Alt Right Linkage

Paleo Retiree writes:

Will the Alt Right ever again experience a week like the one just passed, or are its visibility and influence going to continue growing? Whatever the case, it’s certainly been interesting watching the mainstream start to take note. Hey, a telling fact from the L.A. Times: “Key Alt-Right websites the American Renaissance and VDARE … both received more web visits last November than Dissent and Ms. The National Policy Institute and its Radix Journal together had many more visits than the neoconservative policy journal National Affairs.”

Posted in Linkathons, Politics and Economics | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Turd-Free Lists of the 21st Century’s Best Movies

Blowhard, Esq. writes:

The BBC just released a list of the 100 greatest films of the 21st century as chosen by an international panel of film critics. Movie fans that we are — cinephiles, if you will — we immediately began analyzing it with the intensity of conspiracy theorists working their way through the Warren Commission report. I think it was Fabrizio who observed that for every good movie on the BBC list there are at least two turds. “Inherent Vice”? “12 Years a Slave”? “Mad Max: Fury Road”? Gimme a fuckin’ break.

So a few of us have contributed Entirely Turd-Free Lists of the Best Movies of the 21st Century™. Alright, so they’re more our favorites than any attempt at being “objective” — whatever that means — but it’s 2016 and I couldn’t resist the clickbaity headline. We’ll start off with mine.


Unbreakable (Shyamalan, 2000)
Fat Girl (Breillat, 2001)
The Piano Teacher (Haneke, 2001)
Mulholland Dr. (Lynch, 2001)
Training Day (Fuqua, 2001)
Irreversible (Noe, 2002)
Minority Report (Spielberg, 2002)
My Summer of Love (Pawlikowski, 2004)
Sideways (Payne, 2004)
How Much Do You Love Me? (Blier, 2005)
Cocaine Cowboys (Corben, 2006)
Apocalypto (Gibson, 2006)
Black Book (Verhoeven, 2006)
The Painted Veil (Curran, 2006)
Once (Carney, 2007)
Michael Clayton (Gilroy, 2007)
Unrelated (Hogg, 2007)
Whatever Works (Allen, 2009)
A Serious Man (Coen Bros., 2009)
Leap Year (Rowe, 2010)
The Trip & The Trip to Italy (Winterbottom, 2010 & 2014)
True Grit (Coen Bros., 2010)
A Separation (Farhadi, 2011)
Oslo, August 31st (Trier, 2011)
Damsels in Distress (Stillman, 2011)
Killer Joe (Friedkin, 2011)
Margaret (Lonergan, 2011)
The Hunt (Vinterberg, 2012)
Byzantium (Jordan, 2012)
The Immigrant (Gray, 2013)
Young & Beautiful (Ozon, 2013)
Blue is the Warmest Color (Kechiche, 2013)
The Two Faces of January (Amini, 2014)
God Help the Girl (Murdoch, 2014)
Sicario (Villeneuve, 2015)

Enzo Nakamura writes:

[Enzo didn’t have time for any introductory niceties, but he was still generous enough to share his top 20. — BE]


The Pianist (Polanski, 2002)
The Best of Youth (Giodana, 2003)
The Lord of the Rings trilogy (Jackson, 2001, 2002, 2003)
Code 46 (Winterbottom, 2003)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Cuarón, 2004)
Grizzly Man (Herzog, 2005)
The Death of Mister Lazarescu (Puiu, 2005)
War of the Worlds (Spielberg, 2005)
Tell No One (Canet, 2006)
Children of Men (Cuarón, 2006)
The Prestige (Nolan, 2006)
The Last Mistress (Breillat, 2007)
Let the Right One In (Alfredson, 2008)
Summer Hours (Assayas, 2008)
A Serious Man (Coen Bros., 2009)
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (Herzog, 2009)
The Eclipse (McPherson, 2009)
Enter the Void (Noe, 2009)
Inglourious Basterds (Tarantino, 2009)
Film Socialisme (Godard, 2010)
Let Me In (Reeves, 2010)
Margaret (Lonergan, 2011)
Sucker Punch (Snyder, 2011)
Oslo, August 31st (Trier, 2011)
Dredd (Travis, 2012)
Life of Pi (Lee, 2012)
Only God Forgives (Refn, 2013)
Dawn of Planet of the Apes (Reeves, 2014)

