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Unacceptable Decency

A gem from Kevin Williamson at National Review, Fake Hate Crimes:

The Left desperately wants Americans to be indecent people who go around attacking Muslims and foreigners with funny names, but, by and large, we aren’t. Campus feminists desperately want “rape culture” to be a reality, and so they invent phony rape stories from Duke to the University of Virginia, making sure to target fraternities and sports teams, which are to them symbols of patriarchy. These stories are given currency and credence by incompetent journalists such as Sabrina Erdely and her editors at Rolling Stone, none of whom had the intelligence or grit to question the transparently false claims made in “A Rape on Campus.”

Here is the thing: It is not only the hate crimes that are fake. For the most part, the hate they are intended to highlight is fake, too. No matter how many times Jamelle Bouie of Slate insists that American conservatism is an ideology founded in white supremacy, no matter how many times the halfwits at Salon claim that the neo-Confederate impulse is the motive behind Republican policy ideas, no matter how passionately every third-rate intellectual from Bennington College believes that “all heterosexual sex is rape,” it is not so. These claims are as fictitious as the made-up rape at the University of Virginia — they are simply more general.


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No Train to Utopia

from Kevin Williamson in National Review, Plans, Trains, and Automobiles

Trains are the preferred mode of transit if your ideal is central planning. Automobiles are the preferred mode of transit if your ideal is spontaneous order. It is in the nature of trains that they tell you where to go; it is in the nature of automobiles (for the time being, at least!) that you tell them where to go. If you have ever lived in New York and relied on the trains to get around, then you understand both the virtues and defects of the planning model: If everything goes according to plan, the system works pretty well. When the plan breaks down — which it always does — it is a mess, often a mess that leaves you with no choice but to go outside the system for an alternative. (That fellow from the 19th century would probably think Uber is pretty nifty.)

Likewise, if you’ve spent much time in Houston, Atlanta, Los Angeles, or any American city that got most of its growth in the post–World War II era, then you appreciate the virtues and defects of the spontaneous-order life: The price of gasoline is unpredictable, traffic is terrible in some places (although here there is a bit of central planning to blame, too, in the form of Dwight Eisenhower’s ill-considered federal highway system), the cost of owning and maintaining a car is very burdensome for some people and introduces an unwelcome degree of financial uncertainty into their lives, some people insist on driving their F-350 Super Duty trucks 87 mph while swerving from lane to lane, suburban sprawl, etc.

Transit, like most everything else in life, is about trade-offs. There are many roads that lead to home and subways that will take you to the office, but there is no train to Utopia.

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Ad Hominem Politics

A gem from Kevin Williamson at National Review, Fake Hate Crimes:

The Left, particularly in the English-speaking world, has been in intellectual crisis since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Left’s last really big idea was Communism. (Bernie Sanders would say “socialism,” and the difference is not entirely trivial: Communism begins with a gun in your face, socialism ends with a gun in your face.) When Communism was discredited — not only by the failures of central planning alluded to earlier but also by its horrifying body count of some 100 million victims in the 20th century — the Left was left intellectually unmoored. It has come up with strategies — environmentalism, feminism, identity politics, “1 percent” resentment politics — but no big ideas. This is a problem, because conservatism’s big idea — the marriage of free enterprise to liberal political institutions — is doing pretty well almost everywhere it has been tried. The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and countries around the world from Western Europe to Scandinavia to Singapore that have adopted, however partially and imperfectly, the universal truths embedded in Anglo-American liberalism are doing pretty well.

Venezuela isn’t.

The Left, for the moment, cannot seriously compete in the theater of ideas. So rather than play the ball, it’s play the man. Socialism failed, but there is some juice to be had from convincing people who are not especially intellectually engaged and who are led by their emotions more than by their intellect — which is to say, most people — that the people pushing ideas contrary to yours are racists and anti-Semites, that they hate women and homosexuals and Muslims and foreigners, that they could not possibly be correct on the policy questions, because they are moral monsters. This is the ad hominem fallacy elevated, if not quite to a creed, then to a general conception of politics. Hence the hoaxes and lies and nonsense.

