The arsenal of democracy and justice

While it does commit the sin of failing to label an axis, it’s still a good point.

I had to look it up, but it seems the cost of an incredibly effective weapon against white nationalists is only about $2.25. A bargain! I am disappointed by one thing, though.

McDonald’s also has strawberry and chocolate shakes, but everyone seems to have an unconscious bias favoring vanilla. Please, can we overcome white bias? Other places must sell shakes in other flavors, like blueberry and mint. I’d like to see a concerted effort to paint fascists all the colors of the rainbow.

Blinded by the Right

Guilty confession time: I once really respected Glenn Greenwald. I thought he was doing admirable work defending civil liberties, although as I saw more and more of the Libertarian Greenwald, it was getting kind of ugly there. I can salve my conscience a little bit, though, in that David Neiwert also liked some of his work. One can be easily misled if you try to interpret him charitably.

So I was surprised in a good way by much of what I began reading at Greenwald’s blog, Unclaimed Territory, in fall of 2005. It was smart, thoughtful, and quite insightful about what he rightly saw as an executive power grab in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy. I began citing it favorably at my own blog, Orcinus, which at that point was also pretty well established (I opened shop there in January 2003).

Hey, me too! Greenwald made a few positive comments about my work, and also follows me on Twitter (although probably not for long). There’s a lot to like about him. There are also lots of hints in his past that there is much to dislike as well. Now Neiwert has compiled a long and thoroughly documented and factual summary of how Greenwald’s libertarian zealotry does harm. Neiwert has all the receipts, and he lays them out, starting with a history of the emerging racist hate groups in the 1950s, through Greenwald’s rise to prominence as one of their most righteous defenders.

I just believe his sort of principled rigidity on free-speech issues blinds him to the real-world effects of fascism—particularly how it manipulates free-speech principles in order to destroy them. Fascists use people like Greenwald to leave a trail of wreckage.

It’s not about whether or not he’s racist—which, after all, would indeed make the whole issue one of guilt by association. That’s not the point of all this. No, this is a question of judgment: If you’re so short-sighted that you can’t see how your ethical choices wind up enabling harmful behavior, then exactly how astute is your judgment in any event?

It’s not guilt by association, it’s the guilt of association: People in responsible mainstream positions who lend legitimacy to people from far-right hate groups—whether Klansmen, skinheads, neo-Nazis, or militiamen—are exercising profoundly poor judgment. Lending them that legitimacy not only normalizes them, it empowers them. It helps fuel the twisted psychology of the far right that inevitably, like a law of physics itself, produces violent horrors and ruptured communities. Ask the folks in Billings, or in Illinois.

It’s an excellent history lesson, but also a solid argument against the multitudes of alt-righters who even now claim they are honest defenders of free speech rights…yet somehow, they always end up aiding the most deplorable, awful people, while overlooking the good people who could use some free speech too, as they get trampled by the rising fascist tide.

Where is Greenwald now? Sadly, he’s doing just that, rushing to the side of Tucker Carlson to claim the white nationalist threat is non-existent, and helping to silence those who oppose it.

More recently, of course, he has appeared frequently on Fox News with Tucker Carlson. Carlson’s record of promoting white-nationalist causes and ideas clearly doesn’t bother Greenwald. In the process, of course, he has become exactly what he once derided caustically: a “Fox News liberal,” one whose appearance on the network is mainly used to help forward right-wing talking points and destroy the left. He’s now a Useful Tool.

And now he is defending his fellow faux progressives as they join Carlson in his campaign to minimize and defend fascist white nationalism as Not Really A Problem.

David Neiwert has earned a lot of trust as a journalist for his careful journalism. Greenwald, sadly, has betrayed it.

Sam Harris shoves his foot down his gullet again

Remember, Sam Harris is the atheist leader who once, when asked where all the women were at in atheism, explained it away by saying atheism lacked that “estrogen vibe” instead of noting all the women who have been leaders and who were currently hard-working activists.

I think it may have to do with my person slant as an author, being very critical of bad ideas. This can sound very angry to people..People just don’t like to have their ideas criticized. There’s something about that critical posture that is to some degree instrinsically male and more attractive to guys than to women. The atheist variable just has this – it doesn’t obviously have this nurturing, coherence-building extra estrogen vibe that you would want by default if you wanted to attract as many women as men.

He has a great big blind spot for anyone who isn’t a rich white man. So when he says bullshit like this:

A paradox for our time: The far Left is disproportionately white, wealthy, and well-educated. So extreme “wokeness” is now one of the most glaring symptoms of “white privilege.”

