Author: Guest Author

True Detective Season 2: A reactionary tragedy

The following guest post is by RepCom1140

Last summer’s second season of True Detective was a disappointment to many. However, the ideology at the heart of this season’s story spoke to me as I happened to be witnessing a burgeoning ideological movement unfold on Twitter. What began as the elitist “neoreaction” was rapidly overshadowed by a populist “alt-right.” While absorbing bits and pieces of the purposes and beliefs of these people, I couldn’t help but see similarities between these Twitterers and the show. A year later, the alt-right having achieved a legitimacy of sorts through its feverish support of Donald Trump’s campaign for the US Presidency, I have to take a sober reassessment of the state of the American far-right.

For the protagonists of True Detective Season 2, society appears to be in steady decline, with death the only certainty in life. The nihilistic overtones and reluctant hope make it the frontrunner for reactionary show of the year. Far-right Twitter crosses paths with the show as most of the characters are obsessed about masculinity, women, and race, often hilariously so.

  • Vince Vaughn’s gangster Frank Semyon believes “A good woman mitigates our baser tendencies.”
  • Colin Farrell’s corrupt, down’n’out detective Ray Velcoro quips “I support feminism; mostly by having body image issues.”
  • While Ray’s father grouses about his past in the LAPD he tells his son today’s world is “No country for white men, boy.”
  • Frank one-ups this with a retort to a corrupt city official: “You don’t direct me. Khe Sahn motherf__ker.” “I’m Chinese.” “Well then go stand in front of a tank.”

Detective Paul Woodrugh’s mother is no different, advising her son to leave his pregnant Spanish girlfriend: “You’re a good looking white man. You get in shootouts. You could do anything you like.”

All of the main characters in the show are damaged in some way. Some try to correct their faults or overcome their demons, others simply embrace the darkness, and some never quite figure out what’s going on. One could pick a far-right Twitter account out of a hat and one of these characters would match up to the levels of fear, hatred, and insecurity the anonymous Pepe’s exhibit. Ray Velcoro is obsessed with the idea that he’s been “cucked” by a rapist and that his son may not be his own flesh and blood. That regrettable word doesn’t appear in the show but Ray is a perfect avatar for every deluded soul who thinks racial purity will somehow bring glory to a nation that was never “great.” After his marriage fell apart Ray’s method of dealing with his problems involves rock n roll, whiskey, cocaine, pull ups, beer, and tears – in that order. Though Ray projects a rugged demeanor his unrepentant self is not much different from the pasty would-be assassin (a dead ringer for those “nerd with a katana” image macros) who mumbles “I am the blade and the bullet” before attempting to kill the city’s corrupt police chief. This is all the more funny (or sad) considering the basement dwelling keyboard warriors rubbing digital shoulders with adherents to the “#HarambeMindset.”

An obsession about authenticity and masculinity plagues both Velcoro and Woodrugh. Ray’s father was the image of a tough guy cop who probably very liberal giving out wood shampoos or worse in the days when police could get away with anything. Woodrugh has Clint Eastwood as a father figure, and his assumed taciturn sulking does him no favors either. Sometimes it’s just absurd the things that bother them. Both men comment on different occasions about disliking their fellow detective Ani Bezzerides’ e-cigarette. Adopting an affectation of “manliness” or caring overmuch about your method of nicotine delivery does not make you a more virtuous person and just seems like wasted effort. Yet “authentic masculinity” is one of the fixations of the far-right that is constantly rearing its wimpy balding head.


The myth of papal culpability in the spread of HIV

One of the pillars of being Catholic in this modern age (if I may borrow a theological concept from Islam) is the ability to display patience in the face of all sorts of slander against the Church, but after years of reading articles and comments online in which people propagated the myth that the Catholic Church is to blame for the spread of HIV in the developing world, I was prodded into action. The straw that broke the camel’s back on this occasion was a piece by Ben Goldacre, physician and best-selling author of the book Bad Science. Writing for The Guardian about the visit of Pope Benedict to London in 2010 he said: “This week the pope is in London. You will have your own views on the discrimination against women, the homophobia, and the international criminal conspiracy to cover up for mass child rape. My special interest is his role in the 2 million people who die of AIDS each year.”

That’s a lot of mudslinging, but what’s crystal clear is his belief that the Catholic Church is at least partly responsible for the lack of screening for sexually transmitted infections and the spread of HIV/AIDS throughout the developing world. In this he is not alone. The Atlantic in 2013 referred to “Vatican City’s refusal to encourage condom use in the fight against HIV/AIDS” and a policy which “has had serious, long-lasting consequences across the global south — especially Africa.” My problem with these arguments is that they exhibit a fundamental misunderstanding not only of human nature, but of the religious demographics of sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of the developing world.

