim Brotherhood and assuming the true role that they always held as the enablers of an Islamist dictatorship.

Iran 2.0. Now in Egypt.

If the regime wins, the Brotherhood will retreat snarling to its corner while the US and the EU pressure the Egyptian government into more "democratization". If the MB wins, then game over. The mask will hold up for a little bit, long enough to harvest infidel money and tighten its grip on the military. And then Egypt will turn into Iran.

Either way the great obscene lie of the Arab Spring is dead, its rotting stench is filling up the pages and sites of the media that propagandized it. The rest will be devoted to explaining why the MB is the best and most democratic choice for Egypt, with op-eds written by the Twitter activists to explain why they're backing the MB because "it can be influenced" and will mean the end of the old regime.

This is exactly what I predicted from the start, and there's no great credit in that, because plenty of others did too. It's just a matter of learning from the past and looking at a thing as it is, rather than as it should be.

The MB has the innate organization and numbers to win an election, but the regime will likely have voter fraud in its corner, and quite a few Egyptians who never wanted a revolution, and just want things to go back to an orderly and peaceful system.




ORTHODOX JEWS ARE THE NEW CATHOLICS

Ever since Orthodox Jews took a public stand against gay marriage in the New York State election for governor and then in the battle for Weiner's seat and SD-27 seat that Lew Fidler lost to a Russian Jewish Republican, but in true Democratic fashion is trying to steal anyway, there suddenly seems to be a rash of attacks.

It's almost as if Orthodox Jews are getting the Catholic treatment.

There are now constant stories accusing the Orthodox Jewish community of being a gang of pedophiles. Here's a snapshot of the media coverage.




Who knew Goebbels was still around?

The parallels with a similar campaign run against the Catholic Church are a little too obvious. While stories on Muslims spin positive, Orthodox Jews are being hit with an aggressive smear campaign. Come out against gay marriage and for traditional values, and suddenly Anderson Cooper is screeching that you're all a bunch of pedophiles.

While the media refuses to discuss Jihad, it turned Deborah Feldman, a compulsive liar, into a media star for a string of lies attacking Orthodox Jews. While her 15 minutes are long up, CNN just ran an op-ed from Feldman trying to jump on the pedophile bandwagon.

This is now the narrative. Any mainstream media coverage of Orthodox Jews will now have a "sidebar" accusing them of not coming to terms with "sex crime problems". People like Feldman, will be kept around to pop up out of the box and provide a quote for the occasion. The New York Times already uses people like Shmarya Rosenberg as their source for the Orthodox community. That would be of using Christopher Hitchens as their source on Catholics or Wafa Sultan as their source on the Muslim community, which no liberal paper would do.

This is hard-coded bias and it's a message, just like the redistricting aimed at ending Orthodox Jewish political representation.

You don't get this kind of treatment for carrying out multiple terrorist attacks in America. You do get it for refusing to accept men marrying each other in public ceremonies. Liberals were willing to mostly ignore Orthodox Jews, so long as they didn't challenge their hegemony. But now it's a new ball game.



THE MUNIR MAN

On the website for CROE-TV, the Coalition for the Remembrance of The Most Honorable Elijah, Muhammad’s broadcasting arm, which puts out several television shows featuring Munir Muhammad, such as Muhammad and Friends, former listed guests include Valerie Jarrett, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Barack Obama.

There are also lesser lights like former Chicago mayor and brother of the former Chief of Staff, Richard M Daley and Senator Dick Durbin, alongside Louis Farrakhan; powerful men and women who have in their time come to sit down and chat with Muhammad Munir, opposite the red and white crescent flag of the Nation of Islam leaning against the wall in the corner of the studio.

Illinois politicians didn’t just give Munir Muhammad lucrative policy gigs, they donated thousands of dollars directly to his organization. An organization whose reason for existence is promoting the ideas of a bigot, whose views, aside from skin color, have little to distinguish them from those of Aryan Identity groups.

Governor Blagojevich had doled out some 50,000 dollars in state money to Munir’s hate group and even proclaimed February 12, 2006 to be “Coalition for the Remembrance of Elijah Muhammad Day” and encouraged citizens of the state to recognize the organization for its “ongoing commitment to ensuring the legacy of this influential African-American leader”—an influential leader who had described white people as devils and “born murderers”.

