In which we reflect on the woes of the Guardianista class, on the great thinkers of academia, and on the mind-shattering wonders of contemporary art.
In January we marvelled at the modesty of the novelist Brigid Delaney, who told Guardian readers that her lifestyle and living arrangements should be determined not by her budget, as is generally the custom, but by her self-estimated importance as a creative person. And therefore taxpayers should pay for her to live in a much nicer flat in a more happening part of town. On the same day in the same paper, fellow creative person Amien Essif bemoaned the fact that “there’s not much money in writing these days.” And so, again, the taxpayer must be made to “subsidise creativity” – including Mr Essif’s own writing on “consumerism, gentrification and hegemony.” For which, it turns out, there isn’t much of a market.
February brought us other elevated sensibilities, among them those of David Dennis, a man who regards the word “serve” as sexist and who, at home, frets about how food is put on plates. For him, meal times are a theatre of patriarchal oppression and fraught with complication. Gender politics also inspired the radical ladies of Columbia University to combat “male-centricity” by making all-girl pornography that is “hard to masturbate to.” Because thwarting masturbation with badly-made erotica is both a “guerrilla action” and “a feminist statement.”
In March the Guardian unveiled its roster of trainee journalists, thereby offering a glimpse of Guardians-yet-to-come. These hothouse talents, for whom lifestyle and pop culture are areas of expertise, promised to tackle “the issues that matter” to an entire generation, from students’ bedrooms and “canoeing to work” to an extended critique of drop-crotch meggings. Meanwhile, the paper’s Leo Hickman looked back on ten years of struggling with ethical purity and the “pangs of consumer guilt” brought on by buying Kenyan mangetout. Being so globally sensitive, Mr Hickman believes that the way to make Kenyan pea farmers richer is to not buy their goods. Despite his displays of piety, Mr Hickman was assailed by his even more pious readers, who pointed out that our fretful Guardianista “cannot be living ethically” or be “environmentally sound” while also having mains power and three healthy children.
April drew to our attention the talents of Ms Keeley Haftner, a taxpayer-funded artist and self-styled educator of the masses, who, in the name of art, deposited garbage on the streets of Saskatoon and was subsequently bewildered by said taxpayers’ lack of gratitude. Oh, and Guardian contributor Paul Krugman was paid $25,000 per month to think about the wickedness of economic inequality.
In May we beheld the fearsome intellect of Ms Lierre Keith, a radical eco-socialist and “gender abolitionist” whose interests include “sabotaging infrastructure” and cutting power lines, on grounds that leaving tens of thousands of people without light and heat will somehow encourage “class consciousness” and the end of capitalism.
Urban Studies lecturer Peter Matthews was a highlight of June, thanks to his concern for litter inequality, though with no apparent interest in how litter actually materialises, and his idea for defending the “poor and marginalised” with a “physically radical intervention” – i.e., demolishing homes nicer than his own. Another June notable was Ms Silvia Murray Wakefield, a “London-based feminist and mother of two,” who finds the World Cup distressing and oppressive, due to her belief that all of womanhood is being “erased” by a sporting event that occurs once every four years.
Not in the Guardian, as is generally the custom, but in the Spectator, thanks to Carola Binney, an undergraduate history student at Magdalen College, Oxford, who “writes on student life.” In keeping with tradition, the headline is bold:
Cloakrooms should be free to stop young women freezing to death.
If the thought process behind the headline (and its missing comma) is somewhat unobvious, Ms Binney elaborates:
As I wiggled into my tights in preparation for an end-of-term night out, I was faced with the perennial clubbing question: should I take a coat? Logic, and my mum, would say the answer was obvious. My outfit was hardly cosy, and a tipsy walk home at 2am in December is an adventure best braved from within my wardrobe’s most wind-proof, water-proof and fur-lined offering. But the question wasn’t just one of insulation – I had a financial decision to make. The cloakrooms at most Oxford clubs cost between one and two pounds: what did I want more, healthy circulation or a Jägerbomb?
Ah, the life of the mind. Our thoughtful undergraduate goes on to share Dickensian tales of underdressed drunkenness, thereby illustrating the seriousness of her latest cause:
25-year-old Bernadette Lee, for example, died of hypothermia last January after going on a night out in the Kentish snow with no coat.
“Coats,” she informs us, “are especially essential on nights out, because alcohol, although it makes you feel warmer, makes you more vulnerable to hypothermia.” From this, she concludes,
If local councils are looking for a way to protect young women on nights out, they ought to make a free cloakroom a condition of a club’s license.