According to the CIA’s World Factbook, Swaziland has the highest HIV infection rate in the world with over a quarter of its population suffering with the disease. Yet only one fifth of Swaziland’s population is Catholic. The vast majority of its population are Protestants.

Swaziland is not exceptional; most of sub-Saharan Africa is Protestant. Botswana is next on the list and is overwhelmingly so. Lesotho is third, with Catholics and Protestants evenly split. South Africa is fourth; only seven per cent of its population identifies as Catholic.

If the accusations are true – that the Pope can effect change in the sexual habits of sub-Saharan Africans – why are the countries with the highest infection rates not majority Catholic? How many Protestants do you know whose reverence for the Catholic Church is so great that they base their sexual habits on its teachings?

The first country on the list with a clear majority of Catholics among total Christians is Mozambique in eighth place, and even still, the Catholic population comprises a mere quarter of the total. The first country on the list that could be considered a Catholic country in the sense that Poland or Italy are is Equatorial Guinea, down in eleventh place.

Westerners have been chastising the Church for alleged influence on African sexual predilections for some time but familiarity with these accusations fails to tarnish their idiocy. Their argument goes something like this: The Pope – a religious leader in Rome – lectures people on what they can and cannot do in matters of sexual intercourse. Europeans (and other white people) are sophisticated enough to merely disregard the pontiff’s advice; anyone who contracts HIV in, say, Russia or Los Angeles has only themselves to blame. Africans, however – uneducated peasants that they are – simply cannot resist the Pope’s teachings, even when he’s not their religious leader.

Imagine the following scenario. A married taxi-driver in Kampala gets off a long shift. He goes to visit a prostitute. The prostitute suggests wearing a condom. Now this is the point where criticism of Catholic teaching regarding condoms gets strange. Assuming that the taxi-driver is Catholic (in Uganda he is more likely to be a Protestant), he is expected by anti-Catholics to say: ‘I’m sorry. I cannot use a condom. I am a Catholic and I cannot disobey the teachings of my Church.’ This poses a question. Why is the taxi-driver adhering so slavishly to this single rule while ignoring so many others? He is committing adultery, having sex out of wedlock and using a prostitute. It should go without saying that the Pope disapproves of all three.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s problem with HIV stems from other things. This is a part of the world where presidents believe showering after sex can reduce the risk of contracting the disease (Jacob Zuma, ex-President of South Africa) and where presidents accuse western leaders of ‘spreading gayism,’ calling gay rights ‘satanic’ (Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe). There exists a vast number of people who often don’t have access to condoms and have no idea how to get tested for syphilis. Men are suspicious about the efficiency of condoms, men who tend to associate them with a homosexual lifestyle and others who believe that HIV can be washed away with water or, more disturbingly, cured by having sex with a virgin.

If the accusations leveled at the Church were true then surely we would see a markedly higher infection rate among African Catholics than Africans of other faiths. Yet this is not the case. In South America – an overwhelmingly Catholic continent – the country with the highest infection rate is the only one with a minority of Catholics: Guyana.

The Catholic Church has no doubt led someone somewhere sometime to refuse wearing a condom, in a philosophical sense ‘assisting’ in spreading the disease. But if the infected man listened as intently to the Pope on matters of abstinence and marital fidelity as intently as he is believed to listen to the Pope’s teachings on condoms then nobody would have the disease. We have a word for a person who knowingly infects someone with a deadly disease like HIV, and that word is sociopath. Ignorance should not be a defense. If someone you knew were to use prostitutes without condoms, thereby putting others at risk of contracting the disease, they would probably be persona non grata at your dinner parties. So why do we treat all Africans as victims and the Church as the cause of their suffering when most countries with Catholic majorities don’t have remotely similar experiences?

For its basic understanding of human biological impulses one might fairly describe the Church as naive, but one shouldn’t treat Africans like simpletons and in doing so engage in the racism of low expectations.

Derek Hopper is a native of Dublin and studied history at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. He lives in Bangkok, where he teaches English at the faculty of liberal arts, Thammasat University. Follow him on Twitter.

(Image source)

No, women aren’t paid less than men

The following is a guest post by Daisy Belden

The gender pay gap has received a decent amount of attention recently, and, in response, has also been refuted over and over again. Knowing this, I thought that writing a piece explaining why the “gender wage gap” doesn’t exist would be beating a dead horse, so I never did. But, the Washington Post just released a poll in conjunction with the Kaiser Family Foundation that delves into contemporary opinions on feminism, and, according to this poll, 75 percent of respondents said that their top priority for improving women’s lives is “equal pay for equal work.” Apparently, this myth just won’t die, and I can’t sleep at night knowing that people still believe it. Everyone will be happy to know that women are, in fact, paid equally for equal work.

