Sunday, February 19, 2017

Arrow: Or, Virtue Rewarded

In the early 1700s, as printing technology expanded and became more affordable, books were no longer strictly available to the aristocratic classes. The great unwashed gained access and, as you might expect, this caused considerable consternation among the cultural elites. They could handle the subtleties and complexities of fiction. But moral ambiguity would be lost on the working class. Therefore, it became important for the enlightened upper class elites to impart their wisdom through their art. It couldn’t just entertain— it needed to instruct the hoi polloi as to how best to conduct themselves.

As a result there was a rise in moralizing works along the lines of Samuel Richardson’s Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded. This book is, I’m not joking, about a servant called Pamela Andrews who resists her employer’s repeated attempts to rape her. Finally, for her virtuous ability to fight off his attacks, she’s “rewarded” with a marriage proposal. Check out the cover for the 1741 edition, which it’s asserted the book was published “to cultivate the Principles of VIRTUE and RELIGION in the Minds of the YOUTH of BOTH SEXES.”

Sorry if you're triggered by seeing something that asserts there are only two sexes.

Throughout history there’s always been a tendency for humans—mostly of the upper classes, the wealthy, the elites—to assume they know what’s best for everyone else. And to attempt to impose that morality on others. Or at least instruct them on what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s the impulse that motivated Meryl Streep’s embarrassing hectoring diatribe at this year’s Golden Globe Awards ceremony (ah, the irony of holding oneself up as a moral arbiter at a ceremony created by a group that formed to scam movie studios out of free bottles of wine and promotional swag!). And it’s the impulse that motivates Marc Guggenheim’s assertion that he’s going to use his comic book-based TV shows to promote his own specific worldview. First up, "Arrow."

“I’m an unapologetic progressive,” he said. “But the thing that I’ve noticed is that not talking about issues serves a conservative agenda, not a liberal agenda.”

Green Arrow, the featured Intellectual Property in the “Arrow” TV show, is generally portrayed as an “unapologetic progressive” in the comics. Up to this point the Oliver Queen of the TV show has been largely apolitical (despite his being the mayor of Star City now).* The show has been rewarded with decent ratings, especially for CW shows. But that might be changing:

“We went into Season 5 wanting to do an episode about an issue,” executive producer Marc Guggenheim told reporters earlier this week following a screening of the episode, lamenting that current broadcast dramas don’t often tackle topical issues the way shows like “LA Law” and “Picket Fences” did. “Gun violence felt like the right topic, because of its topicality and because of the level of gun violence is on ‘Arrow.’ We could have done an episode on abortion, but that’s not really where the show lives. So gun violence really felt like the right thing to tackle.”

I’m old enough to remember “Picket Fences” and “L.A. Law,” but are you? How often are those shows aired in re-runs? How popular are they on streaming sites? And he wants to turn “Arrow” into them? Even as Marvel's comics division, in response to dwindling sales, has decided to cut out the leftist bluenosing hectoring and get back to "meat and potatoes" storytelling.

A big problem with introducing topical discussions of political issues in art about supernatural/superscience characters is that they feature supernatural and superscience characters. The presence of "metas," who can punch buildings down or vibrate their hands into your chest to stop your beating heart or cause your innards to explode with a thought kinda changes the dynamics of the gun control debate, doesn't it? In a world like that, if you don't have an arsenal you're a fool, full stop, end of discussion.

And by the way, "metas" also change the abortion debate. "I'm against abortion, except in cases of rape, incest, and meta."

Wait a second--with all those superheroes running and flying around, why wasn't one of them around to protect Martin Luther King or Bobby Kennedy?

I suppose it could be worse. Guggenheim could be saying that he’s going to physically assault people whose ideas he doesn’t like. So it’s all relative.

