Over-Emoting Is A Growing Distraction In Live Music Performance

Overwrought emotional displays which detract from the music are not new to live performance, but are they becoming more pervasive and insufferable?

In an interesting segment from last night’s Ben Shapiro Show, Shapiro focuses on one stand-out act of celebrity leftist virtue signalling at the recent Grammy Awards in order to riff on performer over-emoting in more general terms.

The specific performance that raised Ben’s ire featured U2’s Bono – an Irishman, it’s worth remembering, not a US citizen – singing in front of the Statue of Liberty, and praising the “shitholes of the world” as the source of America’s greatness, intended as a rebuttal to President Trump’s use of the vulgar phrase in a meeting with members of Congress about immigration.

While looking wistfully at the sky and prancing around in front of the Statue of Liberty, Bono portentously intones into a megaphone:

Blessed are the shithole countries, for they gave us the American Dream.

And to this nonsense, Shapiro responds:

As a musician for many many years, my favourite violinist – as is every violinist’s favourite violinist – is Jascha Heifetz. One of the things I love about Jascha Heifetz is that there is no histrionics. Jascha Heifetz, when he plays the violin – go look at a tape of him – is just stone faced. He just plays, and it’s great.

One of the things I hate the most about modern music is modern music is all based on energy and histrionics. It’s all based on you making faces while you sing, and looking up to the sky like Bono. Look at him, looking up to the sky with his red, white and blue loudspeaker.

This is something that I also find incredibly annoying and distracting. Of course this kind of preening and prancing has long been connected with music, and performers caring more about how they look and portray their socio-political opinions than how they sound on record is hardly a new phenomenon.

Nineteenth century Romantic pianist and composer Franz Liszt cultivated such a following that it coined a term – “Lizstomania” – where women would fight even over his coffee dregs and discarded cigars. And Lizst himself egged on this behaviour, being one of the first concert pianists to rotate the piano so that he would face the side of the stage at a right-angle to the audience, the better that they could appreciate his dashing profile.

Neither are all of the musicians I admire entirely innocent of this behaviour. Conductor-composer Leonard Bernstein also cut a dashing figure and was famous for the “Lenny leap” where he would sometimes clear a full foot from the podium. Glenn Gould, long my favourite pianist, is almost as well-known for his eccentricities – such as humming as he played, sitting on a battered folding chair when giving concerts and dressing for winter even in the height of summer – as he is for his revelatory interpretations of Bach, Beethoven or Brahms. But in the latter’s defence, many of his defining idiosyncrasies were clearly innate rather than studied, and in fact Glenn Gould had so little time for being a celebrity that he stopped giving concerts altogether at a young age to focus his energies on the recording studio.

British violinist Nigel Kennedy could likewise hardly be described as a staid, boring performer, yet his eccentricities somehow draw one into the performance rather than distracting or repelling the audience or listener. Watch Kennedy break normal concert protocol by addressing this BBC Proms audience immediately before launching into Elgar’s violin concerto and you’ll see what I mean:

 

But to me there is a definite order of magnitude between the baseline level of emoting that we see in classical music today and the more restrained (on average) approach of even thirty years ago. I confess that as technically brilliant as the likes of superstar pianists Lang Lang or Daniil Trifonov may be, I struggle to watch them because of the on-stage theatrics (in my opinion Yuja Wang does a far better job of being engaging and contemporary without appearing like a cholera patient on a storm-tossed sailboat).

I don’t care if you’re hamming up the rubato while playing some Chopin, there’s no need to lash your head around or make anguished faces as though someone is lurking under the piano pulling out your toenails as you play. But then maybe that’s just because I like my classical musicians the same way I like my journalists and TV news anchors – scruffy and unkempt, too dedicated to their craft to waste time worrying about being a walking shampoo commercial.

Now some of these behaviours and tics – maybe even a majority – can be put down to the understandable exuberance and vanity of youth. But I think a significant minority are inspired by a recognition that being brilliant is not enough unless one also looks and acts the part. And the look and act that audiences increasingly demand and reward is high on emoting, high on dazzling feats of technical brilliance (what Glenn Gould once derisively referred to as “piano-playing” in a self-critique of his earlier work) and lower on the kind of subtlety and introspection which is often needed to bring out the best in even some of the more bombastic repertoire.

And so might it be the case that the real problem with efforts to expand the market for classical music are not the things that usually get traditionalists so worked up – wearing jeans to the opera, mandatory white tie for orchestral musicians, informal lunchtime concerts and so on – but rather the fact that more and more classical performers are adapting to the Age of YouTube by attempting to groan and grimace their way to profundity just like every street busker who sings Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” at a quarter speed, or Ke$ha’s overwrought performance at this year’s Grammys?

The point of classical music is, unsurprisingly, to convey ideas through the medium of music itself. Of course individual musicians will want to put their own stamp and interpretation on works, either in service of what they believe to be the composer’s original intent or to shed new light on what can sometimes be over-familiar works in the repertoire. But if you frequently find yourself pounding the piano keyboard like you’re playing Whack-A-Mole or sawing away at the violin while grimacing like your appendix just ruptured, you’re probably doing it wrong. The emotion should go through the music and not be lost in the gaudy, inefficient heat exchange of on-stage pantomime.

