Category Archives: television

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Season 1 (2018)

Hollywood has been presenting witchcraft in a breezy packaging with an attractive female lead at least since Elizabeth Montgomery famously portrayed Samantha Stephens in Bewitched. It’s a great way to sanitize a concept that has long been stigmatized in folklore and history. You know it’s an idea in which Hollywood is deeply invested because they keep repackaging it and selling it to you over and over as though it’s something totally new. Whether it’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Once Upon a Time or Charmed, Hollywood serves up variations on the theme every few years. While Samantha Stephens’ nose twinkle cast a spell on the American public for a respectable eight seasons, America’s most beloved teenage thaumaturge is arguably Sabrina Spellman. Beginning as a spinoff character from the Archie comics world of Riverdale High, Sabrina is a half-witch with dead parents who simultaneously tries to harness her power for good while keeping her necromantic pedigree on the down low. It’s an idea that would eventually make JK Rowling mountains of cash, but like most pop culture phenomena, the soil had already been tilled by some other archetype. In this case, it is quite likely Ms. Spellman. Never allowing a good property to go to waste, Hollywood’s deep state coterie over at Netflix have brought Sabrina back for a second time in the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

Though I am unfamiliar with the Melissa Joan Hart version of the show which ran from 1996 to 2002, it’s pretty obvious that this is a much darker take on the character and story. Like way, way darker. Honestly, if I had a daughter who was at the age for whom this show is presumably targeted, I’d feel a bit reticent to allow her to watch.

The series portrays the days leading up to Sabrina’s 16th birthday which also happens to be her Dark Baptism. This ceremony would officially initiate her into the Church of the Night and allow her to begin her studies at the Academy of Unseen Arts. The problem is that she’d be required to forsake her life as a normal teenager and follow the path of witchcraft for eternity. This includes ditching beta retard boyfriend, Harvey Kinkle, her annoying black SJW friend, Rosalind Sinclair, and her equally annoying non-binary friend, Susie Putnam. If this already sounds like the makings of another Hollywood SJW shit sandwich, you’d be correct. It’s not pure cringe, but when it goes there, it’s pretty bad.

Did you put something in my soymilk, Brina?

Read The Bluest Eye and get #WOKE, bigots.

Use my correct pronouns or get hexed, bigots.

Oh, it’s just ritualistic cannibalism, Sabrina.

Rounding out the Spellman family are Miranda Otto’s aristocratic Aunt Zelda. She is offset by fat and quirky Aunt Hilda played by Lucy Davis. The Spellman clan also includes the warlock mortician cousin, Ambrose. Because it’s the Current Year, he’s been reinvented as a black pansexual. Other than providing a reason to craft storylines that involve racism, an excuse to throw in some gratuitous Crowleyan butt sex scenes, and make a veiled reference to Pan in every news story, this reinvention makes no sense. Granted, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is himself gay, but it doesn’t make me any less cynical about the character rewrite.

Sabrina is also tracked by the formerly dowdy and bookish, Miss Wardwell. She’s possessed by an entity in the first episode and transforms into a vampy Elvira knockoff who’s initially presented as a Church of the Night excommunicate charged with guiding Sabrina towards the coven life. We’ve also got a trio of bitchy Mean Girl witches who exist to taunt and torment Sabrina at the Academy of Unseen Arts. Tati Gabrielle plays the alpha queen and she’s accompanied by her subservient drones, Agatha and Dorcas.

Naturally, Sabrina rebels against her witch aunts, Hilda and Zelda, because she feels that Father Blackwood was disingenuous when he assured her that she’d be able to exercise her free will after swearing allegiance to the Dark Lord and signing the Book of the Beast. Essentially, the show is presenting a bizarre inversion of the standard coming of age morality tale. Instead of the stifling strictures of conventional Christianity and Western traditionalism, you are presented with a plucky teenager bucking the conventions of Satanic Orthodoxy. Sabrina’s “rebellion” consists of taking up her dead father’s mantle of Satanic Protestantism and finding a Third Way that will eventually culminate in a confrontation with Satan himself. She is allowed to continue her dual citizenship in the world of witchcraft and mortality on the condition that she attend the Academy of Unseen Arts. With her allegiances pulled in opposite directions, which way will our brave heroine turn?