This comes not long after the great George Perez, one of the maybe twenty best comics illustrators of all time, announced that he would honor prior commitments to appear at conventions in states carried by President of the United States Donald Trump, but would be donating proceeds from these events to progressive and leftist causes. The writer Mark Waid announced that he wouldn’t be boycotting any Trump states, but would be using his straight white male privilege to intimidate people:

I’m not hard to find at shows. If you’re a fan or creator and are ever, ever made to feel uncomfortable on a convention floor, come find me. If it’s a fleeting thing, just come hang out. If, on the other hand, you can point out the aggressors, I will rain HELLFIRE on your behalf, I PROMISE you. Ask anyone. They’ll tell you that I’ll flip tables on bullies and creeps, and I’ll have your back. And while I’ve never had to use it, I’ve got enough clout to have hatemongers flat-out thrown out of shows, and I am not above those sorts of nuclear options.

Trump didn’t carry every state in the presidential election, and he apparently lost the popular vote by a wide margin. But take a look at the election results broken down by county:

The country is a sea of red. Clinton only carried about 100 counties, meaning her appeal, and the appeal of the Democrat party, was limited and provincial. It was concentrated in a few urban areas, and even in the states that Clinton carried, which are a-okay with Perez and Waid, Trump carried most of the counties.

The entire country is an unsafe space! But don’t worry—“Arrow” is going to make you a better person. Mark Waid is going to protect the oppressed. At comic book conventions.

People opposed to Trump have taken to calling themselves a “resistance,” but the resistance has already risen up. It elected Donald Trump. Those who are trying to impose their morality on the red counties that sweep across the country—who are trying to show us how to be virtuous—have concentrated themselves in a few areas. Geographically they’re a small minority. They need to stop thinking regionally and start thinking nationally. They need to engage. They need to listen, and stop with the moralizing and the hectoring, or they’re going to further marginalize themselves.

*Full disclosure: I haven't watched "Arrow" in a few weeks. I got fed up with the Olicity thing; their breakup was pretty lame.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The mass hysteria or double movie or cult of leftism

Last week on the leftist propaganda program Saturday Night Live they aired a short video in which Kellyanne Conway was portrayed as having a “fatal attraction” for Jake Tapper, the Clinton/Democrat sympathizer who hosts a daily program on the Democrat party’s cable propaganda arm, CNN. There was some virtual ink spilled over whether or not the piece was sexist. That’s not really important (I don’t think it was)— what is important is that this is yet another example of the #FakeSatire phenomenon. It starts from a flawed premise (an intentionally flawed premise), that Tapper isn’t a biased Democrat operative who spends most of his time spreading a specific narrative based on his leftist worldview, and that Conway is somehow “deranged” or partisan in a way that Tapper isn’t.

The even more interesting/depressing skit from last week’s show featured Donald Trump taking the three Ninth Circuit court judges to “The People’s Court” to appeal the stay of his immigration executive order. That was premised on the notion that Donald Trump is a buffoon (a debatable point considering he defeated the Democrat and Republican establishments, the mainstream press, the entertainment media, and academia to become president) and the judges were impartial arbiters of the Constitution. There is plenty of debate as to the motives of the judges in this case, and the implications for their stay and whether they had the power to do what they did.

What’s particularly telling about this “satirical” piece is the plaintive wail of the actress portraying the judge, who at one point cries out (almost out of character): “I want one day without a CNN alert that scares the hell out of me.”

Well, that’s kind of her problem, isn’t it? That she has bought the #FakeNews of CNN, designed specifically to drum up hysteria against the democratically elected president of the United States. CNN is part of the mainstream media propaganda machine, exposed by WikiLeaks, that was actively working with the Democrat party to elect Hillary Clinton as president. Since Clinton’s embarrassing and shocking loss, leftists in the media have struggled to undermine the very institutions they’ve controlled for so long. And they’ve built a narrative—which is wholly divorced from anything even resembling evidence—that “THE RUSSIANS” somehow “hacked” the election. (This People’s Court skit actually features a cameo from an actor portraying Vladimir Putin, for the sole purpose of further pushing that discredited narrative.)

I watch CNN sometimes, myself, and it scares the hell out of me. But for entirely different reasons than this actress.

