Cathy Areu, pinheaded pundit

Cathy Areu

Who is Cathy Areu? “From debating Bill O’Reilly about the ‘war on women’ to discussing border issues with Anderson Cooper,” her website trumpets, “Cathy has been analyzing the hottest topics of the day, on the best cable TV news shows in the U.S. and beyond, for over a decade.” In other words, she’s a cable-TV talking head, who for years now has appeared frequently on the Big Three: CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. She’s also the editor of Catalina Magazine, founded in 2001 “to break the stereotypes of Hispanics in the US media and entertainment.”

Nancy Pelosi

She’s celebrated the misbegotten, indefensible Diversity Visa Program, which allows immigrants into the U.S. essentially at random. Opposition to the program, she has charged, is “anti-American.” She’s also argued that 77-year-old Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi should stay on as Democratic leader in the House for no other reason than that Pelosi is a woman.

In recent months Areu has been a staple on the Tucker Carlson Show. In one exchange with Carlson, she held forth on “toxic masculinity,” for which she blamed mass shootings. “Women are better,” she stated flatly. “We are not the murderers in our society…Men are not as good as women.” Women are “the better gender.” As for men, “maybe we’re just not raising them right.” Asked whether there is such a thing as toxic femininity, she said no: “Women can do no wrong….We’re just the smarter gender.” In other words, she feels the same way about her sex as Hitler felt about his ethnic group.

White supremacy in action

On another episode, Carlson took on a professor’s accusation in a magazine article that when Westerners practice yoga, they are being racists. Areu agreed that they were. In the West, she stated, yoga is practiced mainly by white women (“not Latinos, not immigrants”) who have appropriated an activity with a rich cultural history that they don’t know about or care to understand. It’s “white supremacy,” she explained. When Carlson asked whether, by the same token, it would be wrong for people outside the West to use the Internet, a product of Western civilization. No, she said, because the Internet lacks the long, rich history that yoga has.

What, Carlson asked, about another product of Western civilization – namely, democracy, which does have a long, rich history? Areu dismissed his argument, contending that “yoga was a way for the Indians to show their colonizers that they were intelligent.” Carlson laughed: “Where do you get your history? Yoga predates the British by quite a bit.”

Areu enjoys posing for pictures backstage at her media appearances

But the whole point of Areu’s ideology is that real history is irrelevant. As Carlson himself has explained to viewers, he is presenting Areu on his show as a guide to the Brave New World in which we now live. It’s a world in which all kinds of actions or statements that a few years ago would have been considered innocuous are now virulently condemned as racist or sexist; a world in which all men are potential rapists and women, by definition, “can do no wrong”; a world, in short, in which the rules of the road have changed entirely and in which history can be rewritten at will to conform to the new rules. Areu’s entire schtick is that she’s internalized those new rules to a remarkable extent, and can defend even the most ridiculous of them without the slightest sign of intellectual embarrassment. It’s quite an accomplishment.

More on Thursday.

“Once a meathead, always a meathead”: Rob Reiner

Rob Reiner

Rob Reiner is one lucky fellow. First, he was born into the highest rung of showbiz – the son of the brilliant director, writer, and actor Carl Reiner, the man behind the classic Dick Van Dyke Show plus a whole bunch of very funny movies. Second, Rob’s family connections got him into acting – and his first big acting job, as it happened, turned out to be in the seminal sitcom of its time, All in the Family.

Mike Stivic (Reiner), left, and Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor in All in the Family

All in the Family‘s success owed nothing to Rob: playing Mike Stivic, the son-in-law of the show’s protagonist, Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor), and Archie’s wife, Edith (Jean Stapleton), Reiner was, in terms of acting chops, the weakest link on the show. Mike was also the series’ most insufferable character. While producer Norman Lear, a card-carrying leftist, had meant for Archie, a working stiff who labored on a factory loading dock, to be an anti-hero – a typical hippie-hating “hardhat” of the early 1970s – Archie was, for millions, a lovable hero.

Hey, look at which cast member of All in the Family didn’t win an Emmy

Meanwhile Mike, a social-sciences student into whose dialogue Lear shoved many of his own political opinions, was insufferable: although he shared a bedroom in Archie’s house in Queens because he couldn’t afford to support his wife – Archie’s daughter, Gloria (Sally Struthers) – Mike plainly considered himself to be Archie’s intellectual and moral superior of Archie. For Archie, his son-in-law wasn’t “Mike” but “Meathead,” a mindless mouthpiece for an ideology that Archie considered pernicious.

Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally

After All in the Family, Rob Reiner moved on to directing. His oeuvre contains some of the most entertaining movies of the eighties and nineties: This Is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, Misery, A Few Good Men. His more recent product has been less memorable. In any event, what all of his best films have in common is that he didn’t write them. (The one exception is This Is Spinal Tap, on which he shared screenplay credit with funnymen Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer.)

Ugh!

His old man, Carl Reiner, is a writer-director, and is terrific at both; Rob is good at figuring out where to put a camera, but his efforts at writing have been disastrous. We still remember, for example, the horror show that was the 1978 TV movie More than Friends, a fourth-rate Annie Hall ripoff that he co-wrote and in which he starred with his then wife, Penny Marshall.

Anyway, the reason we’re looking at Rob Reiner is that over the last quarter century or so, even as his directorial career has faltered, he’s become increasingly visible as an exceedingly shrill, far-left political activist and major megaphone for Democratic Party talking points. He was a prominent supporter of the presidential candidacies of Howard Dean, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama. A few years ago, when the Tea Party movement was at its height, he likened it to Hamas.

Reiner’s Malibu manse

Critics have often pointed out his extreme hypocrisy: a resident of Malibu, one of the whitest, richest, and most exclusive municipalities in America, where he lives behind high walls and gates, Reiner has supported open borders and was among the Malibu residents who decided to declare it a sanctuary city – a decision that was, in practice, given the cost of property in the town and the high level of private and public security there, a thoroughly meaningless exercise in virtue signaling. Indeed, pretty much the only illegal aliens who ever set foot in the seaside enclave are the rich locals’ cooks, maids, gardeners, nannies, and chauffeurs.  

But it was the entry of Donald Trump into politics that really sent Reiner into activist overdrive. Ever since Trump began running for the Presidency, Reiner has been shouting from the rooftops that a “constitutional crisis” was in the offing. In a tweet written last December, he urged his fellow citizens to “prepare to take the streets” in response to Fox News’s criticism of the Robert Mueller probe into claims of Russian collusion by the 2016 Trump campaign.

At the January 2018 Women’s March in LA

Speaking at a Women’s March in Los Angeles on January 20, Reiner noted that Trump had been in office for a year and had “corroborated every one of our fears….And we cannot whitewash this anymore. We have a racist in the White House. We have a sexist in the White House. We have a pathological liar in the White House. And he is tearing away at the fabric of our democracy.”

Rod Rosenstein announcing the results of the Russia probe

In mid February, when Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced that the Russia investigation had concluded that no Americans had “knowingly cooperated with the Russian interference” and that the Russians had “in no way impacted the outcome of the 2016 election,” Reiner, instead of throwing in the towel and admitting he had been hysterical over nothing, chose to take an Orwellian approach to the truth, tweeting as follows: “It is now crystal clear that Russia had a profound impact on the 2016 election. They have attacked US, they are continuing to attack US. If Trump is unwilling to acknowledge this and unwilling to protect US, the word TREASON is now center stage.”

Trump, the “traitor”

We need not comment on this shameless effort at disinformation, because Reiner’s Twitter feed soon filled up with apropos reactions. “Did you even WATCH the actual press conference?” wrote one of Reiner’s followers. “No impact on the election.” Several people commented that if there were any White House treason, it was committed not by Trump but by Obama, since the Russian meddling had, according to the Justice Department, begun in 2014.

One Reiner follower summed it up all this way: “Once a meathead, always a meathead.”

Catching up with Mlle. Knowles & Mr. Kaepernick

Superstar

Beyoncé! Her life has been an American Dream. In addition to every other glorious accomplishment in her career – her 22 Grammys, her two-time listing as one of the “100 most influential people” by Time Magazine, her serenading of Barack Obama at one of his 2009 inaugural balls, her lip-synching of the national anthem at his second inauguration, her #1 ranking in Forbes’ Celebrity 100 List, and her naming by Forbes this year as the most powerful woman in entertainment – she was the star of halftime at the Super Bowl in February 2016. At that event, America’s biggest TV event of the year, she repaid America’s bounteous gift to her by paying tribute. To whom? The Black Panthers.

Enough Black Power salutes for you?

