Against David French-ism

In March, First Things published a manifesto of sorts signed by several mostly youngish, mostly Roman Catholic writers, who argued that “there is no returning to the pre-Trump conservative consensus that collapsed in 2016,” that “any attempt to revive the failed conservative consensus that preceded Trump would be misguided and harmful to the right.”

Against whom, concretely speaking, was this declaration directed?

I don’t claim to speak for the other signatories. But as one of the principal drafters, I have given the question a great deal of thought, both before and since the document’s publication. And I can now say that for me, “Against the Dead Consensus” drew a line of demarcation with what I call David French-ism, after the National Review writer and Never-Trump stalwart.

What is David French-ism? As Irving Kristol said of neoconservatism, French-ism is more a persuasion or a sensibility than a movement with clear tenets. And that sensibility is, in turn, bound up with the persona of one particular writer, though it reaches beyond him to pervade a wider sphere of conservative Christian thinking and activism.

It isn’t easy to critique the persona of someone as nice as French. Then again, it is in part that earnest and insistently polite quality of his that I find unsuitable to the depth of the present crisis facing religious conservatives. Which is why I recently quipped on Twitter that there is no “polite, David French-ian third way around the cultural civil war.” (What prompted my ire was a Facebook ad for a children’s drag queen reading hour at a public library in Sacramento.)

I added, “The only way is through”—that is to say, to fight the culture war with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square re-ordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good.

French prefers a different Christian strategy, and his guileless public mien and strategic preferences bespeak a particular political theology (though he would never use that term), one with which I take issue. Thus, my complaint about his politeness wasn’t a wanton attack; it implicated deeper matters.

Such talk—of politics as war and enmity—is thoroughly alien to French, I think, because he believes that the institutions of a technocratic market society are neutral zones that should, in theory, accommodate both traditional Christianity and the libertine ways and paganized ideology of the other side. Even if the latter—that is, the libertine and the pagan—predominate in elite institutions, French figures, then at least the former, traditional Christians, should be granted spaces in which to practice and preach what they sincerely believe.

Well, it doesn’t work out that way, and it hasn’t been working out that way for a long time—as French well knows, since he has spent a considerable part of his career admirably and passionately advocating for Christians coercively squeezed out of the public square. In that time, he—we—have won discrete victories, but the overall balance of forces has tilted inexorably away from us, and I think that French-ian model bears some of the blame.

To take one of numerous instructive examples, when the progressive clerisy launched an inquisition against the actor Chris Pratt in February over his membership in the wrong kind of church, French appealed to a fictional pluralism. “A core (and very basic) tenet of pluralism,” he wrote,

is the notion that people of diametrically opposed belief systems can live and work side by side so long as they treat each other with dignity and respect. I’ve spent my entire career working with people who believe that my religious beliefs are wrong, that my stance on sexual morality is wrong, and that my political judgments are deeply misguided. Yet even in the case of profound disagreement, it is easy to treat people well. It is easy to treat people fairly.

Conversely, it is the height of intolerance to believe that it is somehow problematic — absent any evidence of mistreatment on the job or on-set — that a person disagrees with you on matters of faith. And if it is an obligation for colleagues to go beyond “welcoming” each other to “affirming” each other’s deepest beliefs, where is the affirmation of faithful Christians?

French is, in effect, telling the cultural revolutionariesWe will grant your autonomy in the neutral institution (in this case, Hollywood)Won’t you grant us ours? Though culturally conservative, French is a political liberal, which means that individual autonomy is his lodestar: He sees “protecting individual liberty” as the main, if not sole, purpose of government. Here is the problem: The movement we are up against prizes autonomy above all, too; indeed, its ultimate aim is to secure for the individual will the widest possible berth to define what is true and good and beautiful, against the authority of tradition.

Only, the libertines take the logic of maximal autonomy—the one French shares—to its logical terminus. They say, in effect: For us to feel fully autonomous, you must positively affirm our sexual choices, our transgression, our power to disfigure our natural bodies and redefine what it means to be human, lest your disapprobation make us feel less than fully autonomous.

They have a point: Individual experiments in living—say, taking your kids to a drag reading hour at the public library—cannot be sustained without some level of moral approval by the community. Autonomy-maximizing liberalism is normative, in its own twisted way. Thus, it represents the interiorization, and fulfillment, of French’s worldview. And this is how David French-ism gets trapped.

