California • Democrats • Elections • Law and Order • Post • Second Amendment

Kamala’s Contradictions

Kamala Harris, the junior U.S. senator from California who is battling among some two-dozen other candidates for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, didn’t have much of a career before 1994. That was the year she became the new “steady” of California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, a man who is a full 30 years her senior. In a process of poontronage, Brown appointed Harris to lucrative sinecures in state government and raised money for her successful run for San Francisco district attorney.

Harris went on to win election as state attorney general in 2010, even though the Sacramento Bee endorsed her Republican rival, Steve Cooley. (So much for the power of endorsements!) In 2016, Brown urged former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to drop out of the U.S. Senate race, and his former steady went on to win the November election handily. Harris now wants to be president, but she is hardly the only Willie Brown understudy on the rise.

In 1995, a year after he met Harris, Brown encountered fundraiser Carolyn Carpeneti, an elegant blond of 32, and the two became romantically involved. In fact, the pair had a daughter in 2001, when Carpeneti was 38 and Brown 67. As the San Francisco Chronicle noted in 2003, “people familiar with her career—political professionals, city officials, her ex-husband—say Carpeneti’s success is rooted in her relationship with Brown.”

Over a five-year period, groups controlled by Brown paid $2.3 million to Carpeneti, recently granted a sweetheart no-bid deal to recruit for California’s online college project. As Dan Morain noted in CALmatters, the person who selected Carpeneti, Heather Hiles, “is connected to San Francisco politics, having overseen communications for Gov. Gavin Newsom while he was running to succeed Brown as mayor of San Francisco in 2003.”

Like Carpeneti, the success of Kamala Harris is also rooted in her relationship with Willie Brown. The most successful Brown understudy recently announced that, that if she is elected president, within 100 days she would issue an executive order against “assault weapons,” because “1 in 4 police officers killed in the line of duty by gunfire is killed by an assault weapon.”

But just as the corporate leftist media ignored Harris’s relationship with Brown, so too have they ignored her most notable encounter with a cop killer.

As San Francisco’s D.A., Harris promised she would never seek the death penalty. But a murder of a police officer was one of the special circumstances for which voters approved the death penalty in 1977. The San Francisco Chronicle examined 90 cases of cop killings since 1987, and found that prosecutors sought the death penalty in nearly every case.

In 2004, David Hill, 21, a member of the Mob Hill gang, deployed an AK-47 to gun down San Francisco police officer Isaac Espinosa, 29. Harris announced, “today I want to be very clear: in the city and county of San Francisco, anyone who murders a police officer engaged in his or her duties will be met with the most severe consequences.” Despite the tough rhetoric, however, Harris would not seek the death penalty for Hill.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a former mayor of San Francisco, showed up at Espinosa’s funeral and said, This is not only the definition of tragedy, it’s the special circumstance called for by the death penalty law.” Police union president Gary Delagnes demanded that Espinosa’s killer “pay the ultimate price.” Delagnes also drew an ovation, but according to the San Francisco Chronicle report, the officer earned “a dirty look from Harris, who was sitting in the front row.”

San Francisco police officer Mike Nevin argued that the death penalty is already reserved for a small percentage of the most heinous crimes. Killing a police officer should qualify, the officer said, “because if you’re willing to kill a cop, you’re willing to kill anybody.” That failed to change the thinking of Harris, and in her 2009 Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor’s Plan to Make Us Safer, Harris found the number of nonviolent offenders “truly staggering” and put them at the top of her “crime pyramid.”

Harris won a narrow victory in 2010 but the Attorney General stayed quiet in 2014 when previously deported Mexican national Luis Bracamontes gunned down police officers Danny Oliver and Michael Davis. The Mexican’s weapon of choice was an assault rifle and during his trial, he shouted “black lives don’t matter” at family members of the victims.

In 2015, repeatedly deported Mexican felon Jose Inez Garcia Zarate shot and killed Kate Steinle on a San Francisco pier. Harris defended the city’s sanctuary policy and failed even to decry “gun violence” in the case

That same year, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik used assault rifles to kill 14 unarmed innocents and wounded 22 at an office party in San Bernardino. A year later, Harris issued a statement on the “devastating and tragic terrorist attack,” but failed to name the Islamic terrorists and their motive for the mass murder.

Meanwhile, for murdering Isaac Espinosa with an AK-47 and attempting to murder his partner, Barry Parker, David Hill drew a life sentence, without the possibility of parole. Had Hill been sentenced to death, as Feinstein and others wanted, the killer would have been saved by Governor Gavin Newsom. In March, Newson reprieved all 737 murderers on California’s death row, including Luis Bracamontes who said during his trial that he wished he had killed more cops.

But opposing the death penalty in San Francisco means never having to say you’re sorry. Then again, the rest of America might think otherwise.

Photo credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Identity Politics • Law and Order • Post • Second Amendment • self-government • The Culture

Stand-Your-Ground and the Florida Governor’s Race

Florida is at the forefront of the national debate on gun rights, and it has been for a long while. It led the nation with its “shall issue” concealed-carry reform in 1987 under Governor Bob Martinez. Today, approximately 10 percent of adult Floridians have a concealed carry permit.

While the claims Florida would turn into the Wild West never materialized, George Zimmerman’s racially charged shooting of Trayvon Martin galvanized Florida and the nation in 2012. Those who called for Zimmerman’s head frequently blamed the situation on Florida’s “stand your ground” law. His defenders saw an upside-down universe of double standards, fake news, and results-oriented charges of racism.

Following the Zimmerman trial, stand-your-ground has been invoked imprecisely and often by critics in the wake of every self-defense shooting, particularly when there is a racial dimension. The law, in fact, has little to do with most of them. To understand the impact of the 2005 law, we need to consider Florida’s previous self-defense laws, which were rooted in the principles of the English common law.

Self-Defense Always Requires Reasonable Fear
Both before and after 2005, Florida law allowed self-defense through deadly force in a very limited number of situations. It had to be necessary in the eyes of a reasonable person, and deadly force could only be used to defend one’s life, to prevent great bodily harm, or to prevent a “forcible felony.” Then as now, the person claiming self-defense could not be the aggressor. Deadly force could not be used only to defend property. And, prior to 2005, there was a duty to retreat if doing so could be accomplished in safety. There was a limited permission not to retreat when defending oneself in one’s home, an exception derived from the strong Anglo-American tradition that a “man’s home is his castle.”

Florida treated self-defense as an affirmative defense, for which the defendant had to, at the very least, meet a “burden of production” before the matter could be submitted to the jury. Once the question was before the jury, however, the prosecutor had to disprove the defense beyond a reasonable doubt.

Disputed questions of self-defense can be very high stakes indeed. Under the legacy system, a prosecutor would be within his rights to proceed to trial if he thought there was a chance the jury wouldn’t agree with claim of self-defense by the defendant, who faced life without parole as the penalty for first degree murder. Even a defendant with an irrefutable claim of self-defense would remain in suspense until the very end. Of course, the costs of an adequate legal defense could prove ruinously expensive even in a successful case.

The Stand Your Ground Law
The 2005 stand-your-ground amendments made two significant changes to Florida law. First, the duty to retreat was no longer mandated in public spaces. In this regard, Florida now stands with the majority of other states, which have adopted what are alternately called “stand your ground” or “true man” modifications to the common law treatment of self-defense.

Abolishing the retreat requirement is uniquely American. While other legal systems, including English common law, conceive of self-defense as a nod to extreme necessity, the American legal regime reflects our frontier heritage of rugged individualism. In this view, there is a moral dimension to affirming the rights of the law-abiding to enjoy their freedom, help themselves, and prevent the bad guys from getting away.

There are also practical reasons to do away with the retreat requirement. Florida previously didn’t require retreat when it could not be accomplished safety, but whether it’s ever safe to retreat is subject to a great deal of uncertainty and interpretation. As then state representative Dennis Braxley argued at the time in favor of the bill, retreating is a “good way to get shot in the back.”

In defending its own variation of “stand-your-ground,” the Nevada Supreme Court summarized the matter this way:

First, we note that a rule requiring a non-aggressor to retreat confers a benefit on the aggressor and a detriment on the non-aggressor. Second, it is often quite difficult for a jury to determine whether a person should reasonably believe that he may retreat from a violent attack in complete safety. Thus, a rule which requires a non-aggressor to retreat may confuse the jury and lead to inconsistent verdicts. We believe that a simpler rule will lead to more just verdicts.

While often invoked to discredit the stand-your-ground law, George Zimmerman’s right of deadly force only came into being when his head was being bashed into the ground by Travyon Martin. He claimed, and the jury agreed, that he was reasonably at that moment in fear of great bodily harm. His screams and the large gash on the back of his head—shown at trial, but rarely shown in the media—made this pretty plain. Zimmerman had no opportunity to retreat at that point, and had no duty to retreat prior to the assault. No law prevented Zimmerman from following or talking to Martin or walking around his own neighborhood, and such noncriminal behavior is allowed everywhere.

Self-Defense Immunity
The second aspect of the 2005 stand-your-ground bill is somewhat unique to Florida; the law allows a pretrial immunity hearing to protect a defendant that proffers evidence of a prima facie self-defense claim to the court. Under the immunity standards, law enforcement agencies risk having to pay the defendant’s attorneys’ fees in the case of an arrest where such immunity is invoked successfully.

This procedure gives defendants invoking self-defense two bites at the apple. They can prove to a judge that they engaged in self-defense, unless the prosecutor successfully shows with “clear and convincing” evidence that it can refute the claim. Even if this immunity hearing is unsuccessful, the prosecutor still must prove their case—including disproving self-defense—beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury.

Surprisingly, Zimmerman’s defense team never bothered to invoke this procedure, even though it would have provided a basis for an appeal and also would have revealed the prosecution’s main strategy in advance of the ultimate trial.

So both aspects of stand your ground—the removal of the duty to retreat and the provision of a pretrial immunity hearing—were completely absent from the Trayvon Martin stand-your-ground cause celebre.

Stand-Your-Ground Has Become a Political Litmus Test
Stand-your-ground is likely to be an issue in the 2018 Florida governor’s race. Trump-endorsed Republican candidate Ron DeSantis is a strong Second Amendment supporter. Democrat Andrew Gillum, following the trendy causes of “gun safety” and racial justice, has stated that he thinks the stand-your ground-law should be repealed.

Both candidates have recent cases to lend strength to their appeals. Just a few weeks ago, in a case out of Lakeland, Florida, an Uber driver, who was very skilled in using his firearm, took out a drunk, aggressive guy who attacked him. The sheriff said—not quite accurately—that it was a classic “stand your ground” case. Here, there was no time or means of retreat; you can see the video here. It was, more accurately, a classic “self-defense” case, but the doctrinal confusion over stand your ground is apparently universal.

For opponents of the law, a truly sketchy use of force by Michael Drejka in Clearwater led to a delay in prosecution by the Pinellas County Sheriff. The sheriff said his hands were tied by the prospect of liability if he made an inappropriate arrest. Activists including Al Sharpton and Benjamin Crump descended on the community, claiming stand your ground was a “racist, Jim Crow” law. The victim was an unarmed black man, Markeis McGlockton. While McGlockton shoved the shooter to the ground, Drejka’s use of force in responding appears disproportionate. Other facts suggest that the shooter was a hothead, itching for confrontation. Nonetheless, retreat does not seem to be an issue. In spite of the brief delay by the sheriff, the prosecutor’s office eventually chose to prosecute the matter. Many gun-rights supporters—including me—feel no strong need to weigh in on this particular incident, which seems gratuitous and sketchy under the law.

The media and people uneasy with the idea of self-defense in general invoke stand-your-ground all the time.  Activists contend the law is racist, but it’s not exactly clear why; after all, black defenders can invoke the same right to stand their ground and engage in self-defense against white aggressors. Media misreporting of stand-your-ground likely also fuels some confusion by the gun-owning public, who should be reminded that deadly force is appropriate only in life-and-death situations.

When combined with Florida’s liberal concealed-carry laws, stand-your-ground is, however, a nod to the rights of citizens and victims in a world where crime, lawlessness, and uncertainty have increased. This is particularly so since the crime wave of the 1970s and 1980s, when more and more law-abiding people wondered if courts were completely out of touch with their apparent indifference to citizens’ concerns for safety, autonomy, and a level playing field with the criminal class.

Florida represents the front lines of the culture war. It combines a native southern citizenry with a great many transplants, who sometimes have the progressive values of New York or New Jersey or the foreign countries whence they came. You see much of this cultural divide among the parents of Parkland High School, and in the gulf between the more culturally Southern Panhandle and the rest of Florida. Gun control and self-defense law go to the heart of whether Florida will give up historic freedoms in a quest for safety or empower ordinary citizens to take care of themselves.

Jeffrey Snyder, in his excellent essay,  “A Nation of Cowards,” summed up the matter succinctly: “As the Founding Fathers knew well, a government that does not trust its honest, law-abiding, taxpaying citizens with the means of self-defense is not itself worthy of trust. Laws disarming honest citizens proclaim that the government is the master, not the servant, of the people.”

Whether the issue is health care, stand-your-ground, or gun control, the fundamental question in the governor’s race is whether Florida aims to be a self-governing people whose government is its servant or the reverse. In other words, the chief issue in this contest—as it was in the contest between Trump and Hillary Clinton—is fundamentally one of what kind of country we are and aim to be.

Photo Credit: Yegor Aleyev\TASS via Getty Images

Administrative State • Conservatives • Donald Trump • Government Reform • Law and Order • Post • Pro-Life • Republicans • Second Amendment • self-government • separation of powers • The Constitution • The Left • the Presidency

The Coming Restoration of the Constitution

Just as the upcoming midterm elections may be the most important of our lifetimes—since they will determine if the Trumpian Counter-Reformation will continue or be frustrated—the hearings this week on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court are a watershed event in jurisprudence.

