Ezra Klein, Bill Donohue, and Alec Baldwin. Three very different men, who are in fact raising a very important question. Is this still America? Recent stories involving all three men (and the Klein story has been discussed here by Robert Stacy McCain) are classics of the old Communist thought-reform method of operation.
Let’s begin with Ezra Klein, the one-time Washington Post whiz kid turned digital-media mogul. Klein, you see, hired one Brandon Ambrosino to work for his new Internet site Vox. Mr. Ambrosino is a gay man who is not reluctant to criticize gay elites (read: liberals who happen to be gay). For this Ambrosino is in disfavor. For hiring Ambrosino, the liberal Klein is in more than disfavor. Across the leftist side of the Net he is being assailed: from “Hipster Homophobia” to a “Queer New Hire” to, but of course, Media Matters, where the entire point of the enterprise is to divide people by race and sexual preference.
Klein professes himself to be shocked, shocked! And, in the style that is famous in Communist circles everywhere, he has been forced to account for his dastardly Betrayal of the One Liberal Faith.
Let’s go back to the late American historian and sociologist Franz Schurmann. Professor Schurmann, who taught at UC Berkeley, wrote in a 1966 tome titled Ideology and Organization in Communist China:
One of the most important questions of concern to us is whether “thought reform” (szuhsiang kaitsao) can produce “correct” behavior in the individual. Thought reform is, in effect, the method by which ideology is created within the individual. Since it is intensive and time-consuming, it is usually only the cadres who fully undergo it.…Every individual who aspires to become a member of the Party must go through the process of thought reform. First, the Party collects as complete a dossier (tangan) as possible on his background. If he measures up, he becomes a candidate member.…His statements are checked against the dossier…the group begins to criticize him intensely. This or that deed of his life, or fact of his background, is analyzed in great detail and criticized with vehement hostility. All the while, the individual is forced to use the categories and language of the ideology to analyze himself. Moreover, he faces a hostile group that attacks every fault of his. This is the point of juxtaposition of opposites, when the contradictions have become most acute. At this time, the attitude of the group changes, and they begin to “help” him develop a correct attitude.…If he finally arrives at a point of correct behavior, the group will then recommend he be formally taken into the Party.”
With that in mind, take a look at this recent experience of Mr. Klein’s. In today’s world, the self-flagellations necessary for “thought reform” have moved from education camps to Facebook. Here’s Mr. Klein’s version of displaying “a correct attitude”:
Over the past 48 hours I’ve spoken to a lot folks in the LGBT community to better understand the strong, negative reaction to my hiring of Brandon Ambrosino. People felt Brandon had made his name writing sloppy pieces that were empathetic towards homophobes but relentlessly critical of the gay community. They believe we were sending a signal about Vox’s approach to LGBT issues: Contrarian clickbait at the expense of the struggle and discrimination that LGBT men and women face every day.
That was never our intention. Our approach to LGBT stories will be the same as our approach to all other issues: We want people to read us because we do the best job tracking and explaining the news, not because we do the best job shocking people. We want to inform our readers — not annoy them. Our kind of clickbait tends towards beautiful data visualizations, not frontal assaults on causes we believe in and people we admire.
Brandon isn’t our LGBT correspondent. He’s not even the only LGBT employee of Vox.com. He is a young writer who we think has talent who’s going to receive a lot of editing and a lot of guidance.
Brandon applied for the news-writing fellowship, a one-year position focused on helping inexperienced writers develop aggregation and reportorial skills. Contrary to some garbled reports, before hiring Brandon I read a lot of his previous work. Brandon’s past writing was often quite pointed and personal, and not a fit for Vox — and I told him so. The writing fellowship requires a very different approach.
But something that often happens to young freelance writers on the Internet is that they end up writing reams of their most controversial opinions before they ever get a chance to do basic reporting or benefit from a routine relationship with an editor. So as part of Brandon’s writing test, I asked him to do eight news articles and two explainers — more than 5,000 words of original content, in all. He needed more editing, training and direction. But he showed himself a strong, fast writer who really wanted to learn. And that training is what the fellowship is there for.
I could’ve, and should’ve, handled this hire a lot better. But I would ask people to give Brandon a chance. He’ll be held to the same high standards as all Vox.com employees, and I believe he’ll meet them.
Let’s move on to Mr. Donohue of the Catholic League. As may be recalled, recently the mayors of both Boston and New York declined to march in their respective cities’ St. Patrick’s Day parades. The reason: gay advocates were being excluded from the parade, not because they wanted to celebrate their Irishness but rather to promote their own gay agenda. Which, of course, is not what either parade is about. There was much fuss. The gays involved refused to abide by the rules of the St. Patrick’s Day parade organizers. So? So Guinness did the “correct” thing and pulled its sponsorship of the New York parade. Sam Adams beer did the same in Boston. And yes, obviously, both parades have a heavy Irish Catholic make-up.
Leave it to the resourceful Bill Donohue to turn the tables. Donohue asked to march in New York’s Gay Pride parade — carrying a banner that read “Straight is Great!” What happened when he proposed to abide not by the gay parade’s views but do something else? Here is Mr. Donohue to explain it himself:
For the past few days I have been engaged in an e-mail conversation with officials from the Heritage of Pride parade, New York’s annual gay event; the dialogue has been cordial. I asked to join the parade under a banner that would read, “Straight is Great.” The purpose of my request was to see just how far they would go without forcing me to abide by their rules. It didn’t take long before they did.
