Monday, April 22, 2013

This Earth Day Is Conspiracy Day (UFOs, al Qaeda, a real CIA director in a gorilla suit on a motorcycle, etc.)

•On Earth Day, J.P. Freire posts a reminder that the host of the first Earth Day (in 1970), Ira Einhorn, went on to murder -- and compost! -- his girlfriend (but fled to Europe after getting out on bail with the help of then-lawyer Arlen Specter). 

•Twenty years later, a Brown University college communist told me he was delighted that Earth Day 1990 seemed to be making environmentalism mainstream (he was right) and that thus, so soon after the seeming implosion of communism, “capitalism would end not to the sound of marching Soviet boots but to the sound of falling trees.” 

(Can you blame me being inclined to believe the worst when it was thought by many people for a few hours last week that a missing Brown student might be the culprit in the Boston bombings?) 

•This year’s Earth Day brings, among other things, the premiere (in L.A.) of that documentary Sirius that alleges the government possesses UFO technology that could save the environment (the film also shows a surprisingly convincing-looking six-inch humanoid corpse that purportedly has non-human DNA -- my bet would still be deformed human-fetus mummy, since mummies are common in the part of Latin America where it was found, but who the hell knows). 

Sirius will be followed next week by a week-long National Press Club conference on UFOs headed by six former Congress members -- and the film itself will be shown again in Charlottesville in early May.  I think Reason’s Ron Bailey should attend and tell us how it goes.  He likes energy issues and biotech.

•What with next week also bringing the Toronto premiere of the much-touted, evidence-or-bust, we-mean-it-this-time, we’ll-shut-our-websites-down-if-it-ain’t-real documentary Shooting Bigfoot...

•and with reckless conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones pushing the idea that Craft International mercenaries were not merely running a drill but were in fact the real perps in Boston (those fellows in tan pants who were in a front-page photo on the Times this Sunday with no explanatory caption at all and were formerly run by recently-murdered sniper Chris Kyle)...

•not to mention Vice President Biden (like George H.W. Bush before him) using the phrase “New World Order” in a speech without seeming to notice that’s like waving a red cape in front of conspiracy theorists...

...April has been an incredibly bountiful month for people who allege cover-ups.  I am less paranoid, prone to see a world of screw-ups and disasters rather than conspiracies and extraterrestrials. 

However, reality has a tendency to get almost as weird as the conspiracy theories if you look at it closely enough, and it is with that in mind, post-Boston, that I find myself marveling again at one nice, cleanly-written paragraph from the 1996 memoir From the Shadows (p. 349) by CIA man turned Defense Secretary Robert Gates, which I blogged about last month.  The book was written five years before 9/11/01, and I think it’s safe to say that this is the haunting paragraph where al Qaeda happens, with all the same ambiguity about the degree of U.S. negligence in its formation that people still bicker about a decade after 9/11:

Monday, April 15, 2013

Farewell to Two Cold Warriors

Kudos to Johnny Rotten for denouncing the people exulting about Thatcher’s death last week.

Similarly, the Saturday Live Sketch about a punk who alienated his bandmates by liking Thatcher touched on one of my favorite topics: the tragic (and ultimately unnecessary) divide between people who love freedom for essentially left-anarchist reasons and people who love free markets.  Not that their differences aren’t real or important, but consider, for example, that the most notorious anti-Thatcher riots back in the day were still (long story short) riots against taxes.  (By the way, a free-marketeer must respect SNL’s right to ban troublemaking performers, but an anti-authoritarian might still find some amusement in how prestigious the list is.)

I wrote in the anthology Proud to Be Right about bridging the punk/conservative gap in my own youthful, Reagan-era mind.  But I haven’t harped on that specific theme too much since then, mainly because I increasingly think that if I take the idea to its logical (and in some ways far less fun) conclusion, I need to go far beyond stitching together a few ironically-compatible elements of the culture – and far beyond the tradition-plus-markets “fusionism” those on the right often laud. 

I need to tackle the much more daunting task of figuring out how to “reconcile” the whole culture to itself, so to speak, patiently and diplomatically finding ways to draw upon the best elements of every major political tradition without simply denigrating them or combating them. 

(By contrast, Proud to Be Right may well end up being remembered most for combat, namely the C-SPAN2 panel on which I condemned fellow PBR contributor Helen Rittelmeyer for being a closet nihilist – but she’s settled down, moved to Australia while still blogging wittily for First Things, and gotten engaged, and I wish them both well.  I honestly don’t like to fight.)

