Abigail Shrier and rational fear

At a Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar in Franklin, Tennessee, in May 2021 – the same one addressed by Andy Ngo whom we examined on 4 June – there was a talk by Abigail Shrier, author of Irreversible Damage.

She has a Wikipedia page which, in its first paragraph, includes the following verbatim statement,

The book endorses the contentious concept of rapid onset gender dysphoria.

I have yet to read her book, but I’ve heard this speech twice. When you’ve heard her speech, you may like to decide for yourself whether that statement by Wikipedia is likely to be true. You may also understand why I chose to link her name to her own website instead of Wikipedia in order that she – rather than others – should tell us who she is.

The introduction is made by our old friend, Timothy Caspar, who makes the usual precise and concise job of it. He also throws in an appealing play on words at the end.

As stated earlier I’ve watched this twice, and you can add to that several dippings in and out at particular spots. It took only one viewing to absorb, marvel at, and get angered by, what she has to say; the rest was trying to analyse and understand her delivery.

She reads her speech, which for me is always a disappointment because spontaneous shooting from the hip is always more audience-friendly. As usual I wait eagerly for an ad lib ‘aside’ to see how much more fluent it is, but in this event it isn’t. On the contrary it is full of stumbles. That is very unusual. Intrigued, I look for a reason and eventually I think I find it. I’ll return to that, but meanwhile I claim that Shrier could easily be taught how to shoot everything from the hip, and would find it super-liberating, but would take a heap of persuading that it was a good idea.

She is very nervous, and these aren’t Hump nerves because they don’t recede after the first couple of minutes. She continues to display nerve symptoms throughout, making me itch to help her. For instance the periodic adjustment of microphones is a classic example. As a generality nerves are divided into rational and irrational, and rational ones are those that get dug in and stay for the duration, so what does she have to be rationally nervous about? The content is beautifully coherent.

She doesn’t seem to be upset by the audience’s laughter. It isn’t derision: it’s laughter of astonishment, of incredulity, even outrage, and there is plenty here to cause outrage.

Children’s futures being destroyed by organisations who exist to help them is an outrage. The fact of most transgender activists not themselves being transgender is an outrage, as it suggests their motivation to be sinister. The huge list of previously respectable institutions that have been infiltrated and hollowed out by activists is an outrage. The disgusting techniques used to stifle any debate is an outrage. And so on.

At 20:14 she tells us that trans-bigotry is “soaked in lies”. At 28:25 she addresses “Why?”, and the answer comes at 29:35. Chaos. Chaos is the point. It’s all tied in with a range of other disreputable and mendacious movements – BLM, Antifa, Critical Race Theory, Extinction Rebellion, etc. Chaos is the point. The more lies you can invent to swell the victim class, the more people you have to join the Revolution.

I can think of many other movements that are soaked in lies, but don’t get me started.

Shrier ends at 32:12, and as the applause hits her just look at her face! How often have you seen such smiles of profound relief? And lest there be any doubt listen to what she says at 33:05. She has become conditioned to be scared stiff of her audience. That’s where the rational nerves stemmed. Scott Atlas made a similar observation when he spoke to Hillsdale.

What sort of evil are we up against when daring to speak the truth is made so dangerous? It’s an evil that causes all-but-extinct organisations like Hillsdale College, that espouse free debate, to be of huge importance.

Tim Allen to infinity

Tim Allen to infinity

In May 2021 Hillsdale College staged its one hundred and sixty-ninth Commencement Address, and the speaker was actor/comedian Tim Allen.

I’ve often thought that selecting a speaker for commencement addresses is an interesting and potentially perilous undertaking, because in addition to an absorbing speaker you have to find some relevance beyond mere celebrity. I have now discovered that Tim Allen, in addition to the huge menu of work in his resumé, in addition to being the voice of Buzz Lightyear, is the voice of Michigan in the state advertisements entitled Pure Michigan. Hillsdale College is in Michigan.

Nevertheless I suspect there’s a lot more for us to learn.

The speaker for an event of this profile should have a very senior introducer, and Larry Arnn the college President does the honours. We’ve seen him introducing before. He takes no prisoners. Does Tim Allen have any idea what’s coming?

Nope! He is overcome! “How in hell am I supposed to follow that?”

He’s neatly identified my problem here. How in hell am I supposed to critique this?

The fact is that being a comedian – a proper one with a Vegas routine that his agent warned him not to use here – he is comfortable with narrating a stream of consciousness. At least it comes across as a stream of consciousness whereas it conforms to an orthodox structure – chronology. He’s telling his life story with the emphasis, because he’s talking to a college, on his stressful relationship with his teachers. Anyone could follow that structure, but what makes this special is that he colours it all with his over-the-top personality. He’s a comedian – a proper one – and this is lovely stuff.

He’s even funny about how he went astray and wound up in a penitentiary for two years.

To the wider world he’s undoubtedly more famous for his acting because movies get more butts on seats than even the vast auditoriums in Vegas, but he’s a little dismissive of that part of his work. It pays the bills, it pays a hell of a lot of bills, but it doesn’t have audience contact. This is an artist who relishes audience contact and it shows.

The better they are the pickier I get. The least effective sections in this talk are when he moves into worthy areas. He probably thinks he should, and and he’s probably right, but it feels to me as if he’s strayed out of his back yard. But that’s very picky indeed.

I loved this.

Žižek vs Hannan re Marx

Žižek vs Hannan re Marx

On 3 June 2021 the Cambridge Union streamed a virtual debate between brilliant speakers who have both been featured on this blog before.

Slavoj Žižek appeared in January 2019 with a speech delivered to the Oxford Union. He it was, with his manifold twitches and fidgets, that finally cemented my conviction that if you are interesting enough it doesn’t matter if you display idiosyncrasies and mannerisms. I described him then as a tonic. I still do.

Daniel Hannan has been featured no less than seven times, the first time in November 2012, and epitomises my oft-repeated declaration that the better they are the pickier I get. My pickiness with him was that his search for public speaking perfection risked smoothing away his edges so much that his personality could get hidden.

Could you have a more contrasting pair? And the motion they are debating is This House Believes Marx Was Right.

The debate is introduced and chaired very well by Joel Rosen, President of the Union, and begins with a ten minute statement from each of the speakers. Žižek for the proposition goes first.

It is interesting that, rather than fill the screen with just the speaker, the producers elect to show both speakers all the time. My advice to those who are on TV debates is never while others are speaking to pull faces, nod, shake your head, scowl or make any other tacit comment, but remain impassive and keep your powder dry. I am therefore delighted to see Hannan listening intently but without expression. (There is one dramatic exception late in the debate when Žižek makes a staggering statement which causes my jaw to drop and Hannan’s eyes almost to pop out. I’ll come back to that.)

Žižek’s fidgets and twitches are matched by his Slovenian accent that you could slice and dice with a blunt spoon. Normally this doesn’t matter, but add to that the sound distortion through the virtual meeting medium, and I fear that here he is often very difficult for my English ears to decipher. This is a pity because he is good, and knowing this I concentrate like fury – and though it’s sometimes hard work it is worth doing.

Ten minutes later Hannan begins his opposition, and the contrast is even greater than I expected. Whereas Žižek delights in going off on convoluted tangents, Hannan is keeping everything super-tight with coherence to match. Nevertheless the deep-frozen Hannan discipline that I have seen in the past thaws enough to allow more passion to show through, and that delights me.

The centre section of the debate consists of rebuttals, and then questions from each other, from viewers and from the chairman.

One question put to them concerns whether Marx’s philosophy would be better at combatting the climate crisis. What climate crisis? My instant reaction is that I am watching here something I have never seen on the subject of global warming – a debate. Al Gore used to parrot a slogan, “The debate is over!” What debate? I have never seen or heard of any actual proper debate, though I have seen plenty of debate challenges issued causing alarmists to scurry for cover. You’d have thought that alone would have weakened their standing, yet “the climate crisis” is blithely dropped into a question in a debate like this as if everyone accepts its very existence – while many seriously significant scientists don’t, as a recent speech on this blog testifies.

A question to Hannan is “who is your favourite communist thinker?” and to Žižek “who is your favourite conservative thinker?” As usual Žižek goes around the houses a few times before giving his answer. It comes at 1.11.35 and there is the afore-mentioned jaw-dropper which I shall not spoil, but Hannan’s face is a sight to behold.

The debate rounds off with a concluding speech from each of of them.

Is there a winner? Is a vote taken? I don’t know, and I don’t really care. I have had a riveting hour and a half, and that satisfies me.

Andy Ngo: beaten by brutish beasts

At a Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar in Franklin, Tennessee, in May 2021, there was a talk by Andy Ngo.

In all the thousands of online speeches I have watched, though a round of applause at the end, and in greeting at the beginning, is the norm I think this is the first time I have heard an audience break out in spontaneous applause at the mere mention of the speaker’s name at the beginning of his introduction.

The introduction is by Timothy Caspar, and it is he that is unexpectedly interrupted by applause on his mentioning Ngo’s name. Caspar’s reaction is excellent, as is the personal warmth that he injects into the introduction.

Ngo comes to the lectern just after 2:30 but can’t begin speaking till nearly the 3-minute mark, because now the applause is turbo charged by cheering. The applause at the end of the speech is more subdued, probably by the chilling story.

O judgement! Thou art fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason.

I already knew some of at least the bare bones of Ngo’s account of his investigations into the activities of Antifa. For the purposes of this posting that was an advantage, because otherwise I would have been gaping at what he tells instead of carefully considering his delivery. If you are coming new to this story, be prepared. This is a brave man.

He begins by uttering a trigger-warning concerning the nature of some of the images he will be showing, and they are shocking. That warning is not sensationalist, nor is Ngo. His account of dramatic incidents is delivered in a calm, matter-of-fact and undramatic fashion, allowing the narrative to speak for itself. The only help he gives to the story comes in the shape of long pauses. It works pretty well, but the real quality of this speech is that the story is even being told.

The story he tells and the images he shows are outrageous, as is the inability of politically shackled police to combat it. But in many ways more shocking still is the role of the press. I often come across people who would classify themselves as well-informed who have at best the faintest, sketchiest idea of the unfettered anarchy that has been going on since last year in Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis. This is because the world is told almost nothing, and the little that does get out is ridiculously biased and sanitised. There was last year a notorious piece of video footage of a US TV reporter talking of ‘a peaceful protest’ while behind him numerous buildings were blazing. This news blackout has overflowed to the UK. Proper journalism is, if not dead, at least comatose.

That is why when people like Andy Ngo defy death-threats to spread real news people of good will and espousers of truth break out in spontaneous applause.