The more that conservative liberals like French insist on autonomy, the more they strengthen the bullies’ position. This far with autonomy, they insist, but no farther. But why should the other side stop? Why shouldn’t this new, aggressive vision of maximal autonomy not overtake the old?

Here French and others fall back on religious liberty. French has done yeoman’s work in defense of Christians and other people of faith persecuted in America. But in the long term, religious-liberty absolutism will put Christians and other traditional believers in a bind. If the moral law is merely a matter of ancient, if sincere, conviction, then of course it must give way to the demands for autonomy of people in the here and now.

Archbishop Charles Chaput made this point in his 2017 book, Strangers in a Strange Land. If traditional moral precepts are “purely religious beliefs,” he wrote, then “they can’t be rationally defended. And because they’re rationally indefensible, they should be treated as a form of prejudice. Thus two thousand years of moral truth and religious principle become, by sleight of hand, a species of bias.”

Again and again, French insists on the sincerity of the believers whose causes he takes up, as if asserting sincerity of belief can move the heart of an enemy who finds you and your beliefs repulsive: “The biblical sexual ethic is based on a sincere conviction. . . .” “Evidence of devout faith is frequently evidence of a sincere commitment to fairness, compassion, and the faithful discharge of one’s constitutional duties. . . .”

But they won’t listen. Tub-thump long enough about your sincere but irrational (in the eyes of the reigning ideology) views, and soon opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage, polyamory, kids in drag, and much else of the same kind will come to resemble the wrongheaded and indeed irrational opposition to vaccination mounted by ultra-Orthodox Jews in New York. Sorry, Pastor French, but your superstition will have to give way to public health and the smooth functioning of the autonomy-maximizing society.

So what long-term strategy, if any, does David French-ism offer? In a word, culture.

Conservative liberalism of the kind French embodies has a great horror of the state, of traditional authority and the use of the public power to advance the common good, including in the realm of public morality. That horror is a corollary to its autonomy-maximizing impulse.

This goes back, I think, to its roots in English non-conformism. In Culture and Anarchy, his great Victorian critique of this mode of thought, Matthew Arnold says of the nonconformist that, because he has encountered the Word of God by his own lights, he sees no need for the authority and grand liturgies of a national church (still less the Catholic Church).

But as Arnold notes, while the nonconformist vision of an austere, no-frills, solitary encounter with God might be suitable in one context, it doesn’t satisfy other necessities, such as collective public worship befitting public needs. Or again, while free trade might have provided for growth in Britain’s urban cores, something middle-class liberals welcomed, it also created public misery and overcrowding that needed to be addressed—and not by individual initiative alone. And so on.

Mutatis mutandis, David French-ism. Forced to reckon with the fact that autonomy unbound hasn’t yielded freedom but new and insidious forms of digital tyranny, French treats as a nonstarter conservative proposals to intervene (“I oppose government efforts to regulate social-media speech policies”). Instead, he urges essentially a cultural solution. Silicon Valley should voluntarily adopt First Amendment norms, per French, and I wish him good luck persuading our programmer-kings to go along.

How do we counter ideological mono-thought in universities, workplaces, and other institutions? Try promoting better work-life balance, says French. How do we promote the good of the family against the deracinating forces arrayed against it, some of them arising out of the free market (pornography) and others from the logic of maximal autonomy (no-fault divorce)? “We should reverse cultural messages that for too long have denigrated the fundamental place of marriage in public life.” Oh, OK. How do we combat the destruction wrought by drugs (licit and illicit), by automation and globalization and other forces of the kind? “We need to embrace the vital importance of religious faith in personal renewal.” Thanks, Pastor French.

For French, the solution to nearly every problem posed by a politics of individual autonomy above all is yet more autonomous action. But sentimentalization of family life won’t be enough to overcome the challenges posed to it by the present economy. Calls for religious revival are often little more than an idle wish that all men become moral, so that we might dispense with moral regulation.

