What the hell’s the matter with you?
1. On the President’s stunt visit to St. John’s Episcopal Church. I refuse to second-guess the President’s decision to walk across the street to St. John’s Episcopal Church in D.C. to make an anti-riot statement, Bible in hand, since I do not believe it matters what he does right now. He will be criticized for it, and I refuse to participate in the gratuitous and destructive effort to make it impossible for him to lead and govern.
The immediate focus was on the fact that his way though Lafayette Park was cleared by police using rubber bullets and tear gas. The President was defying the protesters, and whether it was wise to do so, it was also his right to do so. If the President believes posing outside a riot damaged church is to the nation’s benefit, and that he should walk through protesters to do it, then he gets to make that call. If protesters are in the way or threatening his safety, they have to move. If they won’t move voluntarily, then some degree of force has to be used.
The news media has avoided mentioning it, but the protest was illegal: demonstrations in Lafayette Park require permits, and this mob had none. Moreover, the description of the group as “peaceful protesters” by the news media has to be viewed with skepticism. The past week has shown that “peaceful protesters” suddenly become violent rioters without warning, and even when they do, the news media is still likely to call them “peaceful.”
Other complaints about the episode involved the President’s use of the Bible. Yup, he used it as a prop! That doesn’t offend me particularly, since the Bible is used as a prop so often that I regard that as one of its major cultural functions. Presidents, in particular, have used it as a prop; I would argue that when they are sworn into office using the Bible, it’s a prop. I particularly remember Bill Clinton holding a Bible in photo ops when he was supposedly undergoing “spiritual instruction” during Monica Madness. Trump’s Bible was standard Presidential PR. but this President isn’t allowed to use the same tools available to his predecessors.
2. If you wonder why police appear to have no idea what to do about looters, wonder no more. Read this incomprehensible print version of humming from the Police website, circa 2005.
3. If one can’t comprehend the culture, one can’t accurately assess ethics within that culture. I work really, really hard to keep up to date with the U.S. culture, and it worries me when the value of something hailed by supposedly legitimate critics completely eludes me. I felt that way about “1917,” which critics celebrated as the most deserving Oscar nominated film, and I felt that way about “Parasite,” the ultimate Oscar-winner. Neither, however, flummoxed me half as much as two critically acclaimed films, one British and 60 years old, the other recent and American, that I resolved to watch as an exercise in cultural literacy.
The American film was “The Disaster Artist,” which has won awards and has been almost unanimously praised by filmgoers and critics alike. It is yet another movie about the making of bad movies—Eddie Murphy’s “Dolemite is My Name” was another (and much, much better).
“The Disaster Artist” has James Franco playing the whack-job who wrote, directed and starred in “The Room,” widely regarded as one of the worst movies ever made. Franco’s film’s appeal, as far as I can see, is like the cruelest of reality shows: Look at this moron be moronic and he doesn’t even know what a moron he is! “Ed Wood” had a similar theme, but with genuine wit and some insight into the nature of obsession and artistic creation. I have no idea why anyone would praise “The Disaster Artist,” and I’m an aficionado of terrible movies. I’d rather watch “The Room.” I’d rather watch “Plan Nine From Outer Space” twice.
The other film was 1960’s “Peeping Tom,” a serial killer movie which is apparently regarded as one of the greatest British films ever made. Martin Scorcese, Francis Ford Coppola and other major U.S. directors have lavished praise on it and claimed that it influenced their work; the movie was originally derided by critics, but has become a “classic.” I have absolutely no idea why.
These things worry me.
4. Ethics quote of the day from Ann Althouse:
On Twitter, Joe Biden said: “He’s using the American military against the American people.” Against or for? You have to admit he’d be using the American military against some American people, but the motivation is to protect other American people.
The article also quotes Kamala Harris, saying: “He is a divider. He is clearly scared. And he cannot meet this moment that he has partly created because of his inability to understand the pain and the suffering.” I’m reading this idea of “understanding pain” as meaning willingness to tolerate chaos and destruction. Shouldn’t we all be scared of disorder? What are Democrats offering to do about the violence — anything other than purporting to understand it?