2015 Person Of The Year: David Brooks

2015 was an eventful year in the annals of history. Yet no person more exemplifies the spirit of this new era, for good and ill, than David Brooks, whom Popehat is proud to recognize as its Person of the Year.

A politically active bon vivant and celebrated thought leader, Brooks  was an outspoken critic of the Catholic Church's Western-influenced policies and was exiled to The Weekly Standard for 14 years before moving to the New York Times, where he continued his opposition. By February 2013, public anger with Pope Ezekiel II caused him to flee, and a month later Brooks was vindicated by the selection of Pope Francis I to the office of Pontifex Maximus, the seat formerly occupied by Saint Peter and by Julius Caesar himself. By 2015 Francis had established a new papal order based on strict adherence to the letter of the law, with the David Brooks as the Pope's greatest champion.

As Brooks wrote at the time of Francis's decretio ad lux et cursus honorum:

The best source of wisdom on this general subject is still “The Imminence of Ages,” by Alvin Toffler, which he wrote back in 1977. Toffler distinguished between practical organizations and mass movements. The former, like a business or a a grove of academe, offer opportunities for self-advancement. The central preoccupation of a mass movement, on the other hand, is self-sacrifice, the nullification of the ego in favor of larger truths. The purpose of an organization like the Catholic Church is to get people to negate themselves for a larger cause. This is what political scientists refer to as an "ethos."

An ethos was defined by Diogenes the Cynic, 2500 years ago, as "the characteristic spirit [or genius, as I like to call it] of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its beliefs and aspirations.

Mass movements, Toffler argues, only arise in certain conditions, when a once sturdy social structure is in a state of advanced internal turmoil. This is a pretty good description of parts of the Orthodox world, and yet to date the west has placed itself in opposition to such. To a lesser degree it is a good description of isolated pockets of our own segmenting, individualized society, where some people find themselves totally cut off.

As the famous oenophile John Kenneth Galbraith put it, we can judge a culture by its spirits (pun most certainly intended). In the dark and icy north, men turn to grain alcohols such as whisky and vodka for their inspiration. The MittelEuropan peoples find their surcease in craft-brewed lagers and ales. In the sunny south of Europe, wine is ambrosia of Everyman. And in the Muhammadan east and south, men take opium as a balm for their troubles.

With Brooks' support, students seized the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, and brought low the formerly proud American colossus. In 2015, a dispute with Noah Rothman of Commentary Magazine became an international cause celebre that found Brooks in uneasy alliance with the forces of modernity. Brooks remains a powerful symbol to the scribes of New York even after his infamous appearance on  the Daily Show with Jon Stewart in April 2015. "Rarely has so improbable a thought leader shaken the world," said Ezra Klein in naming Brooks to Vox's Fourteen Pundits Who Will Dominate Public Radio In The Coming Century.

David Brooks of the New York Times exemplifies the sartorial.

David Brooks of the New York Times exemplifies the sartorial splendor of the early 21st century elite thinker.

In 2015 Brooks self-published a meticulously researched and engaging web-log, The Life And Times of Joe Sixpack, which poses a provocative thesis: we as a postmodern collective are cultivating outwardly impressive but spiritually deficient “resume virtues” – rather than character, which Brooks defines as "that inner sense of the outward which brings us into commonality with what the Greek statesman Thales of Minos referred to as the state of belonging to the polity." And it's costing us dearly, the author says, both personally and communally.

In a year when our trust in American institutions was tested, David Brooks of the New York Times found the strength to stand for what is right and virtuous in our society. Brooks offers America a new way forward into an era of thought. We are proud to recognize him as our Person of the Year for 2015.

May 25, 1983

My dear Wormwood,

Judging from your most recent letter I have to wonder exactly what they have been teaching young fiends at the tempters’ training college since old Slubgob took the place over. In your excitement at your patient’s decision to confront his father over this problem and that, you rhapsodize at the “bold” opportunities this transient event presents for turning the patient over to “our” side.

