Tuesday, September 06, 2016
The new culture war dividing America
Underpinning the progressive elite's snobbery is a vicious class antagonism
The stirring speech made by the openly gay tech billionaire Peter Thiel at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland marked a critical change in the nature of the Culture Wars in the US. Rather than boo him for talking about his sexuality, or using it as a convenient opportunity for indulging in prayer, the sometimes less than gay-friendly GOP greeted his affirmation of his ‘proud’ sexuality with cheers, not jeers.
Thus, in 2016, in Cleveland, died America’s decades-long Culture Wars, which revolved largely around issues such as gay marriage, abortion and prayer in school. Despite his many outrages, Donald Trump, through his identification with figures such as Thiel, has buried the old cultural conservatism, along with its last standard bearer, Texas senator Ted Cruz, whose grandstanding non-endorsement of Trump at the convention may well consign him to the GOP’s fringe.
Trump, or perhaps more accurately his 13million primary voters, has improvised a new right-wing programme that emphasises economic nationalism, nativism and opposition to all things politically correct. Some pockets of the traditional right, horrified by Trump’s open hedonism and lack of grace, will no doubt resist this shift away from piety, but most of Middle America – the vast populace of the ‘flyover’ states, small towns and less-than-tony suburbs – seems to have moved on.
Redefining the Culture Wars into class war
Two developments have driven this change. One is an overall decline of religiosity among America’s working and middle classes. Concentrations of evangelicals in places like Iowa helped Cruz and sustained some of his better showings in the Deep South, but, overall, even in the heart of the so-called Bible Belt, the self-proclaimed prophet of the righteous proved no match for the raw nationalism of Trump.
Despite the hysteria its members evoke among progressives, the religious right has been in, to coin a phrase, secular decline since the year 2000. The legions of evangelicals have stopped growing, even as mainstream Protestants, in particular, have lost ground. The big growth now is among the unaffiliated, whose numbers rose from 37.6million to 57million between 2007 and 2014.
Trump – a thrice-married mainstream Presbyterian with little apparent knowledge of the Bible – benefited from this decline. He was rightly seen by Republican voters as the least religious of the major candidates, yet he outperformed the surgeon Ben Carson and the theocrat Cruz even among evangelicals.
Class seems to have won over piety. The white working and lower-middle classes, the most heavily attracted to Trump’s message, are themselves increasingly irreligious. They are now coping with many of the predicaments – out-of-wedlock births, drug abuse, marginal employment – long endured in minority communities. Of all American groups, they are the ones afflicted both by shorter lifespans and rising rates of suicide. As Pittsburgh psychologist Kenneth Thompson, who treats both white and black working-class patients, puts it: ‘Their social habitat is strained, and the strain is showing up in a looming body count.’
Faced with these grim trends, Middle Americans – particularly in the old factory towns of the Midwest and the Southeast – have stopped looking for God to save their communities. Instead they want someone like Trump, who promises, however cynically, to return good-paying middle-class jobs and block new trade deals. If the labour market can be improved by cutting off the flow of undocumented workers, much of Middle America is more than okay with that.
The war against ‘The Stupid’
Class increasingly defines America’s new Culture Wars, pitting the rising power of well-educated, and self-regarding, supermen (or should I say super-people), against those they regard as less cognitively gifted. This clerisy – the media, academia, the well-funded progressive non-profits – is now waging what the Atlantic recently called ‘a war on stupid people’, which, of course, extends particularly to those who back the loutish Trump. As a group, this educated caste shares increasingly uniformly progressive social views and are almost 50 per cent more likely to be Democrats than Republicans.
There are good reasons for the new cognitive class to like the progressive status quo. Along with the corporate aristocracy who fund the Democratic Party, the hyper-educated have thrived under Obama. In contrast, the bulk of the working and middle class have seen their incomes stagnate or decline.
The new class has little stake in the traditional economy – agribusiness, energy, manufacturing, suburban home-building – that has traditionally provided decent employment to the working and middle classes. Some among them, notably the environmental zealots, even decry rising living standards for ordinary Americans as the primary threat to the environment. The entire progressive agenda increasingly constitutes an attempt to drive poverty out of the centre of cities and into the middle class. And in Trumpian fashion, they want to make the middle class, with their tax dollars, pay for the privilege.
Race, national identity and the American future
Trump’s emergence has benefited from worsening race relations, as sadly demonstrated in the recent rash of cop killings. The terrorist attacks mounted primarily by young Muslims both here and in Europe, and a rise in violent crime, have contributed to the Trump campaign and could still make his victory, however unlikely, possible.