Performer eccentricities, when unintentional and/or in service of the music, are fine, and sometimes even a blessing. But Ben Shapiro is right; when they detract from the music itself then that can become a problem – in classical music as much as pop music with all the schmaltzy, simplistic political preening of Bono’s preachy Grammy performance.

 

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When Corporations Become Parents: The Infantilisation Of Professional Knowledge Workers

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Corporations purchase your labour in exchange for a salary and other defined benefits. Yet skilled professional workers are increasingly demanding that their employers also play the role of a nurturing, identity-affirming auxiliary parent.

Today, on my weekly scroll through corporate networking social media site LinkedIn, I came upon that most annoying of phenomena – the corporate humblebrag.

In case you are unfamiliar, the corporate humblebrag is a status update or article generally written by some cretinous individual who takes excessive pride in their firm (outside of which they have no life) and thinks that their organisation’s craven feats of pandering to the social justice priesthood somehow reflect a deep-seated virtue in themselves.

LinkedIn is chock full of such posts. Just as online pornography is said to account for up to 30% of total internet traffic, so the vast majority of posts on LinkedIn now consist of corporate humblebrags, people trying to ingratiate themselves with their current and future employers and colleagues by conspicuously and repeatedly trumpeting even the most banal of news items about their companies.

The corporate humblebrag which prompts this blog post is particularly bad, and centres on global consulting firm Accenture’s efforts to bring about harmony between world religions – a feat which has eluded the world’s greatest thinkers, theologians and statesmen, but which is apparently all in a day’s work for a modern global professional services outfit.

Ellyn Shook, Chief Leadership and Human Resources Officer of Accenture writes:

Those of you who are regular readers have heard me talk about Accenture’s aspiration to be the most truly human organization in the digital age. As we continue to peel back the layers on what “truly human” means, at the heart is helping our people be successful both professionally and personally. And, to be at our best, we need to be comfortable being our true selves and expressing our feelings at work.

Peeling back the layers on what “truly human” means? This is the type of existential question which has consumed humankind for millennia, without resolution. It hardly seems likely that Accenture’s drive to be “the most truly human organization in the digital age” is going to crack the secret of life when the most prominent philosophers, theologians, artists and scientists throughout history have all come up short.

The self-aggrandising article continues:

We started our “Building Bridges” journey last year in the midst of racial unrest in the U.S. Our people told us that it’s stressful when they feel they can’t talk openly in the workplace about things that happen in the world or at home that affect them deeply. It makes them feel like they don’t belong and that perhaps their co-workers are unaware or don’t care about things that are important to them.

Why do I get the distinct feeling that Accenture’s “Building Bridges” scheme is probably only receptive to some viewpoints and perspectives about the racial unrest in America – and that the people being encouraged to speak and rewarded for doing so are those who propagate the current identity politics dogma which dictates that race is not something to be ignored but rather scrupulously and punishingly observed, with everybody seen not as an individual, not as an American but as a member of an oppressed community (or the oppressing white male group)?

Somehow I imagine that were an Accenture employee to stand up in one of these “Building Bridges” meetings and venture the kind of opinion typically made on this blog – that we should be colourblind in our interactions with people and that identity politics only serves to fracture society and create a self-fulfilling culture of passive victimhood – that they would find themselves up in front of HR pretty fast, and out the door escorted by security not too long afterwards. But perhaps I am being uncharitable.

More:

We recently convened a Building Bridges session in New York on the topic of religion. Yes, one of those supposed taboo topics that you’re advised to avoid – along with politics – right?!  Well, the bottom line is religion is important to many of our people. And, it’s critical to foster cross-faith and multicultural understanding and respect. At the very least, it helps us understand the religious observances of our colleagues. But what I really see is deeper connections among our people.

Oh goody, religion in the workplace. At this point, Ellyn Shook hands over to her sycophantic underling Dan Eckstein, head of Accenture New York’s Interfaith Employee Resource Group – which apparently started out as a Bible study group for Christian employees before being hijacked and taken over in order to fulfil the glorious higher purpose of social justice activism.

Here’s Dan, in his own words:

As an observant Jew, I’ve always been passionate about inclusion and diversity, especially the topic of one’s faith at work. After graduating college, it was a challenge to figure out how I wanted to balance my religion and my work. I found myself trying to compartmentalize my work life from my religious life. But it didn’t feel right. I asked my parents, grandparents and mentors for advice. I’ll never forget the story of my Grandpa when he arrived in NY after the Holocaust and surviving the Auschwitz concentration camp. He was a fur matcher and he told me that almost every Friday in the winter he would leave work early to get home for the Sabbath by sundown. When Monday came around he would go back to work and they would fire him for leaving early. As a survivor, my Grandpa taught me to always be proud of who I am and to stand up for my beliefs.