Government intervention will not be the answer to every social ill. In many instances, free markets and individual enterprise can best serve the common good, albeit indirectly. But I take issue with David French-ism’s almost supernatural faith in something called “culture”—deemed to be neutral and apolitical and impervious to policy—to solve everything. Questions that are squarely political—that is, that touch on our shared quest for the common good—become depoliticized by this culture-first strategy. The libertine camp prefers the same depoliticization, of course; they’re much better at winning in the realm of culture than David French will ever be.

Voters across the developed world have had enough of depoliticized politics. In the United States, this great “no” culminated in 2016’s election of Donald Trump. With a kind of animal instinct, Trump understood what was missing from mainstream (more or less French-ian) conservatism. His instinct has been to shift the cultural and political mix, ever so slightly, away from autonomy-above-all toward order, continuity, and social cohesion. He believes that the political community—and not just the church, family, and individual—has its own legitimate scope for action. He believes it can help protect the citizen from transnational forces beyond his control.

French’s response to these developments on the right has been predictable: He has spent two years promoting the now-discredited Russian “collusion” theory; moralizing and pretending we don’t face enemies who seek our personal destruction (just ask Justice Kavanaugh); and haranguing his fellow evangelical Protestants for supporting Trump, as if they were the only American voting bloc ever forced to compromise. As an activist, French has benefited from the Trump GOP’s ascendance, but he has kept his hands clean, his soul untainted. As anyone familiar with the Amelia Sedley character in Vanity Fair knows, a kind of airy, above-it-all mentality can supply its own vain satisfactions.

But conservative Christians can’t afford these luxuries. Progressives understand that culture war means discrediting their opponents and weakening or destroying their institutions. Conservatives should approach the culture war with a similar realism. Civility and decency are secondary values. They regulate compliance with an established order and orthodoxy. We should seek to use these values to enforce our order and our orthodoxy, not pretend that they could ever be neutral. To recognize that enmity is real is its own kind of moral duty.

Sohrab Ahmari is the op-ed editor of the New York Post. He is at work on a book, exploring 12 fundamental questions our culture doesn’t ask.

The Miracle of Kindness (Chris Hedges)

Emir-Stein Center
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Evil, even in the darkest moments, is impotent before the miracle of human kindness. This miracle defies prejudices and hatreds. It crosses cultures and religions. It lies at the core of faith. Take a brief journey through the eyes of American, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges to Jerusalem, Gaza, and Iraq, and discover the sacred bonds that make us human.

Subtitles: 🇺🇸The Miracle of Kindness 🇪🇸El milagro de la bondad humana

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Script:
I studied Arabic four hours a day, five days a week, with my Palestinian professor, Omar Othman, in Jerusalem. We met in my house on Mt. Scopus overlooking the old city every morning. He would arrive with his books and something from his garden, olives, peaches, apricots or a bag of pistachios he would patiently unshell as we worked and then push towards me. Yom fil mishmish, we would say as we ate his apricots, literally meaning tomorrow will be good times and we will eat apricots, but given the long tragedy that has befallen the Palestinians, this phrase is converted into a wistful tomorrow will never come.
Omar, a polyglot who spoke German, Hebrew, and English fluently and who had worked as a teacher in the court of King Hussein in Jordan, was determined I would not only learn Arabic, but the politesse and formalities of Palestinian society. He drilled into me what to say when someone offered me food – Yislamu Edek – may God bless your hands, or when a women entered the room — nowar el beit – you light up the house – or when someone brought me a small cup of thick, sugary Arabic coffee — ‘away dime. A phrase that meant, may we always drink coffee together in an occasion like this.
Omar had a fondness for the Lebanese child singer Remi Bandali, a fondness I did not share, but on his insistence, I memorized the lyrics to several of her songs. He told long involved shaggy dog jokes in Arabic and made me commit them to memory, although sometimes the humor was lost on me.