As we wrote here a few days later, the show, which featured her new song “Formation,” was “an exercise in what one critic called ‘Black Panther chic.’” With its Black Power salutes and its slap at the police, the Guardian suggested it might be “the most radical political statement from the superstar in her 20-year career.” The audience held up “rainbow-colored placards” that read Believe in Love. “Does Beyoncé sincerely believe that the Black Panther movement has, or ever had, anything whatsoever to do with love?” we asked. “If she does, then she can only be described as a thoroughgoing historical ignoramus, and thus a useful stooge of the first order. For the fact is that the Black Panthers were, quite simply, hate set in system. They were racists, terrorists, homophobes, anti-Semites, proud disciples of the cruelest and most remorseless totalitarian despots of the twentieth century. Nothing could be more Orwellian than the notion that they were ever driven, in any sense of the word, by love.”

Setting the Super Bowl on fire

Perhaps Beyoncé was simply ignorant – perhaps she just didn’t know better. Born in 1981, she’s too young to have experience the evil heyday of the Black Panthers firsthand. But someone with so much power owes it to her public to educate herself. That wouldn’t have been too hard or time-consuming. All the information is out there, at her fingertips. One of her innumerable handlers and hangers-on could’ve done the research for her and handed her a file.

That, at least, is what we told ourselves after her Super Bowl fiasco. We were prepared to give Beyoncé the benefit of the doubt. But how can there be much doubt after what she did this past December 5?

Magic Johnson

The setting: the annual Sportsperson of the Year Award Show in New York. One of the awards presented that evening was Sports Illustrated’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award. It is supposed to go to “individuals whose dedication to the ideals of sportsmanship has spanned decades and whose career in athletics has directly or indirectly impacted the world.” The 2014 winner was longtime L.A. Laker Magic Johnson, one of the great basketball players ever – a three-time NBA MVP, a 12-time NBA All-Star, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and of the gold-winning 1992 U.S. Olympics team. He has also proven to be a terrific businessman, with an eponymous conglomerate worth $700 million, and has been a devoted AIDS activist.

Kaepernick (center) doing what he does best – not playing football

In 2015, the winner was golfer Jack Nicklaus, of whom we could supply an equally impressive résumé. In 2016, the honor was shared by a trio of glittering names from athletic history: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown, and Bill Russell. This year, the prize went to Colin Kaepernick, who spent five years as a middling player for the San Francisco 49ers. Most Americans had not heard of him until August 26 of last year, when he took a knee during the pre-game playing of National Anthem. This became a habit. And it grew infectious. It spread to other football teams, and other professional sports, and even to college and youth games.

In his stupid t-shirt

Kaepernick’s explanation for the action, as we noted a year ago, was that Kaepernick, “whose biological father was black and biological mother white,” and who “was raised in Wisconsin by adoptive white parents,” was protesting the supposedly systematic mistreatment of blacks in America. We pointed out that Kaepernick, this self-styled victim of racial oppression, lives in a mansion, and that at the press conference at which he explained his knee-taking, he wore a t-shirt featuring pictures of Malcolm X with Fidel Castro.

Fidel with Muhammad Ali

Now, maybe in some sense Kaepernick is a perfect winner for an award named for Muhammad Ali, because the legendary heavyweight was also a fan – indeed, a friend – of Fidel Castro and Malcolm X. But his selection was a slap in the face to athletes who are real role models, and Beyoncé’s involvement in the awards ceremony was yet more proof of her ignorance about the world and ingratitude for American freedom. Presenting the prize to Kaepernick, she said: “Colin took action with no fear of consequence or repercussion, only hope to change the world for the better. To change the way we treat each other – especially people of color. We’re still waiting for the world to catch up. It’s been said that racism is so American that when we protest racism, some assume we’re protesting America.”

The award presentation

On the contrary, study after study has shown that America is among the least racist of all countries. Young Americans nowadays are so ill-educated that many of them think America was the only nation ever to have slavery; in fact, its distinction is that it was the one major country that fought a civil war to free slaves. In any event, a question: in exactly which way has Kaepernick changed the world for the better? What has he done except to take the U.S. flag, a symbol of unity amid diversity – e pluribus unum – and turned it into an occasion for destructive dissension and unfounded accusation.

It is good to report that this handing over of a presumably important award by one fool to another did not go uncriticized. “They just turned Muhammad Ali’s Legacy Award into toilet paper,” said Kevin Jackson on Fox News. And another Fox News contributor, Tomi Lahren, tweeted: “Police-hating Beyoncé presents police and America-hating Kappy with a ‘legacy’ award. This is how far we’ve fallen.”