I ultimately decided to wear my Kippa to work because I wanted to be transparent about who I am, and be consistent both inside and outside the office. I feel it represents my true self and is something that I’m proud of. As a leader, I also hope that I am a role model to others, encouraging authenticity.

Fine. That’s all well and good – people should certainly be free to express themselves at work as far as practicable and in line with their role. But then it starts to get weird:

Our Interfaith ERG hosted a Building Bridges session on August 11 where over 100 people packed into the NY office training room to talk about faith at work. We decided to anchor this session around the theme of “story telling.” Everyone has a story, but we’re often so busy or distracted at work that we don’t take time to ask or share.

[..] We ended our session by asking local faith leaders – Rev. Doyeon Park, Brahmachari Karuna, Rabbi Larry Sernovitz, Mohammed Al-Mathil and Rabbi Bob Kaplan – to reflect on the day and offer messages around hope, transparency, courage and community. Mohammed Al-Mathil encouraged us to ask questions from a place of respect and to do a bit of homework when coming to conversations about religion. Brahmachari Karuna shared a story of his father, a Human Resources leader, who seeks to find points of beauty in other religions, which helps to spark conversations with colleagues to explore commonalities and points of beauty across their different faiths.

It’s amazing that anyone in Accenture’s New York office finds time to align boxes in PowerPoint, sit on 3-hour client conference calls or just do some good old fashioned smoke testing on a new SAP deployment when they are all so busy learning about other faiths and affirming one another’s chosen identities.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. The same culture now pervades nearly every large company with offices in major world cities or key industry hubs – any place where college educated knowledge workers gather in high concentration. For example, it is now almost compulsory for corporations to conspicuously endorse Pride Month and acknowledge it with a veritable festival of sponsorships and office activities.

There is nothing particularly wrong with this – if executives want to engage in corporate virtue-signalling then this is their choice. But these forays into social activism inevitably come down hard on one specific side of the debate, with little tolerance for those with differing views – even if they are conscientious and upstanding employees.

For example, this is what the Head of HR Strategy for one multinational firm had to say on LinkedIn about the recent Google Memo saga, in which developer James Damore was summarily fired for publishing a frequently and deliberately-misrepresented memo calling for Google to look again at the policies through which it aims to increase diversity:

Inclusion and diversity can be a prickly topic, although these issues don’t need to be sticky if handled in an appropriate manner. A great example set by Google’s CEO following the engineer’s ‘anti- I&D manifesto’. Having sent a clear email to all employees, he fired the employee in question and returned from his holiday immediately to take time to discuss the topics further with Googlers. Bravo for great leadership, mirroring words with actions. #strongleadership #diversity #inclusion

How then is an employee of this corporation who happens to agree with James Damore’s perfectly reasonable argument supposed to feel when it becomes clear that their own Head of HR strongly supports the firing of people such as themselves simply for failing to agree with the prevailing social justice groupthink; that every kind of diversity is encouraged in their firm, except for ideological diversity?

More to the point, why is it now necessary for our employers to continually nurture and affirm us as though we are needy toddlers? Why do we look to the corporations we work for to be our moral lodestar, a source of emotional support and a powerful auxiliary parent to adjudicate every petty interpersonal dispute that may arise between us and our coworkers?

When you work for a company you are selling them your labour – manual, mental or sometimes emotional – and in exchange you get paid a wage or a salary. That’s the sum total of the relationship that should exist between employer and employee in a capitalist system, and that’s a good thing. We don’t want to go back to the Victorian days where wealthy industrialists took it upon themselves to watch over the moral fibre of their workforce, regulating speech, recreation and behaviour in purpose-built company towns.

Of course people form important professional connections and bonds of friendship with colleagues, and employees are required to buy into whatever company culture exists in the various ways that it manifests (at least if they want their careers to prosper), but this still falls under the remit of labour. And the corporation has traditionally only been interested in nurturing such relationships to the extent that they help the employee perform their job and improve their skills (and consequently the value of their labour) – through training and intra-company networking events, for example.

I won’t deny that it is nice when corporations take sensible measures to improve the wellbeing of their workforce and increase employee engagement – and there are a whole range of ways to accomplish these goals, from bonus systems and employee reward schemes to the nature of performance appraisals and even small token gestures like free fruit or snacks for staff. I have personally benefited from many such initiatives in my own corporate career. But again, these schemes were designed to incentivise me to stay with the company or to work harder, not to fill in gaping holes in my psyche.

Yet apparently thousands if not millions of well-educated and gainfully employed people look to their employers – huge corporations which ultimately often have little allegiance to either their home country, country of operations or indeed their employees – to help realise their potential as human beings. That’s just plain creepy.

And note also that this is a mental affliction which only seems to affect middle class workers in the creative, tech or professional service industries. You don’t get minimum wage burger-flippers at McDonald’s demanding that the corporation “peel back the layers” of their humanity or otherwise validate their existence and identity at every turn. The relationship is purely transactional – they show up for work, put in a shift, go home and get paid. The same goes for retail work, semi-skilled clerical work and those in the service industries.