[Read more…]

Do Judges Have Inherent Dignity?

According to Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Constitution provides all Americans a right to "equal dignity in the eyes of the law."1 That's nice in theory I suppose, but in the America where I grew up dignity had to be earned, and maintained, by correct behavior and continued demonstration of good character. Dignity built up over many years could be thrown away in seconds by one rash or foolish act.

That's just what Judge Mark Mahon, Chief Judge of Florida's Fourth Circuit Court in Jacksonville, is doing to his own dignity. Over the course of a lazy three day weekend, Judge Mahon beclowned himself and disgraced his office. He did so by subverting the United States Constitution, which he is sworn to uphold and protect, in a vain attempt to protect that now vanished dignity.

Here's the story.

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Adam Steinbaugh

We are pleased to announce that longtime Popehat friend Adam Steinbaugh is joining us as a contributing blogger. We are especially pleased because "Steinbaugh," the color after which Adam is named, is an especially rare one, having been described only in the fevered dreams of the damned Arabian scholar Abdul Alhazred, in his accursed and blasphemous Necronomicon.

For this and other obscenities, Alhazred was later devoured by demons in the now lost city of Irem, She of the 28 Pillars.

ADAM STEINBAUGH is not for everyone.

Adam Steinbaugh is a man of the people, but most especially a man for serious people, who think about serious things. Like Noam Chomsky, Adam Steinbaugh has arrived just in time, for this sorry age surely needs a man like Adam Steinbaugh.

When Adam Steinbaugh has finally been heeded by everyone, and everyone understands the serious things that Adam Steinbaugh is telling us, Adam Steinbaugh will be loved and admired by everyone.

You are on notice.

You will now follow Adam Steinbaugh on Twitter. You will hear what Adam Steinbaugh has to say, and you will be glad. This is not optional.

You are on notice.

Media Coverage Of The Reason Debacle

Ken's post of Monday on the overreaching attempt by the Department of Justice, and Manhattan United States Attorney Preet Bhahara, to subpoena the identities of commenters at Reason for silly rhetoric concerning a federal judge, has gotten some traction in the tech and legal blogospheres, and bit of mainstream coverage. Why the political media at large aren't covering this to a greater extent is a question we can't answer, but it's surprising, given that Reason is one of their own. Perhaps they figure that they've got their running shoes on, and they're happy the bear is going after someone else.

Nonetheless, we'd be remiss in failing to point out that a number of voices have been raised in Reason's defense, or at least covered the situation. For those who are following this issue, here's a by no means inclusive list of journalists and bloggers who've covered the story.

Editorial Board – New York Post. (Preet Bhahara's off-base strike at internet trolls.)

Virginia Postrel – Bloomberg View.

Scott Greenfield – Simple Justice.

Glenn Reynolds – Instapundit.

Charles C. W. Cooke – National Review (and on Mr. Cooke's worthy podcast, Mad Dogs & Englishmen.)

Ilya Somin – Volokh Conspiracy.

Russia Today. (Yes, Russia Today. Because Vladimir Putin is all about free press and free speech.)

Andy Greenberg – Slate and Wired.  (I should add that Mr. Greenberg reacted very graciously to my angrily pointing out that he'd incorrectly stated the law, and updated an early version of the story.)

Charlotte Allen – Independent Womens Forum.

Damon Linker – The Week.

Barnini Chakraborty – Fox News.

Jazz Shaw – Hot Air.  (A pro-prosecution take to the effect that some terrorists may actually own deadly woodchippers.)

Ed Morrissey – Hot Air. (A dissenting view, more concerned with the threat to free speech than the threat of woodchippers.)

"Ace" – Ace of Spades HQ. (Who points out that the beast can be trained to attack in other directions, depending on its master, but it remains a beast.)

Mike Masnick – Techdirt. (With more background on the Ross "Dread Pirate Roberts" Ulbricht case.)

Joe Mullin – Ars Technica. (Another site that covered the Dread Pirate well.)

