Good Friday Morning! We passed another yearly milestone this year: it’s the 16th anniversary of the beginning of the US invasion into Iraq. Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer had an intriguing tweetstorm of the events, and he reminded me of the 2005 report on the Iraq War’s intelligence failings (key point: the favorite liberal line, “Bush lied, people died” is false). I also tend to agree with Jane Coasten over at Vox; it’s bizarre to listen to people say they opposed the war.
In March of 2003, 72% of Americans supported going to war in Iraq. SEVENTY-TWO PERCENT. Hilary Clinton’s support for the war as a Senator was one of the reasons she lost the primaries against Obama (also, then, like now, she was a lousy candidate). Obama said he opposed the war — but never voted on it because he got elected years after the vote. The point is this: everyone, except the hardcore anti-war types, was for the war. The media, including the NYT, drummed up the effort. Bush got authorization from Congress to enter that war, 297 House Reps (including 82 Democrats) and 77 Senators (including 29 Democrats) voted for the war.
Iraq and Afghanistan weren’t Bush’s wars. They are America’s wars. We chose to go there. And we’re still there 16 years later. Obama didn’t end the wars. Trump hasn’t stopped them either. And if we’re honest — it’s doesn’t look like anyone cares anymore. We’ve accepted a reality where our younger generation is just going to live with military vets with PTSD or blown off limbs.
I think the worst thing than war, is staying in a fight without a plan, and not caring about the impact it’s having on your citizens. What I’d like to see is a plan of action on winding these enterprises down. Either play to win, or stop wasting resources. I had mild hopes Trump would try that, but so far no luck. Either play to win or stop pretending to do something.
This week I’m covering the Christchurch terrorist attacks and examining what people are missing in all the attempts to ban and censor the shooter and his ideology. Links follow.
Where you can find me this week
Make sure to sign up for the Conservative Institute’s daily newsletter. You can also go to their Facebook page. You can join Ricochet here. And I do recommend their ever-growing network of podcasts, which you can find on all popular podcast platforms. They have a show for every topic you can imagine, and the list continues to grow.
The favorite question on the left now? Why have kids when the world is a horrible place and going to end in a few years? It boggles the mind to see the level of wealth, prosperity, and overall good we live in today and say its all bad.
The American left is determined to turn any event, no matter the motive or outcome, that involves guns into a gun control debate. What happened in New Zealand was a terrorist attack, and those terrorists had bombs in their cars. And the response they have is that when terrorists are running free in a city, and everyone is on lockdown, we should disarm innocent civilians. It’s mind-numbingly stupid.
New Zealand, social norms, and democratized culture
My piece for the Conservative Institute this week attacks some of the asinine responses from the left on that attack. I’m not going to repeat all the arguments I made there on the witless reactions from the left. But I will say, it’s wrong, in my view, to immediately start banning weapons in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. There’s an old trial lawyer maxim I come back to in the wake of tragedies when people want instant action: dead babies make bad laws.
The point is this: people make monumentally stupid legislative decisions in the aftermath of a tragedy. The last thing you want, as a lawyer, is for bad case law to develop just because the victim impacts a jury or judge’s decision. We need smart law — not emotional law. That’s the only way we get justice. Charles C. W. Cooke hit on this too in National Review in a piece titled: “Quick, act before anyone can debate you!“:
One doesn’t have to be opposed to strict gun control — as I am — to find this both dangerous and a little creepy. Indeed, I am struggling to imagine to many other circumstances in which the suggestion would be as uncritically repeated. Some of the worst legislation in all of history has been passed in the middle of crises or in the immediate aftermath of tragedies that engendered extreme emotional responses. Invariably, “don’t listen to the naysayers” is bad, bad advice. So, too, is “If the government is swift, it can do exactly what it wants to do.” And as for “don’t let the dissenters show you they are good people” . . . well, I’ll let you decide whether you want to live any country that heeds that counsel.
Patience, consultation, consideration — these are not bad words. Haste? That’s the enemy of freedom — and of good government, too. Thank goodness that our system tends to be slow. All praise to our checks against the transient and the frenzied.
But it’s not just the banning of guns that taking center stage in this case. The shooter had a manifesto he uploaded to 8chan, an area of the internet I’d call troll-central. The shooter also live-streamed his attack, giving viewers the chance to watch his killing spree, like a first-person shooter video game view. And after he live-streamed it, people copied and uploaded the video faster than services could remove it:
The past six days have been an all-out war between social-media giants and the people who hope to use their platforms to share grisly footage of the Christchurch, New Zealand, mosque shootings. It hasn’t always been clear who’s winning. YouTube described an “unprecedented” rush to upload video of the attack over the weekend, peaking at one attempted upload per second. In a blog post Thursday, Facebook said it removed 1.5 million videos in the first 24 hours after the attack, 1.2 million of which were blocked before being uploaded to the site, which means 300,000 videos were able to slip past its filtering system. These companies have blocked uploads, deleted videos, and banned users—but people are still outsmarting the technology intended to block the footage from spreading on social media.
