Silencing the Accuser of our Times

This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Everything is terrible. It’s all just the worst . . . the absolute worst.

This is what most people in the Western world walk around thinking most of the time. It’s not true, of course. Things are generally pretty great. The fact is, wherever it has spread, Western/Christian Civilization has created levels of comfort and abundance that are nothing short of mind boggling.

The typical American, even one of modest means, lives a life that medieval kings would envy. For most of human history, people spent most of their days trying to acquire enough food to keep their family alive. Winter was a dreaded existential threat.

Today Food is so abundant and affordable that it’s no longer about survival or even sustenance. As hundreds of television series testify, food is now about art and pleasure and style, and frequently, virtue signaling. It’s a luxury no generation on earth has even been afforded.

Instead of spending our days scrounging and scraping for food and fighting off invaders, we indulge in pursuits available only to the ultra-rich just a couple of generations ago. We’re free and able to dabble in art, style, design, hobbies, and travel–both in reality and in our television viewing and internet browsing.

The struggle for shelter has become a quest to express your individual design style and aesthetic in the most authentic way possible. And our major unconquered diseases are the ones associated with old age.

To be sure, infant and child mortality are still heartbreaking realities is some corners of the world, but almost exclusively in those places where the gospel and Christian Civilization has not yet worked its tranformative wonders.

No matter what measure you use:

  • Number of people living in absolute poverty
  • Child labor
  • Percentage of income spent on food
  • Violent crime
  • Literacy rates
  • Hours of leisure time
  • Deaths in war

. . . the statistics show that things have never been better.

By the way, if you want to understand how and why Christianity made all this progress possible, I highly recommend this brand-new book by the UK historian Tom Holland (no relation!). It’s beautifully written and absolutely fascinating:

So given all of this good news, why are we all walking around with clenched teeth and knots in our stomachs? As if there have never been grimmer, darker times than this particular moment? I addressed this question, in part, in a recent white paper I presented at a theological round table. Here’s an excerpt:

Three factors work together to cause us to over-estimate the present power and success of what Paul called “world forces of darkness.”

One is the 24-hour instant news cycle—enabled by the Internet and fed by ubiquitous video cameras in more than 3.5 billion smart phones worldwide. If something horrific happens anywhere in world, we’re all watching video of it and shaking our heads in sadness within the hour (and sharing it with all our friends on social media). 

The second is our woeful ignorance of history. We have little understanding of how dark things in the world really were prior to the dawning of the light of the Gospel. Nor do we have the information that allows us to put in perspective the transformation the world, and the kingdoms of this world, have undergone as the carriers of that light have spread across the planet.

(By the way, if you want a little historical perspective on what truly crazy times previous generations lived through, check out a series of posts I wrote called, “We’ve Seen This Before.” Here, here, and here.)

The third is an America-centric myopia. Believers here in the U.S. often come perilously close to conflating the Kingdom of Jesus and our own nation-state—as if they were one and the same thing. We also observe what has happened in what has come to be called “post-Christian” Europe, see many of the same patterns being replicated here, and leap to the conclusion that the lights are going out all over the world. 

The fact is, the Gospel is advancing in extraordinary ways all over the planet.

There is another reason we all seem to believe that things are terrible when they’ve never been better.

With our phones constantly in our hands and computers on most workplace desks, we’re spending massive amounts of time online. And the online marketing world has learned to monitize outrage, fear, resentment, and horror.

Clicks equal money. And nothing generates clicks like news designed to enrage, alarm, or frighten you. Attention is the scarcest commodity in our economy, and few things attract attention like tragic news or someone saying something infuriating.

As a result, massive digital fortunes are being made by inundating you with online ads filled with headlines crafted and meticulously tested to trigger fear or anger in you.

Likewise, “likes” and “shares” are the currency of the social media world. Thus our social media feeds overflow with links to stories designed to have the same effect. We share and retweet the outrage of the moment in hopes of feeling significant or striking at perceived enemies. (This’ll show ’em!)

Esseentially, we’ve all voluntarily signed up to be bombarded throughout our waking ours with news, posts, and ads intentionally crafted to stir up negative emotions. Is it any wonder an entire generation of people are convinced that everything is terrible?

Many aspects of this are not new. The news business has always known that bad news sells papers much more effectively than good news.

You mean your waist doesn’t look like this? How can you live with yourself.

And from the very beginning, the advertising industry has understood that the most effective ads play upon our deepest fears and insecurities.

Ads are designed to make us feel like we’re not enough, or don’t have enough, or that others who have more are more significant or more happy. And the science of psychology has made advertisers more effective at these things than ever before.

One of Satan’s primary tactics is to accuse. He is, at the vile, miserable core of his being, an Accuser. It seems it’s not just people he accuses. He’s smearing our times. And in the process robbing us of much peace, contentment, and hope.