Fifty years ago there was a fragile consensus, even in our great law schools, about how justices were to go about doing their jobs. That consensus was formed by admiration for Felix Frankfurter, the occasionally mercurial, but stunningly brilliant, appointee of Franklin Roosevelt. Frankfurter, contrary to the later pattern of justices appointed by Republican presidents, moved to the right on the court, becoming more conservative with age. By the end of his career, in a series of thoughtful opinions, he had explained that the task of a justice was not to formulate new constitutional law according to his personal preferences, but, rather to exercise restraint and wisdom in preserving the original constitutional scheme of separation of powers and preeminence of state and local governments.

For Frankfurter, and for sensible justices since, in particular Justices William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas, the federal government was one of limited and enumerated powers, and justices were supposed be jurists, not legislators.

By the turn of the 20th century in the law schools, at least, as I tried to show in my recent Law Professors: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law, the Frankfurtian consensus had collapsed, so-called “legal realism” had triumphed, adherence to the rule of law was out of favor, and the task of justices had been reconceived as that of Ephors uniquely qualified to dictate rules for the rest of their fellow Americans.

Dismantling the Old Constitution
It takes about 30 years for the wildest ideas in the legal Academy to be transformed into mainstream jurisprudence, and thus the jurisprudence of the far Left—Critical Legal Studies (the principal tenet of which is that law is simply politics)—which was in ascendance in the mid 1980s, profoundly shaped decisions such as Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), when the Supreme Court declared—rejecting millennia of experience—that the United States Constitution mandated that marriage could no longer be limited to a bond between one man and one woman. This followed the landmark opinion in NFIB v. Sebelius (2012), when Chief Justice John Roberts, who prior to that time had been regarded as a fairly reliable conservative, in the course of upholding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), virtually declared there were no longer any limits on Congress’s legislative power.

Put simply, the court had laid the groundwork for the destruction of our constitutional scheme, and had nearly abandoned the traditional ideas that judges were not legislators and that it was the state and local bodies, not the federal government, that were supposed to be the primary movers in national life. Justices David Souter, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Anthony Kennedy, all Republican appointees, had been instrumental in this dismantling of jurisprudential tradition, but they are all gone now.

President Trump, influenced by Leonard Leo and the Federalist Society, as well as the Heritage Foundation, pledged to reverse this dismantling, and this was enough to garner him the support of a few of us traditionalists in the academy. He confirmed our faith in him with the Neil Gorsuch appointment, and he has done the same with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, a man squarely in the Frankfurtian mold, even if he comes from a hotbed of anti-Frankfurtian jurisprudence, Yale Law School. The Life of the Law, it would seem, is full of ironies.

A New “Swing Justice”
The Left has been apoplectic since the announcement of Kavanaugh’s selection, as it accurately perceives that this may mean a new direction on the court. Where Justice Kennedy had been the “swing justice,” supporting his progressive colleagues on social issues such as gay marriage and abortion, Kavanaugh’s joining the court will give the “swing” position to Roberts, perhaps the least conservative of what will now be a group of five.

Adam Liptak, the New York Times’s Supreme Court correspondent, and thus a reliable barometer of the progressives’ view of the Court, declared, “If Roberts assumes that position . . . he will lead a solid five-member conservative majority that would most likely restrict access to abortion, limit the use of race-conscious decisions in areas like college admissions, uphold voting restrictions, expand gun rights, strike down campaign finance regulations, and give religion a greater role in public life.”

Just so. The Supreme Court is not going to overturn Roe v. Wade (1973), the decision that somehow discovered a right to terminate a pregnancy in penumbras and emanations from various amendments, but that decision was clearly without adequate constitutional foundation, and the court has already begun the process of returning the protection of fetal life, at least in the later months of pregnancy, to the states, where traditionally it belonged. The same can be said of the protection of the right to vote, which even the 14th and 15th Amendments recognized was a matter for state and local governments.

Liptak is probably right about future court decisions by a conservative majority that may end other nefarious aspects of federal campaign regulation, as they should be ended. Such legislation, with the damnable McCain-Feingold law as the worst example, ought to be seen for what it is—incumbency protection. The remnants of McCain-Feingold and other such legislation effectively prevents newcomers to politics who cannot afford the consultants and lawyers who are necessary to conduct modern campaigns without running afoul of arcane and onerous rules, and the possible risk of fines and prison terms for violations.

A Litany of Dog-Whistles for the Left
This was a country founded on the propositions that there can be no order without law, no law without morality, and no morality without religion, as Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase declared in a grand jury charge in 1803, voicing sentiments shared by Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, and before them, William Blackstone and Edmund Burke. Thus, it will be a salutary development if, indeed, the court gives religion, in Liptak’s words, “a greater role in public life.”

The Left’s dream of repeal of the Second Amendment is not going to be realized, and, accordingly, the court may, as Liptak expects, protect the traditional right to bear arms. That is now recognized as an individual right, like the others guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, and it should be no surprise that a conservative court would enforce it.

Conservatives traditionally have recoiled from the Left’s penchant for counting by race, and for seeing individuals not as fully-formed and unique human beings, but as markers in a political game pitting ethnic groups against each other. Increasingly, conservatives have held with Martin Luther King, Jr., that Americans should be judged by the “content of their character” (as well as their innate talents and abilities) rather than by the “color of their skin.”

Chief Justice John Roberts has been eloquent in condemning racial politics, and if he leads the Court to limit the “use of race-conscious decisions” he will be leading it in the right direction.

Liptak’s litany of dog-whistles for the Left are actually a program of traditional and sensible jurisprudence for the Right, and for the nation. President Trump has made a second brilliant appointment to the Supreme Court, and though the Left will rage this week, there should be enough senators who understand that it is the popular organs like the Senate that should be making the law, not the judicial branch, and that the Constitution will be better preserved in the hands of a Justice Kavanaugh.

Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Center for American Greatness • feminists • Post • Second Amendment • The Left

Guns and Gamers: An Alliance in the Making

The recent shooting in Jacksonville, Florida is the kind of event that one would have to invent in order to show just how far the Left will twist their narratives to fit where they clearly don’t.

Before the information was even in, for example, Tariq Nasheed, a uniquely dim bulb even by left-wing activist standards, was proclaiming that the shooting was the fault of a “white identity extremist.” There was no evidence to show this, of course, but Nasheed still said it. Why? Because it happened at a video game tournament, and white nationalists apparently sometimes lurk in video game chat rooms to recruit members, apparently under the mistaken impression that 13-year-olds shouting “n—-r” are earnest potential converts to the struggle for the White Race rather than dumb kids trying to be as edgy and offensive as possible. Apparently Tariq Nasheed is dumb enough to believe this, too. Confirmation bias is fun that way.

But it’s not just Nasheed. The subsequent takes from the Left have confirmed that they really wanted the narrative after Jacksonville to be about the alleged “toxicity” of the gaming community, video game violence, and guns. The problem was that the actual facts fit none of these narratives: the shooter apparently acted because he was angry he lost a round of the tournament. For this supreme act of sore loserdom, gamers have branded him with the sublimely accurate sobriquet of “Bitch Boy.”

Speaking as a longtime gamer myself, I’m just sad that the shooter didn’t choose to apply his mediocre gaming “talents” to playing a solo game like “Dark Souls.” At least then he’d have probably only shot his TV and himself, rather than having the bad taste to make innocents a sacrifice to his petulance. The killer’s “toxicity”—that of the person who cannot take a loss gracefully—is the kind of toxicity that an entire subgenre of YouTube videos exist to mock and discourage within the gaming community. It is not material for a thousand thinkpieces.

The other narratives—that video game violence and insufficiently restrictive gun laws can be blamed—are even more ridiculous. The game being played at this tournament was not some fainting couch-filling gorefest like the recent and awesome “DOOM” games: It was the football simulator, “Madden 19.” Granted, football is a violent game. But it’s a game of controlled and strictly regulated violence, and the games intended to model it depict nothing more extreme than what would happen on any regular football field.

Violent video games are at fault? Really? Stuff and nonsense.

And then, of course, there’s the gun-violence narrative, but even this fails: the Jacksonville tournament was sponsored in a gun-free zone, which has ironically given NRA Spokeswoman Dana Loesch a perfect opportunity to weaponize the controversy in favor of gun owners everywhere by calling for an end to gun-free zones. In short, this tragedy is a monkey wrench in the Left’s narrative no matter how you look at it.

This much others in and out of the gaming community already recognize. But there should be another casualty of this shooting, and that is the persistent tendency of the gun lobby to blame violent video games for shootings, and of some elements of the gaming press to blame guns in response. The truth is, the Left is after hobbyists of both varieties—gun owners and gamers—which means an alliance is in order, not this festival of mutual recrimination. In fact, I would like to suggest that the reason the Left has turned on violent video games is exactly the same reason why it has turned on gun owners: because both gamers and gun owners possess what the Left regards as unlicensed empowerment.

In the case of guns, this is a well-worn point. The Left despises the fact that gun owners are able to defend themselves, rather than remain dependent upon the long-arm of the state. And implicitly, they also loathe the fact that these same people fancy themselves able to resist the long arm of the state because of the weapons they own. The calls for an end to people purchasing “military-style” weapons, despite that term applying solely to cosmetic features, is revealing in this regard: the Left does not want Americans thinking of themselves as able to wield the same weapons as the government. It is a power, they believe, that we are not fit to have, and one that leads to the death of innocents because we are not fit to have it. It is a form of empowerment that the people who own guns don’t deserve, and therefore the Left hates them for it.

What may surprise the reader is that the Left hates violent video games for much the same reason. I shouldn’t even say “violent.” The Left hates fun video games, period, as revealed by the self-parodic Leftist game critic Jonathan McIntosh when he wrote, “I think we’re in urgent need of games which aren’t fun.” Why? Because in their world, “fun” games are power fantasies—and more objectionably, power fantasies that are enjoyed by the wrong sorts of people. Just read this description of gamer culture by feminist writer Deirdre Coyle, and see how much of it sounds like Hillary Clinton’s “basket of Deplorables” speech:

Unlike the more subtle bigotry of other creative communities, video game culture wears its misogyny, homophobia, and racism on its sleeve. The toxicity of gamer culture sure doesn’t seem nuanced: when a popular white male gamer yells racial slurs online, other white men rush to his defense; when white male Gamergaters dox female designers, other white male gamers rush to their defense. These aren’t people I want to be associated with, and they’re not usually people whose opinions of me I would pay much attention to.

In other words, the people who are empowered by video games are straight, white men, and we cannot under any circumstance have those people feeling empowered at all, unless it is to acknowledge how unjust that “power” is and work to undo it.

The Left particularly hates games where not just violence but sex is also involved, because the characters who the player has the option to seduce have no agency of their own, being solely ones and zeros, and this might give the players the idea that women behave this way in real life. In other words, much like guns, the power and agency offered by video games is a power and agency that awful straight, white, male gamers are incapable of using responsibly, because people should not be given the option of hurting even pixels, lest they turn to hurting people. Never mind that playing violent video games does not make people violent.

But the actual evidence isn’t the point. The point is that just as guns give people the power to resist the state, video games give people the ability to act on urges that the Left wants to breed out of them through indoctrination, reeducation, and other misguided attempts to perfect humanity. The ability to escape into a video game and act like a Nietzschean superman, or a noble knight, or any number of other “problematic archetypes,” is the power to resist the Left’s cultural conditioning—and they hate it.

Fortunately, some video game companies have caught wise to the fact that the greatest threat to their business model comes from the Left, and have thus begun catering explicitly to conservatives. For example, the aforementioned “DOOM” franchise’s latest installment focuses on an invasion of earth by demons from Hell. How did this happen? Well, the game’s gameplay trailer makes clear that Earth let it happen because these are just new neighbors, and come on, the word demon is offensive. They’re “mortally challenged!” I bet Bill Kristol also pondered whether demons were better citizens than native-born Americans, too.

It’s no surprise that “DOOM” would be the first franchise to do this: attacks by the Religious Right aside, “DOOM” has always been a morally unconflicted franchise, pitting a Space Marine (no doubt a member of Trump’s “Space Force”) against the most guilt-free targets ever: literal demons. The current iteration of the series transforms that Space Marine into a semi-mythical figure called the “Doom Slayer” (hold your sniggers), who nevertheless remains a human protector of earth. In other words, this is a franchise dedicated to vindicating the phrase that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Or, in the case of “DOOM,” a good guy with a BFG, or Big F—king Gun.

And ultimately, if the makers of “DOOM” get this, then the Right generally, and especially the NRA (which sometimes dives back in discredited ’90s-era talking points about violent video games) should get it. The Left has decided they want to snuff out all unauthorized forms of agency, even those that exist purely in the virtual realm. For this reason, they drummed up a narrative that tried to attack video gamers as sexist, racist, violent at any given moment, and generally deplorable. Just as they did with gun owners.

Jacksonville was an atrocity, and the victims should be in our prayers. But if it did anything good, it showed how false the Left’s narrative on guns and games was. Now it is time for the gamers and the gun owners to make sure America never, ever forgets.

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Photo Credit: Stanislav Krasilnikov\TASS via Getty Images

Administrative State • America • Post • Second Amendment • The Constitution • The Culture

We Are Going to Lose the Second Amendment

In just the last month, there have been three school shootings. More if we extend the timeline back to February to include the one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. No one can point to any real regulation short of confiscation that might have stopped the killings, and, besides, we already have comprehensive gun regulations.

And yet, the “gun control” drumbeat is growing louder. We continue to be inundated with news reports featuring sobbing, scared children; stone-faced politicians who intone, “Enough is enough”; social media blitzes designed to capitalize on the still-fresh trauma; and on and on.

