Monday, May 31, 1999

Week of 05/31/1999

A Question Of Age
Just When Is An Adult An Adult?

- by David Matthews 2

Remember what your parents told you when you were a kid?

"Just wait until you turn 18, then you can make your own choices!"

Oh yes, the magical age 18!

At eighteen, you were an adult! You could make your own choices. You didn’t have to go to school if you didn’t want to. You could live where you wanted to, how you wanted to, and your parents couldn’t tell you what to do.

And as recent as twenty-five years ago, being 18 meant you could do it all! You could drink if you wanted to, drive if you wanted to, see an adult movie if you wanted to, smoke if you wanted to..

Of course, being an adult back then also had its pitfalls. Being an adult in the early years of the 70’s meant you could be drafted and forced to fight in a war you may or may not agree with. And being an adult also meant you were held responsible for your actions. Mommy and Daddy didn’t have to bail you out once you turned 18.

The last limit of adulthood was established in 1971 when the US Constitution was amended to fix the minimum voting age at 18. Not that many young adults at the time were eager to vote or have anything to do with the government. But that was out there nonetheless, and the very argument at the time for ratifying the 26th Amendment was that there were young adults who were 18 and could drink, have sex, go to prison, get drafted and fight on behalf of the country, but could not vote.

Oh, but those were much different times.. Back then there was a real emphasis on being an individual, being able to speak your mind and say what you want and to express yourself as you want to. Government didn’t like that, but back then the prevailing attitude was for government to go screw itself. Between opposition to Vietnam and the Watergate scandal, government wasn’t exactly looking too good.

The times have changed since then. Big government is still despised, but now it is no longer in vogue to tell government to go screw itself. Matter of fact, all too often it is government telling YOU to go screw yourself! Speak your mind, say what you want, unless what you have to say is politically incorrect. Express yourself, unless what you’re expressing offends someone else. Government is still embroiled in scandals, but now we’re being told that individuality is verboten, and we are told to embrace the collective.

It should be no surprise, then, that we also have a turnaround on defining what an adult is. Where once the trend was to make adulthood a one-stop level, now we’ve returned to a myriad of different age limits.

It all started with the moralists and drunk driving in the 80’s. The problem was simple - people weren’t being held responsible for driving under the influence. The law considered drunk driving a mental impairment, not an irresponsible behavior. The laws were lenient, judges were too lenient, prosecutors didn’t prosecute hard enough. Groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving argued pretty heavily for people to be more responsible, and to change the laws so drunk drivers who are caught are held responsible.

But then MADD went beyond just changing minds and making penalties tougher. The moralists realized that they could go after the other component of drunk driving - namely the alcohol. So they went after the most irresponsible of drinkers, namely the young adults.

Mind you, they never went so far as trying to OUTLAW alcohol. That’s been done before.. it was called the Volstead Act, otherwise known as Prohibition. It actually created more problems than it solved. No, the moralists wanted to simply raise the age when one would legally purchase alcohol.

Their rationality? Twofold. First, they argued that young adults cannot handle alcohol. They lack the maturity to deal with it in a "responsible" manner. Of course nobody ever inherits experience, they have to get it first-hand. But that’s a purely logical argument against a moralist’s emotional one. Second, there were many 18-year olds who could drink but were still in high school and had friends who are not 18. So even if the 18-year old was a "responsible" drinker, he was still guilty by association.

So legal adults between the ages of 18 and 21 were damned by the moralists as being too "irresponsible" to be able to drink. And when individual states didn’t move fast enough to raise the drinking age to suit the moralists, they used the federal government to force the issue. Uncle Sam’s Gods of Mount Morality sent the message out to every state that those that didn’t raise the drinking age would lose out on precious federal highway funds. Nothing like a little pork blackmail to motivate Uncle Sam’s fifty spoiled brats.

Once the temperance moralists realized they had a powerful weapon, so too did other moralists. Anti-sex moralists, frustrated by the mere existence of strip clubs, used the same arguments to try to raise the age of the women who danced at the clubs. Women who were 18 years of age could have sex, they claimed, but were too immature to decide whether or not to work in place that dealt with sex.

