Jan 10

The Politics of Lexicography, or How To Become Normative Without Really Trying

One of many hats I wear is that of a lexicographer. In 1990 I began maintaining the Jargon File, still available on my website and released as three paper editions in 1991, 1993, and 1996. At the time, I was a bit nervous about what I might learn if a “real” lexicographer ever showed up to critique the work. Would I be told that my efforts were amateurish, shoddy, and marred by methodological error?

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Dec 15

Where the men are

A commenter wrote:

Think about it: guys like Leo Dicaprio or Owen Wilson for example.
These guys are not exactly manly men but seem more like teen boys.

There’s no need to invoke exotic theories like endocrine disruptors; they’re just reflecting the zeitgeist. I just turned 51, and a disturbingly large percentage of men in their twenties and thirties seem like spoiled narcissistic man-children to me. I thought for a while that this might mean I was turning into the sort of crusty old fart I laughed at when I was twenty-five, until I noticed that the percentage of man-children varied a great deal depending on my social context.

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Sep 15

The Post-Racial Hall of Mirrors

Two days ago, while on a quest to find one of the vanishing breed of waterbed stores, my wife and I had to drive through a slum section of Wilmington, Delaware. The streets were full of black people, and I had a strong “Ugh! Don’t want this kind anywhere near me!” reaction. Only it wasn’t to their blackness. It was because, with a few teenage exceptions, they were graceless and ugly and fat. Women wearing sack dresses in garish floral prints that would look bad even on a mattress liner, men in wife-beater T-shirts, rolling oceans of sloppy adipose tissue, not a smidgen of self-respect or good taste in sight. Awful…

I might not have written about this, except that later in the day I was reading a blog discussion of the Bradley Effect and its possible impact on the 2008 presidential race, and someone’s comment noted that it could be caused not only by hidden racism but by fear of seeming a racist even if one is opposed to Obama but knows oneself to be innocent of actual racist sentiment.

Then I flashed back to my experience in the Delaware slums a few hours previously and realized there is a third and subtler possibility. If I were a left-liberal rather than a libertarian, might I have confused my own reaction to the black people in that slum with racism, and felt eager to expiate it with displays of pro-blackness like telling posters I’m an Obama fan? Is it possible the Bradley effect is largely a rebound phenomenon driven not by “hidden racism” but by unjustified white guilt?

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Jul 05

Dangerous Sons

Some time back I blogged on Hotness in Hollywood. In it I gave Angeline Jolie props for making a game effort at acting in a a movie with a script so execrable that her best effort was doomed, the original Tomb Raider movie. I also praised Liv Tyler playing Arwen, who became my personal all-time favorite example of screen sexiness in the Lord Of The Rings movies. And yes, I know this means I’m a geek; that’s not news to anybody.

My wife Cathy and I saw Wanted last night. Avoid it if you can’t stand the sight of people being shot through the head; otherwise it’s a fun popcorn movie with lots of implausible but extremely well-choreographed ultraviolence. (Well, OK, I started to giggle during the last knife fight a few minutes before the ending, because with the Marine knife-fighting technique my swordmaster taught my wife and I last year either of us could have filleted those two pirouetting idiots in short order.)

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Jun 30

Male-bashing kills children

Listen. This news story (which I meant to blog about two years ago) is the sound of cultural suicide happening…

A bricklayer who passed a toddler walking alone in a village shortly before her fatal fall into a pond said yesterday he did not stop to help in case people thought he was trying to abduct her.

Ideas have consequences. Toxic ideas have toxic consequences. Feminism’s toxic idea that all men are barely restrained sexual predators killed that little girl. This probably wasn’t the first time it happened, and almost certainly won’t be the last.

I think this is worth blogging about, even two years after the fact, because it’s another indicator of a huge and horrible thing that Western culture has been doing to men for most of my lifetime. Men are designed to protect women and children, specialized for it; in a very basic biological sense it’s what we’re for. But the modern West bombards men with the message that their specialty isn’t needed, isn’t wanted, and that they’re assumed to want to prey on and abuse women and children.

Is it any wonder, then, that young men are increasingly opting out of college, that the percentage of adult males never married is also rising, and that in the 21st century many men seem to want to opt out of responsibility altogether? When our instititions equate feminization with virtue and masculinity with evil, this is exactly the outcome we should expect.

And it kills children. It kills children.

If I were a praying sort, I’d pray that Scottish bricklayer’s warning cry has not come too late.

Apr 30

Memetic Success

Bwahahaha! My sinister master plan for world domination is
working. Straight from the pages of the highest-quality general-news
magazine in English, check
this
out! The money ‘graf is the last one:

Moreover, the ease with which the internet spreads
wrong-headedness–to say nothing of lies and slander–is offset by the
ease with which it spreads insights and ideas. To regret the glorious
fecundity of new media is to choose the hushed reverence of the
cathedral over the din of the bazaar.

There’s an old saw to the effect that there’s no limit to what you
can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit. More precisely,
when your signature memes start showing up as generative metaphors in
elite and popular usage with your name stripped off them, you
know you’re winning.

