Ace of Spades

Why Celebrities Kill Themselves

It doesn’t take much to interpret Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s untimely death of what’s looking increasingly like a heroin overdose as an unconscious leap into the void. When I first read the accounts, I was struck by two facts:

  • Hoffman had been clean, or so he said, for 23 years before last year.
  • The brand of heroin police found in his appartment “Ace of Spades” hadn’t been seen on the streets of Brooklyn since 2008.

To which Stacy McCain adds a third:

  • Hoffman had 50 bags of the stuff in his pad.

Which shouldn’t surprise. When the monkey returns to the back, he usually does so with a saddle and a bullwhip. The yearning to throw away all reason follows fast behind the surrender to addiction. So calling this a waste of a fine talent, which it is, is kind of beside the point. Hoffman reached a place where his talent and his career and his children did not sustain him like another hit did. People take drugs to self-medicate, to make some problem go the hell away for a few hours.

And sure, you can say “What problem did he have? The Oscars? The respect of his peers? The $10,000-a-month appartment? I’d like to have those problems!” But again, those are all beside the point. Success is not happiness. It never has been and never will be. Success may be connected to happiness, but they don’t equate. And that goes double for anyone in the entertainment industry. When I heard the news about Hoffman, I wasn’t even a little bit surprised, despite knowing next to nothing about his personal life at that point. I didn’t need to. He was a famous entertainer. Famous entertainers do drugs. These people are not happy.

Celebrities either start believing their own hype, and decide to pester the known universe with their particular moral notions (Sean Penn, the People’s Commissar of Burbank), or they wall themselves off into hermetic seclusion and grow almost alienated from their own life’s work (Harrison Ford approaching every interview with thinly veiled contempt for everyone involved with it). Some even become the masters of their own media empire (Tom Hanks). But a sizable number follow a path of self-indulgence from their new status and self-disgust for their participation in the brutal circus of fame towards inevitable self-annihilation.

Because Pop Culture is so important.

The Discreet Charms of the New Class

I first read Ayn Rand in college, and enjoyed her insofar as she expressed things I had previously pondered but never fully articulated. Her philosophy attempted to wed Aristotle with dialectical materialism, and I’m not entirely sure how well she pulled it off.

But she did hit upon some under-spoken truths in her major works, of which I have always appreciated the line that kicks of Francisco d’Anconia’s speech in Atlas Shrugged: the one that posits an “aristocracy of pull” which would replace the old naughty aristocracy of wealth. And it is that idea which analogizes into the New Class that Matthew Continetti captures in his look at the upcoming nuptuals of Sam Kass and Alex Wagner in “Love in the Time of Obama” (h/t Ace and Instapundit, which should give you an idea of how significant New Class range-finding is in the wingnut blogosphere).

Both Kass and Wagner, let it be said, are talented. Or at least Wagner is. I haven’t had dinner at the White House. Wagner is pretty, bubbly, and informed, and though her show reminds me of an interminable seminar on theories of representation in the West, I’d rather watch an hour of her than any of the other MSNBC hosts. Yet I cannot help being struck by the disjunction between her attitude toward conservative elites and her attitude toward herself, toward her own part of the upper crust. I cannot help being struck by the unknowingness with which she and her guests establish categories such as “rich” and “elite” that exclude everyone they know.

Both of them are where they are because of who they are and who they know. Now, this has always been true. Knowing the powerful is always better than not knowing them. But in the New Class, that’s the first of the only two criteria for membership. The second is a sycnophantic devotion to the State as such, to the power of Institutions to Do Amazing Work. Matt Yglesias can snark merrily about income inequality and such from his tony DC rowhouse that costs more than the yearly salaries of everyone at my workplace, combined, because his work provides endless justifications for Leviathan. Ted Cruz, on the other hand, went to Harvard but is a pariah in the circles Kass, Wagner, et al. move in. Going to the Right Schools makes you one of the Right People only if you have the Right Opinions.

And it strikes me that ideological devotion and credential makes a frightfully weak foundation to build a fortress on. Traditional aristocracies, ancient and medieval, rested on control of productive land and military prowess. As technological advancements spread both wealth production and lethality around in the Early Modern period, the medieval nobility gradually lost power.

