Thursday, April 25, 2013

Controlling the discourse

One of the ways the media controls the discourse is by pitting two ostensibly opposing sides against each other.  Person A, let's call him President Obama, wants to drone strike the daylights out of Pakistan.  Person B, let's call him Mitt Romney, agrees, but he would also like to bomb Iran.  This is the allowable range of respectable opinion when it comes to foreign policy. 

When Ron Paul points out that bombing someone's homeland makes them more likely to hate you, if not take up arms against you, the proper response would be: no doubt.  But in the context of our discourse, the sensible point is not examined.  After all, the Republicans and the Democrats recognize the wisdom of drone strikes, so only an "extremist" would advocate a position so far outside the mainstream.

Once you recognize that this is how things work, it becomes an amusing exercise to look at other media narratives that help undermine common sense.

Take immigration.  The Narrative insists that: "our system is broken."  Exactly what that means, is unclear; for the purposes of the debate, it means that the Government must Do Something.  Some of the Republicans and the Democrats have thus gotten together to try to pitch a bill to enact "Comprehensive Immigration Reform."  This will fix our "broken" system.  And since the plan is "comprehensive", it will ensure that the problem is completely solved, forever and ever, amen. 

The debate is thus framed in determining whether or not the bill is "comprehensive" enough to "fix the problem."  Its authors insist that this is because it will "control the borders" and ensure that "undocumented immigrants"--the implication here being that we are dealing, not with lawbreakers, but some sort of bureaucratic oversight--can come "out from the shadows.

As a brief aside, the reasons for the "bipartisan support" should be clear.  The Republicans love immigrants because they work cheaper than Americans, and hence help boost corporate profits.  The Democrats love immigrants because they vote for the Democratic Party.  One would think that the Republicans might have noticed this, but they don't call it the Stupid Party for nothing.

No one bothers to ask some rather pertinent questions.  So here are a few.

1) What has been the effect of the last fifty years of immigration on the native population, that forgotten band of citizens who live here and pay taxes?

One would think that we might be interested in the experiment of the last five decades, but we are much more interested in looking Forward.

2) What is the effect of immigration on wages and employment levels of the native population?

Hint for economists: what happens to the price of a good, in this case, labor, when its supply increases?  Wages go down, unemployment goes up, and, well, it's not like we're in the middle of a recession or anything, right?

3) What countries tend to produce better immigrants?  Are there certain countries that we should be targeting in our search for immigrants? 

This question is totally verboten.  All races are exactly the same.  And even if some immigrants, say, from Chechnya, cause problems, well, that can be no reason to be a "racist".  Racism is very, very bad!

A helpful analogy here is to think of the U.S. as a prestigious university.  Harvard lets in the best and brightest.  Certainly it pays respect to diversity, at least certain types, but it doesn't let in any riffraff.  Instead of defending the brand, like Harvard has done, Kennedy's 1965 immigration act decided that it would be wise for the United States to adopt the admissions policy of The University of Phoenix Online.

4) Don't we already have a guest workers program?  Does American need another one? 

Regarding the first question, John Derbyshire's counts give him either 12--or 20 such programs.  Surely the next one will "fix the problem."  And the answer to the second, is, no.  We have massive unemployment and stagnant wages.  When wages continuously go up in an industry, and when businesses in that industry can't find any American help, then it makes sense to look elsewhere.  But not until then.

5) Are there any perks to being an American citizen?

Try not to answer this one.  If you're part of the underclass, the elites want to replace you with a wonderful Mexican who will work more cheaply.  If you're one of the members of our shrinking middle class, the elites want to replace you with an equally amazing Indian or Chinese person who will work more cheaply. 

Perhaps if we had a guest worker program for journalists and politicians, they would start to speak for the suckers who actually live and work in this country. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Getting Home

G. K. Chesterton once wrote that: “There are two ways of getting home; and one of them is to stay there. The other is to walk round the whole world till we come back to the same place.” In The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, author Rod Dreher takes the long way home, while his sister, Ruthie, arrives by the more direct route.

This divergence causes a rift between the siblings, one which isn't fully resolved until the book's final pages. Just as Ruthie was completing her first year leading a classroom as a teacher in their small hometown of St. Francisville, Rod was given a break: an assignment at the Washington Times. Ruthie was distressed, telling their parents: “He's way up there in the big city where we can't help him. What if he gets sick?”

Instead, it was Ruthie who got sick: she was diagnosed with lung cancer. She refused to inquire into the odds of survival; though they were overwhelmingly against her, Ruthie remained upbeat through it all. Her small town, the one Rod had left behind to pursue his dreams, rallied around her. People came from miles away to visit Ruthie, to pray for her, to raise money for her treatment and other family expenses. As an old friend tells Rod, “This is how it's supposed to be. This is what folks are supposed to do for each other.”

It would be difficult to do justice to Rod's tender treatment of his sister's battle with cancer. Suffice it to say that it would take Oscar Wilde's proverbial heart of stone to read this account and not be moved. It is always painful when bad things happen to good people; Ruthie's goodness is so evident that it pains us all the more. Yet despite it all—because of God, because of the way the people of St. Francisville could lean on one another—there is a strange peace, too.