All this leads to a very simple, obvious conclusion—one that no doubt will shock and make very uncomfortable most people on the Right: We are going to lose the gun debate, just like we’ve lost so many others.

Why? Because the Left knows precisely how to win these contests.

School Shooting Sea Change?
It begins by focusing on edge cases. School shootings, while they appear to be more ubiquitous than ever, are actually 
down since the 1990s. But you’d never know that scrolling through social media or listening to the news. Then, it amplifies the voices of sympathetic victims—and what’s more sympathetic than a girl who just wants to be safe at school and doesn’t want to have to feel like she might be shot while in class?

Finally, and only after it has laid the rhetorical and emotional groundwork for its preferred change (“progress”), it pushes for formal changes in the laws, for favorable court rulings, and for various agency actions to achieve the desired policy outcome.

All of this takes place in a climate in which the Left is motivated to effect change, while the Right is caught unawares, flat-footed.

The Left wins the issue before it ever has to, or does, enact a single real policy—because it wins over the people first, emotionally and dispositionally.

Not surprisingly, we’ve seen this happen before with another well-known culture war issue: abortion. Then, as now, the Left executed the strategy I’ve just described. It began by focusing on edge cases: women who had been raped or been the victims of incest, or those who had complicated pregnancies. It also highlighted those women who had died because of their inability to access legal abortion. Then, it amplified those women’s voices, particularly the voice of the late Norma McCorvey, of “Jane Roe” fame. Then, our enlightened, robed judicial guardians on the Supreme Court discovered (created, rather) a “right” to abortion hiding within the text of the 14th Amendment.

Relentless Push for Gun Control
And now, the Right is about to be caught flat-footed on guns, just as it was with abortion. The Right fails to understand that the Left’s tactics and strategy are really just social engineering. And because this is the case, and if things remain static, the Second Amendment will be gone in our lifetimes. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If the Right is savvy, it can fend off the Left’s anti-gun onslaught and preserve not only the text of the Second Amendment but its spirit: a culture both of liberty and responsibility for one’s own safety.

To do that, however, the Right needs to correct course and fight on the same level as the Left. The Left understands that it needs to win hearts and minds before it achieves the sort of lasting change it wants. On abortion, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in 2012 that the court moved “too far too fast,” thereby sparking a backlash—a backlash that became the modern-day pro-life juggernaut.

On gun control, the going may be slower, but the Left is relentless. Each shooting is yet another opportunity to flood the airwaves, the internet, TV, the papers, you name it, with heartbreaking stories, rhetorically powerful pleas, and granular detail about the “scourge” of violence in our schools, parks, streets, and homes.

And what does the Right do? Say true but tone-deaf things like, “This was one madman with a gun,” or, “Human nature can’t be changed,” or, “No regulation would have stopped this”—all while crouching behind the “clear” text of the Second Amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” as though that will be our ark to weather the coming flood.

Why the Right is so confident that the explicitness of the Second Amendment will prevent it from being undermined and eventually cast aside is a mystery. The court in Roe v. Wade read out of the 14th Amendment a “right to choose” abortion—a result which could only be attained through Herculean contortions of logic and textual torture. The court massacred the English language and made a mockery of clear legal, moral, and philosophical reasoning in its 1973 majority opinion, yes. But the Court’s “living constitutionalists” got the outcome they wanted.

Hanging on “Well-Regulated”
The fact that the Second Amendment is actually present in the Constitution itself and explicitly protects the right to “keep and bear arms” is, in truth, of little consequence. The plain reality is that oceans of ink already have been spilled to lay the groundwork for the Second Amendment’s judicial repeal, to make the case that the Second Amendment’s prefatory clause can indeed bear the weight of an alternative interpretation: that guns can only be legally possessed by citizens who are part of a “well regulated Militia.” Should a bare majority of the Supreme Court agree with that alternative interpretation, the Second Amendment would be transformed from an individual right to a collective right—and then a collective right that would be effective only in a very narrow context.

That is an easy argument for a clever lawyer to make and for five Ivy League-educated justices to accept and then impose on the rest of the country.

The Right cannot hide behind rational appeals to self-defense, or invoke the real-though-remote specter of tyrannical government (as in 1930s Germany or Soviet Russia), or merely point to the language of the Second Amendment and assume those actions will carry the day.

No. The Right must engage the Left politically and educate the people about their duties and responsibilities as citizens of the United States. It must amplify the stories of women who successfully defend themselves against assailants, or about the “good guy with a gun” who steps in and saves lives. It must make the case that it is proper to the character of a free citizenry that it be armed. It must remember that politics and political life is a game of rhetoric and persuasion (which the Left understands all too well while it lacks power but conveniently forgets once it’s safely in command of Leviathan). Rather than browbeat our fellow citizens with logos, the Right needs to learn the value of pathos: appealing to good emotions like compassion, security, and community—emotions which the Left manipulates and perverts but which ought not to be scorned just because they are emotions.

If the Right fails to do this, it will wake up one day in the not-so-distant future as it has so many times before, frustrated, to discover a country it does not recognize and think, What happened? On that (probably) hot and humid June day in Washington, D.C., the Supreme Court will announce to the nation that, in fact, the foundations and rationale of District of Columbia v. Heller (2008)—and indeed, the Second Amendment itself—have been so eroded as to be obsolete; then, with a hokey linguistic flourish, it will sweep aside the empty husks of every pro-gun state and federal law, every pro-gun state and federal court case, and, in effect, the Second Amendment itself, and usher in our new reality: “gun control America.”

That America will be a shell of its former self, a place where the once-free citizens of the world’s oldest republic will have been reduced to mere subjects, serf-like in their daily goings-on, and will pine for the days when liberty, rather than stultifying “bureaucratese” and moral hectoring, suffused the very air we breathed.

If we don’t want that to happen, the Right needs to wake up and start contesting for the hearts and minds of its fellow citizens. Otherwise, we can kiss our guns, and much else that they secure, goodbye.

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America • Americanism • Democrats • Donald Trump • Elections • Identity Politics • Post • Second Amendment • self-government • The Constitution • The Culture • The Left

Gun Control: Who Cares Most?

In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida—like the earlier,brutal school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut—Democrats have mobilized victims, families, public relations consultants, and the media to exploit the moment. Their efforts have been partially successful in Florida, although pro-gun voters are increasingly energized in opposition.

The Democrats have tried to use gun control as a wedge issue since the late 1970s. Many have forgotten that the Brady Campaign began as Handgun Control, Inc. Its stated goal, deliberately pushed down the memory hole, was to ban handgun possession by civilians. Like the current vilification campaign against assault weapons, the demon gun of the late ’70s and early ’80s was the “Saturday Night Special,” a term that referred to  inexpensive handguns preferred by criminals.

Support for a handgun ban peaked in the high trust, law-and-order oriented 1950s, and has steadily declined since then, although it had a spike briefly after the 1980 assassination of John Lennon. Urban crime had exploded in the decade following the protests, riots, and crime explosion of the 1960s and 1970s, and people, particularly in big cities, were frustrated with the violence and saw little use for handguns.

It Was Never About Hunting
But a pro-gun counterculture emerged as well. In 1984, Bernie Goetz became something of a folk hero after he shot three black youths who tried to mug him on a New York subway. He was the George Zimmerman of his day, and today the basic cultural battle lines remain largely the same.

While supporting gun control, the old Democratic party affirmed its support of the hunter and his lifestyle. John Kerry famously donned hunting gear with the tags still hanging on them in his 2004 presidential run. Bill Clinton frequently would be found hunting, especially at the time of the enactment of the original 1994 assault weapon ban. But the rhetoric of hunting increasingly misses the target. Today 60 percent of gun owners cite personal protection as their chief reason for owning a gun, reflecting the broader breakdown in trust, unity, and safety in the country.

One of the significant changes that has occurred since the earliest gun control efforts is the rise of “shall issue” concealed carry laws. Perhaps it is appropriate that Florida led the way in 1987. Like so many New Yorkers, my family made its way to Florida in the 1980s, fleeing the high crime, high tax, high expense, and highly liberal confines of the Empire State.

Florida was and remains a peculiar place. For a long time, it was the only state in the union in which the majority of residents were born out-of-state. But the internal migrants were self-selecting. For starters, they were willing to move far from home. People from all over the country arrived, and the state became a mélange of transients, newcomers, retirees, and people starting over, each reflecting the various regional cultures from their states of origin. Such churn does not lay the foundation of a high-trust society, but, rather, its antithesis. It was a small government fend-for-yourself culture, which had, perhaps unsurprisingly, higher crime in 1987 than New York.

While a high trust society might see more crime as a justification for more government, including gun control, the self-reliant impulse dominated among a group with little either tying them to their government or to their fellow man.

Overall, the law did not lead to the parade of horribles predicted by critics, such as “shootouts over parking spaces.” While it may have had only a marginal impact on crime, it had a significant impact on the identity and priorities of those who choose to carry. They feel safer and more in control of their lives in a place where they may feel they have little in common with their fellow Florida Man. Perhaps because of the law’s long standing, combined with the rootless modernity of Florida, today more than 1 in 10 Florida adults have a concealed handgun license.

Questions of Trust
The current national debate over gun control has the same dynamics as the original debate in 1987. There is a Republican and Democrat divide, as well as an urban and rural one. What is missing is whether anyone on either side feels they can trust the government. People trust the government to protect them and are willing to give up a portion of their freedom to allow it to do so when the government is made up of people like them, is efficient, and when its laws reflect a cohesive community with a common destiny and common points of reference.

Does anyone in Florida feel that way? Do Americans writ large? The same folks who talk about fraudulent elections, institutionalized racism, and trigger-happy cops, also say only the government’s agents should have guns. The contradictions are obvious. The motive seems to be less about faith in government and more of a desire to control one’s actual and potential enemies.

The focus on assault weapons, like the earlier embrace of hunters, shows a certain acceptance of political reality by the gun banners. They know hunting is a deeply rooted, though declining, tradition in rural areas. And they realize a handgun ban is a non-starter when millions have a deeply personal connection to the handguns they carry on a daily basis for self-protection.

Assault weapons, however, occupy a space more similar to handguns than hunting rifles, culturally speaking. They are the product of a younger, more urban gun culture, who own guns partly for recreation and partly “just in case.” Whereas gun control advocates think of Parkland and Newtown when they think of an AR-15, those who own them think of the stalwart Korean grocers who defended their shops during the L.A. riots. They see events like Ferguson and Baltimore and Hurricane Katrina and see a fragile, potentially violent society on the brink of civil war, where personal firepower may be at a premium.

A Lesson in Public Choice
Gun control support ebbs and flows among the median voter. There is a middle ground of people who do not own guns or, at the very least, are not enthusiasts. And this group is vaguely opposed to concealed weapon permits, assault rifles, and largely ignorant of the “doomsday option” theory that underlies constitutional protection for guns. But do they care even a fraction as much about guns as the gun owners themselves?

The Democrats abandoned gun control after Gore’s loss in 2000 because of the manifest importance of gun rights to gun owners. As Tom Wolfe put it, the original anti-authoritarian and distrustful clan of America, its Scots Irish, tipped the scales:

The 2004 election came down to one state: the state of Ohio. Whoever won that state in the final hours would win the election. Northern Ohio, the big cities of Cleveland, Toledo on the Great Lakes, were solidly for Kerry. But in southern Ohio, from east to west, and in the west was the city of Cincinnati, Ohio went solidly for George Bush. And the reason? That great swath of territory was largely inhabited by the Scots-Irish. And when the Democrats came out in favor of gun control, the Scots-Irish interpreted this as not merely an attack on the proliferation of weaponry in American life but as a denunciation, a besmirching, of their entire way of life, their entire fiction absolute. Guns were that important in their scheme of things.

The gun owning cohort, whether ancient Scots Irish—or displaced New York Irish in my case—that lived through the 1994 assault weapon ban, President Obama’s  “bitter clingers” insult, and the nearly genocidal media messages about White Privilege, is extremely wary. They now see guns, the NRA, and gun owners being demonized with the same Manichaean rhetoric once reserved for Jim Crow supporters and al-Qaeda. Does this kind of “us versus them” talk make anyone likely to lay down their arms and put their trust in government run by people who proclaim rather openly that they hate them and their kind?

The likelihood of gun control failing is a prototypical example of public choice theory, which counsels that public policy without majority support can result when there are “concentrated benefits and dispersed costs.” Here the gun owners—whether they own a concealed handgun and have a permit, own an “assault weapon,” or who generally know that any gun control measure makes a total gun ban more likely—simply care a lot more about guns than whatever lukewarm, temporary majority may now be stitched together in the wake of the Parkland shooting.

If the Left makes this the centerpiece of their midterm election strategy, they will energize voters on the gun issue, and that energy will be felt chiefly by those who are personally attached to guns. So I expect them to lose and lose big.

But in the meantime, we will keep our powder dry.

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America • American Conservatism • Americanism • Conservatives • Cultural Marxism • EU • Europe • First Amendment • Free Speech • Post • Second Amendment • The Left

The Creeping and Creepy March of the Progressive Totalitarian Impulse

As a foreigner living in the United Kingdom, the first thought that occurred to me watching “The Death of Stalin” last month was how bleak and absurdist British dark humor is, compared to American humor. Of course, Jason Isaacs looks and acts more like Marshal Rokossovsky than Marshal Zhukov, but that is a nitpicking of an international relations scholar.

“The Death of Stalin,” is an absurdist comedy, like something written by Albert Camus in the middle of a university Title IX investigation. Within a week of watching it, coincidentally, Kevin Williamson was hired and fired by The Atlantic. Life imitates surreal art. Take away the veneer of civilization, the checks, and balances of the system, and there’s a survivalist and a totalitarian within every one of us. Lord Acton was dead right about power. If any university can clear ethics to replicate the Stanford prison experiment, it will be exactly the same, in any culture, across the world, in any era, at any time.