It can’t be healthy to walk around angry and fearful all the time. Silence the accuser.

How We Miss Paul Harvey

Paul Harvey passed away ten years ago today. In tribute, here are a few words we wrote at the end of the Introduction to “Paul Harvey’s America.” They still ring true for me:

“There are some who suspect that something in America died with Paul Harvey—or is dying as time relentlessly claims the remnants of what has come to be known as “the greatest generation.” Something precious and noble and good. 

“And though Paul Harvey is gone and his generation is now passing away, perhaps the flame of that American spirit can be rekindled in remembering who they were and what they meant to us. Paul Harvey, ever the optimist, would have believed so. 

“On the pages that follow, then, let’s gather ‘round the fire of this amazing life and warm ourselves in its good-humored glow. Perhaps we’ll take away a few sparks and embers that can light our way in the gathering gloom of the twenty-first century.”—Paul Harvey’s America

About Last Night

Well, I didn’t see that coming. Seriously, you could knock me over with an “I Voted” sticker.  Clearly, I’m not alone. Almost all of the polling was wrong. Not even Mr. Trump’s internal polling reflected what we saw last night.

I’ll post a more thoughtful take at some point. As numerous posts below make clear, I’ve been grieved by the nature and quality of our choices in this election but I viewed Mr. Trump as the less objectionable option.

I have no idea what a President Trump actually believes or what he will do. But I know very well what Ms. Clinton would have done and none of it would have been good for the nation.

I must admit however, watching the network “journalists,” pundits, and other liberal talking heads last night try to maintain their composure while reporting what was, to them, the unthinkable and unanticipated end of the world, was the most entertaining experience I’ve had in years.

Deep Thoughts About Deep Space

Kirk and Spock

I’ve been meaning to throw this out there for my fellow sci-fi nerds of a certain age who, like me:

  • grew up on Star Trek reruns;
  • have followed the various iterations of the franchise through the decades;
  • and who invariably notice the political philosophies and ideas that undergird TV series and movies.

Trust me, all dramas have a political viewpoint and an agenda. We storytellers are always either teaching or preaching.

The original Star Trek series was optimistic, idealistic and infused with a confidence that the guiding principles of Western Civilization, although flawed in execution, were unambiguously good.

How the political philosophy of Star Trek evolved (or actually devolved) over the last 50 years was the subject of a long but fascinating essay by Timothy Sandefur in an issue of the Claremont Review of Books last year, titled “The Politics of Star Trek.”

As the insightful piece pointed out, these changes in underlying ideology track perfectly with the U.S. dominant culture’s descent into Postmodern self-hatred and relativism. (Today, the only thing that can safely be condemned as immoral is moral certitude.)

The original network run of the original Star Trek series unfolded when I was ages six to nine. I was aware of the series but it aired past my bedtime.

I do dimly recall, however, being roughly six or seven and working with a friend to convert a discarded cardboard refrigerator box into our own personal Starship Enterprise, complete with NCC-1701 scrawled on the side with crayon. It was subsequently converted, through some clever feats of retrofitting engineering, into a Batmobile.

Even so, like most fans of my generation, I became a devoted follower only after the series entered syndication and became ubiquitous in reruns for decades.

Star_Trek_Picard_CrewIn 1987 Star Trek: The Next Generation revived and reinvigorated the franchise. That was the year I got marred and my new bride and I faithfully watched the new series each week and became invested in the characters.

Even so, the distinct shift in worldview within the franchise and its spinoffs stuck out to me from the beginning. Sandefur’s essay explores this shift in fascinating detail.

220px-StartrekposterThe latest reboot of the franchise, crafted by master scifi-fantasy storyteller J.J. Abrams, has once again remade the moral framework within which the familiar characters think and act.

Referring to Abram’s second Star Trek film, Into Darkness, a reinterpretation of the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Sanderfur notes, “By the time Khan reappears under Abrams’s direction, the fixed moral stars by which the franchise once steered have been almost entirely obscured . . . Having lost their principles, the show’s heroes cannot really explain, or understand, what differentiates them from their enemies, and so are rendered vulnerable to the very forces they once opposed.”

This clearly isn’t for everyone. But if you have consumed all the various iterations of Star Trek through the decades and enjoy smart discussions of big ideas (Hi Ted! Hi Jed!), then you will find this essay well worth your time.

Check out:

Politics of Star Trek


The Biggest, Under-Reported News Story of 2015

Media Self-Censorship

In the 1850s and ’60s, courageous writers exposed readers to the horrors of slavery and the Abolitionist Movement was born.

