The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

The Real Tolerance We Need Right Now

I’m sure at some point in the future I’ll disagree with Josh Barro, senior editor at Business Insider, but the other day he offered some very good advice to the Left that, sadly, their adherents are unlikely to follow.

In a series of tweets, Barro observed, “Tell people to eat less meat because of the planet and they’ll find you annoying. Tell them to have fewer kids, they’ll find you very annoying.”

This was likely inspired by Jill Filipovic’s tweet declaring, “Having children is one of the worst things you can do for the planet. Have one less and conserve resources.”

Barro continues, “It’s not good to spend a lot of time telling people what they think of as their non-political behaviors are Actually Problematic And Bad.”

I don’t know whether this is a more dominant thread of thought in the modern progressive’s mind than it was a decade or two ago, or whether we just see more of this theme in progressive media outlets. One reason this type of “your seemingly mundane, apolitical choice is terrible and must be denounced” article is increasingly common is because it is cheap and easy.

You don’t need much specialized knowledge, a lot of research, travel or anything like that to write a piece such as that. Just take something that a lot of people do — particularly people who aren’t like you — and denounce it in logically-shaky-at-best, furious, hyperbolic terms. Let’s say, “Your Decision to Eat Bacon Is Worse Than Apartheid.” This will undoubtedly turn heads, and some people will click on the headline just out of curiosity, wondering why something they always thought was good is actually so bad for the world. Bacon fans will denounce the essay, and in the process, drive more traffic. People will write blog posts and make counterarguments, prompting even more readers and web-surfers to check out what launched the latest brouhaha. In the Web-traffic numbers, an incredulous or angry click looks the same as an approving click.

Barro continues, “Especially when this amounts to telling people that what’s wrong with them is they’re not more like you.”

Bingo. “I’m a childless adult, telling all of you people out there to stop having children.” “I’m a vegan, telling you that you must stop eating meat.” I’m an urbanite who doesn’t own a car, telling you that your automobile is destroying the planet and gas taxes should be higher to support the costs of mass transit.”

The not-so-subtle subtext is, “Why aren’t you more like me?” And the simple answer from most people is . . . “Because I don’t want to be more like you.” It’s rare that those lifestyle choices have never been considered by the target audience; they just don’t find them appealing or workable for their lives. In some cases, there’s a remarkable obliviousness about the reality of life for their target audiences — i.e., “Why aren’t you buying organic?”

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that progressives are exhibiting all of the traits that they accused Christian conservatives of embodying: smug judgmental attitudes, harsh denunciation of those who make different choices, lack of respect for others who see things differently and a refusal to recognize individual autonomy, an eagerness to enforce a stifling code of behavior, and a conditional-at-best view towards liberty.

As Jonah observes this morning, “Filipovic is precisely one of those writers you’d expect to go ballistic if some conservative Christian opined about the reproductive choices women should make. But if it’s in the name of the environment? Let’s wag those fingers, everybody!”

I used to think that the most important value for living in a constitutional republic such as ours was a bit of faith in people to eventually make the right choices for themselves. But I’m starting to wonder if an even more important value is an acceptance of people making what we perceive to be the wrong choices for themselves.

Sorry, I Have to Vent Some Criticism of Trump

The perception of Trump, in the minds of his most ardent fans:

The reality:

President Trump said on Wednesday that he had confronted President Vladimir V. Putin twice about whether Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election, and changed the subject after Mr. Putin flatly denied it because, “What do you do? End up in a fistfight?”

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One as he flew to Paris to take part in Bastille Day celebrations, Mr. Trump offered his first extended account of a dramatic closed-door meeting he held with Mr. Putin last week in Hamburg, Germany [emphasis added].

He’s fearless! He fights! He’s not afraid to get in somebody’s face! He never backs down!

Eh, better not press on that issue, it might escalate tensions.

Separately, you can’t help a man who won’t help himself:

The challenge for President Trump’s attorneys has become, at its core, managing the unmanageable — their client.

He won’t follow instructions. After one meeting in which they urged Trump to steer clear of a certain topic, he sent a tweet about that very theme before they arrived back at their office.

If you refuse to follow the advice of very smart, very skilled, very experienced people who you specifically hired to keep you out of trouble . . . then you deserve to get in trouble.

“Why are you always bashing Trump!?” his fans will cry, ignoring yesterday’s article on the good signs of reforms at the Department of Veterans Affairs, writing about progress in the war against ISIS, the boom in U.S. oil exports, the resulting jobs boom in certain areas of the industry, the sharp decline in illegal immigration, the reduction in White House staff, praise for the president from the Israeli ambassador, and the fact that Trump accurately characterized James Comey’s statement that he was not under investigation three times.

In other words, how many times do I have to write something positive about the president or his administration for my criticism to Not be dismissed as more than knee-jerk “bashing”?