That's an except from my article on Chicago's Hate Connection



THIS IS YOUR BRAIN, THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON LIBERALISM

Studies show that New Yorker approval for Mayor Bloomberg goes up when they forget that he exists. It goes down whenever he opens his mouth to express exactly the kind of ideas that you expect from an out of touch billionaire.

Bloomberg, for those who have spending time in the real world and forgot that he exists, has been on a campaign to bring "issues" to the attention of the establishment and get past all that partisan bickering. Which usually means ramming through policies so liberal even Obama won't touch them.


The report noted that Canada allows its provinces to set different immigration standards to attract the type of employees each region needs.


The mayor quickly endorsed a similar proposal for US states — and then some.


“There’s no reason why you have to have a common immigration policy for all of America,” he argued. “You could let each state do it differently.


“I would argue the federal government should go one step further. They should deliberately force some places that don’t want immigrants to take them, because that’s the only solution for these big, hollowed-out cities where industry has left and is never going to come back unless you get some people to move there.”

There's a break here, from an almost sensible proposal, to let states run their own immigration policy-- it's not really sensible, because immigrants can just enter states that are immigrant friendly and move to other states, and all it takes is one open borders state to flood the country-- but Bloomberg doesn't actually seem to understand that proposal.

Instead Bloomberg uses a proposal that states control their own immigration policy as a jumping off point to proposing that the government forcibly ship immigrants to states that don't want them.

Who exactly benefits from this arrangement, except the Democratic Party? Do states benefit from having people they don't want forced on them? Do immigrants benefit from going to places that don't want them? What's the point of punitive immigration except to make people like Bloomberg feel good about themselves?

Also don't we already have this exact policy. It's called federally mandated affordable housing. If you aren't building it, your town is guilty of racism, discrimination, hate crimes, crimes against humanity and other fun stuff.


Bloomberg caused a ruckus last year during an appearance on “Meet the Press,” where he proposed opening the door to immigrants on the condition that they agree to live in Detroit for five to 10 years, restoring that struggling city by starting new businesses.

Does this really make Detroit a better place or a worse place? Is Detroit's problem that it doesn't have enough people on welfare?




URI L'TZEDEK HATE GROUP STILL HATING

I wrote briefly about Uri L'Tzedek and Elisheva Goldberg two weeks ago in my piece on them. Uri L'Tzedek is a radical left group targeting the Orthodox Jewish community, intimidating small businesses and trying to get its "inspectors" in all over the place.

Elisheva Goldberg is the "Rosh Beit Medrash" there. She's a radical left-wing activist who works for Peter Beinart and conducts Anti-Israel activism at the Open Zion blog. The Uri L'Tzedek website makes no secret of her other job and clearly supports her activities there.

Goldberg's job is generating attacks on Israel as an illegitimate racist settler state, etc, you know the drill. She celebrated Yom Yerushalayim with a rant about "Greater Israel".A Jewish school is attacked for not promoting the terrorist perspective. It's just non-stop hate and lies.

A typical example is Goldberg lying and claiming that Netanyahu tells American audiences one thing in English and another thing in Hebrew. She claims that Netanyahu tells American audiences that he will give up Yerushalayim, but tells Israeli audiences in secret JewSpeak(TM) (Hebrew) that he wouldn't. Clearly this is a major breaking story.

Elisheva Goldberg unknotted her Keffiyah and as a knower of JewSpeak(TM)  rushed to transcribe Netanyahu's secret remarks in JewSpeak (TM), where he said such things as,


"I will continue to say to them that Jerusalem will remain forever the united capital of the State of Israel and the united capital of the People of Israel."

Shocking stuff. The great investigative journalists at Open Zion had uncovered that Netanyahu secretly supports an undivided Jerusalem. And by secretly I mean he says it all the time. It was the opening to his 2012 speech to AIPAC... in English.



 Thank you for the warm reception. It could be heard as far away as Jerusalem – the eternal and united capital of Israel.

And even more covertly Netanyahu said it in a speech at the UN.


I often hear them accuse Israel of Judaizing Jerusalem. That's like accusing America of Americanizing Washington, or the British of Anglicizing London. You know why we're called "Jews"? Because we come from Judea.