The Senate of Rome followed a different path. Senators in the Republic held their positions for life so long as they owned sufficient land, and held prestige insofar as they demonstrated other aristocratic virtues, of which the chief was the ability to command soldiers in war. With the coming of the Empire, senators switched from being statesmen to synchophants, playing a Game of Gossip with the Emperors for Caeser’s favor. By the end of Caligulia’s reign, most of them were dead, replaced by new families from the minor nobility and provinces.

So building an aristocracy on Opinion and discreet tax-farming seems destined to fail. But perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps the real source of the New Class’ strength is their ability to control What can and cannot be said. Obama is a moderate and a statesman, because our masters who went to the right schools and learned the right way to say the right things say he is ad nauseam.

All of which is another way of saying that Orwell was at least as much of a prophet as Ayn Rand.

Jonah Goldberg on The Vital Importance of Saying “I Told You So.”

Normally, when a piece of legislation is flawed, the spirit of bipartisanship demands a responsible effort to fix it. In this way, both critics and proponents can work together democratically to best benefit their constitutents.

But not this time. This time, the Democrats can eat it. This time, they passed a law that every Republican voted against, that hordes of citizens rallied to stop. This time, they told us we were crazy, stupid, and racist for not bowing to the New Order. Now that the New Order is falling about their ears, we must savor the deliciousness of their tears. As Jonah Goldberg points out, this is Nemesis at work.

And Schadenfreude (or schadenboner, as Andy at Ace of Spades prefers) is the only appropriate response from the right. We said this wouldn’t work. We said that people would lose coverage. We said that giving one-sixth of the economy to the government was a bad idea. And now that we’re proven right, to point this out is a necessary act of truth-telling for the Republic.

Because:

If Obamacare had been a shining success from Day One, do you think the Democrats would be in the mood to share the credit? Then why should Republicans be in more of a mood to share the blame?

Chew each bite 25 times, proggies.

UPDATE: Pocket Full of Liberty puts this in starker terms: “Do nothing, GOP.

Kermit Gosnell and the Holy of Holies

Abortion is not new. It did not spring fully-formed from the head of the Supreme Court in 1973. It is as old as civilization itself, and the controversy surrounding it is just as old:

“Why sow where the ground makes it its care to destroy the fruit? Where there are many efforts at abortion? Where there is murder before the birth? For even the harlot thou dost not let continue a mere harlot, but makest her a murderess also. You see how drunkenness leads to whoredom, whoredom to adultery, adultery to murder; or rather to a something even worse than murder. For I have no name to give it, since it does not take off the thing born, but prevent its being born. Why then dost thou abuse the gift of God, and fight with His laws, and follow after what is a curse as if a blessing, and make the chamber of procreation a chamber for murder, and arm the woman that was given for childbearing unto slaughter?”

That’s St. John Chrysostom, one of the Doctors of the Church, writing in the 4th century AD, damning men for seducing women and abandoning them, forcing abortion upon them (just in case you thought that those old unmarried men had no idea what made babies happen). This argument has been going on for a very long time, and it’s going to keep going on. Nothing that has happened recently is going to change that.

It’s safe to say that the dam is bursting on the Kermit Gosnell story, as it inevitably must have. Nothing as lurid and horrifying as the prosecution alleges could have truly failed to escape the public consciousness, no matter how much certain circles would have preferred it.

I am late to this story, not because I didn’t know about it, and not because I haven’t been reading up on it (Stacy McCain in particular has been all over it from the beginning). I haven’t wanted to write about this for the same reason Megan McArdle didn’t: sheer revulsion and horror. What this bland, grandfatherly-looking man of 72 – a poster-boy for “the banality of evil” if ever one existed – created in his Philadelphia clinic amounts to an infant-sized Auschwitz, a crime against humanity. And even generically pro-life people like myself dont’ want to realize that it exists, for to do so would be to violate a polite taboo.

In ancient Israel, the sanctorum at the center of the Temple in Jerusalem was called the Holy of Holies. As the home of the Ark of the Covenant, it made incarnate the presence of God in Israel. Only one man – the High Priest – on only one day – Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement – could ever enter the Holy of Holies. Anyone else (such as the sons of Aaron in Leviticus 10) who entered died. The presence of God was not for the unworthy to look upon.

If modern feminism’s obsession with “reproductive freedom” has something of a religious character (and there are those that say so), then the birth control pill is its Eucharist, and abortion its Holy of Holies. It is Between a Woman and Her Doctor: mere mortals are not supposed to know what goes on. When anti-abortion activists take to the streets with pictures of mutilated fetuses, we are angry at the makers of the pictures, not the makers of the content. This is true even of pro-life people, such as myself. We don’t want to see this. We don’t want to know. Witness Roger Simon:

The trial of Dr. Gosnell is a potential time bomb exploding in the conventional liberal narrative on abortion itself.  This is about the A-word.

No feeling human being can read this story or watch it on TV without being confronted with the obvious conclusion — like it or not — that abortion is murder.

It may be murder with extenuating circumstances (rape, survival of the mother, etc.) but it is murder nonetheless.  Dr. Gosnell — monster though he is — has accidentally shoved that uncomfortable truth in our faces.

Pushing this case front and center in the media would change the national narrative on this subject.  (The current stats are here, via Rasmussen.)

I can give you two guinea pigs to prove this point — my wife Sheryl and me.  We were in the kitchen last night, preparing dinner, when we saw a short report of this story on the countertop TV.

Both lifelong “pro-choice” people, after watching only seconds, we embarked in an immediate discussion of whether it was time to reconsider that view.  (Didn’t human life really begin at the moment of conception?  What other time?) Neither of us was comfortable as a “pro-choice” advocate in the face of these horrifying revelations.  How could we be?

Yes, Dr. Gosnell was exceptional (thank God for that!), but a dead fetus was a dead fetus, even if incinerated in some supposedly humane fashion rather than left crying out in blind agony on the operating room floor, as was reportedly the case with one of Gosnell’s victims. I say blind because this second-trimester fetus did not yet have fully formed eyes. (Think about that one.)

So I don’t think I’m “pro-choice” anymore, but I’m not really “pro-life” either.  I would feel like a hypocrite. I don’t want to pretend to ideals I have serious doubts I would be able to uphold in a real-world situation.  If a woman in my family, or a close friend, were (Heaven forbid) impregnated through rape, I would undoubtedly support her right to abortion.  I might even advocate it.  I also have no idea how I would react if confronted by having to make a choice between the life of a fetus and his/her mother.  Just the thought makes my head spin.

And there it is. We are compromised. We see murder and we pretend not to. We call it something else. We treat it as magic, as though a first-trimester abortion mystically removes the unwanted-abstraction-which-is-not-alive-shut-up, transubstantiates the woman from “pregnant” to “not pregnant” and sends her heroically on her way. The death, the blood, the humanity-reduced-to-laboratory-specimens (I have seen them), we doublethink these messy realities away. And we tell our young (and ourselves, truth be told) that they may fornicate freely, without consequence, because “protection” exists, and if “protection” fails (or they fail “protection”) we have this Serious And Important Issue to Pontificate and Philosophize About, which will unmake the the consequence.

We call this “Love”. We call it “Modern.” We call it “Necessary.” We call it “Woman Retaking her Power from the Patriarchy.” We call it “Free of Medieval Moralizing.” We call it “Rational”. We don’t call it “Infant Girl Decapitated With Scissors.

We don’t want to see it. We don’t want to know.

Ace Excorciates The White Republic

Apparently The New Republic that insists that everyone else should “diversify” would like to be free to make up its own mind about putting any of those filthy minorities on staff.

Apparently diversity-efforts are things Other People must do — never people who Dylan Byers works for, or may work for at some point down the road. They have a special dispensation.

Just Because They Said So.

I hear that TNR is losing money. Mayhaps re-branding would help. I have a few suggestions:

  • The New Republic – Because White People Need Jobs, Too
  • The New Republic — The Old Republic Was Full of the Mud Races
  • The New Republic — Your Hypocritical Stormfront on the Potomac
  • The New Republic — Are Black People Even That Cool?
  • The New Republic — Our Journalism is Restricted . . . to the Truth. Yeah, the Truth.
  • The New Republic — Our Property Values are Solid
  • The New Republic — The Only Chocolate Around Here Comes in Packages, and is Also White
"There must be a way..."