(In fact the only organisation where such intimate involvement in the private lives, personalities and identities of their staff seems remotely appropriate is the military, which in order to make people into effective warriors and leaders must essentially deconstruct and rebuild people from the ground up during basic training, with very different boundaries of privacy and intimacy to other private or public sector employment).

In other words, this phenomenon or corporate coddling is something that upper middle class professional knowledge workers are bringing on themselves, not something which is imposed upon them (as one might have imagined from following the Google Memo saga). It is no longer enough for corporations to provide a water cooler, cheap coffee and a relatively consistent ambient air temperature – now rank and file employees are effectively demanding that their employers pander to their every emotional need as well, be it support with their sexuality, gender identity, religion or any number of other issues which are best tended to in one’s own personal time.

I must say that I find this trend fascinating and repellent, in equal part. I genuinely struggle to identify with the kind of mindset that would prompt an intelligent, driven employee to organise an interfaith religious symposium for their office, or to facilitate a training workshop in LGBTQ+ allyship on company time – other than the obvious excuse of wanting to avoid the tedium of doing real, actual value-adding work (which I totally get).

If I were still working in a large professional services firm with one of these gung-ho HR departments, I would sooner that they fire everybody with the word “diversity” in their job title and raise my salary by a couple of quid than be continually validated in my identity as an trans-class, mixed-race, semi-privileged cisgender heterosexual male by some gimlet-eyed, Kool-Aid drinking corporate apparatchik. But apparently I am in the minority.

Admittedly, LinkedIn isn’t the best gauge of these things, being populated mostly by fellow corporate Kool-Aid drinkers who share endless posts about how “proud” they are that their firm won some industry award for sustainability in toilet paper consumption. But there are clearly enough people who value – nay, demand – being condescended to in this way by their employers that large firms are willing to pull out all the stops and treat their employees like the children they apparently yearn to be.

Perhaps I am a grouch and an outlier on this, and I would certainly welcome the input and perspective of anybody who works in corporate HR or one of these diversity or employee-nurturing workstreams. But to me, this trend is just another casualty of the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics, not to mention a symbol of the relentless infantilisation of Western society, with grown adults in prestigious jobs now seeking to regress back into coddled childhood, one insipid LinkedIn status update at a time.

 

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The Heineken ‘Worlds Apart’ Ad: Corporate Social Justice Done Right

Finally, a corporate attempt at social awareness advertising that does not devolve into sanctimonious progressive preaching

It generally doesn’t end well when big corporations decide to prove their right-on, progressive credentials with a slick new TV advertisement.

Only four months ago, Pepsi found itself on the receiving end of a heap of bad PR when their insipid commercial, featuring celebrity with no discernible talent Kylie Jenner, was deemed to be trivialising the Black Lives Matter movement (the gravest sin that it is presently possible to commit).

The Pepsi ad was certainly stupid, but not because it made light of a movement which is by no means as pure of character as it likes to pretend. No, the problem with the Pepsi ad was that it tried to cast the soft drink manufacturer in a positive light by clinging on to the coattails of various protest movements, and casting its brown sugary liquid as the balm that could ease tensions between Generic Oppressed Communities and the police. It was glib and superficial and insulting to everyone who was portrayed in it.

And unfortunately that’s how it is with most ads that try to paint the responsible corporation in a positive light by embracing the latest progressive fad or injunction from the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics. They politicise that which should not be politicised, needlessly sow division over politically contentious issues, waste shareholder money to burnish the reputations of certain executives and generally fail to serve the corporation’s customers. In Britain, Channel 4’s cynical and self-serving “Gay Mountain” ad, timed to coincide with the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, is another awful example of tawdry corporate behaviour.

That’s not to say that all such ads are bad – by all means, corporations should wade into social territory when the product and the issue actually have some connection with each other and there is a worthy goal in mind. The #LikeAGirl ad campaign by Always, for example, is actually quite moving and packs a real impact. This Barbie ad isn’t half bad either.

Other social justice ads fall into the grey zone, not terrible but not particularly praiseworthy either – or else just plain confusing. Procter & Gamble’s recent ad “The Talk“, highlighting the fact that African American parents have had to teach their children resilience techniques and shore up their self-esteem in ways that white parents generally have not, makes a valid and moving historical point. But it is never quite clear why Procter & Gamble is the one to be making the ad, other than that they cynically calculated that they can burnish their corporate credentials by conspicuously attaching their brand to the worthy cause of anti-racism.

But best of all recent ads where a large corporation dips its toe into the roiling waters of social issues is this one by Heineken, entitled “Worlds Apart“. What makes it so good? The fact that it does not seek to preach any specific value or social outcome besides the importance of tolerance and mutual respect which is too often missing in public discourse. Rather than shoving a particular social cause down the throats of consumers, the ad dares to suggest that more than one opinion (the progressive one) may have value, and that issues should be discussed rather than dissent shut down.