In March of 1991 I was in Basra, Iraq during the Shiite uprising as a reporter for The New York Times. I had entered Kuwait with the Marine Corps and then left them behind to cover the fighting in Basra. I was taken prisoner by the Iraqi Republican Guard, who in the chaos – whole army units had defected to join the rebels – had ripped their distinguishing patches off their uniforms so as not to be identified with the regime of Saddam Hussein. I was studiously polite, because of Omar, with my interrogators. I swiftly struck up conversations with my guards. My facility in Arabic rendered me human. And when I ran out of things to say I told the long, shaggy dog jokes taught to me by Omar. Perhaps it was my accented Arabic, but my guards found these jokes unfailingly amusing.
I spent a week as a prisoner. I slept and ate with Iraqi soldiers, developed friendships with some, including the major who commanded the unit, and there were several moments when, trapped in heavy fighting with the rebels, they shielded and protected me. I would hear them whisper at night about what would happen to me once I was turned over to the secret police or Mukhabarat, something they and I knew was inevitable and dreaded.
That day came. I was flown on a helicopter to Baghdad and handed to the Mukhabarat, whose dead eyes and cold demeanor reminded me of the East German Stasi. There was no bantering now. I was manhandled and pushed forcefully into a room and left there without food or water for 24 hours.
I awoke the next day to plaintive call to prayer, the adhaan, as the first pale light crept over the city.
“God is greater. There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of God.”
I went to the window and saw the heavily armed guards in the courtyard below. I did not know if I would live or die.
At dawn the women and often children climb to the flat rooves in Baghdad to bake bread in rounded clay ovens. I was famished. I called out in Arabic to these women. “I am an American journalist. I am a captive. I have not eaten.”
A mother handed fresh bread to her young son who scampered across the rooves to feed me. A few hours later I was turned over to the International Committee for the Red Cross and driven to Jordan and freedom.
Where are they now, these men and women who showed me such compassion, who ignored the role my own country had played in their oppression, to see me as a one of them? How can I replay this solidarity and empathy? How can I live to be like them? I owe Omar, I owe all these people, some of whom I did not know, the miracle of human kindness – and my life.

Trudeau takes his turn as Trump’s principal antagonist, and Canadians rally around him

Before he was elected Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau faced a consistent type of criticism from his opponents: he was too young and too eager to please, conservatives said. His economic plans added up to “unicorns and rainbows.” He did not have the gravitas to represent Canada internationally.

But President Trump has helped bring together the most bitter of Canadian enemies, as he lashed out at Trudeau following the Group of Seven meeting in Quebec, and even the country’s most staunch conservatives have publicly backed up their Liberal prime minister for taking a tough tone in the U.S.-Canada trade conflict.

“I think sometimes, you know, you have to tell the schoolyard bully that they can’t have your lunch money. And I think that’s what the prime minister did today,” said Jaime Watt, a Toronto-based conservative political strategist. “I think most Canadians would say that they were proud of their prime minister.”

.. Who knows what to do with Trump? Nobody knows what to do with him. His own people don’t know what to do.”

..  Trudeau repeated a certain comment, saying Canada was “polite” but “will not be pushed around.”

.. Trump took the second such comment, made in a news conference after the Quebec meeting, badly. In a tweet, he depicted Trudeau as two-faced, saying the prime minister had been “meek and mild” during the meetings, only to lash out afterwards. “Very dishonest & weak,” he tweeted.

Perhaps some of the falling-out boils down to a misunderstanding of Canadian etiquette, said Bruce Heyman, the former U.S. ambassador to Canada — “especially for somebody who’s coming from the world that [Trump] is coming from, and has been so blunt and so confrontational in his conversations and approaches.”

Canadians, Heyman said, “are collaborators who try to find paths to solutions.” It could be easy for someone to misread them, “not taking them seriously or not understanding the resolve they have.

..  I think he’s trying to make an example of Canada. Canada’s a small, super-friendly ally . . . and I think he’s just kind of sending a message to the rest of the world: ‘If we can treat the Canadian this way, you ain’t seen nothing yet in terms of what might be coming your way.’ ”

.. Trudeau has two good reasons to change his tone now, Hampson said: First, the NAFTA talks are unlikely to be resolved any time soon. Second, the next federal Canadian election is next year.

“I think he and his government feel under some pressure to talk tough and to do so publicly.”

.. “I’m not sure if it’s been niceness,” he said. “It’s been more cordial — cordial and businesslike.”

.. “I think that Canadians do pride themselves on an international image where we’re seen as being cordial, friendly and even-handed in terms of trying to get along with other states,” he said.

.. “The reality is that even under the best of circumstances, Canada is a middle power and, you know, when you’re a middle power, you have to get along with larger powers. You’re not necessarily going to get along with larger powers by aggressively attacking them.”

