Monthly Archives: December 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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After a riding a tsunami of hype that rivals its predecessors and geysers of gushing praise from media and fans alike, how does the Star Wars franchise fare in the hands of its new heir for this particular Star Wars OG?

It’s good. But JJ Abrams is no Jedi.

Yes, yes, yes. It erases the stink of the prequels, but the film still misses the same opportunities and suffers many of the same mistakes as the prequels.

The film succeeds mostly by restoring the overall tone and spirit of the original series, and provides just enough visual invention and drama to keep the ball rolling. But just barely.

Yes, it’s great to see Han, Chewie, Leia, C-3P0, R2-D2, and when he finally arrives, Luke. Yes, the dialogue is snappy and humorous at times. Yes, there are some great battle sequences. Yes, BB-8 is adorable. Yes, it’s got a little of that old Star Wars feeling.

But I can’t help but think that not only does it feel like too much of a rehash, it falls short on character and story development and fails to add anything truly new to the franchise. Star Wars may go down in history as a popcorn special effects spectacle, but it doesn’t get enough credit for being a successful human drama. Just as Lucas dropped this ball in the prequels, Abrams is also guilty of under writing his new heroes and half-assing the political drama in which he inserts us.

Even for a Star Wars film, The Force Awakens is asking us to make too many leaps of imagination.  There are way too many gaping holes in the story of each of the new characters for me to feel truly invested in them.

This error is most egregious and plainly evident in the new heroine, Rey. Rey is the new Luke and her story mirrors his almost exactly, but is infinitely more implausible.  With Luke, Lucas took time to introduce us to him. He’s an orphan, but he has a stable home life and parental guidance thanks to his aunt and uncle. He has responsibilities and his technical expertise can be explained by his upbringing and the skills he had to acquire by working on the farm. He has aspirations to be a pilot and the piloting skills he exhibits later in the film can be explained by the social life he had with his friends on Tatooine.

Rey, on the other hand, has none of these things. She lives completely alone. She has no guidance, no support and was presumably abandoned early in life and forced to survive in a hostile desert environment with limited access to food and water. Yet not only does she have fully developed language and social skills and is in stunningly good health, she has advanced fighting, piloting, and technical skills. And we’re to believe she acquired these simply by being a scavenger.

Luke spends an entire goddamn film training on a shithole planet with Yoda riding his ass just to learn enough discipline to even use a lightsaber.  When he finally faces Vader, it’s dramatic because you knew what Luke had to overcome within himself and even then, he almost gets himself killed. Rey goes through no comparable journey of emotional or skill development. She’s good at everything and acquired these skills without work, guidance or emotional growth.

Give me a fucking break, Abrams. This is not a plausible character.  This is the Strong Female Character taken to a cartoonish extreme. Rey is definitely a Mary Sue, and even if feminists are pleased, the film suffers because of it. Suck it in and cope, feminists.

On a related note, it’s weird that feminists consider Rey feminist in any way. There’s nothing even remotely feminist about Rey. Rey uses firearms.  Feminists oppose gun ownership. Rey is accomplished at combat. Feminists demand protection from the state.  Rey has skills even if they’re implausibly acquired. Feminists demand preferential treatment simply for being female.  Feminists lecture people about gender pronouns, police what people say and are general killjoys and scolds. Rey is blessedly free of these annoying tendencies.

Finn suffers from a similar deficit of dramatic development.  Finn was presumably conscripted by the First Order as a youth, trained to kill without remorse, but we’re asked to accept his moment of awakened conscience immediately.  He suffers no PTSD or adverse effects on his social skills.  Star Wars is popcorn entertainment, but it’s still a war movie. The film could have raised the dramatic stakes by injecting just a little of this reality into it.

The same goes for Poe Dameron. I don’t know anything about him other than he’s the best pilot in the Resistance. I simply don’t know enough about him to feel truly invested in him.  Adam Driver has an enormous task filling the spiritual and psychological void of Vader as new Sith on the block, Kylo Ren, and I’m not sure if the character or his acting skills are up to the task.

Abrams also stumbles by shortchanging the political drama.  For all of the flaws of the prequels (and they are numerous), Lucas gave us a pretty clear political backdrop and intended the series as a Fall of the Roman Empire style allegory.  It was clumsily handled, but Lucas definitely wanted to show how a democratic republic devolves into a totalitarian dictatorship.  Nick Gillespie of Reason persuasively argued that the prequels mirrored the demise of the political ideals of the Boomers.

The Force Awakens inserts us into a divided galaxy 30 years after Jedi and a pretty resounding defeat of the Empire.  The second Death Star was destroyed. The Emperor and Vader were dead.  There was certainly ample opportunity for the believers of democracy to reclaim the seat of government power and restore “peace and justice”.

And yet…

The First Order have reasserted iron fisted dominion and are somehow able to amass significant military might in a remarkably short span of time. The Starkiller Base is several times the size and power of the previous Death Stars and The First Order manage to get it built in 30 years despite getting their asses kicked twice by the Rebellion.  They haven’t learned too much from their past mistakes, apparently.

Listen, guys. Military power of the kind to which you’re accustomed can only be amassed through taxation and budget deficits made possible by central bank monetary inflation. You’re not going to get too far by nuking every goddamn planet in the system, assholes. Chill out a little.

We accept that the Resistance are Good and the First Order are Bad, but Abrams missed another opportunity by failing to spell out in greater detail where the moral fault lines lay and the political principles for which the Resistance fought.

Other missed opportunities included Carrie Fisher’s meager reprisal of Leia as well as Gwendoline Christie’s throwaway role as Phasma.  Both of these women were supposedly high ranking military officials and yet, we see very little military style leadership from either.

Overall, it’s about as good as I could have hoped.  Not a complete catastrophe, but still short of the ingredients that made the original soar: mythic human drama and invention.

Abrams certainly hasn’t tarnished the legacy, but he hasn’t advanced it in a meaningful way either. It made me smile and I appreciated the love and reverence he brought to the enterprise. He was given the difficult task of reviving a beloved franchise while giving it a new lease on life. Maybe it’s unrealistic to expect too much innovation from either Abrams or Disney. The Force might be awake, but I’m not yet convinced that the Force is strong in Disney’s hands.

The Dispossessed

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Ursula Le Guin’s 1974 novel is an admirable work. I really wanted to like it. It mines some rich veins of philosophical thought including individualism versus collectivism, gender equality, the difference between intellectual property and ideas as well as the moral and ethical dilemmas of a speculative anarchist society.  Unfortunately, the novel is ultimately derailed by some fallacious notions and stale, toxic ideas couched in a pretense of edgy progressivism. Sadly, despite Le Guin’s recognition of the insularity, scarcity and conformity bred by the allegedly revolutionary values she espouses, she doubles down and limps to the conclusion waving the flag of communist ideals in a cloud of unearned triumphalism.

The Dispossessed tells the story of a physicist named Shevek from the anarchist world of Anarres. Shevek develops a groundbreaking theory which has the potential to unite humanity throughout the universe. Though the Anarrestri profess revolutionary values, they are unreceptive to his work. He sets out to the sister world of Urras, the civilization from which the Anarrestri fled, in hopes of bridging the divide between the two societies.

Le Guin makes a courageous attempt at tackling the questions of morality and ethics in the absence of state or religious institutions, but she ultimately succumbs to some really dumb and deeply clichéd antipathy towards market economics and property rights and, by extension, their inextricable link to human freedom. She is apparently on record crediting the blatherings of post-Marxist anarcho-collectivist wankers, Peter Kropotkin and Murray Bookchin, as the philosophical underpinnings of this book. The anarchist society of Anarres is essentially her conception of anarcho-syndicalism.  In other words, a society in which there is no private property and no system of prices, competition or currency; everything is “shared” and used for the “common good”, all economic activity is centrally coordinated by bureaucratic “syndics” and the division of labor is determined by computers. Subsequently, her philosophical commentary bears some unfortunate remnants of Marx, Rousseau and even the poisonous proto-fascist drivel of Georges Sorel.  Coupled with the gender politics editorial, Le Guin’s Anarres is probably best described as a fantastical vision of a world envisioned by feminists, social justice warriors, utopian eco-socialists and anarcho-communists.

To her credit, she addresses the limitations of the collectivist worldview in this novel which puts her work in philosophical proximity to another notable female writer who tackled very similar themes but arrived at very different conclusions.  Contrary to her professed disdain for Ayn Rand, the themes of this novel are very similar to those contained in The Fountainhead  and the two books share more than a few similarities. Each book presents a brilliant male protagonist who seeks to contribute his unique talent to society and each is called upon to adhere to principle in the face of demands from authority or perceived authority. Le Guin appears to take direct aim at Randian ideas of “egoism” and “altruism” at various points in the book, but when she does, she ultimately misrepresents both.

Le Guin is widely lauded for tackling gender and sexual politics in her work, but I personally found this aspect of the novel the most grating. All of the editorial around gender carried the sanctimonious stink of contemporary feminism.  Her perverse obsession with equality of outcomes can be traced to an obvious refusal to accept biological differences and individual choices within the paradigm of market economics as well as a blatant scorn towards those who hold religious beliefs. She holds people of faith in contempt for promulgating a sexist and patriarchal belief in the inherent superiority of men over women. While it may have been a transgressive argument in its day, and I absolutely concede that most religious faiths do affirm the traditional role of male breadwinner and female caregiver, this line of argument also feels tiresome.  If she were referring specifically to the manner in which Islamic societies rigidly enforce a subordinate role for women, it might have more bite, but I’m doubtful that was her intent.  It’s particularly dubious hearing this petty nonsense from an author in the Western world who has the freedom to be an atheist, to compete in the marketplace, to claim property rights and has achieved fame and notoriety for the merit of her creative work within the context of a free market.

She wastes no time carving out the contours of her main character and the central ideas of the book. The opening passages describe the wall which cordons off the spaceport of Anarres from the rest of the planet. Right away, Le Guin is telling us that this is a story of walls; walls that stand between societies, genders, and ideologies.

As a character, Shevek is kind of dull. Just as modern writers pander to feminists by writing female characters which are divorced from any conventional femininity, Shevek is the result of Le Guin doing the same thing in reverse. Shevek is arguably Le Guin’s beta analogue to Rand’s alpha Roark. He’s sensitive, a vegan, lives a monk-like life of the mind and holds womyn in reverence.  Since her editorial point of view is so rife with dumb and confused ideas, it’s difficult to view him as a heroic archetype of any set of virtuous attributes.

The first chapter is devoted to Shevek’s arrival on Urras.  Shevek struggles to understand the customs and culture of the Urrastri and cannot fathom a world that holds religious beliefs, has state institutions and operates under a market economy. The framework for a dramatic clash of ideas and individuals is elegantly constructed.  The reader is guided through Shevek’s quest as events alternate between Anarres and Urras in each subsequent chapter.

After this exposition, Le Guin takes us back to Anarres and Shevek’s childhood in order to flesh out the cornerstones of his development in relation to the values he acquired in his own culture.  Here, and in every other subsequent chapter, Le Guin’s muddy logic and dubious editorial comes into sharper focus.

Groan inducing commentary abounds in The Dispossessed, but Le Guin’s disdain for property rights is highest on the list. True to the authoritarian and quasi religious nature of all collectivist political thought, Shevek’s indoctrination to Odonian values begins at childhood. As most children are wont to do, young Shevek is naturally inclined to view possessions as his property. He is hastily scolded for entertaining this notion by his caretaker. Yes, we get it, Ursula. You think property rights are infantile and the source of human sin just like Rousseau. That’s so very progressive and original. Throughout the remainder of the book the words “profiteer” and “propertarian” are used as pejoratives and her disdain for capitalistic property ownership is expressed very clearly through Shevek during his tenure on Urras.

Le Guin equates the ownership of property all by itself as an expression of power; an idea that’s tired and nonsensical in equal measures. She attributes Shevek’s sense of unease on Urras to his perception that a society which affirms property rights is one of “mutual aggression” as opposed to the feeling of “mutual cooperation” that is the guiding principle of the self-abnegating hippies on Anarres.  It’s more than a little ironic that Le Guin venerates this alleged utopia devoid of private property and denigrates the statist aggression of Urras, but in real life, she’s more than happy to advocate for state aggression to enforce copyright law.

This moral confusion and sophistry extends further with respect to acts of actual aggression. Le Guin gets the fundamentals of the argument for anarchism right, but at the same time, she fails to present a coherent Odonian theory of morality with respect to the initiation of force. This also happens to be the one area where, even if inadvertently, she veers a little too closely to Sorellian applications of revolutionary violence. In a conversation with an Urrastri woman named Vea, he explains that Odonians are striving for actual morality by abolishing institutional power. That way, Odonians are free to choose morality instead of having it forced upon them by their alleged betters.  So far, so good. However, when Shevek is beaten up arbitrarily as a teenager, he accepts it as a “gift”.  This suggests a lack of appreciation of the inviolability of negative rights and perhaps illuminates her apparent inability to distinguish the state monopoly on the application of force versus private and voluntary exchange.  At the same time, she engages in some typical moralistic handwringing over the usage of defensive force to protect property.  Since she’s already established the ownership of property as an expression of power and a moral wrong, then anyone who uses force to defend against theft or violent expropriation is possessing “power no one should have”.  Make up your goddamn mind, Ursula.

The Odonian credo of self-sacrifice is equally moronic and cringeworthy and also tips the scale towards a Sorellian notion of “myth”.  For Odonians, the experience of “shared pain” is the principle, if it can even be called one, that binds Anarrestri to one another and to which they must consistently subordinate themselves. It bears more than a passing resemblance to a religious article of faith or any of the collectivist fantasies promulgated by politicians than anything approaching a rational principle.

The one idea which truly torpedoes her book is the centrally planned nature of the Anarrestri economy. Admittedly, she concedes a bureaucratization of Odonian life, but her failure to recognize the inherently preposterous nature of the idea cannot be overlooked. For a SF novel, The Dispossessed is remarkably short of speculative science or any fantastical leaps of imagination. Aside from Shevek’s theory, the DivLab computer is actually one of the wildest speculations in the whole book and Le Guin spends no time discussing it or how Odonians developed such a thing in the first place. Odonians live a life of self-imposed poverty and austerity and yet a really sophisticated computer determines how labor resources will be allocated without any real regard for the individual, purposeful human action which gives rise to supply, demand, or drives skill specialization. Not only is it wildly preposterous that Odonians could develop such a sophisticated piece of technology, the remainder of society is utterly devoid of any other comparably sophisticated technology or any other labor saving machinery. Her description of Shevek’s feelings of “brotherhood, adventurousness, and hope” while waiting to receive instructions during the Anarres famine sounds like dumb, nationalistic propaganda. For all of the realism she brings to every other aspect of the book, Le Guin apparently spent no time examining why central planning was a failure, and I can’t help but fault her for her intellectual blindness on this front.

Her actual grasp of physics and science is equally questionable. For all of Le Guin’s emphasis on the Odonian passion for and veneration of scientific knowledge as well as her usage of actual scientific theory as a basis for Shevek’s pursuits, she manages to smuggle in some dubious notions which sound like applications of scientific theory derived from feminist epistemology. Apparently, Shevek arrives at his big breakthrough because he was able to extend beyond pure scientific theory and include the realms of “philosophy and ethics”. Ursula, good science is philosophy, and is the product of sound ethics. For a woman so apparently keen on equal gender representation in STEM fields, she’s veering a little too close to Luce Irigaray territory with these notions. As a cheerleader for women in STEM, Le Guin is doing a great job, but as someone who earns a living telling stories built from scientific speculation, this is kind of laughable.

Le Guin also attempts to counter Randian ideas, but her conception of both “egoism” and “altruism” are both straw men.  By her reasoning, “egoism” can either be Shevek’s desire to assert his ideas in the face of ostracism or overtly public displays of sexual affection.  As a young child, Shevek is accused of “egoism” when he attempts to formulate his own ideas separate from the tightly controlled confines of the Anarres public school system.  To use contemporary parlance, Shevek would have been accused of using microaggressions.  Here, she suggests an upside to “egoism” which more or less maps to Rand’s conception, but she ends up diluting her editorial when describing Shevek’s revulsion at the “egoism” of an Urrastri couple getting hot and heavy in full view of a group of people.  Apparently, immodest displays of sexual attraction are on par with individual displays of independent thought.  Got it, Ursula.

Her notions of altruism are equally daft and run afoul of Rand’s actual position. Shevek and his friends conduct their own Stanford Prison Experiment on one another just to feel what’s it’s like both to deny freedom to another and to experience an absence of freedom.  When Shevek expresses concern for their captive friend, he is chided by his compatriot not to get “altruistic”.  Though Le Guin is clearly trying to highlight the monstrosity of imprisonment, she completely mischaracterizes Rand’s view of altruism. Rand consistently argued that altruism was a toxic and debilitating worldview because it ultimately fueled a pointless and narcissistic self-abnegation as well as a ceaseless desire to petition an authority to adjudicate the parameters of the alleged altruism.  To be fair, Le Guin’s usage of the term alternates between pejorative and complimentary and it’s difficult to tell where she ultimately stands.

The major intersection between Rand and Le Guin occurs in Shevek’s development of the Theory of Simultanaiety; the theory which would allow the development of an intergalactic internet. Not only does Le Guin use this to distinguish the importance of asserting individualism, but she uses it to make a worthwhile point about sharing ideas even if she misrepresents the nature of intellectual property in the process.  Just like Howard Roark in The Fountainhead, Shevek risked ostracism and reproach from fellow Odonians in order to develop the idea. According to Le Guin, intellectual property belongs to the state, and subsequently, is just another form of dominion over others. This is partially true, but fundamentally false. Intellectual property is a monopoly right conferred by the state to the holder of the property claim. It confers state power to the holder of the right.  Ursula Le Guin would know. She’s a huge advocate for it.

Though her commentary on gender is rife with progressive clichés around “equality”, it is noteworthy that she anticipated the whole gender neutral/non-binary view of gender that’s all the rage nowadays. Unfortunately, her views hew very closely to the pretentious, confused postmodern ramblings of Judith Butler.  In the Odonian tongue, “brother” and “sister” share the same noun.  Odonians have sex with males and females as adolescents and there is no stigma associated with this activity.  She also anticipated the current trend of subverting gender stereotypes by casting females in roles traditionally perceived as male as well as the omnipresent push for women in STEM. However, like most contemporary feminists, Le Guin seems to dismiss equality of opportunity and focuses obsessively on equality of outcomes. She seems to relate to inequity of outcome as evidence of retrograde attitudes all by themselves and doesn’t seem to regard the gender imbalance in science as a product of natural choices or differences in skill levels.  While on Urras, Shevek expresses total surprise at the complete absence of women in science and naturally portrays the scientists of Urras as sexist oafs who are somehow keeping women subservient and subordinate.

She goes so far out of her way to create female heroes and invert every gendered convention, that it feels overly calculated and at times, suggests a subtle contempt for motherhood. In this respect, Le Guin’s thought seems to anticipate the broader trend in feminism which all too often reduces to a singleminded focus on terminating pregnancy and Orwellian attempts to erase any semblance of women as caregivers in art. In other words, it comes across like propaganda.  Naturally, Odo, the matriarch of the revolution was female and her teachings formed the foundation of Odonian society. What a coincidence. The foundations of a revolutionary anarchist matriarchy were written by a woman. How totally meta, Ursula. Shevek’s mother leaves his father when he was a baby to devote herself to her engineering career because her Duty to the People took priority over her own child. The physicist who inspired Shevek’s work was a woman, too. We don’t know anything about her except that she’s got a uterus and she had theories which weren’t taken seriously even in the matriarchal utopia of Anarres. Yes, we get it, Ursula.  Women just don’t get taken seriously in this capitalist patriarchy and motherhood and biology are no big deal.

Le Guin betrays a smug, repressive elitism towards women who flaunt their sexuality by wearing makeup or provocative clothing. It’s an attitude that’s sadly endemic to a significant segment of the contemporary feminist “movement”. Vea is portrayed as an attractive woman and yet for Odonians and Le Guin she’s a “body propertarian” whose humanity is absent simply because she’s provocatively dressed and made up.  Who’s the one objectifying and dehumanizing, Ursula? You or that evil patriarchy?

And what feminist novel would be complete without a scene of sexual assault?  Apparently, we just can’t talk about gender politics without some rape editorial. The assault scene between Vea and Shevek stands in sharp contrast to the scene between Howard Roark and Dominique Francon portrayed in The Fountainhead. Here, Le Guin betrays a pretty obviously low opinion of men’s capacity for self-control.  Once Shevek gets a little bit to drink and is in the presence of a woman who’s made up and wearing sexy clothes, he is seemingly unable to stop himself from committing assault despite his monk-like existence amongst the joyless, preachy pro-feminism communists of Anarres.

The Dispossessed is book that’s moderately engaging and asks the right philosophical questions, but mostly arrives at the wrong conclusions. In science fiction, I expect some flights of imagination, and in this respect, Le Guin borders on a sort of pedantic realism that feels slightly inappropriate for the genre. It’s almost as though she’s disconnected from the things that make science fiction fun and engaging. It’s burdened by a certain overly earnest preachiness and stoicism.  As a work of philosophy, it gets a few things right, but misses the mark more often than not. Kropotkin, Bookchin, and by extension, Le Guin were completely correct about state power. Unfortunately, she and her intellectual forebears were incorrect about property rights, market economics and the proper application of violent force.  I would be inclined to disregard all of the gender politics, but the collection of ideas presented are so prevalent nowadays, it demands a vigorous rebuttal. The stranglehold of Marxist and post-Marxist ideals remains as strong as ever. The eco-communist ideas of Murray Bookchin are even getting a second wind in the alleged “anarchist” feminist utopia of Rojava. Naturally, it was dutifully reported by the progressives at the New York Times. I hope Le Guin is happy that a real life version of Anarres is being attempted right before our eyes.

The argument for anarchism is the definitive argument of our times and Ursula Le Guin is to be commended for making an earnest contribution to this debate through science fiction. It’s too bad she’s on the wrong side of the argument.

Heretic – Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now

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We find ourselves living in times of increased strife and conflict both domestically and abroad, and rational thought and open discourse often seem in short supply, and in some circles, under siege. As the war on terror, the ongoing debate over the role Islam plays in fueling violence and the battle for free speech weigh heavily on the body politic, Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s latest book, Heretic, arrives at a crucial moment and makes a fearless and important case which speaks to all three issues simultaneously.

The courage of this book burns like a bonfire of righteousness warding off an ever encroaching darkness of cynicism and nihilism. Ms. Hirsi Ali’s story and the argument contained in the book are a shining testimony to the durability of Western liberal ideas of universal rights and individual liberty.

The premise of Heretic is very straightforward. Ms. Hirsi Ali argues that Islam is not a religion of peace, the acts of barbarism and terrorism are encoded in the Qur’an, the Sunnah and the Hadith, and that if Islam is to be regarded as a religion of peace, it must undergo a Reformation.

One would certainly hope that a country like the United States founded on principles of Western thought, including and especially universal rights, would openly embrace Ms. Hirsi Ali’s call for reform, but the task is challenging even in a liberal society such as ours.  Presently, the current media and political environment is polluted and overcrowded by preening PC scolds and mendacious politicians who seem intent on both silencing any meaningful debate over Islam or sowing seeds of confusion with feebleminded postmodern appeals to nihilism and moral relativism.

Fortunately, Ms. Hirsi Ali’s clarion call for freedom and reform requires neither politicians nor leadership from above of any kind.  Though the primary audience for this book are the non-violent Muslims throughout the world she refers to as Mecca Muslims, anyone who values universal human rights and freedoms should have a stake in a Muslim Reformation.

Just as Christina Hoff Sommers drew a very useful distinction between gender feminism and equity feminism in Who Stole Feminism, Ayaan Hirsi Ali makes three important distinctions between Muslims. The first group she regards as Medina Muslims and are largely beyond reach. In other words, followers of Muhammad’s doctrines of violence against infidels found throughout the latter half of the Qur’an written in Medina and seek the union of mosque and state known as Sharia Law. Mecca Muslims, on the other hand, form the majority of the Islamic world, follow the peaceful teachings of Muhammad’s time in Mecca, but live in a state of “cognitive dissonance” with the modern world. The third group of Muslims are reformers and dissidents found throughout the Muslim world and the West who are putting their lives on the line to call for changes to a religion that has doggedly resisted change since its inception in the 7th century.

Contrary to what irritating sophists and preachy progressives would have you believe about Islam, virtually every horrific crime against humanity and decency you can name has foundations in Islamic text. From the barbaric corporal punishments of stoning and amputation mandated in Sharia to acts of martyrdom and jihad, each of these actions has foundations in scripture.

Contemporary feminists in the Western world have made both a cottage industry and a very influential political apparatus solely dedicated to whining about the alleged jackbooted oppression of the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, but these idiotic grievances are revealed as the petty and childish delusions they are when measured against the horrific treatment to which women are subjected by the actual patriarchal oppression of Islam. Whether it’s arranged marriages for young girls, gang rape, genital mutilation or the subordinate role to which all women in the Muslim world are routinely circumscribed, the absence of feminist outrage as well as the rote charges of Islamophobia are deeply revealing of the true intentions of Western establishment feminism.

Worse still, Islam’s collectivist, authoritarian, and murderous tendencies extend beyond Sharia Law and into the realm of extrajudicial justice known as “honor killings“.  Whenever any woman is perceived to bring dishonor to the family name, she is often subject to the harshest retribution. Sometimes from her own family.

The treatment of homosexuals and transgender folk is equally harsh. Once again, the fact that social justice progressives have opted to frame criticism of Islam as bigotry is both deeply ironic and revealing.

Far and away, Islam’s biggest crime against reason and humanity is the demand for the death penalty for apostasy. It goes without saying that Ayaan Hirsi Ali has put her life on the line to write this book. The Protestant Reformation begat the Scientific and Industrial Revolution and gave rise to the Enlightenment principles which have animated the human spirit and lit the fire of progress throughout America and the West.  Islam has resisted any comparable reform. This resistance to criticism has had only deleterious effects on the Islamic world.  By resisting Reformation, the Islamic world has compromised economic and intellectual progress and produced generations of Muslims who value blind faith and obedience over individualism.

As Ms. Hirsi Ali so brilliantly states it, the Muslim Reformation will need a relentless campaign of blasphemy. The War on Terror will not ever succeed. The battle for human freedom must be fought with ideas, not bombs. Islam in its fullest expression is the union of mosque and state. This union must be severed.

Politicians and the social justice warriors who parrot their talking points are actively invested in browbeating dissidents into silence over Islam.  They need a divided population in order to sustain political and economic interests in the Middle East.  Fortunately, we do not need them.  Ayaan Hirsi Ali has sounded the fanfare of freedom with this book. If this is something that matters to you, you know what you need to do.

House of Cards Season 1

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After years of enduring Aaron Sorkin’s sanctimonious and insufferable fantasies of virtuous government do-gooders in shows and films like The West Wing and The American President, we finally have a show which goes behind the platitudes and gets closer to the true nature of political power.  Even better, the main character is a Democrat and for once, we are presented with a show which destroys the veneer of self-righteous moral rectitude that has been so assiduously constructed around the cult of liberalism through years of Hollywood and media propaganda.

House of Cards is basically the inverse West Wing.  It is a breath of fresh air for so many reasons, but mostly because it reveals how our relationship to power fuels every pathological tendency you can identify. The true conduit and amplifier of deceit, duplicity, vindictiveness, avarice, manipulation, spite, and violence is, for once, correctly identified.  After a seemingly endless parade of films and shows which demonize capitalism and money as the source of evil in the world, HoC points the finger in the right direction by focusing on state power.  HoC also reveals the political process as the zero-sum game that it is. All of the idiotic clichés that are routinely ascribed to capitalism (e.g. “dog eat dog”, “kill or be killed”) are more accurately represented as descriptions of life in government.

With a career that already has many iconic performances, Kevin Spacey’s portrayal of Frank Underwood is easily among his finest.  Frank Underwood is the ultimate Machiavellian antihero; the Majority Whip in the House of Representatives who describes himself as a plumber who “keeps the sludge moving”. When his bid for Secretary of State is rebuffed by the newly elected, charismatic president, Frank sets his sights on getting his due. He’s the guy who will stop at nothing to get what he wants, but he’ll win because he already has you figured out and you’re drawn in by his wry smile and gentle southern drawl. You don’t know that he’s slipped the knife in your back until it’s too late.

In the opening scene of Season 1, Frank discovers an injured dog which belongs to his neighbors. He sees that the dog is suffering, but he takes it upon himself to kill the dog before reporting the incident to his neighbors. Why? Simply because it must be done.  Frank is terrifying because his conscience is completely unclouded by doubt or fear.  At the same time, you kind of admire him for his ruthlessness, his masterful manipulations and dispassionate sense of purpose. Frank is the perfect sociopath. He is always calculating the odds and he’s always two moves ahead.

Robin Wright’s icy performance as Claire Underwood is a perfect complement to the cunning sociopathy of Spacey’s Frank. With a set of dubious morals combined with a strangely believable devotion to her husband, the Underwoods are undoubtedly partially modeled after the Clintons.  Claire is also the executive of the Clean Water Initiative and the subplots involving the CWI provide some refreshing commentary on the myriad ways that even the most seemingly altruistic endeavors make common cause with jackals of the state.

Kate Mara does a brilliant job as the narcissistic, fame seeking journalist, Zoe Barnes.  Zoe strikes up a relationship with Frank which proves fruitful for her career at first, but discovers the real courage that one needs to have ethics and pursue the truth as a journalist.  Zoe’s tale offers poignant editorial on the ascendancy of clickbait journalism, the way politicians use the media to manufacture public opinion, as well as the ways in which women use their sexual wiles to get what they want.

Corey Stoll turns in a great performance as the doomed representative from Pennsylvania, Pete Russo. Russo is an idealistic freshman from a working class district whose moral compass and sense of self-control are already compromised and only degenerate further once he arrives in Congress. His story is a vivid reminder that fallible humans who are bestowed with power which exempts them from moral judgment and isolates them from the consequences of their actions is something that should be avoided at all costs. It is simultaneously a cautionary tale of the seduction of state power as well as the price one pays when loyalty takes precedence over principles.

By far, the best aspect of the show is that it is an extended exploration of power and the ways that it pollutes, perverts and destroys every fiber of human decency in those who wield it or crave it.  All too often, politicians point the finger at corporations and blame money as the sole force of corruption in politics, but they’re engaging in a game of misdirection.  The political apparatus is inherently corrupt because it is inhabited by people who sell corruption in the first place! This show is honest about this fact. Frank says it best when he expresses his disappointment at a former assistant turned lobbyist:

Such a waste of talent. He chose money over power. In this town, a mistake nearly everyone makes. Money is the Mc-mansion in Sarasota that starts falling apart after 10 years. Power is the old stone building that stands for centuries. I cannot respect someone who doesn’t see the difference.

HoC is blessedly free of the tiresome trend towards gender correctness and takes aim at the scurrilous nature of identity politics.  With so many films and shows bending over backwards to kowtow to the Cult of Feminism by portraying the now obligatory Strong Female Character or the endless grating paeans to multiculturalism dutifully regurgitated by irritating social justice warriors, HoC commits the unspeakable transgression of portraying women and minorities as…FLAWED. I know! It’s hard to believe, but they went there.

The women make bad choices in men. They display insecurity, vindictiveness, and pettiness. The black and Latino characters aren’t just there to fill some checkbox of progressive virtue as prescribed by the Multicultural Politburo. They’re believable well-rounded characters with foibles and shortcomings.

The show fearlessly tackles the petty politics of character assassination that are all too commonplace nowadays.  Nowadays, you don’t need an actual Star Chamber. Thanks to identity politics, you can crucify people in the court of opinion and ruin their lives in ways that are worse than any state sanctioned tribunal could ever do. Zoe Barnes uses her sexuality to gain access and influence with men, but is more than willing to play sexual politics to ruin the reputation of her employer after he calls her a cunt.  Frank is more than willing to exploit his wife and lie about her emotional distress to discredit a labor attorney and win sympathy from the public in order to avoid getting destroyed in a televised debate.

The moment that’s perhaps most emblematic of the pernicious confluence of identity politics and character assassination is a funny scene in which Russo is deployed to visit a “libertarian drug fiend marinating in a trailer home” to get dirt on the character that was nominated for Secretary of State over Frank.  Russo’s job was simply to ascertain whether Kern penned an article unsympathetic to Israel while in college.  He didn’t, but it didn’t matter.  The innuendo that proliferated through the mediasphere was enough. Kern’s nomination for Secretary of State was torpedoed, he got branded a racist and was consigned to oblivion anyway.

Simply put, House of Cards is a treasure trove of viewing pleasure.  Premium channels have been a fertile ground for cutting-edge television in recent years, and kudos to Netflix for having the stones to put this out.  This is a show for the ages.  Highly recommended.

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Suffragette

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Feminists finally got their suffrage movie and how do they respond?  With violent protests and complaints of the absence of intersectionality of course!

It’s funny that Suffragette was apparently rejected by the radfem/intersectional corners of feminist media because it affirms every important article of faith in the contemporary bible.

  • Men are evil, violent, oppressive rapists and violence is the only language we understand.
  • Men are incompetent fathers and women are the only ones who should be granted custody rights in the event of a separation.
  • The acquisition of political power is the only way to ensure justice and the destruction of private property is justified if the end is achieved.

What’s not to like for the patriarchy fighting feminist champion?

Apparently, Meryl Streep’s alleged cultural insensitivity and the absence of multicultural correctness were enough to condemn this film to the shithouse for some feminists.  One gets the impression that the more you try to appease feminists, the more they complain.

Anyway.

The film is deeply flawed, but not without some redeeming features.  Suffragette is a fictitious account of a group of women who were disciples of Emmeline Pankhurst’s British suffrage movement.  The story centers around Carey Mulligan’s Maud Watts and her evolution from meek, submissive laundry worker, wife and mother to militant suffragette.

On the dubious side, the film presents female oppression in such stark terms, it feels calculated to appeal to the feminist cult of grievances as it works its way through the standard list of talking points.

The men are portrayed in such a uniformly bad light, it is slightly cartoonish.  Maud’s evil, capitalist employer is a cruel, abusive taskmaster.  Brendan Gleeson’s Inspector Steed is the ruthless government goon who spies on the movement and is singularly focused on enforcing the will of the state.  Ben Whishaw’s Sonny Watts is a bland dullard who becomes cruel and possessive of their son when Maud’s activism lands her in jail. I don’t doubt that men like this exist now or then, but the whole thing came across like the standard radfem dichotomy of men = evil/women = virtue.

Naturally, we are subjected to the omnipresent feminist articles of political faith. In a pivotal scene in which Maud delivers a testimony about her plight to a politician who made promises about giving women access to the vote, we get the predictable laundry list.  Women work harder and longer than the men under punishing, toxic circumstances and get paid less. The owner is an abusive prick and women have no legal recourse. The movie seems to want you to believe that not only does the film accurately portray life for all women back then, but that nothing has changed whatsoever since then. And of course, the only meaningful recourse is more political activity.

In many ways, the film is the feminist analogue to SelmaYou are presented with a group completely disenfranchised from the vote by evil, white men and despite the abject cruelty dispensed by the agents of the state, the only way to rebalance the scales of justice is to give women access to the very apparatus of power which meted out the oppression in the first place. Because after all, women are inherently virtuous and a woman who wields state power won’t be corrupted by the institution.  Nor will women be poisoned by a sense of entitlement once they are given favorable treatment after power has been attained. Right, feminists?

By far, the dumbest aspect of the film is its idiotic and irresponsible endorsement of the destruction of private property as a means of political protest.  That’s right, Revolutionaries! If you’re pissed off about what the government is doing, the best thing you can do is ruin the property of someone who has done nothing to you! Protest state violence with acts of arbitrary violence against private property! Makes perfect sense!

On the positive side, the relationship between Maud and her son George tugs at the heartstrings. Despite the abuses she suffered earlier in life, she’s a doting and affectionate mother. When Sonny gives up George for adoption, Mulligan’s emotions are wrenching. Just like this year’s other notable feminist movie, Grandma, the film is providing a pretty vivid reminder that women do in fact make the babies and motherhood is something that many women want and enjoy.  Despite the relentless regurgitation of wage gap propaganda, many seem unwilling or unable to grasp that this decision tends to influence the amount of career ambition women exhibit in the workplace.

Overall, it has just enough going for it to warrant a recommendation. But just barely. It portrays the nature of state power correctly, but its endorsement of this power is, as many feminists seem to enjoy saying, problematic.