The ad is shot like a reality show, putting various pairs of strangers with diametrically opposed opinions on various issues – feminism, transgenderism, climate change and so on – in a room together, having them perform various icebreaking tasks including assembling furniture, describing both themselves and their partner using five adjectives and then just talking together about their life experiences. It sounds corny, but it actually works quite well – watch the video at the top of this article.

The final task given to the various pairs of strangers is to assemble a construction out of wooden blocks – which turns out to be a bar (see what they did there?) Having cooperated and bonded with each other while completing various tasks, they each then have to watch a video in which the other person talks to the camera about their opinions of various relevant hot-button issues. It then becomes clear that the feminist was paired with the anti-feminist, the climate change sceptic with the environmentalist, the transgender woman with the man who scorned the idea of transgenderism. Having discovered this truth about their partner, they are then offered a choice – either they can leave and never see each other again, or they can discuss their differences over a beer at the bar they just constructed together.

This really is quite effective. You see the shock on each person’s face as they realise this uncomfortable truth about the stranger with whom they have been working and bonding during the various tasks. You see hints of confusion and almost betrayal on some of their faces as they weigh the competing facts – that they got on well with the person, know them through their brief interactions to be decent, yet that they stand on opposite sides of major social wedge issues. Spoiler alert: they all end up deciding to stay and discuss their differences over a nice cool Heineken.

This is a good ad. Firstly in terms of product promotion, it positions Heineken beer as something over which sane, rational people can discuss their differences like adults. In real life, people do discuss their problems and bond over beer. Unlike the Procter & Gamble ad, there is a valid reason for Heineken to be making this commercial. And what’s more, despite only being a commercial the various interactions feel ten times more real than President Obama’s very real and much-publicised “beer summit” in the wake of the Henry Louis Gates arrest controversy.

But more than that, the ad is good because it doesn’t force a set outcome. It doesn’t end with the transgenderism sceptic acknowledging the error of his ways, confessing his sin and being absolved, or the anti-feminist checking his male privilege. Rather, knowing that their partner is more than the sum of his or her political opinions, the various couples are able to forge bonds of mutual respect and friendship. Like adults used to do in the days before social media turbo-charged identity politics.

So why does Heineken succeed where so many other corporations have failed? Again, it’s those three reasons:

  1. A clear link between the issues at stake (in this case various hot-button social issues) and the product (people often discuss their differences over a beer)
  2. Not forcing a preset outcome, and acknowledging that people can be good despite coming down on different sides of an issue
  3. Not alienating any of their customers by charging in with a preachy, absolutist message

If corporations are going to continue to dip their toes into social issues then we need more ads like this. Right now it feels like society is fraying, sometimes even in danger of coming apart at the seams, fuelled by a toxic blend of identity politics zealots, genuine bigots, people who simply dislike being preached to and those who profit from creating friction between them.

Too many people in positions of authority – politicians, media personalities, self-appointed community leaders – fail to encourage understanding and respectful disagreement, preferring to foment mutual intolerance. Only today I was publicly and ostentatiously defriended by a respected acquaintance, someone who suddenly decided that my relatively mainstream and inoffensive conservatarian opinions were beyond the pale and injurious to their mental safety. It isn’t the first time that this has happened. This is what identity politics and leftist intolerance hath wrought.

Retreating into our respective bubbles will not help knit society back together and weave the strands of a common identity and shared purpose around which we can – and must – all unite. The Heineken “Worlds Apart” ad acknowledges this fact and pitches its product as part of the solution.

It shouldn’t take a beer company to say what so many political and community leaders have so conspicuously failed to say themselves, but that’s just what Heineken have done with this ad. And this puts it head and shoulders above the rest.

 

Heineken - Worlds Apart ad

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Donald Trump Victory Reaction: Aaron Sorkin To The Rescue

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Never fear, helpless women of America. Swashbuckling feminist icon Aaron Sorkin is here to save you from the evil clutches of Donald Trump

In a masterful piece of virtue signalling, well befitting somebody who made his name and career writing for television and Hollywood, Aaron Sorkin (creator of The West Wing, The Newsroom and Facebook movie The Social Network) has written an open letter to his wife and daughter – less for their own benefit, of course, and more to show off his impeccably progressive, anti-Trump credentials to the world.

Unfortunately, Sorkin appears not to have dedicated the same time to this sanctimonious little letter as he would have given to the script for a good episode of The West Wing, and his clumsy attempt at virtue-signalling reveals his Hollywood liberal cynicism in all its ugly glory.

Aaron Sorkin writes (my emphasis in bold):

Sorkin Girls,

Well the world changed late last night in a way I couldn’t protect us from. That’s a terrible feeling for a father. I won’t sugarcoat it—this is truly horrible. It’s hardly the first time my candidate didn’t win (in fact it’s the sixth time) but it is the first time that a thoroughly incompetent pig with dangerous ideas, a serious psychiatric disorder, no knowledge of the world and no curiosity to learn has.