.. But Canadians have also supported tougher stances in the past, when there’s a principled reason for taking them

Only a Country Like Canada Could Produce a Guy Like Jordan Peterson

There is a certain image that Canada projects to the world, one that is particularly compelling to Americans. It’s the image of Canada as a tolerant, progressive, kind and humanitarian nation, populated by mild-mannered and polite people.

.. The idea of Canada the Good — a Scandinavian-style socialist democracy, with the added bonus of multicultural harmony — is an attractive one, helpful in providing Canadians with some kind of national identity, and left-leaning Americans with a handy rhetorical device for political arguments: Look at what’s possible, right next door!

.. But it’s worth remembering that this image of Canada, currently personified by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is a relatively recent construction, largely put forth by Mr. Trudeau’s father, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Before that — and for most of the intervening years, between Trudeaus — the public face of Canada has looked a lot like, well, Jordan Peterson.

.. Canada is home to many more Jordan Petersons than Justin Trudeaus.

.. Mr. Peterson is — to use one of his favorite terms — something of a national archetype, the default setting of the Canadian male: a dull but stern dad, who, under a facade of apparent normalcy and common sense, conceals a reserve of barely contained hostility toward anyone who might rock the boat.

.. those who make a fuss are bothersome and ignorant at best, and probably dangerous and destructive too.

.. This is how “peace, order and good government” came to be the Canadian answer to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

.. Charisma is suspect here, and when Mr. Peterson uses that word to describe Mr. Trudeau, it’s not a compliment.

.. Suspect, too, is any whiff of revolutionary spirit. Pierre Trudeau might have technically been a liberal, but he was the kind of liberal who declared martial law in 1970 when a bumbling handful of Quebec separatists were deemed enough of a threat to justify suspending civil liberties en masse.

.. Our politics reflect our sense of unease with anything radical.

.. Liberals who think of Canada as a lefty haven should look to our most recent federal election: the New Democratic Party, ostensibly the major party farthest to the left, ran its last campaign on a platform of balanced budgets and fiscal responsibility. Not even the Green Party dares to suggest divesting from Alberta’s oil sands.

.. On every issue, from peacekeeping to pipelines, carbon targets to Indigenous relations, Mr. Trudeau has largely continued the policies set by his predecessor.

.. Canadian conservatism is not brash. It not belligerent, it is not loud. It is not Fox News. But our most popular columnists all deliver the same message: Things are the way they are for a reason. Those who agitate for change are stepping out of line.

.. He reserves particular ire for young activists. I tell 18-year-olds: Six years ago you were 12 — what the hell do you know? You haven’t done anything,” he says. “You don’t have a degree, you haven’t finished your courses, you don’t know how to read, you can’t think, you can’t speak.”

“It’s just not right,” he says, “to tell people in that situation that they should go out and change the socioeconomic structure of the culture!”

.. Delivered as a fiery sermon, this impassioned plea for humility and self-improvement gets laughs from Peterson fans. But in practice, it’s actually an argument for submission to the status quo that would have prevented any number of people, from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Emma Gonzales, from ever speaking up.

.. Americans are raised to believe that individuals, even flawed ones, can indeed change the world, and sometimes should. Canadians, for all that we’ve managed to construct a society that Americans sometimes envy, lack this ethic.

.. The resulting mind-set, disdainful of idealism and suspicious of ego, is one we are now, evidently, exporting.

.. Jordan Peterson is considered a heroic figure of historical importance, the man who finally said “Enough!” to political correctness run amok, to mobs of rabid Social Justice Warriors, to an ideologically driven “leftist-Marxist” movement hellbent on destroying Western civilization itself.

.. Mr. Peterson can be more accurately described as a previously obscure Canadian academic who believed, erroneously, that he would soon be forced by law to use gender-neutral pronouns and who refused to bow to that hypothetical demand. The proposed human rights policy that made Mr. Peterson famous is now Canadian law, and no instance of “compelled speech” has occurred as a result of it or resulted in criminal charges, as Mr. Peterson feared. On the issue of legal requirements for pronoun use, things remain the way Mr. Peterson wanted them — the same.