Readers may wish to take a moment to process Ms Binney’s mindset of entitlement, a mindset not uncommon among our brightest and best. Specifically, the belief that coat-wearing in winter can only be achieved – say, by students at Magdalen College, Oxford, which, incidentally, boasts its own deer park – if local nightclubs are forced to provide storage for these items entirely free of charge. On account of the reluctance of said students to part with one, possibly two, whole British pounds. Money that might otherwise be spent on roughly one half of a tasty and nutritious Jägerbomb. You see, they can’t be arsed to pay. Therefore someone else should.
Two male customers ordered their sandwiches with diced onions, but when the sandwiches were presented the onions were not diced. The argument escalated until one of the men reached into the pocket of his friend’s jacket “pulled out a snake and threw it behind the counter.”
Via Mr X, Charles Cooke is entertained by a circus of competitive indignation:
As it has grown in popularity, the [anti-catcalling] video has been transformed into a blank canvas, onto which America’s brave advocates of hyphenated-justice have sought to project their favoured social theories. Evidently unwilling to let the spot stand on its own, Purdue’s Roxanne Gay wrote sadly that “it’s difficult and uncomfortable to admit that we have to talk about race / class / gender / sexuality / ability / etc., all at once.” Alas, she was not alone. Soon, the claims of “sexism” had been joined by accusations of “racism” and of “classism,” [video makers] Hollaback had been forced to acknowledge that it had upset the more delicate among us, and those who had celebrated the video [for its feminist stance] had been denounced as unreconstructed bigots.
A video that shows a Jewish woman being sexually harassed while walking on New York City streets has engendered tremendous outrage — not so much for the fact that she was sexually harassed, but because there weren’t enough white guys doing it.
Da’von Shaw, a Bedford, Ohio high school student, brought apples and craisins to school for a “healthy eating” presentation he was giving to his speech class. He took out a knife to slice an apple, and I’m sure you can all guess what happened next.
And Ed Driscoll reflects on how the New York Times became a (bad) student newspaper:
In the summer of 1992, the Times published a piece co-written by two seniors at Columbia who claimed to find all sorts of “disturbing” anti-Semitic allegories in the Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer film Batman Returns. “The biblical allusions and historical references woven into the plot of Batman Returns betray a hidden conflict between gentile and Jew,” they wrote. “Denied his own birthright, the Penguin intends to obliterate the Christian birth, and eventually the whole town. His army of mindless followers, a flock of ineffectual birds who cannot fly, is eventually converted to the side of Christian morality.” It’s some piece of work, and a reminder that calling for the banning of elections might actually not be the craziest thing that the Times has published by a college journalist eager for his first national byline.
As usual, feel free to share your own links and snippets in the comments. It’s what these posts are for.
The contemporary performance artist is, aswe’veseen, a supremely political creature, forever troubled by acute socio-political sensitivities, with insights and perceptions far beyond the ken of mortal beings. Should any of you dare to question that sensitivity, I steer you to the ever-twitching antennae of the performance artist and educator Marilyn Arsem, specifically her description of her own immensely subtle piece, U.S. Domestic Policy II:
My performance was on November 3rd 2010, the day after the elections that brought back a majority of Republicans to the Congress. While the news was not unexpected, it nevertheless gave me a sinking feeling when I awoke that morning to read the election results in the newspaper. I couldn’t help but do a performance called U.S. Domestic Policy as a result.
But of course. What other response could there possibly be?
With the help of an intern, I purchased quantities of beautiful ripe fruit - plums, oranges, kiwi, and a bag of red peppers, as well as a hammer and a water glass.
At this point you may have some inkling of where this is going.
The performance was a systematic act of destruction. I sat at the table and first raised a line of red peppers into the air. Then I methodically destroyed the tableful of fresh ripe fruit.
Uncanny, isn’t it? You must have the gift of mentalism.
I started with the hammer, but quickly began using only my bare hands. It took a surprising amount of time to crush each piece.
Juice spread over the table, and the smell of oranges permeated the room. I continually swept the detritus to the floor as the pile of fruit was reduced, until only a tall glass of water remained on the table. After taking a long sip of water, I carefully set the glass down, and slowly, excruciatingly slowly, inched the glass of water across to the far side of the table, where it hovered for several moments half off the edge, before finally crashing to the floor.
That sound you hear is your mind being expanded as political consciousness rushes in to fill the void.