The mass migration of largely undocumented poor people from developing countries – mainly Mexico and Latin America – is also less than welcomed by working- and middle-class people, who not only have to accommodate the newcomers in their schools and neighbourhoods, but must also compete with them for jobs. In contrast, the upper classes in tony suburbs or prime urban districts see immigration as all good – it supplies them with cheap household labour, better restaurants and it injects some ‘colour’ into otherwise predictably dull commercial districts.
Nor has the progressive left done much to promote tolerance. The very premise of movements like Black Lives Matter implies that other lives, including those of police, are less important. The overwhelming white cognitive elite dismisses the legitimate concerns of the white working class and sees only unreconstructed racism.
This contempt spills into a growing dispute about the validity of America’s traditional culture. Now denounced for its past racism, it is rarely celebrated for its continuing success at integration. Globalist progressivism is so deeply entrenched in blue lagoons like Silicon Valley, it’s doubtful the oligarchs in charge even notice. Google, for example, recently celebrated the life of the radical pro-Bin Laden activist Yuri Kochiyama, but saw fit to ignore the anniversary of D-Day. Facebook and Twitter now increasingly curate the news like 19th-century Boston Brahmins, usually with a decidedly progressive bias.
Populism after Trump
In his Cleveland speech, Thiel pointed to what should really matter – issues of community, of economic opportunity and, yes, pride in being a citizen of the most powerful republic in world history. Many in Silicon Valley and the media prefer that the big issues are those of gender, race and sexual preference. But Thiel rightly consigned them to secondary importance, saying: ‘Now we are told that the great debate is about who gets to use which bathroom. This is a distraction from our real problems. Who cares?’
Trump sees this, too. He, at the very least, talks about sparking economic growth, which is a precursor to upward mobility. In contrast, the contemporary Democratic Party, notes former Bill Clinton adviser Bill Galston, now displays ‘near-silence on economic growth’.
Some right-wingers believe that Trump can win the presidency purely as the candidate of resentment. But his stridency, racial innuendos, lack of respect for basic decencies, and often unsupported claims are more likely to alienate voters – particularly suburbanites and middle-class minorities, who might have otherwise rallied to his standard.
Given its almost lock-step media backing, support from oligarchs everywhere, and Trump’s self-destructive lack of self-control, the Democratic establishment will likely prevail at the election. And it will use this as a perfect opportunity to turn more Americans into effective wards of the state. It will finance its agenda at the cost of the middle class while the hedge funders, tech oligarchs and real-estate speculators continue to feed at the trough.
However, the forces stirred up and tapped by Trump will not go away anytime soon, even if he loses. What the rebellion now needs, more than anything, is a messenger like Ronald Reagan in 1980, who appealed to earlier resentments but with a fierce sense of discipline and decorum. Some day, the swagger, arrogance and manipulation of the united ruling classes may have to confront a messenger who, unlike Trump, can make a more convincing case against them. Those who laugh today at Trump and his ‘stupid’ supporters may not be so jocular that day.
Report: UN-Accredited NGOs Are Promoting Incitement, Violence Against Israel
United Nations-accredited civil society groups are spreading messages of incitement, antisemitism and the promotion of terrorism against Israel, according to a new report due for release on Thursday.
In doing so, the report charges, the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are violating the terms of their original accreditation with the world body – yet despite mandatory periodic reviews by the responsible U.N. committee, their status remains intact.
The report (PDF), compiled by Human Rights Voices and the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust, includes numerous examples of statements, images and other material disseminated and made publicly available by U.N.-accredited NGOs, including on U.N.-accredited websites or at U.N.-accredited events.
The examples are classified broadly under materials inciting hate or encouraging antisemitism; condoning or justifying violence and terror; demonizing Israel; and delegitimizing and seeking the Jewish state’s destruction.
One example: a speech disseminated by the Islamic Human Rights Commission, a U.N.-accredited NGO, includes allegations of an Israeli “final solution” to the Palestinian question constituting “genocide, whether slow-motion or in blood-thirsty spurts of violence.”
Another U.N.-accredited NGO, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, was founded at an event in Libya whose opening address equated Zionism with Nazism, and included references to “devilish schemes which generate chaos all over the world,” and a “beastly octopus which has almost a decisive role in directing the policies of the greatest countries in the world.”
A 2011 document by the same group accused Israeli troops of “extracting human organs from killed Palestinians,” while a U.N.-accredited NGO called the Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture delivered a statement at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva early this year, accusing Israel of trying “to slowly kill prisoners by using medical negligence intentionally.”
“The Israeli occupation is the world’s only entity in which doctors torture and blackmail prisoners,” the statement alleged.
Numerous of the NGO statements and documents cited in Thursday’s report accuse Israel of “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing,” or equate its policies to those of the Nazis.