.. Mr. Peterson was taking a stand not against power in that instance but on behalf of it. His acolytes, some of whom might consider themselves to be walking in the tradition of rugged American individualism, should note that they are in fact taking marching orders — “Rules for Life,” no less — from a line-toeing Canadian, preaching a philosophy not of American defiance but of Canadian deference.

 

 

Was ‘Weird Al’ the real star all along?

After nearly 40 years of parodying celebrities, the accordion-playing nerd has become a legend in his own right.

.. Yankovic was more than a good boy. He skipped second grade, got straight A’s and was Lynwood High’s valedictorian. As an only child, he was loved and sheltered.

.. He was so polite and respectful it almost hid his subversive genius. Yankovic’s parodies poked holes in the bubble of pop pretension. Take his treatment of the Michael Jackson hit “Beat It.”

.. Yankovic’s 1992 spoof of Nirvana would be another creative triumph.

To get permission, Yankovic called Kurt Cobain on the set of “Saturday Night Live,” where Nirvana was set to perform.

.. As his friend Miranda has reminded him, he doesn’t have to get permission from artists. Parody is protected by the First Amendment. But Yankovic has built his reputation on respecting artists’ wishes.

“I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings,” Yankovic says. “I don’t want to be embroiled in any nastiness. That’s not how I live my life. I like everybody to be in on the joke and be happy for my success. I take pains not to burn bridges.”

.. He also doesn’t need a label. Consider how he promoted “Mandatory Fun.” Record companies no longer provide video budgets. So Yankovic partnered with other outlets, including Funny or Die, College Humor and Nerdist. He launched his album by releasing eight videos in eight days.

Camille Paglia on Hugh Hefner’s Legacy, Trump’s Masculinity and Feminism’s Sex Phobia

Hugh Hefner absolutely revolutionized the persona of the American male. In the post-World War II era, men’s magazines were about hunting and fishing or the military, or they were like Esquire, erotic magazines with a kind of European flair.

.. Hefner reimagined the American male as a connoisseur in the continental manner, a man who enjoyed all the fine pleasures of life, including sex. Hefner brilliantly put sex into a continuum of appreciative response to jazz, to art, to ideas, to fine food. This was something brand new. Enjoying fine cuisine had always been considered unmanly in America. Hefner updated and revitalized the image of the British gentleman, a man of leisure who is deft at conversation — in which American men have never distinguished themselves — and the art of seduction, which was a sport refined by the French.

.. Hefner’s new vision of American masculinity was part of his desperate revision of his own Puritan heritage. On his father’s side, he descended directly from William Bradford, who came over on the Mayflower and was governor of Plymouth Colony, the major settlement of New England Puritans.

.. What do you think about the fact that Trump’s childhood hero and model of sophisticated American masculinity was Hefner?

.. the mainstream media based in Manhattan, particularly The New York Times, was hopelessly off in the way it was simplistically viewing Trump as a classic troglodyte misogynist. I certainly saw in Trump the entire Playboy aesthetic, including the glitzy world of casinos and beauty pageants. It’s a long passé world of confident male privilege that preceded the birth of second-wave feminism. There is no doubt that Trump strongly identified with it as he was growing up. It seems to be truly his worldview.

.. Many mainstream voters are gratified by his reassertion of male pride and confidence. Trump supporters may be quite right that, in this period of confusion and uncertainty, male identity needs to be reaffirmed and reconsolidated.

.. What Playboy doesn’t know about well-educated, upper-middle-class women with bitter grievances against men could fill a book! I don’t regard Gloria Steinem as an expert on any of the human appetites, sexuality being only one of them. Interviews with Steinem were documenting from the start how her refrigerator contained nothing but two bottles of carbonated water. Steinem’s philosophy of life is extremely limited by her own childhood experiences. She came out of an admittedly unstable family background. I’m so tired of that animus of hers against men, which she’s been cranking out now for decade after decade. I come from a completely different Italian-American background — very food-centric and appetite-centric. Steinem, with that fulsomely genteel WASP persona of hers, represents an attitude of malice and vindictiveness toward men that has not proved to be in the best interest of young women today.
.. Gloria Steinem, Susan Faludi, all of those relentlessly ideological feminists are people who have wandered away from traditional religion and made a certain rabid type of feminist rhetoric their religion. And their fanaticism has poisoned the public image of feminism and driven ordinary, mainstream citizens away from feminism.
.. I hugely admired the early role that Steinem played in second-wave feminism because she was very good as a spokesperson in the 1970s. She had a very soothing manner that made it seem perfectly reasonable for people to adopt feminist principles. She normalized the image of feminism when there were a lot of crazy feminists running around (like Valerie Solanas, who shot Andy Warhol). That was Steinem’s great contribution, as far as I’m concerned. Also, I credit her for co-founding Ms. magazine and thereby contributing that very useful word, Ms., to the English language, which allows us to refer to a woman without signaling her marital status. I think that’s a tremendous accomplishment.But aside from that, Steinem is basically a socialite who always hid her early dependence on men in the social scene in New York.