Urban Studies lecturer Peter Matthews worries about the unequal distribution of litter and suggests bulldozing Belgravia. For the poor.
Our postcode class warrior links to a report fretting about how to “narrow the gap” in litter, how to “achieve fairer outcomes in street cleanliness.” But neither he nor the authors of said report explore an obvious factor. The words “drop” and “littering” simply don’t appear anywhere in the report, thereby suggesting that the food-smeared detritus and other unsightly objects just fall from the clouds mysteriously when the locals are asleep. And fretting about inequalities in litter density is a little odd if you don’t consider how the litter gets there in the first place. Yet this detail isn’t investigated and the report can “neither confirm nor reject the idea that resident attitudes and behaviours are significant drivers of environmental problems.”
Performance artists Katy Albert and Sophia Hamilton hit each other with pillows, thereby sharing their radicalism with the unthinking proles.
One has to wonder what our creative betters’ long-term plan is. How, exactly, were they hoping to entice employers and repay the cost of their extensive education? Is incongruous pillow flailing – sorry, “strategic refraction” - a skill in demand? Is it something the public cries out for and will rush to throw money at? What do the ladies plan to do when they’re, say, forty, or fifty? Given the improbability of such people being self-supporting in later life - at least in their chosen line, the one for which they’ve studied - do they have wealthy parents who will indulge them indefinitely? Or do they expect their talents, such as they are, to be rewarded with other people’s earnings, confiscated forcibly by the state and redistributed as artistic subsidy? And is self-inflicted dependency a thing to encourage and applaud? I ask because the ladies say they want us to “think critically.”
The Guardian’s Matt Seaton rages against tiny cakes, which are apparently exploitative and mentally debilitating, at least to womenfolk.
After telling us at length just how terrible and mind-warping these tiny fancies are, Mr Seaton adds, “I don’t want to ban cupcakes.” And yet he feels it necessary to say this, as if banning miniature sponges would be an obvious thing to consider, the kind of thing one does. And after banning them in his own office. An accomplishment that a fellow Guardianista, the daughter of the paper’s editor no less, regards as confirming Mr Seaton’s moral credentials: “I used to bring cakes into the office a lot, and Matt put a ban on it because he was worried about how much sugar we all ate. Practises what he preaches this man.” Come work at the Guardian, where the party never stops.
There’s more, should you want it, in the greatest hits. And tickling the tip jar is what keeps this place afloat.
Charles Murray reflects on his book The Bell Curve, and its reception, twenty years on:
The reaction to The Bell Curve exposed a profound corruption of the social sciences that has prevailed since the 1960s. The Bell Curve is a relentlessly moderate book — both in its use of evidence and in its tone — and yet it was excoriated in remarkably personal and vicious ways, sometimes by eminent academicians who knew very well they were lying. Why? Because the social sciences have been in the grip of a political orthodoxy that has had only the most tenuous connection with empirical reality, and too many social scientists think that threats to the orthodoxy should be suppressed by any means necessary. Corruption is the only word for it.
Another factor furthering grade inflation has been the self-esteem movement and the belief that having a high opinion of oneself is a prerequisite to self-confidence and high achievement. The fact that… feeling good about oneself unconnected with one’s actual striving or achievement is usually a formula for indolence and lethargy — if not actual narcissism — hasn’t diminished the appeal of the movement to many university administrators… It is also a major reason, I believe, why American students, who in international comparisons have the highest self-esteem, lag so far behind those in many Asian countries in becoming top flight engineers and scientists.
When I was a teenager taking A-levels, my class was told – ominously, several times - that the minimum grades for acceptance at university were two ‘A’s and a ‘B’. More recently, in 2011, while listening to Radio 4’s rural soap The Archers, I heard Ambridge’s teen eco-warrior Pip excitedly announce her A-level results – “a ‘B’ and two ‘C’s.” She was therefore, naturally, going to university.
Vegetarians and vegans had significantly lower sperm counts compared with meat eaters, 50 million sperm per ml compared with 70 million per ml. They also had lower average sperm motility – the number of sperm which are active. Only one third of sperm were active for vegetarians and vegans compared with nearly 60 per cent for meat eaters.