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Fake Hate

Another gem from Kevin Williamson at National Review, Fake Hate Crimes:

Fake hate crimes committed by progressives are by this point so familiar that they are practically a cliché. When a Muslim woman at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette was attacked and had her hijab ripped off, two things happened: One, the Left insisted that this announced the coming wave of pogroms against Muslims in the Age of Trump; two, people who follow this sort of thing began betting how quickly she’d be exposed as a fraud. It did not take long. Incidentally, her name has been kept out of media reports, even though she faces potential charges herself for filing a false report. These hoaxers should be publicly named, as there is no legitimate reason to protect their identities.

There were other fake hate crimes attributed to Trump enthusiasts: Zeeshan-ul-hassan Usmani of Cary, N.C., says that he planned to leave the United States after an Islamophobic assault on his son following harassment by neighbors who named-checked Trump. School officials say there is no evidence that attack ever happened. A gay man in Santa Monica claimed to have been assaulted by Trump partisans, but the attack seems not to have happened. The San Francisco homeowner who raised a swastika flag was not a Trump supporter but a Trump opponent. A catalogue of similarly false, exaggerated, or distorted hate crimes has been assembled by Reason.


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A Nice Vague Enemy

from Word Games by Kevin Williamson in National Review

Before the neocons were the neocons, they were in more fanciful minds “the Illuminati.” For Henry Ford, the neocon was “the international Jew.” (The Stalinists called them “rootless cosmopolitans,” a term recently revived by Donald Trump enthusiasts.) The idea is always the same: that somebody, somewhere, is operating secretly behind the scenes, that there is a covert, monolithic enemy pulling the strings of history in ways that are obscure to the uninitiated. The reality of George W. Bush’s “democracy project” program for the Middle East — to bomb the Arabs until they became Canadians — just wasn’t crazy enough for his critics. There needed to be something more.

But it is a complicated family tree. The neocons used to be the Illuminati, but then, so did the new favorite conservative bugbear: the Deep State.

“Deep State” is a term that has been around for a while, often being used to describe extralegal political action in authoritarian regimes, especially in Turkey. The “Deep State” became a favorite conspiracy villain of the American Left, who described it as a nexus between the military, militarized law-enforcement agencies, the intelligence community, Wall Street (of course), and a few powerful political and business figures. An invisible enemy is very handy for the Left: It could not possibly be socialism that has reduced Venezuela to its current condition — it must be Goldman Sachs colluding with the CIA. The “Deep State” is sometimes conflated with what the political theorist (and, later in life, outright kook) Sam Francis called the “permanent government,” the bureaucrats and apparatchiks and such who remain in power irrespective of the outcome of any given election. They were a lot less scary back when they were “the civil service.”

“Deep State” and “permanent government” of course refer to real things. The federal government really does have employees, and those employees do not change every time the composition of Congress changes, every time there is a presidential election, or every time there is a change in policy. And as we have seen everywhere from the LAPD to the IRS, government agents have interests of their own — political and economic — and will, from time to time, go to extraordinary and even criminal lengths to frustrate the intent of the people’s elected representatives, to flout policy, to undermine real or perceived opponents, etc. That’s what Mrs. Clinton’s e-mail shenanigans were really about: The chief bureaucrat in the State Department had (and, I suppose, has) political ambitions, and she was willing to go to great lengths to avoid ordinary oversight in order to pursue those ambitions.

Where the current critics on the right go wrong — where they veer from criticism into conspiracy theory — is in assuming that the aims and ambitions of the various power centers within the federal bureaucracy are identical or aligned, that they represent a monolithic interest group that is both capable of coordinating efforts across the vast federal apparatus and inclined to do so. That creates exactly what the kooks and quacks and demagogues of the world most need: a nice, vague enemy that can be blamed for practically anything.