Quite recently Uncle Sam’s self-styled gods came up with the idea to raise the minimum age for legally purchasing a firearm. The Clinton Administration wants to raise the minimum age for purchasing a firearm from 18 to 21, and this plan has the surprising support of many members of Congress, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

But while we’re pushing the freedoms of our youngsters further and further back, we’re placing responsibilities on them at an earlier and earlier age. Now we want to treat boys and girls as young as age 14 as adults.. if not younger.. and put them in adult prisons.

Let’s get brutally honest here.. freedom and responsibility go hand-in-hand. You cannot have one without the other. Having responsibility makes us appreciate the freedoms that come with it. It is the yin and yang of adulthood, and it is something that has been lost in all of these discussions.

However, for the sake of argument, let’s just say that at age 18 you cannot mentally or emotionally handle alcohol, sex, or a gun.. fine. You pick the age that an adult IS developed enough to handle these things. How old? 21? 25? 30? You pick the age of adulthood.

But bear in mind all the things that come with that. We’ll have to amend the 26th Amendment so that adults will be able to vote. After all, we can’t have kids voting, now, can we? They aren’t mentally or emotionally developed enough to handle booze, what make you think they can handle a ballot box?

We’ll have to also change the age when our young people can enter into the military as well. Can’t have 18-year olds getting into the service if they can’t handle a firearm, right? Lord knows we might go to war or something, and then what will our young soldiers have to use to defend our country with? Bad jokes?

Oh, and parents, you will have to take care of your kids just that much longer. I hope you can handle it! Of course, we can always extend the school term to accommodate the extended period of time. It sounds like your kids will need all the extra school years they can.

You know, while we’re at it, maybe we should also change the driving age to match the new age of adulthood. I mean, if your youngsters cannot handle something as simple as alcohol, what make you think for a moment they can handle something as large and as complex as a automobile? Oh, sure, your kids will complain, but then again, they’re not mature enough to be adults, right?

I realize that a lot of these arguments will go in one ear and out the other. We’re just too fixated on the issue at the moment to worry about how it affects the big picture concerning adulthood. The big picture is simply this - the only way that young adults will learn responsibility is for them to learn it themselves. That means that sometimes they will make mistakes. Stupid mistakes. Sometimes even tragic mistakes. But sometimes that is the only way they will really learn that freedom and responsibility go hand-in-hand.

I wish it didn’t have to be this way, but that’s the real world. We just can’t coddle our youngsters into maturity and impart our knowledge to them by osmosis. That, too, is the price of being an adult.

Monday, May 24, 1999

Week of 05/24/1999

Clinton’s War
Clinton’s Quest For Immortality Could Become His Vietnam

- by David Matthews 2

When President Bill Clinton was re-elected in 1996, there was a word that popped up that many Americans would soon regret hearing:


When Ronald Reagan was re-elected in 1984, nobody heard the word "legacy" uttered about his administration. Reagan’s second administration was supposedly to finish the work he couldn’t do in his first term. Neither was that word uttered when Richard Nixon was re-elected in 1972, even though by that time - like Clinton - he was embroiled in scandal. But Clinton, the darling of the liberal media and the master of spin control, was re-elected and suddenly his supporters were petitioning to put his face on Mount Rushmore.

Case in point is Clinton’s latest campaign - the air war over Kosovo.

Now before you start blabbing on about ethnic cleansing and tanks and Slobodan Milosovic and why don’t I "care" about what’s going on, let’s look at the rest of the world for a second.. I am always being reminded that the Internet is a global medium, so let’s look at world events. The ethnic cleansing going on in Kosovo is neither new nor exclusive. There have been similar incidents with the Kurds in Turkey, the Kashmir separatists in India, and the Tamil separatists in Sri Lanka. Each of these happened with minimal mention in the American media and few - if any - words from the Clinton Administration, never mind one AWAC plane.

Now ask yourself, if the press paid even half as much attention to these incidents of ethnic and racial cleansing as they did in Kosovo, do you think we would get involved in them?

Next, ask yourself just when did the bulk of the reported atrocities against Albanians start? I’m not talking about the scattered gunfire, but rather the full-blown mass killing, rapes, forced exiles, and landmines. Did we hear about these things before we got involved militarily? No, we only heard about them AFTER we started sending planes and missiles.. and oddly enough AFTER the Serbs exiled most of the international journalists and took over the rest of the country’s media. It is almost as if our involvement gave Slobodan Milosevic the green light to commit horrible atrocities.