In the early 1900s, Upton Sinclair pulled back the curtain and gave America a horrifying look at the meat-packing industry, triggering a public outcry that produced significant reforms.

In the same era, other journalists, who Teddy Roosevelt admiringly dubbed “muckrakers,” went undercover to expose other festering societal cancers to the light of day.

Fast-forward to 2015. As I pointed out in this blog post, journalism is largely dead.

Today the the entire news gathering, news reporting apparatus in the United States is wholly dedicated not to keeping the powerful accountable but rather keeping liberals/Progressives in power and advancing the liberal/Progressive agenda.

Some journalists now take talking points directly from the White House. Many others participate in large email listservs that allow them to shape coverage and therefore shape narratives. (See the JournoList Scandal for example)

Media bias doesn’t just manifest in the way stories are covered. It’s most insidious manifestation is in the way certain stories are ignored (see: Benghazi/Hillary/”What difference, at this point, does it make?”)

The American deaths and heroics at Benghazi, and the subsequent government cover-up, was the most underreported story of 2013. So what about this last year—2015?

That would be the explosive exposé by The Center for Medical Progress of Planned Parenthood’s gruesome harvesting and marketing of baby parts. Over the course of six months in 2015 the courageous group released  a series of videos of clandestinely taped conversations with various Planned Parenthood officials.

The released videos included:

Planned Parenthood Uses Partial-Birth Abortions to Sell Baby Parts

Second Planned Parenthood Senior Executive Haggles Over Baby Parts Prices, Changes Abortion Methods

Planned Parenthood VP Says Fetuses May Come Out Intact, Agrees Payments Specific to the Specimen

Human Capital – Episode 2: Inside the Planned Parenthood Supply Site

Human Capital – Episode 3: Planned Parenthood’s Custom Abortions for Superior Product

Top Planned Parenthood Exec: Baby Parts Sales “A Valid Exchange,” Can Make “A Fair Amount of Income”

Planned Parenthood TX Abortion Apprentice Taught Partial-Birth Abortions to “Strive For” Intact Baby Brains

“PROFIT” – Planned Parenthood’s Illicit Moneymaking From Baby Body Parts

“HARVEST” – Planned Parenthood’s Custom Abortions for Better Baby Parts

In a fairer, more just world the content these videos would have unleashed a firestorm of media attention so ferocious that Planned Parenthood would have been fully defunded and no donor this side of Josef Mengele would have given it a penny.

Obviously, that is not the world we’re living in. The mainstream media completely ignored the first few videos. In fact, the first time most of the major news outlets even acknowledged the existence of the bombshell exposé is when Planned Parenthood issued an official response.

The truth about Benghazi could not be suppressed. Americans are finally learning the truth. Hopefully the horrifying truth about Planned Parenthood’s barbarism will not stayed buried either.

However, as I write, Planned Parenthood, with deep pockets from fat-cat donors and taxpayer dollars, is suing The Center for Medical Progress.

Vocal Fry, UpTalking & Stuff You Should Know

{Welcome to Cranky Blog Theater, I’m your host Geezer McCrotchety.}

sysnSo . . .

“Stuff You Should Know,” hosted by Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant, is consistently one of the most widely downloaded podcasts on iTunes. I dialed up an episode while working out at the gym recently—an October episode titled “Vocal Fry and Other Speech Trends.

I didn’t make it to the three-minute mark of the presentation before my eyes were rolling so hard they almost shot out of my head. I’ll explain why in a moment.

If you’re not familiar with the “vocal fry” trend, here’s a two minute introduction to the now ubiquitous affectation among younger women:

The “Other Speech Trends” mentioned in the title of the SYSK episode included something called “uptalking.” What is “uptalking” you ask? Read the previous sentence out loud and take note of how your inflection rises at the end of the sentence. When you’re an uptalker? You pretty much end every phrase? With a question-y inflection? Even when it’s not a question?

I’m hearing it everywhere these days. In fact, I work around enough younger people that I frequently hear it coming out of my own mouth. It’s infectious.

I’ve noticed several movies and sitcoms recently where they use excessive uptalking in a character as a device to quickly show the audience that this person is un-smart, shallow and a little ridiculous. It’s an effective device.

To be fair, uptalking can actually serve a function in communication. When a speaker ends with a questioning inflection a sentence that is structurally a statement, he or she is essentially saying, “Do you understand what I’m saying?” Or, “Do you follow?” But a little uptalking goes a long way.

Nevertheless, the video above is just one example of many pieces currently in print and in media where women attempt to warn other women that they are undermining their credibility and damaging their career/business prospects through these affections. For example, here’s this video from a woman coaching public speakers to avoid up talking,

And here’s militant feminist Naomi Wolf in The Guardian with a piece titled, “Young Women, Give Up the Vocal Fry and Reclaim Your Strong Female Voice.” I could provide a hundred more examples, but you get the point.

