The MLK full stop

is what I do when, in the middle of an otherwise eminently reasonable piece, I encounter a cringeworthy homage to MLK. Latest example:

Students came to school for their social life. The system had to be resisted. It was never made explicit that it was a “white” system that was being rejected, but it was implicit in oft-made remarks. Youngsters would say things like, “You can’t say that word, that be a WHITE word!” It did no good to remind students that some of the finest oratory in America came from black leaders like Martin Luther King

The rest of that piece — at least before I stopped reading at the word “King” — is a standard mainstream Conservative narrative, careful to steer clear of any race-realism (and, seeing as it deals with the problems plaguing American education, woefully incomplete as a result). It’s interesting to note that public worship of MLK is now an exclusively Conservative™ ritual; indeed, his colorblind agenda is downright reactionary by modern SJW standards.


Kudos to KDW

It’s exceedingly difficult to capture the essence of what makes a good writer — both in general, and when commenting on a particular one. As with any aesthetic judgment, in large part it must come down to “I know it when I see it”. But it’s not all gut: technical skill and overall erudition are clearly a prerequisite. Kevin D. Williamson (yes, that one) is a good writer. If you get nothing else out of his latest NRO column, you’ll at least come away acquainted with yet another Marxist-Freudian social critic on the required reading list.

But KDW’s true forte is the genre of sardonic contempt:

“Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez” is, at 16 syllables, a mouthful. The day before yesterday, she was “Sandy,” a pleasant-seeming young woman who liked to dance, worked in a bar, worried about her family, and chafed that her advantages and elite education (Boston University shares Case Western’s academic ranking and is significantly more expensive than Princeton: Is there a more appropriate preparation for life in Washington?) left her struggling, obscure, and unsatisfied. And so she set after glory and personal significance in politics, to which she is relatively new — the hatreds and grievances she dotes on are obvious enough and familiar enough that one assumes she has been in possession of those for some time. They are not newly acquired.


And so we have the grand game of make-believe and moral dress-up, in which Field Marshal Sandy rallies her troops on Twitter in the service of a half-organized bouquet of slogans and prejudices that no mentally normal adult — and there are still a few of those around — takes quite seriously. The purported goal of the great national deployment isn’t the point — the deployment itself is. It is an excuse for a great deal of noise and running in circles and excitation and displays of Very High Moral Seriousness that is its own reason for being. Sandy’s war is not a struggle over the future of Earth — it is only a struggle over the future of Sandy, and all the other Sandys out there in the great vast wilds of America, waiting tables at TGI Friday’s or grinding away in the obscurity of some master’s program in women’s studies, sure that however things were supposed to turn out, they weren’t supposed to turn out like this, a mess of loneliness and pointlessness, all dressed up for battle with nowhere to go and no comfort but Netflix and Facebook and Twitter, little fixes of dopamine just strong enough and frequent enough to keep the addicts upright and sedated enough that they do not begin asking the really difficult questions and demanding answers.

(We admit to a certain bias here, since sardonic contempt is more or less PTT’s default style.) KDW left a detail out of his portrait of AOC, which we think is of some relevance: her looks. Namely, she’s easier on the eye than, say, mathbabe. This had to have played a role in her political success: how else would she stand out from the masses of Lindas?

Andrew Sullivan: delicious irony

We never expected to find ourselves applying the adjective “delicious” to Andrew “RawMuscleGlutes” Sullivan, but this is just too rich:

[…] gay men are defined by our attraction to our own biological sex. We are men and attracted to other men. If the concept of a man is deconstructed, so that someone without a penis is a man, then homosexuality itself is deconstructed. Transgender people pose no threat to us, and the vast majority of gay men and lesbians wholeheartedly support protections for transgender people. But transgenderist ideology — including postmodern conceptions of sex and gender — is indeed a threat to homosexuality, because it is a threat to biological sex as a concept.