He’s just doing it again. It’s because all the black men and women, and Hispanic men and women, and LGBT people who have been fighting for the Left all this time are invisible to him. That far Left is awesomely diverse, while his “Intellectual Dark Web” and the alt-right are a mess of mediocre white people suckling at the teats of conservative think tanks and promoting the status quo that maintains their privilege.

But this is typical of the tin-eared pronouncements from Harris, probably the most clueless of the “Four Horsemen”, and the one who is still regarded as the premier figurehead of alt-atheism. If only this was a position he could be fired from, but he’s still propped up by a horde of white male cultists.

Game of Thrones was a metaphor for the Democratic Party!

It’s all clear now. The series came to a slow, awkward close, by having all the complex story lines that had been building for years wrapped up by having a band-aid slapped on them. I’ll say that for it — it did end.

Then, to resolve who finally is going to sit on the throne of the seven kingdoms — you know, the whole core premise of the conflicts in the show — all the surviving noble leaders sit down and talk it out instead of murdering each other, which was weird and out of character. To decide who would be king, they then announce that stories are important, which I can agree with, and that the person who should be king is the one who has the most compelling, interesting life story, an idea only a writer could come up with. They think about it.

Would it be Arya, who fled the execution of her father, wandered up and down the country having adventures, trained in an exotic land to be a magical assassin, and who killed all of the zombies?

Would it be Sansa, the woman who went from a fawning child mooning over kings and queens, through a series of dynastic marriages and rapes and abuses to emerge a hardened, cynical queen of the North?

No, don’t be silly. They’re women.

Instead, they picked the most boring, mediocre guy in the whole show, the guy who spends most of his time staring vacantly into space, who just followed along in the wake of all the heroes in the series, who did nothing but pretended to know everything. He gets the throne for showing up. It seems “interesting story” is defined as “safe, harmless story”.

Obviously, the council of aristocrats who decided who is to be king is the DNC, and the show is prophesying that they’ll nominate Joe Biden, because he is the most mediocre white man they can find.

Only in this real world no one bothered to eradicate the zombie horde with Valyrian steel, so that pat decision isn’t going to end the conflict.

Winter is coming, we’re screwed.

Not a good day

Fresh off my horrible afternoon of bad entertainment, I’m going to have to watch another shitty piece of garbage in about an hour: the very last episode of Game of Thrones. This show has aggravated me for 8 years, and now they’re going to blow it up awkwardly in about an hour.

There are only two endings that I will find satisfying: 1) Benioff & Weiss are publicly beheaded, or 2) the peasants rise up and slaughter all the Lannisters and Starks and Whatevers and establish a democratic republic with no aristocrats. Both of these endings are fully compatible, and the best ending would combine the two.

I doubt I will be satisfied, and I very much doubt that Weiss & Benioff have the talent to come up with a better alternative.

Unplanned

Holy shit, that was bad. As I mentioned before, several local church groups booked the Morris Theater to show the Pure Flix piece of crap, Unplanned, so I attended today to have an informed perspective on the movie. It was worse than I expected. It’s pure nonstop defamation of Planned Parenthood from beginning to end, and doesn’t really address any of the issues behind abortion at all — the whole goal is to demonize abortion and family planning.

Unfortunately, the theater was packed. They had clearly brought in several churchloads of people to see this thing, and it was intensely religious. They had 4 pastors and the director of Options for Women, one of those bogus nothingburger outfits that claims to provide alternatives for women who find themselves pregnant, but really, as the director announced, only provides a “passion and love for Jesus”. There was an opening prayer, of course, and they announced that there were offering baskets in the lobby for donations on the way out.

I did not make a donation.

Then the movie began. (Warning: Spoilers Ahead. Not that you should care.) It was the story of Abby Johnson, supposedly, from her book, which we know to be full of lies. It starts with the earth-shaking abortion that never happened, in which Johnson is called to assist with the ultrasound in an abortion, and watches the little fetus struggle and squirm and claw at the sides of the uterus as it is sucked into a vacuum tube in extreme detail. They spent some money on this fake animation. You can see in exquisite focus its little fingers clutching vainly to prevent being aspirated to its doom, and then its head goes pop as it gets sucked in, and then we cut to the outlet tube, which is about an inch in diameter and quarts of blood, with lumps, are being pumped into a big bucket. It was gory and exaggerated to the point of absurdity.

Johnson runs wailing to the bathroom, tears pouring down her face. Then we cut back in time 8 years, and we’re going to follow her life leading up to this moment.

She volunteers to work for Planned Parenthood after college. Her first day on the job as a volunteer clinic escort, she demonstrates great compassion…for the protesters outside the gate. The protesters are very nice. When Johnson mentions that the dismembered fetus pictures and the guy dressed up as the grim reaper aren’t actually that nice, they assure her that they tell those freaks to stay away. It’s not their fault. They’re just praying.