So, imagine my surprise when I encountered the following thesis from the co-hosts of “Stuff You Should Know.” It’s right there in the synopsis of the podcast episode:

You’ve heard lots of complaints about vocal fry, mostly from older white men. But it’s not exclusive to the Kardashians. Learn all about vocal fry, upspeak and other quirky speech trends in today’s episode.

That’s right. In the face of an Internet full of evidence to the contrary, Josh and Chuck are absolutely convinced it’s us “older white men” doing the bulk of the grumbling about vocal fry. This, of course, is demonstrably false. Wildly inaccurate. Embarrassingly wrong.

The criticism is coming almost exclusively from professional women valiantly trying to help younger women not sound like imbeciles.

But wait, there’s more.

Six-and-a-half minutes into the podcast, Josh and Chuck decided to double down and build something awesome on the imaginary foundation of their false premise.

They hypothesize  that the  reason we “older white men” hate hearing 20-somethings croak-talking and using “like” every  fourth word as a crutch is . . . wait for it . . .  we’re “afraid.” And super sexist, apparently. Here’s a snippet:

“So . . . I think those people [older white males]  are just . . . they’re feeling like they’re not relevant any longer. And no one wants to be a dinosaur.”

“Yes. Yes.”

“And so . . . ‘I don’t understand this language these young women are speaking . . .‘”


“Which is B.S. because a lot of young men and women speak that way.”


“It’s just called the way the younger generation speaks. And it’s not like you old man!”

“Right. So just go off to pasture and . . . chew some cud.”

/ /

“I don’t think anybody is trying make to the older, middle-aged, white man feel irrelevant . . . But I think you have nailed it on the head, though, like, like, I think it’s a form of contempt for being replaced by something new.


(Heavy sigh.)

This, dear reader, is what had me sputtering and muttering in disbelief on the stair climber.

These two darlings of the NPR crowd asserted—earnestly—that guys like me are complaining about uptalking teens and vocal frying twenty-somethings (we’re not) solely because we resent the fact that they are (supposedly) taking over the world. (And by this I think they mean a handful of young women are selling a lot of records and cashing in on reality TV.)

That’s right. According to the SYSK guys, there’s a vast, pasty, geezer-y conspiracy to defend our shrinking patriarchal prerogatives by bewailing vocal fry.

Where to start?

Again, their entire tiresome, PC thesis is built upon a false premise—namely that it’s men doing most of the complaining about these faddish speech patterns. (They cite NPR’s Bob Garfield as their sole example of this. In fact, I suspect Bob Garfield is the sole data point for this assertion.)  But, as I’ve already pointed out, virtually all of the coaching and advising and warning against these vocal tics is coming from women.

(For example, see here, here, here, and here.)

For the noblest of reasons, professional women in the real world of jobs and paychecks (as opposed to the surreal world of reality television and the entertainment industry) are trying to help younger girls do better in this world.

Please note: This blog post isn’t an example of an “older white male” complaining about vocal fry in young ladies. No, this is an older white male complaining about the mindless identity politics and ignorance of two “younger white males” who, ironically, have a show called “Stuff You Should Know.”

Hand to God, I don’t care about vocal fry. Or uptalking. And Bob Garfield notwithstanding, I’ve never heard or read any fellow pale geezer who does.

Unless your last name is Holland and you call me “Daddy,” I sincerely don’t care how you talk or present yourself. Undermine your career prospects all you want, boys and girls. Get a neck tattoo while you’re at it. Me and my fellow dinosaurs are indifferent. Or tired. Maybe both. Where was I? Oh yeah . . .

Which brings me to the second flimsy  premise in Josh and Chuck’s searing indictment of imaginary old guy vocal fry bashers. It is their assertion that young, twenty-something females are such an emergent, runaway juggernaut of economic power that we patriarchs have been reduced to bleating in fear and rage about the way Katy Perry talks.

None of that is grounded in reality.

A Trifecta of Wrongness

The Stuff You Should Know guys misread this phenomenon in a third key way. They seem to believe this surge of interest in the silly way young folks are talking is the first instance of its kind in the history of Western Civilization.

The fact is, telling young people—male and female—that it will enhance their success prospects if they avoid talking like nincompoops is not new at all. Younger people have always tended to take on speech affectations that undermine their credibility. And individuals from the grown up world of paychecks and promotions have always pointed out that they would be well served to cut it the heck out.

Was it anti-male sexism thirty years ago when mothers suggested their sons should probably stop talking like these guys . . .


Jeff Spicoli, of Ridgemont High. Gnarly.


Bill and Ted. Excellent dudes.