Don’t get me wrong.. what is going on right now against the Albanians in Kosovo is atrocious. I know someone who has family that was forced out of their home by the Serbs, and I’m sure they are thankful that at least some action against Milosevic is happening. But how much of those atrocities happened because of our military intervention?

Then there is how we got involved in the first place. How did we get involved? One minute we were talking about getting the Serbs to agree to a treaty with the Albanians, the next minute we were threatening to bomb the Serbs. What happened to change all the talk about peace?

Perhaps the key reason for the US to go from being peacemakers to warmongers has nothing to do with the Serbs or Milosevic, but instead from a more local crisis.

Not too long ago, the American public was hearing about a breach of security, and how nuclear secrets may or may not have been given to China. Congress was demanding a complete investigation. Lawmakers were actually using the words "impeachment" and "treason" in regards to possible responses. Given the fact that President Clinton was impeached last year by the House and had to go through an impeachment hearing in January, it would be no stretch of the imagination to know that Clinton would be willing to do whatever it takes to divert public attention away from a second impeachment hearing on some very serious charges.

And it would also not be a stretch of the imagination to believe that Clinton would use military action to divert attention from a potentially disastrous political scandal. After all, what else would explain Clinton’s December air strike over Iraq around the time of the House impeachment debate? "Wag The Dog" may have been a movie, but only Bill Clinton could have made it a real political tactic.

Then there is the debunking of fifty years of beliefs concerning the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the military force being used to attack the former Yugoslavia. NATO was supposedly a defensive organization created to defend western Europe against Communist aggression. Fifty years of being told that NATO was NOT the military extension of the United States. President Clinton has destroyed all of those arguments by using NATO as an aggressive, offensive action in what is essentially a civil conflict.

Let’s get brutally honest here.. this is Bill Clinton’s war. This is not America’s war, even though it is American lives that are being put in danger. It is not NATO’s war, even though it is being waged under their banner. It is not the United Nation’s war, because they were shut out of any kind of involvement. This isn’t even Kosovo’s war anymore, even though it is being done in their name. This is Bill Clinton’s war; a war for his legacy. A war for his ego.

And what is the endgame for this military action? Bomb the Serbs into peace? I got news for you, it’s been done... miserably. You may have even heard about it.. its called Vietnam. You remember Vietnam, right Mister President? The civil conflict that we got involved in thirty years ago? If history served, Bill Clinton had his own reservations about getting involved in that kind of conflict. How so much can change in thirty years, especially when the man who once avoided military service doesn’t have to put his own life on the front lines.

However, for the sake of argument, let’s suppose Clinton’s air war does succeed in getting the Serbs out of Kosovo. What then? Well, then we’d have to have ground troops in the region to make sure the Serbs stay out. Even before we started bombing, this was to be a non-negotiated condition for peace. But now, after we showed our aggression against the Serbs, it would have to be an extended presence to make sure the Serbs don’t come back. And that smacks of the kind of hostile environment of yet another foreign policy embarrassment. Anyone remember Lebanon?

Come to think of it, we still have "peacekeeping" troops in Bosnia. Weren’t they supposed to come home a few years ago?

If anything, there are three ways this war will end: First, Mr. Milosevic sees the light and agrees to pull his people out of Kosovo and agree to a peace treaty. Not likely, especially since Milosevic suffers from the same narcissistic egomania as Clinton. Second, we declare "victory" and pull out. We did this in Vietnam, and quite recently in Iraq, and in the world arena that earned us the name "paper tiger." As a world power, we were an embarassment.

The third option, and the only real option now, is to go through with the air assault, followed by a strong ground presence that will continue well into the next presidential administration, if not longer.

Ironically, the loudest voices against continuing our attack in Kosovo are the Republicans.. the party once deemed "warmongers" for their belief of a strong military. Even better, some Republicans in Congress have threatened to invoke the War Powers Act to stop the conflict.. a law that the GOP despised in both the Nixon and Reagan Administrations. My, how the tables have turned!

Listen folks, I may question the real motives behind us getting involved in Kosovo, but the fact of the matter is we’re in it, and in it up to our eyes. Unlike the sentiments of some people, we cannot turn back without embarrassing ourselves politically. Bill Clinton has placed us in a no-win scenario in that regard. Either we follow through, or we embarrass ourselves. It won’t harm Clinton one bit.

And that is the real problem. President Clinton is so obsessed with this whole idea of "legacy" that he will do anything and everything to build it.