In my office in Jerusalem, there's a -- there's an ancient seal. It's a signet ring of a Jewish official from the time of the Bible. The seal was found right next to the Western Wall, and it dates back 2,700 years, to the time of King Hezekiah. Now, there's a name of the Jewish official inscribed on the ring in Hebrew. His name was Netanyahu. That's my last name. My first name, Benjamin, dates back a thousand years earlier to Benjamin -- Binyamin -- the son of Jacob, who was also known as Israel. Jacob and his 12 sons roamed these same hills of Judea and Sumeria 4,000 years ago, and there's been a continuous Jewish presence in the land ever since.


And for those Jews who were exiled from our land, they never stopped dreaming of coming back: Jews in Spain, on the eve of their expulsion; Jews in the Ukraine, fleeing the pogroms; Jews fighting the Warsaw Ghetto, as the Nazis were circling around it. They never stopped praying, they never stopped yearning. They whispered: Next year in Jerusalem. Next year in the promised land.

It's right here in English. No Double Secret Translation necessary.

We are often told that Arabs say different things to domestic and international audiences. In fact, they are notorious in pro-Israel circles for doing so.  But yesterday Bibi showed us that Israelis are guilty of exactly the same thing.

That's what Elisheva Goldberg claims. What she proves is that Israelis say what they mean. But Elisheva Goldberg and Peter Beinart lie compulsively, just like the Islamic terrorists who benefit from their advocacy.

But this isn't about one of Beinart's Anti-Israel trolls. It's about Uri L'Tzedek and the kind of people who play leading roles in them. If you are uncomfortable with Elisheva Goldberg's Israel bashing, then you should also be uncomfortable with Uri L'Tzedek and any restaurant that uses their Tav HaYosher seal... and you should tell the owner that.



THE PRISON FROM HELL

Israeli prisons are as we know horrible hellholes where poor terrorists have to go on hunger strikes, just to get some headlines. You can see some truly heartbreaking photos of their degradation here. I don't know how they get all that food down.

But now a Muslim journalists/activist has become a connoisseur of Israeli and Muslim prisons and it turns out he prefers Israeli prisons.

 Ozkose spoke to the AP at the office of Milat, a new newspaper with an Islamic background. The 33-year-old journalist was on board the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish aid boat bound for Gaza that was the target of a deadly raid by Israeli commandos in 2010, and he was held with other passengers in Israeli detention until they were deported.

In the interview, Ozkose described the Israeli detention center as “five-star” in comparison to the Syrian jail, where he slept on a concrete floor, saw naked prisoners and sometimes heard people crying out in anguish.

Oddly enough prisons in the Muslim world actually are bad. Hunger strikes there don't work too well because it's not a strike if they're not feeding you anyway.



REBUILDING AND UNBUILDING

In light of my recent piece on the Post-American Skyscraper, Edward Cline has reminded me of the essay collection on the failure to rebuild the WTC.



HOW STONED ARE WE?

Frame Seven: "How stoned am I? Look into my eyes, dude. I mean, man, check it out. This is visionary weed, man. I can see, see the future. I see myself as, whoa, President of the United States, man. How far out is that? Hey, don't bogart that...."

It would actually almost be better if the last three years had been a haze in the mind of an undergrad.



ISRAEL IS ALSO THE NEW ARIZONA

The US also viewed negatively government officials' use of the term "infiltrators" to refer to asylum seekers, as well as officials who directly associations asylum seekers with the rise in crime, disease and terrorism. Interior Minister Eli Yishai was specifically flagged as an instigator.

...I guess "infiltrators" is the incorrect term for people who infiltrate your country. Maybe they should be called "Undocumented Infiltrators".





Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Last Days of the Media

The magazine business isn't what it used to be. In the last ten years, Newsweek lost 2.5 million readers, and its newsstand sales are hardly worth mentioning. A full-page ad in it costs less than the price of a luxury car. Sold for a buck to the husband of an influential Congresswoman, merged with an internet site, it survives only by building issues around provocative essays and covers.

If you want to understand why Newsweek put a badly photoshopped picture of Obama with a gay halo on its cover or features Romney doing a number from The Book of Mormon, you need only look at those numbers. Fifteen years ago desperate tactics like that were for alt weeklies like The Village Voice, but Time and Newsweek are the new Village Voice. Or the new Salon.