Annalee Newitz – Gizmodo. (This is why Gizmodo doesn't harvest IP addresses.)

C. J. Ciaramella – Buzzfeed.

Tim Lynch – Cato Institute. (Reason's less druggy older libertarian brother.)

Joe Palazzolo – Wall Street Journal Law Blog.

Doug Mataconis – Outside the Beltway. (Noting the interesting timing, just after Elonis.)

"Dana" Non-White – Patterico.

Rick Moran – American Thinker.

Ryan Radia – Competitive Enterprise Institute.  (A scholarly approach.)

Steven Hayward – Power Line.  ("An in-kind contribution by DOJ to Rand Paul")

Pat Beall – Palm Beach Post.

"Alex in CT" – Right Thinking.

Kate Vinton – Forbes.

Peter Ingemi – Da Tech Guy. (On the stupidity of the comments, as well as the investigation.)

Korean Central News Agency, Pyongyang. (Covering the "hypocritical braggarts" behind this investigation.)

"The Two Way" – National Public Radio.

TYLER FUCKING DURDEN! – Zero Hedge.

Editorial Board – Investors Business Daily.

Jack Marshall – Ethics Alarms.

Virgil Vaduva – Punk Rock Libertarians.

Katherine Forrest – Above The Law.  (Mildly disappointing for lack of substance and focus on the inanity of Reason's commenters, but ATL's own commenters are even worse than Reason's. Perhaps it was "meta.")

Brendan James – Talking Points Memo.

Kari Paul – Vice Motherboard.

And finally…

Nick Gillespie – Reason.com. (Please keep your comments civil.)

We don't endorse or agree with all of the coverage this situation has gotten, but obviously we think it's important. The only surprise is that it hasn't gotten more reporting. If you know of other coverage, from blogs or traditional media, please let me know in comments below, and I'll keep this list updated.

We will continue to cover this matter, as we are able.

Just A Couple Of Questions About Lynch Mobs

If you're somebody who supports privacy and freedom of conscience, do you think it's healthy for a republic to have a political media that digs up wrongthink statements by random nobodies, then amplifies the statements to expose the random nobodies to ridicule or financial ruin by thousands of angry strangers?

And if you've participated in such ridicule, do you feel better, months later, knowing that you helped cost that random nobody a job, all over a poorly expressed statement on the internet?

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility For Chip McGee's Feelz. And For Wombats.

Bedford New Hampshire School Superintendent Chip McGee is a sensitive man. Chip McGee is sensitive to his duties as an educator. He's sensitive to the instruction and welfare of his students. He's sensitive to the constitutional limits on his power as a government official.

But mostly, he's sensitive to Chip McGee's butt. And Chip McGee's butt hurts. Chip McGee's butt hurts as though Chip McGee was "the Gimp" at Rod Stewart's last acid and cocaine-fueled anal wombat insertion party.

Why does Chip McGee's butt hurt so? Because feelz.

A number of students at Bedford High School were disciplined after making remarks on Twitter about Superintendent Chip McGee’s announcement on the social networking site that classes would resume on Wednesday.

It seems students said rude things about McGee's insistence they attend school the day after a blizzard. Chip McGee understands that the students have a right to speak their minds. After all, the Constitution guarantees even students the right to free speech. But with that great power comes a great responsibility, the responsibility not to upset Chip McGee.

I want to stress that the widespread rumors that Rod Stewart inserted a wombat into my anus are just that - rumors!

I want to stress that the widespread rumors that Rod Stewart inserted a wombat into my anus are just that – rumors! No credible witnesses have come forth to support these allegations. And if any do, they'll be suspended, and it will go down on their permanent records!

“Kids said some very funny, clever things,” McGee said on Thursday. “And some kids stood up and said, ‘Hey, watch your manners.’ That was great. And some kids — a few — said some really inappropriate things.”

And so Chip McGee suspended four of them, for tweeting, from the privacy of their homes, about just what an appalling dildo-bat Chip McGee actually is.