Finally, a prof gets punished for anti-white racism

Tucker Carlson

On June 4, Tucker Carlson of Fox News reported on a Memorial Day party, held in New York by Black Lives Matter, from which non-blacks were explicitly banned. He quoted from a statement by the organizers: “Being intentional about being around Black People is an act of resistance. This is an exclusively Black Space. So if you do not identify as Black and want to come because you love Black People, please respect the space and do not come.”

He then brought on a guest named Lisa Durden, whom he identified as a political commentator and Black Lives Matter supporter. Carlson expressed surprise at the decision of a group supposedly devoted to racial equality to enforce a policy of segregation, and asked Durden how she could reconcile this seeming contradiction. Durden, instead of responding seriously to a serious question, reacted with cartoonish condescension: “What I say to that is, boo-hoo-hoo, you white people are angry because you couldn’t use your white privilege card to get invited to Black Lives Matter’s Memorial Day celebration.” She went on to say that Memorial Day had been founded by former slaves in 1865 after the Civil War to honor Union soldiers who had died for their freedom, and that “in that same vein” BLM had held this party to commemorate the murder of “black folks…by racist terrorists.”

Durden’s comment was bizarre on several levels. First, there is no evidence that Memorial Day was founded by former slaves. Second, if it was founded by former slaves to honor Union soldiers (the overwhelming number of whom were white) who had died for their freedoms, banning white people from such an event seems rather odd. Third, Durdan’s whole tone was that not of a serious commentator but of – well, watch the video yourself and figure out how best to describe it.

Rachel Lindsay, black Bachelorette

“White folks,” Durden went on to say, “crack me up. All of a sudden when we want to have one day to focus on ourselves….You’ve had an all-white Oscars, all these movies with all-white actors…all-white TV shows….The Bachelorette, it took eleven seasons to have a black bachelorette. Are you serious?” When Carlson repeated the point that the BLM event seemed “hostile” and “separatist” and “crazy,” Durden, by way of defending BLM’s racial separatism, said: “People hold weddings where they exclude children,” because they can’t be sure kids wouldn’t disrupt the event. By the same logic, she maintained, BLM had imposed a ban on whites in order to avoid having its party ruined by “white folks who are gonna be off the rails.” Durden summed up BLM’s message to whites as follows: “Stay your asses out!”

As it happens, Lisa Durden isn’t just a political commentator. She’s also an adjunct professor at Essex County College in Newark, teaching speech, mass communication, and popular culture.

Essex County College

Or, at least, was an adjunct professor at Essex County College. Two days after her appearance on Carlson’s show, she showed up for work only to discover that she had been suspended “until further notice.” She quickly went out into the media to declare that she had been “lynched.” The college, for its part, issued a statement indicating that it “promotes a community of unity that is inclusive of all.” Durden’s attorney professed to be mystified by her suspension. What could possibly be the college’s “agenda?” Had Durden been “too outspoken?” White-bashing has become so normalized on American campuses that for a college to actually punish a faculty member for engaging in it left both her and her lawyer scratching their heads in wonderment. Later in June came news of Durden’s permanent dismissal from her job. Essex County College deserves congratulations for bucking the nefarious academic trends of the day and actually punishing black-on-white racism.

Caleb Maupin, small-town Commie

Caleb Maupin

On May 19, we took a brief look at a collegiate Communist named Dakotah Lilly who, defending chavismo on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program, was identified as a representative of Students and Youth for a New America (SYNA). In the article we mentioned one Caleb T. Maupin, who, on SYNA’s website, also championed Chavez-style socialism, actually claiming that “millions of Venezuelans have seen their living conditions vastly improved through the Bolivarian process.”

We were curious about this Caleb T. Maupin, so we looked into him. Born around 1988, he grew up in Orrville, a town of 8000 in Wayne County, Ohio, where, according to a 2010 profile in Cleveland Scene, he was converted to Communism in fifth grade – yes, fifth grade – after reading The Communist Manifesto. He soon “began contacting local socialist groups about how he could get involved” and before his teens were over had joined the Workers World Party.

Adam Gluntz

Studying political science at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, a Cleveland suburb, Maupin met Adam Gluntz, a fellow student who was then a conservative, and argued politics with him until he had turned Gluntz into a fellow Communist. Maupin thereupon “founded the local chapter of FIST,” a nationwide radical organization whose full name is Fight Imperialism – Stand Together. A 2008 article in Workers World recounted his participation in a recent debate at Baldwin-Wallace on the subject of “Socialism vs. Capitalism.” During the debate, Maupin argued that “socialist countries, particularly Cuba, have dealt with and rid themselves of the products of capitalism—including racism, sexism, homophobia, unemployment, and lack of healthcare, education, housing and social programs.”

