Sometimes a story comes along that encapsulates everything that is wrong with the U.S. media landscape. Consider if you will the case of Kevin Cirilli, who wrote the following for The Hill on Wednesday: “Cecil the lion’s killer donated to Romney.”
Yes, that is a real headline and time was used during a workday to write the accompanying story.
The Minnesota dentist who authorities say killed a beloved Zimbabwe lion named Cecil donated to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.
Federal Elections Commission (FEC) forms show Walter James Palmer, a dentist in Eden Prairie, Minn., donated $5,000 to the Romney campaign in 2012.
Palmer also donated $250 to former Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.) in 1990 and $250 to Ramstad in 1992.
Local news reports have identified Palmer as a dentist in the Minneapolis outer suburb of Bloomington who resides in Eden Prairie, another Twin Cities suburb.
Palmer is at the center of an international storm after the death of Cecil the lion, who was well-known at Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.
The Minnesota dentist reportedly shot the lion with a bow and arrow, but that failed to kill it. The lion was then tracked and shot again with a gun, before it was skinned and beheaded.
What you just read is not a story from The Onion. Mr. Cirilli’s piece was actually approved by an editor.
Why is it of any interest to the public that Mr. Palmer donated money to a failed Republican presidential candidate in 2012? Has The Hill gone through the list of convicted murderers in Chicago since 2012 and ran headlines like “Pro-Obama voting strongly linked to Windy City homicides”? Has The Hill investigated the presidential donations of the Planned Parenthood employees caught on video negotiating how to get the best price for fully functional aborted baby livers and kidneys?
Let me save you the trouble of looking — the answer is “No.”
There is something incredibly nauseating about writers who will jump at any opportunity to politically splinter the American public. There is something disgusting about a man whose first instinct when a story grabs national headlines is to figure out how to demonize the Mormon guy who organizes charity events for third-world countries.
While it is incredibly sad that an American man would spend over $50,000 to kill a lion — just to say he did it — the kind of “reporter” who comes up with stories like “Cecil the lion’s killer donated to Romney” is arguably just as pathetic.
The fallout for Hollywood from North Korea’s 2014 Sony emails hack continues. Reuters published an amazing story on Friday, which details just how far studio heads will go to appease China’s censorship cops.
Sony executives spared the Great Wall because they were anxious to get the movie approved for release in China, a review of internal Sony Pictures emails shows. It is just one of a series of changes aimed at stripping the movie of content that, Sony managers feared, Chinese authorities might have construed as casting their country in a negative light.
Along with the Great Wall scene, out went a scene in which China was mentioned as a potential culprit behind an attack, as well as a reference to a “Communist-conspiracy brother” hacking a mail server — all to increase the chances of getting “Pixels” access to the world’s second-biggest box office.
“Even though breaking a hole on the Great Wall may not be a problem as long as it is part of a worldwide phenomenon, it is actually unnecessary because it will not benefit the China release at all. I would then, recommend not to do it,” Li Chow, chief representative of Sony Pictures in China, wrote in a December 2013 email to senior Sony executives.
Sony refused to comment on the story, only telling Reuters “There are myriad factors that go into determining what is best for a film’s release, and creating content that has wide global appeal without compromising creative integrity is top among them.”
Do you remember when Marvel Studios turned Mandarin into a white guy for Iron Man 3 — and then released a different version of the film just for China? Do you remember when MGM changed the villains in Red Dawn remake from Chinese communists to North Koreans? Do you remember when Sony Studios cut scenes from Men in Black 3 because China’s censorship board feared they would remind audiences of Chinese communists’ love for censorship? I do.
“Men in Black 3″ is the latest film to face the wrath of Chinese censors.
At least three minutes of Sony’s sci-fi comedy have been excised for its Chinese theatrical run, according to a person with knowledge of the matter who was not authorized to speak about it publicly.
The offending moments take place in New York’s Chinatown. They include a Chinese-restaurant shootout between evil aliens and Will Smith’s Agent J and Tommy Lee Jones’ Agent K — the aliens are disguised as restaurant workers — as well as a moment when Smith’s J “neuralyzes,” or memory-wipes, a group of Chinese bystanders.
A Chinese paper, the China Southern Daily, speculated that the latter scene may have been cut because it could be viewed as a comment on China’s censorship of the Internet.
Telling, isn’t it? And these days the studios know that bloggers are watching. The leaked Sony emails revealed Steven O’Dell, president of Sony Pictures Releasing International, isn’t a fan of writers like yours truly.