Winning, that is, at the only game that is really interesting –
changing the world.

(Hat tip to my blogson Walter Hunt over at Stone of Remembrance,
though I’d have seen it anyway in my weekly Economist and
later did.)

Mar 27

Islam Is At War With Us

I’ve been warning since 2002 that the West really is in a war to
defend civilization against Islamic barbarians, and had better face up
to that fact before the consequences of whitewashing Islam as
a “religion of peace” get worse.

Comes now Fjordman, a blogger from Norway who tells us that Moslem
immigrants to Sweden report themselves to be
at war with Swedes
. See also his earlier post about how Swedish
society is disintegrating
— not despite its commitment to
‘multiculturalism’, ‘tolerance’, and the welfare state, but because
that commitment is being ruthlessly gamed by Islamofascists who see
themselves as the conquering vanguard of the Dar al-Islam.

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Mar 17

The End of Faith

Sam Harris’s The End of Faith is a well-executed polemic of a kind that, in retrospect, has been curiously absent in the West over the last fifty years. Not since I read Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not A Christian in the early 1970s have I seen an attack on organized religion as clear, uncompromising, and compelling as this one — and Russell’s book was expanded from a lecture he gave in 1927.

Why, in a supposedly secular and modernist society that is heir to the anti-religious Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th century, do we not see more outright attacks on particular religions, or religion as an institution in general? Mr. Harris supplies a surprising answer: he thinks ‘tolerance’ is a problem, that the modern West has agreed to accept almost any form of unsanity or fanaticism as long as it is labeled ‘religion’.

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Mar 13

Hotness in Hollywood

I had planned my string of meditations on the movies to stop with
three. But, having succumbed to the mischievous blandishments of my
beloved wife Cathy, here’s a fourth. Today I shall consider hotness in
Hollywood — some movies that at least partly sold me with
sex, and how they did it.

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Mar 10

Out of the Frame

Movie ticket receipts in North America dipped by six percent in
2005 to nine billion dollars,
comes today’s report on the status of
the film industry.

The most hyped movie of 2005 was a depressing, pokey flick about
gay sheepherders. The Oscar nominations were otherwise dominated by
one movie that flogged us all for our supposed racism in a wearisomely
familiar way, another that rehashed left-wing grievances against a
minor and ineffective demagogue who’s been dead for pushing fifty
years, and a thriller that made an Islamic suicide bomber out to be
a saint and Americans parasitic villains.

Call me crazy, but I can’t help but think there might be some tenuous
shred of a hint of a connection here…

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Mar 06

If Hollywood Were Really Brave

The Oscar night of 2006 brought us the unedifying spectacle of
George Clooney (whom I must say I truly admire when he shuts his yap
and acts) celebrating Hollywood’s bravery for being willing
to make movies like Brokeback Mountain and Good Night
and Good Luck
.

Conservative commentators have already pointed out
how hollow and laughable it is to suppose that left-wing political
correctness is in any way ‘brave’ in today’s Hollywood, so I won’t
re-plow that ground. Instead, I’ll propose eight movies I think
Hollywood would make if it were really brave.

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Feb 23

Against Suicidalism from Down Under

Keith Windschuttle gets it. In The Adversary
Culture
he identifies the same suicidalist pathology that
Mark Brittingham and Jeff Goldstein and I have been writing about
recently.

Windschuttle, an Australian historian, identifies historians and
cultural-studies types on the academic left as vectors of the
disease. I wonder if he’s read Koch on Willi Munzenberg or Haynes
& Klehr’s Denial and gets how thoroughly these
people were piping to a tune that Stalin’s espionage apparat wrote?

For anyone still tempted to believe blaming the Soviets for the
flakiness of academia is just conspiratorial raving, get a load of this
and this:
it seems that during the Korean War the Soviets and North Koreans
thought anti-U.S. dezinformatsiya so important that they gassed their
own people in order to fabricate evidence for a legend that
U.S. troops had used chemical weapons in Korea. They did this with
the clear intention of damaging U.S. prestige, of breaking our will to
oppose Soviet expansionism by making us doubt and loathe ourselves.
We have statements from the people who planned and executed the
operation.

They got the result they were after. Left-wing historians like
Gabriel Kolko dutifully repeated legends of U.S. chemical warfare,
terrorism and atrocities in Korea for forty years afterwards. In fact,
Kolko continued to repeat the chemical-warfare legend even after the
Soviets themselves repudiated it in a published 1953 letter to Mao
Tse-Tung!

Whether Kolko himself (or any other individual leftie) was taking
orders from Moscow or was an ‘honest’ dupe fed the legend by Soviet
propaganda organs is not really very significant. What matters is
that Kolko, and all the the rest of the Marxist intelligentsia who
became cogs in Stalin’s memetic war machine, willingly did their part
to injure ‘the main enemy’. They retailed the lies of a tyrant who
murdered more people than Hitler, and they have not yet been called to
account for it.

Say what you will about conservative historians and conservatives
in general (I can find plenty of nasty things to say of them, and
frequently have); at least they never sunk quite so low as to repeat
totalitarian propaganda after the totalitarians themselves had
disowned it.