And it wasn’t just Donald Trump who won last night—it was his supporters too. The Klan won last night. White nationalists. Sexists, racists and buffoons. Angry young white men who think rap music and Cinco de Mayo are a threat to their way of life (or are the reason for their way of life) have been given cause to celebrate. Men who have no right to call themselves that and who think that women who aspire to more than looking hot are shrill, ugly, and otherwise worthy of our scorn rather than our admiration struck a blow for misogynistic shitheads everywhere. Hate was given hope. Abject dumbness was glamorized as being “the fresh voice of an outsider” who’s going to “shake things up.” (Did anyone bother to ask how? Is he going to re-arrange the chairs in the Roosevelt Room?) For the next four years, the President of the United States, the same office held by Washington and Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, F.D.R., J.F.K. and Barack Obama, will be held by a man-boy who’ll spend his hours exacting Twitter vengeance against all who criticize him (and those numbers will be legion). We’ve embarrassed ourselves in front of our children and the world.

Oh I’m sorry, I thought that we were supposed to have moved past dated and oppressive gender stereotypes, like the idea that the Big Strong Man is supposed to defend the helpless women in his life from Bad Things? Yet Aaron Sorkin seems to believe that it was his duty as a man to protect and defend his wife and daughter from the outcome of a presidential election in which his wife was also able to take full part, as though neither woman had any agency of their own.

And “Sorkin girls” – really?

But then we should not be surprised by any of this. This is a man whose television shows (The West Wing is one of my all time favourites, and doubtless will now be so again for many a dejected Democrat in the Age of Trump) have long been renowned for their continual mockery, downplaying and diminution of women.

Besides Abigail Bartlet, Nancy McNally or Amy Gardner (and even she is doubtful sometimes), name a strong female character in The West Wing. Seriously, I’m waiting. The female characters with the most airtime, like Donna Moss or Ainsley Hayes, are little more than comic relief, particularly in the early seasons before Sorkin got booted off his own show.

The same goes for Sorkin’s more recent show, The Newsroom, but to an even greater degree. Every female character save Leona Lansing (played by Jane Fonda), no matter how senior they happen to be, is portrayed as a bumbling, gaffe-prone fool, flapping around helplessly as the men in their lives chuckle and give wry smiles at their foolish antics. But sure, Donald Trump is the man with an unprecedentedly unenlightened view towards women.

Oh, and let’s not forget that great America-bashing monologue which Aaron Sorkin wrote to open The Newsroom, in which he has lead character Will McAvoy say:

We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, and we acted like men. We aspired to intelligence; we didn’t belittle it; it didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn’t scare so easy. And we were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered.

My emphasis in bold.

America was great when we all acted like MEN. America used to be informed by great MEN. And no, I’m not quoting selectively. The balancing paragraph lauding the achievements of great American women never comes, because Sorkin probably didn’t give a moment’s thought to the accomplishments of women when he wrote the scene. And yet now he is a brave, anti-Trump feminist who despises the new president-elect’s unreconstructed view toward the fairer sex while displaying many of those same condescensions himself, albeit in slightly less vulgar form.

But surely Sorkin is on safe ground when he adversely compares Donald Trump to previous American presidents, all of whom had supremely progressive and enlightened attitudes towards women and were paragons of virtue. Presidents like John F. Kenne — oh, wait. At least Sorkin is smart enough not to mention Bill Clinton.

Sorkin continues with some good old homespun, patriarchal, husbandly / fatherly advice:

So what do we do?

First of all, we remember that we’re not alone. A hundred million people in America and a billion more around the world feel exactly the same way we do.

Second, we get out of bed. The Trumpsters want to see people like us (Jewish, “coastal elites,” educated, socially progressive, Hollywood…) sobbing and wailing and talking about moving to Canada. I won’t give them that and neither will you. Here’s what we’ll do…

Because there’s nothing more mature than throwing baseless charges of anti-Semitism at the nearly half of voting Americans who chose Donald Trump. And because I’m sure Aaron Sorkin would be happy to be associated with the craziest and most unpleasant fan of his own fans, just as he seems happy to slander Trump and his many supporters with their most disreputable endorsements.

More:

…we’ll fucking fight. (Roxy, there’s a time for this kind of language and it’s now.) We’re not powerless and we’re not voiceless. We don’t have majorities in the House or Senate but we do have representatives there. It’s also good to remember that most members of Trump’s own party feel exactly the same way about him that we do. We make sure that the people we sent to Washington—including Kamala Harris—take our strength with them and never take a day off.

We get involved. We do what we can to fight injustice anywhere we see it—whether it’s writing a check or rolling up our sleeves. Our family is fairly insulated from the effects of a Trump presidency so we fight for the families that aren’t. We fight for a woman to keep her right to choose. We fight for the First Amendment and we fight mostly for equality—not for a guarantee of equal outcomes but for equal opportunities. We stand up.

My oh my, this is starting to get awfully problematic. Isn’t it a bit, um, like, oppressive and gender stereotypical for a white male like Aaron Sorkin to presume to give the women in his life permission to use bad language, as he seems to do in his letter?

