Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

01/06/2009 (8:30 am)

Introducing Big Hollywood

Today marks the introduction of a group blog worthy of our support. Andrew Breitbart, founder of the Breitbart.com and Breitbart.tv news services, launches Big Hollywood, a conservative community aimed at changing the entertainment industry.

Changing pop culture is more important than we can imagine. In the project of rescuing Western civilization from terminal rot, it’s second in importance only to changing education. Even the most stable among us are vulnerable to the constant hammering of demands for corrosive social change that we hear in the popular media. We’ve come to accept casual sex as passe’ simply because of unbroken repetition; today, we live in the most sexually libertine culture in the history of the planet, and barely bat an eyelid when we hear that 20% of the American population carries incurable viral STDs. This was accomplished through pop culture, by repetitive portrayals of casual sex among the young.

Social corrosion could be reversed in the same manner, if the right people had the right influence in popular media, and there are some signs that that could happen. Mystery writer Andrew Klavan, front and center on the site today, recounts some of the positive news from 2008 for conservatives:

Spider-Man 3, a pro-American, pro-responsibility film with deeply Christian overtones topped the box office in 2007. 300, which said a lot that needed to be said about the war on terror, came in at number ten. Even more amazing, the Oscar winner for the year was No Country for Old Men, a decidedly conservative film that linked the evil of its nihilist serial killer to the decline of morals since the 1960’s. “Once you stop hearing sir or ma’am,” says the film’s lone moral voice, “the rest [of the evil] will follow.”

It was pretty much the same this year. Top of the box office so far: the blatantly pro-war on terror Dark Knight. The Christian Prince Caspian is at number eleven. The pro-abstinence Twilight is currently at sixteen and still hot. And perhaps most delightfully, and of course most ignored by the MSM: the Christian pro-marriage film Fireproof, despite suffering from its shoestring budget, still out-performed such favorites of our media elites as W, Religulous and Stop-Loss.

Now yes, it’s aggravating that good values have to go disguised as super heroes or vampires or Spartans while those who hate America and God can speak out plain. But if liberals in the arts sometimes bully conservatives into silence, it’s partly because conservatives let it happen. When the people whose welfare policies helped destroy the black family call us racist, we cower. When the people whose sexual revolution helped spread the plagues of divorce and STD’s call us sexist, we quail. When the people who blame 9/11 on America call us warmongers, we get defensive.

Well, to hell with that. They’re full of it. We ought to spit in their collective eye.

We’re beginning to get that idea. The very existence of this website is evidence of it. Andrew Breitbart’s not afraid of these clowns. Neither is John Nolte. Neither are the rest of us who’ll be blogging here. And I’m willing to bet that once we start talking out loud, there’ll be more of us and then more.

We could cite a lot of negatives about that list of positives. It’s hard to celebrate the “good values” of films so bruising to the soul as No Country for Old Men and Dark Knight, and the “Christian” Prince Caspian was largely de-Christianized by its script-writers. However, it would be foolish in the extreme to expect balance and harmony overnight after nearly a century of socially progressive corruption in the arts. We need to treat the burgeoning social conservatism of Hollywood as we would treat a toddler — applaud loudly every gain while gently correcting errors and imperfections, no matter how glaring.

Stick Big Hollywood in your bookmarks, and pay them a visit from time to time. This is a good start.

07/01/2008 (8:46 am)

Web Pirates for Obama?

There are some sketchy indications that Obama supporters may be engaging in hacker tactics to stifle criticism of their candidate.

I received an email yesterday drawing my attention to this Newsbusters article discussing how the American Spectator website was tagged by Google as a possible spam site, making it impossible to reach American Spectator through Google’s search engine. It’s plausible, of course, that some hacker implanted Trojan Horse code somewhere on American Spectator and Google is reporting accurately; but, as Newsbusters pointed out, the Google message says the rogue code was last detected on 4/5/2008, and nobody reported being deflected from American Spectator by Google until 6/30/2008. Several of the comments on the Newsbusters article shed additional light, making it appear certain that Google’s “this may harm your computer” report was specious.

Google is getting a reputation for this sort of thing; my own story is that for a while, you could type “incompetent” into the Google search bar and the first article returned would be Wikipedia’s article about President George W. Bush (this no longer works, btw). My best guess is that some Google employee did it on the quiet.

I would have let it pass, but I also happened across this fascinating report from Bloggasm: a number of anti-Obama blogs on Blogspot.com, a blog host run by Google, got hacked all in the same night last week. According to impromptu chatter among the Blogspot bloggers, somebody apparently went to the trouble of visiting every one of them and pressing the “flag this blog” option at the top of the screen, a button Google provides for readers to flag potentially offensive material. As a result of the action, none of these blogs were reachable for a period of about 3 days. A number of them have left Google’s hosting site and set up free WordPress accounts instead.