By the way, the judge actress is the same one who two weeks ago embarrassingly sang “To Sir With Love” to former President, war criminal, pathological liar, and all-around disappointing criminal scumbag Barack Obama. None of his lies or his lawbreaking or his causing the current Middle Eastern refugee crisis bothered her at all. Nor does she seem the least bit concerned about the reports of his setting up a(n alleged!) “shadow government” to undermine the democratically elected president.

Leftists live in a bubble of their own creation. Scott Adams says that we’re all watching “two movies on one screen.” Ace of Spades suggests that leftists are suffering through a period of mass hysteria, a la the Salem Witch Trials and satanic ritual abuse. I’ve suggested that leftism has a lot of the earmarks of a cult.

There are examples of this cognitive dissonance all around us. Recently, the former comedian-turned-scold Sarah Silverman came in for a round of twitter abuse when she sent out a tweet in which she appeared to mistake utility line markers for swastikas.

Then there was an editor at the leftist ThinkProgress website who was disturbed by the fact that the plumber who fixed his clogged drain was a white man. Which scared him, apparently. And now there’s the case of the most popular YouTuber in the world, PewDiePie. Apparently he’s now a Nazi, because he made some (questionable!) jokes in some of his videos.

By this logic, Mel Brooks is a Nazi because of “Springtime for Hitler.”

This is why #FakeSatire is so dangerous. If the tired Saturday Night Live, the odious Samantha Bee, the tedious Seth Myers, the moralizing Sarah Silverman, the mugging John Oliver, and so on, are in charge of satire—and defining satire—then they’re going to ensure that its definition conforms to their approved narrative. That’s deadly for everyone, and it leaves us all open for a takeover by an unaccountable “deep state,” like the one that just engineered the ouster of Michael Flynn.

Netflix streaming has a movie about the National Lampoon magazine called “Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead.” Throughout the documentary former contributors, editors, and fans pay a lot of lip service to the take no prisoners, nothing is off limits attitude that informed their work. And while the editors and staff were mostly left-wing, that attitude prevailed. It’s hard to imagine one of the current acceptable #FakeSatire outlets running anything as painfully funny as the infamous Ted Kennedy Volkswagen ad that caused such a stir in 1972.

The fake satirists spent eight years ignoring Barack Obama’s multiple crimes, abuses of power, and his pathological lying. During the previous election cycle they relentlessly mocked Trump (he’s a mockable figure—and should be mocked) while protecting Clinton. They also mocked Trump’s supporters. Now, with Trump in the White House, they’re mocking him (as they should!) while protecting Democrats. A good example of this is the case of Elizabeth Warren. For several reasons she’s seen as a potential rival for the Trump in 2020. But she is a pathetic, contemptible, hypocritical figure who has done a number of questionable things throughout her life. It’s hard to imagine any lily-white non-leftist getting a pass for spending decades claiming to be a “woman of color” in order to advance her career.

Trump’s calling her “Pocahontas” is more satirical than anything that’s ever appeared on Samantha Bee’s worthless program, and the fact that former Saturday Night Live writer and performer Al Franken scolded him for it speaks volumes (it's "racist" for Trump to call her "Pocahontas," but it's perfectly acceptable for her to pretend to be Native American for professional gain?). In fact, President Trump is a far better satirist than almost anyone currently working in that field. Maybe the “South Park” guys, or Michel Houellebecq are better.

“Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead” is an inadvertent critique of the current state of #FakeSatire, made even more poignant by the fact that so many writers from the National Lampoon magazine and performers from the National Lampoon radio and stage shows went on to create the original Saturday Night Live. Which is now perpetuating the leftist narrative of hysteria and #FakeNews, including Russian Hackers, Nazis around every corner, illegitimate president, and etc. It’s almost as if they see their jobs not to reflect what’s happening but to distract from it.

