Culture & Family RSS feed for this section
justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Avoiding the Social Media Soma

If you follow or read conservatives online, you’ve probably heard, over the past week, of strange goings on with Facebook.  Apparently, my friend and former Anchor Rising co-contributor Don Hawthorne was caught up in it:

Yesterday morning, Facebook took down all five of my posts, declaring each time that “We removed this post because it looks like spam and doesn’t follow our Community Standards.” …

Many Facebook friends have had the same experience yesterday, with no explanations.

Each time I got the message, I clicked on the “This Isn’t Spam” response option. Facebook replied, saying they needed to review the article to confirm it met Facebook Community Standards. They then came back and, each time, said it did meet standards and would be reposted.

After which, Facebook deleted several of my newly-reposted articles.

Don puts this in the context of the increasingly apparent online censorship of conservatives across platforms, noting:

There are escalating information asymmetries, enabled by technology companies.

Indeed, we have justification for worrying that the “personal social score” that China has begun applying to its people is something of a model.  However, while I agree with Don that “our  culture war is now fully out in the open,” crossing “the line from a voluntary civil society to a coercive political society,” I’m not so sure about this part:

The Left’s outsourcing of censorship to Silicon Valley technology companies leaves only one imperfect, time-sensitive solution—government-enforced deregulation—until there are more responsible leaders.

That “de” is probably not justifiably inserted in front of “regulation,” because regulation is what Don is after.  He’s not alone in thinking maybe the tech giants should face something resembling the breakup of a cartel, but I’m skeptical.  Ultimately, the solution is to get off of these platforms.  Put your genuine content somewhere else — on some conservative site or on your own site — and use social media only to draw people away from social media.

The tech giants are selling us an addiction to little fixes of attention and affirmation.  If we lower our doses just a little and use technology to build stronger, less manipulated relationships that require minimally more engagement with the actual world, we’ll find ourselves healthier for it, and freer.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Questioning a “Safe Space” for Men

The College Fix reports on what appears to be an implicitly self contradictory (which is to say, dishonest) attack on masculinity at Brown University:

A program at the Ivy League institution provides “safe spaces for men to unpack all of the things they have learned about masculinity and what it means to be a man,” according to its website.

“Rigid definitions of masculinity are toxic to men’s health,” campus officials state online under the heading: “Unlearning Toxic Masculinity.”

“Men will often resort to violence to resolve conflict because anger is the only emotion that they have been socialized to express,” the website states. “Unfortunately, the way that young men are conditioned to view sex and their need to be dominant and have power over others also contribute to instances of sexual assault and other forms of interpersonal violence on college campuses.”

It’s been a while since I was part of a campus community, so maybe I’m missing the nuances of “safe spaces,” but I’m not sure how the term could cover a space in which one is explicitly identified as “toxic.”  Are the safe spaces provided to other identity groups similarly characterized by the safety to talk about what’s wrong with members of the group?  That seems more like a “hostile space.”

Indeed, spend some time clicking through the texts and videos associated with this program, and you’ll be hard pressed to find anybody who exhibits a sense of safety in acknowledging something like, “I’m strong and competitive, and all of these other guys talking about how masculinity means being cold, calculating, and distant just aren’t describing a reality that matches the society that I’ve experienced.”  Even a video of a young woman (who appears to present as a young man) tells the story of her toxic masculinity when she hit her brother for telling her she looked pretty.

In other words, it’s all play acting and virtue signaling, and there’s nothing really new, here.  The lesson that is pushed ad nauseam is basically:  People shouldn’t be jerks, and “jerk” and “masculine man” are basically synonyms.

By that definition, the most masculine people in the world would have to be the authorities pushing this nonsense on young impressionable men and women, and that clearly isn’t correct.

mike-stenhouse-avatar

Reporting by OSC: Veteran Struck With Bike Lock By Antifa Rally Attendee

I want to share with you an outstanding piece of reporting done by our Ocean State Current on a violent politically-motivated assault of a veteran by an alleged member of Antifa last Saturday. The Current broke this important story, and brought Rhode Islanders the real message of what was happening.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

A Loss with the Deterioration of the Humanities

I’m not just puffing up my own degree when I say that I found my study of literature to be much more broadly relevant training than mere communication and empathy.