In the case of “Pixels,” in which the aliens attack Earth in the form of popular video game characters, the Sony emails point to the creation of a single version for all audiences – a China-friendly one. The logic behind Sony’s thinking was explained by Steven O’Dell, president of Sony Pictures Releasing International, in a September 12, 2013 email about “RoboCop.”
“Changing the China elements to another country should be a relatively easy fix,” O’Dell wrote. “There is only downside to leaving the film as it is. Recommendation is to change all versions as if we only change the China version, we set ourselves up for the press to call us out for this when bloggers invariably compare the versions and realize we changed the China setting just to pacify that market.”
Let us go back to Sony’s insistence that it does not make changes that would “compromising creative integrity,” shall we?
Government investigators now believe that the data theft from the Office of Personnel Management computer systems compromised sensitive personal information, including Social Security numbers, of roughly 21.5 million people from both inside and outside the government, the government announced Thursday.
Of these, hackers obtained information from the security clearance applications — known as SF-86’s – of 19.7 million people.
The U.S. government believes China was behind that attack. When China’s state-sponsored hackers steal over 21 million records from the U.S. federal government, then it most certainly compromises creative integrity to cut Chinese hacker jokes from a comedy.
How sad is it that Hollywood studios will churn out movie after movie that casts America as the villain, yet executives will cut innocuous scenes that involve The Great Wall of China. (We’re cool with destroying The Washington Monument, but The Great Wall is too much. That will have to go. Thanks.) How embarrassing is it that Hollywood studios talk about creative integrity while sanitizing lighthearted comedies to appease communist censorship boards.
Perhaps the best way to respond to Sony’s defense of its “Pixels” edits is to share a quote from another Adam Sandler movie — Billy Madison.
“[Sony Pictures], what you’ve just said is one of the insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling incoherent response were you even close to anything resembling anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.” (Billy Madison. Universal Studios,1996.)
Something is incredibly wrong when Chinese censorship cops have veto power over everything from spy thrillers and war movies to Adam Sandler fare — and the studios play ball. Luckily, American audiences can vote with their wallets.
Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has used the past two weekends since securing a nuclear deal with the U.S. to rhetorically laugh and spit in the Obama administration’s face. The response by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has been to rub his index finger back-and-forth over his lips as fast as possible while saying “PeaceblubberblubberPeaceblubberblubberPeace.”
Yesterday it was the silhouetted image of President Obama with a gun to his head. Last Saturday it was a rally featuring “Death to America!” chants. In response to Iran’s “supreme” leader saying the Middle Eastern nation would continue to undermine U.S. foreign policy in the region, Mr. Kerry was left dumbfounded.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said a speech by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Saturday vowing to defy American policies in the region despite a deal with world powers over Tehran’s nuclear program was “very troubling”.
“I don’t know how to interpret it at this point in time, except to take it at face value, that that’s his policy,” he said in the interview with Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television.
“But I do know that often comments are made publicly and things can evolve that are different. If it is the policy, it’s very disturbing, it’s very troubling,” he added.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the highest authority in Iran, told supporters on Saturday that U.S. policies in the region were “180 degrees” opposed to Iran’s, in a Tehran speech punctuated by chants of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”.
How does one not know how to determine the meaning of “Death to America!” or explicit vows to undermine U.S. foreign policy? The Obama administration just freed up billions of dollars for Iran through sanctions relief, which will be funneled into the hands of Mr. Ali “Death to America!” Khamenei’s proxies in the region. The White House’s response to crystal clear signs that Iran has no intention of honoring its “deal” is to mumble “It’s very disturbing, it’s very troubling.”
The Obama administration declared victory in Libya (Remember Hillary Clinton’s interview with CBS?: “We came. We saw. He died. Haha!”) The Obama administration pulled all U.S. troops out of Iraq and said our work was done there. The Obama administration declared relations with Russia were “reset.” The Obama administration declared it had a chemical weapons deal with Bashar al-Assad in Syria. The Obama administration said Yemen was proof that its foreign policy was working.
Question: How did all of those foreign policy successes work out?
Answer: Libya is a terrorist jungle gym. The Islamic State now controls large swathes of Iraq. Russia annexed Crimea and continues to support Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Assad never gave up all of his chemical weapons and the White House now weirdly uses the defense that chlorine isn’t “historically” a chemical weapon. Yemen’s president resigned and literally ran for his life from Islamic “Death to America!”-chanting radicals.