Rather than having satire to serve as a safety valve by which to critique those in power, #FakeSatire is helping leftists perpetuate their movie, their hysteria, their cult. When you add in their insistence that violence against those who disagree with them isn't just acceptable but morally justified, you've got an increasingly dangerous situation.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Self defense from bad ideas

Free speech is under attack by violent fascists who are laughably calling themselves "anti-fascists."

Things are getting worse.

One college group apparently had a workshop to teach jerks how to beat people up for having the unapproved opinions.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Marvel’s leftist turn has been killing the comic book industry—maybe its course correction can save it

For most of my lifetime, Marvel has outsold DC, often dominating them by wide margins. However, since DC’s Rebirth event (which corrected their “New 52” misfire), DC has dominated Marvel in comics sales. What DC’s editorial braintrust has done is return to what it’s calling “meat and potatoes” storytelling. Basically, this means taking the emphasis off politics and quirks and emphasizing classic comics storytelling and Intellectual Property.

While DC did that, Marvel doubled down on its strategy of pushing leftist politics in its books. This seemed to flow from top-down editorial choices that started with changing the race, gender, and sexual orientation of its Intellectual Property. That in itself isn’t a problem. If Ms. Marvel is a Muslim whose family is from Pakistan, then hey that's great— as long as the story is good!

But, as the Rageaholic has pointed out, mainstream legacy comics have become preachier than a Catholic mass:

When I was a kid they had programs called “After School Specials.” These moralizing narratives were built around TEACHING A LESSON in big bold capital letters. Story was always meant to be subservient to the lesson. We made fun of these TV shows. We saw right through them, even when we were ten. Today, Marvel (and Archie!) editors seem to have taken their inspiration from these shows. They seem to believe that comics fans are bigoted buffoons who need to be TAUGHT A LESSON about diversity, white privilege, misogyny, Islamophobia, xenophobia, etc etc. And Thor and Captain America are just the Intellectual Property to push those enlightened values!

Politics—in particular left wing politics—have been around since comics’ inception. Superman, Wonder Woman, and Captain America were all New Deal Democrats who actively promoted big government progressive ideas. The difference was that the lectures let up on occasion, and they weren’t imposed on the stories by the publishers. A Superman story might feature a variation on the broken windows fallacy, or Wonder Woman might advocate for free milk for children, or Captain America might punch Adolf Hitler in the face to promote the US getting involved in World War II, but there would be other stories in the same volume that was preach-free.

It’s not like that today. Nearly everything Marvel produces is geared not toward entertainment, but leftist advocacy. And it’s so awkwardly shoehorned into the story that it almost ceases to be a story at all—it’s like someone transposed a Salon article.

These panels came to symbolize everything that was wrong with Marvel Comics over the last few years. Basically this is a Tumblr with pictures.

It’s possible that Marvel had decided to write off comics entirely, using them as trademark maintenance and workshopping story ideas/IP variations, as suggested by the loathsome “Moviebob.” According to this virtue-signaling dummy, “Furious fanboys are missing the point - but what else is new?”

Yes, Marvel can afford to lose money on their comics. DC can, too. But maybe, just maybe $3.99 is too much to pay to read a twenty-two page lecture with drawings. Maybe, just maybe we’ve reached a tipping point where the once mighty Marvel has come to dust off its once vaunted sense of pride and that old competitive spirit and decided that the plummeting sales of their flagship comics—the wellspring from whence their IP flows!—is seriously bad optics.

Because now Marvel has decided to de-emphasize the (leftist, it’s always leftist!) politics and get back to “meat and potatoes” storytelling.

And last week’s Marvel creative summit I am told by well connected sources who have proved themselves in that past there was more of a focus on what DC Comics internally called “meat and potatoes” comics that preceded their doubling down on the popular characters and bringing back old favourite takes with DC Rebirth.

I am told, as Marvel brings back the X-Men line with a bang, to expect a return to more of a status quo for titles such as Thor, Iron Man, Hulk and more. A more familiar looking Marvel Universe by the autumn – although, just as with Captain America, as classic-look-characters return, expect new characters to keep a number of their books.

