Inside this morning... Leonard remembers Maya... Dana Milbank looks at the incredible political 180 for gay marriage... But first, three takes on tragedy and how we respond...
Ross Douthat is ready to talk about men who hate women.
In an ideal world, perhaps, the testimony left by the young man who killed six people in Santa Barbara would have perished with its author: the video files somehow wiped off the Internet, his manifesto deleted and any printed copy pulped.So, the real problem is that... hmm, women are too sexually empowered and make inexperienced men feel bad by flaunting their... wait, it seems like I've read this somewhere else.
But this is not an ideal world, and so instead of media restraint we’ve had a splendid little culture war over the significance of the Santa Barbara killer’s distinctive stew of lust, misogyny and rage. Twitter movements have been created, think pieces written, and all kinds of cultural phenomena — from Judd Apatow movies to “pickup artists” and Rhonda Byrne’s “The Secret” — have been invoked, analyzed and blamed.
And in fairness to the think pieces — I have to be fair, because I’m writing one — in this particular tragedy, the killer’s motives really do seem to have a larger cultural significance.
Often you step into the mental landscape of a mass murderer and find nothing but paranoia, nightmare logic, snakes eating their own tails. But compared with the mysteries of Tucson, Newtown and Aurora, this case has an internal psychodrama that is much more recognizable, a murderous logic that’s a little more familiar. The Santa Barbara killer’s pulsing antipathy toward women, his shame and fury over sexual inexperience — these were amplified horribly by mental illness, yes, but visit the angrier corners of the Internet, wander in comment threads and chat rooms, and you’ll recognize them as extreme versions of an all-too-commonplace misogyny.
Contemporary feminism is very good — better than my fellow conservatives often acknowledge — at critiquing these pathologies. But feminism, too, is often a prisoner of Hefnerism, in the sense that it tends to prescribe more and more “sex positivity,” insisting that the only problem with contemporary sexual culture is that it’s imperfectly egalitarian, insufficiently celebratory of female agency and desire.
This means that the feminist prescription doesn’t supply what men slipping down into the darkness of misogyny most immediately need: not lectures on how they need to respect women as sexual beings, but reasons, despite their lack of sexual experience, to first respect themselves as men
Frank Bruni looks at the conflict between facts and instant gratification, and has his own take on the aftermath of Santa Barbara.
We no longer have news. We have springboards for commentary. We have cues for Tweets.I have to say that I'm not very sympathetic to the King of Queens theory, where seeing fictional guys land women much more attractive than they are is to blame for murderous misogyny. I agree that there are some eye-rollingly ludicrous examples on the screen both small and large, but drawing a line from there to Santa Barbara seems to be stretching things about as much as those who blamed video games and D&D for previous crimes (says the fiction writer who has also written for video games and D&D). Sane people know the difference between reality and fiction, and I'd like to think we don't have to approach every work of art with "how might a crazy person misinterpret this in relation to their own life and use it to justify violence" first in mind.
Something happens, and before the facts are even settled, the morals are deduced and the lessons drawn. The story is absorbed into agendas. Everyone has a preferred take on it, a particular use for it. And as one person after another posits its real significance, the discussion travels so far from what set it in motion that the truth — the knowable, verifiable truth — is left in the dust.
This trade and tic were manifest in an essay in The Washington Post last week by its chief film critic, Ann Hornaday. I’m sorry to single her out: She’s an excellent writer merely drawn into the quasi-journalistic sport of the day. She itched to join an all-consuming conversation — and to refract it through her own area of expertise, claiming some of the story’s territory for herself.
So she fashioned Rodger’s violence into an indictment of the movie industry’s domination by men and its prolific output of male fantasies in which the nerdy or schlubby guy gets the sexy girl. Rodger didn’t get the girl, so he got furious and got a gun. Did Hollywood egg him on? That’s what Hornaday more or less asked, and it was a question too far, the tenuous graft of entertainment-industry shortcomings onto a tragedy irreducible to tidy explanations.
