If sites such as Breitbart and Alex Jones’s Infowars are as crazy as the Left — Democrats — say they are, why give them any credence in a public address?
Yet, that is precisely what Hillary Clinton did on Thursday, August 25 in her speech in Nevada. I happened to be watching Alex Jones’s show live at the time and, honestly, she made not just his day but his season. He yelled:
BEST SUMMER EVER!!
Michael Krieger from Liberty Blitzkrieg thinks her comments will backfire spectacularly:
Precisely because she is so polarizing, Clinton can only make an opposing movement far stronger by engaging in direct attacks on them. Since she is incapable of being a unifying figure for this country, so the moment she calls out a group as her enemy, many people on the sidelines will suddenly say, well maybe they’re not so bad.
I agree. More and more Americans own a ‘Hillary for Prison’ tee shirt, which they probably bought from Infowars. I wear one, too, although mine is a copy from a place here in the UK. Jones has said he doesn’t mind people copying the design, because he wants as many people as possible to carry the message.
The shirt is now in its third limited edition, incidentally. They just cannot keep enough in stock. The design is slightly modified with each run.
But I digress.
Back to Clinton’s speech. Krieger went on to say:
The other problem with the speech were its laughable and obvious contradictions. For example, she starts off by saying the Trump campaign peddles in conspiracy theories found in the “far dark reaches of the internet.” She goes on to name a few of these “dark reach” sites, spending a lot of time on Infowars and Breitbart. This is where things start to come unglued. If these sites are comparable to supermarket tabloids (as she claimed), why craft an entire speech around targeting them? Why would you spend so much energy on crazy fringe sites?
Just so. It is because she feels threatened by their exposés about her and that millions more people are paying attention to them rather than to Big Media.
The reason is because they aren’t fringe …
As he points out, if you do a search on her health problems, Infowars articles appear at the top of the list. One Clinton water-carrier tried to get that changed:
New York Times columnist Farah Manjoo recently whined on Twitter about how Infowars was appearing at the top of Google search for Hillary health queries. He publicly called for Google to “fix” the problem. That was Tuesday. Two days later the frontrunner for the Presidency of these United States also attacks Infowars.
Clinton also had a go at Breitbart and went so far as to read out several of their headlines. But, wait, if Breitbart is so discredited, as the Left say it is, why give them power over you by reading out their text? (Emphases in the original below.)
It’s because alternative media is now driving the news cycle and this is extraordinarily dangerous to status quo influence and power. This is simply a fact, whether you like Breitbart or Infowars or not.
The Drudge Report is another media opponent of Clinton. Yet, it was one of the first independent media sites on the Internet to gain popularity. My American friends started reading it as soon as it launched in 1996.
Hillary has said she will ban all of these sites if elected. Does that sound democratic and pluralistic to you? It doesn’t to me.
She is afraid of what they have been publishing about her past and present. It is extensive and highly detailed, going back three decades. Former Clinton insider from Arkansas days, Larry Nichols, is on the Alex Jones Show when he is well enough to give an interview. He is worth reading and listening to. What he doesn’t know about the Clintons could be written on the back of a postage stamp. (By the way, he is dying of cancer, so please join me in keeping him in your prayers.)
It will be very interesting to see how Infowars and Breitbart handle Clinton’s preoccupation with them going forward to November.
Alternative media sites are in the ascendant.
Long may they prosper.
The three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.
Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.
My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.
14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, 16 and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,
“‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise’?”
17 And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.
Last week’s entry — ‘Jesus cleanses the temple’ — discussed how He restored His Father’s house to its rightful place of honour and worship by purging it of sin, specifically deception and greed.
There is a place for a consecrated building to be designated as God’s house. Whilst we are God’s people because we love and worship His Son Jesus Christ, let no one convince us that there is no place for a church building. Over the past decade, if not longer, increasing numbers of clergy have been saying that a structure is unimportant. In the short term, where there is a new church plant, it’s understandable. Looking towards the long term, however, a congregation should be saving money and raising funds for a church building.
If a building dedicated to worship were that negligible, Jesus never would have bothered to cleanse the temple. He could have simply said that the temple was man-made and flawed by definition, therefore, it had nothing to do with Him or God. As it was, He reminded the swindlers that God called the temple ‘My house’.
Today’s verses complete the story. What is particularly striking is that no sooner did Jesus purge the temple of sin than He went on to glorify God through healing the blind and the lame, restoring them to full health immediately (verse 14).
He would be hanging agonisingly on a cross within a few days, yet He reached out to the infirm for one last time. His compassion and love know no bounds.
Matthew Henry has a beautiful analysis, wherein he says that Jesus also granted them spiritual health. How much more proof of His divinity could He give? Emphases mine below:
When he had driven the buyers and sellers out of the temple, he invited the blind and lame into it for he fills the hungry with good things, but the rich he sends empty away. Christ, in the temple, by his word there preached, and in answer to the prayers there made, heals those that are spiritually blind and lame. It is good coming to the temple, when Christ is there, who, as he shows himself jealous for the honour of his temple, in expelling those who profane it, so he shows himself gracious to those who humbly seek him. The blind and the lame were debarred David’s palace (2 Samuel 5:8), but were admitted into God’s house for the state and honour of his temple lie not in those things wherein the magnificence of princes’ palaces is supposed to consist from them blind and lame must keep their distance, but from God’s temple only the wicked and profane. The temple was profane and abused when it was made a market-place, but it was graced and honoured when it was made an hospital to be doing good in God’s, is more honourable, and better becomes it, than to be getting money there. Christ’s healing was a real answer to that question, Who is this? His works testified of him more than the hosannas and his healing in the temple was the fulfilling of the promise, that the glory of the latter house should be greater than the glory of the former.
While the children nearby rejoiced in the most glorifying of ways, the chief priests and scribes became angry (verse 15). Of these men, Henry observes:
Proud men cannot bear that honour should be done to any but to themselves, and are uneasy at nothing more than at the just praises of deserving men … When Christ is most honoured, his enemies are most displeased.
He explains their indignation:
They were inwardly vexed at the wonderful things that he did[;] they could not deny them to be true miracles, and therefore were cut to the heart with indignation at them, as Acts 4:16,5:33. The works that Christ did, recommended themselves to every man’s conscience. If they had any sense, they could not but own the miracle of them and if any good nature, could not but be in love with the mercy of them: yet, because they were resolved to oppose him, for these they envied him, and bore him a grudge.
We might well wonder if the children fully understood why they sang hosannas and referred to Jesus as the Son of David.
John MacArthur reminds us that this event came shortly after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, so the children might have been repeating what they had heard then or afterwards:
… we don’t know really how perceptive they were. I’m sure they were perceptive enough to see that He had healed people and that’s pretty overwhelming. You say, “Well, where did they get the idea that He was the Son of David?” Hey, what had been going on all day the day before? And kids learn from their parents, they were just echoing what they heard the day before only it was no problem for them, boy, it seemed really clear now. Mom and dad yesterday had been shouting hosanna to the Son of David, the one coming in the name of the Lord, hosanna in the highest. They had been praising Him as the King. And as far as these kids could see, it was pretty clear that that’s who He was.
Henry is of the same perspective and adds this practical application by way of warning:
Little children say and do as they hear others say, and see others do so easily do they imitate and therefore great care must be taken to set them good examples, and no bad ones. Maxima debetur puero reverentia–Our intercourse with the young should be conducted with the most scrupulous care. Children will learn of those that are with them, either to curse and swear, or to pray and praise.
Henry goes a step further than MacArthur in saying that the children were divinely inspired:
The Jews did betimes teach their children to carry branches at the feast of tabernacles, and to cry Hosanna but God taught them here to apply it to Christ.
That’s a beautiful thought.
Furious, the chief priests and scribes asked Jesus if He had heard what they were saying? In response, Jesus simply cited Psalm 8:2, the source of the centuries-old saying, ‘Out of the mouths of babes’, indicating profound truth emanating from a blameless innocent who does not understand what he is saying:
Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
What a perfect response to the imperfect souls of the hierarchy!
MacArthur says that the idea here was that God would elicit praise for His Son, and if adults wouldn’t justly do it, children would:
God is going to get His praise to His Son, even if the stones have to cry out, as Luke 19:40 said. Like the stones, Christ is to be praised. Like the children, Christ is to be praised. Like people, they are to praise Him as well. He will get the praise either from mature people or infants or rocks if need be. He just alludes to that Psalm as an illustration of what is happening. And I say that so that you’ll understand it isn’t to say that these were zero to three-year-old babies all chanting together, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” But rather an allusion to that principle there.
With that citation, Jesus left the heartless hierarchy standing there. It is also possible that He did not wish to be in their presence lest they seize Him before time. He made His way towards Bethany (verse 18), which, as Henry says, was but a short distance away:
He left them, in prudence, lest they should now have seized him before his hour was come in justice, because they had forfeited the favour of his presence. By repining at Christ’s praises we drive him from us. He left them as incorrigible, and he went out of the city to Bethany, which was a more quiet retired place not so much that he might sleep undisturbed as that he might pray undisturbed. Bethany was but two little miles from Jerusalem thither he went on foot, to show that, when he rode, it was only to fulfil the scripture. He was not lifted up with the hosannas of the people but, as having forgot them, soon returned to his mean and toilsome way of travelling.