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:

Part of me thinks the BBC’s list is pretty bad. The other part of me thinks it’s absurd to pass judgement on what is essentially a poll of professional movie commentators. Taken as the latter, I suppose it’s a successful list in that it accurately portrays elite (is that the right word?) opinion concerning movies. For a few years now I’ve joked with friends — my co-bloggers among them — about the peculiar taste-set of what I like to call the bi-coastal eunuchs. The eunuchs are typically urban, overly educated (meaning they’ve had the sense educated out of them), and white (spiritually if not always physically). They hate Armond White, loathe Michael Bay, and are embarrassed by Tyler Perry. They are very impressed by race-and-gender crapola, respond more to tone than content, and take Errol Morris and Ken Burns seriously. They revere Jim Jarmusch — though they can’t quite explain why. Movies that go for the gut or poke sensitive areas tend to bother them, because they strike them as hateful, or maybe just inappropriate. (And they LOVE to tsk-tsk at things that are inappropriate.) I suppose it’s accurate to say they approach movies in the way the literary establishment approaches books: to the latter group, there’s literary fiction, or the stuff worth taking seriously, and then there’s a bunch of stuff that’s disposable or just plain unworthy of whatever is the book equivalent of the Criterion Collection.

I’d describe the majority of the movies on the BBC list as the film versions of literary fiction. They’re made-to-be-taken-seriously-by-the-right-sort-of-people movies. This is true even of the various Pixar productions, which I’ve always taken to be immaculately crafted baubles of marketable appropriateness. I appreciate the effort that goes into making something like that, and I even somewhat admire a few pieces of Pixar’s output, but I’m not particularly moved or excited by it. “Inside Out” struck me as being aimed at helicopter parents who are prone to dramatize every wisp of emotion that flits across the mugs of their beloved little ones. (And why would I want any part of THAT?)

On the other hand, I think the list includes a lot of good (even great) movies, so who am I to complain? Of the top ten I Like “Yi Yi,” “In the Mood for Love,” and “Mulholland Dr.” a lot, and “A Separation” ain’t bad either. (“Eternal Sunshine” I’ve been meaning to revisit. I recall liking it, albeit with some reservations.)

Anyway, here’s my list. I wouldn’t argue for these being the “best” of the 2000s. They’re just some favorites. I haven’t seen some of them since they came out (as many as 16 years ago now!), so it’s possible I’d have a different take after a second viewing.


Cast Away (Zemeckis, 2000)
In the Mood for Love (Wong, 2000)
Almost Famous (Crowe, 2000)
Yi Yi (Yang, 2000)
Training Day (Fuqua, 2001)
Brief Crossing (Breillat, 2001)
Last Orders (Schepisi, 2001)
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Jackson, 2001)
Chop Suey (Weber, 2001)
The Blue Planet (Fothergill, 2001)
Lantana (Lawrence, 2001)
Mulholland Dr. (Lynch, 2001)
Friday Night (Denis, 2002)
Porn Theater (Nolot, 2002)
Secret Things (Brisseau, 2002)
Femme Fatale (De Palma, 2002)
To Be and to Have (Philibert, 2002)
The Story of Marie and Julien (Rivette, 2003)
Good Morning, Night (Bellocchio, 2003)
Crimen Ferpecto (Iglesia, 2004)
Before Sunset (Linklater, 2004)
Cafe Lumiere (Hou, 2004)
Red Eye (Craven, 2005)
Apocalypto (Gibson, 2006)
Come Early Morning (Adams, 2006)
Cocaine Cowboys (Corben, 2006)
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (Lin, 2006)
The History Boys (Hytner, 2006)
Black Book (Verhoeven, 2006)
The Pursuit of Happyness (Muccino, 2006)
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Schnabel, 2007)
Lake Mungo (Anderson, 2008)
Appaloosa (Harris, 2008)
Sparrow (To, 2008)
Tyson (Toback, 2008)
Crank: High Voltage (Neveldine/Taylor, 2009)
Enter the Void (Noe, 2009)
Visage (Tsai, 2009)
Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy, 2010)
Hell and Back Again (Dennis, 2011)
Into the Abyss (Herzog, 2011)
Margaret (Lonergan, 2011)
Oslo, August 31st (Trier, 2011)
Get the Gringo (Grunberg, 2012)
Byzantium (Jordan, 2012)
American Hustle (Russell, 2013)
Blue is the Warmest Color (Kechiche, 2013)
The Trip to Italy (Winterbottom, 2014)
The Mend (Magary, 2014)
Experimenter (Almereyda, 2015)

