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Robert Downey, Jr.

RDJAs awards shows have proliferated, they have become proportionately meaningless except as the equivalent of momentary outbursts of some sort of cultural display. Miley Cyrus comes to mind. The Oscars used to revel in glamor, though less and less so. The Grammys would indicate the general state of popular music. And so on. This makes Robert Downey Jr.’s appearance at this weekend’s Kids’ Choice Awards, concocted by Nickelodeon and sponsored by Bounty, Toyota and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, less a leading cultural indicator than merely another high point lost in the increasingly wild and swirling news cycle that long ago ceased to be filtered by sound judgment from rational minds.

It doesn’t help that Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man, The Soloist) appeared to accept an award called Best Male Buttkicker. Ours is a fast-moving era that encourages short-range, fragmentary half-thoughts instead of long-range, contemplative rationality as that awards title suggests. That’s too bad because Downey, an actor who is heroic in real life for having beaten the monster of drug addiction, an enormous achievement in a confusing world, said something important. That he chose to say it to an appropriate audience, children, with clarity of topic and theme, is impressive.

Accepting the award, he told the audience: “You know I wasn’t always a buttkicker. In fact, life has kicked my proverbial butt countless times in many ways for many years, until I decided one day to start kicking back. Now look at me!” Cashing in on what that really means, he pointedly turned today’s rampant look at me! self-centeredness into something more constructive, adding, as a poignant afterthought: “Remember when life is kicking your butt, never forget to kick it back right in the face.” In this context, Downey’s is a well-told lesson in self-renewal; that life means fighting, being assertive and, if necessary, self-defensive with the aggression aimed to hit the right spot. Too often in life we are told to passively yield, accept, resign and be at peace, or let it be or let it go, regardless of context. Downey’s words are a crucial and urgent counsel to today’s scoreless, overtested, indoctrinated youth to do the opposite and choose to judge, reject victimhood and if necessary fight back. What he said goes against everything today’s youths are being taught and propagandized. What he lives by example – and projects onto the screen – offers the youthful of all ages proof that life is worth fighting for.

Boeing’s Missing Big Jet

malaysia-airlines-boeing-777As with the attacks at Boston, Fort Hood and Benghazi, there is every reason to suspect Islamic terrorism as the cause of the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. There is no evidence of a crash.

In fact, reports about the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared a week ago, suggest that the Boeing 777 extended range aircraft continued to travel in a westward direction with the transponder turned off. This indicates to me, even if it turns out not to be the case, a high probability that the plane was hijacked by Islamic terrorists.

The flight originated in Malaysia, an Islamic monarchy, with 239 people on board. Two of the passengers are Iranians traveling on one-way, cash-bought tickets after reportedly posing for pictures and apparently boarding together with stolen passports both traced to Thailand, though Interpol says the men are probably not terrorists. The Wall Street Journal reports that data shows the plane kept operating for hours. Reuters reports that technology proves that someone with aviation knowledge flew the plane west toward the Indian Ocean. The Los Angeles Times reports that the British satellite company Inmarsat confirms that the plane was flying in an “automated” “routine” transmitting electronic signals. Passengers’ families have reported that cell phone signals, texts and other data indicate that their loved ones’ cellular phones remained active after the plane disappeared.

Why do I think there’s a potential link to Islamic terrorism?

It is widely known that Moslem terrorists use commercial airliners as weapons for catastrophic acts of war. The 9/11 attack, executed with four hijacked airliners, remains the worst siege in U.S. history. The Boeing 777 is a huge aircraft and the threat of a commercial plane being used as a missile, possibly loaded with nuclear weapons or dirty bombs, is real. Malaysia is the country where the chief terrorist financing the Islamic terrorist Bojinka plot to simultaneously blow up 11 airliners was arrested. It is also well known that Islamic terrorist state sponsors such as Iran and Saudi Arabia seek to destroy the West and hijacking an airliner of that size fits the jihadist profile. The lessons of history, from Arab terrorists slitting stewardess throats to gain access to jetliner cockpits in the 1970s to Arab terrorists slitting stewardess throats to gain access to jetliner cockpits in 2001 and unsolved aviation mysteries such as the explosion of TWA 800, must not be ignored.

Americans ought to remember the first words heard by U.S. air traffic control on the morning of September 11, 2001, spoken by lead Islamic terrorist hijacker Mohammed Atta as he hijacked the cockpit of American Airlines Flight 11: “we have planes…we have some planes.”

Year in Review: 2013

American whistleblower Edward Snowden courtesy of The GuardianThis year gave us two types of men: Edward Snowden and Phil Robertson, or, the man of reason and the man of faith. The young man represents the spirit of youth; Snowden is an idealist who fled his own country for Hong Kong this summer, told the world about indiscriminate government surveillance on the entire population of the U.S. and made thoughtful arguments against government control over people’s lives. He was praised here first before many others even addressed what he did. He was called a hero by Ayn Rand’s heir. He was passionately defended by a prominent conservative intellectual who reported that Snowden had been moved to act by a foreign film about Communist surveillance.

