Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Top Chicago prosecutor Kim Foxx subpoenaed over Jussie Smollett case

Blacks covering for blacks is unsurprising but this was gross

Chicago’s top prosecutor, Kim Foxx, has been subpoenaed to appear at a hearing over her handling of the Jussie Smollett case, according to a new report.

The Cook County state’s attorney was slapped with the subpoena by a retired judge who’s pushing for the appointment of a special prosecutor to look into how Foxx dealt with the controversial case, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Ex-appellate Judge Sheila O’Brien also subpoenaed Foxx’s top deputy Joseph Magats, and filed a document requesting that Smollett appear at the hearing, the report said.

Foxx came under fire when her office suddenly dropped 16 felony disorderly conduct charges against the “Empire” TV actor. Smollett, who is black and gay, was accused of staging a hate-crime attack on himself for personal gain and lying to cops about it.

O’Brien charged that Foxx’s handling of the case was “plagued with irregularity.

“Foxx’s conflict in this matter is beyond dispute,” O’Brien wrote, adding that Foxx should have sought appointment of a special prosecutor. “Instead, Foxx misled the public into believing that Smollett’s case was handled like any other prosecution and without influence.”

The former judge asked that Foxx and Magats produce all the original documents in the case to prove “that they have not been altered or destroyed and will not be destroyed throughout this case.”

Foxx’s office is also undergoing an independent inspector-general investigation on how she handled the case. Three members of her team, including her chief ethics officer and chief spokesman, have left the office.


Noise from the ‘constantly offended’ is breeding a kind of cultural fascism — and we all stand to lose

Bret Easton Ellis.

Somewhere in the past few years — and I can’t pinpoint exactly when — a vague yet almost overwhelming and irrational annoyance started tearing through me up to a dozen times a day. This annoyance was over things so seemingly minor, so out of my usual field of reference, that I was surprised by how I had to take a deep breath to dismantle this disgust and frustration that was all due to the foolishness of other people: adults, acquaintances and strangers on social media who offered up their rash opinions and judgments, their mindless preoccupations, always with an unwavering certitude that they were right. A toxic attitude seemed to drift off every post or comment or tweet, whether it was actually there or not.

This anger was new, something I’d never ­experienced before — and it was tied in with an anxiousness, an oppression I felt whenever I ventured online, a sense that I was going to somehow make a mistake instead of simply offering an opinion or making a joke or criticising something.

This idea would have been unthinkable 10 years earlier — that an opinion could become something wrong — but in an infuriated, polarised society people were blocked because of these opinions, and unfollowed because they were perceived in ways that might be inaccurate.

People began to instantly see the entire humanity of an individual in a cheeky, offensive tweet and were attacked and unfriended for backing the “wrong” candidate or having the “wrong” opinion. It was as if no one could differentiate between a ­living person and a string of words hastily typed out on a screen. The culture at large seemed to encourage discourse but social media had become a trap, and what it really wanted to do was shut down the individual.

What often activated my stress was that other people were always angry about everything, presenting themselves as enraged by opinions that I believed in or thought were simply innocuous. My pushback against all of this forced me to confront a degraded fantasy of myself — an actor, as someone I never thought existed — and this, in turn, became a constant reminder of my failings. And what was worse: this anger could become addictive to the point where I just gave up and sat there exhausted, mute with stress. But ultimately silence and submission were what the machine wanted.

As I was completing my novel American ­ Psycho in the fall of 1989, I showed some pages of it to the ­person I’d found myself having a relationship with at the time, a lawyer on Wall Street who was a few years older than me. Since we’d been together for a year, Jim naturally was curious about what I’d been working on, and because I hadn’t shown anyone a word from the book since I’d begun writing it two years earlier, I thought it would be OK if I let him take a look. In a few minor respects he had influenced the creation of Patrick Bateman, even if it primarily was a novel that expressed my personal pain when I was struggling and failing to accept adulthood in those lost yuppie years of the late 1980s.

After reading two chapters that had caught his attention, Jim turned to me and said, “You’re going to get into trouble.” I remember very clearly my flash of panic, and also the confusion swirling around me as I turned to him and asked, “What do you mean?” He’d just finished the section that leads into the first rape, and subsequent murder, of a woman, and simply said, “You’re going to get into trouble for that.” I instantly became annoyed and dismissive because this had never crossed my mind. But I also realised that if Jim — a level- headed Princeton grad who was always calm and low-key, never prone to drama — thought this might be true then it automatically carried a weight, particularly given how matter-of-factly he’d said it. I stared at him and asked, “Who am I going to get in trouble with?” And he said, “Everybody.” He read out loud a few lines about a rape that devolves quickly and viciously into murder — hard-core violence, definitely, but something I felt was justified within the context of who and what I was writing about.

