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 don’t know how parentheses work,
Behold the Fog of Idiocy
The AP published a dismaying story this morning:
WASHINGTON — While there has been ample and justifiable coverage of the Orlando massacre at a gay nightclub this week, the most remarkably un-reported news is that the shooter also used a dirty bomb. The device carried an odorless, colorless, cloud of stupidity that has since drifted up the East Coast and parked itself over Washington and New York. The “Fog of Idiocy” as some experts call it, is already being blamed for what some political scientists and national-security experts are calling the most daft “national conversation” in response to a terror attack in modern memory.
No one knows how much worse things will get. Concerns heightened this week when Vice President Joe Biden was reportedly found using his car keys to get a piece of toast out of the toaster. The incident turned out to be a false alarm, when his chief of staff told the New York Times, “Oh, he’s been doing that for years. That’s why we gave him those Fisher-Price plastic car keys. I mean it’s not like we’d let that guy behind the wheel.” The chief of staff then drifted off for a moment, as if staring at some horrible alternative universe. “Oh, God, we’d never do that.”
A follow-up report from the Associated Press revealed that the toast in question was actually the vice president’s wallet.
Let’s Get Stoopid
No, that’s not real. I know you know that, but I think I have to say so for the lawyers. But in writing today’s column on the stupid reaction(s) to the Orlando shooting, I found that — like a review of Lena Dunham’s collected speeches — there was too much idiocy to be adequately captured in a single column.
Where to begin?
Well, how about the idea that if you oppose gay marriage or transgender bathrooms, you cannot be outraged by a terror attack on American citizens. This is apparently the position of the New York Times, Anderson Cooper, and countless others.
I have walked around and around this idea like a Hertz sales associate trying to find all the dents in a car returned by a University of Texas fraternity brother. I’ve studied it the way my dog tries to figure out what a turtle is all about. I’ve scrutinized it like Bill Clinton when the new Victoria’s Secret catalogue hits his doorstep. And as a matter of reason and logic I just cannot get my head around it.
Let’s flip it around. Imagine if an Islamist nutter went to the convent of the Little Sisters of the Poor and murdered a bunch of nuns (alas, hardly an unimaginable hypothetical). Would I be right to say that the New York Times and its allied Brain Trusts have no right to be outraged? After all, liberals have heaped scorn and contempt on those nuns for their effrontery in not wanting to be forced to pay for birth control. Or what if an Islamist shot up a Baptist Church or Koch headquarters or the Washington office of AIPAC?
To borrow a phrase from the New York Times, hatred for Christians, libertarians, Zionists, and other political minorities doesn’t “occur in a vacuum.” The Times has been fanning the flames of such demonization for decades; surely they would share some of the blame when an emotionally unstable Muslim, inspired by ISIS, took it upon himself to slaughter innocent people.
No, the analogy isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t need to be because there’s a lot of margin for error when comparing competing idiocies. It’s incredibly stupid to use a hair dryer in a bathtub. It’s also incredibly stupid to try to take a selfie with a grizzly bear nursing its cubs. The two things are hard to compare on the basic fact patterns, but what they share equally is a fatal idiocy.
I’m against polygamy. But I’m also against people in polygamous marriages being slaughtered by terrorists. And I will not budge one fraction of a fraction of a millimeter off of that position if a terrorist slaughters a whole bunch of people in polygamous marriages, even if some of the victims — or all of them — thought the laws against polygamy should change.
Clash of Phobias
What’s even dumber is the notion that conservatives are trying to scapegoat Islam to avoid blame for perpetuating anti-LGBT violence. Lest you think I’m creating a strawman, see this piece by Zack Ford at Think Progress titled “Conservatives Try To Scapegoat Islam To Avoid Responsibility For Perpetuating Anti-LGBT Violence.”
The Orlando shooting is not an opportunity to absolve conservatives who have railed against LGBT equality for years. If they truly care about the fate of LGBT people, they have a responsibility to account for their own contributions to discrimination and stigma. Scapegoating Islam is nothing more than a distraction from having a real conversation about the actual experience of LGBT people when they aren’t being massacred in the sanctuary of a nightclub.
Look, I have no problem with advocates for LGBT equality arguing for LGBT equality. But this is the mother of all strawmen. I don’t know any conservatives — for or against LGBT equality — who are seizing the Orlando shooting as an opportunity for “absolution.” I honestly don’t even know how that argument would work. Conservatives are no more looking for absolution amidst the bloodshed than they are looking for Game of Thrones spoilers.