There is no news business anymore, just media trolls looking for a traffic handout, feeding off manufactured controversies that they create and then report on. Magazines and sites struggling to stay alive while preaching to a narrow audience which likes essays by leftist cranks and mocking pictures of conservatives. And they're not alone; any magazine that still covers politics, covers it in the same exact way.

There are house-style differences between the New Yorker, which still features its trademark cartoons, and Vanity Fair and Esquire, and Time and Newsweek, but they are all basically the same. The same essays repeating the same views for the same audience; all of them fighting for that small slice of urban yuppie audience which DVR's Mad Men, has Michael Chabon novels on the shelf that it hasn't read yet and is forty percent gay.

The real 1 percent is right there. That small elitist fragment of America which writes books for itself, makes TV shows for itself and writes outraged articles for itself about a tiny 1 percent elite that runs everything. It has its own books, its own TV shows, its own music, its own stores, its own stations, its own brands and now it has most of the magazines to itself. It's a claustrophobic village raising its own inner child with inane repetitions of its narrow-minded views.

If I'm reading through a long mocking piece on Midwestern Republican primary voters who support Michele Bachmann, a sensitive piece on gay teenagers being bullied in school or an essay by a Muslim columnist on American Islamophobia, how can I tell which magazine I'm reading? Easy, is it the one with a gay Obama on the cover or the one with a woman breastfeeding a three-year-old?

The story is no longer the story. Now the cover is the story with magazines reporting on their own covers, which become the story. And the story? Who cares about the story really. You can know everything about the story by glancing at the cover. And then you don't have to buy it anymore, which explains why newsstand sales aren't doing too well.

Magazines like to tell advertisers that every single subscription sale actually means five or six readers across a family. That's wishful thinking. Families with five or six members are not buying Time or Newsweek these days. They might be subscribing to Popular Mechanics or Ebony, but the Newsweek subscriber is lucky if he has two people in the house, at most three, and one of them is probably a cat.

Don't weep for Newsweek though. It's a brand and brands never die. They just get dumbed down and sold and resold. Five years from now Newsweek may be an airline magazine or just an internet portal tracking Twitter news trends, but it will be around in one form or another. For now there's Newsweek Polska with a six figure circulation, Newsweek Korea with 40,000 readers and Newsweek Pakistan with 15,000 readers. Perhaps one day Newsweek will be remembered as a Pakistani news mag that got its start in the States.

The brands may have a future, but the content doesn't. There are only so many provocative essayists around and only so many people willing to buy badly photoshopped covers featuring the controversy of the week. The friction of the controversy makes dull people seem interesting and stupid people seem smart. It makes the kind of people who moved to New York to be able to see Will Ferrell make fun of Bush on Broadway feel that they're relevant, but there aren't enough of them to support a magazine with international news bureaus and all the trappings of a serious news organization.

There's barely enough money in that market to cover the expenses of Salon, Slate and The Nation, reliably lefty publications which cravenly feed their audiences its prejudices back in small doses. Time and Newsweek muscling into that same turf, not to mention every other site and magazine following that same business model, is a bit much.

Advertisers only need to reach that same audience so many times. There's money in selling Bose stereos, Cancun vacations and AMC shows to them, but you can only sell it to them so many times. When every magazine is elitist and when the elite is narrow and inbred, there are suddenly too many llamas in a single paddock.

The biggest problem for the media is that no one is paying attention anymore. The iPad and Kindle haven't meant salvation for the magazine business, because any media device fragments focus. It's hard to engage readers when they're not engaged with any one thing, when they're reading six sites and glancing through your latest Fareed Zakaria or Andrew Sullivan screed just to be able to tell their friends that they read it.

In a diminishing marketplace every outlet boasts of having the smartest and most influential readers. The truth is that no one has those readers anymore. The media makes its own influence because it is playing on an empty stage. It isn't influencing anyone, it's repeating back to its readers what they already believe because they already believe it. If they didn't already believe it, it wouldn't tell it to them.

The media knows that they have many options and that they're barely paying attention, so it capers like a court jester to try and capture their attention with another showstopping attack on Republicans. But even as it trots out Andrew Sullivan or Tina Fey or any of the other players in the vanishing line between entertainment and journalism, it knows that the attention is fleeting. Today its gay Obama cover makes the headlines, but what will it do next week?