More:

Roxy, I know my predictions have let you down in the past, but personally, I don’t think this guy can make it a year without committing an impeachable crime. If he does manage to be a douche nozzle without breaking the law for four years, we’ll make it through those four years. And three years from now we’ll fight like hell for our candidate and we’ll win and they’ll lose and this time they’ll lose for good. Honey, it’ll be your first vote.

The battle isn’t over, it’s just begun. Grandpa fought in World War II and when he came home this country handed him an opportunity to make a great life for his family. I will not hand his granddaughter a country shaped by hateful and stupid men. Your tears last night woke me up, and I’ll never go to sleep on you again.

Love,

Dad

Seriously, Aaron, you fell asleep on your daughter as she was crying in reaction to Donald Trump’s victory? Do you not care about making your house a safe space for marginalised and oppressed groups like the women in your life? Did a privileged white male like yourself really shun his duty to create a “place of comfort and home” for those who suffer oppression, or who will surely do so under Donald Trump’s tyrannical reign?

Everyone knows that when good Social Justice Warriors see oppression taking place they fight tirelessly to shame it on Twitter – they don’t fall asleep in front of the TV with the remote control resting on their belly. What kind of person are you?

There’s nothing else for it, I’m afraid. I hereby call a universal boycott of every single Aaron Sorkin television show or movie ever made in the past, as well as all of those yet to be made in the future, until he writes a new open letter to his wife and daughter. In this letter, Sorkin should apologise to them (and to the American people) for his outsized role in furthering the interests of the patriarchy through his work, pledge to immediately attend an Avoiding Common Microaggressions re-education camp for people of privilege, tithe at least 50 percent of his future income to EMILY’s List and promise henceforce to only produce work which conforms with the catechism of the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics.*

* To be judged by an artistic censorship committee comprising Jerelyn Luther, Bonita Tindle, Jonathan Butler, Fran “Holier than Peter Tatchell” Cowling and other prominent SJWs.

If Aaron Sorkin does all of this and manages to single-handedly bring down the Trump presidency then he may – just may – be able to atone for the harm done to women and girls everywhere by his oppressive, patriarchal letter.

But until then, you are on notice, Mr. Male Hero Feminist Champion Man. Nobody is buying your schtick.

 

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Top Image: Ondra Soukup / Wikimedia Commons

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Britain’s Leftist Open Borders Zealots Have Turned Migrants And Refugees Into Political Pawns

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The migrant crisis is too great an opportunity to ignore for many virtue-signalling members of Generation Me, Me, Me

Brendan O’Neill hits the nail on the head with his latest criticism of sanctimonious celebrity campaigners for open borders, in a piece entitled “You’re so vain, you think the refugee crisis is about you”.

O’Neill writes:

Narcissism runs through the discussion. The question these refugees raise is ‘What kind of people do we want to be?’, says one columnist. The keyword here: ‘we’. On the supposedly pro-refugee side, the game of self-reflection has been intense. Witness Allen’s TV-camera tears when she was chatting to an Afghan boy in Calais, after which the entire discussion became about her. Her image was everywhere. There was a thinkpiece war, some saying ‘Allen was right’, others saying ‘Allen was wrong’. It became about the role of celebrities in public life and whether emotionalism has a part to play in political decision-making, with the migrants reduced to mere objects of our self-reflection, and our tears, not the subjects of their own story.

Then there was Stella Creasy, the self-promoting Labour MP, interviewed in the London Evening Standard, promising to stand up for these child migrants regardless of how much flak she will get (shorter version: ‘I am brave’). The piece was accompanied by a massive picture of Creasy: no image of refugees, just her, because this is about her, not them. Then the story became all about Lineker, after he tweeted his concern for the refugees and was blasted by the Sun for doing so. What is the role of BBC people if not to be morally switched-on, a thousand op-ed scribblers asked, because this is about the Beeb, and the media, and us, not them. Jeremy Corbyn got stuck into the discussion of ‘what kind of people we want to be’ by praising Allen and Lineker for showing ‘Britain at its best’. It was a surreal illustration of the evacuation of substance and seriousness from public debate and their replacement by The Spectacle, largely of emotion: a political leader hailing media representations of sorrow for migrants over anything solid or concrete in relation to the actual lives of the actual migrants.

The media discussion has provided a striking insight into what being pro-migration largely means today: that you – the keyword being ‘you’ – are compassionate. Migrants are latched on to, not because of a genuine commitment to the idea of free movement (witness Creasy saying of course some migrants will have to be kept out), but rather as a means of self-distinction. To be pro-migrant is to be superior to those badly informed Others, who have a name now: Brexiteers. This is why so much of the child-refugee discussion has become bound up with Brexit-bashing. ‘What do we see each morning, post-Brexit, when we look in the mirror?’, asked a Guardian columnist of the child-refugee situation (keyword: ‘mirror’). He says we see a nation ‘hollowed out in terms of compassion’, but of course he means that is what ordinary, ugly, Brexit-voting Brits see in the mirror, not the migrant-loving Brits at the Guardian.

My emphasis in bold.