The authors of the report are critical not just of the identified NGOs, but also of the U.N. and member states.
“The buck stops with U.N. member states, who are the ones charged with the responsibility of awarding or continuing U.N. accreditation for NGOs in the first place,” said human rights law expert Anne Bayefsky, president of Human Rights Voices and director of the Touro Institute.
“U.N. member states that underwrite the United Nations are currently underwriting a burgeoning global network of intolerance and incitement to violent extremism,” she said.
“These states have the power and the duty – in the name of the foundational principles of the United Nations – to put an end to this affront to the dignity and the security of every human being and to the equality of nations large and small,” Bayefsky added, alluding to wording in the preamble of the U.N. Charter.
Officially, U.N.-accredited NGOs are required to have aims and purposes that are “in conformity with the spirit, purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”
Privileges and benefits
NGOs accredited by the U.N. enjoy significant privileges and benefits, including the right to take part in sessions of several U.N. organs, such as the Human Rights Council – and to have their statements there translated and broadcast via U.N. webcasts. They may also hold events in U.N. premises, and in some cases U.N. websites carry direct links to accredited NGOs’ websites.
The decisions on which groups are granted “consultative status” or other official accreditation, as well as subsequent periodic reviews of the approved NGOs, are the responsibility of the NGO Committee, a 19-country body that is a subsidiary of the U.N.’s 54-member Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
The NGO Committee has come under fire over the years over some of its decisions on approving or rejecting NGOs’ applications.
Last year it approved a British NGO with alleged links to the Palestinian terrorist group, Hamas; while in May this year it rejected an application from the Committee to Protect Journalists. (The CPJ decision was overturned in a full ECOSOC vote in July.)
Some of the NGO Committee’s more controversial decisions have been attributed by critics to the fact it includes countries with autocratic governments. Current members include China, Cuba, Russia, Sudan, Pakistan, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Azerbaijan and Burundi.
American taxpayers account for 22 percent of the regular budget of the U.N., which includes its major organs like ECOSOC.
“Democratic states, led by the United States, control the purse strings of the United Nations either from within the U.N. bureaucracy or through domestic policy,” said Bayefsky.
“Getting serious about combating the spread of intolerance and violent extremism means putting an immediate stop to the use and abuse of the United Nations to broadcast and support xenophobia and its lethal consequences.”
Council killjoys tear up village's only playground because they fear fat children could get stuck inside its giant play tunnel
Killjoy council officers have torn up a village's only playground amid fears that kids might get stuck in a fun tunnel - if they are too fat.
Mint Walk Recreation Ground in Warlingham, Surrey, once featured a concrete tunnel, tall enough for a toddler to stand up in. However, yesterday a demolition crew destroyed it as it was deemed too dangerous for children to use following a health and safety inspection.
Tandridge District Council have confirmed the tunnel was 'condemned' and had been removed to 'protect' local children and prevent them from getting stuck in it.
A section of the play area has now been shut off, denying the village's children a safe space to play and exercise during the end of the school holidays.
A spokesman for Tandridge District Council said: 'The council has removed the tunnel equipment in the playground at Mint Walk recreation ground in Warlingham to protect local children.
'Following a safety inspection the equipment was condemned and as a result the council took action to remove it.
'As a result an area of the park is currently cordoned off while the removal takes place, but this is not expected to take more than two days and it is anticipated the park will be open as normal at the weekend.
'It is the only piece of equipment that has been removed from the playground and plans are currently being finalised to put a new piece of equipment in its place and the Council will share an update about this soon.
'We apologise for any inconvenience the removal will cause but the Council's first priority is to ensure the safety of its residents.'
Another mad Muslim in Australia
Sevdet Besim sentenced to 10 years' prison over planned Anzac Day terror attack
A Melbourne teenager who planned an Anzac Day terrorist attack has been sentenced to 10 years in prison at the Victorian Supreme Court.
Sevdet Ramadan Besim, 19, had planned to run down and behead a police officer at an Anzac Day march in 2015.
Besim pleaded guilty to doing an act in preparation, or planning for, a terrorist attack — an offence which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
He will be eligible for parole in seven-and-a-half years.
Besim, from Hallam in Melbourne's south-east, had discussed his plans with a British teenager, who is now serving a five-year jail term after pleading guilty to inciting the Anzac Day terrorist plot.
The court previously heard that Besim and the UK teen also discussed painting a kangaroo in Islamic State symbols, packing its pouch with explosives and letting it loose in the city.
The teen was a friend of Numan Haider, who was shot dead by counter-terrorism officers after he attacked them with a knife in Endeavour Hills Police Station in 2014.
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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.