Happy twentieth birthday to "The Phantom Menace" and eleventh birthday to "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull", two much-maligned films that I used to love and still love and won't apologize for loving even though I'm now aware of their shortcomings. I feel pretty freaking old, though, since I remember both of their releases like they were yesterday. Yet Jar Jar Binks and CG gophers are timeless.
I am, of course, no fan of abortion or the absurdly stupid and/or scientifically illiterate arguments so often employed in its defense. However, I regard Alabama's new law with its lack of exemptions or nuance of any kind, and any mindset or legislation along similar lines, goes much too far and is morally wrong. I don't anyone thinking I support that sort of thing. (For that matter, these days I've stopped rooting for anti-abortion legislation altogether, as I think it's far more important to change hearts and minds and provide decent sex education, birth control, and scientific information.) However, I'm not getting super worked up about it because it's going to be struck down, and that's actually the point. The whole thing is a ploy to reach the Supreme Court in the hope of overturning Roe vs. Wade with the help of Trump's more or less conservative appointees. For some reason most people don't seem aware of that. While most of the outrage against this law and the men who passed it is justified, painting them as stupid and/or ignorant isn't. They know exactly what they're doing. I don't think it's justified and I think it will fail, but it's a bold and brilliant maneuver.
I know I'm not supposed to even have an opinion, but I do and there it is and now I'm done. Here's something positive that happened to me this week, not to make anybody jealous but just to prove that I am capable of noticing positive things. I ran into my ex-roommates' mom for the first time since January, and that was just a little nerve-wracking after what they did to me and the lies they probably spread to justify it (a story which will be explained in much greater detail in my upcoming memoir), and I thought maybe she'd be pissed, but she said she felt bad about how things happened and wanted to give me something, and the something turned out to be an envelope with eighty dollars in it. I guess she's been carrying it around for three months just in case. I wouldn't have run into her if I hadn't gone out to buy temple garments that afternoon, so I accepted that as a very welcome tender mercy.
I wrote recently about the movement to change aspects of BYU's Honor Code enforcement that are wrong and have put some students through unacceptable abuse. I'm told that others who actually want to rewrite or do away with the code altogether have piggybacked onto this movement, but what I've actually witnessed is self-righteous Latter-day Saints assuming that the wronged students' complaints are a disengenuous smokescreen and that they should have gone to a different school. Now, I don't believe BYU has ever asked random people to defend it from legitimate accusations, and I don't believe it's ever responded to such accusations by saying "If you don't like us, don't go here." So I'm honestly a little baffled by the sheer number of people who think it's their duty to defend BYU by victim-blaming its accusers and saying "If you don't like BYU, don't go there." It now comes as no surprise to anyone with a functioning brain that this week BYU changed its Honor Code enforcement policies.
The main idea behind these changes, which may not be the only ones, is to get rid of the culture of students being encouraged to tattle on other students for trivial violations that are none of their business. So, for example, students making accusations will no longer remain anonymous, and the students being accused will actually be allowed to face their accusers, except in a few vague circumstances. Why this wasn't the case all along is beyond my comprehension. The default anonymity policy was asinine and couldn't have reasonably been expected to foster anything positive, and it didn't. Let me be clear; while I don't like BYU and didn't go there, I believe most of its administrators act in good faith and that the current director of the Honor Code office is a swell guy and that these changes are at least as much a result of the goodness of his heart as the negative publicity. I applaud BYU for acknowledging some of its shortcomings and fixing them quickly instead of defending them.
And this isn't the first time. It's been considerably less than three years since BYU overhauled its policies to stop the Honor Code office from grilling sexual assault victims, compounding their suffering and expelling them if they were found to have violated it. Of course this was an unintended consequence, not the result of administrators deciding it would be fun to punish rape victims, but regardless of intent the approach was poorly thought out and wrong and catastrophically hurtful. During a crapload of national scrutiny and backlash in mid-2016 (which won the Salt Lake Tribune a Pulitzer prize the following year), many Latter-day Saints could be heard to opine, "If you don't like BYU, don't go there." Then an advisory council of the school's faculty recommended 23 policy changes. And then BYU, to its credit, adopted every single one of them. And then its self-appointed defenders completely failed to learn any lesson whatsoever and made complete idiots of themselves again this go-round.