(I do have a problem with the widespread article of faith that gays and transgender people have been losing the culture war at the hands of barbaric “Christianists.” Sexual minorities have been on a winning streak that any serious-minded person must concede is remarkable. But denying this is the central tactic and mindset of the Left. They are the aggressors in the culture war and have been for 40 years. Yet whenever they encounter the slightest resistance they don the mantle of victimhood.)
Christianity Is Always to Blame
I’ll give you a small example from the intellectual latrine that we call Twitter. This guy didn’t like my column today.What is truly baffling, however, is the way the secular Left talks about the evil and pernicious role of organized religion when it comes to Christianity but suddenly abandons that cudgel-like standard when it comes to Islam.
— Homemaker Man (@HomemakerMan) June 17, 2016
To which I replied:
LOL you make it sound like that's some major distinction. Where do you think pro-Taliban Dad's views came from? https://t.co/twVR7hBvok
— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahDispatch) June 17, 2016
And here is his rejoinder:
Your attempt at asserting Islam as reason for a homophobic attack is weak.If you had said "organized religion" then we could talk.
— Homemaker Man (@HomemakerMan) June 17, 2016
I almost broke my nose with my face-palm.
Later, when this gentleman was swarmed with responses, he tweeted:
And please stop sending vids/proof of Muslim homophobia. They are no more common than Christian ones. You make no point.
— Homemaker Man (@HomemakerMan) June 17, 2016
I wouldn’t single this guy out if he wasn’t so typical.
The essence of serious thinking is the capacity to distinguish s*** from shinola, by which I mean that intelligence boils down to the ability to make meaningful distinctions. There’s a reason Barack Obama had to go back to the Crusades to compare the West to Islam in his notorious effort to talk Christians down from their “high horse”: Because in the world we actually live in right now, and by the standards of not just modernity but also of the secular Left, the West is simply better. That’s right, better, by which I mean superior.
The notion that American Christians, even the most ardent Christian conservatives, are indistinguishable from Islamists — or even the typical “moderate Muslims” of Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia etc. — in their attitudes and practices with regard to homosexuality is not just stupid and ignorant; it is almost literally insane. If you doubt that, read Andy McCarthy’s piece from earlier this week. Or look at global surveys of public opinion on homosexuality. Or look at the list of ten countries where homosexuality is punishable by death.
I understand why gays can’t stand it when some American Christians talk about “curing” homosexuality. But (a) that is not the law in America and (b) no matter how you slice it, wanting to “save” gays from perceived sin is just plain different from wanting to kill them. No seriously, you could look it up. Wanting to maintain the traditional definition of marriage is different from throwing gay people off buildings or crushing them with stones. Does anyone doubt that a gay Afghan would rather move to the U.S. than take his chance on being outed in Kabul?
Moreover, it simply will not do to hide behind the euphemism of “organized religion” because not all organized religions are equal in beliefs or actions. I have yet to read a sentence that began, “Another Amish suicide bomber killed . . .” or “Lutheran militants claimed responsibility for an attack on . . .”
Israel is a country with organized religion. Gays have parades there. Iran is a country with organized religion. Gays do not have parades there. If you can’t see this, you are destined to spend your life stepping in s*** and thinking it’s shinola.
The Triumph of the Narcissi
Serious people, straight and gay, left and right, recognize and acknowledge such meaningful distinctions. Idiots, knaves, fools, liars, activists, and a wide variety of narcissists ignore or deny such distinctions.
Let’s focus on the narcissists. It is a trademark tendency of a narcissist to think every significant event is about him in some important way. If he can’t be the center of attention, then the event must be spun as a personal validation. Hence Donald Trump’s first reaction to the Orlando attack was to backdoor-brag about how he was being congratulated for his Carnak-like prediction that there would be another terrorist attack.
For obvious reasons we tend to think of narcissism as a phenomenon of personal psychology. It sounds like an oxymoron to talk about “group solipsism” or “mass narcissism.” But the truth is that nearly all populist movements are forms of collective narcissism. What is nationalism other than a kind of pluralization of self-absorption? It’s like the crowd in Life of Brian shouting, “We’re all individuals!”
By ‘nationalism’ I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labeled ‘good’ or ‘bad’. But secondly — and this is much more important — I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognising no other duty than that of advancing its interests.
The mad rush to bend this tragedy to the pre-existing narrative of gay liberation and anti-Christian bigotry is a perfect example of mass narcissism.
The mad rush to bend this tragedy to the pre-existing narrative of gay liberation and anti-Christian bigotry is a perfect example of mass narcissism. On the secular left today, conservative Christians (and Zionist Jews) are the enemy. They are the other. The oppressor. The villains in the stories the Left tells itself.