The gay-vs-trans intersectionality battle is proceeding apace (our money is on the hairy nutsack), but Sullivan’s chutzpa takes second place only perhaps to Jonah Goldberg’s. It is Sullivan, after all, who holds the dubious prize for having done the most to normalize and mainstream homosexual marriage. Do you remember all those snarky call-outs to the haters to chill the fuck out over gay marriage? [Example:

If You Are an Individual Who Believes Gay Marriage or Homosexuality in General Is Wrong for Religious Reasons, and Wish to Continue Expressing Those Beliefs:

This decision does not affect you in any way.

Got that? In. Any. Way.]

So having spent the better part of the 90’s arguing that gay marriage will in no way undermine traditional marriage, Sullivan is now fretting about transgenderism undermining homosexuality! The tranny agenda is, of course, societal suicide — but Sully’s tears make the poison pill go down more smoothly.

Oh c’mon, Zman

I like to steal wistful glances at populism as much as any recovering libertarian does, but never go full AOC. I don’t know how to read this post other than as arguing for canceling student loan debt, and that’s going full AOC. It takes Zman a few paragraphs to train his sights on the main target, Matt Welch:

The Right has always rejected that, until recently. The quote at the start of this post is a variation of this tweet from Matt Walsh. He is, according to his handlers, “a writer, speaker, author, and one of the religious Right’s most influential young voices.” In addition to that, they claim “He is known for boldly tackling the tough subjects and speaking out on faith and culture in a way that connects with his generation and beyond.” In reality, he is reproducing official dogma for the Official Right, what remains of it.

This is followed by some complete non-sequiturs involving gratuitous pederasty, and quite frankly, the entire post is uncharacteristically weak for Zman. But since we’re already here, let’s look at the offensive tweet by Walsh (who strikes me as something of a Ben Shapiro clone):

I guess I’m meant to cry tears of sympathy for all of these college grads with student loan debt. Somehow I just can’t muster a single tear. You chose to sign that dotted line. Nobody put a gun to your head. Fulfill your obligations and stop whining about it, for God’s sake.

Count me with the “Rugged Individual Sociopaths,” Zman. You say,

people with a soul should look at the student debt problem with sympathy and horror. It’s not just that these kids are saddled with debt. It’s that they and their parents are being preyed upon by sophisticated parties, with the aid and protection of the state. It is a form of economic piracy, in which the crown is quietly supporting the pirates, at the expense of the people’s commerce. Conservatives have always rejected this.

Really? I’m supposed to care about gender studies majors being several $100K in the red for choosing to be subjected to 4 years of useless pernicious grievance activism? Do you want to shoulder their debt? On most days, when you call out fake conservatives, I cheer you on. Today, the shoe is on the other foot.

You might have a case if you restricted the discussion to STEM majors. But if a STEM major is unable to pay off his debt — due to…. automation? H1B visas?.. — then the problem is much bigger than student loan debt.

Napoleonic wars

Who knew that I-am-Napoleon was the go-to cliche favored by trans-hating bigots everywhere? Had I been reading slatestarcodex* back in 2014 , I might been spared the embarrassment (along with my fellow bigots) of falling into that trap. SSC makes what has been by far the most compelling argument I’ve seen for accommodating the trans phenomenon:

Imagine if we could give depressed people a much higher quality of life merely by giving them cheap natural hormones. I don’t think there’s a psychiatrist in the world who wouldn’t celebrate that as one of the biggest mental health advances in a generation. Imagine if we could ameliorate schizophrenia with one safe simple surgery, just snip snip you’re not schizophrenic anymore. Pretty sure that would win all of the Nobel prizes. Imagine that we could make a serious dent in bipolar disorder just by calling people different pronouns. I’m pretty sure the entire mental health field would join together in bludgeoning anybody who refused to do that. We would bludgeon them over the head with big books about the side effects of lithium.

Really, are you sure you want your opposition to accepting transgender people to be “I think it’s a mental disorder”?