To be fair, Brendan also accuses many of the most strident anti-migrant voices of the same sin; I do not want to misrepresent his piece. But then Brendan O’Neill and Spiked (bless them) are enthusiastic advocates for completely open borders and the free movement of people everywhere – “it doesn’t matter if they’re kids, teens or adults: the length of their journey and the strength of their desire to live and work on Britain are surely sufficient to grant them access” – an idea rather ahead of its time (not to mention politically toxic so long as such disparities of wealth, culture and values persist).

But Brendan is absolutely right to note that the people of the Calais Jungle – genuine refugees and economic migrants alike – have largely been become political pawns in the ongoing British immigration debate. What matters to many people is how they are seen to talk about the migrant crisis rather than there being found an effective solution – as we saw only this week when Labour MP Chi Onwurah got upset about a poster mocking leftist credulity about migrants posing as refugees, claiming that it was “offensive” when it in no way targeted genuine child refugees.

O’Neill also writes perceptively of the “moral thrill” experienced by many of the “let them all in” camp, and indeed you see it coursing through numerous posts on social media, the intent of many seems far more to do with aggrandising the poster than trying to reach a reasonable compromise with those who do not want to let every last person into Britain unquestioningly.

But to his criticism of the political right:

The narcissism of the other side is striking, too. It is hard to believe that these right-leaning observers really believe that 70 young people coming to Britain will have any kind of terrible impact. And yet they demand that the arrivals’ teeth be checked to see how old they are, and furiously tweet photos of the young men with adolescent moustaches and mobile phones as if to say: ‘See! They’re grown-up! They’re dangerous!’ This is a performance of toughness, of security, to match the performance of compassion of the other side. Just as the pro-refugee side sidelines serious debate about freedom of movement and the role of their beloved EU and its Fortress Europe in creating this crisis, so the anti-refugee side dodges difficult questions of what is really causing a sense of insecurity in 21st-century Europe in favour of turning a handful of young refugees into symbols of existential disarray. Indicators, symbols, mirrors – that’s all these people are, to both sides.

I don’t see it that way at all. While some people do demand that Britain stop accepting any further refugees, a majority would be happy, I believe, if the UK government was simply a little less credulous and a bit more discerning about the people we do accept – both as to their age and the validity of their status as refugees rather than economic migrants.

The pictures do not lie – many of those already brought to Britain from the dismantled Calais Jungle camp are clearly adults. Does that automatically mean that they are not deserving of help? No, and I don’t think that anybody serious has claimed otherwise. But if this country is accepting fully grown men who claim to be children, what is to say that other levels of scrutiny which are supposedly taking place – like checking that entrants are not violent jihadists – are any more reliable? If the UK government is squeamish about insisting that child refugee applicants submit to dental tests to verify their age, have they also been reticent to ask whether the people they are ferrying from Calais to Croydon intend to wage jihad from inside their adoptive country? The incompetence we have already seen rightly makes us wonder about the incompetence which is being kept hidden from us.

These are perfectly legitimate questions to ask, and they do not constitute virtue signalling in the same way that the Left have seized on the migrant crisis to portray themselves as saints and the rest of us as sinners. Particularly in the context of the recent bloody history of ISIS using the migration crisis as a cover to slip Islamist extremists into Western countries, a basic level of scrutiny should be one of the first duties of government – yet there is now legitimate cause to fear that this scrutiny is not being applied for fear of causing “offence”, either to the migrants themselves or (more likely) to their powerful left-wing cheerleaders.

And here’s the thing.

Far right-wing rhetoric may be much more unpleasant to the ear than trendy lefty dronings about a borderless world of people holding hands beneath a rainbow. But leftist rhetoric and actions when it comes to the migrant crisis have killed far more people than anything said or done by those who are sceptical of accepting every last economic migrant who fancies a new life in Britain.

It was the leftist cheerleaders of Angela Merkel’s “open doors” policy who encouraged thousands more people to make the treacherous journey across Europe, some in genuine fear of imminent harm but many simply seeking a better life.

It was the leftist campaigners who accused sceptics of heartlessness for wanting to start turning boats back as a disincentive to make perilous the sea voyage who tacitly encouraged many more people to do so, and drown in the process.

And it was the false hope given by leftist agitators that Britain would ultimately accept a trumped-up moral obligation to accept thousands of people already enjoying the protection of France, hardly the most dangerous country in the world, which encouraged even more people to flock to the Jungle and remain there.

And yet we are supposed to believe that open borders zealots and sceptics are equally at fault when it comes to virtue signalling about the migrant crisis? Absolutely not. Exploiting migrants and refugees to burnish their own compassion credentials is the Left’s bread and butter, and it is an emotional comfort blanket whose cost can be measured in human lives.

So let’s not pretend that there is any moral equivalency in terms of blame for the suffering of migrants holed up in Calais. There is none. This is a crisis manufactured by the Left and encouraged by the Left for the benefit of the Left. They own it.

And all of Lily Allen’s tears will not wash away their culpability.

 

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