And it’s not just straight uploads that concern these services, they’re also concerned people will splice footage into normal video uploads that will bypass any artificial intelligence or even human monitors. The Atlantic also ran a critical piece about Instagram, complaining about how Instagram “allowed” conspiracy theories, hoaxes, and other things to float around freely on their service.
Everyone, it seems, is calling for these tech companies to crack down on the videos, posts, and other things users are uploading to their service. People want to blame tech companies for allowing “bad things” to make it onto mainstream services.
This point misses a pretty crucial aspect: these tech services don’t view themselves like newspaper publishers who are responsible for what they print, they’re just platforms for users to upload and use.
Second, and more importantly, you could get rid of every single one of the tech companies, snap your fingers like Thanos and watch them fade away, and you wouldn’t change, impact, or stop the spread of fake news, hoaxes, or evil uploads like the Christchurch shooter. No one seems to realize the world we live in now.
The internet age is the next significant era, and you’re living in it. You hear people talk about the stone age, iron age, agricultural, and industrial age — well the industrial age ended the moment the internet started. We’re in the internet age, and it has done one thing that humanity has never experienced: the complete democratization of culture, society, and information.
Before the internet, if you wanted to print your opinion, air a radio or television newscast, or speak your opinion in the public sphere, you needed to get past the gatekeepers. Major corporations and their editors held the keys to accessing the eyes and ears of people. If you didn’t like how ABC, CBS, or NBC presented the news, you were mostly out of luck. Some resistance got created, magazines like National Review presented an alternative take on the story. But even then, a new set of gatekeepers got created.
The internet destroyed all of that.
The price of entry for presenting your opinion now? It’s free.
You can pick up your phone and start broadcasting or recording or writing or doing anything. I’m writing a newsletter now, and it’s sent out to a list of subscribers like you, and I don’t have to pay postage or any other fees. This type of enterprise cost significant money in the past.
Because there were barriers to entry, and because editors acted as a kind of filter, a lot of the “evil” ideas got pushed out of the mainstream. Sure you have writers impacting things with books, but books are a hard thing to create and take time and money. Matthew Continetti, editor in chief of the Washington Free Beacon, wrote about this phenomenon on the right for Commentary Magazine back in 2016. What I want you to realize though, what he’s describing is happening everywhere, not just on both sides of the political aisle — but in every aspect of society:
But anyone with the Internet can write a blog or tweet or Facebook post or can Skype or record a podcast. The castle no longer has walls. The gatekeepers are mostly useless. Yes, the rise of social media may have helped conservatives—it allowed them to investigate, report, opine, entertain, and influence politics and policy by giving them the means to bypass liberal outlets. We’ve gone from a universe with half a dozen conservative journals publishing on infrequent schedules to one where there are dozens of center-right websites operating 24/7. I edit one of them.
But there is also a cost. As conservative media has proliferated, the authority of any one man or publication or radio show or television network has receded to the point of invisibility. For a time conservatism may have resembled the Catholic Church, with Buckley as pope, issuing bulls and ex-communicating heretics. But conservatism these days more closely resembles Islam, with untold numbers of mullahs issuing contradictory fatwas, with antagonistic schools of thought competing for adherents, with not a few radicals eager and willing to blow the whole thing up.
For now, on the right, the closest thing to a Catholic Church is Fox News and AM Talk Radio. They tend to define the contours of the modern right, but even that isn’t perfect, and they respond wholly to what their audience is doing.
And that brings me back to the Christchurch shooter. People want to block the manifesto, ban guns, and have tech companies pull all the videos but they don’t seem to realize: that’s impossible.
It’s easier than ever to speak your mind, kill people, upload offensive material to millions, and gain access to depraved ideas. You can’t ban things when gatekeepers don’t exist anymore.
New Zealand can ban all the guns it wants — it won’t stop terrorist attacks or mass casualty events. A terrorist drove a truck through Nice, France and killed 84 people on Bastille Day. I was on Twitter reading through tweets when the video of that event hit my feed — people were living streaming the aftermath, walking through a street covered in blood and dead bodies. It was shocking and burned into my mind forever.
When I heard the Christchurch attack was in progress and the killer was live-streaming, and people were sharing that video, I immediately got off Twitter. I had no interest in seeing that video or watching the response from liberals.
It’s not about guns; it’s not about artificial intelligence, or tech companies, or anything else. We live in a democratized society where anyone can mostly do anything with little consequence. You can’t control that by algorithm or law.