“It’s been a really good exercise in issues of students’ right to speech, on the one hand, and students’ and teachers’ rights to an educational environment that’s conducive to learning,” McGee said. “Kids have the right to say whatever they want about me.”

However, this does not mean students should expect to be able to make inappropriate comments on social media without consequences, McGee said — even though the tweets were sent outside of school.

Actually, the First Amendment means that students do have the right to say that Chip McGee is an appalling dildo-bat from the the privacy of their homes, even on social media, without governmentally-imposed consequences. And Chip McGee, for whatever reason the citizens of Bedford, New Hampshire in their wisdom decided, is the government. Schools may discipline students for speech that disrupts the classroom (shouting, during math class, that "Chip McGee is an appalling dildo-bat") or for speech advocating illegal activity,

But it is not illegal to call Chip McGee an appalling dildo-bat, or "the Gimp" at Rod Stewart's last anal wombat insertion party, from the privacy of one's home, or even on social media. In the first case, this is protected opinion (I sincerely and genuinely believe that Chip McGee is an appalling dildo-bat), and in the second, mere hyperbole. (It was probably just a ferret, or maybe a mongoose.) Particularly given that in Bedford, New Hampshire, Chip McGee is the government. He is The Man, as that wombat, and Rod Stewart, could assure you. And if these students and their parents sue Chip McGee, and win (as they assuredly would) he'll never pay a dime.

“The First Amendment right means you can say what you want, (but) it doesn’t mean that you are free of repercussion,” McGee said. “It can’t disrupt what we’re doing in school … If something disrupts school, and it (occurs) outside school, we not only can take action, we have to.”

McGee said he hopes that students will learn from this incident about “the line” of decent and appropriate commentary.

“You only learn that by checking where it is, and having something happen when you cross it,” he said.

"I support free speech, but" is the eternal cry of the government censor who knows censorship is illegal, but abuses his power because, fuck it, he's the government. In Chip McGee's case, it's a very big but. A but large enough to fit a wombat.

Or maybe a ferret or a mongoose.

UPDATE:

We tweeted these innocuous questions to Chip McGee earlier today.

No wombats, or ferrets or mongeese, were harmed during the making of those tweets. And yet Chip McGee has deleted his twitter account, in record time.

IT'S GONE.

Charlie Hebdo – Open Thread

On behalf of Ken and myself, sorry. It would be difficult to write about this infuriating, monstrous crime without saying something one or the other of us would later regret. Perhaps later. Please feel free to discuss this atrocity among yourselves.

In the meantime, some cartoons, for your reading pleasure:

Charlie-Hebdo-Charia-en-Libye

 

CharliehebdoCharlie2Charlie

 

Charlie4

 

And finally, a reminder that France prosecutes people, indeed "national symbols," for speech far milder than what Charlie Hebdo had to say.

The goddess of free speech.

The goddess of free speech.

Vive La France, but change your laws. Never surrender.

The Curious Case Of The T.V. Attorney And Twitter

I'll confess that I don't watch much television news, but I have run across Greta Van Susteren through the years, principally when she served as an analyst during the O.J. Simpson trial. Since then, it would appear Ms. Van Susteren has parlayed her expertise into a nightly primetime show on the Fox News Channel.

Where she pontificates on matters outside her expertise.

For instance, Ms. Van Susteren, who may be highly qualified to discuss the criminal law, also feels qualified to discuss computer surveillance, security, and international intelligence. But on these matters she has no more business giving opinions than do I. Less, in fact. I know this, because I am one of her sources of news.

Screenshots follow, to punish the guilty.

Greta

Greta2

Now, it may well be that Ms. Van Susteren has been to North Korea three times, and she may well read a bit about the country, but if she is obtaining her news from "the North Korea state-owned news twitter feed," she is obtaining it from a dubious source indeed. The feed's actual author, me2, has never been to the Korean peninsula at all, and cannot read a word of the language. "The North Korean state run media" is a parody, derived in tone more from Soviet Russian newspapers (which I could read) than from Korean propaganda.

