Thursday, June 09, 2011

The New York Times As Holy Writ

Michael Medved

When a journalist makes a concerted attempt to edit provocative comments out of the public record, it’s usually an indication that the remarks in question count as uncomfortably revealing.

That’s certainly the case with Jill Abramson’s suggestion on Thursday that her elevation to the position of executive editor at The New York Times amounted to a transfiguration and apotheosis, as well as the sacred fulfillment of the family faith that guided her childhood. Not only did she compare her new appointment to “ascending to Valhalla,” but in the original versions of a Times report by Jeremy W. Peters, she flatly declared: “In my house growing up, The Times substituted for religion.”

By the end of the day, someone toned down this touching testament of faith, suggesting merely that the new position represented “the honor of my life” for “someone who read the Times as a young girl growing up in New York ‘We are held together by our passion for our work, our friendship and our deep belief in the mission and indispensability of The Times,’ she said. ‘I look forward to working with all of you to seize our future. In this thrilling and challenging transition, we will cross to safety together.’”

And what will they cross, exactly? The Red Sea? Will Jill Abramson wield a miraculous staff to part the surging waters more effectively than did her predecessors Bill Keller and Howell Raines?

Even though specific references to a “substitute religion” ultimately disappeared from the Times website, much of the faith-based rhetoric remained. Whenever people use words like “mission” and “indispensability” to describe their work it indicates they view their positions as sacred vocations, not mere jobs.

So why, in that context, would Abramson and her associates feel the need to remove the explicit revelation that she grew up in a home in which the Times had replaced the Bible? One can assume that they attempted to edit those words because they provided inadvertent support to three of the most persistent criticisms of America’s Journal of Record.

First, there’s the obvious conclusion that when the Times “substituted for religion” in the Abramson household the newspaper didn’t just supplement the faith of the family, it supplanted it. This passing observation may have been intended with a self-deprecatory wink, but it identified Jill Abramson as proudly secular and separated her from the overwhelming majority of her fellow citizens who, in the words of one currently prominent social critic, “get bitter” and “cling to guns or religion.” Abramson in fact received her (pre-Harvard) high school diploma at the prestigious Fieldston School in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, a project of the Ethical Culture Society which attempted to substitute rational conceptions of morality and justice for outmoded religious teaching. The New York Review of Books sympathetically described the organization and its school (founded in 1878) “as havens for secular Jews who rejected the mysticism and rituals of Judaism.”

There’s nothing surprising in the appointment of a New York Times executive editor with little connection to organized faith, but with the newspaper receiving pointed criticism in recent years for its tone-deaf reporting on religious issues, the notion of a new boss lady treating the liberal pieties of the press as the equivalent of holy writ threatened to provoke needless new controversy.

Second, the creedal references suffusing Abramson’s exultations suggested a sense of purpose—of “her deep belief in the mission”—that fits uncomfortably with the preening pose of scrupulous objectivity that the Gray Lady strikes for a wondering world. Communities of impassioned religious believers may boast many virtues, but neutrality and detachment are not among them. Abramson’s suggestion of journalists “held together” by some shared faith echoes the charges of a shared ideology—confirming the core conservative critique of the organizations so lovingly described by Sarah Palin as the “lamestream media.”

Third, Abramson’s reference to “ascending to Valhalla” in accepting her new appointment (a reference that survived even in final versions of the article) represents a monumentally odd analogy in this context. In Norse mythology, Valhalla represents the majestic palace where dead heroes consort with Valkyries and the Gods. In the Ring Cycle of Richard Wagner (a notoriously anti-Semitic composer who would display little affection for Fieldston School graduates named Abramson) The Entry of the Gods Into Valhalla provides one of his most stirring, soaring orchestral interludes.

The claim that Jill Abramson now counts herself as part the godly company, with power and significance removing her from the normal coils of mortality, only underlines the image of journalistic arrogance that already troubles many Americans, with visions of an anointed elite haughtily lording it over lesser life forms. But there’s another echo in the Valhalla story that the immortals at the Times may come to rue. The Nordic myths describe the Home of the Gods as simultaneously glorious—and doomed. The destruction of this divine refuge counts as inevitable, for all the heroism and supernatural abilities of its inhabitants. With the deities of The New York Times continuing to struggle with falling circulation, challenging finances and a perception of growing irrelevance, this invocation of a magnificent center of power that’s fated for total destruction can’t count as reassuring.

