EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news” letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.
Dear Reader (including those of you who need deflated balls),
The British elections went rather well, I’d say old boy. If they’d gone differently this might have marked the beginning of the end of British elections entirely. Instead, there’d be English elections and Scottish elections and Welsh elections, not to mention Shire, Westerosi, and Lucky Charmsian elections (“these exit polls are magically delicious!”).
I’m not a close student of British politics, but I do have my deeply informed opinions. For example, I think that Britain’s parliamentary system is kind of bonkers (which is not to say our gerrymandered husk of a Republic is firing on all cylinders). Also, I think Tony Blair’s reforms of the House of Lords were a mixed bag. Personally, I liked hereditary Lords, but if you’re going to get rid of them and strip them of any real power, the replacements should obviously earn their seats through trial by combat. You don’t have to be an Enoch Powell disciple to see that Britain is rapidly losing its common culture (which is just one reason why Scotland wants to leave). Who could dispute that fighting pits — preferably using weapons chosen at random from a giant spinning wheel — would unite all classes and races around a common institution. And if Russell Brand can emerge victorious from a subterranean garden-rake-and-frying-pan fight with Jason Statham, then by all means give the man a powdered wig and a seat in the Upper Chamber.
But this is all conventional wisdom for the most part.
I should add that George Galloway (the bigoted carbuncle of idiocy who until today represented Bradford West in parliament) is certainly right, “Zionists” are celebrating his defeat — but so are non-Zionists. (It’s hardly the case that you have to believe in the right to a Jewish homeland to think Galloway is a hateful buffoon.) Still, it’s no surprise that a man who’s done all he can to keep his district Judenfrei would believe the authors of his downfall must be the Jews. For gnostics of a certain bent, the demiurge is Jewish in nature and therefore responsible for all the evils of this earth. Who’s responsible for paper cuts? The Jews! Why won’t this toilet flush? The Jews! Why is Steve Gutenberg a star? The Jews! (The Stonecutters are just a front!)
If I may reprise an old joke — one better spoken than written, I should note — and slightly updated: “Who’s responsible for killing Nicole Brown Simpson and George Galloway’s political career? The Juiiiiice.”
(The trick is to say “Juice” in a sinister, dragged-out way so that it sounds like “Jews.” Unfortunately, to explain a joke is to ruin it. So let me offer a new one. What would you get if our friend Daniel Hannan went on an all-night coke bender and then, in a white-bag fueled rage, interrupted Galloway’s beer-hall-tirade and pinned him to the floor?
A powdered Whig on a braying Jackass.
Thank you, I’m here all week. Try the veal.)
Urophagia Über Alles
When I came of age politically, I was told over and over again, “Stop eating off my plate. I don’t know you.” But I was also told that a cut in a subsidy for art was logically — and especially morally! — indistinguishable from censorship.
Look, it’s a free country. If one dude wants to pee in the mouth of another dude, knock yourselves out, fellas (and if you want to see that, click on that NSFW link). And if you want to turn that into a Kodak moment, go for it. As the dude gasping for breath downstream said, “Take a picture, it’ll last longer.”
But I’d rather not be involved in any way. That means I don’t want to watch. That means I don’t want to hear about it. And I certainly don’t want to pay for it, not even a little. Indeed, given the option, I’d probably pay not to see it (“Careful, you’ll give the suits a really terrible fundraising idea.” — The Couch). But I wouldn’t pass a law banning this sort of thing. I might support some fairly strict regulations, of course. No erotic urophagia around schools, playgrounds etc. If you want to drink that sort of thing, put it in a brown paper bag the way Patches O’Houlihan does.
The Iron Law of Bureaucrats
I should say I’m no free-speech absolutist. I think the notion that we should treat pole dancing like constitutionally protected speech while we try to ban actual political speech is just one of the loopiest manifestations of our popular confusion over the First Amendment. In fact, government support for the arts doesn’t offend me in theory, it’s just how they do it in practice that bothers me.