Full disclosure: I am one of those who believes the substance of the Honor Code itself, not just enforcement, needs to change. The beard ban that arose to counter 1960s American hippy culture is desperately obsolete and accomplishes little more than making BYU weird for the wrong reasons. I, for one, have found shaving to be an enormous and unwelcome inconvenience. and the spinny blade things to be highly ineffective at their one purpose for existence, so I do it once a week and use the sideburn trimmer for my whole face. None of my fellow students or faculty at USU could have ever possibly cared less. In fact, some guys grow out their beards just to mock the BYU football team when it visits. So yes, I think that's a stupid policy and will support any protest movement against it, but obviously these things have to come on a priority basis. As in my previous mention, I acknowledge that the vast majority of BYU students have positive experiences. But with these policy changes and hopefully more to come, the minority who don't are being heard, and their future numbers should be much lower.
Oh, here's another positive thing. Please take two and a half minutes to watch it.
Brigham Young University has been in the news this week for its Honor Code that it makes prospective students agree to. While I personally would despise living under the Honor Code, I respect BYU's right to have it in place to foster the sort of environment it wants, and recognize that it's a positive experience for the vast majority of students who go there. Nonetheless, the way it's applied and enforced has been a nightmare for some. To be clear, this is all they're complaining about on the Instagram page "Honor Code Stories", which has a lot of followers - I've seen several articles that cited the number of followers but when I went to the link the number was already higher than that, so I'm not going to bother. I fully support these students' cause and wish them the best. Again, this has nothing to do with trying to abolish the Honor Code or even change what's included in it, despite what some Latter-day Saints who belittle these students without reading what their actual grievances are would have you believe.
Anyway, I thought that now would be a good opportunity to recollect the time I made some young ladies at BYU break the Honor Code. It was long enough ago that I don't think they'll face any repercussions even if their identities are discovered from the zero identifying information I'll provide. It was December 2013, and I was returning to Utah from New York after Christmas, but winter weather delayed the plane so much that we arrived after Salt Lake Express stopped running. As good fortune would have it, my friend Laura was returning to Utah from Vermont on the same flight, and happened to know a group of BYU students on the same flight, and she arranged for us to both crash at their apartment. Instead of, you know, on the airport floor. I realized in hindsight that having me, a member of the opposite sex, in their apartment overnight was a violation of the Honor Code. And I couldn't possibly be less sorry. As Nicholas Cage would say, "Here's to the women who did what was considered wrong, in order to do what they knew was right."
A hair salon in Provo is also under fire for only including white, mostly blonde women in its ads. And normally I'm all in favor of diversity, but in this case it would actually constitute false advertising because, um, hello, this is Provo we're talking about. It makes the rest of Utah look like the United Nations. But unfortunately that's only the second stupidest controversy I heard about this week.
Recently the comics of Nathan W. Pyle have taken the internet by storm. Using aliens and fancy words, he portrays everyday situations that humans take for granted in a new light, humorously exposing how weird they actually are.
As an Aspie, I've known my entire life that human society is weird and frequently stupid and that most social norms are arbitrary if not flat-out stupid, but until I found a like-minded community on the internet I was always told that "that's the way it is" and I'm the one who's wrong for thinking differently. The Aspie-alien connection is very real. One of if not the largest online autism community isn't called "Wrong Planet" for nothing. I have to say that never being able to fully integrate or feel comfortable in society is a worthwhile price to pay for the ability to see through its crap. And this comic sort of validates. But then... this happened. Or rather, this happened some time ago and then some intrepid researcher brought it to light just the other day.
Naturally, I am horrified to discover that Nathan W. Pyle appears to share the pro-life Christian views of tens of millions of other Americans. His gratitude that his girlfriend's life was not cut short in infancy obviously makes him a terrible excuse for a human being who wants women to be forced incubators. I cannot in good conscience follow him or read his comics any more.
Oh wait, no. That's literally one of the stupidest things I've ever heard. And I only wish it were a straw man, instead of the accurate representation of mindless pro-abortion outrage that it actually is, up to and including the asinine phrase "forced incubators". So now Nathan W. Pyle is forced to defend himself for holding a viewpoint that some of his former fans don't think is acceptable. As if that weren't stupid enough already, notice that the majority of pro-life Christian sentiment is actually contained in the tweet that he retweeted, which was written by a woman. But none of the hate is directed at the woman. Because if it was, the haters would be forced to recognize how stupid they sound telling a woman that she wants women to be forced incubators. But of course, men aren't allowed to have an opinion on the sanctity of life because something something logical fallacy. Except pro-choice men, who are exempt from the logical fallacy because reasons. This particular man is just agreeing with a woman, but that's not okay either because pro-life women are officially supposed to not exist.