A Little More Faith in the Return of Twin Peaks

As I discuss in this week’s pop-culture podcast, the last three episodes of Twin Peaks on Showtime have reassured me. This is an 18-episode run, and it’s possible the first six episodes should be seen as “Act One,” the next six as “Act Two,” and the final six as Act Three. The pace of those first six was glacial, the tone almost relentlessly dark and bleak, and the variety of characters and scenes far too varied to get much of a sense of a coherent plotline. But the plot threads are gradually starting to intertwine, and the pace is accelerating.

David Lynch and Mark Frost still know how to throw curveballs; a trio of seemingly-yokel Las Vegas police detectives, all brothers, prove surprisingly competent. The Sheriff’s Department in Twin Peaks is suddenly tracking down clues and putting the pieces together. And even the slowest-moving scenes are starting to provide an unexpected payoff.

Perhaps the best example of this in the last episode, in what initially seemed like a meaningless fluff scene featuring the lovable but ditsy couple of Deputy Andy Brennan and sheriff’s station receptionist Lucy. The pair have a slow, repeating argument about whether they should order a red chair or a beige chair for their house. After a few rounds, Andy relents. Lucy nods triumphantly, goes to the website, and, when Andy isn’t looking, orders the chair in the color Andy had wanted and smiles. The scene suddenly becomes a wonderful moment of characterization: Lucy wants to give Andy what he wants, but she also wants to be reassured that she’s in charge.

One of the weirdest aspects of the already famous or infamous Episode Eight is that despite the acid-trip visuals and overall otherworldly tone, it’s not that hard to figure out what’s happening. The detonation of the first atomic bomb in New Mexico in 1945 appears to have widened the door for the spirits to enter this realm. Mankind loses some more of its innocence as it splits the atom; something malevolent, vomited forth by the alien-feminine creature that may represent nature (and looks a lot like the Thing in the Glass Box), emerges and becomes BOB.

The Giant and the woman — called Senorita Dido in the credits — appear to be residing in the White Lodge (which looks an awful lot like where Cooper landed in Episode Three). The giant bell in their room is a sort of alarm; he goes to his home theater and sees what we just saw — the atomic detonation and the emergence of BOB. His response is to give a part of himself (the golden energy) that forms a sphere and either forms or includes what we can surmise is the soul of Laura Palmer. (This is turning into an Extremely Christian allegory, and I wonder how much Lynch and Frost intended this.) Using his giant golden tuba-like tube, they send the soul to Earth . . . 

Eleven years later, elsewhere in the desert, a creature that looks like a combination of a frog and bug hatches. Some think the frog-bug-thing is BOB, I wonder if it’s Laura’s soul. The “Gotta Light?” Woodsmen — probably the same as the ones who help BOB/Cooper earlier in the episode — are awakened at the same time as the frog-bug-thing, and terrorize some people. I have no idea what the “this is the water” mantra is supposed to be, other than a less impressive version of the “through the darkness of future past the magician longs to see” poem from the original series.

Yes, the frog-bug-thing crawls into the girl’s mouth in one of the creepiest scenes ever, and yet, I don’t quite buy the idea that the frog-bug-thing is malevolent. (The Woodsman, for example, clearly are wicked, from the moment we first see them.) One theory that seems to make sense is that the young girl is young Sarah Palmer. At some point, she will meet Leland, and her child will be imbued with the golden-soul-stuff from the Giant.

If this is how things shake out, it’s a huge deal: It means Laura was far from the average troubled American teenager of 1989 and was in fact meant to “save the world” in some way. (Some fans are already grumbling about this.) On the other hand, those close to Lynch said he wanted to make Laura more than a victim character, and the end of Fire Walk with Me, grim as it was, demonstrated that she died because she chose the path of self-sacrifice rather than give up her soul. If Laura had some sort of . . . grand fate or spiritual uniqueness, it makes her death both more tragic and her choice even more consequential; if BOB had claimed Laura’s soul, the consequences could have/would have been even greater.

One of the things that made the supernatural elements of the original series unique and intriguing was the idea that this demonic evil didn’t want to blow up the world; they just wanted it to continue along and feed off of “normal” problems hiding in the shadows of society: drug abuse, exploitation, domestic abuse, etc. The Leo Johnsons, Renaults, and even the Benjamin Hornes of the world created plenty of pain and suffering without any demonic possession . . . 

ADDENDA: Coming soon to this space, an edition of the not-canceled, just-busy pop-culture podcast, featuring Mickey’s disappointment with the Millennial heist film Baby Driver, why I’m off the ledge when it comes to Twin Peaks, why Kim Kardashian apparently isn’t a cokehead after all, child-rearing challenges from George Clooney to Japan, and a quick assessment of HBO’s The Defiant Ones.


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