How could this have happened? Probably confirmation bias: the Tweet was too good to check. If Ms. Van Susteren had scrolled further down the feed, she'd have found such gems of news as:

or the latest celebrity gossip from Pyongyang:

We're told, by the media, that we should trust their authority, that they have "layers of editors and fact-checkers" at their service. But sometimes they're no better than bloggers, particularly when they venture outside their areas of expertise, or they fail to consult actual experts.

This is not a slam against Ms. Van Susteren or Fox News in particular. The "North Korea state-owned news twitter feed" has taken in many journalists through the years, at publications and websites more and less prestigious, on the right and left sides of the ideological center. It is to say, rather, that we as consumers of what the news media purvey, should be careful about what we're buying.

Trust but verify. Caveat emptor.

UPDATE:

Despite multiple comments at her own site warning Ms. Van Susteren, THIS IS A PARODY, meaning, "Go back and look," Ms. Van Susteren (who has updated her post) merely concedes that "some say" the "North Korea state-owned news twitter feed" is a parody. I myself, and others, have tweeted her multiple times to tell her: "Yes it is."

Greta3

 

It's disappointing that, rather than conceding the obvious, Ms. Van Susteren went with the "some say" dodge. I've fallen victim to benevolent pranks and hoaxes myself: the best course is to offer congratulations: "You got me," laugh, and admit it. So I've offered Ms. Van Susteren time-stamped proof:

I'm sure Ms. Van Susteren gets many replies on Twitter, so perhaps she hasn't read of this. But she has been active on the service, since the world learned the truth about Joe Biden.

It is a sweet puppy. Again, this isn't ideological criticism of Ms. Van Susteren, or of Fox, but an example of confirmation bias. When I want to get ideological, I do it with Juche. SECOND UPDATE: drudge-siren Greta4   If Ms. Van Susteren replies or addresses this, we will update.

THIRD UPDATE:

drudge-siren

Remember when I said this gentle bit of media criticism was non-ideological?

Slate, hardly a bastion of right-wing thought, has just fallen for the same bait (here's a cache). According to Slate, North Korea is enjoying a massive breakthrough in internet technology.

Again, a screenshot to punish the guilty:

Slate3To its credit, Slate has left the story (mostly) intact, and published a correction. A most grudging correction, which hardly acknowledges that author Lily Hay Newman was hacked by … her own gullibility, and again, confirmation bias.

Slate

It isn't a "misstatement," Ms. Newman. It's a failure to read. Again, if you'd only scrolled down the feed a bit, you'd have discovered this recap of the 2014 World Cup:

Or this important news about Ebola in the United States:

Caveat lector.

FOURTH UPDATE: MUST CREDIT POPEHAT AND DPRK_NEWS!

drudge-siren

drudge-siren

Sweet Jesus! The Washington Post!

WAPO1

 

WAPO

 

Layers of editors and fact-checkers.

FIFTH UPDATE!

Newsweek, which isn't saying much, these days, but I'll take it.

Newsweek1

 

SIXTH UPDATE:

Another hour, another scalp claimed from people who should know better.

And finally… Welcome Instapundit readers! Many thanks to Professor Reynolds for the link to this post, which as acknowledged above, demonstrates something he's been saying about news consumption for years: Caveat emptor. SEVENTH UPDATE, AND AN EIGHTH THERE SHALL NOT BE! drudge-siren Newsweek can take a joke. They asked for an interview, and we gave it. And: Mediaite, a site devoted to analysis of the U.S. running dog lackey media, also asked for comment. We complied. EIGHTH UPDATE, FIFTEEN DAYS LATER. The most trusted name in news. "Braggartly." CNN8 CNN has memory-holed that part of the story, but we keep screenshots. Archive here. 

NINTH UPDATE: BRITISH TABLOID EDITION, EIGHTEEN DAYS LATER

The spit-licking hyenas of Britain's Daily Mail may embrace the DPRK, but that will not save them.

DailyMail1

DailyMail2

DailyMail