Thursday, September 23, 2021

When he's right

He's almost right.  There's been a surge of people running over to various New Prolife Catholic social media sites to see if anything is being talked about regarding, you know, life.  Any mention of the innocents killed by a drone strike?  Deporting immigrants from Texas?  Assault on abortion restrictions by the Left?  Anything?  Bueller?  

Well, no.  I, too, decided to keep looking, just to be fair.  I said here that I couldn't resist looking at their reaction to the drone strike that killed ten civilians.  That's because I remember vividly the outrage by many NPL Catholics over such things back in the days of Bush and Obama.  Certainly they'd at least be consistent and call this out, even if they avoided blaming their guy in the White House.

Nope.  Still not one.  No mention at all really.  Lots of praise for the Biden press secretary.  The unvaccinated are baby killing scum as always.  And apparently Patrick Coffin sucks because of course he does.  I don't know much of Coffin, but he's definitely someone they don't care for. 

The best, FWIW, was this little gem: 

The story he links to is at this leftwing rag disguised as a religious news service.  Ah, it reminds me of those warm and fuzzy days of old when Mark Shea said it was only reactionary rad trads who were so wicked and evil (and sinful) as to say who should or shouldn't be in the Catholic faith.  

Anyhoo, on the subject of Mark, it's Mark who I'm talking about in my blog title.  In vainly looking about at the various NPL Catholics speaking to the suffering of the [inconvenient] innocents, I saw an interesting piece he wrote.  Now I give Mark a lot of criticism here, and rightly so I think.  But in this case, he's almost right.  Though at the same time, he also gives away how easy it is to fall victim to the same problem he condemns.

The gist is that Raiders of the Lost Ark is a great movie, and the argument that Indiana Jones contributed nothing to the story is wrong.  That argument, so says Mark, is indicative of the Internet era's desire to tear everything apart and view everything as a puzzle to be solved or, worse,  failure to be condemned.  You know, as opposed to just watching a movie and enjoying it. 

A couple things.  First, this actually began, apart from the realm of professional film critics, long before the Internet.  Blame the proliferation of VCRs back in the 1980s.  I tell my sons it's impossible to understand what going to a movie was like when you imagined that would be the last time you had a chance to see the movie.  The last chance for many years at least.  

Once VCRs came by, you knew you would be able to see the movie as soon as you wanted.  And you could see it over and over again.  And you could begin seeing the mistakes, goofs, gaffes and a hundred other things you missed when you could only see a film a handful of times, if that many, in theaters.  That gave birth to the 'watch the movie for the mistakes' trend which, eventually, morphed into the 'see a movie in a combative way to find the problems and attack' approach.  

But it's not just movies.  I fear the Internet did that to a host of things courtesy of generations pretty low on the accomplishment ladder.  The Internet became a vehicle for not just seeing every movie as a chance to say 'gotcha', but as a chance to see everything that way.  I do believe the 1619 Project would never make it out of the trash can before now.  Not that stupid things haven't been published over the ages.  But never to the acclaims and accolades of so many who should know better.  There's just something the Internet feeds us in terms of rejoicing over the failings and sins of - everyone else.  The same goes for the modern iconoclasm and eradication of our heritage. 

The second point is that with Raiders, the criticism Mark addresses isn't the big problem now.  I saw that criticism Mark mentions decades ago.  Certainly by the mid-00s.  Along with the false claim of the Ark being a McGuffin (now that McGuffin simply means plot device), the idea that Jones was irrelevant was being argued when I first began visiting blogs and social media. 

Today, that isn't the main beef, especially among younger critics.  The big beef today is that Raiders is another prime example of white racist imperialist film making - as are all films made by white Europeans and Americans'.  In this case, typical white hero steps in to save the day, while going into non-Western cultures, wrecking them, killing a bunch of swarthy types, and stealing their artifacts (just like real Western archeologists).  One review I read even pointed out that, except for a few Nazis here and there, most of those Jones personally kills are non-white.  We won't even get into John Rhys Davies racist culturally appropriating portrayal of an Egyptian Archeologist.  

These  are the big criticisms of the day, and tend to follow just the kind of thinking Mark embraces.  Thinking made possible by the same Internet Mark sees as the problem.  In fact, if you read his article carefully - and in this rarest of cases, I suggest you do - you see Mark lets a little of that tendency he's embraced out of the bag.

He says the ending of the movie, with the Ark being tucked away by the United States, is symbolic of the US crushing other cultures instead of studying them.  No.  Not ever before now would I, or anyone I knew, have seen the ending that way.  People may see it that way in the last few years, following with the 1619 Project mentality.  But traditionally, it was symbolic of our governmental bureaucracies and their corruption and willingness to roll over those with legitimate issues.  That's back when liberalism was all about how bad and inept and untrustworthy our government was.  

Mark's take that it shows the US crushing cultures is new.  I've not heard that until recently.  It comes with the rest of the Internet driven narrative that all whites in America and Europe were at their core racist.  Everything they did was racist. Everything they produced was racist.  And the sum contributions of the West and America is just that, the erasing and eradication of all other (beautiful) cultures.  