. . . if they hoped to ever get a decent paying job? Or were they actually saying this merely because they were afraid of our awesome emerging power in the popular culture and didn’t like “feeling like a dinosaur?”

The 1930s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s all featured their linguistic equivalents of uptalking and vocal fry-ing. There’s a great scene in the 1947 Cary Grant movie, The Bachelor and Bobby Soxer, in which Grant encounters and mimics some of the ridiculous ways young people were talking in the Post-war period:

No, Chuck and Josh, your psychoanalysis of us “older white males” of America needs some work. And all of the above is some stuff you should know.

Deconstructing the Appeal of Donald Trump

Trump O

He’s boorish. He’s inarticulate. He’s graceless, crass and ego-maniacal. He seems to believe insults like loser, clown and scum, are adequate substitutes for a cogent policy argument.

Historically he has been more ideologically aligned with Democrats than Republicans and has had lots of nice things to say about Hillary Clinton over the years. He doesn’t seem to understand why universal healthcare is a bad idea, or to have any intellectual curiosity about conservative ideas. And . . .

Donald Trump is the frontrunner to be the Republican nominee for the White House.

Most longtime observers of the American political scene were expecting the Donald Trump fad to have passed by now. It hasn’t. He continues to outpoll all other contenders for the Republican nomination by a substantial margin.

I laid out some thoughts about Trump’s appeal in a previous post but would like to expand upon them now.

To understand the stubbornly resilient levels of support for Donald Trump, it’s necessary to view it as a braided rope with five strands. Those strands—the good, bad and ugly—are:

  1. Celebrity
  2. Novelty
  3. Immigration Frustration
  4. Politician Fatigue
  5. Strongman Appeal

Allow me to briefly unpack each of these strands.



Donald Trump has been a household name since the 80s. His television shows The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice have been fixtures in living rooms for 12 years.

As I pointed out in my previous post, name ID is a huge component in political polling. Of course, you would be hard pressed to find a person in this country who hasn’t heard of Donald Trump. But it goes deeper than mere name recognition.

We live in a celebrity worshiping culture. For many people, celebrities are viewed as the demi-gods of our age—a smarter, better brand of human being. They’re not, of course. But it doesn’t change the fact that Miley Cyrus has nearly 25 million people following her on Twitter.


For a certain segment of the culture, novelty is a big selling point. People who rarely if ever vote will turn out for the novelty candidate. Former professional wrestler Jessie “The Body” Ventura became the governor of Minnesota with only about 36% of the vote in a three-way race—in large part on the strength of novelty appeal. (See: Franken, Al)

Immigration Frustration

climbingborderfenceAs I mentioned in that previous post, Trump has tapped into a deep, powerful current of frustration among regular Americans about illegal immigration. Much of Trump’s traction derives from his tough, unapologetic, refreshingly un-PC proclamations about how illegal immigration is weakening our nation.

Following the Paris massacres by Islamic extremists, Trump gave voice to what millions of Americans were saying around water coolers. Namely that it’s madness to import, en masse, tens of thousands of refugees from Islamic nations without careful screening.

He was mocked relentlessly in the press and by the standup comics, but millions across the nation silently nodded in agreement.

Politician Fatigue

The plain-speaking, tough-talking non-politician candidate from the world of business always has appeal for a significant segment of the populace (See: Perot, Ross). Conservative voters in particular are sick to death of sending men and women who say the right things to Washington, only to see them turn into spineless compromisers the moment they start drinking the inside-the-beltway water. (See: Ryan, Paul)

Trump—undiplomatic, unnuanced, blunt, pugnacious, profane—is the anti-politician. Most office seekers weigh every word carefully, so as to avoid offending prospective donors and/or voters—most of whom are hearing of them, and from them, for the very first time.

Trump-the-billionaire, on the other hand, has nothing to lose, thrives on negative attention, and therefore says, unfiltered, whatever pops into his head. And exasperated Americans, weary of watching their great nation dismantled piece by piece by left-wing know-nothings, are eating it up.

StrongMan Appeal

chavezOf all the factors driving Trump’s appeal, this is perhaps the most troubling to me. History reveals that in times of crisis or societal disintegration, people are prone to clamor for a powerful, even brutal, figure—the strongman—with a iron will to put things back in order.

It’s not at all surprising that Trump has spoken admiringly of Vladimir Putin in recent days. Putin’s repeated reelection to the highest offices in Russia and that nation’s steady drift toward dictatorship is a classic example of the appeal of the strongman.

Putin follows a long line of democratically elected leaders who steadily morphed into tyrants while in office, including Erdoğan, Chavez, Peron, Pinochet, Mugabe and many others throughout history. Both Hitler and Mussolini were elected fair and square.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not predicting that a President Trump would be a new Hitler. I’m merely pointing out that Trump is benefiting from the kind of populist unrest that tends to get men elected who have no business leading a nation.