The key scene in “The Death of Stalin” is when a hapless and wailing Lavrentiy Beria—Stalin’s second most brutal henchman after Yezhov, who was responsible for sending a hundred jackboots in the middle of the night—looks confoundedly at his former comrades for their exaggerated reactions to the charges being read out against him during his show trial. It’s funny to see each comrade trying to outdo each other showing his disgust at Beria’s crimes—crimes in which, of course, they were all just as guilty or at least complicit. It was a game of situational one-upmanship, a theater of the absurd; virtue signaling on steroids if you will, in a totalitarian system. The comedy is in how surreal the reality is. And it was a reality and still is a reality in some countries across the world. Observe the synchronized crying on cue as a symbol of grief in North Korea, and one gets an idea of what life is like within this kind of system.

 

Alternatively, one can just look at the exaggerated virtue signaling on display at the Academy Awards, the Women’s Marches, and the #MeToo Twitter campaigns—where millionaires and billionaires from an industry notoriously loose, claim to be victims of sexual harassment, while in the same breath denigrating men who hold to higher standards of personal morality. Or we might examine the university bureaucrats, backed by the Sovietized gender and women’s studies departments, coming together to decide on who can go to the most ridiculous lengths to show how pure they are at heart, what kind of speech is tolerated, and how much more offended they can be over trivial insignificant matters.

Likewise, in media. Kevin Williamson, one of the more gifted wordsmiths of our generation, invited by The Atlantic to grace its pages with his prose and then butchered in the combined outrage of Media Matters, The New Republic’s, and Jessica Valenti’s Twitter feed.

If you think Stalin’s era was surreal, what would you call the ideologues of our time who want the government to take away guns while claiming they are against totalitarianism? Those who want the state to control your internet as they fight an all-out culture war against a legitimately elected administration, which attempted to cut down government bureaucracy and oversight to half? An administration which is still unable to fill up all the posts is anything but quasi-fascistic. But, as Beria taunts Khrushchev in the film, “It’s false narrative, Niki.”

The only things preventing “The Death of Stalin” from morphing into a prophetic documentary on the coming Western future  are the checks and balances of the Western electoral systems. Put simply, your First and Second Amendments and the Electoral College. This is why a total cultural assault is currently underway. If the modern ideologues have institutional power show trials and common talk of false narratives will become the norm. The center liberal-left/social democrat ideologues broadly in power in media, academia as well as all the major parties across the West, didn’t expect they would lose any institutional power or control of the narrative in 2016, either in Britain during Brexit, or during the election of Donald Trump, or in subsequent European countries like Austria, Poland, Italy, and Hungary. No one expected a conservative backlash across the Euro-Atlantic, as the arc of history was apparently inexorably progressive.

Once the institutional power is back in the hands of these ideologues, the great social experiment, the march toward “progress” will restart again after this temporary setback. Transgender toilets and abortion? The state knows best. Let the government decide your food consumption and calorie content and subsequent insurance and medication, (after numerous op-eds in newspapers of course). Mass relocation and forced settlement of thousands of people across continents? Europe’s no stranger to that though the American continent is likely to see it soon enough, pouring through southern U.S. border. The nanny state will be all-powerful, and borderless global government is the ultimate future goal.

What makes conservatives think that their ideas will ever be welcomed among this crowd? No matter how much you genuflect, you will never be accepted into the social Overton Window decided and guarded by the cultural Left. It doesn’t matter if you’re Bari Weiss or Viktor Orban for that matter. Right-wingers consider left-wingers as deluded. Left-wingers consider the right to be evil. Ergo, evil needs to be eradicated for true social progress. Williamson’s case demonstrates that there is straight up hysteria and a penchant for censorship even on what passes for a center-left in America. If it is something far more systemic, like the second amendment, there’s a constant pressure and movement to eliminate it. The goal remains the same. Whether it is Williamson propagating ideas to the people or a second amendment stopping the jackboots at night, they are both barriers to the progressive future. The movement is to eliminate or overcome these obstacles to power.

A conservative, we must understand, is only good when he is not a threat to the Left. So men like Mitt Romney and John McCain are now treated with some semblance of deference. Some of us, however, can remember their respective election campaigns. I started as a rookie journalist covering American elections. The problem with some on the Right is not only do they not understand that you cannot win this battle if you choose not to fight, but you can’t even choose not to fight. The fight will be thrust upon you. It is a culture war. Not just in the United States, but in Britain and Europe as well. The institutions and gatekeepers of society are controlled by a section of ideologue who are increasingly the arbiters of morality. And they don’t tolerate dissent which mean, ultimately, that they will not tolerate you.

Pessimism is a good way to snap one back into an unpleasant reality, and no one turns pessimism into an art form better than the Brits. “The Death of Stalin,” Kevin Williamson’s firing, the movement to ban guns, all of these are unnervingly similar and remind us of something which we always forget. Freedom is something we’re used to taking for granted. But it is eroding across the West. And nothing is a bigger threat to freedom than the push for a transnational managerial class, acting with superior knowledge of our “common good,” and empowered to dictate every single aspect of our lives. That it sells itself as a product of democracy and consent is the insult added to the injury.

Sitting in Europe, with the bureaucrats deciding on how many migrants settle in what city, or in London, where knife crimes are now reaching historic highs while one can go to jail for a joke, one wonders why some Americans want to get rid of the First and Second Amendments. Many in the West only consider Soviet-style Marxists a threat. The bigger threat is the radical ideologues who are deciding what is good or bad. And sooner or later, when they win the cultural revolution, the jackboots will kick in your door, too.

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Big Media • Cultural Marxism • Free Speech • Hollywood • Identity Politics • Post • Progressivism • Religion and Society • Second Amendment • The Culture • The Left • The Media • The Resistance (Snicker)

Emma González Makes an Absurd Ideological Saint

Today our media thrives on drama and spectacle. The more “tragic” or “comedic” the event, the better. When great tragedy or comedy can serve an ideologically left-leaning agenda, then it’s a bonus. Our politics, like so much of our lives, has taken on the form of “reality” television. It’s hard to know what is real and what is put on for dramatic effect.

This is particularly true of recent commentary comparing our latest batch of current newsmakers to past figures of great political, cultural, and religious movements.

The New Yorker magazine allowed writer Rebecca Mead torture the metaphor to death in a recent issue with “Joan of Arc and the Passion of Emma González.” Mead was captivated by a moment—six minutes and 20 seconds, to be precise—when the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student stood in silence on stage before the crowd last week at the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. Six minutes and 20 seconds was how long it took the shooter to murder 17 people and wound 15 others. 

Almost poetically, Mead writes: “…lifting her eyes and staring into the distance before her, González stood in silence. Inhaling and exhaling deeply—the microphone caught the susurration, like waves lapping a shoreline—González’s face was stoic, tragic…tears rolled down her cheeks; she did not wipe them away.” Mead’s intent is not to simply describe this seemingly intense and honest moment. Rather, she goes on explicitly to call out González’s “performance,” and compare it to that of Renee Maria Falconetti in Carl Theodor Dreyer’s classic silent film, “The Passion of Joan of Arc” (1928).

“In its restraint, its symbolism, and its palpable emotion, González’s silence was a remarkable piece of political expression,” Mead writes. She then describes Falconetti’s performance as Joan of Arc and the most significant moment in the film when she is being burned at the stake for heresy. Mead notes how Falconetti does not speak a word and that all of her expressions are seen in her face. This is supposed to be one of the reasons González and Falconetti (and Joan of Arc) are so much alike. Silence and a shaved head.

Mead forgets, however, that from an aesthetic and technical point of view, “The Passion of Joan of Arc” is a silent film and silent cinema relies almost completely on facial and bodily expressions to convey any message to the audience.

Of course, the final moments of Joan of Arc depicted in the film will be more intense than, say, Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton tripping on a banana peel. Even so, Mead shows no knowledge about silent cinema. Her claim appears to be entirely driven by some notion of aesthetic activism rather than reality.

The lack of proper reflection on the film itself is a minor concern. The major problem in Mead’s article is that she implicitly compares González’s tears and, one assumes, her acts, with those of St. Joan. But Joan of Arc died for her faith. She was a martyr. The gravity of this act, the courage she had, and the power this gave her over her oppressors simply is not comparable to anything that Emma González may have done.

Mead’s intent is to show great courage and perhaps even sacrifice on González’s part but she digs a hole for herself when she unwittingly reduces González and her pain to a “political expression” and “performance.” In the event that González was just engaged in a theatrical performance, then we have to take it for what it is. There is no shred of honesty, only manipulation of images to evoke a certain response from the people.

You might say that this is what the film does as well. Of course! But the difference is that Falconetti is portraying a real historical figure, whereas Mead has constructed a mystical persona around González, effectively making her into an ideological saint.

Since today’s ideologues are fond of pointing out crimes of cultural appropriation, isn’t Mead’s commentary an example of religious appropriation?

Another and far deeper layer of the problem in Mead’s take is the question of reality. We are seeing language and images manipulated every day in order to keep the ideological left alive. At this point, so much of it has become gibberish. Protests are, to borrow Tom Wolfe’s term, part of the “radical chic.” Today’s moments of “radicalism” and “anti-authoritarianism,” (such as March for Our Lives or the Women’s March) are poor facsimiles of the 1960s originals. They feel more like a nostalgic style, like tie-dye and fringe, put on by today’s young wannabe activists, in part because such moments are so easily captured, sentimentalized, and featured on Instagram to generate likes and social approval.

And yet, for all the creation of false communities, we are more isolated from each other. The words and signs we throw at each other have no concrete or real connection to the past. They only ensure a troubled and possibly dystopian future. If the majority of people knew or understood any truly heroic precedent—if we had anything resembling a common culture—then someone like Mead would not get away with foolishly comparing Emma González with Joan of Arc. Or maybe I am being naïve. Maybe Mead knows exactly what she is doing. In one exhausting gesture, she is not only creating an ideological saint that is part of the godless church of leftism, she is also attempting to destroy the theological and spiritual meaning of the deep life of Joan of Arc.

History shows us moments of great drama but there is a significant difference between the drama of reality and the drama of a falsehood. Joan of Arc lived a life of authenticity and fearlessness. Death was only the beginning for her. The passion she displayed was not some ordinary burst of energy or half-baked emotion. It is the passion of the cross. Joan of Arc carried the burden of her cross, emulating Christ in his own sacrifice. Her deeds act reflected the reality of humanity in all its glory, elation, and profound sorrow. Her martyrdom was an act of Christian mystery—of human wonder at who God is and a reflection of sacrifice itself.

Let us not confuse the theological drama that continues to have meaning for Christians with the ideological and politically motivated political theater of unintelligible absurdity.

Photo credits: Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images (top); Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images (above right)

America • Big Media • Congress • Education • Free Speech • Post • Second Amendment • The Constitution • The Culture • The Left • The Media

Stone Age Thinking

Reason is a fragile thing. Like a tiny, dainty woodland sprite, it can be stomped into a crushed, broken ruin by the mighty foot of ignorance employed by those cynically seeking to advance their agendas. We see this every day, and the biggest feet dancing with hobnailed boots upon poor Reason wherever it tries to peep out of the undergrowth belong to the Progressive Left. Consider a recent example.

David Hogg, who has turned surviving the Parkland massacre into a career, is vilifying the NRA for “murdering” his fellow students. He likes to use obscenities in his speechifying and proudly sports a “We Call B.S.” lapel pin, because using vulgarities makes him feel like an adult who knows what those words mean. Polite debate isn’t for him. He’s a passionate spouter of truth, and if you don’t like obscenities, you must be, like, really old and stuff. So shut up while he figuratively slaps you around with naughty words his mom should have told him he shouldn’t use. She probably didn’t expect the nation’s media to gleefully encourage her boy to go blue.

Hogg says he’s not for repealing the Second Amendment. He only wants “common sense” gun laws. Gun rights advocates have heard this many times before, and despite more and more laws, there always seems to be more and more “common sense” proposals to restrict guns. It somehow never produces a gun violence-free world. The failure of the new laws justifies more laws, which also fail, and so on.

Hogg may say he doesn’t want gun confiscation, but the process he endorses will lead to that, and most of his followers want this to happen. You want a gun to protect your family? No way, dude. We have police for that. They may arrive in time to chalk an outline around you and your family’s corpses while they’re still warm. It’ll look a bit like those decals you see in the rear windows of minivans.

Hogg has his limits. When Parkland’s educators declared students would be required to use transparent backpacks, he called it a violation of the First Amendment. “It’s embarrassing for a lot of the students,” he said. Your right to self-defense with the best device for that purpose must be sacrificed in tribute to Hogg’s dream of an end to all gun violence, but a student’s right to keep what they stow away in their backpack secret is sacred.

Hogg’s fellow students don’t like see-through backpacks, so he doesn’t either. Hogg claims politicians who don’t support his gun grabbing are being paid off by the NRA. Politicians who cater to their supporters are wrong but Hogg’s pandering to his base is okay. He and his followers wore $1.05 price tags, said to represent the amount Senator Marco Rubio got per Florida student from the NRA. Hogg’s supporters are rewarding him with praise, flattering TV interviews and great expectations for his future—scholarships, internships, a book, and maybe a movie deal, plus a possible political career. A politician accepting the support of those who share his beliefs is evil, but Hogg’s rocket ride is pure. If he gets into public office, he’ll certainly not take donations from anyone bad.

What are America’s students to do while awaiting Hogg’s era of no gun violence? Many educators, or at least education administrators and teachers’ union leaders, don’t want to allow protectors armed with guns in schools.

Dr. David Helsel, the superintendent of the Blue Mountain School District, in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, has the answer: “Every classroom has been equipped with a five-gallon bucket of river stone. If an armed intruder attempts to gain entrance into any of our classrooms, they will face a classroom full students armed with rocks and they will be stoned.”