Sax von Stroheim writes:

Coming up with my list helped pinpoint why I find these consensus lists so annoying: 1) Prolific filmmakers tend to get shafted, because the vote for their work is spread out too much. Neither Hong Sang-soo or Johnnie To had any movies make that list, and I’d argue that they’re the two greatest directors working today — in the artsy/lit realm and pop realm respectively. 2) Relatedly, you get shafted if your pictures aren’t “events” of some type, whether art house or otherwise.


1. Yi-Yi: A One and a Two (Yang, 2000)
2. Two Lovers (Gray, 2008)
3. Hahaha (Hong, 2010)
4. The Happening (Shyamalan, 2008)
5. Romancing in Thin Air (To, 2012)
6. Safe Conduct (Tavernier, 2002)
7. Idiocracy (Judge, 2006)
8. Oki’s Movie (Hong, 2010)
9. Va Savoir (Rivette, 2001)
10. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Anderson, 2014)
11. Training Day (Fuqua, 2001)
12. A Serious Man (Coen Bros., 2009)
13. Unbreakable (Shyamalan, 2000)
14. Primer (Carruth, 2004)
15. Woman on the Beach (Hong, 2006)
16. War Horse (Spielberg, 2011)
17. Cassandra’s Dream (Allen, 2007)
18. Exiled (To, 2006)
19. Moonrise Kingdom (Anderson, 2012)
20. Pain & Gain (Bay, 2013)
21. Life Without Principle (To, 2011)
22. The Mysteries of Lisbon (Ruiz, 2010)
23. Alps (Lanthimos, 2011)
24. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (Allen, 2010)
25. Dumb and Dumber To (Farrelly Bros., 2014)
26. Unforgivable (Téchiné, 2011)
27. Around a Small Mountain (Rivette, 2011)
28. Gran Torino (Eastwood, 2008)
29. The Passion of the Christ (Gibson, 2004)
30. Hail, Caesar! (Coen Bros., 2016)
31. We Own the Night (Gray, 2007)
32. Midnight in Paris (Allen, 2011)
33. Margaret (Lonergan, 2011)
34. Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors (Hong, 2000)
35. Battle Royale (Fukasaku, 2000)
36. Sparrow (To, 2008)
37. Mission to Mars (De Palma, 2000)
38. Mulholland Dr. (Lynch, 2001)
39. Jack Reacher (McQuarrie, 2012)
40. No Country for Old Men (Coen Bros., 2007)
41. The Wind Rises (Miyazaki, 2013)
42. Apocalypto (Gibson, 2006)
43. Open Range (Costner, 2003)
44. The Trip to Italy (Winterbottom, 2014)
45. Taken (Morel, 2008)
46. Inside Llewyn Davis (Coen Bros., 2013)
47. Only God Forgives (Refn, 2013)
48. Irrational Man (Allen, 2015)
49. To Rome with Love (Allen, 2012)
50. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Coen Bros., 2000)
51. The Master (Anderson, 2012)
52. Stuck On You (Farrelly Bros., 2003)
53. Blackhat (Mann, 2015)
54. Drug War (To, 2012)
55. Michael Clayton (Gilroy, 2007)
56. Crank: High Voltage (Neveldine/Taylor, 2009)
57. The Lady in the Water (Shyamalan, 2006)
58. The Gleaners & I (Varda, 2000)
59. How Do You Know (Brooks, 2010)
60. A Prairie Home Companion (Altman, 2006)
61. The Last Mistress (Breillat, 2007)
62. Crank (Neveldine/Taylor, 2006)
63. Cast Away (Zemeckis, 2000)
64. Election 2 (To, 2006)
65. Sucker Punch (Snyder, 2011)
66. Blue Beard (Breillat, 2009)
67. Good Morning, Night (Bellochio, 2003)
68. You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet (Resnais, 2012)
69. The Claim (Winterbottom, 2000)
70. Fading Gigolo (Turturro, 2013)
71. Watchmen (Snyder, 2009)
72. The Darjeeling Limited (Anderson, 2007)
73. Like You Know It All (Hong, 2009)
74. Black Book (Verhoeven, 2006)
75. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Alfredson, 2011)
76. Night and Day (Hong, 2008)
77. Collateral (Mann, 2004)
78. 13 Assassins (Miike, 2010)
79. Election (To, 2005)
80. The Village (Shyamalan, 2004)
81. The Trip (Winterbottom, 2010)
82. MacGruber (Taccone, 2010)
83. Hara Kiri: Death of a Samurai (Miike, 2011)
84. The Ghost Writer (Polanski, 2010)
85. The Dark Knight Rises (Nolan, 2012)
86. Vengeance (To, 2009)
87. The Sleeping Beauty (Breillat, 2010)
88. 300 (Snyder, 2006)
89. Spirited Away (Miyazaki, 2001)
90. Wild Grass (Resnais, 2009)
91. Interstellar (Nolan, 2014)
92. Hereafter (Eastwood, 2010)
93. The Yards (Gray, 2000)
94. True Grit (Coen Bros., 2010)
95. Woman Is the Future of Man (Hong, 2004)
96. Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World (Brooks, 2005)
97. Throw Down (To, 2004)
98. A Dangerous Method (Cronenberg, 2011)
99. The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 (Scott, 2009)
100. Tree of Life (Malick, 2011)