Yet Snowden was roundly denounced for his whistleblowing act of heroism by leftists, conservatives and others, especially those from the Clinton/Bush/Obama administrations, and attacked by government. Tea Party types who made a movement based on opposing government control, challenging the welfare state and demanding new, radical solutions to U.S. problems were split on Snowden’s status as a hero.

They shouldn’t be. Edward Snowden is in every sense the best news of 2013, if America is to remain even partially free. Stating that he does not trust the Obama administration, he brought forth bold new evidence at enormous risk to his own life. From his efforts, we know that the government tracks the American people with the latest technology and captures detailed information about every individual without regard to the law. We know that the government lied about doing this. We know that not a single enemy attack or terrorist siege has been prevented, not that it would make mass surveillance right if it had. We know that the ways and means of government surveillance of Americans is enormous, alarming and unchecked. A federal judge challenged the constitutionality and rightly compared the statism to George Orwell’s novel 1984.

All of this is thanks to Edward Snowden.

Snowden brought Americans together in a way that opposing ObamaCare never could, even paving the way for a more unified, principled opposition to that unconstitutional act of fascism. He did so by thinking, speaking and acting on his own judgment, something few Americans do by my observation. He singularly enlightened the West and changed the world and he did it going by reason, of course, not taking Big Government on faith.

Most Americans do the opposite, as we saw in abundance by their rallying to the defense of an archaic old man who thinks, looks and talks like the mass murdering religious terrorist who destroyed the Twin Towers. He goes by faith, not by reason. He is primitive, not cognitive. His name is Phil Robertson. He leads the religious clan at the center of America’s most watched cable TV program.

DuckDynastyoldmanCourtesyofCrossmapDuring an interview with GQ, Robertson said blacks he observed were fine before civil rights laws were passed and gays, drunks and adulterers among others are going to hell. Robertson, a fundamentalist Christian, has previously made similarly ignorant statements, such as promoting the marrying of females as children, and the cable network suspended him when his new comments were widely broadcast. They did so on the grounds that his views are repugnant to their business ethics. When conservatives, including religious conservative Sen. Ted Cruz, erupted in a fury to defend Robertson on improper grounds, i.e., free speech – ignoring that the suspension does not violate the First Amendment – the network buckled to pressure and restored Robertson to the airwaves.

The man of faith triumphed. That he did so at the expense of another group that touts faith (belief without evidence) in dogma, GLAAD, an irrational gay activist group, is irrelevant to what matters. Robertson brought forth vile and repulsive views, in crude expressions reducing sex to the use of orifices,  spreading irrationalism to a wider audience. He singularly darkened the West and changed the world. His dark, malevolent beliefs were defended, sanctioned and accepted based on faith, i.e., in conservatism, in false views of what constitutes free speech, and above all in God, tradition and religion.

Robertson is the opposite of Snowden.

Robertson’s mob is emboldened and they are gathering. What we witnessed in 2013 in the Duck Dynasty media backlash, as with other cultural shifts toward irrationalism, is the mainstreaming of religious fundamentalism. The left’s faith in the welfare state was legitimized long ago by conservatives – the right accepts the left’s morality of altruism – and now the right’s faith in the religious state is being legitimized by the left, and also by secular rightists and libertarians such as Camille Paglia, in return. It’s the convergence of left and right in the name of faith, not reason.

We’ll suffer the consequences soon enough. Phil Robertson’s martyrdom has already paved the way for the emergence of another faith-based media celebrity: former quarterback Tim Tebow, who has been hired as a college football analyst by Disney’s ESPN for college football’s SEC Network in 2014. On Monday, Jan. 6, the athlete made famous more for his prayer than for his ability will make his first appearance as an ESPN analyst. “Tim is a SEC icon with a national fan base and broad appeal,” said ESPN programming executive Justin Connolly.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with a devoutly religious person being popular in the culture. What the Robertson/Tebow broadcasting victories represent is a triumph of ignorance over knowledge, humility over ability, and, in Robertson’s case, depravity over dignity. Anyone who read what Robertson said knows what I mean. It’s bad enough that a publication that once heralded the civilization of man is cashing in on an old bigot’s popularity – and Robertson’s disgusting GQ interview is another instance of the coarsening of the culture which in turn feeds the rise of the religionists – and providing a platform for condemnation of gays, alcoholics and those who have sex outside of marriage, let alone marriage of children and Robertson’s other repugnant views and we should not be surprised if the rise of the Robertsons nets new primitives getting their own shows with high ratings, followings and streams of newly disgusting commentary. Nor will those inclined to denounce such primitives find speaking out easier in the wake of the Robertsons’ rising again.