Jesus’s good friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus — whom He had recently resurrected — lived in Bethany. Scripture does not tell us, but their house might have been a haven of peace and prayer for Him. They would have rejoiced at having Him as a houseguest.
Next time: Matthew 21:18-22
Ahh, the dog days of August. They bring to mind sunshine and the beach. The days for both are swiftly drawing to a close.
Let us, therefore, consider both for a final time this year.
As Britain baked for two glorious days, France debated a hot question.
For the past fornight, RMC’s (radio) talk shows have been crackling with daily discussions about the dreaded burkini, which, by the way, is sadly becoming part of the fundamentalist Christian wardrobe. All in the name of modesty.
Modesty, my foot. This is physically dangerous (inhibiting swimming) and socially provocative. Christian women have no business wearing such an outfit.
Around the time the Catholic priest near Rouen was stabbed to death in cold blood as he prayed the Mass — and, just as importantly, the Nice attack two days before — this notional swimming garment hit the headlines. In a preventive measure the mayor of Cannes — David Lisnard, LR (Les Républicains, conservative) — forbade burkinis on the city’s beaches. The city of Nice, the nearby town of Villeneuve-Loubet and a dozen others followed suit as did the town of Sisco in Corsica. Sisco was recently the scene of a violent altercation by a group of Muslims against several locals — on the beach. No burkini appears to have been involved. A court case will be heard on September 15.
These local burkini bans are being debated at national level in a French court, in response to a complaint by a human rights group. A decision might be arrived at as I write on August 25.
The Guardian reports on the wording of relevant local law:
The various mayoral decrees do not explicitly use the word burkini; instead they ban “beachwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation,” citing reasons such as the need to protect public order, hygiene or French laws on secularism.
French opinion is sharply divided on the burkini. Opponents say the garment goes against French values. Others surmise that it is a religious or political provocation. Coming so closely after the murder of the priest and the Bastille Day attack in Nice, the burkini does seem to be over the top. Both groups support the mayoral bans. So does the prime minister, Manuel Valls.
On the other hand, feminists, oddly enough, say it is liberating, even if they do not wear one. Muslims say it has nothing to do with religion. Secularists say that allowing the burkini promotes republican values; after all, don’t people wear swimsuits everywhere?
No, they do not. Not even on the relaxed Côte d’Azur.
I know Cannes well and have stayed in Nice long enough during the summer to know who goes to the beach. Contrary to what French Muslims say, nuns, monks and priests do not go. Whilst that is stating the obvious, I have heard that argument posited on RMC nearly every day.
I have seen Westerners on the beach and Muslim African men peddling trinkets. That’s it.
When I walk the streets of Cannes — and, similarly, those of Nice — everyone wears normal clothes. I have never seen anyone in a bathing suit. I mention this because pro-burkini people say that bathing suits are allowed everywhere. Whilst there are no signs forbidding them, I have never seen anyone going to or returning from the beach without a cover of tee shirt and skirt or shorts.
It’s like it is in the United States, although many establishments in American beach resorts have signs on the doors saying that patrons must be dressed appropriately. Swimsuits are strictly forbidden.
The police in Nice have issued fines to 24 women seen inappropriately dressed on their beaches.
The most controversial police intervention involved a former flight attendant on Tuesday, August 23. Did it happen in Cannes or in Nice? Were there two incidents? It’s hard to tell and, frankly, it’s not worth the time to investigate further. You can see photos at the links.
It looks to some people as if this woman — or these two women — might have been seeking attention for the following reasons.
One, she came with no towel or beach bag and, according to reports, had one or two children with her. They were not nearby when photos were taken of the police approaching her. Furthermore, as can be seen by the photo, Nice’s public beaches are stony, not sandy as they are in Cannes. Regardless of terrain, no one goes to the beach without a towel. Nobody, nobody, nobody would ever lie on a public beach without a towel. The woman just looks weird lying there curled up on uncomfortable stones. One of RMC’s panellists, a grandmother, also pointed out that parents always bring toys and soft drinks for their children. I can vouch for that. There were none in the photo.
Two, even if the woman denied she was wearing a burkini, her outfit looked suspiciously just like a … burkini.
Beachgoers seemed divided. Global Scoop has more.
I read in passing on a French site that Frenchwomen opposed to the burkini did not want fundamentalist Muslim ladies to turn public beaches into places where modesty patrols take place. One lady wrote:
What happens when children see a lot of women in burkinis? Do they look at those of us in swimsuits and say, ‘Look at the Frenchwomen prostituting themselves’?
I predict that, next summer, Muslims will be requesting their own public beaches, in the same manner no-smoking stretches of beach were allocated in France a few years ago.
Regardless, informal modesty and vice patrols could become a reality.
On August 24, The Guardian reported on the trial of a British convert to Islam found guilty of assaulting a teenager hugging his own girlfriend:
Michael Coe, 35, was driving through east London when he spotted the two 16-year-olds hugging on the pavement. He pulled over to confront the pair, demanding to know if they were Muslims and calling the girl a “whore”.
He then grabbed the boy by the throat and threw him to the ground, kicking his head and leaving him unconscious and bleeding from two injuries. When passing schoolteacher Boutho Siwela tried to come to the teenager’s aid, he was also attacked.
Coe admitted “shoving” the boy, but claimed he was acting in self-defence. He was convicted after a trial at Southwark crown court of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and battery in Wilson Road, Newham, on 15 April.
The jury returned unanimous guilty verdicts after 90 minutes of deliberation.
Coe was convicted of a similar offence in May 2013, after getting out of his car to confront a group of young people about their “inappropriate language” on an estate in east London. During that incident, he allegedly called a girl a “slut” and the others “kafir scum”.
And that’s appropriate language?
In any event:
Judge Michael Gledhill described Coe as a danger to the public and warned him that he faced a “substantial” term of imprisonment. Sentencing was adjourned until 21 September for further reports.
And who knows the motive behind the murder by a French national of a young British woman in Queensland? The perpetrator, making the usual cry (‘AA!’), also killed a dog at the hostel and injured a man who tried to intervene in the attacks.
A happier subject: the man tan
It’s summer. It’s supposed to be a happy time. So, let’s end on a lighter note.
A few summers ago, the French newsweekly Marianne had a humorous yet true analysis of the link between the man tan and social status.
If people from the ancient world, whether Mesopotamia, Greece or Rome, were to come back to life now, they would be shocked to see that the Western male with the highest social status today has the suntan a slave would have had a few millennia ago. Only a senior executive or wealthy business owner has deep and (nearly) all-encompassing colour.
The plagiste — private beach attendant (plage means ‘beach’) — has the same skin tone from his summer on the sand, however, a tee shirt and shorts limit his man tan coverage. A plagiste directs you to a chaise longue and gives you a beach towel. He also takes your order for — and may serve — drinks and snacks.
Last year, I spoke with a senior executive who worked as a plagiste in France one summer when he was a university student 20 or so years ago. Like many French, he has dark hair and colouring. He said that, by the end of the summer, his hair was blond. Although we did not discuss man tans, he did volunteer what happened to the soles of his feet. In his day, he and his colleagues were barefoot during their working hours:
The hot sand hurt like anything. It took weeks to build up calluses which served like a shoe sole. After that, we felt no pain. I didn’t think anything more of it, until term started again. I was off the beach, back in socks and shoes. By October, the calluses were coming off — in big strips of skin. It was weird at first. Oh, and, by the way, my hair grew out too — back to its normal colour, as you can see.
Beneath the plagiste in the pecking order is the construction worker, who has the same man tan but lacks the advantage of working on the beach.
At the bottom of the pile is the man who had no opportunity to seek sunshine and relaxation. Marianne said, tongue in cheek, that he deserves our empathy. Indeed.
I hope that all my readers had the chance for a relaxing summer holiday, even if it was one at home. I also hope that the sun shone brightly on you and your chaise longue.
On August 18, Time published an indirect appeal for Internet censorship by wringing its hands over online trolls.
Before going into what they got wrong, here’s what they did correctly. They rightly pointed out that many people — real life examples are in the article — can truly be hurt by reading negative or threatening comments about themselves.
Furthermore, there is a practice called doxxing — revealing personal data about an individual online — which is very serious. Such comments and data need censoring. They are being censored. I have never read any comments — and I’ve read tens of thousands since 2005 — which go that far.
Here’s what the article got wrong. Time clearly infers that conservatives are to blame for hateful comments. In some cases, that might be true. However, by and large, the most aggressive, foul and hurtful comments come from leftists.
Yesterday’s post, which discussed the Bernie-turned-Trump supporting Reddit moderator — now sacked — revealed two leftist moderators’ foul language, which was too offensive to reprint here.