So much of human life is about performative ruts: People’s brains aren’t just making arguments, they’re constantly asking, “Should I be in aggrieved-party mode now?” and “Is this a right/left this turning into a city/rural I need to defend my favorite sports team now?” etc.  As Jonathan Haidt’s psychology-of-conflict book Righteous Mind suggests, needlessly escalating clashes may be more than just a troubling footnote to politics, it might be the main story, and not one we should be proud of endlessly retelling.

And that story probably won’t change much as long as politics resembles Crossfire and, perhaps worse, the short sniping of Twitter, Facebook, and online comments threads (which so quickly seem to turn everything into cycles of abuse that sound very much like two-party politics).  Now, I could try just mastering the quick-insult art form – I think you know I could – but I basically vowed back when the troubling show Politically Incorrect first became popular that I didn’t really want to go that route.  I have tried not to, but conflict is pervasive...and instinctually satisfying.  But no matter how risky it is to abandon that familiar game, I have to say no to it. 

Coincidentally, the same week various punks, anarchists, and even comic book creators in the UK were playing their assigned roles by celebrating Thatcher’s death (probably feeling a bit nasty about themselves, not just her, in the process), a study reportedly suggested that social media is tending to make us still nastier – and more shallow. 

I’ll soon try other approaches, then, reflected in the near future in a few projects that’ll take me away from Facebook, Twitter, and Blogger most of the time (really – reach me via e-mail if you need me).  I know I recently tried to exit a few times before, but the timing wasn’t quite right for both exiting and explaining myself.  The near future, though, should bring, among other things, (A) essays about reconciling political factions, (B) a site for libertarian pop culture (more decisively entertaining rather than argumentative), (C) an article about gold, (D) the moderating of ever-civil Dionysium debates, (E) possibly the moderating of much larger debates, and (F) various bits of ghostwriting (for you too, if you like).  More about all that as warranted.

The combat model of politics was well-suited to the Cold War era and is perhaps well-suited to a two-party system, but it’s healthy to take a step back and ask whether it’d look ridiculous in, say, a healthy system of twenty parties in a world with minimal threat of violence.  If it’d seem jarring in that world, wouldn’t it be nice, and probably quite productive, to behave right now more like a citizen of that imagined world than like one forged by the tragic conflicts of the twentieth century that molded minds from mine to Thatcher’s?  (Even punk has by now been tamed, after all – and I’m definitely going to see that museum exhibit, without shame or griping about lost “authenticity.”)

Of course, different mindsets are appropriate to different eras:

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Moynihan on Murderers in Academia

How could I not love academia and the left?  Well, Michael C. Moynihan reminds us that academia is full of convicted left-wing murderers.  Don’t tell yourself this says nothing about how the Establishment thinks (or fails to, despite the PhDs).

Monday, April 8, 2013

Gay Marriage Debate Tonight (in a World Without Thatcher)

It is probably for the best that Cy Curnin of the Fixx did not know when I saw the band perform last night that Margaret Thatcher would die today. 

Like all too many of my favorite British creative folk of recent decades, he’s very left-leaning and probably thinks of Thatcher as almost a Satan-figure (though I have no reason to believe he will say anything inappropriate today).  She and Reagan tend to be the implied sources of madness in the West balancing the madness among the Soviets in New Wave-era songs like “Stand or Fall,” though I love all that music anyway.

And the juxtaposition of last night’s New Wave concert and tonight’s Dionysium debate on gay marriage (Dorian Davis vs. Mike Woods, moderated by me, 8pm at Muchmore’s, 2 Havemeyer St. near the Bedford Ave. L stop in Williamsburg) has me thinking that the Iron Lady will surely be remembered as doing more to alter perceptions of women in the British Isles than all those fey rockers, much as I admire both.  There was really never reason for them to quarrel. 

At the very least, no matter how fey the audience turns out to be – gay, hipster, nerd, what have you – tonight, let there be at least a toast to Thatcher’s memory.  I vow to lead one.  During the audience discussion, thoughts on Thatcher will be as welcome as thoughts on the gay marriage debate. 