Folks, a real, legitimate, positive legacy is forged after the deeds are done, not while they are being done. And forging a legacy is certainly not an excuse for the deeds. Great men are not great simply because they say so, nor simply because they have a group of followers who say so. That isn’t greatness. That’s a cult. There is a difference.

In all likelihood, this war in Kosovo will become Clinton’s own Vietnam, a conflict that will cost many lives no matter how it turns out. The only good that will come out of this kind of action will hopefully be a resolve to no longer trust men who speak of legacies and destiny.

Monday, May 17, 1999

Week of 05/17/1999

Violence and Politics
The Clueless Crusade Continues

- by David Matthews 2

Okay boys and girls, by now we’ve all heard the talk. We’ve seen the "special reports" from the media. We’ve even had a special summit by President Clinton and a collection of self-professed "social experts." We’ve talked about it, and talked about it, and talked about it, and now the message is clear:

Violence is bad.

Ooh! What a revelation! "Violence is bad!"

Here we are almost a month into the massacre in Littleton, Colorado, by two students with a monumental grudge and a small arsenal of weapons, and we are still obsessed by the issue of violence. Why is it happening? Why the schools? Why these kids? Why now? What’s causing it?

Politicians are using the issue to weasel in their pet social projects, everything from the anti-flag burning amendment to the Constitution to imposing special taxes on constitutionally-protected forms of speech. Congress is focusing on Hollywood, their usual target of scorn and ridicule, with sweeping amendments to the current Juvenile Justice Bill under consideration in the Senate. The Clinton Administration is not only targeting their old Hollywood friends, but also going after their pet target - the Second Amendment. In less than a month, the two cornerstone Amendments of the United States Constitution are being whittled down under the excuse that "Violence is bad."

Let’s get really brutally honest here, people. America has been a violent nation from day one. It was forged in the middle of a violent revolution. Look at the national anthem. Not only was it based on a poem by Francis Scott Key in the midst of the War of 1812, but it contains mentions of bombs and rockets! The southern part of America is still obsessed with the Civil War, yet another bloody conflict. And fifty years ago, we were the first country that bombed a foreign country with nuclear weapons, not once, but twice! America still bears the stigma of being the only nation to do that.

Now, all of a sudden, we’re being castigated by the moralists for having a sudden "culture of violence?" PLEASE! Take off your rose-colored glasses and recheck your history!

Violence is mankind’s most primal action. It is born from the mental conflict between the real world and what we believe the world should be. At some point, we decide that the real world has to comply to our ideals, and when non-violent methods are not successful, some of us then decide to use physical force against others. That’s the reason why we are violent!

You’ll notice that there is no mention of guns, music, movies, flag burning, alcohol, video games, junk food, comic books, television, or the Internet in that last paragraph. It is a simple, straightforward answer to why we are violent. That’s why some husbands abuse their wives. That’s why some parents abuse their kids. That’s why some disgruntled workers show up at the job site with a gun. That’s why we suffer from "road rage." That’s why some kids show up at school with a gun. Not because of all these other things, but because we cannot mentally accept the real world as it is. Simple, straightforward, and easy to understand.

And unfortunately, too straightforward for the politicians to deal with. They need a target they can point to and blame. An excuse for them to use their own exclusive form of force on society.

And it is not like the politicians don’t get it. In all likelihood, they probably do. But as Michael Douglas said best in "An American President," the problem is they can’t sell it!

What they can sell, however, is their phony promises of "eliminating violence." And selling it they are, like spammers with a T3 line and the latest e-mail listings. The doublespeak is rampant, and the political manure is being spread evenly on both conservative and liberal sides.

Perhaps the most dangerous to American freedoms is what went on in the closed doors session of the president’s "youth and violence summit" last week, and the doublespeak that came before and after the meeting. Let’s look at some of them..

Bill Clinton: "We’re not here to place blame, but rather to shoulder responsibility."
Translation: We’re looking for groups to accept blame. If you don’t accept blame, THEN we’ll place it on you.

Clinton: "The old way of doing business has to stop."
Translation: The next person to mention the Constitution or the Bill of Rights gets a one-way trip to Serbia on Air Missile.

Bruce Reed, Clinton’s domestic policy advisor: "We want to find solutions."
Translation: We already have the solutions, we’re just here to bully everyone else into selling them for us.