The so-called “gender wage gap,” also known as the “gender pay gap,” relies on the confusion of simple economic concepts: the difference between wage and earnings. Wage is the amount of money you are paid per unit of work, i.e., dollars/hour, dollars/project, percent commission, and so on. Earnings, in this case, is the total amount of money a person makes over a lifetime (or a given period of time, i.e., earnings over 20 years).

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The problem with this myth lies in feminists taking the average lifetime earnings between men and women, and then spinning the difference between those earnings as a wage gap. This is a critical distinction, because a wage gap would be immoral, and people instinctively know that. Paying some people less per unit of work is wrong. But this isn’t a wage gap, it’s an earnings gap. If there really were a wage gap, those profit-hungry corporations (that leftists love to hate) would only hire women, since paying people lower wages for the same work would help their bottom line.  

There is a difference between men and women’s lifetime earnings, which can be explained by the choices men and women make. Women are less likely to take risks in their careers, meaning they are less likely to become entrepreneurs or go into business, and are more likely to take a more tracked path to their careers through something like graduate school.

Let’s take a hypothetical example. A woman graduates from college, takes a year off, and chooses to get a doctorate degree. The average PhD takes about eight years to complete — meaning that a young woman who starts her PhD program at 22 will likely finish when she is 30. So, she goes to graduate school, netting zero income for those eight years (graduate students usually make around enough money to pay for living expenses), and then she works for two years. By then, she’s 32, a time when lots of women have children, and takes a year off because she has a baby. By the time she is 40, if she returns to work after that year, she will have only worked a total of 10 years with a positive net-income, meaning she was only making money for 10 years of her career before age 40. Meanwhile, a man she graduated college with, who has been working for a private company since he graduated, has been working for 18 years and is reaping the benefits of the promotions and pay raises that come with being a business professional for 10+ years. Those two people are going to have very different lifetime earnings — because they made different choices.

This example depicts one scenario, but there are many more in which women choose less lucrative career paths than men. Whether you like it or not, career choices affect the amount of money you will make over a lifetime. That is not something that is unjust or outrageous. Confusing wages with earnings to mislead people, on the other hand, is unjust and outrageous. It also makes women seem economically illiterate, which I don’t appreciate very much.

Lots of people have done more in-depth statistical analyses of the gender wage gap if you want to read more. I only wanted to correct some economic misconceptions so that I can sleep at night.

Daisy Belden is a senior at the University of Michigan. She is an aspiring entrepreneur and writer, with a love for the controversial and contrarian.

No, I’m not a feminist

The following is a guest post by Daisy Belden

“Are you a feminist?”

People ask me this question all the time. I used to shrug it off, having had a generally benign view of feminism as something that existed to fight against the dangers women faced in their everyday lives, like rape, harassment, and other forms of violence. I could see where they were coming from, since I too, had experienced these dangers: the shaky nervousness of walking home alone, hearing about my mother’s friends who were stalked, dealing with creepy guys who just won’t leave you alone. I got it, I really did. It sucks, having to worry about that stuff. But, I thought, if they really cared about women being in danger, they would just support gun rights, right? The fact that they don’t, well, that was my first clue that feminism was not as advertised.

I started to recognize the detrimental effects of the feminist movement as it merged with social justice activists and gained more popularity on the internet. It seemed like all of the sudden, every college-aged girl I knew had adopted an obnoxious, posturing kind of misandry into her digital presence. Being a man-hating woman has become trendy — a kind of signaling mechanism that means someone is a hip/liberal/down-with-the-kids type of chick. I guess that makes me a grumpy old man shaking my cane, because hating half of humanity is not going to empower anyone.

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When I tell people, “no, I’m not a feminist” the response is usually something like “…but you’re a woman.” For a brief moment I can feel my brain short-circuiting from the idea that 50 percent of the population would subscribe to one ideology simply because of their gender. Almost as if my entire individuality is washed away by the fact that I have ovaries. After regaining my composure after my mini-stroke, I try to find a way to boil down the plethora of reasons I have for not being a feminist into a succinct answer. Turns out I can’t, so here are some of the reasons why feminism is fundamentally flawed.

Women Have Brains

Shocking, I know. A feminist would have you believe that your ovaries should inform your political leanings, not your brain. It would be an understatement to say that this is pretty insulting to women who may have other priorities, like, oh I don’t know, the economic climate. Despite what a feminist will tell you, women are more than the sum of their reproductive organs. It may be hard to believe that any woman would find that she had more to gain basing her belief system on economics or philosophy rather than the parts of her body that make her a woman. But some do.