This response to market forces isn’t just good news for Marvel fans—it’s good news for comics fans. Because Marvel’s leftist preaching wasn’t just killing it’s comics—it was killing the comic book industry.

...And if modern Marvel creators had been working in the 1940s, you'd get something like this.

Thanks to their movie, TV, animation, and video game products, neither Marvel nor DC really needs their comics to make money. They can publish their comics at a loss, and more than make up any difference with a hit movie. But no other publisher is in such a luxurious position. And if the top two content providers in an industry are willing to publish their material at a loss, and are perfectly content to watch sales dwindle while they “workshop” new material for other media, then other publishers are going to suffer. Marvel and DC have the Intellectual Property that drives sales. If more and more people feel that those companies aren’t producing material that speaks to them, they’re going to take their business elsewhere—away from he comic book shops that are the almost exclusive home to comics.

Which means that smaller books from independent publishers—already endangered thanks to the way Diamond distributes and comic shops order books (books are ordered three months in advance and small publishers who manage to get one or two people to pre-order their books often don’t sell any more than that, because the comic shops order ONLY those two books and don’t order any extra to put out on the shelves)—are going to see their sales drop even more. And they won’t be able to continue publishing, even on the vague hope that a movie producer might see the book and option it for a film.

Which means that the comic book industry has been dying a slow, painful death.

There is a very small, vanishingly small, but exorbitantly vocal minority of people who crave moralizing hectoring in their entertainment. If a comic doesn’t do something to advance their favored political narrative then it must be protested. If a piece of IP doesn’t head to a Congressional hearing to offer some kind of bon mot about, say, the wage gap, they’ll take to Tumblr or the Mary Sue or i09 or whatever to offer an impassioned, chin-stroking think piece. But do those people actually buy comics?

Well, Marvel has been pandering to them for awhile. And now they’re changing course because they’re getting trounced. Let’s hope that they’re fixing this in time to save the comics industry.

UPDATE: Mundane Matt has a video that comes close to making some of the same points I made:

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Is it okay to punch a nazi’s cell phone provider?

A lot of trendy leftists—including some famous people—are claiming that it’s admirable to “punch nazis.” Unfortunately, after decades of overuse, the term “nazi” has basically come to mean “anyone who disagrees with me.” It’s even deployed against people who have explicitly criticized and disavowed nazi ideas.

People like Milo Yiannopoulos, the gay, ethnically Jewish Catholic immigrant who enjoys engaging in sexual congress with black men. He’s been on a “Dangerous Faggot Tour,” the last stop of which was to be held in Berkeley, which has a reputation as “the birthplace of the free-speech movement.” Milo enjoys using hyperbole in his rhetoric, and he does occasionally (IMHO!) go too far. I’m not a big fan of his verbal attacks against overweight people, for example.

But he does not engage in violent acts, nor does he encourage violence against others. Nevertheless, a group of violent protesters successfully shut down Milo’s UC-Berkeley talk, forcing his evacuation. Property was destroyed, people were beaten unconscious, women were maced. It was a dangerous, pathetic, counterproductive, destructive, hateful, and stupid attack on everyone’s First Amendment freedoms.

Shoe0nHead, not to be confused with Whimsical Doctor Shoe, made some excellent points about this.

One of the great ironies of the modern leftist movement is its smug self-assurance that they’re on “the right side of history.” As if we can predict future attitudes, and those attitudes will always be “enlightened.” Or that they’re trying to prevent the rebirth of a historically bad ideological movement—and as long as they have these “pure” motives, they can use any tactics, including physical violence:

TMW when you become the very thing you're allegedly fighting against.

Do you see the problem here? Study history.

Socialists have caused the deaths of tens of millions of people throughout history. Punch socialists. Riot when your college invites a socialist.

Communists have caused the deaths of tens of millions of people throughout history. Punch communists. Riot when your college invites a communist.

Anarchists have caused the deaths of tens of millions of people throughout history. Punch anarchists. Riot when your college invites an anarchist.

Atheists have caused the deaths of tens of millions of people throughout history. Punch atheists. Riot when your college invites an atheist.