Done correctly, literary analysis can be practice for understanding the universe: Given a limited amount of information, one must determine the appropriate criteria for understanding the creation and separate evidence from noise, making the case for each step along the way.  Of course, a literary critic must go on to master any technical knowledge required to apply this skill set to some other subject, be it theology, physics, or politics, but a specialist in other subjects must do the same in reverse (and often won’t recognize that need).

I’m therefore sorry, but not surprised, to read Alex Berezow’s report on dramatic declines in study of the humanities:

The humanities are in big trouble. That’s the conclusion drawn by Benjamin Schmidt, an Assistant Professor of History at Northeastern University. He has the data to back it up.

In his analysis, Dr. Schmidt depicts several graphs, all of which show a fairly striking trend: Students are rejecting the humanities. The most striking graph, which includes data for English, Languages, History, and Philosophy, shows that the number of college degrees in these fields awarded as a percentage of all college degrees fell from roughly 7.5% in the 2000s to under 5% today.

Reviewing the included charts, it appears that the only two exceptions are communications and cultural, ethnic, and gender studies.  The first is broad, but with the feel of practicality (especially in a world of information technology driven to manipulate people).  The second is really more the development of an ideology and reinforcement of emotion.

Berezow offers three interrelated explanations, which I’d rephrase as follows:

  1. Our society has a general sense that the humanities are not serious disciplines.
  2. The research coming from the humanities reads like a species of parody.
  3. The humanities have been absorbed almost entirely by a particular proselytizing ideology associated with a single political party.

And so, students who are interested in learning and being tested on knowledge and analysis, rather than affirmed in their beliefs and emotions, are leaving the humanities.  That’s a problem because, even with declining numbers, we’re training vast numbers of young adults to feel emotionally entitled and to manipulate others, even as everybody else has less experience framing their responses in the way I described at the outset of this post.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Who Pays for Intolerant “Tolerance” on Adoption

Jon Schweppe and Paul Dupont have it right, here:

Consider how the child welfare system works. The state works with adoption agencies and foster care providers to place children in homes. The providers recruit families to adopt or foster the children.

Different providers recruit different types of families. For example, Christian providers, which often work directly with churches or other faith-based charities, usually recruit Christian families. If you get rid of some of the providers, you get rid of some of the families. The fewer providers doing the work of recruitment, the fewer homes for children.

Simple enough, right? Yet the Left obfuscates by claiming LGBT couples should have a right to force providers to violate their faith or go out of business, while showing no concern for children in desperate need of families.

It is more important to progressives to block the ability of Christians and other traditionalists to live according to their beliefs and promote those beliefs than to help our society’s most-vulnerable children.  It happened in Massachusetts a decade ago, and it’s happening in Philadelphia, right now.

Data on these matters will take time to develop and to be analyzed.  No study jumped immediately out of an Internet search, and the interactions are complex.  However, mixing federal data on the numbers of finalized adoptions in Massachusetts with state-level numbers for the number of children ending each fiscal year gives some reason for concern.

Catholic Charities ceased providing adoption services near the end of fiscal year 2006.  From that year to 2014 (the last year for which all data is available), the number of finalized adoptions fell 29.6%, while the number of children (broadly defined) listed as having a “goal of adoption” fell only 6.6%.  Consequently, the number of children who were adopted fell from 24.2% of the total either adopted or awaiting adoption to 19.4%.

To be clear, this should be considered a rough estimate.  The numbers may need some adjustment before being combined, and there are some aberrations from year to year that should be explored.  Still, the apparent trend comports with what one would expect after this significant change in policy.  And if one cares about children (let alone religious freedom) opposing legislation that would allow religious organizations to keep doing what they’ve done for decades betrays a radical, inhumane intention.

mike-stenhouse-avatar

Conservative Policies Produce Rapid Economic Growth

For eight years, progressive-left politicians have told us that the ‘new normal’ for economic growth would be limited to the 2% range. And for years, our Center and other free-market advocates argued that major tax and regulatory reductions would reverse this course and lead to rapid economic growth, meaning more money and prosperity for families. After this week’s 4.1% GDP growth report, there can no longer be any doubt that we were right.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