  • Steve Sailer points out that what really ties the movies on the BBC list together is that they’re the kinds of films that give critics a lot to write and argue about.
Posted in Movies | Tagged | 11 Comments

I Can’t Help It

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:

Netflix is currently streaming a documentary on the Carter family, called “The Winding Stream.” It includes so many fab songs and performances that it’s almost beyond criticism. So profound are the depths of the Carters’ talent, beauty, and influence that I spent most of the movie appreciating their existence rather than worrying about the movie’s structure, the information it imparts, and so forth.

I’ve long nursed a significant crush on June Carter, the willowy cutup of the brood, but this performance by her sister Anita has me ready to transfer allegiance.

In this clip Anita exhibits a moodiness, sultriness, and intensity that wouldn’t be out of place in one of Bergman’s ’50s films, particularly the ones starring Harriet Andersson.

That look she darts at Williams! Is it fair to say it’s the sort of thing, ephemeral though it is, that draws men to women? It is, I think, the sort of thing we men — unsophisticated louts that we are — understand as love, or at least what we understand as its most immediate physical manifestation. There’s much that’s endearing and arousing in a look like that, but much that’s terrifying too. It’s a look that has no bottom, no tether. It’s the look the mermaid gives to the wayward sailor — a look unbounded by the consideration of consequences.

Does Anita really love Williams or is she acting? Are they ever not acting? Where does the performance end and the woman begin?

Posted in Music, Personal reflections, Sex, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Naked Lady of the Week: Daria

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:


According to TheNudeEU, this Russian gamine, known by Daria, Dasha, Bekki, and a few other names, became active in 2006. That’s 10 years ago! She’s probably married and has kids now.

What a charmer, and what a smile. These photos capture her at the age at which attractive young women are capable of seeming either remote and regal or childlike and goofy, depending on the frame, pose, and attitude. Is it any wonder that we earthlings find them so maddening? I suspect they’re maddening even to themselves…

Nudity below. Enjoy the weekend.

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Naked Lady of the Week: RayVeness

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:


Is the internet largely responsible for the MILF category of porn?  Sure seems that way.

Though she’s retired now, the busty, blue-eyed RaVeness seemed to play MILF roles forever. She did a good job of it too: Her southern-belle voice is the kind of thing an East Coast boy like me dreams of emanating from a sexy older lady. Actually, RayVeness’ entire look and persona are, to me, welcoming, even comforting. She’s wholesomely disreputable.

I love her powder-pale skin and the way the blue lines of her veins are just barely visible on the fringes of her aureoles. (Why does this turn me on? I have no idea.)

According to this article she enjoyed a stint in respectable movies and television, appearing in “NYPD Blue” and John Frankenheimer’s “Path to War.” A pretty neat feat, especially when you consider that she’d already made a name for herself in hardcore porn.

Her IMDB bio is an interesting read. I’m guessing she wrote it herself.

Nudity below. Enjoy the weekend.

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Ideologies Are Bullshit. All of Them.