Needless to say, the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is very heavy on the occultism. Very heavy. Admittedly, it is nearly impossible to find anything in the fantasy, horror or sci-fi realm which doesn’t feature occult themes and symbolism, but this one piles it on pretty thick. There’s nothing particularly occulted or hidden about it either. It’s as plain as it can be. Cannibalism, necromancy, blood sacrifice, sex magick, demonic possession, ritual abuse, Crowleyanism. The show’s acronym is itself a reference to chaos magick. You name it, this show has it. In terms of imagery, you’ve got the now ubiquitous Baphomet statue, tons of inverted crosses and pentagrams galore. Even the Latin incantations are 100% authentic. And remember, Marina Abramović said that occult magic wasn’t art when it was portrayed on television. So basically, you’re exposing yourself to true blue occultic invocations when watching CAOS. Fun for the whole family!

What’s especially insidious about CAOS is the manner in which it plays the wholesome source material against the dark themes and subject matter. As the titular character, Kiernan Shipka is likeable and attractive. Her affections for her boyfriend Harvey and her annoying SJW friends are convincing and endearing. She displays the requisite level of smarts and independence that make her a sympathetic lead for a youth oriented series. Conversely, the occultism is played with a comparably breezy tone while being pretty depraved.

View this post on Instagram

blueberry eyes…12 days until #caos

A post shared by Kiernan Shipka (@kiernanshipka) on

There is, of course, the predictable bevy of progressive SJW clichés. The main difference between this and your standard issue Hollywood bullshit is that CAOS gives you a clear window into the hidden metaphysics of the SJW worldview. This may seem like a political agenda arbitrarily grafted onto an occult themed teenage drama, but these ideas are, in fact, tightly interwoven. The show is replete with what’s now a standard hostility toward men. The majority of the male characters are either beta retards like Harvey, abusive, insecure bullies or lecherous dolts. The seemingly rote anti-male bigotry makes more sense when it’s linked to colonial era witchhunters who were Harvey’s ancestors. Subsequently, Sabrina’s romance with him is even more heretical because she’s consorting with the progeny of witch killers. Bloodlines matter in the occult worldview, and the weight of genetic determinism weighs just as heavily on Harvey’s fate as it does Sabrina. Even the current push for veganism and animal rights is tied back to a pagan veneration of animals as familiars and spirit guides.

Susie Putnam’s presence in the story feels at first like another checkbox ticked on the #DIVERSITY list, but her androgyny makes more sense when seen through the lens of hermetic metaphysics. Susie is a living Baphomet. As Eliphas Lévi points out in Transcendental Magic, the Baphomet is the alchemical union of the male and female divine principle.

Moreover, the sign of occultism is made with both hands, pointing upward to the white moon of Chesed, and downward to the black moon of Geburah. This sign expresses the perfect concord between mercy and justice. One of the arms is feminine and other masculine, as in the Androgyne of Khunrath, whose attributes we have combined with those of our goat, since they are one and the same symbol.

All of this pales in comparison to the epic cringe of the social justice club formed by Sabrina and her friends early in the series, WICCA. Formed as a group whose ostensible goal is fighting the omnipresent scourge of bullying, WICCA stands for Women’s Intersectional Cultural and Creative Association. You don’t have to look very hard to find all the standard SJW pet issues championed by pagan organizations. You’d think the #WOKE intelligentsia would be happy that this show was merging paganism with social justice, but NOPE. It’s just not good enough. Never is, really. Mass media MUST ALWAYS redouble its efforts to push culture towards the singularity of mass wokegnosis.

The conclusion of the series was every bit as nonsensical and incoherent as the staged row between The Satanic Temple and the producers of the show over their usage of the Baphomet statue. In other words, there’s no real conflict at all. The reason you’re sympathetic to Sabrina is because she refuses to sell her soul to Satan by signing the Book of the Beast. Her devotion to her friends and her apparent instincts for a set of supposedly higher virtues created a necessary tension to propel the story. But if you think about it for two seconds, there’s no real growth arc at all. Despite her initial refusal of the Dark Baptism, she attends the Academy of Unseen Arts and deploys the most powerful magical incantations in witchcraft as an expression of her devotion to Harvey. After it all backfires, she ends up capitulating to the Dark Lord, but only so she can summon even more powerful magic to ward off the threat to Harvey and the citizens of Riverdale. So she becomes a sort of Satanic Savior, but she ends up ditching the life she initially wanted to keep. While we surely haven’t seen the last of Sabrina’s mortal friends, the writers have set up a future confrontation between her and Madam Satan and Father Blackwood’s antichrist progeny. As she does her triumphant slo-mo march through the lobby of the Academy of Unseen Arts with her Mean Girl witches at her side, we’re supposed to cheer the fulfillment of her Satanic destiny. After all, she’s decked out in her Rosemary’s Baby miniskirt and she looks soooo cute in her new platinum blonde bob. YYYAAASSSSS. SLAY KWEEN.