The “peace at any cost” mentality is a sure recipe for war. Unfortunately, Mr. Obama and his administration will be long gone when the bitter fruit of his foreign policy comes to market. Another man (or woman?) will be commander in chief when that happens. That individual will then be forced to take political lumps — and send U.S. troops into harm’s way — because Mr. Obama vouched for “deals” with leaders who attend “Death to America!” rallies.
One must wonder just how bizarrely belligerent Iran must become before members of the Obama administration admit that maybe — just maybe — they made a deal with dishonest brokers.
A friend of mine sent me a fascinating Alan Moore interview from 2014. The comic industry icon told Pádraig Ó Méalóid at Slovobooks that the heightened popularity of Marvel and DC superheroes may be ‘culturally catastrophic’.
“To my mind, this embracing of what were unambiguously children’s characters at their mid-20th century inception seems to indicate a retreat from the admittedly overwhelming complexities of modern existence,” he wrote to Ó Méalóid. “It looks to me very much like a significant section of the public, having given up on attempting to understand the reality they are actually living in, have instead reasoned that they might at least be able to comprehend the sprawling, meaningless, but at-least-still-finite ‘universes’ presented by DC or Marvel Comics. I would also observe that it is, potentially, culturally catastrophic to have the ephemera of a previous century squatting possessively on the cultural stage and refusing to allow this surely unprecedented era to develop a culture of its own, relevant and sufficient to its times.”
For those who want to know just how obsessed our culture is with superheroes, I suggest watching Red Letter Media’s “Nerd Talk: Sequels, Spin-Offs, and Standalones,” which was posted July 22. It perfectly highlights just how much of an industry “nerdom” has become. Other symptoms of Western civilization’s disease might include the preponderance of men who spend inordinate amounts of time playing video games, collecting figurines, endlessly cycling through imgur, or trolling Tumblr — while simultaneously showing little to no interest in expanding their own intellectual horizons.
There is nothing wrong with having an interest in video games or superhero movies, but there is something culturally suicidal when large segments of the population delve deep into fantasy worlds before they have a sound grasp of reality.
In a strange way, technology acts like a double-edged sword: our standard of living is so high and our problems so few and far between that we invent dragons to slay (e.g., political pundits must be excoriated for not being “polite to the pronouns” of transgender individuals). The poorest Americans live better than the kings of old, and so they engage in sad and pathetic wars over whether or not The Dukes of Hazzard is too offensive for television.
As the character Cooper says in Christopher Nolan’sInterstellar: “We used to look up in the sky and wonder at our place in the stars. Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.”
For all intents and purposes, America has become a nation filled with infantile men and women who fight over intellectual belly button lint. They feign outrage over puerile affairs while legitimate threats to the safety and security of future generations mount around them. Bubble-butted celebrities bump serious news stories off the front page. Strange diversity quotas for Star Wars movies that don’t even have finished scripts are more talked about than state-sponsored hackers stealing the personal data of millions of federal employees. To put it more succinctly, we are lost.
If you get a chance, read Mr. Moore’s interview with Pádraig Ó Méalóid. It’s titled ‘Last Alan Moore Interview?’. If it is, then it’s definitely one worthy of the man’s exit from public life. Time and time again, he puts his finger on the pulse of all that ails us, but for whatever reason he doesn’t give his patients a frank diagnosis: Western civilization has a fever. Instead of going to the doctor, its men and women are going to movie theaters, man-caves to play video games, or San Diego Comic-Con.
NY Mag featured an op-ed by “feminist” Michael Sonmore on July 16 that I hope, on some level, is a piece of satire. Mr. Sonmore’s “What Open Marriage Taught One Man About Feminism” is one of the saddest things I’ve read in years.
The author, a stay-at-home dad, says in his first paragraph:
“She’ll come home in the middle of the night, crawl into bed beside me, and tell me all about how she and Paulo had sex. I won’t explode with anger or seethe with resentment. I’ll tell her it’s a hot story and I’m glad she had fun. It’s hot because she’s excited, and I’m glad because I’m a feminist.”
If Mr. Sonmore’s understanding of modern feminism is correct, then modern feminism is a recipe for disaster.
As a Catholic man, I have vowed before God to give myself — 100 percent — in mind, body, and soul to my wife. She has done the same and we have become one unit. My responsibility is to love her with every fiber of my being, which demands that I always look out for her long-term interests. If I allowed my wife to objectify another human being and turn him into a living sex toy, then I would not be looking out for her spiritual health. If she allowed me to treat female coworkers as masturbatory slot machines, then there is no doubt my spirit would cry out in sorrow.