To a feminist, your brain is but an obstacle to your uterus. I have to deal with people asking me if I’m a feminist instead of my views on other, more intellectual topics, because of feminists, not because of some kind of paternalistic, condescending misogyny. It is feminists, not men, who don’t allow women to have intellectual individuality. They create the perception that women’s political philosophies are completely determined by their body parts instead of their brains. Forget economics. Forget philosophy. Forget business. Being pro-choice and pro-Planned Parenthood are all of the opinions and knowledge I need to navigate the world! Womyn unite!

This aspect of feminism offers an attractive opportunity for its proponents to add “meaning” to their lives (for some reason people seem to equate political activism with “meaning”) without ever having to open up a book — reading one article from Jezebel is good enough. To a feminist, your intellect matters none, because your gender validates your political positions. Feminists don’t have to back up their arguments because they’re women, therefore they know best about discrimination against women and what should be done about it. It is considered offensive to ask for logical, reasoned arguments, or evidence for that matter, so don’t even try.

Collectivism and Absolving Personal Responsibility

In this type of two-dimensional, collectivized perspective of women, all women are victims of men, and all men are violent rapists (because rape is defined by a feminist as any unsatisfactory sexual encounter these days). All individuality is lost, and you are judged by only one characteristic. All unsuccessful or unhappy women are mere victims of their discrimination, and every daily frustration becomes oppression. Because, why take personal responsibility for anything when you could blame the patriarchy?

For example, feminists often point to office environments as being hostile to women. The struggles of everyday life, like interactions with coworkers, which everyone faces, are now attributed to a greater conspiracy, “the patriarchy.” What no one will say to a feminist is that human interactions are fundamentally imperfect by their very nature, and that “the patriarchy” is not responsible for every interaction with another human being that you didn’t like. If a creepy guy hits on you at work, that sucks, but that’s life. Men have to deal with assholes just as much as women do, they just don’t complain about it. They know that humanity is riddled with imperfections and miscommunications, and that not everyone begins their day brainstorming ways to make your life feel like a fairy tale (sorry to burst your bubble).

Stop collectivizing people. A couple of jerks in your office don’t mean that all men are jerks. It just means that one guy is a jerk. Men probably don’t like him either.

Moreover, it astounds me that in such a free society, feminists have the nerve to say that women’s lack of professional success can be attributed to minor slights against them in school or in the workplace. These women demand that they be given jobs, engineering degrees, and board positions, instead of earning them — the odds are so stacked against them, they say (again, women can’t do it on their own because they are just a pair of ovaries, right?). Ayn Rand put it very succinctly in this quote on the Women’s Liberation Movement:

“There is no place on earth where so many opportunities are open to career women as in the United States, or where so many women have achieved successful careers. Women’s Lib proclaims that success should not have to be achieved, but it should be guaranteed as a right. Women, it claims, should be pushed by law into any job, club, saloon, or executive position they choose — and let the employer prove in court that he failed to promote a woman because she is a slob and not because she is a woman.”

Feminists are constantly infantilizing women as not able to achieve success by their own merit, but instead needing government and a collective movement to force the hand of an organization to raise them up. Women are incapable of achievement or self-confidence without intervention. Mindy Kaling sums this attitude up nicely in her book Why Not Me?:

“Just the attitude alone makes me sad: “We have to help our girls and teach them to be confident.” Well, guess what, young girls. You aren’t damsels in distress. You aren’t hostages to the words of your peers. You aren’t the victims that even your well-meaning teachers and advocates think you are.”

Feminists themselves perpetuate this notion that women are victims of society, in need of feminists’ help. They would love to take credit for Mindy Kaling’s success, by saying that she is the star of a television show because the body-positive feminist movement allowed her to be — discounting all of Kaling’s hard work and her writing and acting abilities. The reality is, Hollywood isn’t about giving affirmative action to talentless actresses just because they are chubby, Hollywood is about making money, and what makes them money is hiring people who get laughs and get shit done. Take your charity case to a non-profit; Mindy Kaling didn’t complain her way to the top. Mindy Kaling gets shit done.

Feminists Want Privileges, Not Rights

The things feminists demand — quotas, affirmative action for women in the workplace, free abortions for everyone — these are not rights, they are privileges. The feminist movement wants us to petition the government to receive political goods, not equality before the law. Peter Schwartz recalls the National Organization for Women’s march on Washington:

“When a march on Washington was organized by the National Organization for Women to publicize “violence against women,” the objects of the protest were, not just rape or battery, but reductions in welfare spending and cutbacks in affirmative action programs. As reported in the New York Times, the feminists “equated what they called ‘political violence’ with physical attacks.”

