My Mary Pete Problem (from the archives)

Tiresome Introduction. Some years ago—I thought it was five, but it seems it was only three—Dale Peck wrote a hilarious takedown of the newest star in the political firmament, Pete Buttigieg. It ran briefly online in TNR, then was spiked, but not before it became an instant legend. And it soon disappeared from the ether altogether, except for a copy saved by a friend and posted on Facebook. Shortly after that, Friend 2, after much searching around, found the FB posting and copied it to his own blog, after which he discovered that it had disappeared from Friend 1’s Facebook page. It hadn’t been deleted by Facebook; Friend 1 decided to privatize it before it attracted any more attention. But a few months later, Friend 1’s Facebook account was removed, silenced, banned…leaving Friend 2’s blog post the only one remaining. “The Last of the Mohicans,” Friend 2 called it.

Here I will lead in with Friend 2’s foreword:

My Yale friend introduced it, thusly:

“In which famed hatchet-man Worth David—I mean, Dale Peck—weighs in to tell you why nouvelle fague Mary Pete Buttfuck isn’t all that he’s cocked up to be.

“This was originally posted in The New Republic, but the fat Bengali or someone got an advanced case of weenieitis.

“For sheer homocidal glee, this thing is right up there with Gore Vidal’s Palimpsest. Mister Peck, we salute you!”



My Mayor Pete Problem

Sunday, July 14, 2019

One of the worst things I ever did happened in 1992. I was leaving the bar called The Bar (RIP) on Second Avenue and 4th Street to go to a party called Tattooed Love Child at another bar, Fez, located in the basement of Time Cafe (RIP x 2). TLC was held on Wednesdays (Thursdays?), and I often went to The Bar after work for a few hours so I wouldn’t have to go all the way home first. So it was probably 10-ish, and I know it was late winter/early spring because I was carrying a copy of the completed manuscript of my first novel Martin and John, which I’d just turned in to my publisher that very day. Which makes me 24 and old enough to know better. Or who knows, maybe this was exactly the age to learn this kind of lesson.

What happened was: I was halfway down 4th Street when I heard someone yelling. I turned to see a large fellow running after me. At first I wondered if I was getting gay-bashed. But even though this guy didn’t set off my gaydar he still didn’t seem particularly menacing. When he got closer I clocked the pleated khakis (this was the era of the ACT UP clone—Doc Martens, Levi’s tight or baggy, and activist T-shirts—which look I had embraced fully) and rust-colored Brillo hair. I love me a good ginger, but you gotta know how to style it, especially if it runs frizzy. And so anyway, this guy, whose name was Garfield but said I could call him Gar, told me he’d been in The Bar but had been too shy to talk to me and decided to try his luck on the street. As politely as I could, I told him I wasn’t interested. He asked me how I could know I wasn’t interested when I didn’t know him, which was an invitation for me to tell him that not only did he look like a potato, he dressed, talked, and ran like a potato. Alas, I chose not to indulge his masochistic invitation.

He asked where I was going and I told him. He asked if he could go with me and I told him he could go to Fez if he wanted but he shouldn’t think he was going with me. He came. I quickly learned that he’d mastered the art of speaking in questions, which put me in the awkward position of answering him or ignoring him, which made me feel rude even though I’d told him I wasn’t interested. When he found out I was a writer he got excited and said I must love the New Yorker! I told him I hated the New Yorker. He asked how I could hate the New Yorker and I told him that besides the fact that the New Yorker published shitty fiction (plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose), and the only gay fiction it published was assimilationist and boring, there was also the fact that an editor there (Dan Menaker, if we’re naming names) had rejected a story of mine by suggesting in his correspondence with my agent (by which I mean that he wasn’t embarrassed to write this down, let alone worried about repercussions) that psychological problems were preventing me from creating effective fiction. (By the way, fuck you, Dan.) None of which made any sense to Gar. The New Yorker was important so I must love it. I just didn’t know I loved it yet. Or something like that. At some point in this exchange I remember saying something along the lines of Look, I’m just going to apologize now, because it’s pretty clear that sooner or later I’m going to say something really offensive to you and your feelings are going to be hurt. I don’t want to do that, but you’re clearly not getting the fact that you and I don’t look at the world the same way, and you keep thinking that if you hang around long enough we’re going to find common ground, when all you’re really doing is making our differences that much clearer. He laughed at this, one of those confused/nervous/defensive laughs, and if I’d been more mature I would have been more blunt and told him to get lost. But I too was a little deluded. I thought he had to get the hint eventually. But although I understood pretty much everything else about him, I failed to reckon fully with his lack of self-respect.

I told him I hated the New Yorker.