Do you even Left Hand Path, bro?

Whatever.

All of which brings us to a couple of key questions. For whom was this show intended and what did its writers intend to convey? It’s seemingly targeted at the 10 to 25 year old set. Sure, you could argue that the 18+ crowd will regard it as just another confection in the endless digital feeding tube of Hollywood degeneracy. But what about the ongoing coverage of witches in the media? If this is just harmless entertainment, why are we seeing witchcraft being covered so sympathetically in the media with increasing frequency? And what about the younger set that will surely gravitate towards it? Satanism and witchcraft is cool as long as you “do the right thing” and avoid the Crowleyan sex orgies and ritual cannibalism? Be super careful when engaging in necromancy? Being a Wiccan is totes #WOKE if you believe in #SocialJustice?

I’d be disingenuous if I claimed that I didn’t find the Satanic posturing and iconography of Slayer, Mötley Crüe and Venom wildly transgressive when I was a youth. I perceived it as an act though. I didn’t think they were really serious about any of it. It was an affectation meant to rankle the Tipper Gores and Pat Robertsons of the world. CAOS feels different. This is a bildungsroman. This is the story of a teenager forming the value system she’ll carry into adulthood. The message seems to be that Satanism and witchcraft is cool because it helps you to #RESIST and smash the patriarchy. Listen, I enjoyed my delusions of teenage rebellion when I listened to Dio, too. I get it. I’d like to think there’s room for that kind of thing in the adolescent pop culture diet. But there’s a reason conservatives and progressives have struggled for cultural supremacy. Politics are downstream from culture, and you need a set of metaphysics to make sense of the progressive civic religion. So you smuggle them into the arts and pass it off as cultural transgression despite the fact that there are no real standards or barriers that remain to be broken. The culture is already sufficiently debased so any bubbles of outrage can be played up as evidence of the stranglehold of the demiurge over the minds of the population. And CAOS is here to tear it all down! The problem with the orthodoxy of progressivism is that the transgression threshold must be routinely demolished in order to even register on anyone’s outrage meter. Subsequently, the inverted cross on Ozzy Osbourne’s Diary of a Madman album cover is just a quaint memory that dads like to bring up when they romanticize their youthful rebellion. Call me old fashioned, but I see a difference between a metal song about Aleister Crowley and a vivid portrait of ritualistic cannibalism that’s linked to Thelemic scripture. Since that’s the new threshold for transgression, can we really be certain that everyone watching will empathize with Sabrina’s revulsion? Especially since outlets like Vice are promoting the idea that cannibalism is edgy and cool. If this represents the the new standard for teenage rebellion, I’m not sure I want to see where this leads.

Help! I can’t keep track of my MK alters!

Advertisements

Firing Line Returns as Progressive Hugbox

In the annals of 20th century American conservatism, few legacies loom as large as William F. Buckley’s. For better or worse, National Review remains a pace setter and barometer of modern establishment conservatism. Aside from his oversight of NR and nascent spy novel career, Buckley further distinguished himself through his current affairs show, Firing Line. With his oddly captivating air of aristocratic sophistication and a demeanor which teetered between thinly veiled disdain and genteel charm, Buckley was a champion of the marketplace of ideas long before the “intellectual dark web” were a thing.

Though YouTube has already established itself as the most accessible venue to engage in the battle of ideas for content creators of every ideological persuasion, PBS and the Hoover Institute have decided to pretend they care about civic discourse with a reboot to the franchise. Featuring the eminently telegenic great granddaughter of Herbert Hoover as host, Margaret Hoover is attempting to extend Buckley conservatism into the 21st century with her exceedingly banal and toothless brand of “Center Right” Conservatism Incorporated.

Based on the extended interview she gave to Reason’s Nick Gillespie and the episode I watched featuring “democratic socialist” rising star, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, I’m hard pressed to identify a single position she holds which distinguishes her from the neocon, globo-capitalist, corporatist establishment. The opening sentence of her Wikipedia page describes her as “an American political commentator, political strategist, media personality, feminist, gay rights activist, and author.” Not exactly a set of descriptors that screams “conservative”. She comes across like another progressive in conservative clothing whose sole existence is designed to placate liberals who claim to listen to “both sides”. Appealing enough to watch, but devoid of any ideas that deviate from approved establishment orthodoxy. She seems right at home alongside other anti-Trump neocon shills like Jennifer Rubin and David Frum. The show itself also seems calculated to blunt criticisms that PBS is a captured propaganda arm of the Left. I was especially interested in this episode because I naïvely assumed that Ocasio-Cortez would offer Hoover ample opportunity to challenge her narrative and present a contrasting worldview.