Feb 11

Gramscian damage

Americans have never really understood ideological warfare. Our gut-level assumption is that everybody in the world really wants the same comfortable material success we have. We use “extremist” as a negative epithet. Even the few fanatics and revolutionary idealists we have, whatever their political flavor, expect everybody else to behave like a bourgeois.

We don’t expect ideas to matter — or, when they do, we expect them to matter only because people have been flipped into a vulnerable mode by repression or poverty. Thus all our divagation about the “root causes” of Islamic terrorism, as if the terrorists’ very clear and very ideological account of their own theory and motivations is somehow not to be believed.

By contrast, ideological and memetic warfare has been a favored tactic for all of America’s three great adversaries of the last hundred years — Nazis, Communists, and Islamists. All three put substantial effort into cultivating American proxies to influence U.S. domestic policy and foreign policy in favorable directions. Yes, the Nazis did this, through organizations like the “German-American Bund” that was outlawed when World War II went hot. Today, the Islamists are having some success at manipulating our politics through fairly transparent front organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

But it was the Soviet Union, in its day, that was the master of this game. They made dezinformatsiya (disinformation) a central weapon of their war against “the main adversary”, the U.S. They conducted memetic subversion against the U.S. on many levels at a scale that is only now becoming clear as historians burrow through their archives and ex-KGB officers sell their memoirs.

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Jan 11

The War Against Humorlessness

From Iowahawk:

WICCANS DECRY ‘WAR AGAINST SOLSTICE’

Wiccan Coven Association President Ozrius Ravenclaw announced today
that his group would continue a formal economic boycott against
several major US retailers “until they cease their relentless and
cowardly attack on the Solstice.”

Retailers affected by the boycott include Target, WalMart, Dollar
General, Mills Fleet Farm, Victoria’s Secret, AutoZone, and Hy Vee.

“This is ‘Political Correctness’ gone crazy. Where ever you shop these
days, it seems like it’s ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘Seasons Greetings,’”
said Ravenclaw, who was formerly known as Chuck Sundergard. “Whatever
happened to a good old fashioned ‘All Glory to Gaia’ or ‘Jhakkaa
Solztovo Chthulu?’”

Tractor Supply Company spokesman Kevin Neves denied accusations that
his company instructed sales clerks not to use traditional Wiccan
greetings.

“We welcome everybody to TSC, regardless of how they celebrate the
season,” said Neves. “We even stock a nice assortment of seasonal
animal sacrifice altars, back in Lawn & Garden.”

I’m a Wiccan. Been one for thirty years. (Yeah, yeah, “I was a
Wiccan before it was cool…”). Now, if I were the kind of humorless
gink at which Iowahawk is aiming, I’d be spluttering with indignation at
this insensitive and hurtful fling at my personal religion thing.

But you know what? I think it’s pretty funny.

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Dec 22

Utter IDiots

Leon H. at RedState writes in Intelligent Design (The Debate Isn’t Helping):

In other words, my feeling about Krauthammer, Derbyshire, et al is
basically this: if you wish to denigrate ID and insult its proponents,
go find an ID discussion board (they are legion) and do so there -
don’t use the pages of NR or your token space in the WaPo to do it
in. What possible benefit to the cause of conservatism could come
about by you propounding your opinion on a topic which is neither your
calling nor your area of expertise, and which will insult a
significant portion of the Republican coalition?

What a load of disingenuous crap this is!

I’m not a conservative, myself, and dislike conservatism for many reasons that I have written about elsewhere. But I can sympathize with conservatives who desire to put distance between themselves and the ID movement, which combines purblind stupidity with dishonesty about its actual aims in a way I’ve previously only seen in gun-control proponents.

The ID movement’s claim that it’s not about end-running the First Amendment and turning schools into instruments for the propagation of Christian dogma is just as transparently specious as most gun-grabbers’ claims that they don’t aim to render the Second Amendment a dead letter. Both gangs are enemies of liberty and the U.S. Constitution, and for precisely the same reasons. It’s hardly startling for anyone, conservative or otherwise, to want to avoid being associated with any movement that lies wholesale about its objectives.

And that’s before addressing the numerous gaping logical holes in the “intelligent design” argument. U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones, deciding Kitzmiller vs. Dover on December 20th, nailed many of these in his opinion. To actually buy the ID argument requires either a complete inability to do critical thinking or a zealot’s refusal to exercise it.

“What possible benefit to the cause of conservatism” he asks. Maybe…just maybe…Krauthammer and Derbyshire would like to demonstrate that there are some conservatives who are neither liars, religious zealots, nor plain-and-simple idiots.

Dec 19

King Kong is a gigantic mess

My wife Catherine has written an excellent review of Peter Jackson’s King Kong, which we saw just last night. I concur with it; the movie is a meandering, flabby, over-long, self-indulgent mess that will be deeply disappointing to many of the fans Jackson attracted with the Rings movies. I hope it bombs, and he learns a lesson about artistic discipline. His next movie would be better for that.