Reinaldo Arenas

Anyone who knows anything about any socialist countries, especially Cuba, would be able to knock down every one of these assertions with dispatch. Just to choose one: to claim that Cuba has rid itself of homophobia is to spit on the lives of all the gay people whom the Castro regime imprisoned, tortured, and executed. Has Maupin, we wonder, ever read the late Reinaldo Arenas’s autobiography Before Night Falls, about the torment of being gay in Castro’s Cuba?  

At some point, Maupin “dropped out of school to focus full time on activism.” It was shortly thereafter that the piece in Cleveland Scene appeared. It begins as follows:

Caleb Maupin would like you to know he’s not a super-villain, despite what you may have seen on TV. A communist? Sure. But he’s not out to indoctrinate your children. Not yet.

The 22-year-old is chatty and affable, a skinny pale kid with a burning bush of unruly red hair. When it comes to talking politics, he’s obviously done his homework: facts, dates, obscure legislation, the fates of forgotten labor leaders, snippets of protest songs — in conversation he drops all forms of arcana from the annals of the American left. In part, he’s learned the game as a careful student of history, but he also sees himself as an inheritor of the radical tradition.

The article described Maupin and Gluntz as “a straight-faced Laurel and Hardy of liberal radicalism” who “attend nearly every public demonstration held in the area, from immigration rallies to protests against police brutality,” and had thereby “quickly become fixtures in this crowd.”

But that was only the beginning. Maupin was about to leave the small pond of Cuyahoga County for the big time.

George Bridges: caving in to student terror?

Evergreen State College

This is our third day of recounting the remarkable recent events at Evergreen State College, an institution in Oregon with which we at this site were previously unfamiliar but that acquaintances of ours have described as a choice school for spoiled, privileged kids who are used to being pampered, who don’t want a particularly challenging university experience, and who don’t have very much in the way of serious ambitions. In late May, as we’ve noted, Evergreen made headlines because of the targeting by a vicious student group of a biology professor, Bret Weinstein, who refused to comply with an explicitly black-supremacist demand. After failing to intimidate Weinstein, the student agitators threw themselves at the college president, George Bridges, who proved to be, shall we say, remarkably cooperative.

Among the student demands met by Bridges: he agreed to make the position of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Officer a full-time job. But he didn’t just cave in to a litany of demands. He actually praised the students:

George Bridges

We are grateful to the courageous students who have voiced their concerns. We understand that the demands presented are evolving. We have worked intensely on this in the past two days. Our responses, too, will evolve to ensure we are attending to the needs you present. Our documents must live and be living, changing with additional issues and concerns as they arise. This work never ends.

We have heard from students very clearly that they experience racism on campus that interferes with their education. We acknowledge that the status quo isn’t acceptable. We don’t know all the answers. We want to come together with you to learn from your experience, to build solutions, and to take action. We are grateful for this catalyst to expedite the work to which we are jointly committed.

For a long time, we’ve been working on the concerns you’ve raised and acknowledge that our results have fallen short. We should have done more to engage students in our work on equity and inclusion. This week, you are inviting us into the struggle you have taken up. We share your goals and together we can reach them.

While most of the mainstream media ignored the story – and Bret Weinstein was widely savaged on the left for going on Fox News (even though it was apparently the only national news operation that was interested in talking to him) – Weinstein didn’t let himself be cowed. On May 30, he went on Dave Rubin’s highly popular podcast and spoke for two hours not just about this controversy but about his professional and personal background, many aspects of which underscored the absurdity of labeling him a racist.

More tomorrow.

Under mob control: Evergreen College

Bret Weinstein

Yesterday we started to discuss one of the latest outrageous campus episodes, this one at hippie-dippy Evergreen State College in Oregon. Bret Weinstein – a bio prof at Evergreen who describes himself as a leftist who supported Bernie Sanders’s candidacy for presidency – ended up in the crosshairs of enraged students for standing up to a demand that white students and faculty members stay off campus on a so-called “Day of Absence.” In Weinstein’s view, their demand represented “a show of force and an act of oppression” – language one might expect a platoon of spoiled, angry contemporary college kids, marinated in the ideology of oppression and power, to understand.