Because of the internal fantasy-logic of this story, Muslims must be considered equal partners in the Coalition of the Oppressed. This is why the “pinkwashing” of Israel makes so many leftists angry; it arouses the agony of cognitive dissonance.
The Orlando shooter’s ties to Islam, my Twitter interlocutor insists, are at best “gossamer filaments.” Mateen’s ties to “homophobia,” however, are the real issue. And in the argot of the Left today, “homophobia” is a crude euphemism for the Christian conservative threat.
That is the clear meaning of the New York Times’ staggeringly moronic and craptacular editorial. Never mind that this registered Democrat no doubt got his homophobia not from Ralph Reed but from his Taliban-praising father and from the suicide-bomber-breeding mosque he attended. Mateen celebrated 9/11 in high school and lied about being Osama bin Laden’s nephew. He talked so much about being an Islamic terrorist the FBI had to investigate him twice. He took time out from killing people at Pulse to call 911 and claim allegiance to ISIS. As Jim Geraghty chronicles, Mateen was an Islamist red flag made flesh. And yet, the narcissists claim, the heart of this story is that “our” virtue and rightness is under attack and the domestic enemies from whom we draw our righteousness are truly to blame.
Gay Uber Alles?
The truly gossamer evidence for this comes entirely from the fact that Mateen was probably gay himself (reminding me of this classic, not-safe-for-work Onion piece). As I tried to note in a bit of a rant on Special Report the other night, this is an “argument” built on a swamp, in a cloud, with shoddy materials.
You know who else was fabulously gay? Ernest Röhm. He was also one of the founding fathers of the Nazi Party. The leadership of the Sturmabteilung was so chock-a-block with gays they could have swapped out their drab brown shirts for rainbow tank tops. Hitler didn’t care until Röhm became a rival for leadership of the Nazi party.
How does this change the moral calculus of Nazism? I’ll save you the time: It doesn’t change it at all.
It certainly doesn’t change the fact that the Nazis killed thousands of homosexuals. It doesn’t change the fact that Nazism was an evil ideology nor the fact that the Nazi regime posed a threat to America and to civilization itself. But let’s take it further: The fact that the American government was no doubt full of what we would today call “homophobes” doesn’t change the moral of the story at all either (FDR as assistant secretary of the Navy, by the way, led a notorious crackdown on homosexual behavior).
In short, my liberal friends, homophobia just wasn’t that important — which is not to say it can’t be interesting. Sure, if it turns out that Mateen was a self-hating gay guy, that’s interesting, even illuminating. But it’s just not that important. To listen to some media reports, you’d think that having Islam-defying sexual desires means you can’t be an Islamist. Never mind that the 9/11 hijackers hung out at strip clubs or that Mohammed Atta might have been gay and was certainly terrified that a woman might touch his man-panties after he died. By definition, “lone wolves” will have “issues” — that’s why they’re lone wolves. But let’s not make tails into dogs.
The same goes for the War on Terror. Just because you’ve narcissistically decided that your passion to fight anti-gay bigotry has become an integral part of your self-esteem and self-conception doesn’t mean that you can cram the enormous square of Islamic terrorism into the round hole of the domestic gay-rights agenda and your often bigoted desire to demonize Christians who disagree with you.
Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean your cause isn’t important or worthwhile. You should feel free to fight that fight. But, please, don’t try to bend all of reality to that cause. The same goes for climate change, guns, or any of the other causes you wear like so many pieces of flare. Sometimes there are very important things that don’t provide ammunition in your battle to prove you, and you alone, are the Righteous Ones.
Various & Sundry
Canine Update: My wife dropped off Pippa at the vet this morning for surgery. She has a torn ligament in one shoulder and odd muscle damage in both (she also has what the doctor thinks is a blood clot he needs to examine during the surgery). How her shoulders got so messed up is something of a mystery. The surgeon says he would expect to see this in a ten-year-old working border collie. We have theories. For instance, maybe we exercised her too much when we got her, not taking into account that she spent the first year of her life fairly sedentary. Anyway, it’s a drag in numerous ways. Having spent enormous amounts of money and emotion on the late Cosmo (he was beautiful and brilliant but built like an East German car) and then again on Zoë’s nearly fatal fight with parvo, we kind of hoped to dodge this sort of thing with Pippa. Restraining activity when you just have one dog is hard enough, but we have doubts that Zoë will voluntarily give Pippa the space she’ll need during recovery. Pippa is such a sweet dog brimming with simple doggie goodness, it breaks my heart she keeps running into problems. Anyway, thanks for all the kind words, I’ll be sure to let you know how it turns out.