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Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Preaching to the Perverted

Daren Jonescu

Who cares what Anjelica Huston thinks about the Republican Party? There is good reason why actors have historically been regarded as societal outsiders, and why well-raised people were always discouraged from consorting with them.

I thought Anjelica Huston was good enough in her famous father's last film, a nice adaptation of Joyce's The Dead. She was, furthermore, excellent as Martin Landau's semi-hysterical mistress in Woody Allen's 1989 film, Crimes and Misdemeanors. I have no doubt that she has given many other good performances over the intervening twenty-three years, but I don't get out much. If you told me she was appearing tonight in a play at my local theater, I would certainly consider buying tickets. If, however, you told me she was going to be speaking tonight on the state of American society and the Republican Party, well, that's another story.

In short, who cares what Anjelica Huston thinks about the Republican Party? Actually, to be fair, a few too many people do care. They are knee-jerk liberals. They are people who would not vote Republican if Hu Jintao were the Democratic candidate. (Come to think of it, on economic matters, at least, the Dems could do worse than—no, that's crazy!) They are the kind of people who watch Piers Morgan, and who are delighted when Morgan is absent, so they can be regaled with the substitute hosting charms of Hollywood's David Brinkley, Rosie O'Donnell. They are those perverse people who are dead certain that Republican voters are all Neanderthals and misogynists, whereas George Clooney and Whoopi Goldberg demonstrate reasonable, moderate American values.

On March 15th, Ms. Huston appeared with Ms. O'Donnell on CNN's Morgan program, and the two got around to discussing the GOP primaries. O'Donnell opened the seminar by inquiring, incisively, "What has happened, that we are fighting again for reproductive rights?"

Huston, presumably summarizing her latest article on the subject, added, "And how did guys get to be the ones who solely discuss it? I mean it's absolutely astonishing to me—it's the Dark Ages."

"It really is," O'Donnell reasoned.

As often happens when scholars get down into the weeds of their discipline, we outside observers are left somewhat in the cold. Thus, as a non-specialist in the field, I feel compelled to ask, "In what sense is anyone being asked to 'fight again' for 'reproductive rights'? Has a Republican candidate suggested that some women be denied the right to reproduce?"

Oh, wait a minute, I forgot: "reproductive rights" is a euphemism. It actually means the right NOT to reproduce. More specifically—as I'm not aware that anyone has tried to mandate that Catholic nuns be forced to bear children—it means the right not to reproduce even when one engages in behavior which makes reproduction possible. And of course, since a right is not a hope or a plan, but rather an inviolable claim against others, "reproductive rights" primarily entails the liberty to take positive action to reverse reproduction when circumstances conspire to impose a reproductive incursion upon one's body.

In brief, "reproductive rights" means the right to ensure, by any means necessary, that one's pursuit of pleasure never result in a living baby seeing the light of day. (Or—if the President of the United States has anything to say about it—that any undesired living baby that is accidentally permitted to see the light of day may be killed immediately.)

Having straightened myself around on this initial confusion, I must ask again, "Who is forcing anyone to fight for reproductive rights?" The issue that has found its way onto the table during the primaries—and that has been nailed to the table by the White House and the liberal media—is whether the Catholic Church, or any other private organization, for that matter, should remain free not to provide services, or funding for services, that run directly counter to deeply held moral views. No Republican candidate has questioned any American citizen's "right" to use birth control; the question has been entirely about whether those who do not approve of the practice (or those who do, for that matter) should be forced by the federal government to pay for it.

For many decades, the American Left's cultural economy has been built entirely on the human capital of useful idiots. Of course, the usefulness of an idiot depends on both his degree of idiocy and his willingness to work idiotically for the cause. In this economy of useful idiocy, Hollywood is Fort Knox.

The Left's historical ratchet counts on the public's inability to follow a line of reasoning, or to use stable, clearly defined concepts. Its popular spokespeople are both perfect exemplars of this rational deficiency and effective disseminators of same. The only reproductive issue in the GOP primaries has been whether the federal government has the constitutional authority to force a religion to fund the recreational sexual activity of those who are treated or work at its hospitals, or attend its schools. Significantly, the fight has been over a new, hitherto unattempted encroachment upon constitutionally protected freedoms. By describing it as a re-opening of an old battle—"we are fighting again for reproductive rights," and returning to "the Dark Ages"—O'Donnell and Huston are framing the issue so as to portray conservatives as the aggressors, and liberals as innocent victims trying to defend long-acknowledged "rights." In other words, they are portraying the Left as merely defending the status quo, when in fact it is the Left that is attempting to win new territory by scaling back religious liberty. The effect of this reframing is to circumvent the need for any justification for such a new violation of individual rights, by giving the impression that in fact nothing new is being proposed.