Look, obviously you have no obligation to like or follow social media channels devoted to the promulgation of ideas that you disagree with. However, when you go to the trouble of culling friends or public figures for simply holding those ideas, your social media feeds become little more than monuments to your own narcissism. Even more so than they already are by default, I mean. The internet becomes a fantasy world where all good, honest, right-minded people think, believe, and vote exactly like you do. Over time this literally makes you stupider as you forget how to process anything that isn't what you want to hear. It also makes you a jerk to anyone who does manage to break through your echo chamber with cogent reasoning. And in cases like this, where Nathan W. Pyle was doing little or nothing to promote his personal views through the artwork that everyone came to his page to see, it's just a total waste of shunning. It would be like if I stopped listening to Sheryl Crow or watching movies with Harrison Ford because I don't agree with every detail of their politics. Stupid, right?
Yeah, some people take positions so morally repugnant that you can't stand to be associated with them. That's fair. But if you think being pro-life is one of those positions, then no offense, but you're kind of stupid. If you can't grasp any good or honest reasons why a person acting in good faith would reach the conclusion that taking the life of a human organism in its early stages of development is wrong, but instead insist on making up stupid crap about how they're just masking their burning desire for women to be forced incubators, you're no better or smarter than someone who thinks you want to murder every baby in the world. It's also worth noting that there are tens of millions of pro-lifers in the United States and their numbers increase every year, so looking down on them as if they're some laughably outnumbered deviation from acceptable ways of thinking is not only arrogant, but delusional. I would even go so far as to guess that more of Nathan W. Pyle's fans support him for this tweet than otherwise. But it ultimately should have zero relevance to his alien comics.
Now, if there were any actual evidence of Nathan W. Pyle, say, screaming at pregnant women outside abortion clinics, shooting abortionists, or blowing up abortion clinics - stuff that for some reason is often represented as the norm while pro-choice violence, harassment, and rape threats go blissfully ignored - then he would be a piece of scum and losing his social media following should be the least of his consequences. However, I'm unaware of any evidence that anyone's life has been negatively impacted in any way by his gratitude that his girlfriend lived to adulthood. But because people are idiots, he had to take to Twitter again to run damage control after they ate him alive for it.
I'm sure the Christianity aspect (which, again, originated with the woman that he retweeted) has nothing to do with the outrage against Nathan W. Pyle, because Christians have a persecution complex and are not actually mistreated or stigmatized in the United States at all. Still, his claim to believe in separation of church and state is dubious in light of this scandal. From what I've been able to gather in my observations, separation of church and state means that religious people aren't supposed to have political opinions or express their beliefs outside of a church building. And if, God forbid, churches themselves want to get involved in politics, then they should start paying taxes because holding them to a different standard than literally all other non-profit organizations makes sense. It seems to me that Nathan W. Pyle already violated separation of church and state with his infamous retweet, which forced his beliefs on people by acknowledging them in a place where people could read them. But I'll let it slide this once because we all make mistakes.
I agree wholeheartedly with his closing sentence, yet find it laughable that he thinks the Democrats are any better. But I'll let that slide too because, oh yeah, I almost forgot, I like his comics. His votes can go toward the Pansexual Vegan Anarcho-Communist Party for all I care.
"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend." - Thomas Jefferson to William Hamilton, April 22, 1800
Now, it would be remiss of me not to mention some considerably happier news even if just for the two of you who haven't heard already. Behold:
I must admit this teaser comes nowhere close to recapturing the excitement I felt as an almost-12 year old seeing the "Revenge of the Sith" teaser, probably because this time I know there will be future Star Wars movies of varying quality until well after I die, but the bit at the end definitely got my attention. I can only describe it as
In Which I Look Back and Whitesplain Nathan Phillips' Fabricated Incident at the March for Life a Week Ago
I set a goal to publish a blog post every week, and this de facto ended up being on the weekends, and that format means that sometimes I'm really late to the party discussing current events. But while this storm may have mostly blown itself out, it hasn't ceased to be an issue, and even if it had it would deserve to be recapped in detail so that we could, theoretically, learn from our stupidity. So sorry not sorry for bringing this up after all the cool people have stopped talking about it.
Wanting to be the bigger person and forgive their occasional lapses of integrity (like their refusal to cover Kermit Gosnell), I initially trusted the media accounts of the so-called incident at the March for Life (which for some reason doesn't merit media coverage unless an incident happens or it disrupts traffic). I had no reason to doubt the claims that a group of white teenagers wearing "Make America Great Again" hats surrounded elderly Native American Vietnam War veteran Nathan Phillips and taunted him with chants of "Build the Wall". There was nothing particularly implausible about such a story. Trump's rhetoric and actions have created a climate where droves of formerly ostracized white supremacists are comfortable being loud and proud about their white supremacy, and that the vast majority of said white supremacists, not coincidentally, voted for him and continue to support him.