Evergreen State College

But nope. Weinstein’s refusal to be banished from campus for his skin color evoked a chorus of rage. In an article on the campaign against him, Inside Higher Ed quoted a Facebook posting in which one student called the prof out for “putting his job security ahead of the safety of the students (particularly those who are visibly of color, queer, trans, nonbinary, disabled, etc.) on our campus. And when I say safety, I am not referring to someone’s feelings getting hurt. I’m referring to the very real, very close neo-Nazi/white supremacist/alt-right/whatever-you-wanna-call-white-people-who-think-non-white-people-should-die presence in the Pacific Northwest.”

The local chief of police counseled Weinstein to stay off campus – not to comply with the student demands, but for his own safety. He did so. But this doesn’t mean he didn’t stand up to his tormenters. On May 26, Weinstein went on Tucker Carlson’s program on Fox News. Carlson introduced the interview by showing a video in which a group of rude, bullying, foul-mouthed student brats attempted to intimidate Weinstein by screaming hysterically about “white privilege,” calling him “useless,” and ordering him to “get the [expletive] out.”

Asked by Carlson to contextualize the video, Weinstein explained: “They imagine that I am racist and that I am teaching racism in the classroom.” He further recalled that after the encounter shown in the video, the police turned up – whereupon the students moved on to the office of Evergreen’s president, George Bridges, whom they “corralled” and from whom they “extracted” certain “concessions” including a promise that he, Bridges, would meet with them later in the day to discuss their so-called grievances.

George Bridges

“Why is he allowing a mob to threaten one of his professors?” Carlson asked about Bridges. Weinstein said it was worse than that: “Dr. Bridges is allowing this mob to effectively control the campus.” The mob had presented Bridges with a set of demands, and had told him that if the demands were not met in full “there would be violence.” Bridges, instead of standing up to the mob, had ordered the campus police to “stand down.” While wanting to restore order on campus, then, the campus police had been “hobbled” by Bridges’s insistence that they do nothing and had, in effect, been “barricaded in the campus police station” for the past several days.

Bridges later announced that he would go along with all of the student demands – of which there were many. He began a public statement by informing his audience, in accordance with the expectations of many college-based gender activists nowadays, of where exactly he falls on the supposedly broad and complex gender-pronoun spectrum: “I’m George Bridges, I use he/him pronouns,” he said. Pathetic.

More tomorrow.

Birth of a baby chavista

On May 16, Tucker Carlson welcomed a guest on his Fox News TV show who looked as if he was about twelve years old. He was, in fact, a 19-year-old college student named Dakotah Lilly who was there to defend chavismo in Venezuela and to deny that any of that country’s current problems – including the collapse of food supplies and medical services – were caused by socialism.

In the interview (which begins at about the thirty-minute mark in the video below), Carlson asked Lilly to address the fact that wherever socialism has actually been tried, it has been a disaster. Sidestepping Carlson’s list of Soviet bloc countries whose modern histories prove his point, Lilly simply parroted Maduro administration propaganda. “What Venezuela is currently facing right now,” said Lilly, “is terrorism at the hands of the opposition” – an opposition that, he insisted, is deliberately destroying “the progress Venezuela has made over the past few years.”

From beginning to end, Lilly’s portrait of Venezuela today was Alice-through-the-looking-glass stuff. The real victims of violence in the country, he charged, are supporters of the Maduro government. The real causes of Venezuela’s economic problems are (a) sanctions by the United States and (b) “hoarding by multinational corporations.” He even defended the Supreme Court’s closing, on Maduro’s orders, of the National Assembly. Carlson asked whether Lilly could speak Spanish or if he had actually ever been in Venezuela, but never got an answer to either question.

Dakotah Lilly

Who is Lilly? He’s currently a student of political science at Eugene Lang College (a unit of the New School in New York City) and a member of Students and Youth for a New America (SYNA), whose website makes it clear that it’s basically a bunch of junior Communists. Lilly isn’t the only SYNA member who has drunk the Kool-Aid on Venezuela: the group’s site features an article in which one Caleb T. Maupin (a frequent contributor to Iran’s Press TV) sneered at the idea that the downfall of the Venezuelan economy confirms “clichés [Americans] heard in elementary school about how ‘Communism just doesn’t work.’” Maupin claimed that, on the contrary, “millions of Venezuelans have seen their living conditions vastly improved through the Bolivarian process.”