Superintendent Helsel’s district does have an armed protector, a single maintenance employee, who will no doubt drop his mop or hammer and rush to the defense of students, but Helsel says the district won’t arm teachers. Instead, the students have been trained to barricade themselves in their classrooms then use that bucket of rocks if the classroom’s door and that lone maintenance guy fail to protect them.

The ineffectiveness of this is illustrated by the only stonings publicized in recent years. These are in Islamic regions where transgressors ruled guilty of adultery have been stoned to death. Sometimes the victims are bound or partially buried in the ground so they can’t flee or resist and must endure the slow process of being pummeled to death by rocks. The restrained victims certainly aren’t permitted a firearm, for even the barbaric perpetrators of these brutal acts know that a gun beats a rock.

David nailed Goliath with a rock, but he used a sling to sling it. It wasn’t the kind of forked-stick-and-inner-tube-strip gizmo that kids use to fire pebbles. David’s sling was a hunting implement composed of two cords attached to a pouch in which a rock was set. The cords were swung round in a large arc then released. The rock would then fly with much greater speed than if thrown by hand. A sling can send a rock over 400 yards and when used by an expert, like David, could hit a target, like Goliath’s noggin, with powerful, deadly precision.

David, a shepherd, gained his skill by killing predators preying on his sheep but the sling was also a weapon of war. Ancient armies employed massed slingers to rain rocks on their enemies. Perhaps if Dr. Helsel issues slings to his students, raises the ceilings in their classrooms so they can get a good swing, gives them regular practice in hurling rocks at a target, say an outline of Marco Rubio, and trains them to hurl as a group in unison, his rock strategy might work.

But, lacking this, expecting a caveman tactic executed by children to defeat a shooter with a gun is just stupid. A teacher with a firearm could do a better job. It’s what David would have used if he’d had one.

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America • Americanism • California • Center for American Greatness • Cultural Marxism • Identity Politics • Immigration • Post • Second Amendment • The Constitution • The Left • The Resistance (Snicker)

What Frightens the Left Most? The Constitution

As we’ve long since learned, the Left always tells us what they fear most, by reacting to political developments or policy proposals like scalded vipers, hissing and spitting as they writhe around in agonized hysteria. Not for nothing is the word “catastrophic” one of their favorite descriptive adjectives, since it pretty much describes just about anything they don’t agree with and thus keeps them forever on the edge.

To rational people, their collection of tics, neuroses, and phobias may seem at first to lack a certain consistency, other than a tendency to go from zero to obscenities on Twitter in no time flat. They can easily be against gay marriage (Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, et al.) before they were for it; against illegal immigration (Bill Clinton) before they were for it; and for the Russians (the entire Democratic Party) before they were against them.

Do they contradict themselves? Very well, then, they contradict themselves—after all, they contain multitudes. The only song they really know is Whitman’s “Song of Myself.”

Their latest conniption fit has come over two apparently unrelated things. The first, of course, is guns and by extension the right to one’s own personal self-defense in a dangerous and (thanks to the second thing, about which more in a bit) rapidly destabilizing world. The American frontier of the late 18th century was similarly fraught, as the young country began both to deal with the mature, and often hostile nation-states of old Europe, and to push west, across 2,000 and more miles of unknown territory; the success of the American experiment was far from certain. Accordingly, the Framers bequeathed us the Bill of Rights, which although numbered as amendments are as much a part of the Constitution as the main document.

The Left—which is by turns both malevolent and cowardly, and therefore both tantalized by and fearful of firearms—has never made its hostility toward the Second Amendment a secret, but for decades it was able to keep it under wraps during the half-century or more between the effective closing of the borders to immigration in 1921 and the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, known as the Hart-Celler Act but today chiefly remembered as Ted Kennedy’s lasting gift to the American people.

That period saw the rise of urban ethnic gangsters (mostly Irish, Italians, and Jews, immigrants or children of immigrants, and thus “foreign” to largely Protestant America) and of the indigenous Midwestern bank robbers being chased around the prairies by the FBI, both groups long since tamed and romanticized.  When, in 1939, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Miller that a certain kind of sawed-off shotgun could be banned, and cited the Second Amendment’s subordinate “militia” clause as its justification, few kicked about it, because by then gangland had been largely cornered and the country was at peace.

The Miller decision was effectively overturned in 2008 by the Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, which finally got around to adjudicating and establishing the  individual right aspect of the amendment. Heller, not Miller, was correct, especially in light of the fact that sawed-off shotguns with barrels under 18-20 inches were, in fact, military weapons and thus applicable to militia use. Further, the law under which Miller was decided was the National Firearms Act, which was itself a direct reaction to the then-shocking 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Al Capone’s Chicago. Today, that body count—six gangsters and an unlucky bystander—seems quaint.

In other words, after having tamed its restive criminal element, “gun control” was a luxury that America could afford.  And this was the world in which retired Justice John Paul Stevens, whose recent call to repeal the Second Amendment was greeted with huzzahs on the Left, grew up in. But that world is gone.

Which brings us to the cause of their second recent nervous breakdown: the Trump Administration’s decision to reinstate a question about citizenship on the 2020 census form. The movement against it is being led by former attorney general Eric Holder, the knave who was held in contempt of Congress over the Obama administration’s “Fast and Furious” gun-running program to Mexico, and is an unrepentant radical.

Ostensibly, Holder’s complaint is that by including the question in the constitutionally mandated census, some folks might be frightened off, the response rate might be lowered, and thus the count—which is used in part for apportionment of a state’s representatives in Congress—would be inaccurate.

“The addition of a citizenship question to the census questionnaire is a direct attack on our representative democracy,” said Holder, announcing a lawsuit. Woulda, coulda, whatever.

On the contrary, this question goes directly to the substance of our representative democracy by acknowledging the difference between citizens and non-citizens, a crucial distinction the Left is trying mightily to erase—and not just because the Democrats stand to benefit from the addition of millions of new dependent and culturally hostile voters.

No, it goes far deeper than that.

To remove citizenship from the equation is to abandon the notion of national borders, and thus the idea of America as a sovereign nation-state. Naturally, the Left is trying to accomplish this under one of its favorite false flags, “compassion,” sprinkled liberally with historical revisionism and social-justice animus. After all, who can be against “immigrants,” sainted ancestors to us all, except a bunch of heartless bigots who came by their birthright through force and violence?

Never mind that most of our immigrant forebears arrived here legally, were required to be sponsored or to quickly find employment, were shown not to be carrying infectious diseases, and judged unlikely to prove either an economic burden or a threat to public safety. The laws directed at gangland in the 1920s and ’30s expressly targeted foreign-born criminals such as Lucky Luciano (born Salvatore Lucania), who was deported to his native Italy, where he died. Also deported was New Orleans mafia boss Carlos Marcello, who had been born in French Tunisia to Sicilian parents, and was exiled to Guatemala in 1961—but re-entered the country illegally a few months later and died in Louisiana in 1993.

In other words, there are immigrants—folks who want to put aside the ways of the old country and become traditional Americans—and then there are “immigrants,” who view the United States as ripe for exploitation, criminal plundering, or Islamic colonization. And far too many of the current “immigrants” directly threat the lives, property, and livelihoods of legitimate American citizens. When MS-13 runs rampant on Long Island, we’re not in Dust Bowl Kansas anymore.

What the Left is really afraid of is that the census might be used to identify individuals or concentrations of illegals and thus alert the authorities to their locations. This is why the rogue state of California has declared itself a “sanctuary” (note the corruption of the Christian term) and is vigorously opposing the exercise of the federal government’s lawful authority within its state lines. Indeed, Xavier Becerra, the Golden State’s attorney general, has already filed suit against the move, even though California has no legal control over either immigration or the census.

So now you see what the Left is, at root, afraid of. Not simply guns or crackdowns on illegal immigration, but of something far more fundamental. They fear, and therefore hate, the Constitution of the United States.

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Post • Progressivism • Second Amendment • The Constitution • The Courts

Did John Paul Stevens Lie About the Second Amendment?

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired from the court in 2010, was back in the news this week, attempting to rewrite the history of a part of our Bill of Rights. In the New York Times, Stevens claimed, “For over 200 years after the adoption of the Second Amendment, it was uniformly understood as not placing any limit on either federal or state authority to enact gun control legislation.”

One could ask, “uniformly” as defined in what dictionary?

In the 19th century, leading constitutional scholars considered the right to arms inviolate against federal and state overreach. St. George Tucker wrote that the Second Amendment is “the true palladium of liberty” and that “[t]he right of self defence is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the first study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.”

Another leading constitutional scholar of the period, William Rawle, wrote: “[n]o clause in the Constitution could by any rule of construction be conceived to give congress a power to disarm the people. Such a flagitious attempt could only be made under some general pretence by a state legislature. But if in any blind pursuit of inordinate power, either should attempt it, this amendment may be appealed to as a restraint on both.”

In his seminal Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, 19th century Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story wrote: “The importance of [the Second Amendment] will scarcely be doubted by any persons, who have duly reflected on the subject. The militia is the natural defense of a free country against sudden foreign invasions, domestic insurrections, and domestic usurpations of power by domestic rulers.”

Reflecting upon St. George Tucker, Story continued: “[t]he right of the citizens to keep, and bear arms has justly been considered the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check upon against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist, and triumph over them.”

In recognizing the right of the people to keep and bear arms to not only resist but to defeat tyranny, Story echoed James Madison in Federalist 46 and Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 29. Both clearly expressed satisfaction with, and confidence in, the ability of the people to defend their common liberties. Madison, of course, introduced the Bill of Rights in the House of Representatives.

In the 19th century, there were no federal gun control laws to be challenged on Second Amendment grounds, but some state supreme courts considered weapons restrictions to violate the federal amendment and analogous provisions of their state constitutions.

In Bliss v. Commonwealth (1822), the Kentucky Supreme Court struck down, as a violation of the state constitution, a law prohibiting carrying concealed weapons. “To be in conflict with the Constitution,” the Kentucky court declared, “it is not essential that the [law] should contain a prohibition against bearing arms, in every possible form. It is the right to bear arms, that is secured by the Constitution, and whatever restrains the full and complete exercise of that right, though not an entire destruction of it, is forbidden by the explicit language of the Constitution.”

In Nunn v. State (1846), the Georgia Supreme Court asked: “When . . . did any legislative body in the Union have the right to deny to its citizens the privilege (sic) of keeping and bearing arms in defence of themselves and their country?” It continued:

The language of the second amendment is broad enough to embrace both Federal and State governments. . . . The right of the whole people, old and young, men, women and boys, and not militia only, to keep and bear arms of every description, not such merely as are used by the militia, shall not be infringed, curtailed, or broken in upon, in the smallest degree. . . . Our opinion is, that any law, State or Federal, is repugnant to the Constitution, and void, which contravenes this right.

In U.S. v. Cruikshank (1876), a case not challenging a gun control law, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that the right to arms is held by individuals, privately, and that the Second Amendment means that the right “shall not be infringed by Congress.” The court had not yet incorporated any provision of the Bill of Rights against action by the states or individuals via the 14th Amendment.

The court heard its first challenge to a major federal gun control law, the National Firearms Act of 1934, in U.S. v. Miller (1939). In its decision, which cited Justice Story, the court recognized that the amendment protects the right to privately possess arms like those issued in the military, as well as most other arms. Specifically, the court indicated that the right includes arms that relate to “the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia,” including those that are “part of the ordinary military equipment” and any others the use of which “could contribute to the common defense.”

For that proposition, the court cited the decision of the Tennessee Supreme Court in Aymette v. State (1840), that “the arms, the right to keep which is secured [by Tennessee’s constitution] are such as are usually employed in civilized warfare, and that constitute the ordinary military equipment. If the citizens have these arms in their hands, they are prepared in the best possible manner to repel any encroachments upon their rights by those in authority.”

In the Times, Stevens also advocated repealing the Second Amendment. But as the Supreme Court said in Cruikshank, the right to arms existed before the Constitution, it was not created by the Constitution, and “neither is it dependent upon that instrument for its existence.” Even if Stevens gets his wish, the people will still have the right to keep and bear arms for defense against “encroachments upon their rights,” and fair warning that they better be ready to do so.

Photo credit: Allison Shelley/Getty Images

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Adult Supervision: Advice from the Founders

Impassioned protests following the mass shooting at a Florida high school culminated over the weekend with marches on Washington, D.C., and other cities. To properly evaluate these spectacles, let’s suspend for the moment Aristotle’s recommendation that the youth should not study politics because they are ruled by their passions rather than reason.

Their anguished voices merit more than condescension. But they have not generally received a serious response, even from those who support their efforts. The best possible start is to consider the view not just of their own “out of it” fathers, but the view of those even more “out of it” fathers, the bewigged gentlemen we call America’s Founders.

In the current controversy we can get to that view by consulting the best adult guide we have on hand and he is that most distinguished American, Justice Clarence Thomas. He teaches us from the grounds of constitutionalism—how citizens ought to debate politics, elect representatives, and advance policies. These practices reflect the purpose of a First Amendment that defended the freedom of speech, press, and assembly. Going beyond the other justices, he argues that neither the First Amendment nor the 14th amendment was intended for kids.

Having gained notoriety as the “BONG HiTS 4 JESUS” case, Morse v. Frederick (2007) pared back the court’s calamitous decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969), which asserted that school kids are presumed to have the First Amendment rights of adults. The justices in Tinker embodied the spirit of the 1960s.