Sir Barken Hyena writes:

Genesis of a Scoffer

My ongoing journey to uncover the truth of everything — and maybe hook up with the occasional pretty lady along the way — has been a long one. I started as your typical lefty, if always a bit more anarchist than most. But that couldn’t last because of my deep temperamental attachment, indeed thirst, for The Truth. That and pretty ladies. I think it was seeing the pro-Castro and Che posters at my local hippy co-op while buying almond butter that did it. Screw these phonies I said.

Around this time I started reading Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization. Besides being a cracking good read, it raised a hell of a lot of troubling questions about the nature of mankind. It did this for the authors as well, as can be seen by their short book Lessons of History. What really is behind all of this turmoil, bloodshed and horror? Is there any sense, and movement towards something, some purpose or culmination? It didn’t seem so, and so the progressive dream must be false.

My brother, eight years my senior, had by the early 90’s become a bit of a conservative. He introduced me to Thomas Sowell, Reason magazine, The American Spectator and others of the like (let’s not get into Reason being “conservative,” ok?). This was all new stuff to me, I had no inkling that there was an intellectual side to the right, that it wasn’t all Pat Robertson. A lot of what was said was hard to argue with.

But, but…! There were always holes in the arguments that surfaced with time. Sure the 50s may have been prosperous and orderly, but no way would I want to live then. I’m a weed smoker, a fornicator, a happily refined hedonist. The endemic racism of the time was, and had to be lightly passed over. Also, liberal government had clear successes to it, and recent ones. For example, regulation had visibly improved the air quality in my town Phoenix since 1992 when I moved there. If the libertarian argument that market-based alternatives could be more effective at lower cost was intellectually convincing, still, the air was better, so what’s the big deal? Is it worth the wrenching change?

And there was always the “how.” How would libertarian ideas get implemented when a majority of people thought it was nuts? Persuasion! was this answer. So yeah, right, we’re going to somehow get enough people on board here, all pointing in the same direction and then it all falls into hand like a ripe fruit. When has this ever happened? I’m not talking about convincing the general public of the justice of a cause, which has been done many times. No, going libertarian means getting people to profoundly modify their behavior, just as communism does. Successful examples were not to be found in The Story of Civilization, though there were plenty of efforts.

In the end I just couldn’t really swallow whole any of the available ideological options, but then what do you believe in? You do have to believe in something, don’t you? Otherwise it’s nihilism!

No Exit?

Why is belief so important in the West? The world has been riven by sectional dispute from the beginning, but the West seems especially driven to monomaniacal belief, that everyone MUST get with the program. Perhaps China has been equally so, presently and in history but there’s not much in antiquity to match it, with the exception of Judea. Islam has its Sunni/Shiite/Sufi divisions, but a lot of that is ethnic or nationalist at bottom.

I believe the answer is the Western denial of limits, limits of any kind. And this because it’s the one culture that has really stared into the abyss of infinity and made its home there. The Greeks hated infinity, tried to stuff it in a box for safe keeping. Hindus imagined a vast cosmos of deep time, but it was cyclical in nature. The god dreamed for 480 millions years, then woke for another 480 million, then back to dreaming. Islam hasn’t got much to say here, since Allah sustains the world as he sees fit, without the constraint of law (logos, the tao, etc.), and investigation there is denigrated in favor of mysticism.

But the West had to go everywhere, into each and every corner of the cosmos, and of the mind, too. This has been great and terrible. This sense of the limitless means that as Westerners we can never, ever stop. And a limitless universe oddly leads not to infinite diversity, but complete singularity. God is limitless? Than he is all, one. And mankind as a part of god, is also one. And being one, we must naturally, properly believe as One. This is why the Reformation unleashed such deep fanaticism, it was the West maturing and shaking off the foreign middle eastern origins of Christianity and asserting its own true self, which took even Near Eastern fanaticism to new depths.

And from that One, that universal, there is no exit. The only problem is, it’s total hogwash, malarkey on an epic scale. The intellectual case for the unity of man might be airtight, but I believe there is not one person, now or today, who truly feels it and lives it. It’s a principal honored only in the breech. No, we all feel ourselves and our own as pitted against the rest, because in fact, we are.

Ideology = Civilization

Granted then that no ideology is actually valid, consistent and logical, what are they for? Why so much effort and turmoil caused for and by them?