I know. What was I thinking? This is PBS, after all.

Buckley had a knack for setting up the guest in a manner which simultaneously highlighted his august achievements while very subtly tipping his own hand. He was magnanimous, but he was editorializing while he did it. He could even manage very sly digs. By contrast, Hoover’s artless introduction of Ocasio-Cortez reeked of over the top fangirl praise and obsequious fawning. This seemed less an introduction and more of an extension of the gushing adoration that’s been heaped at her feet by the progressive establishment since winning the nomination of the New York 14th. As Hoover ratcheted up the swooning praise with each sentence, the camera would linger on Ocasio-Cortez’ blushing giddiness. Hoover even went full Teen Vogue by mentioning her ability to sell out lipstick, and Ocasio-Cortez giggled in gleeful affirmation. It was meant to be a lighthearted moment, but for this middle age curmudgeon expecting a hard hitting current affairs show, it set up a Girls Club vibe that was tonally wrong.

The interview that followed only confirmed this impression. Bill Buckley’s once venerable Firing Line has been repurposed as Progressive Hugbox. Hoover asked wide open questions which provided ample opportunity for cross examination, and failed at nearly every juncture to challenge or engage. Where Buckley took every opportunity to present a contrasting argument and even administer the occasional smackdown, Hoover seemed content to go through the motions and play pattycakes with her guest. The whole thing was one gigantic missed opportunity. Even someone as MOR as Ben Shapiro could have made Ocasio-Cortez break a sweat. Hoover, on the other hand, seemed mostly in agreement with Ocasio-Cortez throughout!

On “Democratic Socialism”

Of all the assaults on language and deceptive word games deployed by the Left, perhaps the most odious is the pernicious lie called “democratic socialism”. Progressives who embrace the inevitable endgame of their worldview fall into two camps. One camp is the “Real socialism has never been tried” crowd and the other is “Not Venezuelan socialism. DEMOCRATIC Socialism” crowd. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is in the latter camp. When Hoover wisely chose to ask her to elaborate on the meaning of the term, Ocasio-Cortez did not disappoint and delivered a doozy of vacuous piffle. In the hands of any ideologically grounded conservative or libertarian, this would have been a slam dunk. Anyone worth his salt could have torn her to shreds.

Democratic socialism is the value that in a modern, moral and wealthy society, no American should be too poor to live.

Since its earliest modern incarnations, socialism has taken root in the conscience of the Left precisely because it speaks to moral instincts and the eschatological inevitability of an egalitarian, secular utopia. Ocasio-Cortez has stripped out the fact that her utopian vision requires the instantiation of vast new bureaucracies and large scale redistribution. She blithely omits the fact that it also requires the guns of the state to implement and leaves only the rhetorical ear candy. Whether this is out of ignorance, dishonesty or stupidity, I cannot say, but it’s a glaring omission regardless.

With this statement alone, Ocasio-Cortez left herself deeply exposed. Hoover could have made mincemeat out of her right then and there, but instead, she allowed her to serve up more heaping portions of brainless drivel.

On the Economy

Ocasio-Cortez likes to tout her economic credentials on social media, but she exposed herself as yet another economic illiterate peddling fanciful tales of endless, large scale economic hardship and woe.

Unemployment is low because people are working 60, 70, 80 hours a week, and can barely feed their kids.

Differences in skill level or ambition never enter into her calculus. Any disparities in outcome can be rectified by subsidizing college and pouring more money into the education bureaucracy apparently.

Along with her asinine claim that “everyone has two jobs”, Ocasio-Cortez’ assertion was thoroughly disconnected from reality. EVERYONE? Really? Again, Hoover could have eviscerated these claims, but she opted to let this steaming pile to stand unchallenged. I can’t imagine Buckley doing the same.

On Immigration

On the issue of immigration, Ocasio-Cortez predictably leaned on boilerplate progressive clichés and platitudes.

Hoover blew it again by completely bypassing her STATED intention to abolish ICE. Instead of taking the claim at face value and challenging her on the specifics of the plan, Hoover punted and asked her simply to expound upon her vision for broad based immigration reform.

To Ocasio-Cortez, every immigrant is a potential food truck entrepreneur or bodega owner, there is no downside to immigration, there are no issues of assimilation with which to contend, there are no criminal elements, and there are no standards that should be applied. It’s just one big multicultural Wonderland. But perhaps this is consequence of American republicanism taken to its fullest conclusion. It may be impossible to impose constraints or uphold standards on a collection of abstract principles that sanctify human liberation and equality.