An inbred elite is dull and in constant need of sensation. It has a brief attention span because it is always bored with itself. It feeds off a diet of constant mockery to reassure itself of its own fragile superiority. It wants the appearance of ideas, without the hard work of digesting them. Most of all, it wants the legitimization of its own right to rule. The theme of every elite is its own superiority, and the one we are saddled with is no different. Its message is that it has lifted up our society from a dark time of repression to a new era of enlightenment and that only it can lead us into the light.

The media is an echo chamber for people who work in the media. Its greatest reach is internal, within the complex of people who live or work in a few major cities within the publishing and broadcasting industries. Beyond them is a great void of purple mountains that they occasionally report on but have lost contact with.

America is a foreign country to them. More so than Indonesia or Pakistan. And the 1 percent that they still speak to feels much the same way. A foreign colony on American shores that disdains the natives with their queer morals and prejudices, and fears what might happen if they should rise up against their rightful rulers. That leaves the rulers with little choice but to redouble the propaganda barrage defending their right to rule. And that means another Newsweek cover coming up.

Newsweek might as well become a full-time Pakistani magazine because it isn't an American magazine anymore. It's the David Remnick New Yorker with all the class of the Tina Brown New Yorker. Its only signature feature is the transcontinental sneer and that's the signature feature of the entire media class, which knows more about Indonesia than it does about Indiana, and believes that the problem with America is all the Americans.

But even that is a sham because not only do they know nothing about Indiana, but they also know very little about Indonesia. The pretense at being globe trotting journalists that fills the pages of magazines and newspapers is a sham. Theirs is not the age of the classic correspondents who could cross a war zone and telegraph in a report. It's the age of media trolls who put a picture of a nuclear-armed North Korean leader under the headline, "Lil Kim". The Muslim Brotherhood can twirl them around its fingers because they're fools who can spend years in a country without learning anything more about it than the common knowledge at the expat bar.

The only function of the media is to spin talking points into something more glamorous. It always knows what the story should be, the only thing to do is dress it up and take it out for a night on the town. But no one reads it or pays attention to it anymore because it has nothing to say. The antics of Time or Newsweek are signs of desperation from media brats who know that the only way to hang on to their vanishing audience is by clowning around for them.

They can't engage the audience, no matter what they promise advertisers, because they have no intellectual or journalistic capital with which to engage them. All they can do is tell their audience what it already believes in an entertaining way. That is the traditional function of a court jester and it is the new function of the media, which may style itself as a "Protector of Democracy", but is in reality just the tyrant's capering fool in the rainbow halo.





Tuesday, May 22, 2012

To The Last Byte

The question isn't, "What is Facebook worth?", the real question is what are we worth? The secret of Facebook is that there is no Facebook, just reams of user data, information voluntarily submitted by hundreds of millions of people in exchange for a free ride, which is monetized by a company that makes nothing except increasingly broken code, by selling ads to companies hoping to convince consumers to buy the products manufactured by their Chinese partners.

There is a tremendous generation gap between the old giants which made things and traded them to people for money, and a new generation of companies, which offer connectivity services for free, build a monopoly over some element of the internet, and then squeeze companies looking to connect with consumers. Everyone is out to provide value, collect user information and begin running ads.

Behind all the flash and buzzwords is the promise of smarter and better advertising. The only thing keeping companies like Google and Facebook afloat is the same thing that used to keep magazines, newspapers and networks afloat-- advertising. And with users creating and promoting their own content, all the companies need to do is provide the connectivity tools, servers that stay up and an interface that people can figure out.

The products of this process have changed our lives, at least insofar as finding directions, having instant access to information and being able to interact with anyone we have ever known is life-changing. But so did the original communications revolution, which brought one standard of programming into homes across an entire nation, and made it possible to hear an event happening, even while it was going on.

The latest incarnation of the ongoing communications revolution is more flexible and less centralized than its predecessors because it no longer depends on massive corporations providing content to us. There are no more gravelly voiced announcers telling us what to think about the Vietnam War, in between commercials for sudsy soaps. Or rather they still exist, and if you are desperate you can find Dan Rather still blathering about Nixon and the Vietnam War on HDNet, a failed project of another Dot.com billionaire, and likely the only conceivable place that might still give Keith Olbermann a job, but they don't matter anymore.