Johnson does this frequently, maybe once successfully ushering a patient into the building, but even then she has to have a little discussion with the protesters. If the movie wanted to portray her as incompetent at her job, they succeeded.

We meet Cheryl, the director of the clinic. She is an evil witch: never smiles, the other workers go silent when she steps into the room, she’s heartless and unsympathetic. When Johnson gets pregnant, Cheryl urges her to get an abortion and suggests that she won’t be suited for the job if she doesn’t. Everyone has to wait for her to leave the office before they can throw a baby shower for her, that’s how cruel she is.

Another day, a dramatic event: a father brings his teenaged daughter in for an abortion. After the procedure, she’s sitting there with blood dribbling down — the doctor, who is presented as an unfeeling machine, has perforated her uterus. Everyone panics. They rush her into one of the clinic rooms, the doctor starts cursing, they’re stuffing gauze in her crotch that an ungloved, unwashed Johnson is handing to him. The clinic workers want to call 911 and get an ambulance there…Cheryl coldly says no, the protesters would love that, it would hurt their business, so they spend 5 hours putting the girl back together again. Cheryl isn’t worried, they’ll dope her with some strong drugs so she won’t remember a thing.

If that were a true story, that’s when Johnson should have insta-quit. The whole tale is unlikely, unethical, and not at all fitting with the mission of Planned Parenthood. I also wanted to scream out that if safe abortions are banned, there will be a lot more perforated uteruses in America.

Later, Johnson goes out to chat with the protesters again, talking about all the good Planned Parenthood does. They completly stump her by comparing abortion to slavery and the Holocaust. No, really, she immediately clamps her mouth shut and leaves.

Abby Johnson is really, really bad at her job.

Next comes an order from the state office to double the number of abortions, because they need more money for an expanded clinic. This makes no sense, because abortions are only a few percent of Planned Parenthood’s business, but this movie only shows abortions being done. No mammograms, no STD testing and treatment, no contraceptives, no education programs, nothing — only brutal, bloody, buckets of blood-style abortions of miserable, weeping women. Johnson is told that abortion is what pays for her salary, and once again, Cheryl shows contempt for people who have babies.

The next big event: George Tiller is murdered. Johnson is terrified. Who does she talk to for reassurance? Why, those nice abortion protesters, who are all sympathetic and regretful. Her Planned Parenthood colleagues, though, tell her that they were only showing false sympathy. No, the movie makers are not going to use the Tiller murder to allow any criticisms of these friendly protesters to show through.

Abby Johnson is threatened with firing, because she dared to criticize her boss for promoting more abortions, a convenient but completely fictitious explanation. We also get to see a worker wheeling out two 55 gallon drums for disposal. The protesters ask, “Is that what I think is in there?” He says yes, ambiguously. What I’d think was in there was dirty gauze and pads and old syringes and discarded latex gloves, on their way to an incinerator, but they ask to pray over it, and then babble about hundreds of dead babies in those gigantic drums. Yeah, right.

We get a reprise of the gory baby-sucking event, which is the first time Johnson has ever attended any of the medical procedures at the clinic, because she is not qualified to do any of it, and is more of administrator/clerical person, but this time she’s brought in to do the ultrasound, which she does like a real pro, getting amazing high-resolution images of a baby. I rather doubt that this event happened at all. It’s also unlikely because we have the records of all the abortions done at the clinic that day, and there was only one, of a 6-week fetus.

She quits. First she runs once again to the protesters, her very favorite people, but she’s finally out.

That’s kind of the story, except there’s a weird bit tacked on calculated to increase the perception of Evil Cheryl. They sue Abby Johnson (in real life, they only made a legal motion to prevent her from spreading confidential information, since she had had access to all those medical records). They hire a lawyer from a billboard, who is just played as smug, grossly over-confident, and smirking, which apparently the audience found hilarious. They laughed every time he announced that Planned Parenthood was going to get what they deserved.

This segment was really about making Cheryl a mouthpiece for their myths. She monologues evilly at Johnson, telling her that Planned Parenthood was “one of the most powerful organizations on the planet”, that they were a “billion dollar corporation”, that they were supported by “Soros, Gates, and Buffet” and nothing was going to stop their profits. When the motion to prevent Johnson from sharing confidential information was defeated, the audience cheered. Of course.

We’re finally done. Oh, that was painful. We also get the Breakfast Club Outro, in which we learn that Abby Johnson is currently on her 8th child.

It’s typical Pure Flix, unbelievable garbage in which they clearly have no knowledge of what clinic workers do or think, just as in God’s Not Dead they had negative knowledge of what philosophers teach. Their job is simply to represent the biases and stereotypes of their grossly ignorant audiences, and they do that well.