But how plentiful such explanations were. Could Rodger’s psychic torment be traced to his biracial heritage? Or was white privilege his problem? Did the killing expose police incompetence, therapists’ blindness, undetected autism, detected autism, the impact of the book “The Secret” on an unsteady mind, or simply common misogyny in uncommon form?
You'd think that sane journalists might also mention the word "gun" now and then, but you'd apparently be wrong.
Margaret Sullivan tries to address a concern everyone has—covering the murders without making a star out of the murderer.
The stone-faced young man stood on the sidewalk last week near Union Square holding a large, hand-lettered sign on a hot-pink piece of poster board. It read: “I deserve hot blonde women.” I wondered if this could be an ironic piece of feminist political commentary or if it was intended to seem hostile.But changing this it also has it's issues, including the very important one of missing out on important public discussions. All those twitter posts, Facebook rambles, and DK comments in response to the events, the written tome, and the odious Youtube are part of a national conversation. Cutting off the information that fuels that discussion isn't the answer.
In any case, it was clearly inspired by the shooting near the University of California at Santa Barbara about a week before. The killer, Elliot Rodger, set out to target beautiful young women, he said, because they had rejected him sexually.
But it’s a far more extreme kind of “inspiration” that worries Ari Schulman, who thinks and writes about the effect of media coverage of mass shootings. After The Times posted both the 141-page written manifesto and a video statement issued by the California gunman last week, Mr. Schulman wrote to me. He made the case that publishing those statements — which he sees as a form of propaganda — perpetuates a culture in which violence is rewarded with notoriety.
“There’s an unspoken agreement that if you are frustrated and angry, that all you have to do to get your feelings broadcast is to kill a lot of people,” Mr. Schulman, the executive editor of The New Atlantis, a quarterly journal devoted to technology and society, told me in a later interview. He spoke of a “conscious copycat effect” that can be seen in the string of mass killings, from Columbine to Virginia Tech to Newtown, Conn.
The media, he says, “have been nearly perfect participants” in the “ritualistic response” that incentivizes these horrific episodes. It’s past time, he believes, to rethink that and to change it.
In this case, many would have been sadly deprived had not literally thousands of women been able to respond to the killer's "manifesto" with events from their own lives, and I'd like to think at least some percentage of men who had started down this ugly path had a mirror held up to their faces long enough to change their direction.
And for what it's worth, guy with pink sign, you don't "deserve" anyone. It doesn't matter how smart you are, or how rich you are, or how attractive you are. You don't deserve anyone. You can't earn anyone. You don't win anyone. If you are lucky, you find someone, and that person also finds you. But you still don't deserve them. Remember that.
Now, come inside so we can see what else people are talking about this morning...
Rep. John Delaney on fighting climate change.
Next week the Environmental Protection Agency will take an important step in addressing the ever-increasing threat of climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions when it releases new guidelines under the authority of the Clean Air Act. These guidelines will apply to existing power plants, which produce more than a third of the United States’ greenhouse gases.That climate change isn't more important to voters is the greatest triumph of corporate propaganda, and the greatest failure of activists to engage the populace. Passing this is going to be tough.
Climate change is the environmental challenge of this generation, and it is imperative that we act before it’s too late. While some politicians argue over whether to believe scientists’ almost overwhelming consensus on climate change, the business sector is a believer and is wisely planning ahead. This year, Exxon Mobil began incorporating a price on carbon emissions into its long-term business model. Just last month , we learned that Standard & Poor’s is including resiliency to climate change in its most recent modeling for sovereign credit ratings.
Addressing climate change and positioning the United States as the leader in advanced energy should be a top priority for our country and our economy, and I applaud the Obama administration for the steps it is taking. For better or worse, however, we can expect a long period of gathering comments and revisions to the EPA’s guidelines, in addition to legal challenges.