Hearing Jim pull out those isolated lines, I supposed, could offend someone, though not within the narrative itself. This was an aesthetic intention of the portrait I was trying to paint — with those colours, with that brush — and I felt the explosions of violence were necessary to my vision. This was my dramatic instinct. There were no rules.

While Jim’s initial response didn’t have any impact on the book — I changed nothing on account of it — his reaction was always hovering somewhere in my mind, even after I turned in American Psycho to my publisher that December and it started moving through the usual production schedule. But as it was read and edited by my editor, then copy-edited, then handed over to the book designer, the rumblings began. People at Simon & Schuster were offended. Women were especially offended, but the mixture of violence, sexuality, and the sick-joke sensibility made the book seem shockingly misogynistic to some men as well. Just as Jim had predicted a year earlier, I was definitely in trouble.

The book was cancelled in November 1990, two months before the release date. Bound galleys had been distributed, and some early readers defended (whether they’d read it or not) the book I believed I’d written — a black farce with an unreliable narrator — but this didn’t matter: the noise from the offended was too loud, and I got kicked out of a corporation I hadn’t even known I’d belonged to. Ultimately, I was allowed to keep the advance, and another publisher (actually more prestigious) bought the rights and published the book as a trade paperback in the spring of 1991.

As the years passed by and the controversy ­surrounding American Psycho faded, it finally was read in the spirit in which it had been created — as satire. And a few of its biggest supporters were women, feminists, including Fay Weldon and the filmmaker Mary Harron, who went on to adapt the novel into a stylish horror-comedy starring Christian Bale that was released nine years later. My one takeaway from this drama was that I came to understand I wasn’t any good at recognising what would or wouldn’t tick people off, because art had never offended me; I understood all works of art were a product of human imagination, created like everything else by flawed and imperfect individuals. Whether it was de Sade’s brutality or Céline’s anti-Semitism or Mailer’s misogyny or Polanski’s taste for minors, I was always able to separate the art from its creator and examine and value it (or not) on aesthetic grounds.

Before the horrible blooming of “relatability” — the inclusion of everybody into the same mindset, the supposed safety of mass opinion, the ideology that proposes everybody should be on the same page, the better page — I remember emphatically not wanting what our culture now demanded. Rather than respect and niceness, inclusion and safety, likeability and decency, my goal was to be confronted by things. (The fact that I came from a “conventional” background — although in many ways it certainly wasn’t — might, I suppose, have encouraged my desire to see the worst.)

What did I want? To be challenged. To not live in the safety of my own little snow globe and be reassured by familiarity and surrounded by what made me comfortable and coddled me. To stand in other people’s shoes and see how they saw the world — especially if they were outsiders and monsters and freaks who would lead me as far away as possible from whatever my comfort zone supposedly was — because I sensed I was that outsider, that monster, that freak. I craved being shaken. I loved ambiguity. I wanted to change my mind, about one thing and another, virtually anything. I wanted to get upset and even be damaged by art. I wanted to get wiped out by the cruelty of someone’s vision of the world, whether it was Shakespeare or Scorsese, Joan Didion or Dennis Cooper.

And all of this had a profound effect. It gave me empathy. It helped me realise that another world existed beyond my own, with other viewpoints and backgrounds and proclivities, and I have no doubt that this aided me in becoming an adult. It moved me away from the narcissism of childhood and into the world’s mysteries — the unexplained, the taboo, the other — and drew me closer to a place of understanding and acceptance.

Lee Siegel, a writer and cultural critic, astutely predicted where we’d all end up in an essay defending Stanley Kubrick’s enigmatic dream-film Eyes Wide Shut, whose mysteries were much derided by literal-minded audiences and critics upon its release. What Siegel worried about almost 20 years ago could now be said to define our ­culture: the growing inability to accept any ­viewpoints that differ from the “morally superior” status quo. By coincidence I happened to be rereading this essay while listening to various ­college commencement speeches on YouTube in 2016, when it seemed more imperative than ever to advise students not to “Be Safe”, as so many of these speakers seemed to suggest, but rather to advise them to boldly “Be Unsafe” by refusing to live meekly within the bubble of the parenthesis.

The idea that if you can’t identify with something then it’s not worth watching or reading or listening to is now commonplace — and sometimes used as a weapon to attack others: for not being more “woke” by failing to make something relatable; for being racist when perhaps the offender is, for instance, just an uninterested or clueless white person; or for being a sexual predator instead of, occasionally, plainly a douche, a boor, a loser. “I can’t relate to it” had come to be shorthand for “I won’t watch it”, much as “I can’t identify with it” now means “I won’t read or listen to that”.

You hear this increasingly as a rallying cry, and not only from millennials, yet the idea behind it serves no progressive purpose; it marginalises not only artists but also, ultimately, everybody on the planet. In essence, it’s fascist. Here’s the dead end of social media: after you’ve created your own bubble that reflects only what you relate to or what you identify with, after you’ve blocked and unfollowed people whose opinions and worldview you judge and disagree with, after you’ve created your own little utopia based on your cherished values, then a kind of demented narcissism begins to warp this pretty picture. Not being able or willing to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is the first step toward being not empathetic, and this is why so many progressive movements become as rigid and as authoritarian as the ­institutions they’re resisting.


The resurrection is the central mystery of the Christian faith

Erick Erickson debunks "modern" Christians
As I do every year, I wrote my Holy Week column about Easter. Major historians, even atheists, recognize that the execution of a man named Jesus around A.D. 33 is one of the most — if not the most — significant events in human history. Christians go a step further. They believe Jesus rose again from the dead. And therein lies the problem.

Last week, I noted that “there are many who call themselves Christians, but only those who actually believe in the physical resurrection of Christ are truly Christian.” It is not a controversial statement, or at least, I did not think it was. But a lot of people took it as one man’s opinion and thought the statement was open for debate.

Around the same time, Nicholas Kristof, an opinion writer at The New York Times, produced another in an ongoing series of interviews he conducts with theologians about Christianity. Kristof interviewed Serene Jones, the president of Union Theological Seminary. Jones calls herself a Christian but says belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus is not necessary to be a Christian.

In fact, Jones says: “For Christians for whom the physical resurrection becomes a sort of obsession, that seems to me to be a pretty wobbly faith. What if tomorrow someone found the body of Jesus still in the tomb? Would that then mean that Christianity was a lie? No, faith is stronger than that.”

The problem here is that Christianity would be a lie if Jesus had not been physically raised from the dead. It is in scripture. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul writes: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.” Some progressive theologians get around this by claiming Paul corrupted Christianity, but the Apostle Peter, in 2 Peter 3:16, gives Paul’s epistles the same authority as other scripture, including the Old Testament.

The 21st century is overrun with people who think that unless they experience something themselves or have firsthand knowledge of a fact, there is no truth. This is deeply destructive. One need not go to space to know the Earth is a sphere. If you think the physical resurrection of Jesus being a necessary part of Christian faith is just one person’s opinion, it is time to stop thinking flat-Earthers are wrong.

With the same logic as those who reject the physical resurrection of Jesus but call themselves Christians, men who love women can call themselves lesbians and those who love to eat meat can call themselves vegetarians. After all, facts no longer matter and everything is opinion. Thinking a person can be a Christian while rejecting the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is akin to anti-vaccine advocates believing vaccines cause autism. Just because supposed experts make the claim does not make the claim credible.

We have two thousand years of Christianity. We have the words of Holy Scripture itself. We have the writings of the apostles. We have the writings of the men who studied under the apostles. We have the writings of the people those men taught. We have three major branches of Christianity in the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches, with denominations in the latter abounding. Every single one of them worships with an unbroken 2,000-year-old belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ.

It is the height of white Western arrogance to think one can be a Christian while rejecting settled, shared 2,000-year-old orthodoxy that has tied together a bunch of Christians who agree on almost nothing except that Jesus Christ physically rose from the grave. If one can be a Christian while rejecting the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, someone can also eat a steak tonight and rest well knowing he and his fellow vegetarians will probably live long lives so long as they do not fall off the edge of the Earth.


Fabric of democracy fraying under weight of the mob

GERARD HENDERSON writes from Australia

Isaac Butterfield was, until now, a little heard of stand-up comedian — until he included Holocaust material in his gig at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival this month.

According to a report in Melbourne’s Herald Sun, a Jewish woman emailed Butterfield complaining about some of his material. He replied: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the oven.” The original saying referred to “the kitchen”.