So: we got to Fez, where I ran into my friend Patrick (Cox, I think, but it’s been a minute), who looked at me like, What are you doing with this weirdo? I wouldn’t let Gar buy me a drink and I did my best to exclude him from my conversation with Patrick but he still wouldn’t take a hint. He must have hung around for a good hour. My answers to his questions grew more and more peremptory. Bear in mind I wasn’t disagreeing with him or dismissing his opinions just to get rid of him: we really had absolutely nothing in common. But we both read the New Yorker and we were both gay and we both wore clothes to cover our nakedness so clearly we were birds of a feather. Finally he said he had to leave. He asked for my number. I remember Patrick laughing in his face, but maybe that’s just because I wanted to laugh in his face. I was like, Are you serious? And he was like, We have so much in common, we should get to know each other better! When I was fifteen years old a pedophile used that line on me in the Chicago bus station, and if I’m being honest I had more in common with the pedo, who was about 50, black, and urban, while I was a white teenager from rural Kansas, than I did with dear old Gar. I told him I wasn’t going to give him my phone number or accept his. He seemed genuinely shocked and hurt, which of course made me feel like shit, which of course made me mad, because why should I feel like shit when I’d spent all night trying to rebuff him? He asked what he would have to do to get me to go out with him. Without thinking, I said, Take a good look at yourself and your world, reject everything in it, and then get back to me. It was the kind of soul-killing line people are always delivering in movies but never comes off in real life, mostly because even the most oblivious, self-hating person usually has enough wherewithal to cut someone off before they’re fully read for filth. I believe I have indicated that Gar did not possess this level of self-awareness. His face went shapeless and blank as though the bones of his skull had melted. For one second I thought I saw a hint of anger, which might’ve been the first thing he’d done all night that I could identify with. Then he scurried away.

Now, I’ve said shitty things to people before and since, but this one’s always stuck with me, partly because, though I’m a peevish fellow, it’s rare that I speak with genuine cruelty, and when I do it’s because I’ve chosen to. This just came out of me. But mostly I remember it because I knew I’d seriously wounded this guy, which, however annoying and clueless he was, was never my intention. I was and still am a very ’90s kind of gay, which is to say that I believe in the brotherhood of homos and the strength of our community, that however different we are we’re all bound together by the nature of our desire and the experience of living in a homophobic world. When one of your brothers fucks up, you school him. Sure, you might get a little Larry Kramer about it, but you don’t go all Arya-and-the-Night-King on his ass.

I’m telling you this because it’s what popped into my head when I tried to pin down my distaste for Pete Buttigieg. Mary Pete and I are just not the same kind of gay. (For those of you wondering about “Mary Pete” a couple of months ago I asked Facebook what the gay equivalent of Uncle Tom was, and this was the answer at which we collectively arrived.) But Mary Pete and I aren’t different in the same way that Gar and I were different. Gar and I had nothing in common. Mary Pete and I have a lot in common, but at a certain point we came to a fork in the road and I took the one less traveled and he took the one that was freshly paved and bordered by flowers and white picket fences and every house had a hybrid in the driveway and some solar panels on the ceiling, but discrete ones, nothing garish, nothing that would interfere with the traditional look of the neighborhood or the resale value of your home.

By which I mean: Mary Pete is a neoliberal and a Jeffersonian meritocrat, which is to say he’s just another unrepentant or at least unexamined beneficiary of white male privilege who believes (just as Jay Inslee believes he’s done more for women’s reproductive rights than Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar) that he can make life better for all those people who are not like him, not because he knows anything about their lives but because he’s smart and nice and well-meaning, and when smart nice well-meaning people run things everything works out for the best. That’s just, you know, logical. It’s like, science. Like Kirsten Gillibrand, he believes in “healthy capitalism,” which is a bit like saying you believe in “healthy cancer” Yeah, you can (usually) treat it, but wouldn’t you rather be cured?

Pete and I are just not the same kind of gay.

Most of what I dislike about Mary Pete was expressed in this Current Affairs article, which does a good job of using his own words (mostly from, ugh, Shortest Way Home, his memoir pretending to manifesto) to damn him. Shortest Way Home conjures a young Harvard student who thinks the word “edgy” is sufficient to describe both proto-Dumpster fascist Lyndon LaRouche and Noam Chomsky. His description of Harvard Square takes in those actors who belong to the school; the homeless people who live there are invisible to him, or, even worse, not worth mentioning. He seems perfectly content to dismiss left-wing student activists as “social justice warriors” despite the fact that this phrase is paradigmatic in right-wing discourse. He speaks fondly of his time at McKinsey, a company regularly described as one of the most evil corporations in the world. He joined the military long after 9/11 could sort-of-but-not-really be invoked to justify the U.S. propensity to go to other countries and kill lots of people. By 2007 it was no longer possible to pretend that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were anything other than failed, murderous exercises in empire-building and/or revenge, but despite the fact that these were the only places he was likely to serve he signed up anyway. And though he loves to talk about the notes he left his family in case he didn’t come back, by all accounts his chances of seeing combat were as low as they could be—but boy, he sure got a lot of cute pictures in uniform out of it!