All it takes to counter the rising tide of the irrational is one voice of reason to object. Like the child in the tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes, Edward Snowden pointed and named the reality of Big Government and gave America cause to rally for justice. His heroic example may lead to new, bold acts by radicals for a society based on reason and rights, though there will undoubtedly be new, bold acts, such as the continuing faith-based death spiral ObamaCare, by those in the opposite camp. 2013 delivered in two men powerful evidence of both.

RIP, Paul Walker

A fine actor died after Thanksgiving. His name was Paul Walker. He was 40 years old. I first noticed the strikingly handsome, tall, blue-eyed young blond in Pleasantville (1998). Then, he starred in the first of several forgettable car chase and race pictures. In 2006, he broke out as a serious actor with two pictures – one of which, Eight Below, was among the year’s best films – including one directed by Clint Eastwood, Flags of Our Fathers, an awful apologia about World War 2 in which Walker was also very good.

1He wasn’t just a pretty face; he could act. I remember one crucial scene in the gripping Disney movie, Eight Below, about his sled dogs being stranded in Antarctica. His character, Jerry, was rescued from the icy location during a brutal storm and he had to leave the adorable dogs behind. It was agonizing. his character was an athletic, silent leader. The type you’d expect would bond with animals in an instant. As the rescue plane lifted off, Walker’s Jerry was deeply wounded in physical and psychological terms and it showed on film. The dogs made the movie but Paul Walker carried the picture and made it both urgent and realistic. His deft touch played off his good looks, threading humor, endurance and strength into the character in an engaging performance. He had a real shot at being one of the world’s top actors. His loss is shocking.

Walker is part of the reason I said what the heck a few years ago and saw one of those Fast and Furious movies, which are not my type of film. I was stunned to find that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Walker’s nonchalance – he had that down pat – and interplay with the Vin Diesel character made it more exciting and plausible and compensated for all the vulgar sexual innuendo and predictable plotting. I saw another of the films in that series and liked that one, too. I’d planned to see the unfinished new one with Walker this summer. He’s gone now, an adventurer in every sense – he was apparently fascinated by marine biology and immersed himself in physical action in both life and work – who lived his adventures, including tagging sharks, self-defense and the sports car driving that killed him and his friend Roger Rodas. Whatever happened on the Valencia, California road (an area I know well), Paul Walker improved nearly every movie I saw him in. I mean it. May he rest in peace.

Culture Breeds the ‘Knockout Game’

UO Greeting cardA recent visit to Hollywood provided more evidence that our coarsening culture feeds new depravity such as the so-called knockout game, which ran through the news cycle last week.

Knockout game ought to be called what it is: random physical assault. By most accounts, the game, which apparently pays cash to those who “play” and “win”, targets people based on certain factors or physical characteristics, such as being white. It is executed predominantly by blacks.

Attacks have been reported from New York to California – I’ve heard about at least one death from an assault in Chicago – and the game is spreading.

I’m not at all surprised. Of course, those who are responsible should be apprehended, arrested, tried and punished accordingly. I also blame bad culture.

Let me be specific: coarse, thug culture encouraged by products such as those pictured here, which I found at an Urban Outfitters store in Los Angeles, and shows such as The Simpsons, South Park and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. These crude, foul cable comedy programs are devoid of value other than to sneer at the world. They beg viewers to reject taking any idea seriously. I’ve been complaining about them for years – I think there’s a cultural connection to the rise in nihilism – to the chagrin of some readers, who say they laugh at various displays of depravity.

GC2I’m not saying I don’t understand why people find certain jokes humorous. I am saying that cynicism spawns cynics and absurdists such as Greg Gutfeld, Dennis Miller, Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert and their godfather Jerry Seinfeld. The zero worship spreads, festers and seeps into people’s minds, as I wrote about here when covering a person’s suicide. It has real consequences. This is because ideas do, in fact, matter. Ideas matter because life depends upon having them. So glorifying the anti-mind, including in exhibitions such as the brutality-worshipping Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) which may to some extent involve real talent, skill and ability, is ultimately repugnant to the rational mind.

Random physical attack has been happening throughout history, from roving gangs to wilding in the 1980s, bumfighting in the 1990s and today’s so-called knockout game. But it is undeniable that life and liberty are under intensified attack in today’s culture.

IMG_3541It’s bad enough that government from TSA and NSA to the ObamaCare violates individual rights. From pop to sports, we should think twice about what we choose to say, do and consume and the consequences of those choices. Like a rational parent who makes an effort to stop using profanity – even when it’s justified – around the kids so that they don’t pick up bad habits, we should be aware that enabling a rotten culture breeds cultural rot and this, in turn, feeds nihilism which contributes to the spread of cynicism and so forth. It’s a vicious cycle. Rational thinking and philosophy can stop it.