Social control, pure and simple. Bushmen sure don’t have it and seem to get along nicely without it, or at least did until it was kindly brought to them. But then they have no large populations, cities, agriculture, organized religion. You can’t have that without an ideology. In the early stages it was in religious form, since it was found that fear of god was more inspiring of devotion than fear of men. I believe that ideology was the tool that unified and directed populations for the creation of civilization. Maybe we see the earliest sign of this beginning at Gobekli Tepe: there was a unifying religion before agriculture, to me because agriculture was one result of ideological unification, not a spur to civilization as currently thought by Materialist historians.

Not a pretty thought! Seen this way, civilization is a system of mind control for the purpose of willing slavery. But I think it’s the truth.

Where does that leave us, or more precisely me? I can’t believe any ideology, but do I need it? Maybe civilization needs it but Sir Barken doesn’t, he laughs madly at it. I can give $5 to the homeless guy burning up on the street corner without believing it’s my ethical moral Christian or liberal duty, because I’m human and so nothing human is foreign to me. Including suffering.

And besides, pretty ladies come in all ideological stripes, so why limit myself?

Posted in History, Personal reflections, Politics and Economics | 14 Comments

Universal Culture

Fenster writes:

Over at Slate Star Codex, Scott Alexander identifies what he refers to as “universal culture” as being a key factor in how the West was won.  His opening point is that there is nothing eternally Western about what we call Western culture.  Its main tenets today would be unintelligible to a person of the West a thousand years ago.  True, there is an unbroken line between that man of the past and the man of today . . . but is there anything especially Western about the arc of that line?

I am pretty sure there was, at one point, such a thing as western civilization. I think it involved things like dancing around maypoles and copying Latin manuscripts. At some point Thor might have been involved. That civilization is dead.

To Alexander’s mind the best way to conceptualize the arc of change is not according to some artificial set of principles but in a Darwinian way, following the principle “what works?”

Maybe every culture is the gradual accumulation of useful environmental adaptations combined with random memetic drift.

What has resulted, as much from drift as design, is what he terms universal culture.  I doubt whether he would argue that cultural change ends here (though there are some troubling End of History resonances to be discussed below).  Things will continue to change. Most likely, universal culture is just “the collection of the most competitive ideas and products” under current conditions.

Improved trade and communication networks created a rapid flow of ideas from one big commercial center to another. Things that worked – western medicine, Coca-Cola, egalitarian gender norms, sushi – spread along the trade networks and started outcompeting things that didn’t. It happened in the west first, but not in any kind of a black-and-white way. Places were inducted into the universal culture in proportion to their participation in global trade; Shanghai was infected before West Kerry; Dubai is further gone than Alabama. The great financial capitals became a single cultural region in the same way that “England” or “France” had been a cultural region in the olden times, gradually converging on more and more ideas that worked in their new economic situation.

So far so good by my lights.  It seems to be a sensible description of how culture changes.

But Alexander’s discussion then begins to pick up some problematic moss as it rolls along.

For one, there is the issue of why universal culture does not spread instantaneously.

The only reason universal culture doesn’t outcompete everything else instantly and achieve fixation around the globe is barriers to communication. Some of those barriers are natural – Tibet survived universalization for a long time because nobody could get to it. Sometimes the barrier is time – universal culture can’t assimilate every little valley hill and valley instantly. Other times there are no natural barriers, and then your choice is to either accept assimilation into universal culture, or put up some form of censorship.

In other words, of course people will prefer Coke to yak’s milk, and individual liberty to pesky cultural constraints, any old time.  It’s a mopping up exercise at best.

But is this so?  The very fact that “censorship” rears its head suggests that it’s just not a matter of the spread of memes that go down as easy as a fine single malt, with a lack of instantaneous communication being the only barrier.  There is, and will be, actual resistance, with censorship one of its tools.  In turn, any effort to take account of the spread of universal culture has an obligation to take its opponents seriously.

Alexander may then argue back that, sure, there may be resistance.  But that it will be fruitless since it will disarm itself once it fully grasps the new culture on offer.  Under this account, the genius of universal culture is that, done correctly, it need not threaten a darned thing.  That is because it is awfully good at a particular kind of ju-jitsu capable of handling perceived threats to established cultures in a multicultural environment.