Every move is simultaneously cynical and morally oblivious. They’re the steps one takes not to learn about the world but to become a marketable political candidate (hmmm, what’s a good counter to the whole sleeps-with-men thing? I know: military service!) (side benefit: you’re surrounded by hot guys!) and if as a Harvard-educated Rhodes Scholar you decide not to be a captain of industry, then clearly the White House is where you belong. I mean, sure, he wants to make the world a better place. But the operative word in that sentence, just as it was with Bill Clinton, is “he,” not “world,” and “better,” for Mary Pete, is just the neoliberal variation of “make America great again,” which is to say that in Buttigieg’s version of American history the progressive ideals in the First, Thirteenth, and Nineteenth Amendments, in the Civil Rights Act and Roe v. Wade and marriage equality, are the only authentically American ideas, whereas slavery and Jim Crow and border security and defense of marriage campaigns and heartbeat laws are nothing but aberrations, glitches in the code rather than yin to liberalism’s yang, warp to its weft, a set of ivory chess pieces lined up across from a set of ebony chess pieces and equally powerful.

Like Obama, Buttigieg seems always to be saying that the United States is the only place where someone like him could’ve succeeded, and that he wants everyone to enjoy the same peculiarly American successes that he’s had. But unlike Obama (whose naïvete was at least partly a pose), Buttigieg’s biography belies the idea that his success was either hard won or particularly unlikely. He’s lived the life of a comfortably middle-class white male, but he acts as if it’s his natural gifts (by which he means his intelligence and his ability to speak seven languages and play the piano, although they’re actually his whiteness and maleness and financial security) that have raised him above from the rabble. It’s right there in his “Medicare for all . . . who want it” song and dance. To Mary Pete this is simple egalitarianism and freedom of choice. If you want Medicare, you should be able to have it. And if you want private insurance you should be able to have that. It seems never to occur to him to ask why one would want to pay three or four or ten times more for health care than you have to. Could it possibly be because private insurance will get you better results than Medicare? And could private health care possibly provide better service than Medicare not because of marketplace competition but because as long as there’s a profit motive in health care medical corporations will always seek to maximize profits, and thus favor those “customers” who can pay the most? Embedded in this oblivion are both the liberal delusion that people are naturally good and the neoliberal sophistry that the market, like the tide, will raise everyone up with it.
Pete is just the neoliberal variation of “make America great again.”
Or take his response at the Democratic debate to the murder of Eric Logan by the South Bend police: “I’m not allowed to take sides until the investigation comes back.” Here is a mayor—a man—whose first allegiance isn’t to the victim or the victim’s family or the other people at risk because of a racist police force, but, at the very best, to the system, and maybe to nothing more than his own political future as a centrist Democrat. “I accept responsibility,” he told us, in the same way that the white teenaged boy who gets caught stealing a car or drunk-raping a girl says “I accept responsibility” and fully expects to let off without punishment, because boys will be boys, after all, and isn’t feeling bad punishment enough? Free education? Why, that’s unfair to the working class! They’ll end up paying for the education of all those millions and millions of billionaires’ children! What are we, czarist Russia?
You keep looking for a politics rooted in justice or history or, at the very least, empathy, but everywhere you find nothing besides a kind of idealistic pragmatism, if that’s a thing: a belief that if we only talk about nice things, only nice things will happen. If we only acknowledge our strengths, our faults will fade away. If we trust smart people to do smart things, nothing dumb will happen. Hey, José loved it when Pete answered him in Spanish, right? Education has brought us closer together!

All this makes Mary Pete different from every other left-leaning neoliberal in exactly zero ways. Because let’s face it. The only thing that distinguishes the mayor of South Bend from all those other well-educated reasonably intelligent white dudes who wanna be president is what he does with his dick (and possibly his ass, although I get a definite top-by-default vibe from him, which is to say that I bet he thinks about getting fucked but he’s too uptight to do it). So let’s dish the dish, homos. You know and I know that Mary Pete is a gay teenager. He’s a fifteen-year-old boy in a Chicago bus station wondering if it’s a good idea to go home with a fifty-year-old man so that he’ll finally understand what he is. He’s been out for, what, all of four years, and if I understand the narrative, he married the first guy he dated. And we all know what happens when gay people don’t get a real adolescence because they spent theirs in the closet: they go through it after they come out. And because they’re adults with their own incomes and no parents to rein them in they do it on steroids (often literally). If Shortest Way Home (I mean really, can you think of a more treacly title?) makes one thing clear, Mary Pete was never a teenager. But you can’t run away from that forever. Either it comes out or it eats you up inside. It can be fun, it can be messy, it can be tragic, it can be progenitive, transformative, ecstatic, or banal, but the last thing I want in the White House is a gay man staring down 40 who suddenly realizes he didn’t get to have all the fun his straight peers did when they were teenagers. I’m not saying I don’t want him to shave his chest or do Molly or try being the lucky Pierre (the timing’s trickier than it looks, but it can be fun when you work it out). These are rites of passage for a lot of gay men, and it fuels many aspects of gay culture. But like I said, I don’t want it in the White House. I want a man whose mind is on his job, not what could have been—or what he thinks he can still get away with.