In Morse v. Frederick, Chief Justice John Roberts reaffirmed the right of school officials to exercise discipline. The justices ruled that a high school student did not have the right to sue his school’s principal, who suspended the teen for displaying a banner at a school event that read, “BONG HiTS 4 JESUS.” (The student wanted his banner back, too.) Concurring, Justice Samuel Alito went further, presciently noting, “School attendance can expose students to threats to their physical safety that they would not otherwise face . . . . Experience shows that schools can be places of special danger.” Not just rights to speech but also rights to privacy and other civil liberties may be restricted, he implied.

But Thomas, with his dedication to an original understanding of the Constitution, came to grips with the underlying problem. With schools taking the place of parents (in loco parentis), students did not have free speech rights there any more than they had at home. The common purpose of both school and parents was to control “’the innate selfishness of the individual.’” He summarizes the pedagogical views of the founding generation and the similar views of the 19th century:

In short, in the earliest public schools, teachers taught, and students listened. Teachers commanded, and students obeyed. Teachers did not rely solely on the power of ideas to persuade; they relied on discipline to maintain order . . . . Through the legal doctrine of in loco parentis, courts upheld the right of schools to discipline students, to enforce rules, and to maintain order.

The laws limited excessive physical punishment, but not much more. The purpose is everything, as in this 1886 Maine state court opinion:

To accomplish [the] desirable ends [of teaching self-restraint, obedience, and other civic virtues], the master of a school is necessarily invested with much discretionary power . . . . He must govern these pupils, quicken the slothful, spur the indolent, restrain the impetuous, and control the stubborn. He must make rules, give commands, and punish disobedience. What rules, what commands, and what punishments shall be imposed, are necessarily largely within the discretion of the master, where none are defined by the school board.

Savor this: “the discretion of the master.” Lest one think Thomas indulges Dickensian and sadistic teachers, of course, he allows that “the idea of treating children as though it were still the 19th century would find little support today. But I see no constitutional imperative requiring public schools to allow all student speech.”

Thomas’s point is not that K-12 students should not engage in debate or think about politics, but that the purpose of having free speech was to improve political deliberation, not to indulge one’s passions. Thomas rejects the view that free speech is free expression, which may even extend to the now constitutionally protected “artform” of erotic dancing.

Commentators praised the students for being so articulate on camera. I suspect that is because in place of writing assignments in school they have been making films—making impressions rather than arguments, the very definition of sophistry.

In light of his call for repealing the Second Amendment, retired Justice John Paul Stevens’ defense of student rights in his Morse dissent is telling:

Although this case began with a silly, nonsensical banner, it ends with the Court inventing out of whole cloth a special First Amendment rule permitting the censorship of any student speech that mentions drugs, at least so long as someone could perceive that speech to contain a latent pro-drug message.

Begging the question of who has First Amendment rights, Stevens was lowering the right of free speech to a right of free expression (“silly, nonsensical banner”). Such a defense undermines the student’s case altogether by denying he was engaging in speech. The student sustained no First Amendment injury.

Because we have ceased to want adult politics, we cannot discriminate between the Lincoln-Douglas debates and impassioned mobs. Democracies have ever had indulgent parents (see Aristophanes) and party leaders and presidents. To the jeers of his erstwhile allies as well as his detractors, President Trump threatened a veto of another budget bill. (After all, the Trump rally song was “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”)

It’s a depressing pattern: recall it took into his second term for George W. Bush to veto a bill. But the veto, issued judiciously, is real discipline. That firmness, the notion of limits, is what our public discourse, not just in the high schoolers, is lacking.

The contrast is further evident in a recent New York Times op-ed, which maintained that “Youthful independent voters emerged as a decisive third force . . . . Politicians scrambled after them, beginning the Progressive Era, passing laws protecting workers, cleaning up cities and championing the young.”

And, it must be added, for centralizing the government and claiming to be above all parties—that is, the party to end all parties. That elitist mentality means an end to political conflict and consequently an end to political freedom. The youth movements are not limited to those young in years; it may be more a form of cosmetic surgery.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Education • First Amendment • Free Speech • Identity Politics • Law and Order • Post • Progressivism • Second Amendment • The Constitution • The Culture • The Left • The Media • The Resistance (Snicker)

Marching Madness

In case you weren’t around for the radical tomfoolery in the 1960s, you’re now seeing the sequel. This time, however, with the ubiquity of social media, the latest incarnation has spread roughly at the speed of light. Using the horrific shooting deaths of 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida as a rallying cry, young people gathered in cities all over the country Saturday for the “March for Our Lives.” Channeling Saul Alinsky, the protesters picked their target, froze it, personalized it, and polarized it, and the identified villain is the National Rifle Association.

The event, laughably billed as “grassroots” by a fawning and frothing media, was anything but. Mega-rich donors, including billionaires Eli Broad and Michael Bloomberg, bankrolled the march. The glamorati were out in force, with stars like Sir Paul McCartney, George Clooney, and Lin-Manuel Miranda lending support. And, of course, the teachers unions were an important element, with national leaders such as Lily Eskelsen-Garcia and Randi Weingarten acting as cheerleaders, bloviating about the accessibility to “military-style, rapid-fire assault weapons.”

Hogg Wild
Most disturbing about the protesters’ rhetoric is that it comes from sheer ignorance. For example, they constantly pepper their diatribes with the term “assault weapon.” Can any of them define what that means? Probably not—because it depends on who is using the term and what the speakers’ political agenda happens to be. And, realistically, how many of them could distinguish a BB gun from a .357 magnum?

Perhaps the most unhinged of all the strident young participants is David Hogg, a student at Douglas High. The day before the march, he went on a profanity-laced tirade that conjured up some of the more vile elements of Abbie Hoffman-Timothy Leary ‘60s-activism. He screeched about “our old ass parents not knowing how to use a f–king democracy.”

Then Hogg got down to the real enemies (as he sees it): the NRA and the politicians who accept money from the pro-Second Amendment group. “It just makes me think what sick f–kers out there want to continue to sell more guns, murder more children, and honestly just get reelected. What type of sh–ty person does that? They could have blood from children splattered all over their faces and they wouldn’t take action, because they all still see these dollar signs.”

The media’s crazy talk is little better. While the irresponsible New York Times maintains that this is the “mass shooting generation,” it’s not even close to earning that title. A recent study showed that there were four times as many children shot and killed in schools in the early 1990s as today. And should it matter to the NRA-haters, as school shootings have abated, gun ownership has risen dramatically. Between 1996 and 2013, there was a 50 percent uptick in the number of guns in the country—from 242 million to 357 million. (I don’t know that the increase in firearms is the reason for fewer school shootings, but the greater number of guns has certainly not caused an increase in them.)

To put things in perspective, there are now about 10 school shooting deaths a year, as opposed to 40 per year 25 years ago. At the same time, the American Academy of Pediatrics reports 815 students die annually during regular travel between school and home. Also, between 2008 and 2013, an average of 45 children per year died as a result of sports-related injuries.

Failure of Authority
A more sensible investigation of the shooting reveals where at least some of the responsibility really belongs: with sloppy law enforcement and a lax policy toward youthful offenders.

The FBI admittedly failed to investigate a warning that the shooter possessed a gun and planned to use it. A person who was close to the gunman called an FBI tip line on January 5, several weeks before the shooting, to report concerns about him. The caller provided information about the shooter’s gun ownership, his desire to kill people, and his disturbing social media posts, “as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.”

What’s more, local police had responded to the gunman’s home 39 times over a seven-year period for a variety of reasons, including “domestic disturbance” and “child/elderly abuse,” according to documents officials released after the shooting. Nothing ever came of any of those reports. It’s possible that Obama-era pressure to reduce school suspensions, expulsions, and arrests may have played a role in discouraging authorities to act. Had the clearly deranged young man been arrested for any of his misdeeds, he would not have been able to legally purchase a firearm.

But facts and data don’t much matter to the protesting students and their adult sponsors. And they are not done. Living up to the old Rahm Emanuel dictum, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste,” they will be out in force yet again on April 20, the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine massacre. The teachers unions and other left-wing groups will be using part of a school day to promote “A National Day of Action to Prevent Gun Violence in Schools.”  

While the horror of the Parkland school shooting is undeniable, efforts by adults to advance shamelessly a leftist political agenda is appalling. Americans mourn the senseless loss of life. Let’s also mourn the death of truth and common sense.

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Reject the ‘March for Our Lives’

The March for Our Lives was nothing more than political theater. Young, would-be social activists and their handlers seized upon the trauma of our society in an effort to undermine, subvert, and destroy our laws, institutions, and principles. It’s as simple as that.

Progressives know they cannot win the rhetorical or intellectual battle with actual arguments, so they turn instead to soapboxing on tragedy. Knowing that they can’t simply remove the laws, traditions, and institutions that form our society, they seek instead to use emotion to shift control over the meaning of these laws, traditions, and institutions. The vehicle for this power shift is a loud and demanding form of social activism that seeks to overwhelm the public with rapid-fire media hits. One might even call it, as Joe Long did here at American Greatness, “Full Semi-Auto Activism.

The reality is this movement has little capacity or desire keep our children safe. If safety was the object, there would be a focus on the sham that is the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO). BSO had officers on stand down while children were being murdered. The BSO worked with the Broward County School District (BCSD) to sandbag crime statistics by not arresting juveniles for certain crimes (as they failed to arrest the Florida shooter earlier) to “qualify for lucrative state and federal grants.” We call B.S., Sheriff Israel. The spin is never ending, there is nothing that progressives will not deny, obfuscate, or misrepresent.

Will Americans Give Up Their Sovereignty?
If Americans capitulate to the demands of this “movement,” they will effectively hand over the keys to the kingdom to nouveau Jacobins and their handlers on the promise of an elusive, if not impossible, salvation. In so doing, Americans would effectively surrender their sovereign power to shape the laws of this nation and ultimately determine its fate. When positive law supplants constitutional law, this is not the “power of the people” taking charge. Quite the opposite. It is the undermining of their solemn and sovereign authority, enshrined as it is in the Constitution, to the fleeting passions of a moment, driven by an emotional mob.

“I represent the African-American women who are victims of gun violence,” said 11-year-old Naomi Walder, a student at George Mason Elementary School and a key speaker at the march. “For far too long, these black girls and women have been just numbers,” she declared. “I am here to say never again for those girls too,” quoting the slogan of this anti-Second Amendment movement. This is the foulest form of identity politics, propping up children as its mouthpieces.

The African-American community needs the Second Amendment abolished so that all its troubles will suddenly be cured? Please. The problematic social and cultural phenomena plaguing minority communities is far more nuanced than Walder’s puppetmasters would like Americans to think.

Here is the truth that I am sure will have me showered with hatred and called a bigot. The majority—93 percent—of black homicide victims are killed by other blacks. It is true that most murders are perpetrated within the same demographic, but Uniform Crime Reports data shows black criminals are more likely to kill non-blacks than non-black criminals are to kill blacks. Black people commit violent crimes at 7 to 10 times the rate that whites do, outpacing Latinos and Asians as well. U.S. Justice Department data show that between 1980 and 2008, blacks committed 52 percent of all homicides. Further, more black babies are aborted in New York City than are born. Abortion has killed more blacks nationally than crime, accidents, cancer, or AIDS. Around 13 million black babies have been aborted since 1973, and some 1,452 black babies are aborted every day in the United States. Around 72 percent of black children are born out of wedlock. A Harvard study found that among all U.S. high school graduates, 11 percent of blacks were proficient in math, while 13 percent were proficient in reading; just 8 percent of black males graduated high school in 2014 prepared for college-level curriculum.

Will Naomi Walder’s handlers put on a march for the millions of black children whose lives were extinguished before they saw the light of day? Do black lives only matter when they can be politicized? Will there be a march for fatherless black children, to whom the cycle of poverty and criminality are virtually guaranteed? These depressing statistics, not “social justice,” are the fruits of identity politics for America’s minorities—but don’t mention that to Ta-Nehisi Coates, he gets upset. The social and cultural ailments of blacks or any other demographic in America will not be remedied by the abolition of the Second Amendment, this is simply a diversion for progressives to distract from the abject failure of their public policy.

Revolution Calling
David Hogg has 
declared his generation will trigger “the beginning of a revolution,” presumably one that will see Americans disarmed. Somebody get that boy a reality check. Still, progressives love it. They adore this entitled child. Have we already forgotten that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro disarmed his citizens as he plunged the nation into a hellish nightmare?  

For all the social meliorism that drove these movements—from the Jacobins, to Stalin, to Mao—with promises of utopia, it was bloodshed, not security, that ensued. Robespierre’s regime saw dissidents tried as “enemies of the state.” Mao’s cultural revolution claimed some 60 million lives. Stalin’s push to build a new society culminated in ruthless police terror and bloody political purges.

“Terror is nothing more than prompt, severe inflexible justice,” declared Robespierre. The Jacobin promised the French a moral and egalitarian order (ring any bells?), he promised that cultural revolution would trigger the transformation necessary to create a better society. This was, by nature of its supposed intentions, a revolution based on social justice. Robespierre’s march for social justice supplanted the existing regime with a bloodthirsty one that subjected its citizens to the Reign of Terror.

No cultural or social or economic revolution in modern history has created a prosperous, secure, or equitable society—save one, the American Revolution, and it was carried out by an armed, vigilant, and sober minority against one of the most formidable empires in history. And it worked because it enshrined as the highest form of the people’s sovereignty, a constitution. When we violate it, we are chipping away at our own legitimacy and sovereignty.

Americans need to stand fast. They need to reject the demands of this movement. Equally important, we need to take the time to explain to our children why their demands that we skirt the laws and Constitution are antithetical to self-rule, and we need to castigate those who offer up our children as pawns in this scheme to snatch power from the people.

Just beneath the surface of this adolescent activism is something terrible, something that has thrust societies into chaos, and it is now at our doorstep threatening to deracinate the foundations of this nation. Americans should not and must not go quietly.

Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

America • Center for American Greatness • Cultural Marxism • Education • Featured Article • Second Amendment

School Walkout Was a Muppets Revival

One of the great childhood memories for any member of Generation X is “The Muppet Show.” Popular in the late 1970s and early ’80s, the program almost always provided an occasion for the family to gather around the rabbit-eared big box color television while cute puppets did the talking. Or did they? As we pretty well then, and learned in greater detail as we got older, the puppets were all being controlled by adults. They appeared to be different characters, but their movements, words, and personalities were simply the imaginings of Jim Henson and his crew.

No one would bother to ask Kermit for real advice, particularly about politics,  and no serious person is looking for guidance from our youth who are not much above the age of Kermit’s intended audience.

In fact, this post-Parkland youth movement advancing gun control is purely trompe l’oeil. It is not spontaneous in the least, with certain politically correct survivors themselves being promoted from the earliest days of the tragedy as spokesmen for a community—“the youth”—which had diverse views on guns before and still has them after this horrific attack.

Those views, whatever they may be, more often than not reflect the views of their parents and teachers. Some kids may have the strength to go off in their own direction, but most people are followers, aspiring as much to popularity as to wisdom, and youth are especially inclined in this way. This is the implicit assumption of all education: to be a fully functioning, autonomous adult who thinks independently requires knowledge, skill, and training. Education used to aspire to open up the pathways for a person to do this, but now it seems more focused on “consciousness raising” or, in other words, brainwashing.

This week the “student” movement reached its apotheosis, in a nationwide coordinated student walk out, where principals, school boards, and teachers unions all got behind an unmistakable message: guns are bad.

The maudlin use of youth to support a political position should persuade no one. The protesters did not formulate this movement, the events in Parkland had little impact on Peoria or Portland, and high school students are not of one mind on guns or anything else. But the use of youth as political props can give false signals of great political passion, among our youngest voters—the group that least reliably can muster itself to vote at all.

Opposition to the Vietnam War was a genuine youth movement, motivated by the extreme self-interest of those who were worried about getting blown to pieces in the jungles of Southeast Asia, but even then certain interests were happy to use them and a quiet majority of young people supported the war. Many volunteered to serve honorably.

The last time we saw anything quite like the current gun control stunt was the Nuclear Freeze Movement of the 1980s. Cold War tensions were high as Ronald Reagan built up our military, deployed medium range missiles to Europe, and condemned the Soviet Union as an Evil Empire. While Bill Clinton lamented foreign policy was simpler during the Cold War, this is mindless revisionism, as the Left opposed the basic tenets of deterrence against the Soviet Union. The John Kerrys and Ted Kennedys of the world criticized expressions of U.S. strength as arrogant provocations, declined to support anti-communist movements in places like Nicaragua and El Salvador, and opposed the development of new, more effective nuclear weapons such as the Peacekeeper Missile.

Children were mostly oblivious to these political debates, but they were definitely fearful of nuclear war. Psychiatrists at the time attributed ennui and drug abuse to the fatalistic belief in “inevitable nuclear war.” This fear reached a fever pitch in the early 1980s. Young children and their families watched in horror the 1983 made-for-TV movie, The Day After, which chillingly portrayed the likely consequences of a nuclear war.

While Ronald Reagan is now hailed as a paragon of national strength and commitment, his views were controversial at the time. From a combination of ideology, Soviet support, and widespread anxiety, the anti-nuclear movement itself became powerful as America reasserted its commitment to defense. A million protesters came to Central Park in 1982 to support a nuclear freeze. Teachers famously mocked the growing defense budget, saying it would be a great day when the Air Force needs a bake sale to buy a bomber.

The movement’s adult leaders frequently employed and channeled the innocence (and credulity) of children to advance their preferred policy, childlike “unilateral disarmament” proposals. Kids would hold signs at protests and engage in letter writing campaigns at school to express deep thoughts on the complexities of nuclear policy, such as, “Can’t we get along?” and “I am too young to die.”

Then, as now, children were in no position to weigh the pros and cons of various potential approaches to nuclear defense policy. They had their fears, they had their parents, and they had their half-formed intellects, as well as the desire to do fun things like cut class and go to protests. Does anyone think, for example, the young people of the Westboro Baptist Church who protest military funerals with highly offensive signs are spontaneously expressing their independent thoughts? Everyone recognizes that a type of abuse is taking place there. Why not here?

While teenagers feel strongly, it is strength without direction or persistence in most cases. That is part of the point of being a teenager, a transition point between childhood and adulthood. Ideas and lifestyles are tried on and discarded. Identities are formed and reformed. Rules and restrictions grate against teenagers, but everyone realizes as soon as they’re on the other side of the divide that they’re quite necessary. Youth, by definition, are immature.

America’s Founders accounted for this disability through the restriction of voting to the age of 21 and we persisted in that restriction until the adoption of the 26th Amendment in 1971. In spite of this bow to the powerful youth consciousness of the Baby Boom generation, age-related legal restrictions remain ubiquitous, both within the Constitution and elsewhere. Members of the House of Representatives must be 25, senators must be at least 30, and presidents must be at least 35. Similar requirements abound at the state level.

Only limited discussion took place regarding this restriction during the constitutional debate, but George Mason said the following, which accords with the view of nearly everyone who has emerged from their tumultuous youth: “Every man carried with him in his own experience a scale for measuring the deficiency of young politicians; since he would if interrogated be obliged to declare that his political opinions at the age of 21 were too crude and erroneous to merit an influence on public measures.”

Young people have many virtues that accord with their youth, including idealism, innocence, enthusiasm, and energy. They do not, however, have educations or experience. They lack independence. And, in the latest far-from-spontaneous protest in favor of gun control, they are not only wrong, but also the victims of shameless manipulation  by adults for narrow, partisan ends. While such manipulation was entertaining to watch in the case of the Muppets, when constitutional rights are at stake and the puppets are our children it is simply offensive.

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America • Americanism • Democrats • Post • Second Amendment • The Left • Trump White House

Safety is Not the Reason Democrats Are Pushing Gun Control

In his highly acclaimed book on the Left’s Reign of Terror during the French Revolution, Twelve Who Ruled, the late Yale historian Robert Roswell Palmer described the machinations of its demagogues. They were “less concerned to cure poverty than to exploit it,” “breathers of fire” who were “more inclined to love action for its own sake than to speculate on consequences,” and who thought their ideas should be imposed simply because they said so or because “evident truths needed no lengthy discussion.”

The same could be said about today’s gun control advocates who, since the multiple murder at a high school in Florida last month, have been demanding that Americans acquiesce to restrictions on the right to arms without regard for the restrictions’ practical, legal, and constitutional shortcomings.

There’s nothing new about most of the restrictions. Democrats in Congress have been demanding them for years. One would extend the federal firearm-sale background check requirement, which applies to all sales by firearm dealers, so that it would also apply to all sales by people who aren’t dealers. As a fallback position, some gun control supporters appear willing to settle, temporarily, for extending the requirement to only non-dealer sales at gun shows and intrastate non-dealer sales not conducted in-person. Interstate non-dealer sales are already prohibited.

Checks don’t prevent murders, for several reasons. First, the worst mass murders have been committed without guns. Second, one-third of all murders are committed without guns. Third, since 1998, when the background check system went into effect, most criminals who have used guns to commit mass murders passed the check to buy their guns, because they had no criminal, mental health, or other record that would have disqualified them from doing so. In only a relatively small number of cases were such criminals able to pass the check because, while they had a disqualifying record, someone had failed to upload it into the system’s database. Failures to upload such records are being addressed by congressional “Fix NICS” legislation, NICS being the National Instant Criminal Background Check System..

Fourth, aspiring mass murderers who want to use guns could do what a few of them have done and most other gun-using criminals do: avoid the background check. Studies by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives over the last few decades have found that most gun-using criminals get guns by stealing them, buying stolen and illegally trafficked guns on the black market, or by having an accomplice—a “straw purchaser”—pass the background check and buy a gun for them. For this reason, “universal checks,” the name gun control activists have given to their background check scheme, is a misnomer, if ever there was one.

There’s also another potential problem with expanding the background check system. Despite the system’s many failures, gun control supporters push it because they think they might eventually be able to morph it into a gun registration database, which, as an anti-gun activist group opined at the outset of the modern gun control debate, could be used to enforce gun confiscation down the road.

Toward that end, several years ago, Democrats in both houses of Congress began introducing legislation to extend the period of time the FBI could retain the records of people who pass the check to buy guns. “Universal checks,” combined with permanent retention of those records and the records’ inclusion of the make, model, and serial number of guns purchased, received as gifts, or inherited would, over time, result in universal registration of guns, other than those in the hands of criminals who get guns without going through the check. Additional evidence that Democrats push gun control for reasons other than safety, is that they know the Supreme Court has ruled that criminals, lunatics, and other people who are prohibited from possessing a firearm cannot be compelled to register their firearms, because that would violate their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Because federal law already prohibits a firearm dealer from selling a handgun to anyone under age 21, another possible problem with requiring background checks on all firearm sales is that it might mean, depending on the details, that adults ages 18-20 would have no legal means of acquiring a handgun, which would amount to a handgun ban, and would likely run afoul of the Supreme Court’s decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010), that handgun bans are unconstitutional on Second and Fourteenth Amendment grounds.

To make matters worse for young adults, Democrats in Congress are also floating the idea of raising the minimum age, from 18 to 21, of a person to whom a firearm dealer may sell a rifle or shotgun. The Democrats’ notion that 18-20 year-olds do not have the judgment, maturity, or temperament to have any gun seems difficult to reconcile with two facts: First, persons of those ages marry without parental consent, raise children on their own, obtain driver’s licenses, vote, and in the military handle not only rifles, shotguns, and handguns, but heavier weapons aboard ships, submarines, and aircraft, as well as battle tanks and artillery, and responsibly perform numerous other duties that are crucial to the nation’s defense. Second, gun control supporters, including CNN and some of the other TV networks, have spent the last few weeks pretending that a handful of even younger teenagers have the judgment, maturity, and temperament to decide for the rest of us what the nation’s gun laws should be.

The age restriction and another of the Democrats’ proposals—to ban the manufacture of semi-automatic rifles and the ammunition magazines that many rifles and handguns use—should also be legally suspect for a reason that has two parts. First, under federal law, able-bodied males ages 17-45 who are not in the active duty armed forces or the National Guard constitute the unorganized component of the Militia of the United States and, as the Supreme Court said in U.S. v. Miller (1939), if called into service they would be “expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves.” Second, rifles are the type of firearm most useful for militia purposes, and the most useful rifles for most militia purposes today are those that Democrats in Congress are trying to ban.

A ban would also violate the Second Amendment for the same reason. The Court indicated in Miller that the amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms that have a “reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency” of the militia, including those the use of which “could contribute to the common defense.” In Heller, the Court misinterpreted Miller as saying that the amendment protects the right to only such arms as are “in common use.” The standard suggested by the Court in Miller is more narrow than the Framers of the Bill of Rights intended, and Heller’s pseudo-Miller standard is simply wrong, but both are easily met by the rifles and magazines the Democrats want to ban.

It should also be noted that the leader of congressional Democrats’ gun-banning efforts, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, essentially lied to President Trump during the president’s recent meeting with members of Congress to discuss school safety. She claimed that after her 1994 “ban” expired in 2004, mass murders with the guns she had tried to ban increased. The claim is a lie because her “ban” didn’t really ban any guns. Instead, it merely forced manufacturers to temporarily make the “banned” firearms without things like flash hiders and adjustable-length stocks. As a result, for example, over 730,000 AR-15s were made and sold in modified form during the 10 years the “ban” was in effect.

Moreover, as the ownership of those firearms and ammunition magazines has soared, violent crime, which began declining three years before Feinstein’s 1994 “ban” was imposed, continued to decline after the “ban” expired ten years later, and reached the lowest point in American history in 2014. Further, the FBI has reported for decades that only 2-3 percent of murders are committed with rifles of any kind, while one-third are committed without any firearm whatsoever. Democrats know this, but in the spirit of their Jacobin ideological forebears, they are less interested in preventing murders than in exploiting them for political gain.

America • American Conservatism • Congress • Law and Order • Post • Satire • Second Amendment • The Constitution • The Culture

Full Semi-Auto Activism: An Explainer

Our forefathers obviously had a very different idea of activism than we have today; it was a relatively slow process, to load an 18th-century activist with principles (given the energy necessary to propel the activism). To ignite this fuel, a relatively primitive, and slow-burning ignition system was used, and sometimes passions might flame up quickly but result in no real-world activism at all (a misfire known as a “flash in the pan”).

This “flintlock activism” delivered results on the 18th-century political battlefields, but it relied heavily upon prior preparation of often-cumbersome arguments applied to solid facts, and upon careful accuracy since every shot had to count. (It’s worth noting that this was the system used in personal quarrels as well as in political ones, in those days—a more manly time.)

Nineteenth-century advances in activism technology resulted in the quicker ignition of activism propellant. By and large, though, the style of activism known through the antebellum period would have been easily recognizable by the American Founders, and propellants still had to be hand-loaded carefully into the future activist. Facts, principles, and passions, which would interact explosively when action needed to be taken, were carefully and separately considered in those frontier days. A revolution in activism occurred in the late 20th century, however, with the discovery that passions and (somewhat-adulterated) principles could actually be pre-mixed and mass produced, allowing activism to occur on an industrial scale. No longer encumbered by the lengthy process of aligning arguments with consistent principles, or ramming them home with the use of logic before loosing those arguments upon the world, activism soon reached terrifying levels of effectiveness.

Rapid-fire “talking points” replaced the careful shot placement which had characterized earlier times, and the increasing availability of synthetic facts and manufactured passions led to an unprecedented level of political firepower, whose socially-destructive power the Founders surely could never have imagined.