This is the Left's standard procedure. They cannot win an argument, because they have no case that could hold up under any rational scrutiny. So they pursue this conceptual sleight of hand, shifting meanings and implications to create the illusion that an argument has already been won, where in fact none ever occurred. Suddenly, without any preparatory logic, the elimination of religious liberty has been subsumed under the general long-standing rubric of "reproductive rights."

Are O'Donnell and Huston aware that they are involved in this grand deception? Of course not; they are not thinkers, informed citizens, or even policy wonks. They are celebrities. They are professional exhibitionists. They can be of some benefit to society—but not with their minds. Ms. Huston reaches peaks of near-revelatory display as a jilted lover in Crimes and Misdemeanors. But it would never occur to me to ask the actress to explain the psychological state of hysteria.

There is good reason why actors have historically been regarded as societal outsiders, and why well-raised people were always discouraged from consorting with them. The strange, immodest instinct that allows a person to embody another person effectively seems to carry with it a moral and intellectual laxity, a willingness to engage in emotional experiment, that runs counter to the moral norms required for the maintenance of a free and mature political community.

In Hollywood, people of such instincts, rather than being a small itinerant group regularly interacting with normal citizens as they travel, instead form a large, stable community of the like-minded. This self-contained pseudo-polity seems to give rise to corresponding feelings of pseudo-citizenship. Thus, these glitterzens seek to inject themselves into the debates of the day, with an effect similar to that of, say, Russell Crowe, having played John Nash in a movie, attempting to teach algebraic geometry in a real university classroom.

It is at this point, of course, that the useful idiots' apologists get all Socratic and say, "What about Reagan?" Aside from the fact that Reagan had left the acting profession before he became deeply involved in politics, it is more to the point that his having been an actor was in no way regarded—by the public or by Reagan himself—as a qualification for making public political pronouncements. Reagan had to prove his mettle as a political thinker, advocate, and speaker, before anyone would take him seriously. And he did so in the early 1960s, extraordinarily, with disquisitions on socialized medicine and the fate of freedom in America which have become classics of modern political speechmaking.

Think of any Reagan speech, famous line, or off-hand remark you can remember. Now compare it to this, from the O'Donnell-Huston symposium:

O'Donnell: "I try to watch the Republican Convention, and I think to myself, 'Surely this can't be the cream of the crop.'"

Huston: "No." (Chuckle.)

O'Donnell: "You could disagree politically with someone, you could be a Democrat, they can be Republican, but you have some common ground. It seems as though there is no longer any common ground."

Huston: "No, it's totally out of control. I don't understand it. But I don't… I don't understand a lot of things, um, in present-day America. My theory was that if we dropped radios and blankets on Afghanistan, we wouldn't be having the problems that we're having now."

O'Donnell: (Nodding thoughtfully.)

Huston: "I'm just so depressed about the state of the world."

O'Donnell: "And now that there are these war hawks saying Syria—go into Syria. I'm like, surely you're kidding."

And I'm like, what Republican Convention was O'Donnell 'trying to watch'? Or was she speaking as Zork, her character in a new pilot, "Libs from the Future"? I'm also like, what Republican has O'Donnell ever spoken with about politics, let alone on "common ground"? I'm furthermore like, when Huston says "it's totally out of control," and that she doesn't "understand it," what is "it"? And like, could she please cut out the specialist's jargon and explain in layman's terms exactly how "it" is related to her "theory" (!) that "the problems that we're having now" could have been prevented by dropping "radios and blankets" on Afghanistan? Hoping to nail Mullah Omar with a Philco PT44? As for the details of the "theory," I guess we'd have to read her white paper on the topic to learn whether she would have "dropped" the radios and blankets before or after 9/11.

And by the way, what would Huston have wanted the Afghans to, like, listen to on those radios? Under the Taliban, all music and all women's voices were banned from radio airwaves. (It was wise of her not to recommend dropping TVs, however, since the Taliban outlawed those altogether.) Which reminds me, isn't Huston—like all lefty ladies—awfully tolerant of the Taliban for someone who thinks the GOP nominees are a threat to her "reproductive rights"? Take a gander at this site, listing some of the Taliban's laws, particularly regarding women. By my quick count, Huston and O'Donnell were violating at least fifteen of them during their appearance on CNN.

All joking aside, however, after watching the O'Donnell-Huston Debate, I find myself in total agreement with Ms. Huston on one important matter: "I'm just so depressed about the state of the world."

She should be. The United States is drifting at speed from constitutional republicanism to socialism; its federal government has deliberately saddled it with a national debt that can never be repaid; its most basic liberties are being systematically dismantled in the name of "healthcare reform," "environmental protection," and various "positive rights" which directly contradict the actual natural rights enumerated by the Founders—and in the midst of all this, more than half a million American adults actually made a conscious choice to sit in front of their televisions on March 15th and listen to two second-tier Hollywood celebrities talk about politics. Beware the Ides of March, indeed.

I'm like, surely America deserves a better fate than this.

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