So yeah. Unlike my experience with Gar, I actually want to tell Mary Pete to take a good hard look at his world, at his experiences and his view of the public good as somehow synonymous with his own success, and I want him to reject it. I want to do this not because I have any particular desire to hurt his feelings, but because I made a similar journey, or at least started out from a similar place, and I was lucky enough to realize (thank you, feminism; thank you, ACT UP) that the only place that path leads is a gay parody of heteronormative bourgeois domesticity: the “historic” home, the “tasteful” decor (no more than one nude photograph of a muscular torso per room; statuary only if they’re fair copies of Greek or Roman originals), the two- or four- or six-pack depending on how often you can get to the gym and how much you hate yourself, the theatre (always spelled with an -re) subscription, the opera subscription, the ballet subscription, the book club, the AKC-certified toy dog with at least one charming neurosis and/or dietary tic, the winter vacation to someplace “tropical,” the summer vacation to someplace “cultural,” the specialty kitchen appliances—you just have to get a sous vide machine, it changed our life! Sorry, boys, that’s not a life, it’s something you buy from a catalog. It’s a stage set you build so you can convince everyone else (or maybe just yourself) that you’re as normal as they are. Call me a hick from the sticks, but I don’t want someone who fills out his life like he fills out an AP exam serving as the country’s moral compass. And no, I wouldn’t kick him out of bed.

In Praise of Healthy Vice
Remembering Lothrop Stoddard
(June 29,1883 – May 1, 1950)

Lothrop Stoddard
Master of Manhattan: The Life of Richard Croker
New York/Toronto: Longmans, Green and Co., 1931

Our subject today is “The Lighter Side of . . . Lothrop Stoddard.” I’ll be focusing mostly on the delightful Master of Manhattan, his 1931 biography of Tammany Hall boss Richard Welstead Croker. Stoddard has some very interesting, you might say revisionist or contrarian, takes here.

This is a corrective long needed. Stoddard’s big books, mainly The Rising Tide of Color but also The French Revolution in San Domingo, are grave and grim. You might want to read them once, then put them away and wince when you see them on the shelf. Excellently written and researched, but too depressing to pull down again. So it’s always a pleasant surprise to come across his lighter, upbeat, stuff.

Richard Croker may seem an odd choice of subject, particularly given that Stoddard didn’t usually write biographies. But Stoddard greatly admires Croker, in much the same contrarian way people will express their love of Richard Nixon. “Boss” Croker was perpetually tarred in the press and popular histories as the archetype of the corrupt machine politician, living on graft and fixing elections throughout his long reign at Tammany Hall (peak years: 1880s-90s). With his grey beard and portly frame he somewhat resembled Thomas Nast’s caricatures of his predecessor William M. Tweed, and that might have helped poison the public perception of him.

As seen in Puck, 1900.

Of course Tammany itself is still demonized in popular memory. People can’t quite tell you what was wrong with it, they just know it was somehow bad and powerful and crooked. And that tarry reputation is not accidental. The Tammany Society was a mighty force in New York politics, almost from its founding in the 1780s until its fade-out under Mayor Robert Wagner in the 1950s and 60s. A big, familiar target, easy to attack. And so routinely denounced by an endless string of inept “reform” politicians and goo-goos—”good-government” activists.

Croker himself was not particularly corrupt, certainly not by the standards of the Robber Baron era. The Tammany organization sold influence, it is true (what political machine does not?), taking kickbacks and payoffs in return for lucrative city contracts. Croker himself was gifted with shares in streetcar and ice companies, while acquiring extensive real-estate holdings and an auction company. Up against all this we must put the fact that he was also a supremely capable and efficient leader, presiding over a city during the decades of its greatest growth. He literally made the (Elevated) trains run on time, forcing them to arrive at five-minute intervals and fining the Elevated Railroad Company $100 every time a train was late. (The subway system was still some years in the future.) People wanted to drink beer on Sunday even though there was a blue law banning Sunday sale of intoxicants. So Tammany and the police department didn’t enforce that law…and the people were happy.

That politics made Croker rich is undeniable. By age 50 he owned a breeding stable of thoroughbred racehorses and a grand townhouse on East 74th Street, in addition to his many other investments. After retiring from Tammany he owned more homes and horses in Ireland and England. He was a serious horse breeder, and two of his stallions, sire and son, won the The Derby (in 1907 and 1919).

The 1890s were the great age of the “reformers” in New York politics. There was a priggish Presbyterian minister named Charles Henry Parkhurst, and he swore from his pulpit that he was going to take down Tammany Hall for its corrupt ways. By corrupt he meant Tammany tolerated bawdy houses, gambling dens, and unlicensed “blind tiger” saloons. These persisted—the good Dr. Parkhurst claimed—because Tammany told the police department to take a bribe and look the other way.

No doubt Parkhurst was right…up to a point. And his crusade succeeded…up to a point. A fusion “reform” ticket ousted Tammany from City Hall in the 1894, but the new regime wasn’t popular. Young police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt was told to enforce the vice laws on the books. He shuttered the sporting houses, stopped liquor sales on Sunday, closed down the infamous backroom card games. The people were not happy, and they voted Tammany back.

