You have probably heard by now that authorities in North Carolina decided to charge a young, 17-year-0ld man with possession of child pornography because he had a picture of himself, naked, taken when he was 16, on his cell phone.  I am not making this up.  I wish I was, but no, we live in a world in which serious, well-paid, “professional” adults, see nothing absurd in the idea of charging a boy with possession of a pornographic picture of himself.

I’m not just referring to the idiot who originally laid the charges.  I accept that there are idiots in the world.  No one should be surprised when one bursts into the limelight occasionally.  What I can’t believe is that this idiot was not immediately slapped down and restrained by someone higher up with sense.  A colleague, perhaps, or a sergeant or captain.  Instead, it went on to the District Attorney, to a judge, to the courts, and the public: we are on the job, protecting young men from pictures of themselves.

They also “seized” his phone.  They seized his phone.  I don’t know for sure– maybe I would be surprised– but I’ll bet most people think nothing of this fact.  The police seized his phone.  They physically removed it from his possession and took control of it and, presumably, explored it.  What do you have on your phone?  What messages have you sent?  What photos are on there?  Who sent you photos?  Who did you send photos?

This is really a shocking and repulsive act of personal invasion.  Did the police feel entitled to search his phone?  It was in the process of investigating what the police called a possible “statutory rape” which did not involve this boy, or his girlfriend.   So on what basis did they justify asking the boy’s mother for permission to look at his phone, without a warrant, without having provided any judge with evidence that the boy may have committed a crime?  Without having warned his mother, if we find any inappropriate pictures of your boy on this phone, we will have to arrest him and charge him with possession of inappropriate pictures of himself.

American Sharia

This is insane.  I think there have probably always been people who would think such a thing was very serious and very, very naughty,  should be punished with at least a prison sentence, but I think those people have, in the past, been told to shut up and stop being hysterical.  Now they win.  The teen was arrested.  His horrible, evil, monstrous deed was publicized (indeed, it has now gone around the world), and he almost found himself saddled with a lifetime of explaining to anyone who might consider employing him that he had a felony on his record, a crime so awful and despicable that it must remain attached to his record for all of his days: for yes, indeed, I saw myself naked.

Some sense did enter the fray: they eventually consented to reduce the charges.  And now they expect us to see how really reasonable they really are?   We know that you didn’t drop all charges because then you would not be able to hope most devoutly and fervently that there are people out there who will think, “well, he must have done something bad or the police would never have charged him.”

His girlfriend, by the way, received the same treatment, for sending a nude picture of herself, at 16, to her boyfriend, but I’ll bet the police and the District Attorney studied her picture more carefully before laying charges.  Yes, she too was charged with producing child pornography.

There are no shades of grey here, no ambiguity, no room for interpretation.  These people are monstrous idiots.  They are not just “idiots” because they are stupid and malevolent and, in fact, psychotic.  I do not qualify the word “psychotic”: they are completely uncaring about the harm they cause in proportion to the supposed offense.

The arresting officers should be fired and arrested and charged with public mischief and given a light sentence.  Because there’s no sense in multiplying the horrors and indignities of stupid, small-minded, hysterically fearful people.  But they must be fired.

But it would be more keeping with the spirit of the police here to charge the police themselves with possession of child porn.  Perhaps one of the officers who searched the phone could lay charges against himself.

If Americans are serious when they say they fear Sharia law, let them show it.

More Psychotic Behaviour by the Authorities.  I would like to point out in connection with that case a pattern we often see when prosecutors and police get all hysterical and lay stupid charges against people: the plea bargain.  The police and the DA apparently began to recognize that their case against Ms. Rausch was absurd and that they were going to look like nitwits when they dropped all the charges as they had to eventually.  They still had leverage.  They knew they could never win in court, but they could still make Ms. Rausch’s life hell if they wanted to by continued interrogations of her and any witness no matter how distantly related to the case, search warrants, subpoenas, and so on.  So they cut a deal with her: no more harassment if you plead guilty to just a tiny little smidgen of a crime, which they defined, basically, as a hug of the “victim” (a 14-year-old boy).  She agreed, to get them off her back.


Sexual Assault on Campus

If, like me, you are skeptical of the rates of sexual assault on college campuses as quoted by the media and many columnists, consider this poll,

The main difference?   Everybody completed this questionnaire (not just people who were interested), and the definition of “sexual assault” was narrowed to what most sensible people actually believe is sexual assault.  In short, the poll was directed and managed by people who did not have an incentive to pad the results.

[whohit]Sexual Assault on Campus[/whohit]




Crimes and Narcissism

In the new study, “Inequality in 700 Popular Films”, researchers made the shocking discovery that only about 4.1% of the top films– the most popular films– were directed by women.   This is outrageous.  Those studios should immediately hire a lot of women and put them in charge of 50% of the highest grossing films.

