Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be right

Sinéad O’Conner died today at the age of 56.

O’Conner first became famous in 1990 for her cover of Prince’s song Nothing Compares 2 U

But that’s not why she’s remembered.

Two years later in 1992, she became infamous when she ripped up a photo of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live and said “fight the real enemy.” The intention was to protest the Catholic Church’s abuse of children, but honestly — and I saw it live — the message didn’t really come across. It came off more like a generic act of adolescent rebellion, which I, being very young at the time, approved of.

The backlash, even in “liberal” New York City, was intense. She quickly became a hated laughing stock. Just about the only famous person who really stood up for her was Kris Kristofferson, an actor and a song writer who starred in Michael Cimino’s bomb Heaven’s Gate and wrote the song Me and Bobby Magee for Janis Joplin. Kristofferson consciously acts like a mountain man from the old west, but don’t let that fool you. He was actually a Rhodes Scholar.

I’m not quite as anti-Catholic as I used to be. In fact, ever since the American left turned pro-war during the dirty war in Syria and now fully supports the proxy war in Ukraine, I’ve started thinking of myself as a conservative, or at least as an apolitical moderate. But in 1992, Sinéad O’Conner was right. The Catholic Church was covering up sexual abuse of boys by priests. What’s more, John Paul II was a terrible Pope, one of the most destructive figures of the late 20th Century. He was the “real enemy.”

I’m quite sure, if there’s a God, Sinéad O’Conner is in heaven, and John Paul II is rotting in hell along with his buddies Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Augusto Pinochet.

On censoring racial slurs in classic movies

The remarkable thing about the censored scene is how ordinary it feels if you’ve watched a police procedural made before, say, 2010. It’s in William Friedkin’s “The French Connection,” from 1971. Two narcotics cops — Jimmy (Popeye) Doyle, played by Gene Hackman, and Buddy (Cloudy) Russo, played by Roy Scheider — are at the precinct, following an undercover operation during which a drug dealer ended up slashing Russo with a knife. The injury has left Russo struggling to put on his coat. “Need a little help there?” Doyle chuckles, then adds an ethnic jab: “You dumb guinea.” Russo: “How the hell did I know he had a knife?” Here Doyle points a slur at the Black dealer: “Never trust a nigger.” Russo: “He could have been white.” Doyle: “Never trust anyone.” Then he invites Russo out for a drink, and they trade masturbation jokes as they head through the door.

Interestingly enough, Gene Hackman didn’t want to use the racial slur and almost quit the film. But William Friedkin bullied him into it, for which in retrospect Hackman is grateful since it was the movie that made him a star. Hackman also did his own stunt driving, something that surprised me when I heard about it. And one of the car crashes was real.

I can’t speak to whether or not black people should be offended by the racial slur in The French Connection since I’m not black. But I will speak from personal experience about racial slurs against Polish Americans. To this day I hear them all the time, especially from woke liberals, who seem to assume that since Polish Americans look like Anglo Saxon Americans they’re fully white and shouldn’t be offended. And to be fair, I sometimes tell Polish jokes myself, especially in regards to the insane amount of Russophobia in Poland and the destructive behavior of elite Polish Americans like Zbigniew Brzezinski, who admits to “creating the Taliban” to get back at the Russians and ooops killing 3000 Americans on 9/11.

When it comes to their foreign policy and subservience to American neoconservatism, the current Polish government are a bunch of dumb Polacks.

As a child I was never offended by Archie Bunker’s use of ethnic slurs for Polish Americans. That’s who he was. You can’t portray a racist without racial slurs. Ironically Rob Reiner’s pompous leftist turned out to be so unlikeable that he wound up making Archie almost sympathetic.

What I was offended by in the 1970s was the portrayal of Stanley Wojciehowicz the Polish American detective in Barney Miller as dim but likeable. It seemed to imply that Polish Americans were objectively as stupid as they were portrayed in the jokes. There was one particular scene, which is retrospect is really funny. Wojo couldn’t understand fellow detective Ron Harris’s distress after he was harassed by some racist fellow police officers. So Barney Miller tells him a Polish joke hoping to provoke some empathy. But it doesn’t work. Wojo was too dumb to understand. As an adult, of course, I recognize that a Polish American too dumb to understand a Polish joke was a hilarious jab at Polish jokes. But as a child, it upset me.

Neocon Deep State?

Why else would President Biden nominate the infamous war-criminal and Iran Contra conspirator Elliott Abrams to even a minor position in his government?

Perhaps it’s because Abrams is an experienced old hand at censoring the press, having gotten his start under the Reagan Administration brow beating the New York Times into reassigning the reporter who broke the story of the El Mozote Massacre to the financial desk.

In the decades since this debacle, two things have become obvious: The first is that the El Mozote massacre was even worse than the reporters were able to determine at the time, and the second is that the US officials at the time, including especially Enders and Abrams, were lying on behalf of the killers.

Abraham Lincoln and Slobodan Milošević

He became President of his country at a critical moment in its history, exactly at the point when the contradictions baked into his complex, multiethnic nation had begun to tear it apart at the seams. A tall, physically powerful man, his inner revolve matched his imposing stature, and he was determined to keep his government, long considered an unworkable left-wing experiment by the world’s more conservative powers, together by any means necessary.