The Bloggasm article contains this frightening account from blogger Larry Johnson, who allegedly suffered a denial of service attack a few months ago, and then allegedly received threatening phone calls from Obama supporters. Larry Johnson is a scumbag; he’s the guy who published the rumor about Republicans having a video of Michelle Obama at the Trinity Church attacking “whitey,” a tape that most likely does not exist. He’s a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton, and could possibly be involved in a hoax to damage Obama. However, if his account here is to be believed, the Obama campaign appears to be engaged in Brownshirt tactics, attempting to silence criticism by internet piracy and intimidation.

“We were contacted by our host in March and they claimed we were draining too many resources,” he said. “They shut us down completely. But when we went in to look at our site statistics it was evident that something else was clearly going on — we were the subject of some kind of spam attack that was putting a strain on the site.”

To ward off such attacks, he decided to go with his own server, a move that he said would make it harder to shut him down. But after he published the “whitey” claims, he had more direct conflicts with Obama supporters.

“The problem with these people who had their Google accounts shut down, they’re intimidated by it,” Johnson said. “They don’t want to get themselves in a situation so they would be identified. Some of these people who get identified, the Obama folks start picking up the phone and calling. I had phone calls into my office, threatening me, saying that you’re going to be fired, let me talk
to your boss. I told them to go f*** (my deletion) themselves, because I am my own boss. It helps to be self-employed.”

I did hear rumors of this from pro-Hillary sites during the extended primary season, and we may be seeing the first signs of it here.

New politics, indeed. We’re not used to Stalinists here in America.

Photo of a synagogue burned on Krystalnacht was borrowed from a toxic leftist’s website, one Peter Amsel. Beware: this guy’s a Truther, and worse. Good photos, though.

I notice that Chris Muir’s DBD cartoon today covers the same topic. Kudos, Chris, and fists up for freedom.

06/18/2008 (9:02 am)

AP Faces Down "Fair Use" Quoting

The Associated Press attempted over the weekend to stop bloggers from quoting AP stories without permission. The target of their first barrage was a leftward-leaning lampoon of Matt Drudge’s internet staple, called “the Drudge Retort.” They’ve been showered with cease-and-desist orders for quoting AP stories briefly, citing 7 stories that each quote between 25 and 80 words from AP stories.

The blogworld barfed, so they dropped back 15 yards and got the Marketing Department involved. Yesterday, they published a schedule of charges for quoting their material. It will cost me $12.50 to quote from 5 to 25 words of an AP story.

Charge schedule from AP web usage access site, showing how much AP words are worth. Notice the somewhat embarrassing “iCopyright” logo at top right, the “i” being a fair use imitation of some obscure company’s logo idea (smirk).

Blogworld has predictably gone berserk. Michelle Malkin pulled together some pretty funny stuff yesterday to slap the AP around a little. She notes how frequently the AP has quoted her blog without permission, so she applies their criteria and claims they owe her a few hundred grand for a couple of stories. Nyuk nyuk. She also has mock-up A La Carte schedules from AP ($.25 for “a”, “and,” and “the,” etc.) and a few other snark rockets from blog sites. Patterico took a more serious tone, observing that the AP recently quoted twice as much from his blog as Drudge Retort quoted from their story, and that he wouldn’t charge them for fair use. He’s going to continue to quote AP stories in a manner that conforms to fair use law. Brave soul. Patterico is a lawyer, and has quite a bit of blog muscle.

Me? I may do the same, but I’m considering grass-roots calls to simply boycott the AP.

Mememorandum shows a little BlogWorld agitation over the AP’s money-grubbing.

I’m sure they think it’s like the record industry trying to charge for downloaded songs, but it’s not. “Fair use” has been a staple of copyright law for quite a while (even for songs — you can use a clip from a song in another work if the clip is brief, your use of it transforms it, and your own work does not affect the profits of the other work’s owner). From this useful discussion of fair use law from Stanford University, here are the fair use guidelines:

  • If your use of the quoted material adds value to it or transforms it into a different message, you’re probably entitled to fair use.
  • If the nature of the copyrighted work is factual, you’re more likely to be entitled to use portions of it in your work, because the dissemination of facts benefits the public.
  • The less of the original work you use, the more likely that you’re using it fairly.
  • It’s more likely to be fair use if your use of the original work does not deprive the owner of income.

Notice that these are guidelines, not rules. Courts handle these case-by-case, and make subjective judgments about the situations. Still, it’s pretty clear that a blog quoting a small segment of an AP story constitutes fair use, so long as:

  • We quote small segments, not entire articles;
  • We’re quoting news reports;
  • We’re adding commentary;
  • We link to their site, which increases circulation and demand for their story, enhancing their profitability.

By the way, if the AP thinks I’m a candidate for a pay subscription to their news service, and that my use of quotes from yahoo.com deprives them of income from my subscription, they’re living on a capitalist fatcat fantasy farm. Dream on, suckers. My site makes no money, I’m not about to pay much to enhance it. If I get to the point where it’s important for me to know the news as soon as possible after it happens and respond to it quickly, then I’ll subscribe — even if I can get their story for free from yahoo.com.

I think they can’t be serious about charging for use; I think they’re angling to get some structure into how BlogWorld uses their stuff. We’ll see, and soon.