Public Lessons: Pedophilia, Bullying, and the Case of Alex Knepper

We are far from having worked this matter out even after 3,000 years of intensive labor, and far from knowing where they will lead, other than, from time to time, to tragedy.

Not Alex Knepper and Justin Bieber

Not Alex Knepper and Justin Bieber

Increased sensitivity regarding sexual relations between adults and minors means that the 1981 movie Private Lessons probably could not be produced today – at least as a light, upbeat comedy.  Yet the willingness to accept the “normal urges” of the adolescent boy as irrepressible means that this particular sexual initiation narrative will sneak back into popular culture anyway – by way of the subplot, the jokey aside, the unrealized fantasy.

The film would never have been done with the gender roles reversed or equalized – imagine the movie poster girl/man, boy/man, girl/woman – and even the most anodyne treatment of these permutations, teenage girl harmlessly infatuated with grown-up man, requires special handling:  In a piece of popular episodic TV that I recently caught, one supporting character got a righteous punch to the jaw merely for being the unwilling recipient of a kiss from the main character’s precocious daughter.  On the other hand, the upcoming Showtime series Shameless appears to promise a sub-plot in which a possibly underage boy pursues an affair with an older, married man.  Maybe gender equality, non-discrimination, and even real life… or the total breakdown of moral standards… or all of the above are blurring the most recently drawn bright lines on what is and is not permissible.

Such blurring or re-blurring may not, however, be happening fast enough for Alex Knepper, a 20-year-old conservative writer with a not yet fully developed internal censor, who ran into trouble earlier this year at David Horowitz’s NewsRealBlog.  Knepper had seemed to have found a home at FrumForum –  only to be publicly humiliated and declared unfit for conservative consumption.  The material that implicated him, all of it uncovered and made public by hostile NRB’ers, included the indecorously enthusiastic submissions he made under the moniker “lostpainting (Imperialist Warmonger)” at a gay teen chat forum, on the subject of “CHILFs.” If you click on that forum link with your audio enabled, you’ll get a noisy welcome aimed at visitors finding their way to the discussion via NewsRealBlog.  As for “CHILF,” if you don’t know what it stands for… Congratulations!  I mean it – though, if you continue reading, there or here, the honorable scales will be lifted from your eyes.

Just a week or two earlier Knepper had been taking hits from the left:  “Tintin,” at the popular humor blog Sadly, No!, had invited him to “do the world a favor by setting [himself] on fire.” This suggestion headlined the response to an op-ed in which Knepper had spoken the obvious too soon and too harshly:   That a recent teen suicide apparently prompted by sexual embarrassment should be treated as an extreme overreaction.  This aspect of Tyler Clementi’s sad tale, as of the pitiful stories of other humiliation victims, tends to be suppressed.  No one, or hardly anyone, wants to minimize bullying or encourage a laissez-faire attitude among teenagers regarding sexually explicit personal materials. No one wants to compound the agonies of family members or draw the wrath of sympathizers.  Most of all, no one wishes to pile a last humiliation on the victim.

Except possibly for Alex Knepper.  Some may conclude that he tempted fate, and is paying the price:  Now, he can find out how he likes public shame.  As the very righteous and right-thinking protectors of everything right at NewsRealBlog revealed, in great and exhaustively hyper-linked detail, Knepper/lostpainting’s interest in questions of child sexuality may have gone too far beyond libertarian theory, and even beyond exhibitionism.  He expressed a thing for pop singer Justin Bieber.  He approvingly posted an arty photo of two naked boys embracing.  He wrote lyrics for a “12 Days of Pedophilic Christmas.”  He repeatedly and self-indulgently confessed to other forbidden turn-ons.

Such things go quite beyond the acceptable in 2010 America, and not just among conservatives.  Today, every single one of us who wants to be one of us agrees that being sexually aroused by the idea of sex with “children” is always and everywhere wrong – that is,  justifies your being drawn, quartered, and defenestrated in pieces, or maybe bullied into self-destruction.  Still, I suspect we almost all hope that Knepper follows his own advice, not Tintin’s, and neither leaps off a bridge nor sets himself on fire.  We also owe it to him or at least to the truth to underline that referring to someone like the sixteen-year-old Bieber as a “child,” when in numerous states he would be past the age of consent, may mainly reflect a self-consciously risqué context, not sexual-criminal intent.  NRB editor David Swindle’s self-serving claims notwithstanding, no one has produced any evidence that Knepper ever posed a real threat to children.