Why bother spending millions developing content, whether it's a television cop show or a news anchor reporting from some officially "war torn" part of the world, to pull in a million viewers or readers, when you can let ten thousand people create their own content and pull in a million viewers that way, and the only cost is the physical and programming infrastructure to make it all possible.

If you think there's nothing good on television anymore, that's because there's no reason to make anything good for free television anymore. Network newscasts, the New York Times and magazines are vanity projects now. Some of these operate at a loss, the rest are battling diminishing revenues. They have no future and the easiest way to see that is by gauging the number of new newspapers, networks and magazines being launched.

That doesn't mean Facebook is the future, it's already the past. Without an economic relationship, the only way to lock in users is by providing a vital service that can't be easily shifted. There's nothing Facebook offers that qualifies; the morass of daily user interactions don't need to moved, its users will one day leave them behind. Its only staying power is user inertia, and that has no future. Google has managed to sink its roots far deeper into the lives of its users than Facebook, which, for all its intimacy, is just another waypoint full of user data, that, like milk, loses value after freshness.

The difference between Facebook and Friendster, the cautionary tale of social networking, lies in such areas as timing, branding and uptime. One day, in the not so distant future, Facebook will be another cautionary tale. That is the inevitable lifecycle of even the giants, to one day serve as a cautionary tale for the next upstart with a garage story and a valuation in the billions.

Facebook is just another company with a bland interface, that started life as minimalistic before degenerating into digital design sprawl, which was heralded as the next big thing because it had a lot of users and it has a lot of users because it's the next big thing. Break that cycle and it no longer has a lot of users or is the next big thing.

The media-rich obsessions of a bored society turn bland neurotics like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg into outsized public figures, as if they were the next Carnegie or Rockefeller. They're not. They're mildly clever toolmakers, adapting the work of more innovative thinkers, or paying others to adapt it. They're not personalities or empire builders, they're not even the smartest kids in the class, just smart enough to build a company based on doing one thing well and rarely learning to do anything else. That one thing can keep their idiot savant companies afloat, and lead to them being declared geniuses and trendsetters, but there's always another smart kid who has learned to do something else well, and that thing will also change everything.

Facebook is worth nothing and worth everything. Its value, like its content, is flash value, the explosion of the immediate, the unleashed energy of the moment. It monetizes the idle moments of people's lives, but it has no future beyond that moment. When the moment passes, it passes too. Its only power rests in the sheer size of its user base, in the aggregation of moments, the mayfly energy of distraction. So long as it appears to be growing, it appears to be of infinite value. When its growth stops, the collective moments will begin to diminish and the illusion will end.

The triumph of Facebook is the triumph of a post-media marketplace where companies no longer know how to talk to users, and users are always bored and always moving on to something else. It's the triumph of accessibility and convenience for users and user data for companies which are no longer in the manufacturing business, but in the branding business.

If everyone's products are being made in the same dirty alleys of China's factory towns by Chinese companies, which will in a matter of months or years, roll out their own brand to Western consumers, the conglomerates aren't really selling products anymore, they're selling brands. The big letters on the can, the "designed-to-death" logo, and the whole package of emotions associated with the brand.

Companies like Facebook try to lock in users with free services in order to resell those users to American companies looking to cultivate brand loyalty in order to resell those users back to the Chinese manufacturers who actually make their products. Facebook sells the ads while the company buying the ads feels confident enough about its brand value to add 10 cents more to the price of its detergent, gadget or jeans made in the same factories and sweatshops in Asia as everyone else's.

The actual product being moved in all these exchanges is "You", the Western consumer being sold and resold down the digital river which flows all the way to Shanghai. Whatever new revolution is hatched in Silicon Valley, the ultimate beneficiaries are still the clean rooms of Asia where the technology that powers the revolutions gets made. Facebook and Google may come and go, and their data with them, but the manufacturers who make storing and moving the data possible are the short-term and long-term beneficiaries of every revolution.