However, on this subject, Ocasio-Cortez actually revealed a new and heretofore unprecedented position for the progressive Left. A tacit acceptance of American imperialism.

Instead of taking what was once a fairly conventional, antiwar, non-interventionist leftist stance, Ocasio-Cortez seemed to concede that regime change was a prerequisite for being part of the progressive political aristocracy in the American globalist imperium. She seems to want to ensure that displaced refugees will be granted automatic citizenship.

On Capitalism

In yet another colossal oversight, Hoover completely missed an opportunity to dismantle Ocasio-Cortez’ vacuous Marxist twaddle.

Capitalism has not always existed in the world and will not always exist in the world.

The first part of the statement is, of course, correct. Laissez faire capitalism wasn’t practiced or promoted in earnest as ideology until the 18th century. Mercantilism, trade guilds and feudal economies preceded it. But the question is what exactly does she envision if she wants to see us “evolve” beyond it? Hoover wasn’t interested in finding out.

Ocasio-Cortez seems to buy into the standard Marxist view of history. Capitalism is but a necessary step in an inexorable forward march of human progress. Socialism is both an inevitability and a necessity.

Equally bewildering was her contention that we live in “no hold barred, Wild West hypercapitalism” society. This is such a painfully idiotic cliche, that it shouldn’t need to be rebutted, but these nostrums are essentially the equivalent of scripture for progressives. We live in a highly regulated, quasi-socialist market economy which is centrally managed by bankers. The staunch refusal to acknowledge the extent that government institutions, public-private partnerships and corporations all aid and abet the progressive establishment is simply astonishing. The perpetual posture of being beleaguered underdogs is beyond tiresome.

The fact that we’re still addressing these ideas lends credence to the claim that capitalism and socialism are merely two sides of a false dialectic. Clearly, there are vested interests who want these ideas to infiltrate the culture. The radical Left and their globalist sponsors have been promoting these ideas for well over a century. They wouldn’t still be around without generous patronage.

On Israel

The one moment that has the rightward social media commentariat Twitter feeds ablaze was her stunning admission over the disputed territories in Israel.

I am not the expert on geopolitics on this issue!

Quite the admission from a Boston University graduate with a degree in economics and international relations. It seems like this question should have been right in her wheelhouse. What I suggest it reveals is the power of the Left’s linguistic and ideological programming. Could it be cowardice given that Israel is a longstanding punching bag for the Left? Probably not. Given that she’s been coronated as the Left’s new Fearless Truthsayer, I’d expect her to let the Palestinian Liberation flag fly.

Why bring back Firing Line?

Hoover’s abysmal performance begs one burning question. Why revive Buckley’s show at all if you’re making no effort to even attempt a genuinely conservative approach?

I wanted to be enthusiastic about this show, but it feels a little bit like the current affairs equivalent of the 2016 gender swap Ghostbusters reboot. A shameless attempt at reviving an intellectual property that once had cultural cachet. What’s so edgy about another anti-Trump establishment neocon who gives a socialist a free ride? If Bill Buckley were alive today, he’d likely find his encounter with Gore Vidal a quaint memory. He’d probably be relegated to hosting demonetized Google Hangout streams on YouTube while fighting back accusations of being alt-right.

How many PBS viewers are truly interested in the battle of ideas at this juncture? What percentage of their audience are aging boomers just trying to uphold the delusion they’re interested in an opposing perspective?

What does this say about the vitality of Buckley’s synthesis of post-Burkean conservatism and laissez faire classical liberalism? Even worse, what does this say about the alleged gulf between the Right and the Left if Margaret Hoover is nodding in agreement with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

Margaret Hoover represents exactly the kind of bland establishment conservatism that propelled Trump to the White House. National Review’s Against Trump issue only fueled the perception that the conservative intelligentsia were out of step with the grassroots. We’re living in a time when the very idea of conserving national borders is considered tantamount to the reopening of Auschwitz. A reboot of Firing Line with an assertive host could have been a positive contribution to public discourse. Too bad we got Progressive Hugbox instead.

Social Justice is the Death Knell of Comedy

wp-1502634471863.

It’s a point that’s been made by comedians and cultural commentators alike, but it bears repeating: #SocialJustice is the death knell of comedy. Over the years, the increasing encroachment of political correctness in the pop culture sphere has been assailed by everyone from George Carlin to John Cleese. And rightfully so. To be fair, neo-Marxist, postmodern PC culture is destroying pretty much everything that’s beautiful, ennobling and fun, but the toll it’s exacting on the realms of pop culture and entertainment that I always considered sacrosanct zones of unfettered creativity cannot be gainsaid. Comedy will always be judged based on subjective tastes and preferences, but we can distinguish a few core principles which make comedy funny. Moreover, it’s important to draw these distinctions because the goals of the neo-Marxist Left are completely at odds with making actual comedy.