So after a long journey, Rod returns; he and his wife pack up their three kids and move back home. He writes: “My friends and I talked a lot about the fragmentation of the modern family, about the deracinating effects of late capitalism, about mass media and the erosion of localist consciousness, about the consumerization of religions and the leviathan state and every other thing other the sun that undermines our sense of home and permanence.” Yet, “The one thing none of us did was what Ruthie did: stay.”

The Little Way of Ruthie Leming sounds many of the same notes as Charles Murray's recent book, Coming Apart. Through a largely analytical approach, Murray tells the story of small towns like St. Francisville: its best and brightest skip town for the attractions of the city. Murray emphasizes the dark side of small town American, its plight worsened by the flight of so many of its residents. As Rod tells it, his town had its problems, too: “poverty... drunkenness... drugs... meanness, and conformity, and lack of professional opportunity.” But there is something that Murray's statistics fail to capture. In our cities, we may bowl alone, but, in towns like St. Francisville, people come together for one another.

Many of today's books insist that the solution to the problem—whatever it is—involves ten steps, all of which are grandiose and implausible. Instead, Rod admonishes us to “seek reconciliation... and love people”; he recounts how he patched up things with the blogger Andrew Sullivan. There is something else, too. If, like Rod, we have left, we can consider making that journey back home.

UPDATE: Rod has kindly taken an excerpt from my review over at his blog.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The anatomy of a non-story

Although redoubts of conservatism do exist, the media is overwhelmingly leftist.  Sometimes, this is merely annoying, but it can be pernicious as well.  For instance, while the media occasionally covered Bush's wars, when the reigns of power were handed over to Obama, coverage declined--even as drone strikes increased. 

Recently, the right has been incensed over the paucity of coverage in the case of Dr. Kermit Gosnell.  For a good write-up, albeit a gruesome one, see here.  Gosnell was illegally aborting children past the 24-week barrier set by the State of Pennsylvania, but his murderous run only comprises part of the story.  Descriptions of his clinic remind one Upton Sinclair's The Jungle or a Civil War hospital tent. 

The story itself is fascinating, although so ghastly that I can readily see why some would be reluctant to cover it.  Yet the flippancy of the media toward someone whom Terry Moran rightly describes as "probably the most successful serial killer in the history of the world" deserves a more serious investigation.  It's also worth contemplating the reasons such a significant story would be given short shrift.  So, in no particular order:

1) Unborn children are seen as far less important than babies.  Without a name, and a mother who weeps for her, an unborn child does not lay a claim upon at least the pro-abortion among us.  Which leads us to...

2) The line of demarcation that separates a child that can be murdered from one that cannot is very thin, often only a few inches.  Given that children born early in the third trimester still often survive, it is, at this stage, only the location of the child that makes murder permissible.  Shining a light on late-term abortions might cause us to point out this absurdity.

3) The left views abortion as somewhat embarrassing.  Smart people know to use their birth control so that this doesn't happen, but if it does, they take care of it quickly, they don't wait until 28 weeks into pregnancy.  I doubt that anyone will be so brash as to insist that the lesson here is that women need to be able to dispose of their children more quickly, but that's not to say that this isn't an angle some in the media would like to take.

4) Given the sanctity of abortion, its practitioners can get away with a lot.  One of the lessons of the Gosnell case was that the regulators who are meant to keep abortion "safe"--at least for the mother--failed completely.  This house of horrors had been running for years, and people knew about it.  But Gosnell was doing Moloch's work, and an investigation into his practice would have been the action of a turncoat.  Sure, women died in his clinic, but those lives must be balanced against the great good this man did.

5) There was no grounds for a leftist political program.  When children get mowed down in schools, it's horrible, but at least it provides an opportunity to talk about taking away guns.  Any takeaway here is bound to be bad for the abortion brand.  Everyone knows not all abortionists are like this, so let's just move it along.

6) Gosnell is black.  Perpetrators should be white, like Zimmerman, I mean the Duke lacrosse team that (practically) raped that stripper. 

7) Gosnell was racist--against blacks and Hispanics.  This one really irks the media, because if Gosnell was white, we could work the old racist angle.  But that dog won't hunt, even if it's another interesting aspect of this remarkable story.

8) A healthy percentage of the left knows that abortion is wrong, and they know that we know.  The parallel in terms of death is Nazi Germany, or perhaps Stalin's gulags, but there's a better example in black slavery, in this sense: just as slavery was indispensable to the south, abortion is indispensable in our society.  We're certainly not going to give up our illusions of sexual autonomy, and, although birth control is usually effective, we must be given recourse to abortion--just in case.  So you'll have to forgive us if we don't examine the issue too closely.  It's too important to do away with.

I actually agree with them in this regard, but if the price for maintaining one's lifestyle is millions of dead babies, that's a price I'm not at all willing to pay.  Eventually, we will dispense with our lifestyle, as the south did.  For now, we must be content to know that while we're not winning the cultural battle, the case against the evils of abortion becomes easier to make by the day--even if the media remains disinterested in that case.