Whether Apple or Google comes out on top is of small meaning to the Chinese industrial machine. Android or iOS still run on Chinese hardware, much like Mark Zuckerberg's own genetic code will. The future doesn't belong to the revolutionaries, it belongs to the machine of revolution, and the machine of the digital revolution is not in California, it's across the ocean. The short term benefits of technological revolutions may fall to the end users, but the long term benefits go to the manufacturer who uses it to build up its infrastructure.

Technological revolutions are toolmakers' revolutions, but the value of a tool is what you do with it. We have done all sorts of neat things with them as individuals, but the sum total of all these things is the easy road of convenience and indulgence. The time that our tools save us, we invest back into the tools, and we make more tools to do more things, but all those things involve playing with the tools. It's little wonder that the chief beneficiaries are not the toolmakers, but the toolmakers' toolmakers.

Making our economy fragmented and individualistic; has also made it portable and destructible, and the tycoons with their massive data caches and user habit algorithms are only making it easier to sell Chinese products to America, not vice versa. The empires, like the data, are speculative, their value, like that of our currency, rests primarily in the perception of value. Its economy is increasingly our economy, a vast marketplace of numbers that runs on technology made in Chengdu, Huizhou and Shenzen.

An economy of brands has no future because sooner or later the perceived value crashes and then nothing is left but a hole where an economy once was.





Monday, May 21, 2012

America: A Rogue Nation

The debate over the Iraq War that was held in the United Nations, and in academic and foreign policy circles, could be broken down as the question whether it was Iraq or the United States that was the rogue nation. On the one hand, Iraq had defied multiple UN resolutions, but so had the United States. Iraq had gone rogue, but, by talking about a unilateral invasion, so had the United States, and, in the moral calculus of the international community, all that mattered was being a team player.

The Iran debate is a resumption of the same old argument. Is Israel or Iran the rogue state? Both have defied the United Nations, which apart from any of the moral issues, makes them rogue states. If the only value that matters is cooperation within the international community, then Iran and Israel are on the same level.

Every now and then we wonder why we can't win wars anymore. The answer is that we don't fight wars, we fight endless police actions in the name of stability. Nearly every war we fought in the last hundred years was about stabilizing a region in an endless game of domino theory. Most of the wars were morally right, not so much because we fought them for the right reasons or in the right ways, but because our enemies were genuine monsters.

Our defense plan and foreign policy for generations has depended on maintaining an international order that would provide for common defense and common markets, and that most of all would allow for international stability. Stability has been the absolute good, instability the absolute enemy. It's not right or wrong that we care about, but the regional stability that maintains stable markets and keeps us from having to send peacekeeping forces to another hellhole.

This is the Pax Americana. This is why we did something about Iraq and Libya, countries out of step with the Arab League. It is why we will almost certainly bomb Syria and why we pressure Israel. It is also why we have done nothing about a genuine genocide in Sudan, whose regime has the support of the Arab League. It is why we will keep on pushing Taiwan into China's embrace, while trying to checkmate China's expansionism. It is why we will keep putting money and troops behind the United Nations.

United States governments have lost the ability to think of national rights and interests, apart from the international order. The two have become one and the same. It is presumed that what is good for the international community is good for America, even when that clearly is not the case because it is presumed that the infrastructure of international law and stability is an overall good.

The United Nations was not simply inept, like the League of Nations; it was a relic of another age even as its delegates trooped into the modern glass and steel building on Turtle Bay. It had been built to counter the wrong threat. The problem no longer lay with rogue industrialized nations on a conquering spree, but with an international ideology determined to subjugate civilization with its own worldwide alliance. 

American power and wealth made the international order possible, but aside from the Korean War, it proved to be of very little use against Communism, which simply infiltrated it and took it over. The international order was a dream of Western liberals, and their sympathies inevitably lay with the barbarians at the gate, not with the civilization within. Their dream of inclusiveness filled the UN with legions of Third World dictatorships, giving us a choice between allying with monsters or letting the Soviet Union ally with them.

The same story is repeating itself with Islam, except we didn't spend the Cold War pretending that the Warsaw Pact were our allies, while our enemies were a handful of Communist terrorists who needed more moderate influence from the Mecca of Moscow. We bombed countries to overthrow Communist dictatorships, we did not bomb them to install "moderate" Communist dictatorships-- as we keep doing now.