And Amy Powell relays a tale of stalking gone awry:
A 28-year-old woman rescued from a chimney at a Thousand Oaks home was allegedly trying to break into the home of a man she had met online. Residents reported hearing the sound of a woman crying in the area at about 5:45 am. Deputies found Genoveva Nunez-Figueroa trapped inside the chimney. Ventura County Fire Department and Urban Search and Rescue members had to dismantle the chimney in order to get Nunez-Figueroa out. She was lubricated with dish soap prior to being hoisted out… This is the second time Nunez-Figueroa was found on [the homeowner’s] roof. Two weeks ago, he spotted her and called police, but she disappeared.
As usual, feel free to share your own links and snippets in the comments. It’s what these posts are for.
People are in revolt against Big Retail… The fall of this empire looks as though it will be fast… It is hard to mourn.
It seems I’d missed these dramatic events, this fall of empire and popular revolt. Perhaps, like many others, I was busy buying groceries at a reasonable price in a pleasant, airy supermarket with polite and helpful staff. But apparently the “supermarket model” is not only accompanied by “social destruction,” it’s also a “colossal market failure.” And so we – that’s thee and me – will somehow find both the time and enthusiasm for “smaller baskets” and “more frequent provisioning,” several times a week from righteous local suppliers - where they exist, that is, and regardless of the weather and any scheduling commitments. Their prices may be higher and their supplies less varied and reliable, but at least their moral aura will meet Guardianista standards. And so never again will dark forces “make us buy things we never intended to buy.” Never again will we be seduced by discounted biscuits and that sinful Pot Noodle.
As is the custom at Kings Place, Ms Lawrence then goes on to tell us what it is “we” think:
We don’t want the illusion of “choice” that 30-40,000 lines offer, especially when so many of them are just variations on the same theme of highly processed fats, sugars, and salt disguised by additives.
That’s all supermarkets sell, obviously. Damn their glowing eyes. And even if it wasn’t, we mortals have no ability to make decisions regarding how we spend our money. We, it seems, just drift down those supermarket aisles, no shopping list in hand, scooping things at random into our baskets. Yes, dear reader, we all shop by poundage and volume. Didn’t you know?
If Ms Lawrence’s pieties sound familiar, you may be thinking of Friday’s column by Deborah Orr, who told the nation - or the tiny part of it that reads the Guardian unironically - that the big supermarkets are “in trouble” because they’re,
viewed as having helped to impoverish town centres and are now looking horribly antisocial.
You see, the entire nation – not just a subset of well-heeled Guardianistas – is raging against the convenience of the local supermarket, where cheap food is plentiful and easy to find. Instead, says Ms Orr, we’re all spending our weekends in joyful protest at the nearest out-of-town farmers’ market, where securing a week’s food shopping is a more ambitious task and generally more expensive. And we’re doing this because – yes, because – “people don’t have as much money to spend.” This is what we’re all doing, apparently. Just like her.
As well as being a bore, a fornicator and a nincompoop, François Hollande stands accused of being a snob. His former mistress, Valérie Trierweiler, has revealed… that the man who publicly professes to loathe the rich privately despises the poor. The son of a solidly bourgeois home, Hollande apparently sneered at Miss Trierweiler’s humbler origins, and referred privately to the underprivileged as “les sans-dents”: the toothless. Miss Trierweiler finds this attitude incongruous in a leftist politician, which makes me wonder how many leftist politicians she can have spent time with.
That there are angry, bitter misanthropes out there with a chip on their shoulder about having to cook is not significant. What is significant is that this outlook gets taken seriously and finds a home and a ready audience on the left. What’s significant is that there is a constituency out there that is ready to complain about each and every basic requirement of human life, to resent the effort of taking responsibility for it, and to denounce as tyranny any expectation that life is supposed to be about work, effort, and striving.
[According to Marcotte,] if person A is unable to access the ideal of a home-cooked meal, by circumstance or choice, then home-cooked meals are articles of privilege to be either provided by The State or shunned as a vestige of a bygone culture best left upon the heap of history.
And Jeremy Duns on the return of former Independent columnist and chronic fabricator Johann Hari:
[Hari] has received some extremely impressive endorsements for his book, from Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein and Elton John. Bloomsbury have big promotional plans for it in place. They have, it seems, decided not to inform potential readers of Hari’s troubled past. The Amazon page for the book lists all of Hari’s awards but for the returned Orwell Prize, and features a quote from the Daily Telegraph: “Perhaps the most influential journalist of his generation.” Yes, blurbs are often taken out of context, but this is one of the most extraordinarily dishonest examples I’ve seen. That quote is from a Telegraph article about his plagiarism.
As usual, feel free to share your own links and snippets in the comments.