Feminists constantly blur the line between rights and privileges. Women should have the right to bodily autonomy, not the privilege of having other people pay for what she does to it. Women should have the right to sue their rapists in court, not the privilege of denying their rapists due process. Women should have the right to earn a living, not the privilege of any job they want. This is an important distinction. Women don’t need handouts. They’re smart.

So leave us alone, feminists. Stop telling women they’re successful because of Planned Parenthood. Stop blaming the patriarchy for your problems and build the next iPhone — it will do a lot more good for humanity than your complaining ever could.

Daisy Belden is a senior at the University of Michigan. She is an aspiring entrepreneur and writer, with a love for the controversial and contrarian.

Vince Gilligan’s critique of rationalism

The following guest post is by Jon Bishop, who writes from Massachusetts. His essays, fiction, and reviews have appeared in such publications as Boston Literary Magazine, Ethika Politika, PJ Media, Millennial, FreightTrain Magazine, and the Worcester Telegram and Gazette.

I’m just going to come right out with it: Vince Gilligan is the most thoughtful person working in television today — and his two companion shows, Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, demonstrate a willingness to challenge not only genre conventions but also the culture at large.

But let’s skip the quality of the storytelling and the acting and the directing for now, because many people have talked about them, and so there’s not too much to add to the discussion. And this is not a review.

What I want to focus on here is what Gilligan has to say on rationalism, which can, in this sense, be taken as a synonym for freethinking or even secularism. It is the rationalism that rejects everything but reason.

For the longest time I wondered why Gilligan chose Saul Goodman as the Breaking Bad character to get his own show. Sure, I thought, he’s appealing and funny, but he’s comic relief. Why not select instead the rugged Mike Ehrmantraut or the quiet but monstrous Gus Fring? Learning more about them would make for great television. Then I realized it: Saul is a lawyer, a profession that pairs nicely with the scientist. Why? Both are symbols of the rationalist.


Barron’s AP test prep book butchers the French Revolution

The following guest post is by William J. Upton

The Daily Caller’s Eric Owens has an interesting piece up on a bizarre section in Barron’s AP European History (a study guide aimed at preparing high school students for the Advanced Placement European History exam – a test that could earn them college course credit). The guide provides a chart that details the political factions and ideologies behind the French Revolution – Owens ran with the bizarre conflation of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and the Ku Klux Klan as the “Reactionary/Fascist” forces (more on the use of “fascism” later). As outrageous as that is – and it is definitely outrageous – the real lede is buried completely. If you look at the chart, it gets pretty much nothing right.

I present, how Barron’s sees the French Revolution: IMG_0982
Photo Credit: The Daily Caller 

Let’s begin from left to right on their “Political Spectrum.” The sans-culottes are placed somewhat reasonably – though the chart misspells the term as “Sams Culottes,” like a Sam’s Club but for pants only). Here, though, it would also be appropriate to note that the sans-culottes were less of a mob and more along the lines of a motley group of radicalized laborers who became militant partisans during the Revolution. They weren’t so much “Communist” as they were radical democrats and republicans spurred on by anarchist factions like the Enragés and anti-Christian/terrorist factions like the Hébertists. The inclusion of the Enragés and Hébertists would have given some perspective into the radical nature of the far-left drive of the revolution.

As you begin to move to right from the sans-culottes, the chart becomes a mess of inaccuracy. The Montagnards weren’t just some “leftist” group that wanted to “regulate banks and corporations.” Led by Maximilien Robespierre, the Montagnards held down the far left of the Legislative Assembly. Their political rivals – only slightly to their right in terms of ideology – were the Girondists (not the Girendists as Barron’s spells it). The Girondists, as with the Montagnards, were anti-monarchy. The key difference between the two factions, however was over the general course of the revolution. The Girondists were killed in mass executions during the Reign of Terror in which the radical-Jacobin Montagnards and Hébertists hunted down and murdered their political rivals. The Barron’s chart bizarrely insinuates that the Jacobins were anywhere from leftist to moderate/centrist – a laughable designation when you take into consideration that the chart has the Girondists to the right of the Feuillants.

The Feuillants were a faction in the Legislative Assembly who broke with the more left-wing Jacobins over what form of government France would take. While the radical Jacobins wished for a republican or democratic form of government, the Feuillants pushed for a constitutional monarchy – rejecting the more radical Jacobin propositions. As mentioned above, the ideological beliefs of the Feuillants should see them placed to the right of the Girondists as the Feuillants were far more “conservative.”