Cindy Sheehan giving a hug to everyone’s favorite race hustler and shakedown artist, Jesse Jackson

As for Lilly’s own oeuvre, in September 2015, Cindy Sheehan (a famous antiwar activist during the George W. Bush administration who all but disappeared from the media once Barack Obama became president) posted on her website a “guest article” by Lilly entitled “Socialism, A Love Story.” Excerpts: “Capitalism isn’t working and it never has….Capitalism is a system that has run its course, much like slavery and feudalism. The future however is optimistic and a new system is on its way to being established, that system is Socialism.” As to the argument that socialism “never works in practice,” Lilly confidently asserted: “This could not be farther from the truth. Humans are naturally co-operative beings and to suggest that exploiting each other for valueless paper is somehow embedded in our genes is ludicrous.”

Caleb T. Maupin

What about China or the USSR? These weren’t really socialist countries, argued Lilly, although “Socialist elements of the USSR and Cuba, have led to the launching of the Sputnik and the eradication of homelessness and hunger. Imagine what the potential of Socialism is in a nation as rich and developed as the USA.” At the time he wrote that article, Lilly was, according to his contributor’s note, the 17-year-old “leader of Lehigh Valley Youth Democratic Socialists” whose “first mass action was joining Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox and other organizations in March in WDC for Spring Rising; in his spare time he likes smashing patriarchy, imperialism, capitalism and defending the oppressed.”

Those now-iconic empty Venezuelan grocery-store shelves

Why would such a callow and obscure character as Lilly be invited on Carlson’s show in the first place? The answer, one suspects, is that all the heavy hitters who were standing up for chavista economics as recently as a couple of years ago have either changed their tune or changed the topic. You might suggest that the best way to respond to the puerile views of a Dakotah Lilly is to ignore him; but this is the sort of person who, in a couple of years, will be out of college and in a first-rung position at some think tank or NGO or congressional office in Washington, D.C., or some other power center, using his twisted opinions to help set the nation’s future agenda. Best to be aware of these people as soon as possible, and to remember to track them as they move from the classroom into positions of authority. 

Though Yvette Felarca’s looking glass

On February 1, Berkeley middle-school teacher Yvette Felarca directed what can fairly be called a paramilitary action by her “anti-fascist” group, By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), on the campus of UC Berkeley. It succeeded in its objective: to get university authorities to cancel a speech by conservative writer Milo Yiannopoulos.

Yvette Felarca

The officials cited security concerns. They issued a condemnation of “the violence and unlawful behavior” of BAMN. So far, so good. But then the officials expressed “deep regret” that BAMN’s “tactics” would “now overshadow the efforts to engage in legitimate and lawful protest against the performer’s presence and perspectives.” Just to make their point crystal clear, the officials spelled out the fact that “Yiannopoulos’ views, tactics and rhetoric are profoundly contrary to our own.” What exactly, one wondered, was the antecedent of the word “our” there? The entire administration of Berkeley? Everybody at Berkeley? Were the officials suggesting that absolutely nobody at the college agreed with Yiannopoulos about anything?

Milo Yiannopoulos

Given that this episode followed a period of several months during which Yiannopoulos had appeared at dozens of colleges around the U.S. and drawn large and enthusiastic crowds of students who very obviously liked virtually everything he said and were entertained and energized by the way he said it, this claim seemed dubious, to say the least. What was represented as a denunciation of BAMN by Berkeley officials read, on closer examination, like a pro forma slap on BAMN’s wrist, a slamdown of Yiannopoulos, and a between-the-lines suggestion that the best way to deal with the likes of Yiannopoulos was for the whole campus to act in lockstep by engaging in peaceful protest.

In any event, the actions by Felarca and her henchmen on that day didn’t affect her job. On the contrary, it resulted in plenty of national media appearances. On February 13, she turned up on the Tucker Carlson Show on Fox News, saying that Yiannopoulos “should not be able to speak in public to spread his racist, misogynistic and homophobic lies.” In fact Yiannopoulos is himself gay, is a white man who has had black boyfriends, and, while a fierce critic of the radical, male-hating aspects of third-wave feminism, has many female fans and is a firm believer in sexual equality.

When Felarca called Yiannopoulos a fascist, Tucker asked her to define the word. “A fascist,” she replied, “is someone who’s organizing a mass movement that’s attacking women, immigrants, black people, other minority groups in a movement of genocide.” She further charged Yiannopoulos with violence. When Carlson challenged these claims, she started babbling about how Yiannopoulos was “trying to be the youth face and token that other people who are organizing violence try to hide behind” and had “whip[ped] up a whole lynch mob mentality.” Carlson’s quiet observation that Yiannopoulos had never called for rape or genocide was ignored by Felarca, who repeated that people like him had to be “shut down.”