The author continues:
She didn’t present it as an issue of feminism to me, but after much soul-searching about why the idea of my wife having sex with other men bothered me I came to a few conclusions: Monogamy meant I controlled her sexual expression, and, not to get all women’s-studies major about it, patriarchal oppression essentially boils down to a man’s fear that a woman with sexual agency is a woman he can’t control.
Here again we find a man who doesn’t understand that marriage is not about “oppression” or “control” of one party over another, but a team effort to fully realize one’s mental, physical, and (most importantly) spiritual potential. The proper exercise of authority and control saves lives — and souls. I want my wife to demand that I strive for the kind of happiness that is only attained when one achieves mastery over his or her basest instincts. She expects the same demands from me.
It gets worse for Mr. Sonmore:
For my wife, the choice between honoring our vows and fulfilling her desires was a false choice, another trap. She knew how deep our love was, and knew that her wanting a variety of sexual experiences as we traveled through life together would not diminish or disrupt that love. It took me about six months — many long, intense conversations, and an ocean of red wine — before I knew it, too.
When my wife told me she wanted to open our marriage and take other lovers, she wasn’t rejecting me, she was embracing herself. When I understood that, I finally became a feminist.
Does a reader laugh or cry that it took the author “an ocean of red wine” to “know” his wife was right? His spirit cried out in protest; instead of listening, he poured an ocean of red wine down his throat to try and shut it up. And yet it still cries out to him, even if he can’t read between the lines of his own op-ed.
Would it be “patriarchal oppression” for a man with two children to forbid his wife from playing Russian Roulette? Of course not. Likewise, it takes a serious amount of self-delusion to believe that prohibiting the sexual equivalent of Russian Roulette is “oppression.”
Speaking of sexual Russian Roulette:
I never forget that my wife is a whole person unto herself, a complete and dynamic individual, and though we are together, we’re not one. …
There are of course moments of jealousy, resentment, and insecurity. Recently, my wife went on a date and fell asleep at his apartment. I hadn’t heard from her since 10 p.m., she still wasn’t home at 6 a.m. My texts went unanswered and my calls went to voicemail. A tight knot of dread lodged in my stomach as I imagined all kinds of dire scenarios and realized that I not only didn’t know where she was, I had no idea whom she was with. I pictured myself going to the police saying, “I think she’s in Red Hook with a guy named Ryan. I don’t know his last name, but I think he’s a graphic designer? I’m not sure there’s actually a word for the unique blend of acute terror and unforgivable shame I felt that morning imagining that I’d lost my wife to Ryan, the maybe graphic designer.”
“We’re not one.” Again, that is where Mr. Sonmore is very wrong. If he or his wife realized and respected how spiritually entwined they are, then he would ironically never be put in a place where “a tight knot of dread” formed in his stomach.
Mr. Sonmore imagined himself saying to the cops “I think she’s … with a guy named Ryan,” although he could have just as easily said “I think she’s with a man … named Jason Voorhees.”
How does Dear old Dad explain it to the kids when mom leaves the family for another man, mom contracts weird diseases, mom becomes pregnant with another man’s child, or mom winds up dead inside another man’s freezer? These are questions the happily married Catholic man will never have to ponder, and he is better for it.
And then there is this:
I don’t want her to fall in love with anyone else, and every time she goes on a date, I confront the possibility that she might. It happened at the beginning: The first person she dated after we opened up fell hard in love with her, and my wife, overwhelmed by his ardor, tried to love him back. Watching it happen, I was confused, angry, and terrified that she wanted to leave me.
Imagine a marriage where confusion, anger, and terror were always looming over your head at night. It would not be heavenly — it would be hell.
There is a reason why Catholics pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” That is because evil exists, and the surest way to find yourself in a confusing, anger-filled terror tunnel of your own making is to have a marriage where giving into all forms of sexual temptation is defined as “freedom.”
If you get a chance, then pray for Mr. Sonmore and his wife. They need it.
An interesting thing happened Thursday night on HLN’s broadcast of Dr. Drew On Call — a transgender reporter decided that the best response to Ben Shapiro’s questions about the mental stability of transgender individuals was to grab him by the neck and threaten to send him home “in an ambulance.” Mr. Shapiro — who has a law degree — didn’t flinch, and then proceeded to win what was essentially a 5-on-1 debate. If one considers Dr. Drew biased against Mr. Shapiro, then an argument can be made that the Breitbart News editor fended off six detractors in one sitting.
“It turns out that every chromosome, every cell in Caitlyn Jenner’s body, is male, with the exception of some of his sperm cells. … It turns out that he still has all of his male appendages. How he feels on the inside is irrelevant to the question of his biological self.”