Reed: "We will work with the (gun) groups to find common ground."
Translation: If they don’t endorse our platform, we’ll brand them as kooks just like the National Rifle Association. We’ll just give them time to decide whether or not they want to be associated with the right-wing conspiracy.

The scary part is that we won’t know what went on in that closed-door meeting, but we will feel the implications for months to come as the Clinton Administration browbeat and coerce Congress into doing their bidding to suppress freedom in the names of those killed in Littleton.

And unfortunately, little will be done to control violence itself. Instead, the politicians will go after the peripherals. It is no stretch of the imagination to figure out where the self-serving Gods of Mount Morality will focus their wrath towards.

Target number one, the gun makers. Already feeling the weight of lawsuits by headline-hogging trial lawyers and money-grubbing city leaders, gun makers and dealers will no doubt feel more pressure to conform to new laws and regulations piled on top of the tons of other "feel good" laws and regulations. Every public tragedy seemingly means more and more laws and regulations that do nothing except make the public "feel good" and water down the Second Amendment until the only thing left in the hands of real victims is a surrender flag.

And on top of that, expect a new level of erroneous "product liability" lawsuits from either the state and/or the federal governments. After all, if there is money to give out, why let the cities have it all? The Clinton Administration loves to "share the wealth" as long as it is the wealth of others.

Target number two, the movie and television industry. President Clinton wants to shame Hollywood from marketing movies with violence towards kids. Well Bubba, here’s the challenge: There’s this movie coming out this week being marketed towards kids.. you may have heard about it.. it’s called "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace." It has violence in it. Why don’t you stand on your little White House bully pulpit and decry George Lucas and 20th Century Fox? Come on, I dare you!

Odds are, Big Bubba Spin and his followers will keep quiet about Star Wars. Its too popular for them to attack. They’ll wait for some lesser production for them to invoke their wrath against Hollywood. Just like any common bully, Clinton can’t fight anyone larger than him.

As for television, Clinton already has his precious "voluntary" ratings system ("voluntary" as in under the barrel of a gun) that all the networks have to comply with, even though not all of them are as detailed as Clinton would want them to be. (NBC is still defying the will of Bill and Hillary.) They don’t even have their much bragged about "V-chip" yet!

Target number three, the video games. Despite the fact that there already is a ratings system in place that explains what the video games have in terms of language, violence, blood, and nudity, no doubt that either the Clinton Administration and/or members of Congress will once again try to brand games like Doom and Quake as instigators of violence. But, as one company executive has said in the recent E3 convention, "The evidence does not exist that support a link between playing violent video games and community mass murder. Video games do not teach people to hate. Video games don’t teach people to become Nazis. And if you get good at using (a joystick) it doesn’t make you a marksman."

Unfortunately, they too may be sued under a new wave of malicious "product liability" lawsuits pushed even by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Target number four, the Internet. Free speech is too dangerous a thing for the Gods of Mount Morality to let stand, especially in a medium that they gave up control over years ago. With the coaxing of the press, whom despise the Internet, no doubt Congress and the White House will unleash new attempts to regulate content in blatant violations of the First Amendment.

Target number five, the music makers. Kiss "gangsta rap" and heavy metal good-bye. The real thugs, the bad-boy gangstas in DC, will soon be crashing that party. Anything talking about violence or dark images, no matter if it is rap or heavy metal, will suffer the wrath of the moralists. Marilyn Manson has already cancelled the rest of his tour. Other groups may also feel the heat as politicians try to corral music they deem to be "inappropriate."

This isn’t even "feel good" politics anymore. What is going on in the political arenas amounts to "feel guilty" legislation. The politicians are using this tragedy to bully their way through every right and freedom we as Americans have, trying to make us feel guilty about the tragedy and forcing us to pay the price.

The hypocrisy is that President Clinton has the balls to chastise the world for being violent when at the same time, he is off waging wars of his own all over the world! Apparently Clinton feels that "violence is bad" unless it involves Kosovo, Iraq, or Afghanistan.

And if we have to go down that socialist path of saying that other people are responsible for your actions, why is the press somehow immune to this collective guilt orgy? After all, they are glamorizing tragedies like Littleton with endless coverage. Why aren’t they taking the blame for inspiring other tragedies? Could it be that they love to dish out the blame but can’t take it?

Ok, so "violence is bad." That’s a no-brainer. But in trying to find a solution to controlling violence in our children, we need to stop trying to attack the peripherals and focus on the real cause - our inability to deal with reality.

And therein lies the real problem. Our reliance on appearances, no matter if it is the White House or the white picket fences of small town America, has done far more to contribute to violence than an whole arsenal of weapons. Placing appearance over reality creates the mental conflicts that violence spawns from. It is that illusion of appearance that keeps us from realizing that there is a problem until it is far too late to avert something tragic from happening.

Unless we deal with reality, and place it over the illusion of appearance, this issue of violence will continue from one tragedy to the next.

And that is what we are trying to stop, right?

Monday, May 10, 1999

Week of 05/10/1999

The Art Of Faustian Politics
- by David Matthews 2

Riddle me this, fellow freedom-lovers: When is a right not a right?

Answer: When it is "left" over.

Cheap riddle, you say? Well, maybe. But read on to find the real answer.

They say that diplomacy is the art of saying "nice doggie" until you can find a rock. Well, if that is the case, then the definition of politics is the art of saying "trust me" until after you’ve screwed them.

One has to give credit for the autocratic politician. After all, its not like the good old days when they can stampede over countries on horseback. Guys like Ghengis Khan had it relatively easy; all he had to do was ride in with the Mongolian horde, rape and pillage a town, then ride away. They wanted something, they took it. No muss, no fuss, and if somebody complained, they were killed on the spot.

But today’s tyrant can’t just waltz in and take what they want. Nowadays, they have to be smooth. They have to be deceptive and conniving. They have to appear likable, and pretend they are doing what they do for the greater good. They have to convince the people that they NEED to be raped and pillaged. Its a lot of work for these political descendants of Khan, because not only do they have to constantly persuade the townsfolk to submit, they’re also expected to feed and clothe the poor, house the homeless, pave the roads, and make sure the kids get enough of an education so they know whom to vote for.. if they even bother to vote.

Worse yet, these modern-day thugs can’t kill the people who complain! At least not legitimately. They have to work with courts and lawyers and a legal system that is just as complicated for them as it is for the people who fight them.

Thus was born the art of Faustian politics.

Faust, according to the old German myth, was a scholar, magician, and fortune teller who made a deal with the devil. Faust would have 24 years of pure pleasure and power, then the Devil would own his soul. There have been many variations of the story, including the modern Broadway musical "Phantom Of The Opera," but the initial premise is still the same - one who sells everything they are in order to gain short-term pleasures.

The modern-day autocrat relies on using Faustian politics to convince people to give up their cherished rights by promising short-term pleasures for society. The world will be a better place, they say, just by giving up your freedoms. At least for now.

American’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizures was negated by asset forfeiture laws on the promise that the world would be a better place without drugs. So let’s seize the money and property of people on the mere suspicion of them being ill-gotten gains. Let’s seize cars under the mere suspicion of drunk driving. It’ll only be for a little while, they say. Just long enough to purge the world of drugs.

And to sweeten the deal, the political tyrant will often argue that the cost will be minimal, or even non-existent. Free speech is the worst casualty of this argument. After all, it’s easy to defend speech that is mainstream. Any tyrant can claim to defend free speech as long as it is speech that is average, non-controversial, and non-offensive. The old Soviet Union boasted free speech as long as it supported the Communist Party’s platform. The key for the tyrant is to redefine what is considered speech to only that which is "acceptable." Controversial speech is then considered "inappropriate" or "indecent" or "pornographic" or simply "hate" speech, and thus subject to censorship.

Of course, timing is everything in selling the public to the Faustian deal. You just can’t present tyrannical proposals out of the blue and expect the public to buy them. Just like ruthless lawyers chase ambulances for possible clients, so too must the political tyrant chase tragedies with a ready-made "last minute" reaction, carefully worded so blame can be placed on whatever cause they deem to be the target. Tragedies have a powerful impact on society, with people eager to find something to blame them on and demand easy solutions. Political tyrants use these tragedies to not only rush in their programs, but to also disguise their true motivations should those programs fail. After all, who would fault the tyrant for being "moved" by the tragedy?

The alternative to chasing tragedies is to create a crisis for their solution. In this, the political tyrant has an ally with members of the media who are eager to showcase some attention-gathering issue. But this is a risky proposition for the political tyrant. Should the manufactured crisis work, the public will swallow the Faustian deal just as easily as they would under any real tragedy. But should it fail, the political tyrant is then revealed for the thug he or she really is.

