1. Iran’s Afghan fighters, in Syria Ahmad Shuja Jamal, War on the Rocks
  2. The Africans of 16th Century Britain David Dabydeen, New Statesman
  3. What Books Did American Blacks Read Before the 1960s? Jonathan Rose, History News Network
  4. Padmaavat loathed by fundamentalists of all stripes Barkha Dutt, Washington Post


  1. Centuries-old German toy shop conquers internet Katrin Terpitz, Handelsblatt
  2. Interviews with Nazi Filmmakers [pdf] Gary Jason, Reason Papers
  3. Comparing Mao to Hitler and Stalin Ian Johnson, NY Review of Books
  4. 10 Weapons That Forged British Empire (my latest at RealClearHistory)

People like Dylan Marron gave us Trump

Have we gotten it out there enough that the left’s obsession with elitist politically correct culture partially lost them the election  – per Bernie Sanders, per President Obama – throwing plenty of center folks into the authoritarian right? Yeah? Good.

Here’s an example of the tone-deaf (oops, was that ableism?) leftist reporting style that utterly alienates its audience:

The whole video is done in a patronizing, vicious manner. The reporter might have mistaken the mood of his tirade as sarcastic, or funny, or something. Instead, it comes off as the embodiment of the left’s carcinogenic (oops, was that ableism?) idée fixe: ostracizing condescension. (“If you don’t agree with me – fuck you!”) In this post-election nation, where Jonathan Haidt’s message of understanding might yet get a chance, videos like this are just tedious.

I was struck not just by the venomous fashion of the sketch, but its utter lack of depth that has become familiar in most comedic reporting since the election. Moreover, the entertainer Dylan Marron clearly misunderstands one of his own vital points. He writes off disability method acting (in films, not just Trumpian impersonations) as “ableist,” making me wonder if he understands the purpose of acting. The purpose of acting is to portray someone you are not, and do a good job. Marron stress the point: “witness Arts academies honor able-bodied actors over and over again for pretending they have a disability.”

Yes, acting is also known as pretending. For a tautology, Marron thinks it packs much more of a punch. There is a reason disabled people don’t often play disabled roles, and it’s not just because most celebrities – with a great many exceptions – are able-bodied, physically and mentally. Actors aren’t hired to portray who they actually are, unless it’s a biopic, and the more difficult the role, the better the acting. Marron, it seems, wants a world where actors must portray their actual, own lived experience. Hollywood directors need to recruit genuine serial killers for their horror films. In essence, the abolishment of acting.

Portraying a character with a disability is a role every good actor should be capable of executing. Celebrities get roles portraying disabled people because they’re good actors, and there’s nothing ableist about it. Tom Hanks won the Best Actor Academy Award because the character of Forrest Gump was a difficult one to convey. Doesn’t actively seeking someone who is developmentally challenged, just to put them in a feature film as a mentally-disabled character – as a token – seem far worse than recruiting someone qualified with good acting talent to take on the role?

In case you think Marron doesn’t actually want an end to all acting, ever, Marron stresses, again, that actors are taking on a role “they’ve never lived” when they portray mentally-challenged individuals. In other words, they’re acting. Not just acting, but acting well. Boom, take that, you ableist scum!

Here, a point could be made that Marron doesn’t even bother to observe: if actors have never lived life disabled, isn’t their research on the role going to be informed by vicious stereotypes and come off as derogatory or insensitive? Now this actually is something to be concerned about. Directors and actors should, certainly, consult people with actual intellectual or physical disabilities when they feature these roles in their films, for the sake of decency and guidance. Good information should be researched rather than baseless stereotypes about what it means to be bipolar, or autistic, or depressed, or what have you.

This also answers a potential rebuttal of my post: if actors can portray any role, even if they haven’t lived that experience, what’s the problem with “blackface”? It’s simple: the difference is that blackface, and acting as a different race or ethnicity, is informed by vicious stereotypes. It’s been abandoned by Hollywood because it was genuinely racist, and based on ethnic clichés. Thus, the difference between Tropic Thunder‘s “Simple Jack” and Forrest Gump: one actually attempted to portray a mental disability, realistically, and one played off vulgar stereotypes (ironically, of course).

In the world of this marronic sketch, The Dark Knight would never have been filmed. A Beautiful Mind, Fight Club, Psycho would never have been filmed. Donnie Darko would never have been filmed. Benjamin Button would never have been filmed (not so bad). The obsession with politically correct culture already gave us Trump, and nonsensical videos like this are essentially advertisements for his re-election. Don’t take away our cinema too.

Atlas Shrugged Part II

I got around to seeing the movie this morning along with about ten other folk. I was reminded of why I don’t go to movie theaters: they’re run by sadists who like to torment people with a quarter hour of promos following the advertised starting time, meat-locker temperatures and ear-splitting sound. I didn’t bring my wife knowing she couldn’t have endured the torment but I’ll get the DVD later.

So, what of the movie? Quite good, mostly. The screenplay is faithful to the novel, thanks, no doubt, to David Kelley. The special effects, notably the tunnel disaster and the airplane chase and crash, are powerful. I wasn’t bothered by the change to an all-new cast. Rearden’s trial was done well. The acting, however, is mixed. Rearden is good and the bad guys are good but Dagny, who is really the central character, was a disappointment. She looked almost bored as she piloted her plane toward what increasingly looked like death. Only later did she crank up the intensity.

Just a couple of nits: two men can’t lift a concrete railroad tie. Galt tells Dagny not to move because she’s hurt and then extends a hand to drag her out of the wrecked plane. A few others but nothing substantial, really.

I give it 3.5 stars out of 4, but I’m sure the critics won’t agree. It looks like the movie will follow Part I into oblivion, sad to say. One only hopes that DVD sales will pick up and that it will enjoy the same sort of underground success that the novel enjoyed following its scathing reviews.

Rainy Day

Here is a quick list of links around the web from our bloggers at the consortium:

Fred Foldvary weighs in on the 2011 Nobel Prize winners in Economics

Some Possible Consequences of a U.S. Government Default by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel

One of Jacques Delacroix’s famous short stories (and this co-editor’s personal favorite)

Brian Gothberg introduced me to Colossus: The Forbin Project at a summer seminar in 2009

I hope everybody stays dry out there!