Comedy is an essential art form because it provides a necessary escape valve from the pressure cooker of daily life. When done well, comedy transforms the deepest miseries and the most forbidden taboos into laughter. It serves as a coping mechanism and as a release.  In order to do this properly, the comedian can only invite the audience to see its own reflection in proportion to the degree that the comedian is doing it for himself.  In other words, the comedian’s jokes are funny because you recognize the truth of the comedian’s experience and empathize with him. This may even include judgments and caricatures that will make people uncomfortable. The job of the comedian is to put thoughts that remain hidden from view of normal discussion on loudspeakers. Generally speaking, the more uncomfortable the confession, the greater the comedy payoff. Even in the case of insult comedians like Don Rickles and Joan Rivers, the insults were funny because at some level, you had that thought yourself. The comedian must have a sufficient level of self-awareness about his own foibles and limitations in addition to being well attuned to the judgments and opinions he holds about others.

Most importantly, comedy is meant to be the province of breaking cultural taboos. Comedy is the art form that’s going to go there if that’s where the laugh is going to be found. Especially if it’s painful or uncomfortable subject matter.  It’s a cliché, but laughter is the best medicine. Of course, comedy is a vast art form and for the sake of concision, I’m not including slapstick, sight gags, and pranks nor do I intend to make this essay an extended exploration of every comedic style. My intention is merely to underscore the psychological mechanics of comedy which make it tick and the ways intersectional social justice completely undermines comedy’s most fundamental building blocks.

Given that comedy requires both emotional honesty and unconstrained access to every realm of life where jokes might be found, this dual mandate puts the entire art form of comedy on a collision course with #SocialJustice. The success of neo-Marxist Left hinges on carving society into groups and placing everyone within the hierarchy of oppression. Subsequently, anything done or said by the privileged group that is perceived to be disparaging of the oppressed groups creates an unacceptable perpetuation of oppression which must be condemned and silenced. Since this now includes pretty much everything that is a product of Western civilization, everything that was once considered funny is now in the crosshairs.

Take Mel Brooks’ 1967 lampoon of the show business industry, The Producers. Anyone with a functioning brain knows that Brooks made a Nazi musical the object of the producers’ quest because it was the epitome of bad taste. That’s the joke. Apparently, it’s not good enough for the pearl clutching moralists of the #SocialJustice Left.  Despite Blazing Saddles being a satire of racism and bigotry, how long before his 1974 classic gets the same puritanical reprimand from the Church Ladies of the Left?

Making matters worse is the ever shifting standards of #SocialJustice piety. The nature of intersectional social justice is to constantly move the goalposts of oppression in order to find the group believed to be the most aggrieved. The Kids in the Hall perfectly ridiculed the PC culture Oppression Olympics in 1992, but with the exception of South Park, you won’t find a single mainstream comedy show touch this stuff today. Back in the 90’s, Julia Sweeney managed to get a lot of mileage from her gender ambiguous SNL character, Pat. The comedy came from watching the confused reactions of everyone who wasn’t sure about Pat’s gender. It would be a perfect character to revive today given the white hot controversies over transgender bathrooms and military service, but I have little confidence that SNL would move beyond the self imposed confines of their ideological bubble.

All of which brings us to the core of the problem. Intersectional social justice is a microcosm of the moral relativism, situational ethics, and absence of principle that’s emblematic the Left. The Left has so badly corrupted and destroyed the idea of individual liberty and equality before the law that the only way one can express moral virtue is by circumscribing what you think and what you say to the realm of politics. It encourages people to be overly self-conscious and to self-censor. Needless to say, this is a recipe for totalitarianism. Intersectional social justice is breeding a police state mentality in which people are actively looking for WrongThink and stoking the thirst for retribution and punishment. It’s even more pernicious than if it was a top down legislation because people are freely adopting the mindset as a mark of moral virtue.

Unfunny partisan stooge, Trevor Noah, recently appeared on The View to make the following pronouncement about jokes he and his comedy peers made in the past.

“There were things we shouldn’t have been saying”

Unbelievable! A so-called “liberal” comedian delineating boundaries around what can be proper subjects for humor and calling it “progress”. Even Joy Behar concedes the constraints PC culture has imposed on today’s comedians. Lenny Bruce is surely turning in his grave.

The most odious and detestable pearl clutching SJW to rise to semi-prominence is the painfully irritating Dylan Marron. A sanctimonious prig who affects an utterly repellent pretense of cheeky irreverence and edgy contrarianism, Marron looks at older films and judges them through the lens of intersectional social justice. And SURPRISE! He finds them #PROBLEMATIC. Just like his feminist analogue, Anita Sarkeesian, Marron is one of the Left’s new self-appointed Culture Cops.

wp-1502715191773.


The Left would argue that protesting offense is itself an exercise of free speech. It’s an argument to which I would respond by offering that you just not attend the performance and allow those who want to consume the comedy to enjoy it without being hectored by obnoxious scolds. It’s one thing to protest a comedian or a film screening, but if you are actively trying to prevent others from exercising their right through riots or threats, then you can’t really call that “free speech”. That’s the behavior of a complete totalitarian. Trevor Noah and the media dittoheads within the progressive echo chamber laughably argue that these arbitrary constraints on topics are improving comedy. How about you stop trying to define what’s acceptable in comedy and just allow the art form to progress organically? But we all know that’s not how the intersectional social justice game is played. It’s a one-sided particularist argument and if you’re on the side of oppression, you get the muzzle.
wp-1502634574306.


If you go back through the past 50 years of television and cinematic comedy alone, there’s nothing that passes the #SocialJustice litmus test. Whether it’s Monty Python, Mel Brooks, Cheech and Chong, Sam Kinison, Eddie Murphy or Airplane!, today’s #SocialJustice activists will find nothing redeeming in the comedy tradition.

Comedy can’t take one ideological position nor can it cordon off select people or topics as subjects of potential ridicule while exempting others. When it does that it stops being comedy and metastasizes into propaganda. The traditional comedy television axis of late night talk, Comedy Central and SNL has become a dull and monolithic bastion of partisan talking points and smug condescension. The Amy Schumers and Sarah Silvermans are lionized as torchbearers of new school PC comedy, but shrill anti-Trump diatribes and vagina jokes will only get you so far. If anything, the quasi-McCarthyist, anti-Trump hysteria that has gripped the Left for well over a year deserves to be viciously ridiculed.  As do the idiotic straw men that are constantly being built and recycled by the media lackeys.

The Left’s de facto speech cops in Silicon Valley aren’t helping by throttling conservatives, classical liberals and libertarians on social media. The nascent shitlord community on YouTube has been kneecapped by the Google Gestapo and are seeing their videos flagged for demonetization and sequestered from trending algorithms. Facebook’s Politburo has been equally aggressive in policing meme pages that deviate from leftist orthodoxy.  Milo Yiannopolous and Sargon of Akkad are the latest people who’ve been disappeared by the Twitter Stasi. Comedy needs to be wrested from the deadening chokehold of the Puritans, scolds, and killjoys of Left. Progressives affect a pretense of being anti-authoritarian while simultaneously ignoring the vast institutional power they possess. You can’t claim a monopoly on pushing the envelope when your ideas already pervade every corner of culture. The real heroes of comedy today are the meme warriors and YouTube shitlords who dare to commit blasphemy against the Imams of #SocialJustice. The best comedy always comes from people who push back against the prudes, scolds and the killjoys. So fear not, shitlords. Kekistan will rise again. 

House of Cards: Season 1 (2013)

image

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. 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.

image

That Jeff Daniels Monologue from The Newsroom Rebutted

image

First off, I have to give credit where credit is due. Despite the fact that he’s little more than a propagandist for the Left, Aaron Sorkin is a talented writer. He has a great flair for soaring rhetoric and this monologue is a testimony to his abilities.

That said, this is propaganda disguised as monologue and there’s a lot to unpack.

The thing that really struck me is how sentimental the Left is for what it perceives as its glory days. I’ve read and heard a gazillion snarky commentaries deriding conservatives for their Reagan nostalgia, but I don’t see a whole lot of difference between that kind of pining for bygone times and this.

The other thing that’s very interesting about this monologue is that it reveals how modern liberalism uses cynicism and shame to promote its own brand of inverse nationalism. He’s openly denigrating overt expressions of positive nationalism, but he’s using this reproach to elicit sympathy for expressions of nationalism and state policy that he believes are more worthy of national pride.

The problem with the monologue is twofold; his characterization of “freedom” is in and of itself a straw man and he consistently conflates individual achievement and economic freedom with state policy.