When he gets to this part of the story, author Stoddard gives us a good hint why he’s such a fan of Croker. He despises reformist zealots, viewing them as obstructionists and bluenoses. He clearly implies they were the forerunners of the Prohibitionist zealots, whose antics eventually led to the current (1931) epidemic of crime and civic disruption.

He lays into them for several pages:

The psychology of this sort of “reformer” is in many ways intensely irritating, not only to the politicians but to the average run of mankind. There is a cocksureness, a self-righteousness, a lack of human sympathy and understanding about him which tends to arouse mingled anger and contempt. In short: the “reformer” himself has probably been the greatest single handicap to reform…

The typical “reformer’s” lamentable ignorance of human nature is strikingly revealed by his desire to coerce the public, by legislative acts or municipal ordinances, to matters which run counter to popular usage and therefore rouse the public to angry defiance. That, in turn, nullifies the special legislation,besides bringing all low into discredit…

The “reformer’s” gross lack of human understanding is primarily due to the fact that he is usually obsessed by some fixed idea which he devoutly believes will regenerate mankind and solve society’s problems, if only his idea be fully and resolutely applied. It may be any one of a dozen political nostrums advocated by rival reformist sects; yet in each case the psychology is the same.

This emotional obsession blinds the reformist zealot to the realities of the situation. Whence his deplorable tendency toward intolerance…

A “reformer,” in other words, is the sort of person who denounces the chicanery of Richard Croker’s Tammany Hall, but really wants to stop your beer.

Lothrop Stoddard was beguiled by Croker’s efficient practicality, and also by his remarkable life story. Little Richard first arrived in New York from County Cork as a three-year-old with his family. It was 1846. Not the most blessed time to emigrate. The Croker family ended up living for a few years in the tumbledown village—”shanty town,” Stoddard calls it—that stood in present-day Central Park, a bit southwest of the Reservoir. (There’s more to say about that shanty town, and I’ll get to it shortly.) Richard Croker’s rise after this, working on a tunnel gang as a lad, and eventually achieving the chairmanship of Tammany Hall—and then ending up as a wealthy horseracing toff in England—is surely the Horatio Alger story to beat all.

Except there’s a lot more to tell, and it’s all interesting. Croker actually was a sort of English toff, by ancestry. His family had been landed gentry in the so-called Ascendancy. They’d settled in Ireland around the time of Cromwell, possibly earlier. Richard’s father, Eyre Coote Croker (a name to be reckoned with) was an army officer and horse veterinarian who fell on hard times. The records are unclear, but I suspect he was heavily in debt. As a bankrupt he would lose his army commission. And so he resigned that and fled to America, hoping to land a nice position, tending to thoroughbred horses. He did find something like that eventually, but it took a while, and the horses were the kind that pulled streetcars.

Meanwhile there were those three years in that shanty town, which has no name in any contemporary map or census. Now, it happens that one of Richard Croker’s later Tammany cronies, George Washington Plunkitt, was born and raised nearby. And he did have a name for it. It was called “Nigger Village,” because, well, there were some black people there, along with the Irish and Germans and Swamp Yankees. In recent years, however, through a desire of political correctness and racial uplift, the area has been rechristened “Seneca Village.” Why Seneca? I don’t know. That designation does not appear in any newspapers or city manuals or Common Council minutes. But the Central Park Conservancy, via engraved signs and glossy flyers, has been promoting “Seneca Village” as a great landmark of African-American upward struggle. So far as I can tell, this hoax originated with a somewhat fanciful 1992 book about the Park. It tell both the Plunkitt story and the notion that the shanty town was an “African-American community.” (The Park and Its People: A History of Central Park, by Rosenzweig and Blackmar. Cornell University Press, 1992.) In reality the shanty town was on the outskirts of a larger village called Harsenville, which disappeared around the 1850s, the same period when our shanty town was condemned and swallowed up by the Park.

*  *  *

How was Master of Manhattan received when published in 1931? I’ve browsed through a handful of reviews and find that they fall into two buckets. Some reviewers describe what they think a book about Croker and Tammany is going to be about. Croker! King of Graft! Tammany bad! That sort of thing. Did they actually read the book, I wonder?

And then there’s the other type of reviewer, who gives us a précis pretty much like the one I wrote above. That is, the book is really a critique of reform mania, disguised as biography. Sometimes Mr. Stoddard himself chimes in with a piquant quote or two. Talking to the New York Evening Post (March 19, 1931) about bluenose reformers and Prohibition, he says, “If they’re going to go the limit in this agitation, and close up the nice little speakeasy where I can get good food and drink, they can count me out. Also if they’re going to take advantage of the situation to inflict a drastic censorship of plays and all that.”

To the New York Times (March 18, 1931) he says, “New York will not be dictated to in its manners and customs. It wants a certain amount of ‘wine, women and song,’ and, willy-nilly, it’s going to get them.”

Ergo: so far from being the stern, mustachioed spoilsport he appears to be in his publicity headshots, Lothrop Stoddard is really more the kind of guy you’d see hanging out with Mayor Jimmy Walker at the Central Park Casino.