After all, the Entry of the Gods Into Valhalla may occur early in Wagner’s Ring but the concluding installment bears the chilling title Gotterdammerung—or Twilight of the Gods. The Gray Lady may be a Goddess of the American press, but her new executive editor chose a creepy analogy to mark her appointment.


Sorry, you have to be addicted to drugs! British Boy Scouts told they're too well behaved to get council funds to repair their hut

For more than 100 years, the Scout movement has been supporting the community, helping young people realise their potential. So when one group in a deprived area applied for funding to help renovate a dilapidated hut which is almost as old as Lord Baden-Powell’s initiative, they thought they were in with a strong chance.

To their dismay, they were told they were not eligible for the cash – because their work does not involve drug rehabilitation for addicts or services to help young offenders.

Now the 1st Knowsley Sea Scouts face having to find the £250,000 renovation funds on their own. Around 70 Beavers, Cubs and Scouts use the group’s hut in Knowsley, Merseyside.

Last night, group leader Paul Lewis condemned the decision by Knowsley Council, saying drug addicts and criminals were being put before decent, law-abiding children.

Mr Lewis, 37, works with a Beavers group for children aged between five and a half and eight. He said: ‘It’s infuriating that the good kids who keep their noses clean are ignored and don’t get any financial support. ‘So much cash is made available for young offenders after they have committed crimes. ‘They will throw any amount of money at them.’

Mr Lewis, of Kirkby, Merseyside, added: ‘I’ve applied to the council but they have simply no money left – the chest is closed. 'Other charity groups have really tightened their belts and are not giving out money.’

The run-down 1920s Scout hut stands in one of the most deprived areas of the country. It is rotting and has no heating, according to Mr Lewis. Volunteers had hoped that local and national funding bodies could be relied upon to help.

But father of three Mr Lewis, a taxi driver, has been told his project simply doesn‘t meet public funding criteria. He said: ‘I just don’t understand why there isn’t any money for kids to keep them out of trouble in the first place.’

No-one was available for comment at Knowsley Council last night.


Ways to Defeat Islamic Jihadism

This is an urgent call to all free people to rise and defeat the Islamic Jihadists who are marching under the banner of the Qur’an to subdue all non-Muslims.

It is imperative that the values and the way of life of civilized people be protected against the assault of Jihadists’ savagery born from a primitive culture of long ago Arabia. There is nothing to negotiate here. Nothing to compromise, for the Jihadists are on a non-negotiable campaign of Allah. The goal of this mission from Allah is the eradication of just about everything that falls under the rubric of human rights.

It takes every free human to do his or her share in defeating Jihadism. Below is a partial list of what can be done.

* You don’t have to take up arms and go around killing the Jihadists. That’s the Jihadists’ way of dealing with us and anyone they don’t approve of. Decent humans value life, even the life of a Jihadist. By contrast, the Jihadists have no compunctions at amputating limbs, stoning, beheading and hanging people even en mass. The brutal mullahs ruling the Islamic Republic of Iran welcomed the new-year by hanging thirteen people, one of them the mother of two young children. We need to dry up their sources of support and beat them in the battle of ideas. We need to show them the fallacy and danger of their pathological belief.

* Fight to end the deadly practice of political correctness. Truth, only naked truth, can set us free. And freedom is our greatest gift of life. Life without freedom is death disguised as life. Remember Patrick Henry’s cry: Give me liberty or give me death. We must fight for life, for liberty and freedom.

* Demand that politicians, Islamic apologists, and paid-for media do not abuse freedom by lying about Islam. When these people portray Islam as a religion of peace, they are lying through their teeth. Just take a quick look at Islam’s history as well as what is happening today in the Islamic lands. Islam is not a religion of peace and it has never been. Islam is violent, oppressive, racist, and irrational at its very core. It is treachery for people to present it as otherwise, either out of ignorance or because of their own personal reasons.