(U)niversal culture is going to win, simply because it’s designed to deal with diverse multicultural environments. . . .  I think universal culture has done a really good job adapting to (cultural conflict) through a strategy of social atomization; everybody does their own thing in their own home, and the community exists to protect them and perform some lowest common denominator functions that everyone can agree on. This is a really good way to run a multicultural society without causing any conflict, but it requires a very specific set of cultural norms and social technologies to work properly, and only universal culture has developed these enough to pull it off.

Because universal culture is better at dealing with multicultural societies, the more immigrants there are, the more likely everyone will just default to universal culture in public spaces. And eventually the public space will creep further and further until universal culture becomes the norm.

I don’t quibble with the notion that this has been the thrust of change in our country.  True indeed that we are yearning to square more individual liberty with some neutral public square. But how is that working out for ya?

Let’s skip over to Rod Dreher’s article at The American Conservative, entitled Make America Small Again.  This is mostly a review of Yural Levin’s new book, The Fractured Republic.  Dreher and Levin might well agree with Alexander that the shift to universal culture is in full-swing–but is that a good thing and what are the consequences?

(Levin) makes a strong, data-driven case that by every measure, America today is a less cohesive nation than it was in the immediate postwar era. We are politically more polarized, economically more unequal; socially atomized, religiously diffuse. As the culture and the economy have liberalized, giving the individual more lifestyle options and consumer choice, the bonds holding Americans together have become much thinner.

To which Alexander might reply: give it time!  The full flowering of universal culture will end with a society in which a hundred, or a hundred thousand, flowers may bloom.  And all will be well.  All we will have to do is follow certain baseline rules in the public square, retreating to the private worlds of our choosing for everything else.

Of course this is not a new conception.  It rhymes with the idea of the United States as a proposition nation.  Cultures can be what they want; just accept the proposition.

Of course it is not exactly the same thing.  Trump has been pilloried by the Hillary crowd for suggesting we ought to take formal account of The Proposition in our immigration policies.

Plus, if universal culture were so darned effective and easy, why would you suppose we are having all the problems we are having today managing this shaggy beast?  Is it really just a matter of time before we master the public-private trade-offs, connecting from time to time on public matters and retreating happily to our private realms on private matters?  Or is the opposite more likely the case: that, sure, you can push the public-private thing pretty far but that sooner or latter you hit a tripwire.  After all, the things that may be considered arguably private include marriage arrangements, drug use, the rights of women and the demands of religious belief–all matters where public and private must collide.

It’s like the mythical wall between church and state.  It is, or can be, a beneficial heuristic. But there is no such thing as that wall.  Religion is never just a matter of prayer in the home.  It is about other things too, things that are unavoidably public in nature.  And if you believe too strongly in the actual existence of the church-state wall you are blind to the risk of pushing matters too far.

Alexander may be right about where we are headed.  I suppose it is entirely possible that economic conditions are pushing humans to accept universal culture, and if there is a downside it is just the cost of doing business.  And so it is possible to envision a form of government that will find ways to adapt as well.  Maybe it will be a kind of empire.  Maybe it will be a kind of Dark Enlightenment corporate-style state.  But whatever the form, it will have left any notions of self-government far behind.  A responsive and effective government must be moored in the values and habits of the people.  Once you make that last word plural–“peoples”–things get awfully tricky, and I don’t see universal culture as handling the problem in a graceful way.

If the people are fractured, as Levin argues, then we can tilt in one direction toward a fractured government, in which differences in core values manifest themselves in endless squabbles over issues that real people find important.  I’d argue that more or less characterizes out current condition.  As an alternative we can accept Alexander’s view as to the magical effectiveness of universal culture.  But in the real world, that will mean rule by fiat, with an entrenched elite making for a “neutral” public square by running roughshod over deeply held values of multiple publics.  Just consider how core tenets of free speech are under assault because “we must respect differences”.  Or how comments sections are being purged because we must cleanse public debate.  OK, proles, now go back to your private spaces, with your public voices silenced and your balls cut off.  And have a nice day!

I suspect that much of the resistance to universal culture stems from the recognition that you cannot privatize the public sphere all that well without an elite using force, and ultimately to its own advantage.  Universal culture won’t be repeal history any more than Fukuyama’s End of History did.  Culture will always have a particular side to it.  The values and habits of the people (or peoples)  will out in one fashion or another.  And the resistance to universal culture won’t easily lay down its arms if it is persuaded that there are real and permanent things at stake.

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