Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Andrew Sullivan's Rightly Worried About Immigration, Trans Advocacy

Two very good essays by Andrew Sullivan at New York magazine's "Intelligencer" column, the first about immigration:
Courts have also expanded asylum to include domestic violence, determining that women in abusive relationships are a “particular social group” and thereby qualify. In other words, every woman on the planet who has experienced domestic abuse can now come to America and claim asylum. Also everyone on the planet who doesn’t live in a stable, orderly, low-crime society. Literally billions of human beings now have the right to asylum in America. As climate change worsens, more will rush to claim it. All they have to do is show up.

Last month alone, 144,000 people were detained at the border making an asylum claim. This year, about a million Central Americans will have relocated to the U.S. on those grounds. To add to this, a big majority of the candidates in the Democratic debates also want to remove the grounds for detention at all, by repealing the 1929 law that made illegal entry a criminal offense and turning it into a civil one. And almost all of them said that if illegal immigrants do not commit a crime once they’re in the U.S., they should be allowed to become citizens.

How, I ask, is that not practically open borders?
Then, trans advocacy sinking the ship of lesbian/gay civil rights successes. The polling numbers are earthshaking:
The number of Americans 18 to 34 who are comfortable interacting with LGBTQ people slipped from 53 percent in 2017 to 45 percent in 2018 — the only age group to show a decline,” according to the annual [GLAAD] Accelerating Acceptance report.
Sullivan rests this sad state of affairs squarely on the shoulders of the trans advocates, who he imagines (I think correctly) will not readily relinquish their newfound power:
...[T]here is almost no chance that the gay-rights Establishment will relinquish the “LGBTQ” label. They, like most extensions of the Democratic Party, have completely embraced postmodern critical gender and queer theory. My fear is that this will fail to win support and that, as the trans movement keeps pressing and pressing, the backlash will grow and gays and lesbians will become collateral damage. The T activists, having embraced an extremist theory of gender, could undermine not just their own case but also equality for the Ls, Gs, and Bs. They could swiftly reverse the gains we have won. They sure have made a good start in turning the next generation against us.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Never Speak Ill Of A Woman: Taking When Harry Met Sally Personally

I have fond memories of When Harry Met Sally, at least in part because I saw it in first runs back when Hollywood made movies for actual grownups, ones that didn’t involve the whole cast in gaudy spandex uniforms. The film itself did quite nicely at the time, hauling in $92.8M, and a good bit of critical acclaim as well (viz. Roger Ebert’s contemporaneous review). I have my criticisms of it; Billy Crystal’s excellent comedic acting takes the edge off Harry Burns’ self-absorption. His character in isolation is a real ass, something screenwriter Nora Ephron drew from an early interview with director Rob Reiner after the latter’s recent divorce. Reiner has always struck me as something of a narcissist, so this goes a long way toward my own bias confirmation.

But as everyone knows now, We Can’t Have Nice Things, at least not so long as women come in for any sort of criticism at all, and thus the motive for Megan Garber’s “The Quiet Cruelty of When Harry Met Sally. I can’t tell if the author is trying to live out Sally Albright’s life as a woman who thinks she’s low maintenance but is actually high maintenance, but she apparently lives in timorous fear of being so labeled. That is, she takes the movie as a 30-year-old attack on her:
What I did think about, though, every once in a while, was whether the text message I was about to send might make me seem high-maintenance. What I did sometimes wonder, packing a carry-on for a week-long trip, was whether I might be, in spite of myself, “the worst kind.” Movies’ magic can take many forms. Their words can become part of you, as can their flaws. Thirty years after When Harry Met Sally premiered, in this moment that is reassessing what it means for women to desire, it’s hard not to see a little bit of tragedy woven into comedy’s easy comforts. Sally may have gotten a happy ending; she waited so long for it, though. And waiting is not as romantic as her movie believes it to be. Maybe there were times along the way when she almost said something to Harry but didn’t, understanding how easily her preferences could be dismissed as inconvenient. Maybe she questioned herself. Maybe she knew that, despite it all, women who just want it the way they want it are still assumed to be wanting too much.
Never mind that the author behind this terror was an actual woman, no; never mind that, maybe, just maybe, being overly demanding impedes actual happiness. Men mansplain, they manspread on subways, and women get awards for designing uncomfortable furniture to suppress the latter. The slings and arrows of life are fine for men, who must comport themselves to women, but women are always and ever above criticism, even the mildest sort, lest they collapse in a heap of neuroses, as the author.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

The New York Times Falls For 50-Year-Old Soviet Virtue Signaling

The old Soviet Union was big on public virtue signaling, being as they had a lot of real crimes to ignore or whitewash. A few days ago, the aptly-named Sophie Pinkham reminded us why Walter Duranty was so easily able to hoodwink the New York Times, and get a Pulitzer besides, with a profoundly dumb piece about Soviet women in space. Aside from @hollymathnerd wrecking this agitprop with actual facts, now comes Karol Markowicz rebutting this nonsense:
As the USSR retreats into the rearview mirror of history, there is a growing tendency to romanticize its disastrous reign through the lens of contemporary wokeness.

Sure, Communists tortured and executed dissidents, starved their own people by the millions and operated gulags — but have you heard about their amazing space feminism and space intersectionality?
The NYT in 2017 ran an editorial series in part rehabilitating the Soviets as part of a May Day commemoration, to which The Federalist published a blistering response by Robert Tracinski; you may find the links there. The commie apologists stuck around at the Gray Lady long after the Berlin Wall fell, and it shows.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Aziz Ansari And The Wild Ride Down At Babe.net

You will read few weirder things this week than this story at TheCut.com about the self-immolation of Babe.net in the wake of their Aziz Ansari story that went explosively viral. Excerpt (emboldening mine):
Every internet era gets the insurgent women’s site it deserves. Jezebel broke new ground with an article about a tampon stuck up a writer’s vagina; xoJane, a microgeneration later, outdid that with a cat hairball found in the same cavity. The Betches defended their right, as feminists (or not, who cares), to Brazilian-wax their vaginas, via sorority-girl screeds. Like the Betches, babe.net certainly wasn’t built to be feminist in any kind of traditional sense (after all, Murdoch was a funder and anarchic page-view-getting was the ethos). And yet babe.net was created during an era when to be a woman saying just about anything online was now, theoretically, classified as feminist. When I asked them about it, the site’s writers described theirs as “not the brand of feminism where we have to unconditionally support every woman no matter what she does. Because women can be problematic too.”
Unusually, the final quote in that graf shows a surprising amount of self-awareness in an era when the brand is, shall we say, a bit tarnished. Of course, no salacious story like this, one in which “28-year-olds managed 24-year-olds who managed 20-year-olds” and sloppy after-work drinks led to hookups led to professional and sexual jealousy, would have any ending other than
And so, a group of five staffers — including three writers who produced much of the site’s content — decided to organize their rage, which had boiled over, at last and all at once. They weren’t just mad about the after-work drunken sloppiness that had seeped into the professional groundwater. They were mad about a lot. They were mad about the whole power imbalance inherent to working for a website that translated their most intimate experiences and identities and beliefs into clicks. They were mad that their female managers didn’t better protect them. When Aburto was asked to star in a video series called Fight Me, she told her managers that the content they wanted her to produce forced her to perform as a caricature of a black woman. Her managers apologized and told her she didn’t have to, but the damage was done. Even now, some former Babe staffers talk about their grievances in the language of raw betrayal; they can’t quite express what was different about the site or the office environment, but the workplace had become, they all make clear, a catastrophe; $30,000-odd a year just wasn’t worth it.
This latter sum is really head-scratching: who signs up to live in famously expensive New York, even Brooklyn, at such a sum? Are these daughters of privilege churning out article after article of drunken sexual liaisons? But no, in the next sentence, we learn that one writer, the pseudonymous Chloe, “would have quit, but financially ... couldn’t”. The stillborn strike amounted to naught, and eventually the grand Facebook ad retooling claimed them. Somewhere, a screenplay beckons.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Women's Soccer Players Make Less Money Because They Draw Smaller Audiences

With the US Women’s soccer team doing well at their World Cup bid (and a fracas involving whether or not they want to meet Donald Trump, yick), comes now the accusation that because the women's team has better TV ratings than the lackluster men's team, they should (at least) get paid as much as the men. Eric Boehm has a good explainer on Reason about why this is as it is. For some things (such as per diem and other related travel expenses), there's little justification for gender imbalance:
The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. men's and women's teams have generated about the same amount of revenue from games played since 2015, although those totals account for only about half of U.S. Soccer's annual income. Yet, as Rosen again points out, the women's team continues to get shortchanged when it comes to the percentage of the federation's budget spent on "advertising and P.R., travel and training budgets, and…per diems for food."
Okay, but those aren't the big ticket item of salary (something Bill DeBlasio recently demanded be leveled):
Major League Soccer teams drew an average of 21,000 fans last year, while NWSL games drew about 6,000. The TV contract MLS has with ESPN and other broadcasters generates $90 million a year. While neither league discloses revenue figures, it's a safe bet MLS earns considerably more—and, thus, its players do too.
Sensibly, Megan Rapinoe has some advice for how to close that gap:
"Fans can come to games," Rapinoe said. "Obviously, the national team games will be a hot ticket, but we have nine teams in the NWSL. You can go to your league games, you can support that way. You can buy players' jerseys, you can lend support in that way, you can tell your friends about it, you can become season ticket-holders."
Given the terrible, bitter fans (at least that one!), and greater male interest in sports generally, this seems a tall order.

More Internet Troll Ad Campaigns

I’ve written previously about Paul Feig’s stupid marketing campaign for the Ghostbusters reboot, merging social justice nonsense with intentional efforts to annoy potential moviegoers. That effort bombed so badly that the film earned a $70 million loss, and resulted in Sony handing the keys to the franchise back to originator Ivan Reitman. (Subsequent coverage shows that there will be a new Ghostbusters franchise sequel made, with Jason Reitman at the helm, but with no ties to the Feig 2016 cast or plot lines.) The “get woke, go broke” mantra may be overdone, but it’s not entirely without some basis in fact.

This failure does not seem to have dissuaded would-be marketeers from following in Feig’s dubious footsteps, and so we have a couple new examples in late weeks:
  • Disney has planned a live-action Little Mermaid reboot starring black actress Halle Bailey. The Washington Post ran a piece by Brooke Newman claiming there was some sort of backlash, based on the thinnest speculation. The only cite she gives is the hashtag #NotMyAriel, but the mentions there are exclusively virtue-signalers in favor of the casting.
  • The latest Terminator franchise (they’re still making those?) has its own baffling anti-Internet-troll marketing blitz, because, wasn’t Sarah Connor supposed to be proof that a Kickass Female Character™️ can make box office bank without resorting to slagging on half their potential audience?
 Usually when an auteur starts a marketing campaign, it's for the widest possible audience. These seem aimed at only social justice warriors. Is this a recipe for success? It seems unlikely.