 

 

VENN DIAGRAM #1: Gun-grabbing Leftists and Ukrainian Flags

For your pleasure. Venn Diagram #1.

Male Nurse Eats Same Lentil Soup Lunch for 17 Years

This story, from the Washington Post, concerns one Reid Branson, a male nurse who takes care of AIDS patients at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center. He makes himself a complicated lentil-spinach-squash-potato soup and eats it at work every day. Or almost every day.

We are assured the soup is delicious and nutritious and and tastes slightly different each time.

Branson’s routine is to make up eight days’ worth at a time, which he stores in glass jars. He is a vegetarian, age 63.

The recipe requires 18 ingredients and about three major cooking steps, about what one would normally put into a grand four-course meal.

You may wish to try it someday. Here is the recipe.

M. Stanton Evans, the new biography

“Thish iszh M. Shtanton Evansh.”

SPECTRUM! ELEVEN DISTINCT VIEWPOINTS!

Read the book review!

 

40 Years On—Paul Fussell’s Class

A book to laugh at and cherish forever. Here reviewed in depth.

Read the whole thing.

Male Supreemism in America

It’s all here…fresh as harvest day! Read the whole thing!

Outtakes, Male Supremacism

The rating at Amazon (2 stars) has registered but our review, rather different from the long one on this site, does not appear. Here it is with an early outtake, for archival purposes.

 

Amazon review

The thesis here is that there is a “male supremacism” that intersects with and is perhaps a source feed for “white supremacism.” One may toss such cant phrases around as a kind of tribal signal to others of your political stripe, but that does not give them substance. The two things simply do not exist, except as the vaguest of constructs.

The editors and a couple of the writers strain to show that anti-feminist movements and internet sites are a gateway to the nationalist and racialist Right, or as they like to say, “white supremacism.” They have this argument backwards, however. While there was an overlap between the two worlds, this wasn’t because one was feeding the other, but because there was little downside risk in appearing to be feminist-critical or in pronouncing onself “redpilled.” This was in much the same way that people will sometimes mask themselves as libertarians or even neoreactionaries.

Much of the book is spent on stale references to “the manosphere,” “GamerGate,” and the “alt-right”: thus a 2013-2015 mindset predominates. Richard Spencer is mentioned seven times.

We linger at length on the career and works of Phyllis Schlafly and Gavin McInnes, for both of whom the writers have a grudging admiration. There is some unintended humor in the McInnes section, as when we’re told that membership in Proud Boys (which McInnes founded in July 2016) was limited to “cis men.” And the chapter’s author apparently had never heard of the Knights of Columbus; she believes it to be a front for “fundamentalist right-wing think tanks,” which would passing strange indeed for a Catholic laymen’s organization.

Most of the URLs given for endnote and index references are old and broken. Seeing as this was published in recent weeks, we have to assume the editors were just copying links for years ago, and not bothering to test or find an archived source.

 

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[Both notions are constructs of the far-Left, used to slur any native traditions and social supports that the Left wishes to destroy. Marriage, normal sexual relations, love of family and country and beauty, the aristocratic principle, Christian devotion, respect for your cultural patrimony—these are all sneered at in this book, regarded as old hat, dispensable, the enemy.]

Review: Male Supremacism in the United States

 

Male Supremacism in the United States:
From Patriarchal Traditionalism to Misogynist Incels and the Alt-Right
(Routledge Studies in Fascism and the Far Right)

Emily K. Carian, Alex DiBranco, Chelsea Ebin (Editors)
Abingdon (Oxon) and New York: Routledge, 2022

Despite its beguiling title and subtitle, I am sorry to report that this new book from Routledge Studies in Fascism and the Far Right is a very sloppy doggy’s dinner. A collection of essays and quasi-academic articles from the past decade, Male Supremacism in the United States throws together old scraps and rants in an effort to support its thesis that there is a movement of “male supremacism” that overlaps with, and indeed is a gateway to, “white supremacism.”

I suppose this is meant to mirror the concept of “intersectional feminism,” the belief that upper-middle-class American women need to share ideological grievances with oppressed females of all races and species, particularly Women of Color in the Third World. Anyway, it all sounds like a confused and tendentious thesis to begin with, and so it is. The essays collected here don’t even try to make the case that “male supremacism” or “white supremacism” really exist. I mean, apart from being Leftist swear words against normality and traditional virtues.

Nevertheless there are eye-openers and funny bits mixed in among the sometimes awfully tedious prose. Did you know there was an Institute for Research on Male Supremacism? There is, or at least there is a website that asks for donations. This notional institute is the fountainhead of this book, and its founders are the editors listed above. A year or so ago they described their upcoming, as-yet unnamed volume, with these murky words:

Drawing on a variety of data from many different male supremacist movements (such as “Incels”, “The Red Pill”, the “Men’s Rights Movement” and “Men Going Their Own Way”) the researchers seek to provide a comprehensive resource for future research on male supremacism, while also exploring the ideology’s importance to the Alt-Right’s recent political mobilization.