Faustian politics work because its greatest strength is image. No politician wants to look like they are soft on crime, or indifferent to tragedies, or appear to embrace that which has been deemed "unsuitable" by the media. So politicians, even those few with good intentions and a love of freedom, will subscribe to the Faustian deal in order to look good in the public eye.

And that is the true poison of Faustian politics, because it reduces freedom to being nothing more than an illusion; a term that holds no true value. Something that can be negotiated away on a whim to appease the polls.

So when is a right not a right?

When Faustian politics is involved.

Monday, May 3, 1999

Week of 05/03/1999

Outrageous Outrage
Moralists Can Only Hear Themselves Shout
- by David Matthews 2

"Where’s the outrage?"

Sound familiar? That’s the chant of the conservative moralist of late.

"Where’s the outrage?"

Every crisis. Every debate. Every opportunity a microphone is shoved in front of some conservative host, every time some conservative writes a letter to the editor, every time a conservative politician opens his mouth to speak, that question inevitably comes out.

"Where’s the outrage?"

Every tragedy that happens, you can almost expect some moralist to grab the microphone, or fire off a letter to the editor condemning society for their lack of "outrage" over the incident. Every shocking "scandalous" event that the media uses as their crusade of the day is followed by some moralist screaming at the top of his or her lungs over society’s lack of "outrage."

"Where’s the outrage?" they scream. "Where’s the outrage?"

The tragedy in the suburban outskirts of Denver, Colorado, was barely two days old when some moralist fired off a letter to the editorial staff of USA Today screaming about the lack of "outrage" over the incident.

"Where’s the outrage?"

Well I don’t know about anyone else, but I heard PLENTY of outrage over the massacre in Littleton, both real and the plastic version used by our elected officials.

The survivors, friends and relatives of the victims showed plenty of real outrage over the incident. They were in shock and in pain, and rightly so. Then came the politicians and their plastic outrage. Vice President Al Gore and his cheap imitation of a Christian Coalition revival minister booming out how "we all must change" because of this tragedy, and how he will propose such changes. Every moralist politician is using this tragedy to vent their plastic outrage and weasel in their pet programs, no matter if it’s in Colorado, Washington DC, or even in the small towns.

And yet, no doubt, you will continue to hear moralists talk about the lack of "outrage" over this incident.

Why can’t these people hear the outrage?

Let’s get brutally honest here - the moralists cannot hear the outrage because they are too busy shouting at the top of their lungs about the supposed lack of outrage. They’ve shouted so loud and so long about their own outrage that they have effectively tuned out everyone else. It’s like trying to out-shout a tower of amplifiers cranked beyond the ear-bleed level.

Or worse yet, when they DO hear the outrage, they are almost always disappointed in it. It’s not enough, they say, or they say it’s not the outrage they expected. As if they can get the public outrage their way. Welcome to Outrage King, how would you like your rage today?

I’m beginning to believe that nothing will satisfy the moralists in terms of public outrage short of having a semi-controllable mob in the streets with blood in their eyes and revenge on the mind. The kind of scene that would only satisfy the truly tyrannical. We’re talking a Rodney King-sized kind of outrage.

What’s even more amazing is that these moralists can blab on and on about this like demented parrots and still maintain some level of credibility with the general public. You would think at some point that someone would tell these people to just shut the hell up already.

Well, I have a message for all those social screaming banshees who are bemoaning about the supposed lack of outrage in society: the outrage at these tragedies IS there, so stop whining about it! Maybe if you were to sit back for a while and wait for the tragedy to play itself out before castigating society for its perceived apathy you might notice it. But look hard, because you won’t find it in the form of rabid mobs.

Yes, people are outraged by the tragedies like the kind in Littleton, Colorado, and they are asking themselves how such a thing could happen in an otherwise quiet suburban area. But for the most part they are also doing something that moralists don’t - they are going on with their lives and adapting. They aren’t standing on a soapbox and trying to micromanage society.

And maybe.. just maybe.. that IS the real solution to this mess. Instead of trying to micromanage society, we would better spend our times getting to know our children and trying to be better parents to them. It is a far more realistic solution than the phony ones being offered by the politicians and the moralists.