And then he addresses the Napoleon thing specifically:

I could point out that trans-Napoleonism seem [sic] to be mysteriously less common than transgender.

I could relate this mysterious difference to the various heavily researched apparent biological correlates of transgender, including unusual variants of the androgen receptor, birth-sex-discordant sizes of various brain regions, birth-sex-discordant responses to various pheromones, high rates of something seemingly like body integrity identity disorder, and of course our old friend altered digit ratios. If our hypothetical trans-Napoleon came out of the womb wearing a French military uniform and clutching a list of 19th century Grand Armee positions in his cute little baby hands, I think I’d take him more seriously.

I could argue that questions about gender are questions about category boundaries, whereas questions about Napoleon – absent some kind of philosophical legwork that I would very much like to read – are questions of fact.

I could point out that if the extent of somebody’s trans-Napoleonness was wanting to wear a bicorne hat, and he was going to be suicidal his entire life if he couldn’t but pretty happy if I could, let him wear the damn hat.

We’re happy to leave psychiatry to the psychiatrists — especially since PTT isn’t particularly interested in categories for their own sake. Our keenest interest in politics (and in particular, as it pertains to trans issues) is to the extent that politics is interested in us. We care much less about the semantics of transgenderism than about the pragmatics of how it affects normal people’s lives.

What our stumped post struggles with — and has not been resolved to our satisfaction — is the question of the degree to which a society is obligated to accommodate idiosynchrasies of varying degrees of burden. SSC’s throwaway remark, “Imagine that we could make a serious dent in bipolar disorder just by calling people different pronouns” tends to trivialize the issue, avoiding the thornier questions (a pattern?). We don’t mind calling Donald Deirdra — or anyone who, say, clears the 75% mark. What about the obvious trolls? What about being demanded — on pain of punishment — to use made-up pronouns such as xir and ze? (I’m completely with Jordan Peterson on this one.) What if being publicly recognized as one of the 70+ (the list is growing) genders is absolutely essential to a patient’s mental health? The psychiatrist is silent, and that’s too bad.


* Skip to Section VI for the Napoleon bit, but the entire (lengthy) post is well-worth your read.


Update. Also curious about Scott Alexander’s take on ROGD.

Update II. With fortuitous timing, David Cole convincingly argues that the “tranny agenda,” far from being a fringe issue for the Left, is actually their centerpiece project.

Have you seen this amazing viral ad

for Harry’s razors? Oh sure, they cleverly disguised it as an ad for Gillette, but would a savvy advertiser really deliberately alienate customers like that? Well played, Harry’s. I’ve heard for some time that you’re a cheaper and higher-quality alternative to Gillette, and I’m ready to make the switch!

Update (h/t):

Update II: Looks like our premature shilling for Harry’s was a major self-goal. Wiping egg off face, will now shill for dollarshave, as long as they stick to shaving and skip the moralizing.

Update III: Glenn really breaks it down for the libertarians (who?) at Reason:

DELIBERATELY MISSING THE POINT: Reason: The Gillette Ad Tells Men Not to Hurt People. Why Is This Offensive?“Yes, the ad invokes ‘toxic masculinity,’ an ill-defined concept sometimes deployed by the campus left in overbroad ways. But most of the ad depicts men deciding not to bully each other, harass women, or commit violence. Are these really ‘leftist social priorities’? Do conservatives really wish to portray them as such?”

Now try this: Ad tells black people not to steal. Why is this offensive?

Or maybe: Ad tells women not to lie. Why is this offensive?

Or, so that the Reason folks will really get it: Ad tells pot smokers not to become drug-crazed mass killers. Why is this offensive?

But I think the reason that this really struck a nerve is this: Men are used to being treated badly on TV shows and in ads, because women control most discretionary spending. But now men are even being treated badly in ads for the products they themselves buy. Advertisers thinking they can get away with that is a pretty open expression of contempt. And the contempt is being returned.