Inside Edition reporter Zoey Tur was none too pleased with Mr. Shapiro’s statement. After condescendingly putting her hand on the lawyer’s shoulder and saying “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” the conservative pundit shot back “What are your genetics, sir?” It was then that the threat of physical violence occurred. Ms. Tur said with her hand cradled around Mr. Shapiro’s neck:
“You cut that out now, or you’ll go home in an ambulance.”
Ben Shapiro’s response was classic: “That seems mildly inappropriate for a political discussion.”
The panel then found a way to brush off Ms. Tur’s boorish behavior by saying that Ben Shapiro was being “rude,” “egregiously insulting,” and “not being polite to the pronouns.” (Oddly enough, no-one called Ms. Tur out later on in the segment for being “egregiously insulting” when she went on to call Mr. Shapiro “little boy.”)
Here is the problem for intelligent conservatives: In a world where feelings rule, the man of logic becomes “rude” and his utilization of reason becomes “egregiously insulting.”
Consider this response by Mr. Shapiro when Dr. Drew asked what the “goal of treatment” would be if one believes that transgender individuals suffer from an incurable mental illness:
“The goal would be to allow people to live with it in an appropriate way — to flourish without imposing on the rest of society a necessity for fictionalized thinking. Okay, because that actually is a cost to society. I’m sorry. My grandfather was bipolar, okay? And he thought the radio was talking to him. They put him in a mental hospital. They did not tell him the radio was talking to him to allow him to live a better life — they put him in a hospital and then they gave him lithium, which allowed him to live a better life. Looking for better solutions than transgender surgery [since suicide rates essentially remain static with gender reassignment] would be a better solution than pretending that transgender surgery is the cure for people.”
This sort of reasoning — present throughout the entire discussion — was what the other panelists deemed “insulting.”
Ben Shapiro’s problem is that he is smart, he knows that he is smart, he refuses to allow feelings to trump facts, and he isn’t deterred when his critics raise their voices or threaten to send him home “in an ambulance.” This can come off as smug or uncaring, but that is only further evidence of just how far we have drifted as a culture away from a reverence for logic and reason.
When society has reached a point where “not being polite to the pronouns” brings a television panel to the brink of an all-out brawl, then something has gone seriously wrong. The fact that Ben Shapiro had to be countered with five dissenting voices indicates that it isn’t he or his “insulting” pronoun etiquette that is the problem, but those who are slaves to their emotions.
A man can “feel” like he is in love, but then use logic and reason to deduce that his heart is in fact just filled with lust.
A man can “feel” like he is doing right by his neighbor, but then use logic and reason to rightfully conclude that his actions are a recipe for long-term turmoil.
Ben Shapiro’s fears of what it would mean to live in a world governed by “fictionalized thinking” are not irrational. Americans would be wise to listen to a man who hurts their feelings with sound logic over one who soothes egos with falsehoods.
DC and Warner Bros. didn’t have a memorable roll-out when the first images of Jared Leto’s Joker were released. The “Damaged” tattoo on his forehead, for all intents and purposes, flopped. With that said, if “Suicide Squad” is as good as its first trailer when it hits theaters Aug 5, 2016, then all will be forgiven.
As someone who doesn’t particularly have a vested interest in DC projects — my allegiance was to Marvel growing up — certain questionable aspects of film (e.g., Joker’s unique dental work) do not serve as deal-breakers. The essential question is “Does it look cool?”. The answer appears to be “Yes.”
Does Will Smith look like he will do an admirable job as Deadshot? Yes.
Does it ever get old hearing Mr. Smith say things like “Let’s save the world”? No.
Does Margot Robbie sound demented while looking absolutely gorgeous? Yes.
Does Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Killer Croc look cool? Yes.
Does Karen Fukuhara pull off Katana? Yes.
The only real question mark will be Leto’s Joker, and even that can be turned into a plus for opening weekend. Countless fans will want to see how he performs out of sheer morbid curiosity.
Warner Bros. has done an admirable job — with its trailer. I know this because I am not fond of movies that turn twisted men and women into heroes. From a cultural point of view, I would prefer movies like “Suicide Squad” were never made. I don’t think it’s healthy to portray evil as “cool.” Regardless, from a cinematic point of view, I would be lying if I said “Suicide Squad” looked like a bad movie.
If you have a strong opinion one way or the other on the trailer for David Ayer’s “Suicide Squad,” then let me know in the comments section below. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.