Today, I informed Heritage of Pride officials that I objected to their rule requiring me to attend gay training sessions, or what they call “information” sessions. “I don’t agree with your rule,” I said. They responded by saying that attendance was “mandatory.”
The St. Patrick’s Day parade has mandatory rules, too. It bars groups representing their own cause from marching, which is why pro-life Catholics—not just gays—are barred from participating under their own banner. But only gays complain: they refuse to abide by the rules. Indeed, they went into federal court seeking to force a rule change. They lost. In 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that private parades have a First Amendment right to determine their own rules.
It is hypocritical for gay activists to complain about having to abide by the mandatory rules of the St. Patrick’s Day parade, and then inform me that I cannot march in their parade unless I respect their mandatory rules, rules that I reject.
Good luck to the Heritage of Pride participants. I may be watching it from afar, but I sure won’t be downing a Guinness afterwards.
Where is Guinness to protest over precisely the same type of exclusion of Mr. Donohue that the fabled Irish beer maker protested when it was gays who would not obey St. Patrick’s parade rules? Apparently, in hiding. Why did Guinness pull its sponsorship? Here’s this from CNN Money:
Guinness is the latest beer giant to withdraw its support for a St. Patrick’s Day parade because lesbian and gay groups aren’t allowed to march openly.
The beer maker late Sunday announced its decision to drop its sponsorship of Monday’s parade in New York City.
Over the weekend, gay rights icon Stonewall Inn had threatened to stop selling Guinness beer if the company continued to sponsor the parade. And LGBT advocacy group GLAAD had planned an anti-Guinness event on Monday.
“We were hopeful that the policy of exclusion would be reversed for this year’s parade,” Guinness said in a statement. “As this has not come to pass, Guinness has withdrawn its participation.”
Now. Does any of this remind of another set-to from recent months? That’s right, the one with Alec Baldwin. Baldwin went to New York magazine to open up about it. One can agree or disagree with Mr. Baldwin, and even he seems to know that his quick temper gets him in trouble. But notice these words in this New York piece:
I flew to Hawaii recently to shoot a film, fresh on the heels of being labeled a homophobic bigot by Andrew Sullivan, Anderson Cooper, and others in the Gay Department of Justice. I wanted to speak with a gay-rights group that I had researched and admired, so I called its local Honolulu branch.…
In the recent video, you see me completely riled up and going after this guy and you hear me saying “cocksucker” and then some bisyllabic word that sounds like “faggot” — but wasn’t. Still, it doesn’t matter. glaad comes after me and Anderson Cooper comes after me and Andrew Sullivan comes after me, all maintaining that I’m a hateful homophobe. All based on what Harvey Levin (of TMZ) told them.
What is it that Ezra Klein, Bill Donohue and Alec Baldwin all have in common here? Two of them liberals, the third, Donohue a conservative Catholic?
Each in their own way has found himself at odds with gay thought reform. They have not exhibited the “correct behavior.” Ezra Klein’s “mistake” — his incorrect behavior — was hiring Brandon Ambrosino, a gay man who thinks differently than the left-wing gay activists at the top of the gay movement’s pyramid of power. Bill Donohue’s “mistake” — his incorrect behavior — was demanding of the Gay Pride parade in New York the same tolerance it was demanding of the Irish who run the New York St. Patrick’s. Alec Baldwin’s “mistake” — and this is a man never averse to incorrect behavior — was letting loose with a string of offensive words that angered what he called “the Gay Department of Justice.”
Guinness shamelessly enrolled in this gay thought reform program, caving quickly to the gay thought reform bullies who threatened their livelihood in selling beer. Up in Boston, Sam Adams too had been bullied, as Forbes noted here, saying the “move comes after a Boston bar said it would no longer serve Sam Adams beer because of its support of the parade.” One can only imagine what the original Sam Adams — a man legendary in American and Boston history for standing up to British bullies — would think of the beer company that may carry his name although not his spirit.
Make no mistake: This in fact has nothing to do with being gay. This has everything to do with being Left. The same thought reform that went after Ezra Klein, Bill Donohue, and Alec Baldwin over gay rights can be found at work on issues that range from abortion to global warming to civil rights to dozens of other issues. Americans are denied jobs in academia, jail is being demanded for so-called “global warming deniers,” Mr. Baldwin lost his job at MSNBC, Paul Ryan is assailed as a racist (here as Tracy Mehan notes and here from the WaPo’s Mark Thiessen) by those with a history of racism that is thicker than the federal budget…and on and on Leftist thought reform goes.
What interests here is that Mr. Klein, at the beginning of his Vox venture, went half-way down the demanded road by writing a sort-of mea culpa. Then, at the last minute, he stuck with his guns on the hire of his staffer. Donohue delights in exposing the open hypocrisy of it all, and Baldwin breaks with the thought police while maintaining a strong defense of himself, consequences be damned. All three are well positioned to stand up for themselves.
But make no mistake, this is one of the most important struggles going on in the country today. The Leftist drive to shut down opposition — to deprive those they disagree with and even those they don’t — of whatever position they have or seek in American life.
It isn’t a question of it being wrong. It is.
It’s a question of it being dangerous. Very dangerous.