…which brings me, at last, to my own wrong argument:  Getting sexually aroused by gazing upon images of Justin Bieber, or even by gazing upon certain notorious and very Not-Safe-For-Work-And-Other-Places images of the pre-pubescent Brooke “Pretty Baby” Shields, is clearly not bizarre.  It may not be the predominant reaction of a majority of observers, but it reflects a fixation among a significant number of people – one of those “unnatural” inclinations whose ineradicability suggests it may even be genetic – i.e., “natural.”  A likely much larger number of gazers – including, say, the consumers of widely popular “barely legal” pornography, and the many purchasers of certain books of art photography – should have little difficulty imagining if not necessarily experiencing or acknowledging arousal. Yet another overlapping group might report mere interest or appreciation – beauty of the human form and all that… Finally, it must also be said that some number of those who respond violently on the subject frequently enough turn out to have belonged to the first group all along.

We remain reluctant to accept these other facts of life, and instead seek to enforce firm if inherently arbitrary rules and distinctions with escalating punishment, amidst episodes of self-justifying panic.  We all know that in some great part the famous silence about sexual abuse, and the pathetic overreactions of the bullied and abused, stem from rightful fear of our retribution as much as any abuser’s, just as we know that the pervert who murders his victim usually does so with us in mind (if for his own sake).   We demand and ensure that the boy suffer further for the man’s sin against him, or the teenager for the cruelty of her friends – our (mostly) lower-grade version of honor killing and other pitiless treatments of “ruined” virtue.  Our seemingly obligatory cruelty reflects the same conundrum of shame visible in the pundit reaction to bullying and the conservative reaction to Knepper:  How do we unreservedly condemn bullying without reinforcing the terror, the terror of us, that makes sexual blackmail and humiliation possible, and gives defiance its thrill?  And how do we unreservedly condemn pedophilia, as a form of de-humanization in the act, without actively de-humanizing the real criminals as well as mere fellow travelers, a group which, by process of extension, sooner or later includes us all?

For some individuals those moral distinctions create insuperable conflicts between natural-for-them and acceptable-for-us.  This axis of conflict, which pits different conceptions of nature and morality against each other, also ties ephemeral news headlines and blogospherical turbulence to Sophocles:  Antigone and Oedipus, their only fault needing to belong to a society that could only despise them; Creon, surrounded by such sorrow he does not know “where to look”; but especially the chorus, you and me with our useless thoughts and impotent sentiments.  We are far from having worked this matter out even after 3,000 years of intensive labor, and far from knowing where they will lead, other than, from time to time, to tragedy.


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27 comments on “Public Lessons: Pedophilia, Bullying, and the Case of Alex Knepper

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  1. @ fuster:

    From the synopsis, the “tadpole” nurses a crush on his stepmother Sigourney Weaver, and even goes as far as to share a “passionate kiss” with her, but it seems that he may make the correct choice in the end.

    PRIVATE LESSONS it ain’t. Nor even PRIVATE LESSONS II.

  2. @ CK MacLeod:(From the film, the tadpole is made drunk and seduced by stepmother’s friend. IIRC)

    Sometimes it’s rather easy to condemn paedophiles.

    While it may be entirely natural to desire young people’s bodies, it’s possible to define conduct as wrong when it involves other mammals
    not considered to have consented to that conduct.

  3. @ fuster:
    I agree with you – but there’s something odd about grouping Knepper with his crush on Bieber along with the people in that article.

    Much of it has to do, again I agree, with notions of consent, and of the ability to give consent, and a whole universe of additional complications that juries and judges may often interpret more carefully and humanely than legislators and talkshow hosts.

  4. Just performing my daily Google search of myself. Thought I’d drop a note since, unlike most people, you actually seem to be capable of penning a coherent sentence about this subject.