Nick Sandmann in particular, appearing to be the ringleader, went viral for having the racist audacity to smile at Phillips. If "smiling while white" isn't officially classified as a hate crime, it should be. Naturally, many liberals throughout the country demonstrated their moral superiority by threatening to harm and/or murder him and his family, just like Martin Luther King would have wanted. But don't worry, they had plenty of hatred left over for the other students involved, so much that Covington Catholic High School had to close for safety concerns. This one, though probably meant to be funny somehow, is my favorite because the total lack of consequences really shows where Disney's priorities are (besides murdering the second biggest franchise of all time, of course).
Since I detest Donald Trump and consider it a patriotic duty to speak out against him, this story was convenient for me in a certain sick sense, as it was for many others who believed it. I didn't become consumed with rage or make any threats, but I passed the information along in the naive hope of weakening Trump's influence among decent people in some small way. If I were the average American voter, I would have tried to persist in believing said information when it turned out to be an SJW fairy tale. But unfortunately I have this peculiar, un-American mental disorder that I like to call "being honest enough to change my opinions when I know they're wrong". So instead I redirected my former anger toward the ones who actually deserve it, and I apologize for sharing the lie, and I would apologize far more profusely if I thought I'd actually influenced literally anybody.
Because, as everyone should be aware by now, there turned out to be many more minutes of footage than the one we got worked up over. Nathan Phillips' account of events falls apart even before the students share their side of the story which actually matches the video. Yet I'm still seeing people trying to pretend his account is accurate and he's some kind of hero or victim. The actual facts (remember those things?), which naturally didn't go as viral by a long shot as the original mindless outrage, turned out to be that:
*Prior to this encounter, a group of black protesters was yelling racially charged insults and threats at the students. Of course this wasn't newsworthy or outrageworthy because racism against white people is okay.
*The students, with permission from their chaperone, started chanting school spirit chants to drown out the aforementioned racism they were being bombarded with. Instead of, I don't know, retaliating in any way.
*The students did not approach or "surround" Phillips. He walked into the spot where they had been standing for some time and played his drum in Nick Sandmann's face for no adequately explained reason.
*Literally nobody during this encounter chanted "Build the Wall". Literally. Nobody. You. Lying. Sacks. Of. Crap. One of Phillips' Native American protesters did yell at the students to "go back to Europe", though.
*Phillips is not a Vietnam War veteran. He never set foot in Vietnam. He was a refrigerator mechanic who only served in the US, was frequently AWOL, and never got promoted past Private in four years.
CNN, to their credit, published a statement by the one smiling student who's received most of the American Left's special brand of tolerance. He seems to have more maturity in his pinky finger than all his haters possess together. Twitter, to their credit, suspended the fake account that posted the original deceptively edited (remember that phrase?) video. But this account can hardly shoulder the blame for everyone who believed the story or continues to do so.
Yes, I was one of the many who believed it, because I had these crazy notions that Nathan Phillips was an decent honest guy and mainstream news outlets were reasonably trustworthy sources, but since I never got involved in the unwarranted vitriol toward these students and have since changed my mind in response to additional information, I have a clean conscience. I posted a thing about the original false account, and when I realized I was wrong I posted a thing about the truth, and one of my liberal friends went ballistic about how the truth doesn't matter because these teenagers are still unforgivably bad people for not moving aside when an old man walked into them. And that obviously still warrants viral news coverage and death threats. A couple days later - I'm not making this up - she shared a derogatory post about how sensitive white males on the internet are.
There's also this unsurprising little irony:
I don't remember perfectly, but I do know for a fact that I could count the number of social media posts I saw about the torture on one hand, all of them from conservative sources complaining about the lack of coverage from liberal sources. The attack wasn't very newsworthy or outrageworthy for a couple reasons: because it was black-on-white, and because the black men and women said things like "F--- Trump" while they were torturing the white boy. Awkward. In fairness, CNN did give the story a bit of coverage that failed to go viral, during which Don Lemon refused to denounce the torture as "evil" because "I think these are young people, and I think they have bad home training." I mean, every single one of the black torturers was a legal adult and older than the white students that liberals thought deserved to die for literally no reason, but nobody asked me.