Yes, it’s true that Canada, Japan, UK, Italy, Spain, Germany and Spain have freedom. But it’s relative just as it is here. In addition to forking over a giant chunk of your earnings, anyone starting a business is going to have to contend with a giant tangle of laws and a maze of bureaucracy in order to keep the lights on. By these measures, some of those countries are freer than ours, some much less so.

He bemoans low academic achievement, but says nothing about whether it’s a good idea for the state to monopolize public education and doesn’t acknowledge that perhaps this is the problem that’s contributing to that outcome.

He laments the incarceration and poverty rates, but doesn’t say anything about how the welfare state, the criminal justice system, the police state and the public school system collude to contribute to these outcomes.

He lashes out at outsize military spending and the meager household income metrics, but says nothing about the Federal Reserve, the IMF, the World Bank or the WTO.

He talks about how “we” built the greatest economy in the world. Since when do liberals take pride in economic achievement beyond Hollywood or Silicon Valley? Individuals built the greatest economy in the world, Aaron. Sometimes by buying off the government, and sometimes through individual and group initiative. I’ve been pretty successful at selling my skills in the private sector, but I haven’t really built anything. As the country becomes increasingly globalized and the very idea of national pride has been poisoned, does any young person feel any personal connection to America’s economic legacy that isn’t tainted by a Marxist stigma?

Hearing Sorkin rhapsodize over the achievement of American capitalism feels both wildly disingenuous and highly selective. After all, this is the guy who’s built a career romanticizing and glamorizing fictional politicians and portraying capitalists as conniving, manipulative degenerates. Even if it’s true, what does it say about his ethics? He’s benefiting pretty handsomely from the system given that his own portraits of capitalist icons are largely unsympathetic.

Is there anyone in the contemporary Democratic political establishment who will say anything even remotely charitable about the market economy nowadays? The default MO amongst progressives seems to favor bemoaning inequality in public while quietly reaping outsize rewards for their politicking behind closed doors. The hands down favorite amongst progressives in the current presidential candidate field has both refused to identify as a capitalist and has built a career waving the banner of socialism. The apparatchiks of the academic, activist and pundit class certainly aren’t singing the praises of capitalism either. Of all the the lines in this monologue which reek of falsehood, the stink of this one is the most foul.

He claims “we struck down laws”, but I’m really hard pressed to think of the laws to which he refers. Despite the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, DOMA has not been repealed. The PATRIOT Act is still on the books. The NDAA authorization passes every year without a peep of opposition. The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria continue without so much as a token gesture of dissent from the left.

He alleges that “we cultivated the greatest artists”. It’s a partially true statement in that we have a relatively free market which has produced a rich diversity of art and media from which to choose, but how much of it reflects organic market preferences versus deliberate attempts by social engineers to manufacture culture? Everyone knows that taste is subjective and that the artists that people revere as “great” will vary with each individual. Is it even possible hold artists accountable to a standard of “greatness” anymore? Can you unabashedly assert a proud American identity in your art without being stigmatized for it?

But perhaps the most interesting lines are the ones which say that we “acted like men” and were informed by “great men”. I’m both surprised and disappointed that feminists didn’t storm social media to deliver a fauxtrage beatdown on Aaron Sorkin for being such a sexist pig! Personally, I don’t have a problem with the statement since, by and large, it’s true. Were there important women in history who contributed to philosophy, politics, and commerce? Absolutely. This does not change the fact that the major historical movements of war, politics, philosophy, commerce and exploration were made, in fact, by men.

Ultimately, he’s appealing to our inner greatness and capacity for morality, generosity and compassion. Whether he’ll admit it or not, he’s also making an appeal to national pride that no liberal will openly embrace nowadays. This is laudable. Unfortunately, he’s tying these virtues to an institutions whose motivations and morals are dubious and an underlying ideology that’s bankrupt.

Economics of Star Trek

image

I’ve always enjoyed Star Trek.  Like many others, I’ve enjoyed its hopeful vision of the future, its far reaching technological speculations, its exploration of moral and social concerns and perhaps most significantly, its wild speculations of a post-scarcity economy.
   
The author of the piece makes a game effort at rationalizing the Star Trek economy, but given the timeline, I don’t see how it comes together.
 
How can you mass produce warp and transporter technology, weapons systems and marshall the considerable labor and materials needed for a Federation class starship without a private sector and without resorting to totalitarianism?
  
Between these types of questions and the general veneration of government bureaucracy and the slavish deference to hierarchical command structures, Star Trek’s general affinity for rational thought and secular ethics goes very flaccid.  

image

Sorry, dude.  You simply can’t build a fleet of starships without mobilizing considerable labor and resources. Proto post-scarcity my ass. 

Advertisements