People can look at any left-of-centre comment thread and find the most offensive and crudest accusations of conservatives. The same is true in the UK.
So, Time is largely wrong in hanging online incivility around the necks of conservatives.
The site is also wrong in saying trolling began with 2014’s Gamergate.
It took off in earnest in 2008 when the Obama campaign not only hired online trolls to verbally shoot down McCain/Palin supporters in comments sections but encouraged activists to insult Sarah Palin in the most vulgar way in public.
Paid trolls attract unpaid trolls, which made the 2008 discourse all the more disgusting.
In October 2008, at least four Democrat activists sported tee shirts that called the vice presidential candidate one of the worst words in the English language. That link has a photo and the story, both of which someone at a rally in Philadelphia emailed to Wake up Americans. I’m glad that page is still up so that I can share it with you eight years later.
The rest of this post has off-colour and crude language from Democrats. Be warned.
I shall heavily censor what the email said (emphases mine):
I was at a Sarah Palin event in Philadelphia, at the Park Hyatt Hotel – late Saturday afternoon (Oct. 11th). If you are easily grossed out by the “C” word, I am sorry. But as Andrea says below, if McCain supporters wore a shirt that said
[any number of highly insulting things about Obama, spelled out to give equivalency]
they would either be thrown off the premises, have their heads kicked in, or even be detained at the local police station (I know this for a fact: I just had on a McCain button at a recent Obama event and I didn’t think I was going to get out alive).
Sorry the picture is not clearer. But these four young people were right in front of the hotel. They have on the nicest shirts. There were worse. There was group as well carrying around a fake dead fetus – exclaiming that “abortion should have been the path for Bristol(?) Palin”. And quite a few smoke bombs, etc. etc.
I also had some nice words thrown at me.
There were about 500 organized protesters. And about 500 not so organized at this event. The police and hotel security and secret service were letting me all the way up to the hotel steps. In a few cases … a few protesters got into the lobby.
In my family, the “C” word is about as bad as you can get.
Was this reported on the Philadelphia News. No!. Was anyone outraged? No! All that was on the Philadelphia local news last night was: Obama was at several rallies in Philadelphia earlier in the day (but went home Saturday night to be with his children). Obama and Palin were in Philly on the same day. And was there any mention of Palin – No! In the Sports section of the local evening news at 11:00PM, they did mention that Palin was at the Philadelphia Flyers game “dropping the first (hockey) puck”. The guy said it with a smirk. Then he added that Sarah Palin WAS NOT going home to spend the evening with her children.
Oh, that’s rich, coming from an equal rights Democrat news presenter.
Around that same time, Michelle Malkin posted a round-up of the foul and violent threats made against Palin and anti-Bush events and websites. I’ll look at the anti-Bush items in a moment.
But, never mind that. Malkin cited two Democrats’ false accusations against Republicans:
Paul Krugman is trembling: “Something very ugly is taking shape on the political scene: as McCain’s chances fade, the crowds at his rallies are, by all accounts, increasingly gripped by insane rage…What happens when Obama is elected? It will be even worse than it was in the Clinton years. For sure there will be crazy accusations, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some violence.”
Frank Rich decries “Weimar-like rage” and the “violent escalation of rhetoric.”
Then Malkin went into what leftists — today’s Democrats — had to say about Palin:
Let’s talk about “insane rage” and “violent escalation.”
This is insane rage — Madonna bashing Sarah Palin and shrieking “I will kick her ass:”
This is insane rage — Sandra Bernhard bashing Sarah Palin and cursing her head off with hate warping her crazed face:
Malkin points out from other resources that Democrat violence against Republicans — online and offline — actually started in 2004, when Bush was still in office.
The Obamedia diaper-wetters are gripped with fear over a few over-the-line catcalls at McCain-Palin rallies.
She follows that with a very long list of arrests of anti-Bush people in violent incidents, including (emphases in bold in the original, those in purple mine):
Gainsville, Fla., Democrat David P. McCally was charged with battery after he allegedly barged into a local GOP office, assaulted a cardboard cutout of President Bush, and punched a local Republican chairman in September 2004. (Credit: Alachua County Jail.)
In March 2004, Carol Lang, a campus secretary at City College in New York, reportedly assaulted a police officer trying to arrest unruly anti-war protesters. Police arrested Lang and charged her with second-degree assault, disorderly conduct, and obstructing governmental administration. (Credit: New York Police Department.)
Nathan Winkler of Tampa, Fla., was arrested and charged with aggravated stalking in March 2005 for allegedly terrorizing a mother who had a Bush-Cheney bumper sticker on her car. Click on the video here to listen to an excerpt of the mother’s frantic call to 911. Winkler reportedly had a handmade sign in his window that read, “Never forget Bush’s illegal oil war murdered thousands in Iraq.” (Credit: Tampa Police Department.)
In closing, Time‘s Joel Stein is mistaken. It would appear his appeal is for censorship of conservative views. However, he forgot or ignored the violence from Democrat candidates’ supporters.
It was true in 2004, became more widespread in 2008, continued in 2012 and is alive and well in 2016.
Censorship? Democrats should remove the plank from their own collective eye first.
Around ten days ago — and without warning — Breitbart reported that a Reddit moderator lost his post for declaring his support for Donald Trump.
It is interesting that Jeffrey Minter, known on Reddit under the username /u/Kwiztas, had previously supported Hillary Clinton’s rival in the primaries:
I feel I was blindsided. This came out of nowhere. No one cared what I said when I supported Bernie. No one had issues with my activity then.
Officially, the Reddit moderating team said he had not been moderating his assigned subreddit actively enough. They also criticised this posting of his:
They don’t seem to mind that I support Trump… Now I might be in the minority so my say isn’t always listened to when rules are made.
And this one:
MAGA is the acronym for Trump’s slogan Make America Great Again.
Another reason Reddit moderators gave was Minter’s earlier interview to Breitbart, which was beyond the pale:
It’s long been suspected that /r/Politics looks upon Breitbart in an unfavourable way but this is the first time a connection with Breitbart has been used as a direct reason for demodding a user.
Minter’s girlfriend gave Breitbart a list of moderators involved in his ban. Some are clearly anti-GOP. One moderator, StrictScrunity told:
conservative users in /r/News to “shut the [censored] up” and that they “needed therapy”.
Another moderator, Qu1nlan, describes himself as a:
socialist, SJW [censored]
Breitbart points out the double standard between Minter’s accusers and Qu1nlan’s own postings, among them:
He posted to the anti-Trump subforum /r/EnoughTrumpSpam specifically speaking “as an /r/Politics mod” – a phrase that Minter was reprimanded for – while discussing “shills” i.e, people paid to post in favour of a particular presidential candidate.
Breitbart rightly calls this censorship:
The only difference between Minter’s actions and the other moderators is that he is a quiet supporter of Trump, while the rest support Clinton or third party candidates such as Jill Stein. There have been many claims of politically-motivated censorship in Reddit’s subforums which Breitbart has reported on previously. This is just the latest.
Qu1nlan denied allegations of censorship, saying:
All decisions we make, including adding and removing moderators, have nothing to do with any moderator’s political beliefs.
Censorship is alive and well, friends. It operates from the left-of-centre. If Hillary Clinton is elected, you can be sure it will be here to stay and get worse.
The two entities have one thing in common: Steve Bannon, who became the CEO of Donald Trump’s campaign on Wednesday, August 17.
It would be easy to paint Bannon as a conservative news site sensationalist, the way many young adults see his current boss as an outrageous reality show star.
The truth is very different, however. Bannon had a number of personal epiphanies which took him through the Navy, Democrat affinity and Goldman Sachs to considered conservativism, running his own media company and succeeding Andrew Breitbart.
Joshua Green’s article, ‘This Man Is The Most Dangerous Political Operative In America’ — referring to Bannon — is a must-read. Citations and summaries below come from his eye-opener.
Navy a natural choice
Bannon grew up in a pro-Democrat, pro-union, pro-Kennedy working class household in Norfolk, Virginia.
The Bannons could see the local naval base from their house. Therefore, it was a natural choice for Bannon to finish college then sign up for a tour in the Navy in the 1970s.
Over the course of the next four years, he served at sea on a destroyer, as an auxiliary engineer in the Pacific then in the north Arabian Sea as a navigator during the Iran Hostage Crisis, Jimmy Carter’s diplomatic and political debacle which saw his resounding defeat to Ronald Reagan in 1980:
By the time he arrived in the Persian Gulf in 1979, the U.S. was preparing its ill-fated assault on Tehran, and Bannon’s faith in his commander in chief had dimmed: “You could tell it was going to be a [disaster].” His battle group rotated out just before Carter’s Desert One debacle.
After his tour of duty, Bannon worked at the Pentagon as special assistant to the chief of Naval operations. At night, he attended Georgetown University where he earned a master’s degree in national security studies.
By then, Ronald Reagan was in his first term of office. The atmosphere in the United States was changing.