He quickly realized that it wouldn’t be an easy task. His country, as much a collection of semi-autonomous federal republics as it was a unified nation, now faced an important crossroads. Would it be united under its most important, populous ethnic group, and go onto become a great power that would dominant the region? Or would it descend into a collection of banana republics, easily picked apart by the imperial elites of Western Europe? Deciding that his country was far too important to die, he took off the gloves. He raised an army. Eventually he put that army in the hands of his most radical, most brutal generals, three men who had little patience for traditional chivalry, who believed that if you wanted to win a war, you couldn’t spare the civilian population.

But he went far beyond what at the time was called “hard war” or what today we refer to as “total war.” He used the power of the federal government to support the theft of land by white Christians against a non-Christian ethnic minority, ordering the largest mass execution in his country’s history and kicking off decades of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

Of course in the age of social media, Black Lives Matter and “Land Back,” I’m not fooling anybody. You all know I’m talking about Abraham Lincoln, not Slobodan Milošević. Yet why do we continue to view both men so differently? Even the most radical, left-wing Americans, the kind of people who talk about how “the United States was founded in slavery and genocide” and how “we’re all living on stolen land,” will occasionally tip their hats to Abraham Lincoln in a way they won’t to Thomas Jefferson, who raped his slaves, or George Washington. At least Lincoln unleashed William Tecumseh Sherman against the Plantation owners in Georgia.

But this only begs the question. Phillip Sheridan, Lincoln’s most effective general, the man who ended the Confederate threat to Washington DC by turning the magnificent Shenandoah Valley into a moonscape, was also the architect of the genocide against the Plains Indians. As far as I know, Slobodan Milošević never said anything quite so openly genocidal as “the only good Indian is a dead Indian.”

There’s also the issue of slavery. By issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln transformed a war to preserve the Union, and in the end, New England and Midwestern dominance, into a war against slavery. It was a brilliant gesture that in one stroke ended the danger of intervention by the British Empire, but it was only a gesture. The Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves in those parts of the south in open rebellion against the federal government, and it would be another 100 years before black Americans gained full citizenship.

What’s more, and you will never hear about this in the western media, Slobodan Milošević, in his famous, infamous, St. Vitus Day Speech of 1989, invoked the centuries long struggle of the Serbian people against Ottoman attempts to enslave them, reminding us all that the word “Slav” is the basis for the word “slave.” Indeed, in some ways Milošević’s speech in Kosovo was the Serbian answer to Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech. The choice is simple. Unity or death. One side will win. Worse yet, if one side doesn’t, the country will be at the mercy of foreign occupiers. If Lincoln was a better writer than Milošević, Milošević was also a bit more honest. He understood that, in the end, Yugoslavia depended on Serbian nationalism as much as the United States depended on White Anglo Saxon Protestants, the Puritan descendants of the English Civil War.

Today, it is difficult to say what is the historical truth about the Battle of Kosovo and what is legend. Today this is no longer important. Oppressed by pain and filled with hope, the people used to remember and to forget, as, after all, all people in the world do, and it was ashamed of treachery and glorified heroism. Therefore it is difficult to say today whether the Battle of Kosovo was a defeat or a victory for the Serbian people, whether thanks to it we fell into slavery or we survived in this slavery. The answers to those questions will be constantly sought by science and the people. What has been certain through all the centuries until our time today is that disharmony struck Kosovo 600 years ago. If we lost the battle, then this was not only the result of social superiority and the armed advantage of the Ottoman Empire but also of the tragic disunity in the leadership of the Serbian state at that time. In that distant 1389, the Ottoman Empire was not only stronger than that of the Serbs but it was also more fortunate than the Serbian kingdom.

Let’s be completely cynical. The only reason we (by by “we” I mean Americans) remember Slobodan Milošević as a war criminal and Abraham Lincoln as a hero is that Lincoln won and Milošević lost. Power doesn’t follow morality. Morality follows power. Had the British and French decided to intervene in the United States Civil War the way Bill Clinton intervened in the Yugoslavian Civil War, and had the Confederacy gained its independence, we would be talking about Lincoln pretty much the same way we talk about Milošević. He raised a gigantic army and invaded his own country. He killed his own people. He committed war crimes and engaged in ethnic cleansing. He betrayed the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence. He was a traitor who used illiterate German and Irish immigrants against against an army led by the descendants of George Washington and Patrick Henry. He destroyed the United States of American pretty much the same way Milošević destroyed Yugoslavia. And the debate over whether or not to join the British Commonwealth would probably be as tedious as the current debate in Serbia about whether or not to join the European Union.

And those are my thoughts on the Fourth of July.

The death of twitter and the process of enshittification in the tech world

Only a month after Twitter’s primitive AI content moderation locked my account for a sarcastic tweet attacking supporters of George W. Bush , Twitter is dying. Elon Musk seems to have fired too many necessary tech people along with all of the deadweight in content moderation and censorship.

Good riddance. It’s a miserable, and highly addictive, social media network that only brings out the worst in people. Even worse, it no longer works the way it originally did. Before 2014 or so, you followed x number of people. You got their tweets in your timeline. Now you have to sift through an endless parade of people you don’t follow and never intend to follow but who the algorithm thinks you should follow. In this sense, Musk changed very little. Last year when the Democrats controlled Twitter you were spammed with Tweets by Molly Jong Fast. Now you’re spammed with tweets by Ben Shapiro. Privileged liberals and privileged conservatives are equally annoying.

The whole process (bait you with something good and then switch it out with crap after you’re locked in) has become so normal in the tech world that Cory Doctorow has coined a term that fits so well it’s worth reading the whole article .