Dennis Saffran on beer pong, WrongThought™ and academia’s latest racial inquisition:
The black student had jokingly named his beer pong team “Team Nigga” and would shout the name whenever the team scored. At some point, the white student - reprising a running joke on the football team, in which black students would greet white teammates with the phrase “White power!” - said, “Can I get a white power?” The black student replied, “White power!” The noise from the party awakened a student in another room in the residence hall… She reported this exchange to the Campus Living office, and an inquisition began.
The two students were charged with inflicting “physical or mental harm” and “discrimination or harassment,” as well as with disorderly conduct… Within days after the hearing, the two were found guilty of all charges, placed on probation, and ordered on threat of suspension to undergo “bias reduction training.” The ruling stated, without any support, that their “language had contributed to the creation of a hostile and discriminatory environment.” Rarely does the modern left’s humourlessness, authoritarianism, and subversion of its own goals come together as starkly as in this case.
This story didn’t get much play in the mainstream media but it tells you everything you need to know about the public health racket, from the headline down: “‘We will push for a law if we don’t get support,’ warns health group.” Yeah, that’s the spirit. If people don’t agree with you, force them.
And via Hal, Robyn Urback on the intolerant psychodramas of the Proletarian Feminist Front and their comrades-in-shouting:
By the protesters’ later account, however, their rebellion was akin to confronting and conquering proponents of “misogynist” messaging. (The event was actually about the struggles men and fathers face in family court, but that doesn’t really matter). On the Revolutionary Student Movement website, a blog post subsequently bragged that, “Revolutionaries shut down [a] Men’s Rights Activists event at the University of Toronto.” The protesters’ post reads like a passage from George Orwell’s Animal Farm, written in the style of a supervillain manifesto.
What occurs to me about these delusional tools - besides their mental conformity, their vanity, and their belief that the campus belongs to them and is theirs to disrupt – is that their places could have been taken by students who don’t strive to silence facts and ideas, and who actually want to learn something. Perhaps even a skill that’s of value to others and will thereby earn them a living. There must be thousands of much smarter, more honest people – people who don’t imagine themselves as Maoist “revolutionaries” - who would eagerly use the opportunity that these obnoxious little parasites are squandering.
As usual, feel free to share your own links and snippets in the comments. It’s what these posts are for.
A hundred years ago, they would have been in favour of taxing the electricity companies to subsidise the candlestick makers. Forty years ago, they would have been throwing money at British Leyland… And what is the justification for this looting? Essentially it boils down to a rose-tinted nostalgia for high street shopping by reactionaries, protectionists and the kind of people who insist that supermarkets are unpopular despite the fact that they are always full (due to our old friend ‘false consciousness’, no doubt). These are the people who hated Woolworths and HMV until the day they went bust, at which point they tearfully mourned the end of an era.
Seeking to rescue the traditional town centre by this [‘Tesco Tax’] route merely replaces trade with subsidy. The independent retailers and town centres become dependent on the money that flows from the levy. This doesn’t really make those businesses and those centres viable; it merely acts to ossify a failed model. The future for high streets… doesn’t lie with mere shopping but with being places of leisure and pleasure. This probably means fewer shops and smaller centres but it also means a different approach starting from what people want - not defined by opinion polling but rather by what people actually consume.
And Tim Worstall on telling certain politicians to take a running jump:
We’re going to have a law now where a willing purchaser cannot negotiate with a willing supplier to gain 600 calories in return for folding money instead of 400 calories for a smaller amount? What? Here’s how things work in a free and liberal society: you don’t get to decide what we would like to have. We get to decide what we would like to have.
The MP in question, Sarah Wallaston, “formerly a doctor and teacher,” is “now bringing a love of South Devon to Westminster.” And hoping to dictate your default portion size. The state, says Ms Wallaston, has “a duty to intervene” by telling you what it is you “don’t need” when buying drinks and snacks at the local cinema. Because you simply can’t be trusted near those sweet and shiny objects. At which point, I’m reminded of the Guardian’s Jill Filipovic, who also struggles with the concept of personal liberty and, specifically, with why “every socially conscious person” doesn’t agree with her. Being “socially conscious,” so defined, and therefore better than us, doesn’t seem to entail any reservation about spending, or indeed wasting, other people’s earnings on imposing state-dictated portion sizes. Or any reservation about embracing a condescending relationship with those of whom one is supposedly being conscious. Quite the opposite, in fact.