Christians have caused the deaths of tens of millions of people throughout history. Punch Christians. Riot when your college invites a Christian.

Muslims have caused the deaths of tens of millions of people throughout history. Punch Muslims. Riot when your college invites a Muslim.

And so on.

And if it’s okay to punch “nazis” at some public forum— if they’re so dangerous that they must be met with violence to prevent the spread of their “violent” ideas— is it then okay to attack them in their own homes? Can you firebomb their home, or invade their home? What about those who live with “nazis”? What about family members of “nazis”? Friends of “nazis”? Grocers who sell food to “nazis”?

Dave Rubin recently made similar points on Beauty and the Beta (starting about 11:30 in).

And who gets to define the term “nazi”? Is it the #FakeNews perpetrators CNN? Is it the “journalists” exposed by WikiLeaks as collaborators with the Democrat party?

Meet bad ideas with better ideas. Physically assaulting someone, attempting to murder them, because you don’t like their speech, is cult behavior. Dehumanizing and othering people who challenge your own worldview is cult behavior. The “antifas,” in their black shirts and black masks who destroyed the Berkley campus, are cultists. The leftists on twitter encouraging others to “punch nazis” (often from behind the walls of their gated community!) are cultists. And in another seriously disturbing irony, they are engaging in fascist behavior to fight what they claim is fascism.

This is scary stuff:

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Will the Fake Satire of Samantha Bee destroy the loathsome White House Correspondents' Dinner?

One of the best things about having Trump as president is the fact that the press—in particular the dying legacy media—have again taken an adversarial position toward executive power. For eight years, Barack Obama actively lied about big things (the Iran nuclear deal, Obamacare) and little things (having heard of Snooki). All along, the legacy media covered for him, endlessly.

His venal incompetence led to massive scandals, yet legacy media figures are continuing to spread the false narrative (#FakeNews) that Obama had a “scandal-free” presidency.

In addition, you had the #FakeSatire of the likes of John Oliver and Stephen Colbert, speaking truth to the powerless while protecting the most powerful man in the world.

He claimed the authority to execute anyone based on secret information, without a trial, and the legacy media just shrugged.

The most glaring example of the corruption and decadence that marks Washington, D.C. actually predates Obama’s shameful presidency: The White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Like nothing else, this event symbolizes the partnership between power and those who are supposed to keep a check on that power. But now, that might actually be changing.

Now that the media has decided it has a role to play in ensuring that those in power don’t actually abuse their abuse their power, the WHCD is being if not re-thought, at least challenged:

At her alternative event, [Samantha] Bee will be roasting the president with some assistance from some like-minded comedians. “We’re not trying to supersede it,” she told The New York Times. “We just want to be there in case something happens — or doesn’t happen — and ensure that we get to properly roast the president.”

Samantha Bee is as loathsome and unfunny as Oliver and Colbert. She uses her “Full Frontal” show to shamelessly bully those in the flyover states with different opinions and values from hers and actively promote Democrat party talking points.* This event is going to be nothing more than #FakeSatire. But hopefully this is the beginning of the end of the pathetic, abusive, and tone-deaf WHCD.

Samantha Bee, using some edgy "comedy" to scold some flyover state rube.

By the way, for an illustration of just how dishonest the legacy media can be, look at the first sentence of the New York Times article referenced above:

Some have wondered what the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner will look like under notoriously thin-skinned President Donald Trump — the event traditionally features a comedian roasting the commander-in-chief, before the president himself gets the opportunity to roast the press and his opponents.

Actually, the event DOESN’T feature “a comedian roasting the commander-in-chief.” At least it hasn’t with Obama in office—it’s actually been used by comedians to viciously attack the president’s political enemies and slavishly praise him.

Also, are we still persisting with this narrative (#FakeNews) that Trump is “thin-skinned”? If he was “thin-skinned,” wouldn’t he have slowed down, even a little bit, over the past week?

*For reference, my favorite comedian is Paula Poundstone.