“The Alt-Right’s recent political mobilization.” I said there were funny bits, and this is a major one. Here are these founders/editors, in 2021 or 2020, imagining that the “Alt-Right” is still a thing—in fact a hot new thing!

And so their newly published book (April 2022) takes us on a long trip down memory lane, back to those thrilling days of 2014 or thereabouts. The days of GamerGate and incels and MGTOW and NEETs! [1] Of Milo Yiannopoulos writing for Breitbart News! Of 4chan and cucks and Pick Up Artists! The manosphere and “game” and Matt Forney! And even Roush V with his old Return of Kings website—here referenced and hyperlinked. (Only trouble is, the link is dead or at least doesn’t take you to the referenced article. This is true of most URLs in the book’s endnotes, bibliography and index.) Here’s Jack Donovan, and there’s Richard Spencer, mentioned seven times. Counter-Currents gets a look-in too, mainly for Greg Johnson’s essays, “The Woman Question in White Nationalism” and “Abortion & White Nationalism.” There’s also James O’Meara, whose Mannerbund theories are cited by Ann Sterzinger in her review of Green Nazis in Space.

The authors’ implied argument is that since these far-flung people and positions often seemed ripe with misogyny and anti-feminism, and some of them also relished frank discussion of racial matters, therefore they provided an easy entry to hardcore “white supremacism.” This is really a stretch, and overlooks a couple of obvious facts. One is that there was little stigma or downside in voicing strong opinions on GamerGate or toxic feminism. These were things one could talk about in barrooms and classrooms, regardless of your age or sex, without being tagged as a fearsome nazi. They were accepted as legitimate topics of discussion (at least in 2014).

A more obvious objection is that many if not most women share these basic attitudes even if they’re not hunkering down with the gameboys. That’s a sore point with the latter-day feminist Left, who like to pretend they ride point on female solidarity, and readily characterize women outside their cult as “bootlickers” or “handmaidens.” The latter expression comes from the current TV version of The Handmaid’s Tale, and suggests high-caste women who support and sympathize with conservative men on social issues. This is equated with being “submissive” because, you know, women have no agency.

Accordingly the book spends a long chapter attempting to take down the most effective opponent of feminism’s toxic wing, the glossy housewife-lobbyist-lawyer Phyllis Schlafly of Alton, Illinois. Schlafly (1924-2016) continues to be a target because she was a much more successful and presentable woman than her Leftist opponents. That irony provided much of the implicit humor in the 2020 miniseries Mrs. America, in which Schlafly was played by the regal Cate Blanchett and her foes were mainly depicted as neurotic, toad-like mutants. As the years go by it also becomes evident that Schlafly’s social and political analysis far surpassed that of her contemporaries. She saw that the long-term goals of feminism were not merely no-fault licentiousness, abortions, and state-run daycare centers, but a usurping of all male privileges while holding tight to their special female privileges as well.

The author of this chapter is grudgingly impressed with Schlafly, though she sees her “submissiveness” to “the patriarchy” as hypocritical, because Schlafly herself was not a meek, stay-at-home housewife. There’s no hypocrisy or irony here. The writer apparently doesn’t know much about upper-middle-class American women. Schlafly was in many ways typical of her peers, with an active life in clubs and volunteer work.

But what really burns the author’s biscuits is Schlafly’s relentless mockery of feminist cant:

Feminism, not patriarchy, was accused of being responsible for women’s misery. Schlafly continued, “If you believe you can never succeed because you are a helpless victim of mean men, you are probably correct.” This type of ridicule and feminist denunciation of men’s domination appeared often in her publications.

The writer is also annoyed by Schlafly’s persistent invocation of Christian ethics and iconography. Schlafly’s Catholicism and veneration of Mary is here spun as somehow exotic for her time and place, which it certainly was not. [2]

The other figure in the book who gets extended biographical treatment is Gavin McInnes, onetime hipster guru, broadcaster, and founder of Vice, though more notorious in recent years for founding the Proud Boys, a club of young men who wore Fred Perry polo shirts, drank beer, and sometimes sought out street affrays. As with the coverage of Phyllis Schlafly, the author here is awestruck by the figure of Gavin because he’s not some squirrelly political activist but rather a famous satirist and provocateur. An attempt is made to frame the uxorious McInnes (wife, three kids) as a misogynist, because a good part of his shtick has been to riff on the obvious differences between men and women. (Examples: Women earn less because “they’re less ambitious” because “that’s God’s way!” “You’re not a man unless you have beaten the shit out of someone.”)