I think the notion that we should treat pole dancing like constitutionally protected speech while we try to ban actual political speech is just one of the loopiest manifestations of our popular confusion over the First Amendment.
Specifically, I cannot stand the way New Class bureaucrats think they must be autonomous from the taxpayers who pay their salaries. Imagine if we lived in anything like the “Christianist” theocracy so many lefties live in quaking fear of. Evangelical bureaucrats would likely fund art they liked. The professional Bohemians would shriek — with some justification — that the state was imposing its values on the rest of us. But when those same people are in driving the gravy train, they think there’s nothing wrong — and everything right — with imposing their values.
Of course, this is a problem that extends far beyond outposts like the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Public teachers’ unions and ed-school priests hate the idea that parents and other taxpayers should have a real say in how education money is spent. Bureaucrats in general have become a kind of secular aristocracy that resents second-guessing by the people who fund their will-to-power. (We will discuss this more once Charles Murray’s fascinating new book comes out, and a whole lot more when my hopefully fascinating book comes out in a couple years.)
When voters say that bureaucrats shouldn’t spend money on X, the bureaucrats shriek “censorship!” But it is only the equivalent of censorship if you work from the assumption that it’s all the government’s money anyhow. As Bill Clinton once said about the federal surplus, “We could give it all back to you and hope you spend it right.” But if we did, alas, not enough of you would spend it on urophagic art.
Shock the Bourgeoisie!
Anyway, how’d I get here? Oh, right. So back in the ’80s and ’90s, the whole point of subsidizing art was to pay for stuff that offended, shocked, and stretched the boundaries (and, occasionally, sphincters) of society. As is almost always the case, what this actually meant was that it must shock the right kinds of people: bourgeois fuddy-duddies and fusspots, squares, and scriveners, men in gray flannel suits and bible-thumpers of all sorts.
Many on the left still like doing that, of course. But there’s a problem. It turns out that there are lots of people who are even more shockable than white, Christian men and the women who love them. After so many years of the Left focusing on making Uptighty-Whitey blush, social conservatives have grown a pretty thick skin about such mockery. Meanwhile the same feminists who clapped with glee as Karen Finley rubbed chocolate-qua-feces over her body to symbolize the way women are treated — and rushed to her defense when she sued the federal government to pay her to do it — don’t much like it when anybody else says things they don’t like. And unlike conservatives, mainstream liberals have rice-paper thin skin about such things, which is why some think Joss Whedon fled Twitter this week.
(When Finley and the “NEA Four” lost their lawsuit at the Supreme Court, Justice Scalia wrote: “Avant-garde artistes such as respondents remain entirely free to épater les bourgeois; they are merely deprived of the additional satisfaction of having the bourgeoisie taxed to pay for it.” This proved yet again that Scalia is a hoss.)
The notion that certain anointed people have a right not to be offended has spread with the ineluctable logic of a cancer cell. One need only look at the reception Christina Hoff Sommers gets on college campuses to appreciate how times have changed. She gets bodyguards to protect her from physical attacks while the delicate little flowers get “safe spaces” where they are protected from words — facts, actually — they do not like.
This is all of a piece with the canard that liberals are in any meaningful sense libertarian. They are for freedoms that align with their preferred cultural and social norms — and fads — and they are for coercion or scorn for everything else. Right-wing means non-compliance and non-compliance is “hate,” and no one has the right to hate. Épater la bourgeoisie is so great it must be funded. But épater les féministes or épater les grifters raciales or — heaven forbid — épater les musulmans radicaux not only must not be funded, it must be banned outright. It’s free speech for me and “shut up, racist” for thee.
Various & Sundry
Zoë Update: First let me explain these updates about my dog. A number of newcomers to this “news”letter have told me to seek treatment. A subset of these have asked, “Why are you talking about your dog?” The short answer is that I love dogs, and I find them infinitely entertaining. The longer answer is that we accidentally adopted an American Dingo named Zoë. When we got her from the rescue folks, we were told she was a German Shepherd mix. She’s not. She’s all dingo. She was also gravely ill and nearly died from parvo. Fortunately, they have a cure for parvo: the application of thousands of dollars. The original updates were about whether she would live or die. Then they were about the fact that dingos — or at least this one — are a good deal less domesticated than your typical canine. But readers got hooked on her travails. So I keep going because I like writing about dogs and some of you like reading about them.
