Tuesday, August 23, 2016

We Own the Finish Line

During the Democratic National Convention, Vice-President Joe Biden said something that is patently absurd, but extraordinarily revealing of the liberal mentality.  His audience—and the media—should have been taken aback.  Instead they cheered wildly.
What did he say that was so ridiculous?  What line was extoled as brilliant, but is actually evidence of shallow and egotistical thinking?  Why is was that “we own the finish line.”
By this Biden meant that the United States is first and always will be.  We have the best economy, the strongest military, and the most moral people.  Others—especially Republicans—must stop putting us down because we are inherently the world’s foremost superpower.
It was clear that Biden regards this status as an entitlement.  We do not have to earn it.  It is ours merely as a result of who we are.  We are simply THE BEST—period—exclamation point!
Our vice president has, of course, long since demonstrated that he is a man of limited intellect.  He obviously does not know history.  There was a time when Rome owned the finish line—then the barbarians ended their reign.  There was also a time when China owned the finish line—yet the Mongols and Manchus sent them into eclipse.
At various times, the Spanish, the French, and the English have likewise claimed the mantle of natural superiority.  None, however, was able to maintain it.  Why then should we be different?  What is there about us that exempts us from the competition that might eventually bring us down?
Biden is not alone in his narrow-minded smugness.  It is characteristic of the progressive mindset.  These folks regard our economic and military dominance as a given.  As a consequence, we do not have to do anything to preserve it.  Our ascendency is effectively a golden goose that can be plucked, mutilated, and starved of nourishment with impunity.
It therefore follows that the American people deserve every freebee the liberals can ladle their way.  Citizens of the United States do not have to work for these things.  They do not have to sacrifice or make do with less than they desire.  That would be unjust.  Everyone—including illegal immigrants—is to be provided with the comforts of our limitless prosperity.
This means that taxes can be raised on the wealthy without reducing the capital needed for investment.  It means that regulations, which cost business trillions a year, can be expanded without limit.  As Americans, a free lunch is manifestly our due.
And so we bust the budget to provide elective medical care—such as sex change operations.  We likewise go blithely into debt such that we will soon owe more on interest than we spend on welfare or defense.  Many progressives also want us to cut back on policing, regardless of whether our inner cities become sinkholes of despair.
The Romans fell to the Germanic hordes because they preferred to live in luxury rather than defend themselves.  The Chinese turned inward and hence failed to recognize imminent threats.  Meanwhile, the Spanish used American gold and silver to purchase extravagances, instead of developing Iberian industry.
Are we in the process of doing something comparable?  Life demands choices and determination.  The notion that we can have it all without growing our economy or strengthening our military is childish.
When I was a teenager—and a socialist—I argued that an affluent society should leave no one behind.  Everyone ought therefore be provided with a minimum income by the federal government.  None needed to work.  A kind of reverse taxation could be automatic.
Much like contemporary liberals, I regarded this as elementary justice.  It was blatantly unfair that anyone possess more than anyone else.  In a society as rich as ours, it was self-evidently incumbent upon us to share with the needy.  Moreover, demands for effort would only worsen their lot.
This attitude has become part of the liberal creed.  It would seem that because we are American, we all deserve trophies—even if we don’t show up.
Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology

Kennesaw State University

Journalistic Malpractice

Years ago, when I was working as a reporter for the Hudson Dispatch, I participated in a newsroom conversation.  One of the more senior journalists was pontificating on the state of New Jersey politics.  Although I was new, I realized that a lot of what he said was grounded in his personal biases.
Much to my surprise, when I read the paper’s lead story the next day, it was essentially a rehash of the previous afternoon’s bull session.  What had seemed to me nothing more than disheveled speculation was presented as if it were incontrovertible truth.
Once upon a time, journalism was supposed to be about conveying the facts.  Reporters were expected to be neutral observers who transmitted information without distorting it.  Although I realize that this was an ideal, there was nevertheless an effort to respect it.
Today, however, editorializing on the front page has become business as usual.  Although I was taken aback by what I read in the Dispatch, contemporary reporters routinely take disguised partisanship in stride.  If anything, they long to be so well established that they too can palm off opinion as fact.
Who nowadays doubts the prevalence of a liberal perspective in the media?  Who doubts the pervasive bias of reporters when they write stories about presidential candidates?  Everyone knows that unfairness abounds.  It is crystal clear that Hillary Clinton benefits from relatively gentle treatment.
Some journalists have actually broken the unspoken ban on admitting this.  Instead of the conventional denials, they acknowledge slanting their coverage.  They justify this, however, in the name of protecting the nation from disaster.
Liberal journalists are sure that a Trump presidency would be catastrophic.  Having become reporters in order to promote progressive causes, this prospect cries out for intervention.  They must, in good conscience, save the American people from making a dreadful mistake.
Why do journalists feel this way?  Why do they assume that progressive policies are always in our best interest?  The answer is that they are often just as ignorant as that senior reporter back in New Jersey.  They too do the equivalent of putting their shoes up on the desk and BS-ing ad nauseum.
People frequently confuse the authoritative tone of correspondents and commentators with knowledge.  If these talking heads sound like they know what they are saying, it is assumed that they do. 
The plain fact is that this is not always the case.  Sometimes the mask slips.  It is remarkable how often reporters who appear on the television show Jeopardy reveal a lack of in-depth comprehension.  And why not?  Schools of journalism do not teach history or politics.  Their concern is with communication and manipulation.
Hence we get this spectacle of journalists clacking over absurd misinterpretations of what Donald Trump says.  They are happy, for instance, to pretend that he called for the assassination of Hillary Clinton, rather than do even-handed analyses of her economic policies.
Journalistic malpractice abounds because so many journalists are unreconstructed idealists.  They have no clue about how the economy works or the way that social change occurs.  In their naiveté, they are therefore prone to exaggeration and misrepresentation.
Let me make it clear that there are exceptions.  Some reporters remain conscientious.  Still, the trend toward knee-jerk partisanship is unambiguous.  Not that long ago, reporters aspired to doing investigative pieces.  They wanted to break through the curtain of political deception.
Today they are part of the institutionalized dishonesty of the contemporary scene.  This is a shame because it does not have to be that way.  Journalists could uphold ethical standards.  Although some do, too many don’t.
As a result, the public is becoming jaded.  Ordinary Americans know they are being stage-managed.  Unfortunately, millions are willing to credit the validity of stories that feed their prejudices.  They do not object to nonsense as long as it is nonsense to which they subscribe.
In other words, journalistic malpractice is a social phenomenon.  It flourishes not merely because of the foibles of reporters, but because ordinary folks serve as its enablers.
Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology

Kennesaw State University

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

It Takes a Village

America is in crisis!  No, I am not talking about the threat from ISIS.  Nor about the breakdown of law and order.  Nor about our sputtering economy.  Nor about our racial divisions per se.  I am instead referring to the continuing erosion of marriage and the family.
Today, approximately half of all marriages end in divorce and soon half of all our children will be born out of wedlock.  This is a disaster!  No society can survive if it does not replace the current generation with a competent future generation.  We, however, pretend that this is irrelevant.
Why this matters is that children raised in stable two parent households do far better than those who grow up with a single parent.  They are better educated, get better jobs, have better health, and enter more secure marriages.  The evidence of this is unequivocal.
What is more, the devastation wrought by illegitimacy and divorce is concentrated among the lower classes.  This means that, as Charles Murray has alleged, we are becoming a nation arrayed into two hostile camps.  The volatility created by such a division is already being felt, yet its repercussions are apt to increase.
Nonetheless, neither of the political parties stressed this predicament at their national conventions.  This was especially odd for the Democrats who pride themselves on being the compassionate protectors of the poor.  Why they did not do so is revealed by Hillary Clinton’s legacy.
During her tenure a first lady, Hillary accomplished very little.  But one of the things she did do was undermine marriage and the family.  Of late, her supporters have said little about it, yet their candidate wrote a well-publicized book entitled “It Takes a Village.”
The theme of this monograph was derived from an African proverb.  Its point was that for children to grow into capable adults, not just their parents, but other members of the community must protect and nurture them.  Hillary argued that we in America ought aim at nothing less.
And yet most of us do not live in villages.  We instead reside in a mass techno-commercial society.  Rather than surrounded by a few people whom we recognize and trust, we are encircled by millions of strangers.  We do not know them, nor they us.
So why would we entrust the fate of our children to these outsiders?  How could we be sure that they have their best interests at heart?  In fact, we are not—hence we caution the young to be wary of strangers.
  So what did Hillary have in mind?  She plainly assumed that the government would—and should—take over many family responsibilities.  Its schools and welfare agencies would provide the supports that parents do not.  This way every child would get an equal break.
Except that the people who run our schools and welfare agencies do not care about children as much as loving parents.  How could they when there are so many—and they come and go?  The results, as we know, are often dismal.
In other words, in minimizing parental responsibilities and providing financial support for illegitimacy, Hillary has helped deprive millions of youngsters of the love they deserve.  She tells us that she cares, but somehow she does not notice the devastation left in her wake.  The fact is that when you detract from families, you detract from us all.
As the first female nominee for president, we are assured that Hillary’s rise is an historic breakthrough.  Although she stresses her motherhood, the indicators (e.g., notes left behind in a drawer for Chelsea) are that she was frequently absent.  Is this to be the model for all women?
Obviously callous ambition has been more important to Hillary than family.  Bill’s Bimbo eruptions point in the same direction.  And yet this attitude apparently worked for the Clinton’s.  Is it, however, the prototype we want for everyone?
Hillary says that hers is a life dedicated to service.  But if this service is not informed by the needs of ordinary men, women, and children, how is it supposed to benefit us?
Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology
Kennesaw State University 