The international order was useless against Communism, it is even more useless against Islam, which is not a rogue state acting outside the body of international law, but nations and non-state actors bound together by a common religion with the aim of subjugating those it considers inferior. The international community cannot do anything about Islam, because Islam is a sizable part of the international community. Nor does the international community want to do something about Islam.

International orders are based on voluntary action and after all the champagne flutes are lifted to toast peace, no one particularly wants to go out and enforce it. Not against a big target. The League of Nations folded out of sheer gutlessness. The United Nations hasn't gone the same way because it has yet to encounter a major war that would expose its uselessness. Had the Cold War gone hot, we would be reading about the United Nations in the history books. When the conflict with Islam truly explodes, the United Nations will be one of the first casualties.

The international order does not exist to prevent war, but to maintain the illusion that the current level of stability and order is due to a new plateau of human enlightenment, rather than because the combination of factors waiting to turn the simmering grudges and power vacuums of yesterday's conflict into tomorrow's war have not yet come to term. Then the tanks cross the Polish border, the planes crash into the towers and the illusion begins to collapse. The ability is gone and there is a sharp diving line between those members of the international order who will fight and those who will cower in a corner.

American elites have always had a strong Transatlantic tendency. Throughout the 19th Century, the United States was pulled to the West, but increases in communications and transportation technology, combined with government centralization, drew it back to the east and across the ocean into a European alliance to protect the mother country and the continent and patch together the ragged pieces of a post-colonial European order. From the 1940's onward, the United States was tasked with arbitrating the conflicts between the European Left and Right, and between its moderate and immoderate left.

The Pax Americana realized many of the European plans, tying together international law with free enterprise, generous international aid and a dose of moderate policing. It was a post-colonial colonialism based on ideas that we insisted were universal, even though the only countries which really held them to be self-evident truths were the colonial powers and their offspring. But mostly it all depended on American power. It still does.

The only thing worth knowing about international affairs is that everyone hates the United States and every other country in the world that isn't their own. The degree of hatred varies with prominence, proximity and exposure. Everyone hates their neighbors, even if they don't have much prominence or exposure. Most hate prominent countries with a great deal of exposure. Even minor countries that are far away, but have a great deal of exposure end up being hated after a while.

Mostly this hatred isn't violent. It takes the form of resentments, stereotypes and grudges funneled into soccer matches and angry wars of words between politicians over some minor trading dispute or the position of a few islands on the border. Small reminders that we aren't an enlightened breed, we aren't noble people, we are often petty and territorial. We are only human, and the international order that we built is only human. It has the same petty hatreds and resentments, and the same cowardice and criminality that we are capable of. The international order is a mob, and mobs are ugly things. They will tear apart the weak while fleeing the strong. A mob has less morals in a group than its individuals do. And this is the international order that we have staked our future on.

If the United States is going to survive the century, it will have to do so as a rogue nation. The international order has no future, and dying for it is madness and suicide. The international order is cooperative and turning cooperation with a system that disdains individual nations and rewards internal alliances into our supreme value in international affairs is suicide.

We have fought two useless destructive wars on the terms of the international order, with international alliances aimed at stabilizing regions, and turning rogue states into good members of the international community. We failed both times, and we lost far more men and women on these stabilizing exercises than we did in fighting the wars. We recently fought a third war with nothing to gain for it and plenty to lose. We are likely to launch a fourth war this year for the same reason, and continuing doing this road is madness.

The United States can survive without the international order, but it cannot survive the international order. It cannot survive if it continues thinking of its survival only in terms of the international order. That will mean economic suicide, demographic suicide and strategic suicide.

The international order values integration above all else. Its only values are cooperative values. The internationalists have replaced, "My Country Right or Wrong" with "The International Order Right or Wrong". And the international order has been consistently wrong for sixty years. The order today represents our enemies who wish to destroy us demographically and militarily. They want to grind us down as a separate entity and incorporate us as tools and resources into the order. That will mean not only the death of our individualism, our economy and our independence-- it will mean the death of everything when the international order falls to the Jihad.

To survive, we have to stop thinking of global stability and global markets, and start thinking of ourselves. We have to go back to discover what our national interests are and what our moral values are, instead of confusing our interests and morals with internationalism. To survive as a nation, we have to become a nation once again.