Trump and Social Conservatives

I’ve been mystified to see numerous evangelical leaders fawning over Trump over the last few months. Make no mistake about it, he is no friend of social conservatives. He is, however, a consummate salesman. Neither his private life nor his public statements give us any reason to believe he gets, at any level, the principles that animate us. His occasional attempts to speak the language of faith on the campaign trail have been at once comical and condescending. Naked pandering.

In a fairer world, the following nine-minutes of pure, unfiltered Donald Trump would have destroyed his candidacy—disqualifying him in the minds of all but the lowest common denominator voters.

I wish any Christian considering throwing his or her support to Trump would watch this video carefully. This rambling stream-of-consciousness was delivered at a rally back in November when Trump’s closest challenger was Ben Carson. Here Trump is mocking Carson’s testimony of being transformed from street thug to surgeon through the power of Christ, as outlined in his autobiography:

Clearly, the evangelical concept of redemption and change through faith—the core of Carson’s narrative—is utterly foreign to Trump.

Everything that makes Trump an ugly candidate and a awful prospective president is on display here in those nine minutes.

The Irony and Tragedy of the Trump Candidacy

The stakes in this election are extraordinarily high. After the eight-year catastrophe of the Obama presidency—which will leave our nation weaker and more vulnerable than at any time since the Carter years—it is vital that America gets skilled, savvy leadership with unswerving conservative principles.

The Republicans were blessed to be facing a deeply flawed, profoundly vulnerable Democrat candidate in Hillary Clinton. And they fielded one of the most attractive, qualified, conservative crop of candidates in Republican history.

Carson, Perry, Rubio, Walker, Jindal, Cruz, Fiorina are all intelligent, accomplished and fundamentally conservative. Of course, not all are rock solid on every single issue. The perfect candidate doesn’t exist.

But Trump’s entry into the race and the media’s all-consuming hate/love obsession with him has consistently sucked all the oxygen out of the room for the other candidates. Three great candidates—Perry, Walker, and Jindal—have all fallen by the wayside. Other campaigns are on fundraising life support.

And the self-funded Trump circus rolls on. He’s an expert marketer. But I’m not buying it.


Bad Men: The End of Mad Men


The series Mad Men ended the other night after a celebrated eight-year, seven-season run. The show was consistently brilliant in many respects. Amazingly executed, written and performed. But I was a little slow on the uptake where the series  was concerned—in more ways than one.

For one thing, I didn’t start watching until midway through the second season. I was hearing lots of buzz so I checked it out, and was immediately drawn in on two fronts. The first was the show’s meticulous . . . make that maniacal . . . recreation of the early ’60s in every detail. I was born in 1959, so my earliest memories are of that era.

Long-time readers will know that I have a soft spot for Mid-Century ephemera and design. (A glance at all the headers from my old blog will confirm this.) (As will the vintage 1964 Omega Seamaster watch I’m wearing as I type these words.)

So at first I enjoyed watching just to bathe in details of each set. For me, and many other loyal viewers, nostalgia was a big attraction. Behold . . . Mid-Century Modern awesomness . . .

Mad Men Reception Area

I want to go to there.

The second attraction for me was the window the show offered into the inner workings of a NYC ad agency. As a child, my favorite episodes of Bewitched were the ones that showed Darren Stevens in his role as an ad man at the firm of McMann & Tate. Anytime an episode featured Darren working on a new campaign or trying to come up with a new slogan, I was fascinated.

In fact, I recall thinking that Darren Stevens’ job was precisely what I wanted to do when I grew up. And in a strange way, that’s what happened.

It was only after watching Mad Men for a few seasons and then going back to watch the series from the very first episode that the worldview and agenda of the show—created and guided by Michael Weiner—became abundantly clear to me. (As I mentioned, I was a little slow to catch on.)

A simplified summation of the show’s theme and message is this:

“Men are pigs.”

Or to be more precise, “Straight, white men are pigs—at least they all were back in the day . . . before the noble cultural revolutions of the ’60 overturned the oppressive order and put us on the path to cultural enlightenment.”

That’s the pervasive, overarching, unfolding narrative of Mad Men. And all one really has to do to see this is the case is merely watch the very first and last episodes of the series back to back.

The pilot is set in in March of 1960. The events of the final episode occur in November of 1970. They bookend a decade of extraordinary cultural, moral and technological change.

Drinking DonIn the pilot episode, Don Draper is introduced to us as a hard-drinking, chain-smoking, philandering, anti-Semitic, arrogant cad.

Roger Sterling: Hey have we hired any Jews here?

Don Draper: Not on my watch.