In a sense, this is another reason socialism is rising again. Socialism offers the false promise of controlling all these areas via state power. But that’s a false promise too if you’ll notice in countries like Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, and China, the thing those governments fear the most is free and open internet. If people can freely communicate, the communist/socialist facade gets destroyed.
So how do we handle these situations?
I don’t know.
The internet era is changing how we handle norms. Think about these things:
- Younger generations are taking selfies and other narcissistic pictures at places like the Holocaust Museum. One particular site specializes in these, calling it Yolocaust.
- Funeral directors are asking people to stop taking selfies at funerals.
- Shock jocks have given way to shock Youtubers like Jake and Logan Paul, whose adventures in Japan are just awful.
- Deep fake technology exists that allows you to make anyone, dead or alive, say and do anything you want.
- Christchurch shooter’s manifesto and live streaming of shooting.
And you can say all these things are bad, but how do you stigmatize “bad behavior” when everyone gets rewarded with more followers, likes, and attention from their behavior? The shooter was a nobody before Christchurch, and now that he’s famous, he has minions spreading his work everywhere.
The point is: if you can’t stigmatize selfies at a funeral — how do you expect to handle white supremacists shooting up a mosque?
These are cultural issues, not tech or legislation based. And until we start shifting the culture, you won’t change these events.
Links of the week
Palestinian Lives Don’t Matter (Unless Israel is to blame.) – Bret Stephens, The New York Times
Rare protests erupt against Hamas’s 12-year rule over Gaza – Fares Akram, Boston Globe
Hamas Detains Hundreds After Violently Suppressing Gaza’s ‘Revolt of the Hungry’: Young Palestinians took to the streets despite the violence, intimidation and Israeli attacks, to protest the dire economic situation. Hamas blames the PA for harming ‘resistance to the occupation’ – Amira Hass, Haaretz
An Interview With Lisa Littman, Who Coined the Term ‘Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria’ – Jonathan Kay, Quillette
Why Elizabeth Warren Is Wrong About the Electoral College: The Constitution is impossible to change on a partisan basis. – Rich Lowry, Politico Magazine
Against the Dead Consensus – Various, First Things
In Defense of the Iraq War – David French, National Review
Donna Brazile Explains Why She’s Working for Fox News – Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker
Media Gives Itself Award for Disastrous Gun-Control ‘Town Hall’ – Charles C. W. Cooke, National Review
CNN Wins Cronkite Award For That Garbage Gun-Control Town Hall It Held After Parkland – Allahpundit, HotAir
Life Is a Lot Harder When You’re Not Running against Ted Cruz – Jim Geraghty, National Review
Why Elites Dislike Standardized Testing – Daniel Friedman, Quillette
The Beto Woke Wars: The identitarian left has turned on Beto O’Rourke, and things are getting ugly. – Tim Miller, The Bulwark
Is Beto O’Rourke Learning How To Troll The Media? – Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight
The Connecticut Supreme Court Just Placed the Firearms Industry under Legal Threat – David French, National Review
Why do Republicans still back Trump? The answer is simple: Attitude and gratitude – Scott Jennings, The LA Times
Ricky Gervais on Provocation, Picking Targets and Outrage Culture – David Marchese, The New York Times Magazine
The Trap House-Busting Vigilante of Pine Ridge Reservation: After Julie “Mama Julz” Richards’s own family was nearly destroyed by addiction, fighting back against meth became a personal crusade. – Taliesin Gilkes-Bower and Rebecca Bengal, Topic Magazine
Destined for Export: The troubled legacy of Guatemalan adoptions – Rachel Nolan, Harpers
The Great Star Wars Heist: In 2017, an uncovered toy theft ruptured the Star Wars collecting community. Two years later, the collectors—and the convicted—are still looking for a way forward. – Alexander Huls, Popular Mechanics
Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry: People who are short on relatives can hire a husband, a mother, a grandson. The resulting relationships can be more real than you’d expect. – Elif Batuman, The New Yorker
Satire piece of the week
WASHINGTON—Saying it was time to “get out the hog for one last ride,” former Vice President Joe Biden pulled the dusty painter’s tarp off of his old campaign motorcycle Wednesday, gently running his hand along the polished chrome headlight and muttering “welcome back, baby.”
The vehicle, a 1979 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide with flame decals on both the front and rear fenders, had reportedly been sitting at the back of his garage since the last time he “tore ass” around the capitol in 2012. Sources confirmed that after checking to see if the horn still worked, Biden grabbed a red chamois cloth from his back pocket, spit into it, and begin buffing the bike’s custom “Diamond Joe” gas tank.
“The Cherry Chariot rides again,” said Biden, patting the sheepskin seat and releasing a small cloud of dust that was visible in the shop light above his 1980 Christy Brinkley Sports Illustrated poster. “Still a looker that can turn every damn head on the block.”
Thanks for reading!