Dana Milbank shows that some times that moral arc can turn in a hurry.
On a visit to New Mexico over Memorial Day weekend, I dropped in on a college friend who’s running for state treasurer. I expected his campaign would be a sleepy affair, all about pension boards and rainy-day funds.This issue has changed so quickly that what was the progressive position a few years ago is now regarded as hopelessly right-wing. Now, how do we use what was learning in swinging this needle to apply it to other issues?
Instead, the race for the Democratic nomination was attracting front-page attention as the candidates traded allegations over same-sex marriage — an issue that has about as much relevance to being state treasurer of New Mexico as a candidate’s position on North Korea.
Two weeks ago, my friend, Albuquerque lawyer John Wertheim, launched a barrage of TV ads saying his opponent, former state senator Tim Eichenberg, “sided with Republicans to prevent equality for gay couples.”
The issue exploded...
Not long ago, supporting same-sex marriage was a principled but perilous position, even for Democrats, who stood to lose more moderate voters than they gained in the gay community. But rapidly shifting public opinion has turned that calculation upside down. Not only do virtually all Democratic (and a good number of Republican) office seekers now bless gay marriage, but many are taking the offensive on the issue as opponents beat a hasty retreat.
The Human Rights Campaign has been tracking the swing: In Colorado, embattled Republican Rep. Mike Coffman, who opposed the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” has announced his support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act; in New York, GOP Rep. Chris Gibson, being challenged by an openly gay Democrat, became a co-sponsor of ENDA; and in Illinois, former Republican Rep. Robert Dold, who in 2011 said he supported the Defense of Marriage Act, has embraced marriage equality in an effort to win back his seat.
Polls continue to show record levels of support for marriage equality -- 59 percent to 34 percent in a March Washington Post-ABC News survey, roughly the inverse of a decade earlier -- with a majority of young Republicans now in support.
Leonard Pitts on Maya Angelou.
Her most famous work took its title from Sympathy, a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar. And it seems fitting, here on the day after Maya Angelou’s death at the age of 86, to recall some of what the poet said:It's an amazing and inspiring list of achievements. Go read it.
“I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore —
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings —
I know why the caged bird sings!”
It is not difficult to imagine why Maya Angelou saw herself in those words, and she chose I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings as the title of the celebrated 1969 memoir that would make her famous. Black girl, born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis to parents whose interest in her might best be described as sporadic, coming of age during the Great Depression, an early childhood in the soul-crushing segregation of tiny Stamps, Ark., raped as a child by her mother’s boyfriend, rendered mute for years afterward by the experience, an unwed mother at 17, briefly and unsuccessfully a prostitute not long after that … did circumstance and happenstance ever leave any bird more effectively caged?
And did any bird ever beat its wings against its bars to greater effect?
In the process, Maya Angelou created herself. Not that Angelou — the first name was a childhood nickname bestowed by her older brother, the surname taken, slightly altered, from one of her husbands — was unique in this. To the contrary, the history of American popular culture is liberally strewn with acts of self creation, works of will by people who were able to imagine themselves beyond the limiting constraints of their lives.
But what makes Angelou different is not just the fact of her self-creation, but the depth and breadth of it. Indeed, a listing of her achievements and accomplishments is so long and so varied that at some point, if you didn’t know better, you’d think somebody was pulling your leg. You’d think they were describing the work of two women. Or three.
And how about reading a poem today? Doesn't have to be one of Maya Angelou's (wonderful as many of her works are), just go read a poem. If you haven't done so since your teacher last forced you to memorize Evangeline, you might be very surprised.
Across the margent of the world I fled,
And troubled the gold gateway of the stars,
Smiting for shelter on their clanged bars
Fretted to dulcet jars
And silvern chatter the pale ports o' the moon.
I said to Dawn: be sudden—to Eve: be soon
One genuine kudo (accept no substitutes) to the first person who identifies this without resorting to Google.