But tonight’s proceedings need not be funereal.  Here are a few funny items to keep you in good spirits until this evening:

•Brian the dog on Family Guy manages to be endearing even when being homophobic (here reacting to Stewie’s gay-seeming documentary narration).

•Apparently, Brown University soon may literally be stealing our dreams, with their crazy brain-science-machines.

•Here’s a funny yet rational retort to all-too-common online conspiracy-theory videos (yet this video, last I checked, has more “dislikes” than “likes,” whereas almost any pro-conspiracy-theory nut seems to be rewarded with likes, a disturbing imbalance).  This one specifically mocks people who think an earlier video reveals an alien shapeshifter in Obama’s entourage, part of a larger “reptilian” or extraterrestrial invasion.

Here’s one mocking equally-common videos purporting to spot life-on-Mars evidence in real NASA footage.

The real world is more than fascinating (and confusing) enough without deluding ourselves.  And, though certainly no politician is all good, that world is likely a bit freer for Margaret Thatcher having lived in it.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

DIONYSIUM 4/8: Should There Be Gay Marriage?

Before the Supreme Court decides, the organization from which the Court traditionally takes its cues shall do so: 

"Should There Be Gay Marriage?"

DIONYSIUM debate, with ample discussion, hosted by TODD SEAVEY 

Mon., April 8 at 8pm 

YES: DORIAN DAVIS, libertarian writer and adjunct journalism professor at Marymount Manhattan College

NO: MIKE WOODS, derivatives trader, libertarian, and Catholic

At the MUCHMORE'S performance space

(free admission, cash/credit bar -- at 2 Havemeyer St. on the corner of N. 9th St., a mere three blocks east of the very first L subway stop into Brooklyn from Manhattan, the Bedford Ave. stop)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Going Mostly-Offline for Real (plus the Fixx, Bigfoot, and superheroes)

April Fool’s Day or not, I’m really going to kick the Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, and e-mail addictions – in part to give me more time for things like editing the comics section of the soon-to-launch, writing a series of more serious political essays, ghostwriting, and more (including stuff for you, perhaps, if you want me to add your project in these areas or TV production or radio commentary or such to the schedule). 

My friend Kyle Smith here summarizes some great reasons to spend less time online.  Read it if you still have a sufficient attention span (h/t fellow crypto-semi-Luddite Kevin Walsh).  By contrast, ignore Kyle’s kind words about G.I. Joe Retaliation.

But there are entertaining moments coming up in April to keep you occupied while I’m mostly-silent (really, despite me posting this on April Fool’s Day):

April 7: If you know me and want to join me for the Fixx, let me know before someone else claims the second ticket I have – and here’s a fan’s video for their song “Saved by Zero” using footage from Tron Legacy (I think this marks exactly 40 times I’ve mentioned that band online, by the way – fitting for one of the coolest acts ever to grace the Top 40).

April 8: I think our Dionysium topic on Monday the 8th (8pm at Muchmore’s) may be the timely one of gay marriage – but contact me one week prior if you want to volunteer to debate that or a different topic.  

Announcing (not to mention planning) the Dionysium events farther in advance is one of the few things I’ll keep using Blogger, Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail for – but I’ll provide links here to other big impending projects as well. 

April 13: The conspiracy theorists I’ve so often mocked despite their vigilant, paranoid resistance to the powers that be (including in my “Conspiracy Week” of entries just ended) might want to note that the 13th will mark exactly 6 decades, 6 months, and 6 days since the barcode was patented.  Plan accordingly.  Then pay your taxes.

April 24: The best-organized group of purported UFO witnesses, the ones behind the so-called Disclosure Project that has held attention-getting press conferences of ex-military people and the like at the National Press Club, will take their best shot at convincing the world we are not alone – and that the government possesses alien technology – when they release the new documentary Sirius. 

If that doesn’t contain proof, I never want to hear from the extraterrestrial-believers again.

April 30: Coincidentally, one of the most-hyped Bigfoot documentaries, Shooting Bigfoot, will be released six days after the UFO one, at the Hot Docs film festival in Toronto.  The site has vowed to shut down if this documentary doesn’t contain persuasive footage of a Bigfoot eating and then being shot and preserved (in Las Vegas) for study (by a guy who admits he’s previously faked a dead Bigfoot). 

If that doesn’t contain proof, I never want to hear from the Bigfoot-believers again.

[NOTE: That report of an Avengers/X-Men movie crossover was an April Fool’s story.]