Butterfield’s word usage in this instance is brutally telling, especially when knowingly directed at a Jewish woman. It is an established fact many of the Jews who were murdered by Nazi Germany with poison gas were cremated in ovens. So how did the MICF handle the situation? Well, a spokeswoman said performers were able to express their views, even opinions viewed as offensive. Apart from that, the organisation went into no-comment mode.

This is the same MICF that recently dropped its Barry Award, following comments by comedian Barry Humphries describing transgender as a fashion. Similar comments in recent years have been made by the likes of Julie Burchill and Germaine Greer. The former’s views were removed from the Guardian website.

So, according to the MICF, it is appropriate to strip the name of Australia’s most famous comedian from its key award for making a comment about trans­genderism. But it’s quite OK for Butterfeld to dismiss the views of a Jewish Australian with a tasteless reference to ovens.

In a recent discussion with a young comedian, I asked what remains of humour when so many take offence, often on behalf of somebody else. He replied that it’s still legitimate to make jokes about conservatives. It was a reminder that in the contemporary West it is the Left that is into censorship of thought — and its targets are invariably conservatives.

In his 2019 Keith Murdoch Oration, News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson spoke about “the seemingly powerful global companies that panic and prevaricate at the first mutterings of the … media mob”.

His specific reference was to Google’s decision to surrender when “a mob of Google employees” objected to their employer’s decision to appoint Kay Coles James to an advisory council on artificial intelligence.

The problem was that James is president of the conservative Heritage Foundation. She is also a 69-year-old black American who, as a girl, suffered discrimination when integrated into a white school in Richmond, Virginia.

Thomson commented: “There is no doubt that a mob mentality has taken hold in much of the West and among the most pronounced of the mobs are illiberal liberals, who are roaming the landscape in the seemingly endless, insatiable quest for indignation and umbrage.”

The reference was to the North American use of liberal, meaning Left or left-wing in Australian word usage. He added: “It is vituperation as virtue.”

The latest expression of mob outrage in Australia has been directed at Israel Folau, a rugby union player and committed Christian. His secular “sin” was to post an Instagram warning to drunks, homosexuals, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters that hell awaits them — unless they repent. This was a selection of “the works of the flesh” nominated in St Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians.

Now it appears that Folau breached a warning from Rugby Australia not to make homophobic comments. But St Paul’s mes­sage to the Galatians was not confined to those termed gays today. Even if it were, a lifetime ban for a professional footballer is an enormous punishment for an expression of a religious belief.

The pile-on against Folau seems to begin with companies that advertise with Rugby Australia — most particularly Qantas, whose chief executive, Alan Joyce, apparently suffers no conscience pangs due to the fact the public company of which he is an employee has business dealings with some Muslim nations that are not exactly gay-friendly. And it goes all the way down to sneering secularists such as Nine newspapers’ Peter FitzSimons.

On ABC television’s Offsiders program on April 14, presenter Kelli Underwood and panellist Caroline Wilson bagged Folau and talked down fellow panellist John Harms, who, while not agreeing with the footballer’s comments, argued that his “religious position has to be respected”. Underwood accused Folau of attempting to “hide behind religion” to engage in “hate speech”. The inference is that it’s now hate speech for a Christian to quote St Paul and urge repentance.

What Thomson refers to as “a mob mentality” has even reached the doors of the Australian judicial system. In his judgment in the NSW District Court on December 6 last year in R v Philip Edward Wilson, judge Roy Ellis warned about the “potential for media pressure to impact judicial independence” in child sexual abuse cases.

Ellis’s concern was about “perceived pressure for a court to reach a conclusion which seems to be consistent with the direction of pubic opinion, rather than being consistent with the rule of law that requires a court to hand down individual justice in its decision making process”.

This was an important statement by an experienced judge — which appears to have been ignored by the NSW government. This trial did not involve a jury.

In his sentencing judgment in R v George Pell on March 13, Victorian County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd had this to say: “We have witnessed outside of this court and within our community, examples of a ‘witch-hunt’ or ‘lynch mob’ mentality in relation to Cardinal Pell. I utterly condemn such behaviour. That has nothing to do with justice in a civilised society.”

Again, this was a significant statement about the presence of a mob hostile to the defence and defence counsel by a senior Victorian judge — which appears to have been ignored by the Victorian government. This was a trial by jury.

Democracy has succeeded through the decades because its principal institutions — the executive, the legislature and the judicial system — prevailed against mob opinion.

Let’s hope this remains the case, otherwise intolerance and injustice will prevail.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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