Because McInnes specializes in over-the-top satire, and ritually denounces overt racialism, it’s very hard to portray him as a hatemonger. But the author does try hard, and adds a lot of inadvertent humor to Gavin’s own. She characterizes the Proud Boys as “a far-right group that only allows cisgender men to join,” a formulation worthy of Gavin himself. Funnier still is that she keeps griping about this, yet never looks into whether Proud Boy applicants were actually vetted on this crucial detail. [3]

At one point McInnes became a Catholic, and reportedly joined the Knights of Columbus. The author of this chapter, a young woman in Dublin, is surprisingly ignorant of that institution, and evidently supposes it to be something like the fabled Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. She describes the K of C as a “right-wing Catholic group” that has “ties to fundamentalist right-wing think tanks.” (Aye, the auld Papist-Fundie alliance!) Typically but less fatally, she says McInnes was born in Glasgow, when he was born in Hitchin, Herts., a bit north of London, then raised mostly in Canada.

As though to balance the clowning and hyperbole of Gavin McInnes, the book concludes with an angry screed by a “trans Latina” calling herself Katherine Cross. Cross has nothing to say about the intersectionality of male supreemers and white supreemers (this piece is from a speech way back in 2013), but does let us know she is very angry about many things. Angry because strangers often assume her to be a prostitute, or at least available for sex and mansplaining and oppression. This can’t be blamed on the uterus she doesn’t have, she tells us, inscrutably; rather it’s because of the patriarchy. “No uterus required, just patriarchy,” she says. In fact she says this four times. Among other outrages she shares with us, there’s her claim that the New York City police could legally “raid the handbags of trans women of colour [sic] and then arrest them on charges of prostitution if they’re found to be carrying condoms.” What she’s really referring to is black drag-queen prostitutes who make a loud fuss in neighborhoods outside their usual cruising venues. It’s true the NYPD often concocts outlandish pretexts for making arrests, however this one is hardly a sin that cries out to Heaven for vengeance.

Anyway, this comic rant is an odd way to end this jumble-sale of a book. If the book’s thesis seemed tendentious to begin with, the finale suggests that the editors didn’t take the whole thing very seriously either.

*   *   *

Routledge books are usually nicely designed and produced, even if they’re politically slanted and enormously overpriced. Presumably most sales are university library accessions. The paperback is USD $45; the “hardback” is $160. I’ve mentioned the dead-URL problem, which is just sloppiness. It makes no sense to give a highlighted reference source if the thing doesn’t work. And little effort was put into the red-and-white cover design, a kind of reverse-Japanese flag motif. (Or were they really thinking of the Third Reich?)

The title of the book is unfortunate. The use of the prefix style “United States” makes it sound as though it’s a study of a secret male-supreemist network in the Federal government. They should have called it Male Supremacism in America: stately yet whimsical, with the obvious nod to Alexis de Tocqueville.

But Routledge’s loss is our gain. Perhaps we’ll hold that thought and come up with a light comic novel. Male Supreemism in America. Why, the book writes itself!

 

Notes

[1] I really ought to gloss these terms of yesteryear. GamerGate was a protracted online shouting match between male videogamers and a female “media critic” who claimed videogames were male-oriented and misogynistic. Incels were “involuntary celibates,” generally angry young men who live online and can’t get a girlfriend. MGTOW, Men Going Their Own Way, were an online community of men seeking to live without women, because feminism had made modern women degenerate. A NEET is generally a young man who’s not in school or employment. (Not in Education, Employment or Training.) In 2014 he was the stock caricature who lived in his mom’s basement and consumed Hot Pockets.

[2] There’s a very poor grasp of American religious history throughout the book. The authors believe there was historically a “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) nativism” which still “fuels conservative Christian ideology on appropriate gender roles.” But WASP is a 20th century term describing upper-class old-stock Eastern elites, not non-Catholic white Christians in general, and certainly not the Bible-thumping fundies and evangelicals the authors have in mind. Anyway American “nativism,” as exemplified in the Native American and “Know Nothing” parties of the 1840s-1850s, was not founded by sectarian-driven Protestants. It was spearheaded mainly by a Jew, the sometime congressman Lewis Levin.

[3] Fortuitously I was at a dinner with Gavin McInnes the night before his inaugural Proud Boys meeting in July 2016. He was announcing his new club, and I asked what the criteria were for membership. “Members have to have, or once have had, a foreskin.” This neatly answered a multitude of questions; the Jews at the table purred their approval.

 

P. J. O’Rourke Dies of a Tuesday

It’s just the way he would have wanted it.

P. J. dies of a Tuesday, and it’s just so obvious, no one sees the joke.

P. J. O’Rourke reportedly died earlier today, aged about 74. He was best known for being a master of canned snark, specializing in making fun of people’s clothes and celebrating the anarchic drug culture he reveled in during the 1960s and 70s.

He is perhaps best remembered for his 20,000 word travelogues published in Rolling Stone, but before that he had a long career of achievements. Among other things, he totally destroyed the National Lampoon in the course of five or six years in the 1970s.

“It was humor for brainiacs when O’Rourke first came aboard,” recalled Aloysius J. McQuade, Executive Humor Editor for the NatLamp, 1972-75.

“After two years of him as managing editor, its readership consisted mainly of retarded 16-year-olds, and we were losing money hand over fist.

“I hoped P. J. would do the same to Rolling Stone when he moved over there, but I guess their readership was already pretty dumb to begin with.”

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