.. I have always felt that feminism should transcend party politics and be a big tent welcoming women of faith and of all views into it. Also, I hold against Steinem her utter, shameless hypocrisy during the Bill Clinton scandal. After promoting sexual harassment guidelines, which I had also supported since the 1980s, Steinem waved away one of the worst cases of sexual harassment violation that can ever be imagined — the gigantic gap of power between the President of the United States and an intern! All of a sudden, oh, no, it was all fine, it was “private.” What rubbish! That hypocrisy by partisan feminist leaders really destroyed feminism for a long time.

.. hat Hefner espoused and represented — the art of seduction, where a man, behaving in a courtly, polite and respectful manner, pursues a woman and gives her the time and the grace and the space to make a decision of consent or not

.. Instead, what we have today, after Playboy declined and finally disappeared off the cultural map, is the coarse, juvenile anarchy of college binge drinking, fraternity keg parties where undeveloped adolescent boys clumsily lunge toward naive girls who are barely dressed in tiny miniskirts and don’t know what the hell they want from life. What possible romance or intrigue or sexual mystique could survive such a vulgar and debased environment as today’s residential campus social life?

.. Today’s hook-up culture, which is the ultimate product of my generation’s sexual revolution, seems markedly disillusioning in how it has reduced sex to male needs, to the general male desire for wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am efficiency, with no commitment afterwards. We’re in a period of great sexual confusion and rancor right now. The sexes are very wary of each other. There’s no pressure on men to marry because they can get sex very easily in other ways.

.. What Hefner’s death forces us to recognize is that there is very little glamour and certainly no mystery or intrigue left to sex for most young people. Which means young women do not know how to become women. And sex has become just another physical urge that can be satisfied like putting coins into a Coke machine.

.. But if feminism means anything, it should be encouraging young women to take control of every aspect of their sex lives, including their own impulses, conflicts and disappointments. That’s what’s tragic about all this. Young women don’t seem to realize that in demanding adult inquiry into and adjudication of their sex lives, they are forfeiting their own freedom and agency.

.. there are so many hugely rich women stars in movies and music who should be using their millions to fund the creation of production companies precisely for the kind of hiring that they want. All those wealthy performers with their multiple houses — how about selling one of them? And let them do whatever feminist projects they want and see if they can sell it to the general public.

.. Multiplying like bunnies: Hefner was making a strange kind of joke about the entire procreative process.

.. I think feminism is wildly wrong when it portrays men as the oppressor, when in fact men, as I have argued in my books, are always struggling for identity against the enormous power of women.

.. Hefner created his own universe of sexuality, where there was nothing threatening. It’s a kind of childlike vision, sanitizing all the complexities and potential darkness of the sexual impulse. Everybody knows that Hefner’s sexual type was the girl next door, in other words, the corn-fed, bubbly American girl who stays at the borderline of womanhood but never crosses it.

.. Hefner’s women may have been uncomplex as personalities, but they were always warm and genuine. I never found them particularly erotic. I much preferred the Penthouse style of women, who were more femme fatales. Hefner’s bunnies were a major departure from female mythology, where women were often portrayed as animals of prey — tigresses and leopards. Woman as cozy, cuddly bunny is a perfectly legitimate modality of eroticism. Hefner was good-natured but rather abashed, diffident, and shy. So he recreated the image of women in palatable and manageable form. I don’t see anything misogynist in that. What I see is a frank acknowledgment of Hefner’s fear of women’s actual power.