No, that doesn’t really make sense, does it?

We have a conflict here between people who feel that only 4% of successful Hollywood films are directed by women because women are systematically excluded from positions of authority at the studios, and the possibility that women have not been able to produce enough successful films to earn their way up the ladder.  Would Hollywood sacrifice profits for the sole purpose of treating women unequally?   I am very skeptical.

All this gets to be beside the point I care about.  The top-grossing films of 2015, so far, are:

  • Jurassic World
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Furious 7
  • Inside Out
  • Minions
  • Cinderella
  • Pitch Perfect 2
  • Home
  • Fifty Shades of Grey
  • The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water

Oh, and you can add Ant-Man, Mad Max: Fury Road, San Andreas, whatever.  It doesn’t matter.  The goal of the feminist movement is to make sure that women get to direct half of these mediocre, unimportant films.  Because…  well, that’s where the money is, for one thing.

But one thing they might argue is that women would make more interesting, human-centered films about things of emotional importance, family, friendship, and so on.  But then the hordes of teenage ticket-buying customers would go elsewhere and these films would fall out of the top 700 and we would be back where we started, wouldn’t we?  Some men would come along and make movies about exploding cars and frat boys who go to Vegas and drink and have gratuitous sex with random women, and those films would sell more tickets.

Would the feminists go so far as to require movie theatre chains to show an equal number of films about family, relationships, and things of emotional importance, so the female directors and writers have half a chance.  They might.  Would that be a terrible idea?  Yes.  We live in world in which large corporations are believed to have no social responsibility whatsoever.   The film industry does everything it can to create the illusion of social responsibility, especially when it’s Oscar time, but if you suggest to a producer that he stop catering to our incessant wishes to feel good about watching violence and ogling women, he would simply mouth the word “censorship”  and all of the civil libertarians and the 14-year-old boys would stampede to his rescue.

They would be partly right: not one of the top 20 films is artistically important or interesting.  But then, that’s not what most people want out of a movie anyway.  So the next question is this: if you are complaining that only 4.1% of the top films are directed by women, are you not, in fact, admitting that women don’t seem to have the ability to direct commercially successful films?

I find it difficult– not impossible, just difficult– to believe that Hollywood, which is insanely driven by profit, would not hire a female director if they thought for one minute that she was capable of directing a film that would make a lot of money.   Do you know what happens at a Hollywood party when someone shows up who just directed a box office smash?   Can you feel the vibe?  Can you withstand the incredible magnetism of someone who is rich and famous and powerful, because he or she produced something that made a gigantic, smoldering pile of money?

Do you know how much influence that person has suddenly?

So there was a woman director out there and she had produced a few low-budget winners that showed strong audience approval and critical acceptance, like most independent directors who went on to direct big Hollywood productions, I believe she would have her chance.

Hollywood would hire a goat, if it produced something like “Rush” or “Avengers”.  And a goat would probably do just as well since most of the really skilled work is done by technicians.  The goat would simply press for a higher body count and more explosions.  The plot doesn’t matter.  Dialogue doesn’t matter.  The important thing is to look cool while slaughtering people and always imply in some sly way that the slaughtered deserved their fates.  Goats can handle that.  Should we have a girl in a bikini blow up another helicopter?  Baaaaa.  That means yes.  And then the goat will establish a foundation to support lost sheep, one-legged chickens, and homeless wabbits.

Feminists would argue that because women are not given the chance to direct sitcoms or independent films or commercials or rock videos, they don’t get the chance to acquire the experience and knowledge and connections required to take the next step up to feature films.  Many of those deals, they argue, are arranged at lunches or parties to which they are not invited.  They don’t get the chance to build up their resumes the way male directors  do.  Then, when a juicy big picture deal, like “Lord of the Rings”,  comes up, they don’t get serious consideration because they don’t have the extensive experience “required”.

But it’s not 1975.  Women directors, like young, independent men directors, do have greater access to low-cost equipment and resources.  But we don’t have a body of work by female directors that would suggest that they can be as good or better than male directors.

No, we do not.  We have some pretty good films, but you cannot construct a list of films by female directors that can match, in any respect, any reasonable list of the best genuinely artistic films of the past 20 years.

And Amy Schumer is not successful in the way the top male directors have been:   Spike Lee or Christopher Nolan or Francois Truffaut or Mike Leigh or Quentin Tarantino or Stanley Kubrick or Darren Aranovsky or Robert Zemeckis or James Cameron or Stephen Spielberg or Martin Scorcese  or Guy Ritchie, or David Fincher  or Joel Coen or Frank Darabont or Alfonso Cuaron, or Terrence Malick– shall I go on?

Is there a woman director who could make a film like “Crimes and Misdemeanors”, with it’s rueful reflections on crime and punishment, and the meaning of life?  Or “The Godfather”? Or “Tree of Life”?   Or “Blade Runner”, which explores the question of identity– what makes us human?  What makes us see?  What makes us want to live?

Or “The White Ribbon”, trying to answer the question of what kind of culture gives rise to a murderous, fascist state?   Or “Secrets and Lies”?  “The Great Beauty”?  “The Best Man”?

Or would a woman’s version confine itself to the affairs, the sex, the family, like Sofia Coppola’s contemptible take on Marie Antoinette: she was always just misunderstood?

We do have some good female directors: Kelly Reichart, Gillian Armstrong and Suzanne Bier and maybe Nicole Holofcener.  Well, I’m being generous here.  Holofcener made at least two fine films, but it was, again, about sex (in the broad sense: relationships between men and women, and women’s self-image).  Catherine Breillat?  Oh wait, that was also about sexuality.

Sarah Polley’s films are just plain awful.

Agniezka Holland?  An emphatic yes, an exception.  Claire Denis?  Yes.  (“Beau Travail” was remarkable).  Lina Wertmuller?  Yes, but even her brilliant films, “Swept Away”, and “Seven Beauties” are firstly and mostly concerned with…  sex.  Relationships.  Do you love me?

No doubt partisans on the feminist side will look at a film like “The Third Man” and “The Conversation” and “The Great Beauty” and “Z”, and declare them either boring or pointless or both, and not really any better than “The Piano” or whatever.

Or they will claim that male critics are biased in favor of films that are directed by men.  That would seem to indicate that not only are women incapable of making great films about something other than sex or relationships, but they are also incapable of understanding what is great about great films.  Is “The Seventh Seal” really all that great?  It’s no better than “Lady Bird”, really.  Seriously.

I really don’t care.  It is better.  It is far better and far more important than “The Piano” or any almost any other film directed by a woman, so far.

[whohit]Crimes and Narcissism[/whohit]


At an Extraordinary Personal Cost

I was just looking at a promo for the movie about Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys.  It tells me that this film, and  I quote, “examines the personal voyage and ultimate salvation of the icon whose success came at extraordinary personal cost“.   In order to create great music like “Fun Fun Fun” and “Good Vibrations”, he had to suffer.

No, he didn’t.

For one thing, the Beach Boys’ songs were not remotely about suffering or personal struggle.  Unless you believe that “Help Me Rhonda/Help me get around in my heart” really nails some kind of existential angst.

This is the kind of blather studios routinely put out there about the subjects of their films but this one is more annoying than usual.  (“Walk the Line”, which made up tragedy out of whole cloth, is another).  The “personal cost” they are referring to was not the price Brian Wilson paid for being creative and clever and inventive.  It is not about the part of his life that involved talent.  It was the price of being emotionally immature and spineless and allowing himself to be bullied by a mean dad.  It is about a failure of character.

The promo would like you to believe– as per the standard Hollywood myth (see “Walk the Line”)– that suffering produces great art.  Think about a person beset by misfortune, the early death of a parent, poverty, war, or bad health.  Some people with awful lives have produced great art.  That doesn’t mean their awful lives caused them to produce great art.

Many creative people– like many uncreative people– are emotionally immature and irresponsible.  The difference is, we don’t hear much about the uncreative people with those problems, unless they end up being the subject of the art produced by the creative people.  But creative people love the concept because, for one thing, it gives them an excuse for behaviors people normally judge to be bad.  They want to be forgiven.

It’s not the “price you pay” though there’s something to the idea that good artists are able to express their dissatisfying moments in their art.   People who generally accept the status quo and find their lives reasonably pleasing and satisfying are not likely to want to spend a huge amount of time trying to express their feelings about it, to argue it, to describe it, to re-imagine it, than people who are extremely dissatisfied with life.  To write or paint or compose, you have to be able to imagine something that does not exist.  And by something, I mean more than just objects or things.  I mean mind-sets, feelings, relationships, politics, sounds and images, words.  Most people can’t do that.

Did Amy Winehouse pay a steep emotional price for her music?  No, she was a fabulous artist who just happened to have a weakness for alcohol and drugs.  She paid a steep emotional price for having steep emotions, for feeling things intensely, for allowing herself to be manipulated by people around her with a financial stake in her schedule.  But it wasn’t the suffering that made her music great: it was her talent.

I remember an interview with Paul McCartney in Musician Magazine in which he discussed the criticism of his post-Beatles work, which many thought was trivial and unimportant.  He recognized that it was Lennon’s darker, more cynical vision that gave the Beatles’ music gravitas, and complained that he didn’t want to go out and suffer just so he could produce better music.

And he was right.  And wrong.  He didn’t need to suffer to produce great music.  He just needed to use a talent he didn’t have, to come up with a line like “puts on a face that she keeps in a jar by the door/who is it for?”