The lure of Wall Street
Stephen Bannon is a few years older than I.
I graduated from university when Reagan won his first election. There was a real step change in mood among my classmates between the moment we left for Christmas break in 1979 and our return in January 1980.
Suddenly, my classmates turned from being fun-loving and curious to serious and closed minded. Tolerance for different points of view died out. Men spoke of Reagan and the necessity for conservatism. Women listened to them intently. One told me, ‘I’m educating myself. They say Reagan will be the head of the most important movement this century.’
As someone who wanted Jimmy Carter to win re-election, I was completely bemused, to say the least. At a drinks party before graduation, one male classmate told me in all seriousness to get on the ‘right side’ of things or be ‘left behind’. It was sickening.
Money also became a popular topic of conversation. Once the milk round arrived, formerly laid-back partiers turned humourless and intense, especially those who were picked up by accounting and consulting firms. They could speak only of new cars and their future lifestyle, which always included cable television. One New Yorker told me, ‘I’ll soon be able to get 100+ channels. I can’t wait’.
I describe my own experience to set the backdrop for Bannon’s change of course, which was similar to that of my classmates:
The siren of Reagan-era Wall Street capitalism drained the military life of its luster, so he resolved to make the leap. “Somebody told me,” he says, “if you want to go to Wall Street, you have to go to Harvard Business School.” HBS accepted him, and Bannon, at 29, matriculated in 1983.
Well, Bannon and all my classmates were right. The 1980s belonged to the likes of Gordon Gekko and his imitators in a variety of industry sectors. It was the decade when a proper lunch break went out the window.
For arts majors like me, it was an eternal turn-off.
However, Bannon was assessing his future. Despite his hard work at Harvard Business School which propelled him into first-year honours, he was having problems finding a summer associateship. His more successful classmates told him his age and naval service went against him. Even worse, they told him he hadn’t gone to the right schools.
He received an invitation to a Goldman Sachs recruiting event on campus. Entering a tent teeming with several hundred fellow students did not fill him with confidence. He stood on the sidelines, had a drink and started talking with the two men standing next to him:
We have the greatest conversation about baseball, and I find out after half an hour it was John Weinberg Jr., whose dad runs the firm, and a guy named Rob Kaplan, who became a senior partner.
That night the Goldman Sachs people gathered to discuss potential hires:
“They said, ‘Well, Bannon, I guess we’re gonna reject him. He’s too old for a summer job,’ ” Bannon says. “And these guys say, ‘Oh no, we talked to him. He’s terrific.’ Literally, a complete [gamble]. But I got a job.”
The Goldman Sachs years
Bannon started working at Goldman Sachs in the second half of the 1980s.
By then, Americans were divided about Wall Street. They either loved it or hated it. Regardless of what side they took, corporate raider and ‘junk bond king’ Michael Milken was a household name. He later served time in prison for securities and reporting violations. Since his release, he has devoted his efforts full time to philanthropy.
Bannon told Bloomberg’s Joshua Green:
“Everything in the Midwest was being raided by Milken,” he says. “It was like a firestorm.”
Goldman Sachs wanted no direct involvement in hostile corporate acquisitions. Instead, the firm defended targets of hostile acquisitions.
The other thing they did was never to lead, but to follow other companies into a particular market segment. That way, they avoided the flak from other Wall Street firms and the general public.
Bannon was in his element at Goldman, even though the only day off he took was Christmas. He told Green:
The camaraderie was amazing. It was like being in the Navy, in the wardroom of a ship.
Goldman in the ’80s was like a priesthood, a monastic experience where you worked all the time but were incredibly dedicated to client services, to building and growing companies.
He later went into leveraged buyouts, one of which involved Mitt Romney and Bain Capital.
By the end of the decade, global scope began to shape world markets and:
size suddenly mattered. Everyone realized that the firm, then a private partnership, would have to go public. Bankers also could see that the Glass-Steagall Act separating commercial and investment banking was going to fall, setting off a flurry of acquisitions. Specialists would command a premium.
With a speciality in mind, Bannon represented the firm in Los Angeles. He went into the media and entertainment, a new sector which brought in companies one normally did not connect with those fields. General Electric and Westinghouse come to mind:
“A lot of people were coming from outside buying media companies,” he says. “There was huge consolidation.”
Eventually, with the change in Goldman’s ethos and the acquisitions market [added link and emphases mine]:
He underwent a conversion like the one Michael Lewis has described, watching with horror as staid private partnerships such as Goldman Sachs became highly leveraged, publicly traded companies operating like casinos. “I turned on Wall Street for the same reason everybody else did: The American taxpayer was forced to cut mook deals to bail out guys who didn’t deserve it.”
Bannon & Co. and Seinfeld
Bannon and a few of his Goldman colleagues left to set up Bannon & Co., a boutique investment bank which specialised in media and entertainment.
This involved not only media company acquisition but the new and risky valuation of assets such as film libraries:
At the time, investors preferred hard assets—manufacturing companies, real estate—and avoided things like movie studios and film libraries, which were harder to price. Bannon’s group, drawing on data such as VHS cassette sales and TV ratings, devised a model to value intellectual property in the same way as tangible assets. “We got a ton of business,” he says.
They were so successful that MGM and Polygram Records were among their clients. When Crédit Lyonnais, a major financier of independent Hollywood studios, was in danger of going bankrupt, Bannon & Co. began lending to media companies.
The firm’s sale of Castle Rock Entertainment in the mid-1990s was a turning point for Stephen Bannon.
If you are a student of title and credit sequences, Castle Rock Entertainment should jump out at you. It was the production company behind a number of successful films and television series, from Billy Crystal to Seinfeld.
At that time Westinghouse Electric owned the production company. They wanted to sell it in 1992, when Seinfeld was in its third season. The ‘show about nothing’ was still a cult classic, even though it aired during prime time on NBC.
Westinghouse asked Bannon’s company to find them a buyer for Castle Rock. Bannon approached Ted Turner:
“Turner was going to build this huge studio,” he says, “so we were negotiating the deal at the St. Regis hotel in New York.
Everything was going well until:
when it came time to actually close the deal, Ted was short of cash. … Westinghouse just wanted out. We told them, ‘You ought to take this deal. It’s a great deal.’ And they go, ‘If this is such a great deal, why don’t you defer some of your cash fee and keep an ownership stake in a package of TV rights?’
After working through the present and anticipated future numbers, Bannon accepted:
a stake in five shows, including one in its third season regarded as the runt of the litter: Seinfeld. “We calculated what it would get us if it made it to syndication,” says Bannon. “We were wrong by a factor of five.”
Financial independence followed a few years later when Société Générale bought Bannon & Co. in 1998.
Not having to work led Bannon to pursue what he really wanted to do: finance films and make them.
Although he had been living in Los Angeles for several years, Bannon was now able to live the Hollywood life in terms of how he spent his time.
In 1999, he was executive producer of Titus, an Oscar-nominated film starring Anthony Hopkins.
He also made the acquaintance of Jeff Kwatinetz, a talent agent who had just launched his own company called the Firm. Kwatinetz invited Bannon to become a partner.
The Firm’s biggest achievement was the acquisition of former Disney chief Michael Ovitz’s company, Artists Management Group. Ovitz, a household name in Hollywood, had visions of creating a media monolith with his company. Unfortunately, he was losing money hand over fist. Selling Artists Management Group to the Firm in 2002 was a sad necessity:
as Vanity Fair recounted, Bannon was dispatched to Ovitz’s Beverly Hills mansion to deliver the final humiliation in person, an offer for AMG of $5 million, less than the value of Ovitz’s home.
Ovitz went on to become a private investor, advisor to film luminaries and a philanthropist. Although he is still married to his wife Judy, in 2015, he became engaged to Tamara Mellon, the co-founder of shoe company Jimmy Choo and ex-wife of Matthew Mellon, of the banking family. Mellon describes her fiancé’s marital situation as ‘complicated’.
9/11, politics and Breitbart
Although he had always admired Ronald Reagan, the events of September 11, 2001 shifted Bannon’s interest from entertainment to politics.
Since 2004, he has made 15 socio-political documentaries on various subjects, including Reagan, border control, the Tea Party and America’s future.
His first film, In the Face of Evil, was modelled on a book called Reagan’s War. The author of the book was none other than Peter Schweizer, a Cold War expert. Bannon went on to found the non-profit Government Accountability Institute (GAI), of which Schweizer is president. As I explained yesterday, the GAI’s research feeds into Breitbart, which Bannon heads, although he has taken a leave of absence to work on Donald Trump’s campaign.
When In the Face of Evil was screened in 2004, one audience member became quite excitable:
“We screened the film at a festival in Beverly Hills,” Bannon recalls, “and out of the crowd comes this, like, bear who’s squeezing me like my head’s going to blow up and saying how we’ve gotta take back the culture.”
That ‘bear’ was none other than Andrew Breitbart.
Breitbart also lived in Los Angeles. Interested in new media, he had worked for Matt Drudge before helping Arianna Huffington launch her Huffington Post. When he and Bannon met, he was in the process of launching his own eponymous site.
When Breitbart was working on the Drudge Report, he developed a feel for the news cycle: anticipating big stories, breaking them and following them. When you read Matt Drudge, you are looking at Breitbart’s legacy.
Bannon found this fascinating. He gave Breitbart financial advice and found him office space.
It was the beginning of a faithful friendship and involvement in Breitbart:
“Our vision—Andrew’s vision—was always to build a global, center-right, populist, anti-establishment news site.” With this in mind, he set out to line up investors.
Bannon continued making his not-so-subtle documentaries:
big, crashing, opinionated films with Wagner scores and arresting imagery … In the Bannon repertoire, no metaphor is too direct. His films are peppered with footage of lions attacking helpless gazelles, seedlings bursting from the ground into glorious bloom.
Sarah Palin loves them, especially one about her, The Undefeated:
Palin, for one, ate it up and traveled to Iowa, trailed by hundreds of reporters, to appear with him at a 2011 screening in Pella that the press thought might signal her entrance into the 2012 presidential race. (No such luck.) Breitbart came along as promoter and ringmaster. When I spoke with him afterward, he described Bannon, with sincere admiration, as the Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea Party movement.
In 2010, Bannon was instrumental in financing Breitbart‘s relaunch. Unfortunately, he had problems as one of their big stories had gone very wrong:
The site published video, furnished by a conservative activist, of a speech to the NAACP by a Department of Agriculture official named Shirley Sherrod, in which she appeared to advocate anti-white racism. Within hours, she was fired, as the story blanketed cable news. It soon became clear that the Breitbart News video was misleadingly edited—that Sherrod’s point was the opposite of what was portrayed Fox News, which aggressively promoted the video, banned Andrew Breitbart as an on-air guest.
However, as Breitbart, Bannon and the other employees know, it isn’t long before redemption comes. And Breitbart’s came in the form of Huma Abedin’s husband and then-congressman, Anthony Weiner, with his salacious selfies. Breitbart wasted no time in publishing the sorry story in 2011 and, with that, he was allowed back on Fox News.
Breitbart was due to relaunch in March 2012. Breitbart was ebullient. Then, he collapsed during a walk in his Brentwood neighbourhood on March 1, dying shortly afterwards of heart failure at the age of 43. Many still find this suspicious.
Bannon became executive chairman and went ahead with the website’s relaunch.
By then, he fully understood Breitbart’s take on the news. People want to understand it as a series of ongoing stories, whether drama or farce, with names, faces, events, climaxes and pivots.
Alex Marlow, the site’s editor-in-chief, told Bloomberg’s Green:
“Our whole mindset is looking for these rolling narratives.” He rattles off the most popular ones, which Breitbart News covers intensively from a posture of aggrieved persecution. “The big ones won’t surprise you,” he says. “Immigration, ISIS, race riots, and what we call ‘the collapse of traditional values.’ But I’d say Hillary Clinton is tops.”
And, adopting the Goldman Sachs dictum of never leading, only following, Bannon brings in their big, investigative exposés from the GAI. Clinton Cash is one of them.
Breitbart News gets 21m unique hits every month. Big Media, in the US and abroad, are paying attention. This fits into Bannon’s strategy of making these stories irresistible to Fox News and The New York Times, among others.
Politicians, in turn, have to read it, too:
“They have an incredible eye for an important story, particular ones that are important to conservatives and Republicans,” says Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican. “They’ve become extraordinarily influential. Radio talk show hosts are reading Breitbart every day. You can feel it when they interview you.”
Breitbart is promoting Donald Trump. During his leave of absence, Bannon is beavering away in Trump Tower for the GOP candidate.
It will be fascinating to see what results their efforts will produce on Tuesday, November 8.
On Friday, August 19, Paul Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign manager until last week, stood down. Manafort, a Republican presidential campaign veteran from the 1970s to the 1990s, was a tremendous asset in helping Trump obtain the GOP nomination.
Long-time Trump and Manafort friend Roger Stone explained that Manafort did the right thing by bowing out quietly. Stone said that Manafort is guilty of no wrongdoing with regard to Ukraine — to accuse him of that is ‘actionable’ — and that the campaign is moving into a new phase. Stone also said that verbal attacks from Hillary’s people and the media would have made Manafort’s staying on untenable.
Kellyanne Conway, a former pollster for Mike Pence, becomes Trump’s campaign manager and will be flying around the country with him to rallies and other public appearances. Conway can definitely hold her own, as seen in this Hardball clip with Chris Matthews:
With only 80 or so days to go until the election takes place on Tuesday, November 8, this move could work either way.
Manafort’s previous ten-year assignment which took him to Ukraine is thought to have been raising eyebrows.
My analysis is that, rightly or wrongly, Trump chops and changes where necessary. Corey Lewandowski energetically propelled him into all sorts of speaking engagements and rallies during primary season. He was a powerful, unpredictable personality that probably had to go once the Sisyphean task of reaching the magic delegate minimum came up. Therefore, Paul Manafort stepped in to surpass expectations.
After Labor Day, the election campaign will be in full throttle. Trump is looking for someone who thinks as asymetrically as he does, hence, Stephen Bannon.
Tomorrow’s post will feature a profile of Bannon. He is more than ‘just Breitbart‘. He had an incredible career with several business and political epiphanies which brought him where he is today. Again, more on that later.
I am not Breitbart‘s biggest fan. Until several weeks ago, accessing the site caused my PC to stall. Going into archive articles dated as late as May 2016 produces the same problem. The layout is hideous and the readers’ comments even worse.
However, for those who read it — and millions more are — it continues to follow in the footsteps of its founder, the late Andrew Breitbart with exposés at home and abroad.
The work of the GAI has helped to propel Breitbart to the forefront of what is called alt-right media.
Bannon co-founded the GAI and serves as executive chairman.
The GAI’s president is Peter Schweizer, who wrote Breitbart’s promotional book Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich and has also written a recent e-book, Bush Bucks, as well as an exposé of the establishment called Throw Them All Out: How Politicians and Their Friends Get Rich Off Insider Stock Tips, Land Deals, and Cronyism That Would Send the Rest of Us to Prison.
In 2015, Bloomberg landed in-depth interviews with both Bannon and Schweitzer. Joshua Green’s article, ‘This Man Is The Most Dangerous Political Operative In America’ — referring to Bannon — is a must-read.
Schweizer worked for several years at the Hoover Institution. There he learned the fine art of investigative research, beginning with Soviet archives. By 2004, he took a closer look at American politics. That year, he co-authored The Bushes: Portrait of a Dynasty which was well-received. Far from being a compilation of journalistic efforts, he was able to interview many Bush family members personally.
All his digging caused him to be disillusioned with Washington. He told Bloomberg’s Green that he saw the establishment as being similar to professional wrestling. The oppositional rhetoric, just like wrestlers’ violence, is merely for public consumption. Ultimately, he said:
I eventually realized they’re actually business partners.
In 2011, he published the aforementioned Throw Them All Out, which made 60 Minutes. The segment concerned congressional insider dealing.
Disillusioned, he left Washington for Tallahassee, Florida, where he established GAI. The Institute is in a quiet area of ante-bellum style buildings. Green describes it as:
… a sleepy cul de sac of two-story brick buildings that looks like what you’d get if Scarlett O’Hara designed an office park. The unmarked entrance is framed by palmetto trees and sits beneath a large, second-story veranda with sweeping overhead fans, where the (mostly male) staff gathers every afternoon to smoke cigars and brainstorm.
Note that they smoke. This can only help their work. Smoking aids conviviality, conversation and concentration.
Schweizer is friendly and easy to talk to. One could almost say that he and Bannon have a good cop-bad cop thing going on:
Bannon nurses this regular-Joe appeal by forbidding him from wearing a tie when he’s on TV.
Clinton Cash is the book of the 2016 campaign season. It was carefully conceived to avoid the usual left-wing — Democrats included — accusation of ‘conspiracy theory’.
Bannon told Bloomberg’s Green:
We have a mantra. Facts get shares, opinions get shrugs.
As the Clinton back catalogue, which stretches back to the 1980s, is too extensive to cover in any one book, Bannon advised ‘periodicity’, or exploring one recent aspect of their dubious dealings:
So they’d focus only on the last decade, the least familiar period, and especially on the millions of dollars flowing into the Clinton Foundation.
GAI researchers got to work digging into the Deep Web — not the dark net with drugs and porn but the far reaches of the Internet:
GAI researchers plumbed tax filings, flight logs, and foreign government documents to turn up what the foundation withheld. Their most effective method was mining the so-called Deep Web, the 97 percent or so of information on the Internet that isn’t indexed for search engines such as Google and therefore is difficult to find.
Tony, GAI’s data scientist, spoke with Green and explained that he wrote software protocols to make searching less onerous:
Since this requires heavy computing power, Tony struck a deal to use the services of a large European provider during off-peak hours. “We’ve got $1.3 billion of equipment I’m using at almost full capacity,” he says.
The results were astounding (emphases mine):
This effort yielded a slew of unreported foundation donors who appear to have benefited financially from their relationship with the Clintons, including the uranium mining executives cited by the New York Times (who showed up on an unindexed Canadian government website). These donations illustrate a pattern of commingling private money and government policy that disturbed even many Democrats.
All the information had to be put forward into a readable book that would engage people, especially the media.
So, a young writer, GAI’s Wynton Hall, set out to work on a storyboard and approach that would make Clinton Cash irresistible:
Hall’s job is to transform dry think-tank research into vivid, viral-ready political dramas that can be unleashed on a set schedule, like summer blockbusters. “We work very long and hard to build a narrative, storyboarding it out months in advance,” he says. “I’m big on this: We’re not going public until we have something so tantalizing that any editor at a serious publication would be an idiot to pass it up and give a competitor the scoop.”
Wynton’s team are used to hearing him say:
ABBN — always be breaking news
Depth beats speed.
The approach works because journalists love receiving fact-filled material rather than fluffy pieces such as press releases. Furthermore, Big Media don’t have the money to employ their own investigative journalists:
“The modern economics of the newsroom don’t support big investigative reporting staffs,” says Bannon. “You wouldn’t get a Watergate, a Pentagon Papers today, because nobody can afford to let a reporter spend seven months on a story. We can. We’re working as a support function.”
This ‘support function’ allows this conservative outfit to get entry to The New York Times and other bastions of left-of-centre media. Wynton Hall describes it as:
Anchor left, pivot right … weaponizing
a story into Big Media.
It would be easier for him to propel these exposés into the small-time conservative online media bubble. Using the ‘anchor left, pivot right’ strategy enables him to go much further. Hall explained:
We live and die by the media. Every time we’re launching a book, I’ll build a battle map that literally breaks down by category every headline we’re going to place, every op-ed Peter’s going to publish. Some of it is a wish list. But it usually gets done.
Once that work has permeated the mainstream—once it’s found “a host body,” in David Brock’s phrase—then comes the “pivot.”
This is why Breitbart is increasingly quoted in Big Media stories this year:
“With Clinton Cash, we never really broke a story,” says Bannon, “but you go [to Breitbart.com] and we’ve got 20 things, we’re linking to everybody else’s stuff, we’re aggregating, we’ll pull stuff from the Left. It’s a rolling phenomenon. Huge traffic. Everybody’s invested.”
Even veteran Democrats are impressed with this new kind of conservative media. One told Bloomberg’s Green:
They’ve adapted into a higher species.
Ultimately, however, most senior Democrats think that Breitbart will go overboard and damage their own cause.
Bannon disagrees and says the GAI efforts are showing that:
the donors highlighted in Clinton Cash violated many of the principles liberals hold dear: “You look at what they’ve done in the Colombian rain forest, look at the arms merchants, the warlords, the human trafficking—if you take anything that the Left professes to be a cornerstone value, the Clintons have basically played them for fools. They’ve enriched themselves while playing up the worst cast of characters in the world.”
Agreed, but will the Left read the information?
Bannon said he is also taking older Clinton scandals to a new generation:
“There’s a whole generation of people who love the news but were 7 or 8 years old when this happened and have no earthly idea about the Clinton sex stuff,” he says.
That is so true, and that is why the Democrats are probably right in banking on ignorance. Talk about low-information voters. You couldn’t get much lower.
We are now into the sunset of the 2016 presidential campaign. Bannon could — and should — try to target Sanders voters within the remaining weeks. They would be the best target market for his anti-Clinton information.
Whilst I do not believe the skewed polling going on since the Democratic National Convention — Reuters have significantly altered their methods — I also don’t believe those who say Trump is strongly ahead.
That said, it would be something if the LA Times polls showing a one to two point difference end up being the most accurate. It’s interesting that the latest Los Angeles Times poll dated August 20 shows that he is half a point ahead of Clinton.
We’ll see what sort of magic Bannon can work for Trump between Labor Day and Hallowe’en.
Tomorrow: why Trump (probably) chose Bannon
The three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.
Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.
My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
12 And Jesus entered the temple[a] and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
We are now reading about the events of Jesus’s final Passover, which many Christians commemorate during Holy Week.
Matthew 21:1-11 records His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, which we remember as Palm Sunday. It is important to remember that the crowds hailed him as a temporal king, not the spiritual Messiah.
Once in Jerusalem, Jesus went to the temple, which, being Passover, was teeming with faithful Jews anxious to offer the proper animal sacrifice.
My past posts have discussed the temple in more detail. The history of the temples is detailed here and here. The structure of the temple of Jesus’s era, the one that the Romans destroyed in 70 AD, is here.
That last post is well worth reading before contemplating today’s verses as it also includes how suitable home bred animals were often rejected and the faithful were forced to buy their sacrifices from the temple.
Then there was the question of temple tax, due during this time. The Jews had to pay it with a special coin in order to be allowed into the Temple during Passover. The moneychangers would charge an exhorbitant rate to exchange everyday money for this coin.
There was a real racket going on. No wonder Jesus was filled with righteous anger.
Some readers might be confused about this cleansing of the temple. After all, isn’t it recorded early on in John’s Gospel? John 2:13-17 says:
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
That cleansing was at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry. John MacArthur explains:
So, when He started His ministry, He started it at the temple and when He ends it, He ends it at the temple.
These two cleansings bookend His earthly ministry.
They are important in that, through them, He establishes his Messianic credentials. He is cleaning His Father’s house (verse 12).
In some manuscripts, such as the King James Version, verse 12 begins (emphases mine):
And Jesus went into the temple of God …
Jesus drove out these crooked, greedy men. He overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those selling pigeons. Pigeons were the poor man’s sacrifice. The impoverished faithful were charged exhorbitant prices.
One can imagine the scene. Carefully counted coins scattered everywhere. Pigeons flew away, perhaps not to be seen again.
All this had the permission of the high priest, Annas. He and the other priests were in on the racket. MacArthur explains:
Annas being the high priest, a corrupt and vile man who saw the temple as a way to get power and wealth…had a great idea. He and his priests sold concessions. In other words, you could buy space in the Court of the Gentiles. And there you could come and sell sheep, lambs, doves, pigeons, make money exchanges, sell oil, wine, salt and other requisites that go along with sacrifices.
And you paid dearly for those concessions because here’s how the system worked. Every offering had to be approved by the priests, right? When you finally got into the Court of the Israelites and you brought what you were going to give, it had to be approved. And maybe they had approving stations even before you got that far in. But the priests had to say your sacrifice is okay, and the odds were that if you bought it outside the temple, it was not going to be approved. If you had raised a lamb way out where you lived and brought that little lamb in to be offered, they’d say that lamb is not acceptable, you must have a lamb purchased in the Court of the Gentiles. Go see So-and-so. And so you’d go to buy a lamb from him, only according to Edersheim, the great Jewish historian, you would pay ten times the value of that lamb. So you were extorted, you were fleeced to reverse the picture a little. You were taken by robbers.
Poor people, according to Levitical law, didn’t have to bring a lamb because they couldn’t afford lamb, so they were allowed to have a dove or a pigeon in the place of a lamb. And most historians feel that in today’s currency, a couple of birds might be worth a nickel or a dime. But you would have paid four or five dollars for them there. And if you wanted to exchange your money because you had to have exactly a half shekel so you had to have the right change, and if you came from a foreign country with foreign currency and it had to be changed, you would pay twenty-five percent fee just to make small change.
It is easy for us to say that all this was Jewish practice, nothing to do with us. However, the accounts of these cleansings are warnings about similar corruption in the Church. In pre-Reformation times, this would have meant the selling of indulgences for notional penance for sin or entry into heaven:
In 1392, more than a century before Martin Luther published the 95 Theses, Pope Boniface IX wrote to the Bishop of Ferrara condemning the practice of certain members of religious orders who falsely claimed that they were authorized by the pope to forgive all sorts of sins, and obtained money from the simple-minded faithful by promising them perpetual happiness in this world and eternal glory in the next.
Some of these indulgences were a mandatory purchase and, as with the pigeons of the poor, expensive. The seller — the pardoner — pocketed a percentage of the money and the rest filtered its way to clerics and local rulers. Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales has ‘The Pardoner’s Tale’, featuring a typical story of the Middle Ages:
The Pardoner says to the pilgrims that by these tricks he has acquired a considerable sum of money. He goes on to relate how he stands like a clergy at the pulpit, and preaches against avarice but to gain the congregation’s money; he doesn’t care for the correction of sin or for their souls. Against anyone that offends either him or other pardoners, he will “stynge hym with my tonge smerte”. Although he is guilty of avarice himself, he reiterates that his theme is always Radix malorum … and that he can nonetheless preach so that others turn away from the vice and repent—though his “principal entente” is for personal gain. The Pardoner explains that he then offers many anecdotes to the “lewed [ignorant, unlearned] people”. He scorns the thought of living in poverty while he preaches; he desires “moneie, wolle [wool], chese, and whete” and doesn’t care whether it were from the poorest widow in the village, even should her children starve for famine.
Some indulgences purchased an exemption from spiritual disciplines:
Similar things go on today with televangelists or independent pastors urging their flocks to give generously because, without them, the ministry cannot exist. Then one sees the money going towards lavish mansions, limousines and clothes for the preacher!
Matthew records that Jesus cited Isaiah 56:7 after cleansing the temple (verse 13):
these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.”
Matthew Henry tells us:
Tradition says, that his face shone, and beams of light darted from his blessed eyes, which astonished these market-people, and compelled them to yield to his command …
This would indicate the fulfilment of Old Testament Scripture:
if so, the scripture was fulfilled, Proverbs 20:8, A King that sitteth in the throne of judgment scattereth away all evil with his eyes. He overthrew the tables of the money-changers he did not take the money to himself, but scattered it, threw it to the ground, the fittest place for it. The Jews, in Esther’s time, on the spoil laid not their hand, Esther 9:10.
MacArthur gives us examples from the Old Testament showing the sanctity of the temple, as holy a place as we consider church:
I’m reminded of 1 Samuel 1, Hannah, she went to the temple and Eli the priest sat on a seat by the post of the temple of the Lord. She went there to seek God. She was in bitterness of soul. She prayed to the Lord, she wept bitterly. She vowed a vow. Now that’s what the temple was for. It was for a person to go and find some quiet, the court was where a Jew or a Gentile could go and seek God, a place of silence, a place of meditation, a place to vow a vow to God. And she was there, you remember, and Eli saw her lips moving and she found there the face of God that she sought. God wonderfully heard her prayer and gave her a child.
And you remember when the temple was dedicated in 1 Kings chapter 8 verses 29 and 30 and Solomon offered his prayer to God. And he said, “I pray to God that this place may be a place where Your people can come and confess and find forgiveness, a place of quiet, a place of confession.” And I’m reminded, too, of the psalmist in Psalm 27 who identifies the usefulness of the temple with these words, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple.” It’s a place where we can see the beauty of the Lord and worship and where we can beseech Him, inquiring of Him there in His holy place. And they had turned it into a crooked bank, a stockyard, a thoroughfare…blasphemous.
What is chilling is Jesus’s comparison of these money-men, priests included, to robbers hiding in a cave awaiting their prey. What a transformation of evil to God’s holy place on earth:
And He says to them in verse 13, “But you have made it a den of thieves,” or a cave of robbers. And that’s another Old Testament quote from Jeremiah 7:11. You have made it…and He borrows the phrase from Jeremiah…a cave of robbers, where robbers hole up. Instead of being a place for true worshipers, it’s a place where people can rob and be protected in doing it. You have made it a cave of robbers. They can come here and they’re safe. Robbers used to hide in the caves. Jeremiah alludes to that in chapter 7 verses 4 to 11 where the robbers were hiding in the caves. And they were safe there, out of the way, unfound, secure. And he says you’ve provided a cave for robbers to hide in in the temple of God. And they can do their robbery right in the place they’re hiding. Such protection of extortioners is blasphemous. Yahweh’s house, God’s house to be a temple to worship and pray and commune with Him, what a prostitution you’ve made of this.
The parallel accounts are Luke 19:45-46, which I covered in November 2014, and Mark 11:15-19, which is in the three-year Lectionary for public worship. Mark’s is fuller than the other two accounts, because of these two verses:
18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. 19 And when evening came they[b] went out of the city.
Henry concludes with these words of wisdom:
When dissembled piety is made the cloak and cover of iniquity, it may be said that the house of prayer is become a den of thieves, in which they lurk, and shelter themselves. Markets are too often dens of thieves, so many are the corrupt and cheating practices in buying and selling but markets in the temple are certainly so, for they rob God of his honour, the worst of thieves, Malachi 3:8. The priests lived, and lived plentifully, upon the altar but, not content with that, they found other ways and means to squeeze money out of the people and therefore Christ here calls them thieves, for they exacted that which did not belong to them.
For us, church should also be a holy place where we can communicate with God, perhaps publicly, perhaps privately. It is not a place for running around, distracting others or engaging in ordinary activity, such as checking one’s phone messages or texting (unless it’s an emergency).
Many today — including clergy — say that church is people, not a building. We see from Holy Scripture that this is not the case. A bit more consideration and reverence on our part would not go amiss.
Those of us over a certain age were told from childhood that church is God’s house. May we be ever mindful of it.
Next time: Matthew 21:14-17
On Monday, August 8, 2016, Donald Trump reiterated his economic plan in Detroit, Michigan, before an audience of 1,500 members and guests of the prestigious Economic Club in a ballroom of Cobo Hall.
I say ‘reiterated’, because much of what he said went public last autumn and has been on his website for months. However, he added more specifics.
Detroit then and now
Using Detroit as an introductory backdrop, he compared what Motor City was to what it is now (emphases mine):
Detroit was once the economic envy of the world. The people of Detroit helped power America to its position of global dominance in the 20th century.
When we were governed by an America First policy, Detroit was booming. Engineers, builders, laborers, shippers and countless others went to work each day, provided for their families, and lived out the American Dream.
But for many living in this city, that dream has long ago vanished.
When we abandoned the policy of America First, we started rebuilding other countries instead of our own. The skyscrapers went up in Beijing, and in many other cities around the world, while the factories and neighborhoods crumbled in Detroit. Our roads and bridges fell into disrepair, yet we found the money to resettle millions of refugees at taxpayer expense.
Today, Detroit has a per capita income of under $15,000 dollars, about half of the national average. 40 percent of the city’s residents live in poverty, over two-and-half times the national average. The unemployment rate is more than twice the national average. Half of all Detroit residents do not work.
Detroit tops the list of Most Dangerous Cities in terms of violent crime – these are the silenced victims whose stories are never told by Hillary Clinton, but victims whose suffering is no less real or permanent.
In short, the city of Detroit is the living, breathing example of my opponent’s failed economic agenda. Every policy that has failed this city, and so many others, is a policy supported by Hillary Clinton.
Those policies came about once the city’s residents began voting overwhelmingly for Democrats in the 1960s and 1970s.
Democrats’ policies are destructive. In 2013, Dewey from Detroit explained:
the point remains: Detroit has been served exclusively by Democrat leadership since 1962 … Coincident with that 50 year period the city began a steady state of entropy that culminated in the bankruptcy filing yesterday…
This is Dewey; reminding you that if Obama had a city, it would look like Detroit.
Detroit is, for the moment, an outlier. However, other cities are crumbling, poised to follow.
Expect more Detroits if Hillary Clinton gets to the White House in January 2017.
I’ve been to Detroit four times: thrice in the late 1960s as a child and once in the late 1970s as a university student visiting friends.
My mother knew the city well from previous trips in the 1940s and 1950s. She loved it and could hardly wait to see it again.
My parents and I first saw it in August 1966. It was bustling and busy: traffic and people everywhere. We were just passing through then on our way elsewhere, but saw the automotive and automotive accessory plants, the nearby neighbourhoods as well as the nicer parts, e.g. Henry Ford’s home and other mansions.
The next time was in 1967 or 1968. It might have been early springtime, because it was cold. My mother and I went by train, where we met up with my dad, who was working away from home at the time. It was a weekend for all of us to get together away from home and have fun.
We stayed at what was then called the Sheraton Cadillac — now the Westin Book Cadillac. My mother thought it looked a bit down at heel, but I was impressed. I was in primary school at the time. Wikipedia describes the decor:
embodies Neo-Classical elements and building sculpture, incorporating brick and limestone. Among its notable features are the sculptures of notable figures from Detroit’s history—General Anthony Wayne, Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, Chief Pontiac, and Robert Navarre along the ornate Michigan Avenue façade and copper-covered roof elements.
The hotel was very busy, and she and I met a celebrity of the day in the lobby, with whom we had a lengthy and friendly exchange.
Before Dad arrived, Mum and I went to Hudson’s Department Store, which my mother spoke of often, particularly in the run-up to our trip. It was just as huge as she had promised. In fact, it was second in size only to Macy’s in New York City.
I loved Hudson’s, especially the toy department, but my mother was disappointed. There were kids running around unsupervised, and she thought the merchandise and layout needed a refresh.
Once my dad arrived, we went to dinner at a gorgeous rooftop restaurant with a view that overlooked the Ambassador Bridge and a stunning Windsor, Ontario. We went to Mass on Sunday in a beautiful church, St Aloysius. A lot of people attended, all in their Sunday best. We had brunch and then we checked out, Dad to return to his work assignment and the two of us to go back home.
The last time I went was in the late 1970s to spend time with friends. By then, the new Renaissance Tower was the talk of the town, and our hosts were eager to make sure we not only saw it but toured the public space and stopped for a drink. The Renaissance Tower was emblematic of new hope for the city, which was in decline and already making national news for that reason.