World Class Haters

Republicans are congenitally mean.  Conservatives are downright hateful.  Liberals, on the other hand, are filled with love and compassion.  This was the central the theme of the Democratic National Convention.  Nearly every other speech was dedicated to telling us that love is all we really need.
Sure, the Beatles told us the same thing—but is it actually true?  If we can convince the ISIS gunmen that we genuinely care about them, will they lay down their arms?  If Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill had given Adolf Hitler a few more hugs, would he have refrained from invading Poland?
If these examples seem silly, make no mistake about it, many liberals would free criminals from prison on the grounds that this would make them better citizens.  They would also disarm the police in the belief that inner city thugs are merely reacting to official violence.
After all, didn’t the mayor of Baltimore tell the police to stand down as rioters ravaged her city?  And didn’t the Department of Justice condemn the Ferguson police for bringing riot gear to a riot?  And wasn’t that a former Miss Alabama who said she felt compassion for a man who killed five officers in cold blood?
Faux niceness is evidently the stock and trade of liberals.  Thus, they insist that they are tolerant to the core, whereas their opponents are discriminatory wretches.  Only progressives really care about others.  Only they want to make the world a better place.
And yet all of this is belied by their behavior.  No sooner do progressives tell us that we should love everyone than they turn around and call conservatives awful names.  Is this love?  Is it tolerance?  As importantly, is it non-judgmental?
But you say that they do with a smile on their faces and the milk of human kindness flowing from their bosoms.   What then was that business about radicals burning the American flag outside the convention?  And why was a good liberal like Geraldo Rivera spit upon by a demonstrator?
The truth is that liberals are world-class haters.  At one point or another, they have vented their spleens at men, Christians, the rich, whites, and straights.  Although they routinely disguise this venom under protestations of magnanimity, it is ever-present.  Theirs, they assume, is righteous indignation.  Nonetheless it is deep and unforgiving.  Whatever it is, it is anything but loving toward its targets.
When Hillary Clinton was delivering her diatribe during the convention, there was fury in her eyes.  If you doubt me, go back and look at recordings of her speech.  While she claims to be full of sweetness and light, she also says she is a fighter and those eyes confirmed it.
Hillary and her allies may be justified in their hostility toward some of their opponents, but to call this love is a stretch.  Nor is their anger antiseptic because it is moral.  Rage has a way of getting out of hand.  It does not just ask cops to be nice; it threatens to kill them.
Neither is hate moderate.  When it is at full bore, it prevents people from thinking clearly.  Haters are so determined to destroy their foes that they do not consider whether their own policies have the intended effect.  Clearly, they want to win more than do good.
The progressive agenda has been implemented many times in many places.  Nowhere, however, has it lived up to expectations.  Why don’t liberals realize this?  In part, it is because they are too busy blaming their adversaries.  They assume that if they could annihilate these folks, truth and justice would automatically prevail.
As for love, if they genuinely loved children, wouldn’t they promote stronger marriages and families?  Likewise, if they genuinely loved the poor, wouldn’t they help these folks become more responsible?
It is easy to say that one is loving.  It is quite another to demonstrate it.   Liberals consequently make a habit of self-congratulatory nonsense.  Although they routinely maintain we should love everyone, they might consider being a little nicer themselves.
Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology

Kennesaw State University