A Democrat Candidate Who Can Help to Change the Political Conversation

What’s striking is that ordinary followers of culture and politics in Rhode Island could very well never hear the perspective that Providence College theologian and Democrat candidate for state representative Holly Taylor Coolman expressed so well in an interview with Charles Camosy for Crux:

I have tried to be clear about what a pro-life stance means for me. It’s rooted in this fundamental commitment to human dignity. It’s rooted in my belief that we have to fight the temptation to exercise our own freedom at the expense of others. And it is indispensably connected to larger concerns: Everything from prison reform to affordable housing to protecting water sources has to do with respecting life. As a woman, I am deeply aware of the challenges that women have faced and continue to face. I just believe that we can find options that respect both women’s dignity and freedom and also the lives of unborn children.

Coolman (running in District 5, Providence) touches on one of the more peculiar differences between the Left and Right in Western discourse these days.  Conservatives tend to emphasize leaving people free of mandates from government, with the proviso that social norms and institutions should be in place to help them “fight the temptation to exercise [their] own freedom at the expense of others,” as Coolman puts it.  Progressives, in contrast, seem to believe that people should be free of all social restraints on whatever the government gives them permission to do.

For the moment, at least, we can imagine having the pleasure of Coolman’s forcing these sorts of debates in Rhode Island politics.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

The Fruits of a Society That Decouples Marriage and Children

These findings are closely related to debates among those of us who were writing about same-sex marriage back in the early ’00s:

Calling cohabitation a socially “normative behavior,” the article noted an 82 percent increase between 1987 and 2010 of women who have cohabited at some point, as reported in a study by demographer Wendy Manning.

Cohabiting couples are also increasingly more likely to have children. There has been a 15 percent increase in cohabiting parents from 1997 to 2017, a Pew Research study found.

“Due primarily to the rising number of cohabiting parents, the share of unmarried parents who are fathers has more than doubled over the past 50 years,” Pew reported.

“Cohabitation has greatly increased in large measure because, while people are delaying marriage to ever greater ages, they are not delaying sex, living together, or childbearing,” the IFS said, noting that “almost all of the increase in non-marital births in the US since 1980 has taken place in the context of cohabiting unions.”

Nobody claimed that broadening the definition of marriage to include intimate couples that, by their nature, could not create children would produce these trends. Rather, these trends were underway, and codifying same-sex marriage in the law locks them in.

The connection is obvious. With the introduction of same-sex marriage, people simply can’t claim that the creation of children is part of marriage (and vice versa), even thematically. Marriage becomes entirely about the feelings of adults about each other, and any children they create are incidental. That approach is corrosive for both the relationships of the parents and the relationships of the parents with their children, who are no longer conceived as the embodiment of the parents’ joining.

The parents’ relationship, even if a marriage, is now purely contractual and separate from its fruits. This won’t work out well in the long run.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Transgression and Customers in Small-Venue Theaters

Need to take a break from politics?  Turn to the culture war for a moment.  Thomas Curry raises an interesting question in a recent letter to the Providence Journal.  He and his wife were “subscribers” to the recently closed 2nd Story Theatre in Warren for two decades, but then:

Over the last several years, we noticed a trend in the selection of plays that we found unsettling. We had decided not to renew our subscription for the coming season, which was a disappointing end to a long-term relationship.

Gratuitous profanity and genres that seemed to target a segment of theatergoers outside of our interests seemed to be on the increase. In some performances a few years ago, there was full frontal male nudity. Since then, I have been reluctant to invite a friend or my grandchildren to a performance, fearing embarrassment because of over-the-top flamboyance, profanity or even nudity. We also noticed that there were more and more empty seats.

Some of my most fond memories are of small-venue theater performances of classics and semi-classics — from Shakespeare to Wait Until Dark to Death Takes a Holiday to The Price, and I’ve hoped that a more stable household budget and a loosening schedule (someday) would allow for more such experiences.