“There must be a way…”

The Union and the Confederacy: the Ongoing Civil War in the GOP

The time has come for honesty. We cannot continue as we are, pretending to party unity. The schisms are too obvious. We talk of “establishments” and “purists” as though we all want different things. Let me suggest that this is in fact, because we want different things.

Let us first talk of the Union. The Union is the Washington GOP, the New York GOP, the PAC bundlers and the white-paper policy writers. The crew that ran K Street and runs Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and National Review. The opposition from the old days, when conservatism was drowning in a sea of rad-libs and fellow travelers, and keeping the faith alive from one defeat to the next was the order of business.

The Union are Hamiltonian men, for whom the business of government is management. The economy is to be managed; the welfare state is to be managed. Sure, we can make sound argument that these things should not exist, that they are poisonous to the body politic. But we will not unmake these things, because the insanity of the Left is something we must also manage to. If we push too hard, the left will turn the Eye of Sauron on us, and the mushy middle will betray us, and we will get Goldwatered. We must manage the progressive rot of our liberties, because the alternative is progressively worse.

Then there is the Confederacy. People who have been paying attention to the Tea Parties from the beginning know that hostility to Bush-brand bailouts and “compassionate conservatism” was also part of their fury. They felt betrayed by the conservatives they had sent to Washington, who had suckled on pork and given us Medicare Part D and No Child Left Behind. What was the point of electing Republicans, if this was what they got?

The Confederacy – Tea Parties, Breitbart, and Reason-reading, Hayek-quoting kindred spirts of that ilk – don’t want to manage the erosion of our liberties. They want to roll it back. They’re tired of having to defend a constantly shrinking circle of redoubts, which the progressives may attack at their leisure. They don’t want to fix Social Security; they want to break it in two. They don’t want to increase federal education spending; they want to end it. Because that word – liberty – which I hardly heard in the 80’s and 90’s, has suddenly returned to vogue. The conservative base has had it with diluted conservatism, with begging the Priests of Leviathan to please not change everything right this minute.

This divergence is at the root of all the strife amid Republicans, not just now, not just during the election, or during the primaries, or even during the first Tea Party primaries in 2010 (O’Donnell vs. Castle et. al), but further and yet further back. Yesterday Stacy McCain reminded us that Rush Limbaugh backed Pat Buchanan’s quixotic attempt to unseat Bush the Elder in the 1992 primaries.

Limbaugh knew that Bush was doomed to defeat in 1992, and that the key was to give conservatives a cause worth fighting for. After Bush lost, Limbaugh’s show became the focal point for the Republican opposition that triumphed in 1994.

We cannot win if we do not fight, if we do not risk defeat. Ace spoke on this yesterday:

Yes, taking the Strong, Uncompromising Position has a chance of moving the Overton Window in your direction, which the Weak-Tea Fudge Position does not.

But then, taking the Strong, Uncompromising Position can also move the Overton Window away from you, too.

It’s a high-risk strategy. As in investing, high-risk plays are the only ones that can generate high value rewards… but then they can also bankrupt you. You can make high-risk investments, but not too many of them, and you have to make such decisions only with great care and deliberation.

He thinks that Paul Ryan took the Strong, Uncompromising Position last year and that it blew up in our faces. People were terrified of messing with the government gravy train and so fell into the soft embrace of Obama’s orotund evasions. Perhaps, perhaps. But was this not instructive? Did we not learn something about the work that is before us? About the extent to which we are outflanked culturally and demographically? Did we not all, Establishment and Tea Party, come away with the understanding that we have to try harder, and in new ways, if we want to win again?

Perhaps not. Perhaps all the Union men came away with was the fact that we just got pummeled and that we should give the Beast whatever he wants so that he will eat us last. And Perhaps the Confederates learned only to Let it Burn, so that they can rebuild on the ashes.

But no election is ever the last one. We will have another chance, and soon. The question is, what will we use that chance to do? To maintain and manage, or to resist? Do we want to trim Leviathan’s claws, or do we want to kill the beast?

We need to make up our minds. Our enemies already have.