I noticed when one of my friends was driving us there that there were gaping empty spaces in the downtown area, which hadn’t been there a decade before. Hmm. My friend tried to brush this off as ‘change’ and ‘progress’ which had to take place. Nothing to see here, move along!
We were also told time and time again, ‘Look, we’re going to a night spot which is a 20-minute drive away. Make sure you go to the bathroom before we leave my parents’ house and before we leave the nightclub. It is too dangerous to stop in between the two. Is everybody clear?‘
My friends in Detroit did not wish for me to think anything bad about the place they and generations of their family considered home, so, during the 1980s and 1990s, any negatives were clearly dismissed and the conversation changed quickly.
Their denial didn’t really help when one could see what was happening from the news!
J L Hudson’s flagship store
The aforementioned Hudson’s department store was
Detroit’s the Midwest’s jewel in the retail crown.
A fascinating article from 2015 in the Detroit Free Press recaps its history:
For generations, it was as synonymous with Christmas and fashion as it was Detroit.
The Hudson’s department store at Woodward and Gratiot avenues was absolutely massive, evolving with the Motor City until it became the tallest department store in the world. By the time it finished growing, the store’s size almost defied belief.
That’s why they called it the Big Store.
The building was 2,124,316 square feet, making it second in size among department stores to only Macy’s in New York. The store was spread out over 32 floors, and at 410 feet, Hudson’s was the tallest department store in the world. Hudson’s featured more than 200 departments across an incredible 49 acres of floor space, and it featured about 600,000 items from 16,000 vendors. Twelve thousand employees, 100,000 customers came each day at its peak. In 1954, Hudson’s had sales of more than $163 million (an astronomical $1.28 billion today, when adjusted for inflation).
A number of factors contributed to the decline of Hudson’s Big Store: the construction of the massive freeway system in and around Detroit, the move to the suburbs and the rise of malls in those areas. People also felt less safe travelling into the centre of town. And why pay for parking downtown when you could get any variety of spaces for free in the suburban mall?
In 1983, after 90 years of business, Hudson’s closed its flagship store. It still retained offices there for 1,200 company employees working in management and administration.
Hudson’s moved out in 1990. A company from Windsor, Ontario, bought the building. Unfortunately, what was the Big Store lay derelict, attracting trespassers and window-breaking vandals. For whatever reason, various plans for redevelopment were shelved.
On October 24, 1998, a sad event took place. And it even saddens me to watch this, the destruction of the J L Hudson Department Store:
The site has served since then as an underground parking garage.
Discussions are still taking place on renovating the site above ground.
I see the Free Press does not allow readers to see the 34 comments on this article and 9 from the one cited earlier. I bet there were some gems there.
You can get an idea of the store’s iconic status in these historic photos from The Detroit News.
Michigan Central Station
This railway station was a temple of transport — so awe-inspiring, so beautiful. When it opened in 1914, it was the tallest railway station in the world.
Amtrak services stopped serving Michigan Central in 1988 and continued at a nearby platform instead. A new station opened several miles away in Detroit’s New Center in 1994.
Once closed, Michigan Central became an attractive target for vandals and delinquents. A number of photographers have taken pictures of the interior and exterior since closure. A 2013 photo shows all the graffiti marring the majestic waiting room. A series of photos shows the architecturally Beaux Arts classical exterior and all the broken windows.
It feels like a nerve unsheathed, it looks like a malignant menace. It is the face of a city waiting for salvation, it’s worthiness unclear.
Societies require care and selfless leadership to survive, let alone thrive. Detroit has had neither for nearly 40 years. I mention this simply as a cautionary tale.
The Mouroun family, local billionaire industrialists, purchased Michigan Central and are slowly refurbishing it. In February 2016, they had replaced all 1,050 of the station’s windows on time and on budget by enlisting the services of a glass and metal company in nearby St Clair Shores. The Mourouns have spent several million dollars on other improvements to electrics and the elevator shaft.
Although the building’s new purpose is unclear at this point, at least this is a move in a positive direction.
Some people look at a decayed city and say, ‘So what? Everything changes.’
An ad man from Britain opined on the planned redevelopment of the Old Port in Marseille and said the same thing to me a few years ago.
Dewey from Detroit has photographs from other former Detroit icons: the Vanity Ballroom where all the Big Bands from the 1940s played, the Lee Plaza Ballroom, the stunning cathedral-like organ screen from the abandoned United Artists theatre and the tragically abandoned Ford River Rouge Plant.
In that 2009 post, he explained what had happened over the years to put Detroit on her deathbed:
Photographers keep showing up and taking pictures that people can emote over for a few minutes, and then they go about their business. But keep ignoring the path our country is on and soon you, too, will have no business to go back to.
… here a taste of what the Great Society [Democrat Lyndon Baines Johnson, mid-1960s] has wrought on a once prosperous and proud city.
Get up close and take a look into the abyss that 40 years of elite liberal East Coast driven social policies have created.
And spare me the litany of other factors that contributed to Detroit’s decline; they contributed, they didn’t create. Only government policies that suck the souls of its citizens dry of any personal responsibility and self-respect can so effectively kill the motivation, drive and ambition of people. Only multiple generations of people born into the entitlement mentality of government provision and care can kill the soul of the people, and with them their city …
Detroit may just be beyond redemption. The rest of the country is still our call.
Seven years on and no one really cares, including millions of American citizens carping about the state of the country! Because it’s so much easier to sit at home and complain rather than to start educating ourselves about the reality of the situation then going out to vote for a candidate who can reverse this tragic trend!
I’ve said it here before and I will say it again: 2016 is America’s last chance for survival.
People know what to do, so why don’t they get on with it? I do not know.
Detroit in the 21st century
Today, Detroit is best known for its declining automotive industry and, oddly enough, a huge pawn shop, American Jewelry and Loan, as seen around the world in the television series Hardcore Pawn.
If Hardcore Pawn reflects the reality of today’s residents of Detroit — and, heaven forbid, the rest of the country’s major urban areas — America is doomed.
This show is amazing, and not in a good way. It must be seen to be believed. A more vulgar, incoherent group of customers I have never seen, where ‘going to work’ unabashedly means ‘going to the casino’. Scary.
Back in 2009, the idea was mooted that Detroit be turned into farmland. Detroit has one of the largest square mile urban areas in the United States. The population is now just over 800,000. Dewey has a helpful graphic and puts it into perspective:
Consider an interesting fact about Detroit: it’s huge, even by city standards. 140 square miles. Manhattan, Boston and San Francisco could all fit comfortably within the borders of Detroit and still have room left over.
Outside of the centre, most shops have closed. Huge swathes of open space exist, beautiful houses long gone — burnt to the ground or razed:
On its face the urban farm concept for a city as deeply scarred as Detroit holds a great deal of poetic appeal. After all, the city was built on rich, arable farm land that still lies beneath the structures. The once fertile fields were gradually annexed and filled with housing stock to meet the needs of a growing urban population that congregated around the industries that built America into the most powerful industrial giant the world had ever seen.
He has another post, ‘Feral in Detroit’, which shows more tragically spacious lots and abandoned homes. Again, some may say, ‘So what? It was probably not a populated neighbourhood to begin with’.
There they would be wrong. Dewey gives us an aerial cutting from a 1949 map of the neighbourhood of the now-demolished St Cyril’s Catholic Church and school. The whole area is full of houses, with no vacant space. By 2003, most of those homes were destroyed. There is a lot of vacant space. I am borrowing a picture from his post, taken by Robert Monaghan, to show you what the area around St Cyril’s looks like today.
Mr Monaghan’s photographs of Detroit are well worth looking at and remembering.
The story of Detroit resident Marabel Chanin describes the eeriness of life there. She died alone in a lovely house in 2008. She had outlived her friends. Dewey says:
When Marabel moved into the house on Robinwood Avenue in 1964 it was a beautiful neighborhood of 1920’s era brick bungalows, stately trees and neat gardens. The northwest Detroit neighborhood was adjacent to the exclusive Palmer Park Golf Course and Country Club. A serene, safe and attractive community. Forty five years later, it had turned into a dump.
Robinwood, like countless streets in Detroit, had turned into a block of abandoned carcasses. Burned out, boarded up falling down houses littered the block, and served as gathering places for drug dealers, users and thieves. Marabel lived out her life a prisoner in her own home, fearful of gunshots, burglary and worse.
Detroit might still have a lifeline somewhere at some time.
However, its government has been continually corrupt over the past 50+ years.
Detroit’s newish mayor Mike Duggan might be able to make a difference. I certainly hope so. Even then, the city will never recapture its former grandeur.
As Dewey says, ‘Let this be a cautionary tale’. It can happen to your city or town, too.
Get out and research your local, state and national candidates this year. Instead of complaining, start listening to what the various presidential candidates are saying in full, rather than relying on television or radio soundbites.