So this week, my wife, the Fair Jessica, took the dingo to Cabin John Park where they hooked up with Zoë’s pack (supervised by our friend and occasional dog-walker, Kirsten). One of the other dogs found a half-decomposed deer head, which in dog currency is like a binder full of German bearer-bonds. He ran around with it for a good 20 minutes as the Fair Jessica and Kirsten shrieked for him to drop it (which is like asking Hans Gruber to just walk away from the freshly opened safe at Nakatomi towers). When they finally got it away from the lab, Zoë responded “My turn!” and grabbed it. The Fair Jessica then spent another 20 minutes trying to retrieve it. Jessica finally got her hands on Zoë in a scene that was reminiscent of King Kong versus a T-Rex. She pried the great beast’s jaws apart and, using a leaf, picked up the rotting ungulate’s head. At this point, all of the other dogs started shouting “My turn! My turn!” (In dog economics, all goods are positional goods, in the sense that they value what other dogs value.) Jessica eventually buried the head under a bunch of rocks. But the Dingo has been seething with resentment ever since.
Which may partly explain her behavior this morning. I took her to Battery Kemble Park, as per my normal ritual of morning dingo perambulation. We got there by 6:00 A.M. and the park was empty. But Zoë was going nuts in the car. She has a very strange vocalization that at low-levels sounds like a low-frequency howl by a chain-smoking werewolf. This is the sound she makes when she wants to chastise me on my return from business trips “Where were you! Why did you leave? What did you bring me?” She started making that sound in the car, but it quickly escalated into “enemy in the perimeter!” barking. I still couldn’t see anything. Then, way up on the hill I saw a man, sitting alone, cross-legged like a meditating Buddha. This infuriated the dingo. I couldn’t let her off the leash because she kept shouting “What are you doing!?” “Stop that!” “You’re making me feel unsafe!” What’s particularly intriguing about this is that our beloved canine, the late, great Cosmo the Wonderdog, had a similar reaction in our old dog park to people doing tai-chi. He would get furious, barking “Your Eastern ways are an affront to all I hold dear! Stop that!”
I don’t know what the explanation is, but I suspect that American dogs simply don’t like Oriental traditions of transcendence. I know, I know, “Oriental” is out of favor these days as a term, but one of the great things about dogs is they are utterly immune to appeals to political correctness.
Speaking of which, The Dadly Virtues is coming out in time for Father’s Day. I’m one of the contributors, and I write about parenting and dog ownership. An excerpt from my essay:
To bring this back to where we started, dogs are an antidote to all forms of totalitarian thinking. Our connection to them cannot be politicized. Children should not be politicized either, but as future citizens, voters, workers, taxpayers, and economic cogs, they are simply too tempting a target for the politicians, planners, and meddlers. Moreover, it’s impossible as a parent not to worry about how the polis deals with your child and how your child deals with the polis. I really don’t care what kind of music my dog listens to. I have never rushed to change the channel when she trots into the room.
Being a good parent requires caring about politics. Dogs, meanwhile, keep their innocent doggy goodness from kennel to grave, obviating the need to explain to them why tax cuts are awesome.
I’m hosting an event for the book at AEI on Monday. Details here.
On a much less jocular note, if my brother were alive, he’d be celebrating his birthday today. Here’s my eulogy to my big brother Josh, whom I miss every day.
I will also be hosting an event for Charles Murray’s new book on Thursday. Details here.
I wrote a very long blog post this week revisiting the apparently eternal question of where to place fascism on the ideological spectrum. Obviously, I think they’re not even different sides of the same coin, so much as the same side of the same coin. Some people understood this quite well.
It says something interesting that when porn stars dress up, they do so more tastefully than non-porn stars.