[whohit]At Extraordinary Personal Cost[/whohit]

The Duggars

It is evident from a thread on the topic in Reddit that many– if not most people  (I couldn’t find a single exception in the thread)–  don’t like making distinctions among different types or levels of abuse.  In fact, one poster commented that any kind of sexual abuse is always at least the same as rape.  I have not checked back lately: surely some contributors will make that distinction.

We don’t regard a slap in the face the same way as a stabbing.  We don’t think of shoplifting the same as armed-robbery.  Why do we regard inappropriate touching as the same as rape?

In the case of the Duggars, a son, Josh, confessed to his parents that he had touched four of his sisters and one other girl inappropriately, while they were sleeping, some time in 2006, when he was 13.  (Some sources say 14 0r 15, but the Duggars themselves say he told them about it just before his 14th birthday.) None of the sisters have any recollection of these incidents.  They were unharmed.

The idea that they were harmed in some way that they don’t even know about is beyond contemptible.  It is a stupid idea.  It is dime-store psychology, or worse.

The family tried to handle the incident without unnecessarily destroying individuals or the family.  At least they did at first.  They prayed about it.  But then they sought counseling which was probably a mistake: the event was trivial.  They reported it to the police, which was a huge mistake.  It was very, very trivial.  It did not call for fake therapy, which is what counselling is.  But they did right themselves and Josh went on to get married and have three children of his own.  The sisters went on with their lives as if it had never happened.

What a terrible outcome.  At least, that’s what you might think given the outpouring of outrage directed at the Duggars and TLC.

TLC had to cancel the program.  Why?  What exactly was the outrage about?  That the Duggars didn’t have their son arrested?  At 13 years old?   That he was allowed to apologize and be reconciled with the rest of the family?  That the sisters were not sent out for extensive therapy in order –really– to convince them that they really were quite traumatized even if they didn’t think they were?

That’s what it has come down to: the very, very bad sisters did not cooperate with this debased culture of outrage.  They must be trained to have PTSD.

And here’s the thing: the sisters made it clear that they have no outstanding issues with Josh.  Whatever was done was handled within the family to everyone’s satisfaction.

It was “In Touch Weekly”, an ironically-named online gossip magazine, that acquired copies of the police investigation and publicized the incident without the consent of the family or the victims .

Think about that: think about the hue and the cry of outrage on behalf of the victims without the slightest concern for the fact that an obscenely trashy on-line for-profit magazine published the story without their consent while inviting you to feel outrage at Josh on behalf of the “victims”!

Is it possible that the girls still loved their brother and their family and forgave him for the mistakes he made when he was 13, and for which he clearly apologized?  And that they would prefer to embrace their own family in love instead of sending him off to prison, and possibly tearing the family apart, forever?  That they believed no harm had been done because they hadn’t even been aware of the incidents until “In Touch Weekly” decided they, and everyone else in the world, just had to know?

The incidents never mattered, period.

So how do we get to be all righteous and indignant and outraged and hell-bent for retribution if the victims themselves don’t cooperate?  We accuse them of being brainwashed, that’s what we do (which is what some contributors on Reddit did).  And if they don’t know better, then they need to be forcibly, lovingly, compassionately, enlightened, and taught to be outraged and vindictive and depressed, and to need years and years of therapy,  and to only sense “closure” when they are sure that Josh has been humiliated and destroyed, to the satisfaction of the readers of a gossip magazine.

I was stunned by the intensity of antipathy for Josh Duggar, who, remember, was 13 at the time, and the entire family.  And the double-speak: “I’m not trying to tell them what they should feel.  I just think it should be acknowledged that they are not feeling the right things.”  And how dare they— how dare they! — express anger about the entire affair being exposed by “In Touch Weekly”, squeezed in somewhere between their stories about the Kardashians and Donald Trump’s ex-wives.

There’s a lesson about human nature here, and it’s not a pretty one.  We are a lot of psychotic people.  We want to see humiliation and punishment and the destruction of lives because it makes us feel good.  It lets us take pleasure in emotional savagery by linking it to righteous indignation at the biggest taboo in our society.  Some people will regard us as psychotic or worse if we just seem to destroy people for the fun of it, so we wait for an excuse.  Ah ha!  He molested his sisters!  Now we can freely indulge.  Now we don’t have to have one ounce of compassion or sorrow or regret for the lives we destroy in the process of shouting our righteousness’s to the stars.

This is evil and the people who joined in this puritanical jihad are monsters.  It is genuinely, unmistakably, irredeemably evil.  I don’t use the word lightly: what these vile people did to the Duggars was evil.   I won’t even accept “good intentions”.  Bullshit.  It was evil.

[whohit]The Duggars[/whohit]