After her Carlson appearance, a spokesman for BUSD said that Felarca wouldn’t be punished for her extracurricular activities because of her “free speech” rights. How exceedingly ironic that BUSD decided that Felarca’s violent efforts to keep Yiannopoulos from exercising his own free-speech rights amounted to an act of free speech.

More tomorrow.

Sarsour’s sham feminism

Yesterday we met Linda Sarsour, an organizer of the Women’s March on January 21 – and a devout Muslim who defends Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women and accuses the U.S. of executing Muslim children.

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Linda Sarsour

Not long before the Women’s March raised her profile, Sarsour deleted dozens of old tweets – which, fortunately, had already been saved by critics. In some of these tweets, she expressed her support for sharia law. For example: “You’ll know when you’re living under Sharia Law if suddenly all your loans & credit cars become interest free. Sound nice, doesn’t it?” Here’s another: “I don’t drink alcohol, don’t eat pork, I follow Islamic way of living. That’s all Sharia law is.” Then there’s this one: “shariah law is reasonable and once u read into the details it makes a lot of sense.”

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The Women’s March

In fact, there’s nothing “reasonable” about sharia. It is anti-woman, anti-human, anti-freedom. It allows men to have four wives but allows women to have only one husband. It permits men to divorce at will while forcing women who want divorces to go through lengthy judicial processes that may or may not end in divorce. Under sharia, a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man. Women are required to obey their husbands and must ask permission to leave the house. A woman who claims to have been raped must produce four male witnesses, and if they cannot be found, she is considered not to have been raped but to have engaged in forbidden sex acts for which she can be executed. Sharia prescribes the death penalty for gays, for apostates, for Muslim women who marry infidel men, and for much else.

There are women with backgrounds in the Muslim world who have stood up courageously for their rights of their sisters living under sharia. One of them is Ayaan Hirsi Ali; another is Brigitte Gabriel. Sansour has viciously attacked both of these women. In one tweet she said that Hirsi Ali and Gabriel were “asking 4 an a$$ whippin’.” She added: “I wish I could take their vaginas away – they don’t deserve to be women.” In 2014 Sansour, who has called Hirsi Ali a “hatemonger,” took part in a successful campaign to get Brandeis University to cancel plans to award her an honorary degree.

When asked on Fox News about Sarsour, Hirsi Ali commented: “Ms. Sarsour is hostile to me not because she knows me but because she is a fake feminist. Ms. Sarsour is not interested in universal human rights. She is a defender of sharia law [and] there is no principle that demeans, degrades, and dehumanizes women more than the principle of sharia law.” Hirsi Ali went on to ask why, if Sarsour is so concerned about women’s rights, she never speaks up for the women imprisoned and executed in Muslim countries for such “crimes” as blasphemy. Hirsi Ali noted that when some of her own friends told her they would be participating in the Women’s March, she told them: “We have real threats to women.” She enumerated some of them: female genital mutilation; child brides; gender-selective abortion. Why, Hirsi Ali asked, weren’t American women marching against those atrocities?

UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 20: Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., speaks at a news conference at the House Triangle with faith leaders to urge Congress to protect programs such as Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare and call on lawmakers make sure "everyone pays their fair share." (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn.

Good questions. Clearly, Sansour has no business being viewed as a feminist heroine. And yet many leading figures on the left have declared their unconditional loyalty to her. Among those who have tweeted their support are Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Keith Ellison, TV commentators Van Jones and Sally Kohn, Amnesty International and the Southern Poverty Law Center, and celebrities Susan Sarandon, Russell Simmons, and Mark Ruffalo (who told Sansour: “You are the best of what America is”).

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Mark Ruffalo

How can this be? How can a woman who supports sharia be embraced by self-styled progressives as “the best of what America is”? Unfortunately, many “progressive” Americans today suffer from a particularly perverse brand of cognitive dissonance when it comes to Islam. Like everyone else, they know about Islamic terrorism, and they’ve heard (they must have heard, at this point) that sharia is profoundly illiberal; and yet they’re incapable of seeing Islam as anything other than a religion of victims. They have no trouble criticizing Christianity, but they consider any criticism of Islam – up to and including criticism of even the most brutal aspects of sharia – to be beyond the pale. And so it was that we witnessed, on January 21, the obscene spectacle of an immense crowd of self-declared freedom lovers applauding a proud adherent of sharia.