A brief taxonomy of modern activism:

Bolt-Action Activism: In this model of activism, not too far removed from frontier days (though taking advantage of some improvements in technology), a deliberate thought is necessary to initiate the process—and the firing sequence of this sort of activism is relatively slow. However, the activism thus launched is often long-range, and driven by old-fashioned propellants including coherent principles, it can sometimes pierce ideological armor, especially since a solid core of fact is often involved. Indeed, to the patient aficionado, few feelings are quite as satisfying as the single, carefully considered bit of activism reaching its target with precision.

Lever-Action Activism: This relatively efficient activism makes shrewd use of the levers of power and mechanics of government to advance an agenda. It remains somewhat popular, especially among older citizens, but its complexity and old-fashioned feel marks it as obsolete to younger activists.

Semi-Automatic Activism: This variety of much more rapid-fire activism, relying heavily on synthetic principles, is criticized by old-school thinkers for being lightweight—but what it lacks in impact, adherents insist, it makes up for in ease of use and speed of response. Semi-automatic activism occurs as an automatic response when “triggered”; no independent thought to prepare for the activism is necessary—one twitch, and the activism has already gone downrange.

Fully Automatic, or “Assault” Activism: As if the semi-automatic variety were not frightening enough in its destructive power, when activism becomes fully automatic, a single “triggering” launches a burst of thoughtless activity. Residual civility has been entirely engineered out of the “assault activism” process, allowing the latest synthetic principles and manufactured rage to reach their full activism-propellant potential. Assault activism attains its effectiveness through groups of activists characterized by military-grade conformity—a level of conformity which the Founders never intended to be employed by ordinary American citizens, outside of military operations. Let’s be clear: nobody legitimately needs this level of socially destructive capability.

We seem now, as a nation, to have reached a crisis point with semi-automatic and automatic activism, which indiscriminately employed (and make no mistake, these modern forms of reckless, rapid-fire activism are meant to be indiscriminately employed; they have no legitimate purpose other than being weapons of social destruction) have made discourse nearly impossible. Freely available, even over the internet, the means of mass destruction by “assault activisms” tempts our children and threatens our very way of life.

What can we do?

A good first step is to teach young people activism safety—just as the NRA teaches gun safety. Start your own youngster early on the joys of old-fashioned, accurate, long-range activism—perhaps with a thoughtful letter to a legislator, on paper, just as Davy Crockett would have done. Teach him the power, but also the danger, in the political weapons at our disposal in a free society. Treat every genuine fact and principle with respect, and understand that every issue is a loaded issue. Know your target, and what’s beyond it, because every political decision your activism affects can have unintended consequences.

And when it comes to “assault activism,” well, there is no safe or responsible way to employ that. An age requirement for self-righteous passionate posturing, while an excellent first step, is only a first step. Emotional trigger locks are a technology worth pursuing, but they don’t offer us a permanent solution either. Until we have a society free of “assault activism,” none of our freedoms are safe.

Photo credit: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

America • Big Media • Education • Free Speech • Law and Order • Post • Progressivism • Religion and Society • Second Amendment • The Constitution • The Culture

Activists Stand on the Dead to Reach Young Voters

Google “National School Walkout” and peruse the results. You will find a variety of sympathy-inspiring headlines and pictures: students weeping, holding impassioned signs, begging anyone to listen, to place “children first,” to wake up and become reasonable about gun control. What could be more compelling than our nation’s children asking for—in some instances, demanding—such things?

We try to teach our teenagers that life is full of choices. We ask: What kind of person are you going to be today? How about for the rest of your life? Will your actions line up with your beliefs, despite resistance from your peers? Will you stand up for your beliefs, which are supposed to be rooted and grounded in some semblance of truth and reason?

We like to think we stand up for the underdog. We are willing, sometimes, to incur personal harm as we bow to greater standards than personal selfishness. And we defend our beliefs as best we can as we question others when we think they are wrong.

Parents of children in U.S. public schools have a grand opportunity to do all of that on Wednesday, the day designated as the National Student Walkout. Organized and paid for by the same people who gave us the Women’s March in January, the walkout is supposed to be a 17-minute long event (one minute for each victim in last month’s deadly shooting spree at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida). It’s possible that hundreds of thousands of students across the country will leave their classrooms to march in solidarity for gun control.

The National Walkout, while being touted by some schools as simply a show of support for the  Parkland shooting victims, is, in reality, an activist-driven rally that has heavy financial support from easily recognized names, including Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney, and Michael Bloomberg. The goal is clear: “The walkout is a call to Congress to ‘pass legislation to keep us safe from gun violence at our schools, on our streets and in our homes and places of worship,’ according to Women’s March Youth EMPOWER organizers,” USA Today reports. Even the ACLU is claiming its rightful place in the event, with advice posted on its website assisting students whose school systems threaten punishment if they participate.

The purpose of education is to teach basic skills, to impart facts and ideas, to teach children to think critically—in short, to give the next generation the tools they need to live as good citizens in a self-governing republic. Judging from national standardized test scores, we’re doing a poor job of it. We are graduating children who cannot read, do not hold the basic skills to maintain a job, and who know next to nothing about how their country’s history or how it works. A quick search of YouTube provides gallows humor when interviewers request basic information from our young: When was the Civil War? From which country did America gain her independence? Who was our first president? Oh, who married Beyoncé (a question answered correctly 10/10 times)?

Last week, I called my kids’ high school and spoke with the principal. I wanted to know how the school intended to handle the walkout. “Safety is the most important aspect to the walkout,” he explained. “No child will be encouraged to walk outside the building. In fact, if they return, they will be subject to be searched.”

“Both sides of the gun-control issue will be explored,” he added.” “There is a group coming in to register seniors for voting, but I warned them to not present any politics whatsoever to the students, and to only stress their civic responsibility.”  

And I found this in an email detailing the planned events of the day: “Our students have worked hard to create a message not in a moment of time, but throughout the week to both memorialize the Parkland High School community and provide an opportunity for students to express an activist voice.”

At first glance, those appear to be reasonable, well-calibrated assurances—fair and safety-minded, which I appreciate. And yet, why are we sacrificing important school time to teach our students to be activists without first providing them with the tools to think critically about the issues?

Gone are the days of public speaking and debate classes, where students learned thoughtfully to examine and answer both sides of a controversial issue. Instead, we are left with students locking arms in a hallway or a courtyard, wearing red shirts to commemorate the colors of Parkland, and being exposed to information disseminated from a group with such an obvious left bent that there is little hope of fairness.  

This might sound frightfully naïve and hopelessly gullible, but it used to be widely recognized that our schools were to be places where information was imparted, critical thinking encouraged, the Socratic method would work its magic and would open young minds to greater avenues of thought.

Now what we have are extremist political groups licking their chops and vying for the chance to have at our students. They are, in effect, standing on the dead in order to reach young voters, chivvying their way through the doors of our schools, and cramming emotionalism down their throats. And we, too weak to protest, are letting it happen.

If our schools are to become bastions of activism, where do we draw the line? Are we content with the causes we personally celebrate usurping seat time? Can my students take a minute out of their day for every child aborted last year? Last week? Yesterday? Could your child walk out of a classroom in support of transgender rights? Could mine willfully negate educational time to leave the classroom to show alliance with PETA? With Antifa? With the League of Women Voters?  

In short, will we force feed our children a diet of emotional energy and causes such that their egos can be stroked while their minds remain empty?

My children have decided to attend school on Wednesday. We have discussed many of the issues swirling around the Parkland shooting in great detail, and they understand the reasons for the walkout. As is our family custom, we have examined many different viewpoints and the ideologies behind them. My kids have informed their teachers they will be retaining their seats Wednesday at 10 a.m.

Photo credit: Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images

America • Center for American Greatness • Cultural Marxism • Economy • Environment • Free Speech • Post • Progressivism • Second Amendment • Technology • The Culture • The Left

Motor City Strikes Again: ‘Stop the Killer Cars!’

Leave it to the Regressive Left to put a pothole on the Motor City’s road to renewal.

After decades of struggling, including becoming America’s largest municipal bankruptcy and enduring the restructuring of Chrysler and General Motors, Detroit has experienced an outburst of positive national press for being a hip city on the upswing.

Yet, to some, there lurks a great crime behind Detroit’s improving fortunes: the mass production and distribution of killer cars.

To wit, in a Twitter thread, a David Klion asserts:

As to why, Mr. Klion is straightforward and succinctly argues from “two unarguable premises: cars kill innocent people and cars are destroying the planet.” Ergo, he believes:

Klion is not without solutions to this scourge. Admitting he is “impatient for technology to make your car obsolete,” including “autonomous vehicles” for rural areas, he also calls for “reconfiguring sprawling metropolitan area that shouldn’t have been built around cars” to make them “more transit-oriented.”

And, yes, as one might suspect, he does equate cars with . . . 

Speeding to the defense of car-crazed Americans, especially those whose pickup trucks have shotgun racks, was David Burge (a.k.a., IowaHawk): “No invention has been a greater boon to human prosperity and freedom than the automobile.” Burge also had a few other choice words for Mr. Klion, here:

Born in the city that put the world on wheels, I’m partial to Burge’s views on cars. But this is not merely a parochial position, it is a philosophical one.

Klion is to be commended for his frankness and for his encapsulation of the Regressive ideology’s application to an issue.

Blame people for being unable to use a technology safely—i.e., killing others and the planet due to sundry inexcusable indulgences and foibles; deny everyone the right to own said technology; expect people who utilize the technology to “feel bad” until they’re “woke” enough to divine how to stop using it; and demand government ban and/or render antiquated the technology through the creation and implementation of new technologies (you know, like the car once was) and the “reconfiguration” of society.

Obviously, this belief that government can coercively recreate humanity and society into a terrestrial Eden in accord with Regressive ideology is the antithesis of clear thinking and, as history shows, sanity.

But while many may be tempted to dismiss David Klion as a crank, this is patently unfair. He is actually representative of the Regressive environmental movement and its contempt for the “infernal combustion engine,” in particular, and industrialization, in general. Further, it must ever be remembered that the Regressive Left has a proven strategy for turning insane ideas into “enlightened public opinion”: a Leftist academic or pundit spits out a nutty theory; the Leftist media gins up “news” treating the nutty theory as sane, and the cause or solution to a purported societal “crisis”; and then Leftist politicians hop on the crazy train and steam ahead toward and over the American people tied to the tracks.

With due respect to the Regressives who would turn the “Arsenal of Democracy” into an urban farm, please count out this child of the Motor City. I well recall the old Chevy ad: “It’s not just your car, it’s your freedom.”

And every  American owns that.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

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Administrative State • America • Big Media • Donald Trump • Drugs • First Amendment • Free Speech • Post • Second Amendment • The Culture • The Media

Dishonest Journalism is a Public Health Threat

Guns kill 35,000 Americans a year. They’re a threat to public health. Let’s act like it.” A bold claim by Dylan Scott of Vox. To make matters worse, we are told, “Congress has made it effectively impossible for federally funded researchers to study gun violence.” Taken at face value, these remarks make it appear that tens of thousands of Americans are murdered every year with guns, all while the federal government refuses appropriately to address this menacing threat to public health.

Scott doesn’t spend a lot of time digging into that 35,000 number, however, he just uses it to set a very unsettling premise and build around it. To his credit, Scott is sort of right, but he rounds up the number. There were indeed a total of 33,636 firearm deaths in 2013. Of that number, 21,175 (63 percent) gun-involved deaths were suicides, according to the CDC. Most gun-involved deaths in a given year are the result of suicide and, for the most part, gun-involved homicide has dropped sharply. The Pew Research Center reports:

Since the CDC began publishing data in 1981, gun suicides have outnumbered gun homicides. But as gun homicides have declined sharply in recent years, suicides have become a greater share of all firearm deaths: the 61% share in 2010 was the highest on record. That year there were 19,392 suicides by firearm compared to 11,078 homicides by gun (35% of all firearm deaths). The rest were accidents, police shootings and unknown causes.

I say “for the most part,” because backlash in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests across the U.S. has resulted in the “Ferguson Effect,” where police have backed away from actively policing in high-crime areas, which in turn has resulted in an increase in violent crime in those communities.

What about the rest of the deaths in Scott’s claim? Do gun-involved murders account for the difference? Not quite.

It is true that in 2013, 11,419 Americans were firearm homicide victims. As the CDC notes, “homicide” is the killing of a human in any case, including those instances justified in self-defense and police shootings. The FBI data shows that that defensive gun uses (DGU) occur an average of 67,740 times per year, though not every DGU results in death. Note that there are far more DGUs than there are gun-involved deaths, and this might make a good case for responsible firearm ownership and proper use as an effective means of self-defense, one that does not regularly result in the death of the victim or their assailant.

That number of 11,419, what’s left of Scott’s initial claim, can be further broken down into justifiable homicide (self-defense, police shootings), manslaughter (accidents involving a firearm, such as a negligent discharge resulting in death), and murder. The actual number of gun-involved murders in Scott’s original claim is 8,454, according to available FBI statistics. That number dropped to 8,124 gun-involved murders in 2014, while murders specifically involving a rifle accounted for 248 deaths, “fewer than the number committed with knives, blunt objects, and fists or feet. Three percent of gun murders involved rifles.”

There are real public health crises and there are manufactured ones. Consider that in 2016, 64,000 Americans died of legal and illegal drug overdose, making overdose “the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., surpassing peak annual deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents, guns, and HIV infection.”

The social and cultural issues that have correlated with an epidemic of drug addiction and overdoses, particularly single-parent households, are related to increasing crime and suicide rates as well, but there is noticeably less concern for one over the other. I presume there’s little point in misleading readers about an issue like opioid addiction, the way the media often does with shooting statistics, if it can’t be used against the president.