But we soon discover Don is actually one of the more sympathetic men in Weiner’s caricature world. Indeed, every other male we encounter in this fictional universe (with two significant exceptions) are the most horrible and horrifying human beings you’ve ever observed.

Every single scene of the first episode is a freak show of misogyny, racism, entitlement, crudity, rude-ity, and  cringe-inducing frat-boy boorishness.

Every woman in the pilot is always and only running a harrowing gauntlet of sexual harassment punctuated by insulting condescension. Some, like the va-va-voomy head secretary Joan, have learned to enjoy the attention. But most just try to put on a brave face and periodically retreat to the bathroom to sob.

Mad Men ElevatorI mentioned there were two exceptions to the “men are monsters” theme of the first episode (and indeed the entire series.) They were the closeted, repressed homosexual art director, Salvatore; and the frustrated novelist copywriter, Paul—a marxist intellectual (who in the first few episodes seems to be the only white person on earth who can actually see the black elevator operator.)

Other than these, there are no male characters with even a shred of decency—much less nobility. None. It’s bad husbands, bad fathers and bad bosses as far as the eye can see.

In other words, Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men was viciously, relentlessly anti-male.

Validating Liberal Mythology: Redeeming the Sick ’60s

hippiesConservatives tend to believe that our nation lost it’s way in the 1960s. That the drug culture; the sexual revolution; the rejection of traditional sex roles; the abandonment of marriage and family as the organizing paradigm of society; and the embrace of Marxist-Socialist premises about how the world works economically; set our nation on a disastrous course.

One from which we’ve never recovered.

Liberals like to believe the opposite–but point almost exclusively to the Civil Rights Movement to make their case. The argument over the 60s usually goes something like this:

Conservative: “Fatherless-ness in this country is a heartbreaking tragedy—creating widespread poverty, crime and imprisonment rates. Back in the 50s most kids got to grow up on a two-parent family and our society was much better for it.”

Liberal: “Oh, so you want to go back to the ‘good old days’ of separate water fountains for blacks and whites, eh, Hitler? You probably have a Klan hood hidden in your sock drawer.”

Conservative: “Um, no. It’s just that a lot of the key supports under-girding our civilization were deliberately knocked out in the 60s.”

Liberal: “You mean like the Jim Crow laws? Why do you hate black people?”

Conservative: “That’s not at all what I’m . . . oh, nevermind.”

It’s true that conservatives were largely wrong about the civil rights movement, mainly because they couldn’t find a way to separate it from the larger cultural battle taking place over traditional values; or from the Cold War paradigm (the threat of the Soviet driven spread of global Marxist-socialism) that permeated every other aspect of life in the ’60s.

In other words, the civil rights movement was presented to most Americans as only one element in a Protestlarger bundle of societal changes being relentlessly pushed by Progressives. That bundle included rejection of capitalism in favor of Marxist redistribution of wealth and the rejection of the notion of private property.

It is no coincidence that Lyndon Johnson’s Civil Rights Act of 1964 and his “War on Poverty” legislation were presented  simultaneously and as two halves of a whole.

The former was noble and necessary. The latter was arguably the worst thing to happen to black people since the first Portuguese slave ships showed up off the west coast of Africa.

In retrospect, conservatives were wrong to oppose the first and absolutely correct in opposing the second. Unfortunately, the two were inseparable.

If you read conservative essays from the ’60s you’ll find lots of hand-wringing about whether or not civil rights leaders were being influenced or financed by Soviet front groups. These fears may seem comical now, but the concerns were very real at the time. And, as we learned after the collapse of the Soviet Union made lots of Kremlin records available to researchers—the Soviets were indeed actively encouraging, not to mention financing, a lot of Progressive groups and campus rabble rousers—and had been for decades.

Many of these ended up running the country in the ’90s and beyond . . .

God help us.

God help us.

So the dispassionate verdict of history is that conservatives were wrong about the Civil Rights Movement and right about everything else. But liberals don’t like that verdict. So, on to . . .

Validating Liberal Mythology: Redeeming the Dreadful ’60s


In response, Matthew Weiner seems to have written Mad Men as an attempt to redeem the cultural upheavals of late ’60s by painting the world of the early ’60s in the darkest possible shades.

  • He refutes critiques of the sexual revolution by depicting virtually every person in the Mad Men world as being sexually amoral and in constant violation of their marriage vows.
  • He negates condemnation of the drug culture by making every character a high-functioning alcoholic and chain smoker.
  • He attacks negative perceptions of the feminist movement, as I mentioned above, by creating a world in which every straight white man is insulting, selfish, abusive, harassing, and belittling to women.

In other words, it’s the typical Progressive argument. That is, the ’60s didn’t really represent a change in behaviors. It just made all the depravity less hypocritical by moving it out in the open.