In fairness, with the trivial exception of grossly misrepresenting his military record and allowing others to do so, maybe Nathan Phillips isn't actually the belligerent lying scumbag he appears to be. Maybe this was all a big misunderstanding, and he's a decent honest guy who was simply mistaken about the boys' intentions and somehow got every verifiable detail of the encounter wrong. But since he followed up the next day by loudly trying to barge into a Catholic Mass with a group of his activists, which I don't need to tell you isn't newsworthy or outrageworthy because reasons, I doubt it very much.
Why is it that the people who are obsessed with shaming other people are incapable of feeling shame themselves when they should? The worst of the haters are either still defending Phillips and bashing the students, or trying to quietly move on as if nothing happened and they didn't just screw up innocent people's lives with their stupid witch hunt. Delusion or cowardice, respectively. What if we all had the humility of Dr. Robert P. George, one of the few prominent conservative figures I still respect, who wrote:
And (like me) he wasn't a part of the irresponsible media or the liberal hate machine, so he doesn't even have that much to apologize for. Guess who does?
But then the real problem, according to some other nobody on Twitter, is that these boys "were in D.C. for the sole purpose of promoting male control of women's bodies", having been "bussed in to demand adult women be subjected to forced childbearing". Okay, I grant that would be pretty bad and would definitely warrant death threats for teenagers and their families if it were true instead of being the stupid straw man (no pun intended) that it actually is. Somebody would need to mansplain to all the poor stupid women who participated in the March for Life that they've been duped by men into promoting male control of their bodies, but nobody could because that would be sexist, so it's a good thing that isn't necessary.
This damnable post-truth fake outrage society I'm forced to live in makes me yearn for an early death. (Insert your own quip about also yearning for my early death here.) And pardon the cliche, but if the American Left is really serious about combating bigotry, it needs to take a long look in the mirror.
First, a completely out of character uplifting story. This week I tried to pay the utility bill online (ouch) and I forgot to put my credit card back in my wallet and it fell in the couch. I discovered this last night when I got to the register at Panda Express. Yes, I was eating somewhere fancy and expensive even though I'll probably regret it later because it's fall break and I wanted to do something special like everyone else, dang it. Feeling just slightly embarrassed, I asked if they could hold onto my food while I went and got my card, which would have taken at least forty minutes but was my only option. And the guy behind me in line whom I had never met before was like, "Nah, I'll just pay for it." And I was like, "Are you sure?" And that was a stupid thing to say, because what was he going to say, "On second thought, no"? But you know, you have to say something like that in these situations. So he did, and his little act of kindness made me not care that Russians are getting arrested for meddling in our elections. Normally I'd be outraged, because only Americans are allowed to meddle with other countries' governments, but I'm focusing on the positive now.
Now, on to what the title promised:
To recap: serial killer abortionist Kermit Gosnell violated several laws, operated in disgusting conditions, murdered babies that were born alive, and wasn't investigated by the authorities for nearly two decades despite multiple complaints. And everyone, regardless of their views on abortion, hates him. Yet for some reason most of the media refused to cover his trial until they were called out on it by this thing called "the internet" that they apparently didn't count on, and many people tried to stop this movie from getting made or released, and now most of the media is refusing to review it despite it doing reasonably well at the box office and Facebook is literally blocking its ads for some bullcrap reason. I don't know why. I guess Kermit Gosnell just makes abortion look bad. I'm not able to see this movie because it's not playing anywhere near me, but I support its mission to get the truth out.
Jane & Emma
I did manage to see this one. Weird story. So I'm in this Facebook group "Black Latter-day Saints" despite not being black, and someone there said to text this number for free tickets to this movie, and I did, and I only asked for one, but this happened:
So on my sixth try, I found someone willing and able to go with me on such short notice. After I kicked a couple seats in front of me until they took a hint and turned off their obnoxiously bright phones (Pro tip: if you can't go without looking at your phone for an hour and a half, something's wrong with you), I was able to enjoy the movie. It's not really my type of movie and the chronology was a little confusing at first, but it was decent. The movie, of course, is about the sisterhood between LDS prophet Joseph Smith's first wife Emma and black LDS convert Jane Manning James, a sisterhood far ahead of its time. This movie has been praised for "having a public conversation everyone else should be having". As someone with more than a passing interest in black Latter-day Saint history, of course I had to see it and I'm glad I did.
Tomorrow: another post because I missed a week somewhere
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
- David Young
C. Randall Nicholson
This is where I occasionally rant about life, the universe, and/or everything. I'm a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate me without guilt, but I'm also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual.