Category Archives: Popular Culture

Fake News Isn’t the Problem, Relativism Is

truth

When the soon-to-be-president Trump called a CNN reporter ‘fake news’ to his face, it was both entertaining and ironic. First of all, it was great theater seeing such an esteemed agency being called out in such a public forum. But, if anyone is a peddler of fake news, it is Trump.

Fake news has become something of a boogeyman man of late. Since Trump’s surprising election, politicians and pundits from both sides of the debate have pointed to fake news as a major culprit in the debacle.

But so-called fake news is not limited to news agencies broadcasting dubious partisan views—that is just the most prominent example, so everyone, including the future president, is harping on it. Looking closer, we see that fake news actually stems from a more fundamental crisis of philosophy that has swept through our culture in the last decades: The belief that truth is relative and all one needs to do to make something true is to say it. That philosophy is what fake news is all about, and the Donald might be its most reliable adherent. Continue reading

On Mourning Celebrities

celebrity_deaths_2016

2016 was uncommonly brutal on celebrities.

I might be a humbug, but I don’t get the grief over celebrity deaths. Yes, death is bad and it is especially sad to think of a talented person passing. As psychologist David Kaplan suggests in Lindsay Holmes’ reflection on Prince’s death, “We may grieve celebrities because our dream was to emulate their career path or because a celebrity death can also remind us of our mortality.”

But is all the lamentation really appropriate? Continue reading

Why No One Leaves the Country After an Election

In the last few months, several celebrities have threatened to move out of the United States if the Donald became president. Notables such as Whoopi Goldberg, Jonathan Stewart, Cher, Samuel L. Jackson, and Miley Cyrus all put their feet down before the election as a way to protest the possibility of their side losing.

jon_stewart_trump

Former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart said he would consider “getting in a rocket and going to another planet, because clearly this planet’s gone bonkers” if the real estate mogul wins.

Of course, now that the election has passed, and the Donald has indeed been elected president, the celebrities are not so gung-ho anymore. As the Daily Mail reports, “Some dismissed what they pledged as a ‘joke’ and others simply went to ground when asked by DailyMail.com when they were packing up and heading to Canada or other countries.”

This is rather disappointing to some, who saw the purging of this group as the best reason to vote for Trump. It also brings into question the formerly rock-solid faith that fans had in the celebrities. As Miley Cyrus said, “I don’t say things I don’t mean!” What are we to believe now that she has apparently had a change of heart and now accepts Trump as the president?

This shouldn’t be a surprise. As explained in the 2010 essay, Juggernaut, I explored this kind of threat to leave and why it so rarely happens. In short, we live in a closed economy, and the threat to leave is a kind of wishful thinking that such an action would be productive. When the election is over, the realization that there is no better option sinks in, and we all end up dealing with what we’re given. Continue reading

If You Think This Is About Sexism and Racism, You’re Missing the Point

At first, it was entertaining to watch the talking heads try to make sense of the election results that they had been so wrong in predicting.

Then, it got scary.

As the results came in, and it became clear that Donald Trump would win the presidency, it seemed as though a light bulb flashed in their heads: Half of America is sexist and racist. Nothing else could explain this election of such a vile creature to the highest position in the land.

The musician Moby posted a meme that captured the consensus grief: “America, you are so much more racist and misogynistic than I’d ever imagined.” People wept in public at the clear evidence that America hates women, Hispanics, African Americans, Muslims, and LBGT types.

img_2061

It is an understandable frustration considering the kind of rhetoric that Trump has espoused over the last year. The thought is that, since some 60 million Americans voted for a misogynistic, xenophobic bigot, some 60 million Americans must be misogynistic, xenophobic bigots. As an emotional Van Jones put it: “This was a white-lash against a changing country. It was a white-lash against a black president, in part. And that’s the part where the pain comes.”

But can that really be the explanation?

Continue reading

How Barzun Predicted Brexit

Any time something huge happens in the world such as the recent Brexit referendum, with all the happy and unhappy voters, and the shocked onlookers from within and without Britain, it is good practice to turn to the old sage of San Antonio to see what he had to say about the issue, and where such astounding events stand in the course of history. If we refer to Barzun’s magnum opus, From Dawn to Decadence, we find that he not only predicted the separation of the UK from the EU, but much more besides.

Nigel Farage (front), the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) reacts with supporters, following the result of the EU referendum, outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Nigel Farage (front), the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) reacts with supporters, following the result of the EU referendum, outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Continue reading

The Death of Dissent

In the aftermath of the horrific attack in Orlando, we have witnessed a death that is equally troubling if only because of its scope and the fact that no one is talking about it—the death of dissent.

orlando_birds_full

A photo shared on Facebook of 49 birds flying over a vigil for the Orlando victims has gone viral. The photographer wished to remain anonymous.

Sympathy and support for the mostly gay victims has come from all corners of society including charitable gestures from Christians, Muslims, and others who are considered anti-gay. The sympathy and support is not what’s troubling. What’s troubling is that the sympathy and support have been rejected. Continue reading

How a ‘Personal Relationship with Jesus’ Steers Us Away from Jesus

I was recently at a talk on Catholic New Evangelization and the speaker began with a provocative question: What is our central goal and purpose as Catholics?

ben_hur1

A little personal relationship action in Ben-Hur.

After giving the audience a little time to consider, the speaker provided us with the answer: To have a personal relationship with Jesus. According to him, it was the only thing we need, and without it our spiritual lives could never be fulfilled.

Now, this hadn’t been the first time I had heard about the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus. It has always been popular with Protestants, and lately it has become a standard bearer for Catholics as well. But it struck me as odd that it should be considered to be the entire goal and purpose of our faith. Is that really what Christianity is all about? Isn’t a personal relationship a little lacking when considering the awe and glory of God? What does it mean to have a personal relationship with Jesus anyway? Continue reading

The Moral Obligation to Be Beautiful

Recently, the folks at Boundless posted a provocative article titled ‘Where Have All the Beautiful Women Gone?’

The idea? That our culture, with its Photoshopped images and instant gratification, has numbed men’s minds to women’s natural beauty. The beautiful women haven’t gone anywhere; it’s just that men can’t see them anymore.

Natural-Beauty-daydreaming-23075741-1024-768

Doubtless, those with access to social media can relate. We are constantly bombarded by images of ‘idealized’ figures, and, naturally, have come to expect this in the people we see in real life. Not finding it there, we are left unsatisfied and swipe away any real beauty that we might encounter.

But is this really the main problem? Continue reading

It’s ‘Put me in cold’, people, not ‘Put me in, coach’

CHADWICK BOSEMAN as Jackie Robinson in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ drama “42,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ drama “42,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Ah, springtime.

The season of flowers, rain showers, and baseball. And, with Opening Day upon us, it is also the season of mangling the lyrics of John Fogerty’s ode to baseball, ‘Centerfield’.

Everywhere you turn during baseball season, you’ll hear this serenade of swat, and everywhere people will be singing it incorrectly. As you’ll hear it:

Put me in, coach
I’m ready to play today

And if you google the lyrics, that’s what you’ll see. It kinda makes sense, and everyone else is saying it that way, so no one thinks twice. Play ball.

The only problem is that those aren’t the lyrics.

Continue reading