See how easy it is?  Mark see the problem and nails it.  He misses a little of the roots of the problem, but still gets how the Internet feeds these unhealthy trends of 'I tear down, ergo I am' that the Internet seems to encourage.  But then, without realizing it, he repeats narratives and premises that never would have made any progress in sane minds before today, and still wouldn't, were it not for the very thing Mark sees as a problem.

A word of warning for all of us.  Perhaps we all need to remember such tendencies.  It's easy to see the problem when others are hitting close to home.  But without realizing it, we might be just as guilty in ways that, twenty years ago, we never would have imagined.  Splinters and planks in eye perhaps?  Or just be careful when pointing out legitimate problems that we've not bought into them our own way just the same.


  1. During the years I checked in on Religion News Service, I wondered why the content was increasing concerned with a particular subject, to the point where you could have renamed it "Kevin Eckstrom's Gay News". Then I discovered they were receiving 55% of their revenue from the Arcus Foundation, which was run by a notorious alum from the Obama-era Department of Education, one Kevin Jennings.

    1. Never heard of them, but definitely think they could be more honest about what they are. I was never a Rush Limbaugh fan, but I did respect him for being honest about what he was and where he stood, rather than hide behind some false title and play at objectivity.

    2. Eckstrom wasn't making a public point of the source of his funding or it's influence on story selection. I thought at the time that Jennings agreed to finance their operation in return for changes in editorial policy, but I see that it was likely something Eckstrom wished to do anyway and that he sought financing from the Arcus Foundation because they'd reinforce this. Not long after, Eckstrom landed a PR job at the National Cathedral and passed on Religion News Service to someone else. This is illuminating (

      As for the content of Religion News Service, the editorial line was not concealed. The publication I suspect had been founded with purposes in mind which differed a great deal from Eckstrom's. Another gutted agency worn as a skin suit.

  2. The former editor of Gilbert! loathes J.D. Vance. If you read the article he's referring to

    It's almost unadulterated status-jonesing discourse. Hardly a substantive thought to be found therein. So here we have Jacob Lupfer, age 40, and Sean Dailey, age 55, and their brains are stuck in high school. (Both men are notable for having sketchy employment situations as well).

    1. Status jonesing? Not sure what that means. But yeah, that article was written by a person who acts like Vance ran over his dog. Any hope that I would take anything he had to say seriously about Vance went right out the window.

    2. The point of the article was to delineate in-groups and out-groups and place Vance in the out-group. There isn't any substantive critique of his positions. Note, invocations of 'hate' and 'racism' by portside authors seldom if ever have any other purpose. (Now they've added 'white supremacy' to their bag of tricks; that it's a nonsense term does not bother them).

      Another feature is to strike poses. In response to Vance's remark on Catholic Social Teaching he says "Either Vance knows nothing about Catholic social teaching or he is being highly disingenuous." Garry Wills used to be much cannier and more elegant at this sort of thing (for which Fr. Mankowski took him apart). The social encyclicals are soporific and do not adjudicate latter-day disputes over policy questions. They'd rule out Marxist or Social Darwinist or Objectivist-Libertarian approaches to social policy, but adherents of these schools aren't common among American politicians, at all. Many of the observations in the encyclicals would be challenging to implement because they assume social formations (e.g. master-apprentice bonds) which are quite rare as we speak. A broad swath of working politicians and denizens of the chatterati could declare themselves 'aligned' with Catholic Social Teaching; very few of them if any could finesse the problem of implementing it.


    Did you catch this? Maybe our problem is widespread arrested development.

    1. Not shocking. I've been seeing surveys of college students with the numbers increasing of those who 1) favor government censorship, 2) abolish the Constitution, 3) prefer Socialism/Marxism over Jeffersonian democracy. Given the textbooks my sons show me, it's not hard to see why they think this way.

  4. *looks over at his own blog*

    Yeah... guess I'm not really one who can talk much here with the small forest growing in my own eye. I do know there is something of a debate actually on the internet over modern tv shows & movies - between those who want to enjoy them only and those who want to critique them and say, "these aren't good."

    That's all I'll go into for now unless you really want to discuss it. ;)

    1. I think critiques is OK. It's what we do. I saw this movie and it was great. I saw that movie and it was horrible. I think Mark, if I took him right, meant those who go into these movies to find deep meanings and hidden purpose or some other failed moral standing, detect evidence of such wrong-think, and proceed to trash them accordingly. Rather than just enjoy the experience and conclude it was or wasn't a good movie for a movie's sake.

      I would also exempt from this those movies made for the sole purpose of preaching or advancing an agenda with nothing else going for them. They deserve such treatment. I think Mark means movies like Raiders, or Star Wars, or even more thoughtful fare, but still just movies and entertainment.

  5. Ugh! "Catholicism doesn't need converts like JDVance..." That just totally grates on me. Catholicism is NOT a club. We should want everyone to cross the Tiber for the sake of their salvation! And who does he think he is to speculate that JDV becoming Catholic is somehow bad for his soul?
    I have an easier time handling scandalous sin in the hierarchy than I do with ordinary Catholics who post stuff like this. We should be on the same side - if not politically then at least in charity. It's just so petty!

    1. I have a suspicion Mr. Dailey's parting of ways with the Chesterton Society was a disagreeable one.


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