* Challenge your leftist professors who may be retained by Islamic front organizations to trumpet Islam’s virtues. Demand transparency from hired lobbyists and the liberal mainstream media. Sadly, a percentage of people in Western Democracies are born alienated. These people seem to a have congenital hatred of their own societies; they ally themselves with any and all people and forces that aim to destroy our cherished way of life, and they live by the motto: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. They eagerly join forces with the Saddam Husseins and Hugo Chavezes of the world.

* Demand that Islamic literature, including the hate and violence manual called the Qur’an, be purged of all violent and hate spewed toward non-Muslims. Is it too much to ask that non-Muslims not be targeted for hate by the so-called sacred religious text? What kind of religion is this? Religion is supposed to bring people together, and not put them at each others’ throats. The Muslims must be made to understand that and they must reciprocate the tolerance that the non-Muslims voluntarily afford them.

* Do not allow any special privileges whatsoever to be granted to Muslims. Demand that all Muslims have their first and foremost loyalty to the United States and its Constitution and not to the Islamic Ummah, the Qur’an, and the shariah law. Europe is rapidly buckling under the pressure of Islamism. Just a couple of examples: Germany has legalized polygamy to placate Muslim men, Italy is forced to plan separate beaches for Muslim women.

* Demand that none of the barbaric provisions of Islamic sharia be practiced. Just because a woman is born into a Muslim family, that shouldn’t force her to lead a subservient life to a man, for example. All family matters and disputes, without exceptions, must be adjudicated according to the civil laws of the country.

* A Muslim is, first and foremost, an Ummahist, a citizen of international Islam. So, when a Muslim takes the United States’ Pledge of Allegiance, he is either ignorant of the implications of his pledge or is lying willfully. Sadly enough, taqqiyeh (lying, or dissimulation) is not only condoned, it is recommended to the Muslims in their scripture. Hence, a Muslim can and would lie without any compunctions, whenever it is expedient.

* Require that the large number of recent arrival Muslims be carefully vetted for their terrorism and Jihadist backgrounds and beliefs. Many recent arrivals from places such as Somalia, Iraq and Pakistan come as refugees and bring with them their pathological anti-American system of belief. It is criminal to admit these refugees without demanding that they completely renounce their allegiance to the hate dogma of Islam. Those diehard devotees of Islam should make any of the eighteen or so Islamic countries home, rather than invade the secular societies and aim to subvert them.

* Demand that Muslims, without the least reservation, adhere to the provisions of the human rights. Muslims, by belief and practice, are the most blatant violators of human rights. We hardly need to detail here Muslims’ systemic cruel treatment of the unbelievers, women of all persuasions, and any and all minorities across the board. To Muslims, human rights have a different meaning, and its protective provisions are reserved strictly, primarily for Muslim men.

* Go and talk to Muslims, particularly the young and the better educated, about the horror and the fallacy of a primitive belief that has been handed down to them through an accident of birth. Show them the magnificence of freedom, in all its forms; the indispensability of tolerance for all; and, the futility of clinging to an obsolete hodge-podge of delusional ideology. The onus is clearly on the Muslims to prove the validity, utility, and sanctity of the belief they intend to impose on all of us.

* As for democracy, our cherished way of life, Muslims have no use for it at all. Muslims believe that Allah’s rule must govern the world in the form of Caliphate: a theocracy. Making mockery of democracy, subverting its working, and ignoring its provisions is a Muslim’s way of falsifying what he already believes to be a sinful and false system of governance invented by the infidels. Reason, if you can, with the Muslims that their belief is an outright rejection of the greatest gift of life: Freedom.

* Support financially and in every other legal way those individuals and organizations that are fighting the Jihadists’ relentless encroachment. Many European countries are already on the verge of capitulation to the Islamists. The Supreme Guide of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, confidently proclaimed recently that Europe will be Islamic in a dozen years. He has good reason to say that. Muslims are forming states within states in much of European towns and cities. In Britain, for instance, non-Muslims are in serious danger entering Muslim neighborhoods.