    The “Twelve Days of Pedophilic Christmas” has, alas, like just about everything in Swindle’s hit piece, been misrepresented: written when I was 19, the parody poem expresses my lust for guys ranging from ages 16 to 21. “Pedophilia,” indeed.

    My burgeoning career on the Right is over, but for months now, I’ve known that my future is not within right-wing media. You’ll be hearing more from me: don’t you worry about that. That is: I actually do happen to believe what I write — the proper reaction to this exposure is not to throw myself off of a bridge, but to hit the warpath. I’m increasingly angry not at the smears, but at the insane view of sex that underlies them. More soon (though not on here. Give it a couple of weeks).

  5. Alex Knepper wrote:

    Just performing my daily Google search of myself. Thought I’d drop a note since, unlike most people, you actually seem to be capable of penning a coherent sentence about this subject.

    The way this is put interests me. It’s subtle, I grant you, but instead of crediting CK in a way befitting the quality of the piece, he backhands his compliment. It’s diminishing. “Unlike most people, you actually seem to be capable of penning a coherent sentence.” That’s like saying Cliff Lee seems to be capable of pitching. So there’s a power play going on. You can feel it wafting from his whole comment. He’s someone who likes putting himself in the power position. Most so-called conservatives do. I’ll leave it at that.

  6. Also, notice how Knepper lets us know that he won’t be posting again.Alex Knepper wrote:

    More soon (though not on here.

    There’s the controlling part of the power trip. No matter how we respond to his posting, he won’t be posting again. He’s removing any power we have in the relationship.

  7. @ Scott Miller:
    I’ll put it in the third person,since he seemed to be saying he won’t be commenting here further: I’m glad Mr. Knepper stopped by, said his piece, and confirmed the impression he’s given in some other public comments that he’s not yet begun to fight.

    For reasons that long-time readers of this blog should understand, I have my own reasons for sympathizing with him, reasons that have nothing to do with sexuality. Still, I like the fact that he’s focusing on the “insane views about sex” rather than on the smears against him, though I also wonder if “sane views about sex” might be hard to locate, or, if found, turn out to be just as problematic.

    As I acknowledged implicitly, the imaginary adventures in CHILF-land obviously weren’t ever meant to be made public, but Mr. Knepper still managed to “stain his honor” through them, just like the girl who hopes her boyfriend will keep the naughty photos to himself… The idea wasn’t to scandalize the world with CHILF-talk: The participants were just having fun – talking dirty with each other… yet it was semi-public. You never know who might show up – as I guess they learned, but as was always implicit. That’s what put the risk in risque, even if it wasn’t consciously considered.

    The material, from the acronym on down, does make light of “real” pedophilia – really does put the sicko baby-raper next to the guy who thinks Justin Bieber looks tasty, and self-consciously looks for boundaries to test.

    So what I’m saying is that the “wrongness” or “insanity” clearly isn’t only on the outside… I’ll reserve further thoughts for a new day.

  8. @Scott Miller — Don’t be a twit. Pigeonholing me as a “conservative” — in the way that it’s understood today, at least — is ludicrous. I am an ardent atheist, pro-drug legalization, pro-pornography, pro-prostitution, pro-abortion rights, pro-art, in favor of reducing the age of consent, and do not believe in ‘natural rights.’ If these beliefs put me in the same camp as, say, Sarah Palin, then we have surely arrived at an odd definition of conservatism.

    I’ve allied with the right because of my skepticism toward centralized power and my belief that prudence is the statesman’s supreme value. Additionally, my economic and legal conservatism are fairly ‘pure’ in their first principles. But I have little in common with the likes of Mark Levin. The trouble I run into, you see, is that I also have little in common with the likes of Rachel Maddow. I’m politically and culturally homeless in the false left-right dichotomy. I’ll have to forge my own path; I really have no choice. I’m summoned by nature to be a writer, and, as a commentator, I aspire to be something of a performance artist. I’m inspired by the likes of Paglia, Rand, Hitchens: true contrarians, always confident — even braggadocious — and never enslaved by dogma or orthodoxy.

    Finally, I’m not here to congratulate Mr. MacLeod for his skill as a writer. If a person injects himself into the public arena, there’s an expectation that he should be able to write in prose that’s clear and even rewarding. I’m not going to pin a blue ribbon to his shirt for doing what he should be doing, anyway. I’m too busy bludgeoning people who can’t do what they say they can.

  9. @CK —

    I should note, first, that “CHILF” is a self-aware joke about jailbait. 15-17. Certainly not “children,” and certainly sexually aware.

    I hope that I never develop a “self-censor.” I actually am what leftists pretend to be: someone who has committed to living an open life, always searching for boundaries to push — both in the abstract and in daily life. I’ve done nothing wrong, and I feel no need to be demure about it. The far-right can shove a knife up its collective ass, for all I care. Dirt under my feet!

    A note on Justin Bieber: he is, physically, an archetypal beautiful boy in the Greek mode. At twenty, it is still fairly socially acceptable to find him attractive — at least outside of far-right circles — but I don’t imagine that my tendencies — which are aesthetic as much as they are sexual — will diminish. (I know scores of gay men, young and old, who agree with me; few are public about it — they’re all petrified by public scorn, proving that incentives do work.) You’d have to have no aesthetic sense at all to deny the natural beauty at work: http://www.teenidols4you.com/blink/Actors/justinbieber/justinbieber_1286729393.jpg

    Interestingly, this does seem to be an anti-gay thing: our culture scorns the heterosexual ‘dirty old man,’ but he is not seen as a freak of nature: only as someone who cannot control his urges. At twenty — I mean, I’m twenty years old! — I find Justin Bieber, sixteen, both beautiful and sexually desirable — and am deemed by many people to have a serious problem. Besides being totally out-of-sync with all of history, psychology, and biology, this is quite a bizarre double-standard. (It may also have something about how the male adolescent is viewed.)

    Our post-Cold War pedophile panic has conflated child-rape with traditional reverence toward the spellbinding beauty of youth. Not children, I should note, but youth — post-pubescent, sexually aware, but still in retention of certain feminine or childish qualities. Half of you is compelled to fuck him; the other half wants to worship his evanescent, androgynous beauty: nature’s art. That’s very different than the pedophile’s tendencies. The true pedophile is caged-in, I think, because there is nothing sexually-aware about the prepubescent child: it’s not that children are devoid of sexuality, necessarily, but that the child lacks the awareness of meaning. He’s not ready. (The child can be beautiful, of course, but not, I think, in any erotic way.)

    I personally find nothing erotic about prepubescent children, but our public discourse about this issue amounts to nothing short of hysteria. We have to find a rational way to discuss this. This To-Catch-a-Predator paradigm is not productive.

    All cultures have rightly condemned true child-rape. But our current conflation of true pedophilia with the natural masculine desire for youth and beauty is disturbing and regressive. It’s a product, I think, of a bizarre cultural shift wherein we now consider adolescents to be ‘big children’ rather than young adults. There’s an artificial extension of childhood going on in America: walk onto any college campus and you’ll see what I mean. It’s not healthy — not intellectually, not emotionally, not sexually.

    I’ll stop there; I’ve rambled too much.

    Can you see why I have no real home on the right, though? Lol.

  10. Um, I just spent twenty-some minutes penning another comment, but it was sent to the spam filter. Please rescue it. I think it was sent there because I posted a link to a picture of Justin Bieber.

  11. Alex Knepper wrote:

    @Scott Miller — Don’t be a twit. Pigeonholing me as a “conservative”

    Ignoring the name-calling because you’re young, I’ll just point out that I used the term “so-called conservative.” I could explain how the “so-called” was meant to connect you with all the things you have now explained about yourself from your perspective, but (putting it in words you’ll understand) there is an expectation that you should be able to read in a way that is comprehending and connected with what you had already written. You didn’t play fair. You said you wouldn’t be writing anymore here. Now you are. Welcome. I hope you continue to play fair. Obviously, you appreciate how fair CK plays. You give yourself so much credit, perhaps you should do the same for others. Beyond that, I’m going to cut you some slack because of your age. Maybe you should learn to act similarly in relation to people younger than yourself.

  12. ” Maybe you should learn to act similarly in relation to people younger than yourself.”

    You want me to cut some slack to people younger than I am? What do you mean?

    Oh, gosh. “Playing fair.” Stop that. I’ll reply; I’m too narcissistic not to. And it’s a fair audience, unlike, say, at RightWingNews.com, so I’ll give it a whack.

  13. @ Alex Knepper:
    Fair enough. Acting in kind, I’ll level the playing field even more by admitting that I have no real knowledge of how you relate to younger people. So if you think you’ve treated people younger than yourself with respect and generosity –if you think you’ve kept in mind their relative lack of experience when it was important to do so–then there’s no point in me suggesting otherwise. That’s your business.

  14. @ Alex Knepper:

    “Boundries” seems the operative word.

    When I was a vegetarian but not vegan, meat eaters (which I am now one) would say things like “But a REAL vegatarian wouldn’t eat dairy, or wear leather shoes or…”

    My reply would be along the lines of askng “Do you eat people? No? Well a real carnivore would eat people too! I mean meat is meat.”

    I know. Kinda adolescent.

    But the point is it’s always about where to draw the line. AK does draw some lines regarding pre pubes. Well good for him!

    Certainly he does lead an exciting life, what with all these people yelling at him all the time. And, clearly he’s a Really Smart Person, so I’m sure he’ll find a way for people to yell at him a lot and make money.

    I used to be a RSP. Now that I’m not I find boundries a little more useful.

  15. @ Alex Knepper:
    Rescued – the comment that is – and, not to waste your time with gratuitous blue ribbons, but it strikes me as very deserving of rescue. I agree with much of what you write in it. An earlier, much longer version of the top post attempted a summary of historical, especially ancient, views on “love of boys,” in connection with modern ideals regarding love and freedom. (That’s one reason I ended up resorting to Sophocles in the end.)

    Your experience also presents an interesting variation on the “epistemic closure” discussion from earlier this year. You could have substituted Islam, Obamacare, climate change, defense spending, military strategy, the Tea Party, and many other topics for sexual liberation, and told a somewhat similar, if less emotionally charged story about ideological conformism on the right. Though it’s worth asking whether sexual conservatism isn’t more fundamental to conservatism ideologically than almost any other stance. Unfortunately, since “all things are in sex,” the discussion constantly threatens to get out of control again… which is also in the nature of sexual desire…

    More later, but must handle some errands.

  16. In AK’s mind CHILF may mean 16-21 y.o., but it plays on that same ambiguity or imprecision in the term “pedophilia.” The latter came into usage as a clinical term for a compulsive interest in children – early or pre-pubescent – but it is popularly applied to the inclinations described and defended by AK. There’s a separate term, “ephebophilia,” that might apply more specifically, but I think it still tends to imply a disorder, a compulsive need that a congressman might destroy his career over, rather than a “perfectly normal” tendency, an appreciation for the “beauty of youth” that even a conservative congressman or upstanding PTA member might happily admit to in the right context.

    In a much longer version of the post, I spent some time discussing classical views on sexuality and trying to relate them to modern ideals. In one way (possibly the only way!) I’d go further than AK: It’s maybe more “natural” for a 40-, or 50-year-old to be attracted to the young, in a powerful way that relate to the consciousness of mortality or the desperate desire to tap the “sacred fount” – Gandhi sleeping (just sleeping) with virgins to renew his vitality… the DEATH IN VENICE mid- or late-life crisis… The young both are and have the one thing, in abundance, that the old, gray, sickly, and sagging neither are nor have. And the old, gray, sickly, and sagging have and represent the one thing – experience, sexual experience but also typically a lifetime’s worth of connections and wealth – that the young lack.

    So the relationship of the adult and the ephebe in that way has the potential to be a “fair” exchange, not a relationship of domination: Few wealthy elders would hesitate for a moment if they could trade their stock portfolio or a lot else for restoration of their lost vigor and vitality. The pattern is fully on view in the Woody-Soon Yi syndrome, which repeats and exaggerates common but borderline disreputable Older Man-Younger Woman marriages. If Woody Allen came out in favor of, say, Mitch Daniels, I betcha David Frum would love to publish his explanation. Yet AK’s “Biebrophilia” is supposed to make him unpublishable at FrumForum.

    In ancient Athens most famously, as in other times and places as well, and in subtle ways even in our own society, this existential reality or virtually biochemical compulsion was integrated into the concept of the “ephebe”‘s education. But this was true in militaristic Sparta as well. A sexual relationship between the student and his military mentor was presumed: Historians (or at least one historian I heard tell the tale) claim that the sexual conditioning of the young Spartan was such that, in order to enable the bridegroom to perform his marital duty with his new bride, it was considered helpful to dress her as a warrior.

    The movie 300 somehow forgot this aspect of Spartan culture, though may have sublimated it in the adoring representation of the Spartan warrior’s physique, while off-loading all threats to sexual (and racial) identity to the monstrous Persian enemy. It thus fully qualified for the Conservative Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. Also left out was the status of Sparta as a slave economy, and one of the more vicious ones.

    I thought the above photo made for a nice parallel with the Private Lessons poster. It’s supposed to represent the completely virtuous home that King Leonidas is out protecting, and sacrificing himself for. No helots to be seen, of course: The fields just cultivate themselves, or maybe we’re supposed to imagine that Leonidas would, in victory, exchange his sword for a scythe. Fat chance: This is Sparta!

    So the recurrent problem is that the birth of the West was midwifed – militarily as well as philosophically – by a bunch of slave-driving Biebrophiles. Now, some will say – 300 tries to say – that the Spartans were defending an idea that contained within itself the overcoming of slavery and other aspects of the ancient (im)morality that we’ve spent millennia culturally evolving beyond. The question is how much of that evolution is authentic progress, and how much of it is convenient, purpose-built repression. How much of it merely supplants one arbitrary and contingent set of mores with another – what Engels defined as “hetaerism,” with all of its notorious and ever-multiplying hypocrisies and inequities.

    Conservatism situates itself within the preservation of hetaerism – monogamy and its system – as the settled, not yet and perhaps never replaceable institution for the re-production of the middle-class family and therefore of the modern individual, under the presumption that the attempt to move to a new “conception” produces monsters everywhere it’s been tried, typically promising a new freedom that turns out be a regression to the old slavery, or worse. Yet aspects of life in the contemporary world – population and economic pressures from one direction, technological enhancements from the other – seem to push toward that re-conception anyway, thus producing a sense of permanent crisis among those same defenders of the old order.

    And so we end up with a cartoon sexual monster – the “Mama Grizzly,” a naturalized and not incidentally anti-intellectual nightmare – as the symbol for the reactionary conservatism of this cultural-political moment, under the slogan “man up.” A movement that advances Mama Grizzly seems to have little room for or interest in AK (or CKM, for that matter), but the (her) compulsive aggression toward him reflects her dependence on him, or on the possibility he represents.

    (I’d have made this a new post, but I would have felt compelled to spend the rest of the day editing and expanding it.)

  17. Unfortunately, you’re very wrong in saying that even a conservative Congressman or PTA member would admit to admiring the beauty of youth. Certainly not teenage boys. Certainly not Justin Bieber. A middle-aged woman might, without suffering reproach, say that he’s a cutie — but a middle-aged man who professed that he found his beauty spellbinding would certainly be shunned. But beyond that, I mean, listen — I’ve read about fathers who are petrified even of cradling their young daughters because it feels “wrong,” or they’re afraid that someone will see it in the wrong way. This is a horrid situation.

    We suffer from a horrid lack of aesthetics. Everything is viewed in this mechanical way; erotic beauty is never seen as rewarding the mind or the eye — only the penis. Which is absurd. This has always been one of America’s key flaws: its aversion to the humanities. We’re a very practical people, so we tend to shy away from practices like philosophy, art, and literature.

    You’re definitely right that the vitality of youth is key to unlocking its erotic elements. The beautiful boy can do what his admirers can’t; he is agile, energetic, engrossed in possibility. His identity is not yet fully formed; he is still in need of guidance. It’s fragile. To fuck him is almost to ruin his purity (anal sex between men and teenage boys was never seen as acceptable in Ancient Greece, despite the images evoked by pederasty).

    OK, I have more, but I need to go right now…dinner with a friend. She’s bugging me. Bye-bye.

  18. Alex Knepper wrote:

    Unfortunately, you’re very wrong in saying that even a conservative Congressman or PTA member would admit to admiring the beauty of youth.

    Naw – I was differentiating between Mark Foley’s behavior and “Doesn’t Johnny look handsome dressed up for the prom?!” Or: “Looks like you’ve got some outstanding athletes on the water polo team this year.” Or: “You’re going to be a real heart-breaker someday.” That kind of thing. You’re right though on the other part: Asking a neighbor or an uncle to look after the kids for a while isn’t quite what it used to be – in part because the uncle also has his head filled with the general paranoid background noise. But some of that all also goes to smaller families, greater risk aversion. It can be dangerous to generalize though. A single block in middle class America can hold several simultaneous mutually near-incomprehensible universes.

  19. Well seeing as 300 was based on Herodotus’s Histories, there is a certain selection bias, in what they chose to show. Queen Gorgos
    pictured above, is not unlike a certain character you have taken an undue antipathy about, for reasons that pass understanding

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And this programmer suggested a way to avoid user input all together:

Eventually, programmers on Reddit started making fully-functioning, interactive versions of the awful forms, like this and this and this. Someone even created one out of the classic game Snake. The meme hasn’t stopped for weeks now, and iterations of it seem to be growing more detailed and elaborate.

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Trump actually congratulated Erdogan on the outcome. Trump apparently thought it was a good thing that, despite all the flaws in the process, a bare majority of Turkey’s citizens voted to strengthen their populist leader. I don’t think any other post-Cold War president would have congratulated a democratic ally that held a flawed referendum leading to a less democratic outcome. This is not that far off from Trump congratulating Putin on a successful referendum result in Crimea if that event had been held in 2017 rather than 2014.

Public disquiet and behind-the-scenes pressure on key illiberal allies is an imperfect policy position. It is still a heck of a lot more consistent with America’s core interests than congratulating allies on moving in an illiberal direction. In congratulating Erdogan, Trump did the latter.

For all the talk about Trump’s moderation, for all the talk about an Axis of Adults, it’s time that American foreign policy-watchers craving normality acknowledge three brute facts:

  1. Donald Trump is the president of the United States;
  2. Trump has little comprehension of how foreign policy actually works;
  3. The few instincts that Trump applies to foreign policy are antithetical to American values.
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He sensed that the public wanted relief from the burdens of global leadership without losing the thrill of nationalist self-assertion. America could cut back its investment in world order with no whiff of retreat. It would still boss others around, even bend them to its will...

There was, to be sure, one other candidate in the 2016 field who also tried to have it both ways—more activism and more retrenchment at the same time. This was, oddly enough, Hillary Clinton... Yet merely to recall Clinton’s hybrid foreign-policy platform is to see how pallid it was next to Trump’s. While she quibbled about the TPP (which few seemed to believe she was really against), her opponent ferociously denounced all trade agreements—those still being negotiated, like the TPP, and those, like NAFTA and China’s WTO membership, that had long been on the books. “Disasters” one and all, he said. For anyone genuinely angry about globalization, it was hard to see Clinton as a stronger champion than Trump. She was at a similar disadvantage trying to compete with Trump on toughness. His anti-terrorism policy—keep Muslims out of the country and bomb isis back to the Stone Age—was wild talk, barely thought through. But for anyone who really cared about hurting America’s enemies, it gave Trump more credibility than Clinton’s vague, muddled talk of “safe zones” ever gave her.

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+ Wade, your last paragraph is crucial to your argument. Certainly it expresses economically the source of the weight of a country's foreign policy, and [. . .]
Jeffrey Goldberg: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. – The Atlantic
CK MacLeod
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Comments this threadCommenter Archive
+ Not sure where you got the idea that I ever wrote “[President Trump] doesn’t know what he’s doing!!!!!!" - bob's idea for a possible rallying [. . .]
Jeffrey Goldberg: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. – The Atlantic
Wade McKenzie
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Comments this threadCommenter Archive
+ The conversation that you and Bob were having at the time that I wrote my comment had everything to do with the recent missile strike [. . .]
Jeffrey Goldberg: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. – The Atlantic

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