By Eastern New Age Group Therapy Are Ye Saved

Photo Credit: Justina Mintz/AMC

I’m crushing this meditating thing.

The most disappointing (but given everything I’ve already cited, not all that surprising) aspect of the way the series ended (spoiler alert) is having Don Draper—hitting rock bottom— find peace and enlightenment at a New Age-y group therapy retreat camp on the California coast.

Observers have noted that the place Don lands is surely modeled on a place called the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. The place was ground zero for something in the sixties called the “Human Potential Movement.”

In the final episode Don stumbles into the place and ends up in a series of group therapy sessions in which the participants are incessantly asked about their feelings. “How does that make you feel?” has become a jokey cliche associated with quack psychiatry, but in these groups this is taken to absurd levels.

How does my shirt make you feel?

“Carl, how does that make you feel?”

“And John, how do you feel about how that makes him feel?”

And so on.

That’s right. Mad Men ends with America’s most iconic selfish rogue being transformed into a touchy-feely new age sensitive guy through the power of meditation, hugging and hippie love.

Ask my wife . . . As this became clear the first time I viewed the finale, I started yelling at the television:

“Are you serious?! You’ve got to be kidding me!”

I haven’t been as let down by a series finale since LOST wrapped up.

But there was one aspect of the transformations that occurred in the sixties that Weiner & Co. couldn’t conceal—not and still remain true to their fanatical devotion to recreating the period’s look and feel. I’m talking about how hideously ugly everything got as the decade of the sixties progressed.

Plaid Men

Plaid MenWhat this series makes massively clear is that in one short decade this culture lost its collective mind where design and aesthetics are concerned. Everything—architecture, clothing, art, typography—went to hell.

We started with the clean, classy Mid-Century furnishings that are so prized today. Here’s Roger Sterling’s office in 1960:

Roger's Office 1960

Roger’s Office 1960

Here’s Roger’s office nine years later . . .

Roger's Office 1969

This is now the enhanced interrogation suite at Guantanamo.

In which space would you rather spend your days?

Those two pictures pretty much tell you everything you need to know about the the sixties—the decade the wheels came off.

Hey @CBS11, Someone is Being Politically Incorrect on Facebook Again . . .

. . . Shouldn’t you guys have @StevePickett11 and a crew at her house trying to gin up a shame storm?  Maybe try to run her out of business? Go all Memories Pizza Indiana on her? Provoke a bomb threat or two?

Coverage [of Facebook] You Can Count On

Coverage [of Facebook] You Can Count On

Confused? Allow me to explain.

A troubling line was crossed here in Dallas-Fort Worth—in a lame and ridiculous sort of way—this week. The news department of the local CBS affiliate dispatched a reporter to a local woman’s business to ask her about something she posted on her Facebook page.

No, it wasn’t a bomb threat. Nor did she post the formula for a cancer cure. This woman is not a politician or an entertainer.

Dallas business owner Cheryl Rios found a camera in her face for sharing . . . wait for it . . . her strong lack of enthusiasm for the prospect of a female president.

That’s right. Cheryl prefers that her presidents come with a Y chromosome, an Adam’s apple, and a five-o’clock shadow. And she said so brazenly right there on her personal Facebook page (to her friends, relatives and former high school classmates).

(Now stay with me here. I’m not making this up.) Somewhere in the bowels of the CBS11 Newsroom—a real, honest-to-goodness news department in a major American city—someone thought this was newsworthy. Seriously.

Thus “Emmy-winning journalist” Steve Pickett sallied forth to see what this monstrous freak of nature had to say for herself. And we got this . . .

In other news, a YouTube commenter got snarky!

In other news, a YouTube commenter got snarky!

Now Cheryl obviously agreed to this interview. She could have declined to talk to these nincompoops and she would have been doing them a tremendous favor if she had—because they embarrassed themselves. But they did more than that.

They crossed a line.

You see, the moment news organizations start getting comfortable with making the off-the-cuff social media comments of private citizens fair game for news coverage—coverage which can get national traction on social media and prompt a vicious hate storm, as happened with Memories Pizza in Indiana a couple of weeks ago—then freedom of expression for conservatives and Christians is as good as dead in this country.

That’s why we really can’t allow these media enforcers of political correctness to get away with this kind of thing. If we don’t push back here it will only get worse.

Along these same lines,’s Ian Tuttle took note and posted this: The Shaming of Cheryl Rios. I recommend it.

Here’s the email address for Channel 11’s news department. [email protected]

Now you’ll have to excuse me. I’m going to head over to my Facebook page and post something wildly reactionary and out-of-step with the spirit of this age.

And hey, CBS11, I’m in the book if you want to chat. I have plenty to say.