In conclusion: Folks, get off your duff. Stop saying, “let FBI do it.” Neither FBI the agency, nor the “NSA, DHS" can do it by themselves. This is a battle for survival that every one of us can help wage. Let’s get on with it before, if not you, then your children and grandchildren end up under the barbaric rule of the Jihadists.


Australia's Left-leaning elitists sneer at the working class

'There is still a subconscious idea that if you aren’t living in a street with a view of Centrepoint, you are disconnected from the radiant beacon of city culture.' (NOTE: Unlike most of the USA, inner city areas in Australia are regarded as desirable places and lots of wannabes live there. There are few blacks in Australian inner city areas)

I had 13 years as a Sydneysider. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I went west of Auburn.

In those days, I probably would have looked a little askance at Summer Hill. Returning from work in Darlinghurst or after classes at the University of Sydney, I might occasionally stay on the train and go to Rockdale or perhaps even some distant burg like Blacktown, just to see what was there.

I did not hate "westies", as they might have been known, but I certainly feared and shunned them in any interaction where they did not recognise Newtown as the sun to their Pluto.

I was a snob, and my only defence is that the snobbery was, and largely remains, pervasive. But I was beginning to escape my middle-class illusions about the superiority of life at the centre. There is still a subconscious idea that if you aren't living in a street with a view of Centrepoint, you are disconnected from the radiant beacon of city culture - the only culture worthy of the name in Australia.

I'll always be middle-class, but I am no longer inner-city, having relocated to a suburb 20 kilometres from central Melbourne. Now I see the snobbery from the other side, and it is not pretty. Inner-city elitists in Australia continue to project views about large groups of otherwise diverse people simply on the basis of their location.

Today it's not the westies but the bogans. The word has murky origins, possibly related to the region and the river in central NSW, then popularised by Kylie Mole on The Comedy Company to become a nationally understood synonym for what were known in Brisbane as bevens, Hobart as chiggers, and Perth as bogs. Whatever: to my mind, it's code for "working class". I am reminded of the Kurt Vonnegut novel Breakfast of Champions in which a well-to-do couple have a secret code that allowed them to discuss African-Americans in front of their "coloured" maid: they discussed the "reindeer problem".

The word is "just a joke", some will say defensively, pointing to TV comedies such as Rebel Wilson's Bogan Pride - in which, incidentally, many of the funniest characters weren't bogans but "nerds". Some argue bogans are a "culture" not a "class". But ask them what's the difference, and the derisive term is laid bare: it's a new way to sustain class resentment, to pigeonhole people and places. They've created this creature that is a lesser human being to express unmentionable class hatred.

So poorly defined is the term, it's difficult to criticise its use in everyday life: it's applied to Julian Assange and Julia Gillard, and then to violent criminals. Publicising my book on talkback radio last week, many callers were adamant that bogans existed because they'd seen them: even listening to the multitude of definitions did not seem to deter audiences from the firm belief that their prejudices affirmed their experience.

I'm just happy to see the conversation take place. I want to see Australians stop demonising "bogans" who dwell "out there" on the suburban fringe, so commonly described in anthropological terms as though there was some kind of sub-species prone to antisocial behaviour. I would also be quite happy if those who describe themselves as "bogan" recognised that to identify as such is to demonstrate too much awareness to be truly a "bogan" in most people's minds. I would also be very happy to see an end to the assumptions that comedy and film - for instance, Angry Boys and Snowtown - are truthful representations, rather than extreme amplifications of the suburbs.

Is all of this ranting against the word "bogan" a plea for political correctness? Possibly, but not the way PC language is usually discussed. It's a plea for precision: it's about calling the disenfranchised, or marginalised, what they are - rather than a reindeer. Besides, if Assange, Gillard, Shane Warne and Eric Bana (yes, the charges have been laid, not just because he once played one on TV) are all bogans, who isn't a bogan? Is it praise, blame or demonisation? Some clarity in the argument might grease the wheels of the discussion, and who knows, we might just get somewhere for a change.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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