I wonder, though, whether those owners, directors, and actors who gravitate toward (or get stuck in) these small venues have a greater inclination to be transgressive.  Strong social standards once put some restraints on that inclination; even beyond the question of direct marketability, one just didn’t push the envelope too far.  For my money, that tension made for better art.  Subtle transgression is necessarily smarter and more profound, if only because of the ambiguity it requires.

But standards have long been deteriorating and have been wiped away entirely in recent years.  Some precincts have a strong standard to always attack the old standards, and we’re reaching the point that clever, subtle transgression can only be accomplished in support of traditional values.

This context creates some intriguing opportunities.  Perhaps a small-venue theater that explicitly stuck to the vast library of classics and semi-classics could fill their seats with the likes of Mr. Curry and me.  And perhaps it could periodically sneak in a play with some subversive cultural conservatism.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Cardinal’s Remark Revealing of a Missing Role

A Catholic News Agency article by Ed Condon conveys various responses to this comment from Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, explaining why “priests are not the best people to train others for marriage”:

“They have no credibility; they have never lived the experience; they may know moral theology, dogmatic theology in theory, but to go from there to putting it into practice every day….they don’t have the experience,” the cardinal added.

I can’t help but feel like the thing that Cardinal Farrell appears to miss is also missing in important ways throughout our culture.  In the life of a church, a priest should have a unique view of people throughout their lives, having helped to train children in the faith, helped couples through their marital challenges, and been with them in times of loss at the ends of their lives.  And don’t forget their experience taking believers’ confessions and then being able to observe them in their lives.

Sure, the extent to which this idealized image applies may be fading.  Fewer priests overseeing smaller parishes with more managerial responsibilities in a less-personally-connected world are not in the same position in which their predecessors may have been, and we shouldn’t shy from acknowledging that in order to save impressions.  My disagreement with the cardinal’s comment, however, is that he seems to be suggesting not that this is a problem to reverse, but that it’s a permanent change to which to adjust.

And so we drift further into isolation, turning to one-off quacks and clinicians who have financial incentive to tell us what we want to hear and professional incentives to advance a secular, materialist worldview, while we increasingly behave as if people with real experience have nothing to tell us and politicians have some keen insight into what our behavior ought to be.

I’d promote religious leaders as particularly well suited to play this role, but the heart of the loss is a figure who is expected to have the good of a community in central focus based on transcendent principles.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

How Is the Governor Not Excommunicated?

Election season — with opposition from can’t-get-to-his-Left Matt Brown — is pushing Rhode Island’s progressive governor Gina Raimondo to shore up her support from those on the fringe of her party, as the Associated Press reports:

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo says she would like the state legislature to return for a special session on abortion rights following the announcement of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement.

WLNE-TV reports that Raimondo called the need to codify Roe v. Wade “more urgent and necessary than ever.”

Here’s a serious question Roman Catholics may rightfully be asking themselves: How is Governor Raimondo not excommunicated from the Church?  Here she is, a prominent Catholic, explicitly encouraging extraordinary steps to preserve the right to kill unborn children in Rhode Island in the face of still-speculative and distant change in federal law.

On both the grounds of the disposition of her own soul and her highly visible role in undermining Church teaching, how she can possibly continue to be recognized as a Catholic in good standing?

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Culturally Appropriating the Other’s Victim Status

The other day Republican Rhode Island Senator Elaine Morgan tweeted out the following, from her political competition for District 34:

I’m white. I have privilege. But today and for the next four years, I’m Muslim. Put me on a list.

In all honestly, I’m not inclined attack somebody for a show of solidarity.  The “I’m white. I have privilege.” thing is kind of silly, but if there is genuine persecution going on, there’s nothing wrong with an “I am Spartacus” movement.

That said, I’d like to know the rules.  Wouldn’t it be cultural appropriation for a privileged white person to usurp the victim status of a minority group, particularly in a society that places such a high value on victim status?  Evidence that the appropriator, in this case, places value on victim status arises in the thread of replies to her tweet, which includes her further explanation that she’s “never been given a hand up because [she’s] a woman.”

I’d request a clear guide on all of these matters, but I suspect not having clear rules is key to their value to progressives.  A fine appreciation of the ever-changing rules illustrates a deeper conformity than simple pronouncements of agreement and solidarity.

Quantcast