Category Archives: Politically correct

Princeton Targets a Dissenting Professor

Princeton University

Photo: Seth Wenig/Associated Press

Everyone knows American universities are dangerous places these days if you dare to express unpopular views. But Princeton University’s handling of classics professor Joshua Katz is still shocking for its procedural double jeopardy.

This week brought grim news for Joshua Katz, a classics professor who drew ire on campus in 2020 after criticizing a faculty letter on race relations. The Journal reported Thursday that Princeton president Christopher Eisgruber has asked the university’s trustees to fire Mr. Katz, who has tenure. The official complaint is a procedural charge, based on Mr. Katz’s supposed noncompliance in an investigation into his relationship with a student.

Princeton found in 2018 that the professor had maintained a consensual sexual relationship with an undergraduate student more than a decade earlier. Mr. Katz was suspended for a year without pay. Yet the university opened a new investigation of his conduct after Mr. Katz publicly criticized a faculty letter on race relations in 2020.

His colleagues decided the second time around that Mr. Katz hadn’t been fully forthright in the first investigation, and concluded that he could be punished again. The dean of faculty insists that Mr. Katz’s politics “is not germane to the case.” And if you believe that, you have been living in a cave off-campus.

Yet Mr. Eisgruber claims the proposed firing has nothing to do with political speech.

Mr. Katz became a target the moment he criticized a statement signed by hundreds of his colleagues that called for radical changes to Princeton’s policies on race and employment. In the weeks after George Floyd’s murder, the faculty authors sought specific concessions for nonwhite professors, including “course relief and summer salary.”

Mr. Katz responded by asserting the principle that all races should be treated equally. He suggested that progressive advocacy groups had worsened the intellectual climate on campus, and he referred to the Black Justice League as “a small local terrorist organization,” saying it had intimidated students.

Mr. Eisgruber condemned Mr. Katz “personally and strongly” for such language. But Mr. Katz wrote an article in these pages while the controversy raged, announcing that “the administration is not investigating me.” He even praised Princeton for standing up for free speech.

He underestimated the determination of his critics to purge a dissenting voice. The same week that Princeton’s trustees discussed Mr. Katz’s fate, they praised Mr. Eisgruber for his “outspoken defense of free speech.” The world now knows how hollow those words are.


a Defiant Scribe in the Age of Conformity

Might be best article of the month. Pretty honest assessment of a unashamed Jew. Can I strongly suggest you to read this and THINK about it? mrossol

WSJ, ByBarton Swaim

David Mamet

Illustration: Ken Fallin

Santa Monica, Calif.

Back in the 1980s and ’90s, innumerable films, TV documentaries and history textbooks instructed us that the 1950s were years of conformity and conventionalism: “The Donna Reed Show,” McCarthyism, “The Organization Man,” TV dinners. In fact, the ’50s were a time of extraordinary artistic creativity, boundless technological innovation, original thinking in politics, intellectual diversity in journalism and higher education, new energy in religion, and enormous progress in race relations. What the ’80s and ’90s mistook for conformity was a naturally evolved cultural solidarity—something nearly everybody, on the left and the right, longs for now.

An informed observer of present-day America might reasonably conclude that our own decade—at least among the educated and advantaged classes—is far more imbued with the spirit of conformism than the ’50s were. Corporate managers and military leaders parrot nostrums about diversity, inclusion and sustainability that few of them believe. Museums and orchestras studiously avoid programming that might offend ideologues. Reporters and producers in the mainstream press seize on stories—or ignore them—solely because that’s what everybody else in the press is doing. Large majorities in wealthy cities dutifully comply with public-health restrictions they know to be largely ineffective, mainly because refusing to do so would invite the ire of friends and neighbors complying with those restrictions for the same reason.

Maybe America’s deciders and describers (to use Nicholas Eberstadt’s phrase) aren’t the independent-minded lot they think themselves to be.

These and related ironies were on my mind in February when I received a galley copy of the playwright David Mamet’s “Recessional: The Death of Free Speech and the Cost of Free Lunch,” published Tuesday. The book is a collection of essays written over the past two years on an array of cultural and political topics: pandemic zealotry, Donald Trump, terrorism, California’s punitive tax code, Christianity and Judaism, Broadway and the movies. The essays are by turns witty, insightful, affecting and cryptic. What struck me most about the book, though, was how superbly out of place its author must be in the eminent environs of his chosen industry.

In March I visited Mr. Mamet’s home in Santa Monica and asked him about, for lack of a more original term, the Age of Conformity. What is the source of this sudden impulse to go along with the crowd that we see at high levels of American society?

“It’s that time-wasting machine,” he says, pointing to the cellphone with which I’m recording the conversation. “We’re all connected. But connected for what purpose? The idea that everybody has to behave the same way is part of the breakdown of what was a cohesive society.”

He brings up the 1950s without prompting. “When I was a kid,” he says—Mr. Mamet was born in Chicago in 1947—“people went to different churches, they were from different ethnic backgrounds, their parents came from different countries, but somehow they managed to have a collective life. All of their self-worth didn’t come from belonging and staying connected to this one uber-group.”

Mr. Mamet’s works include the Pulitzer-winning play “Glengarry Glen Ross” (1984) and the screenplays for “The Untouchables” (1987), “Hoffa” (1992) and “Heist” (2001). He speaks the way he writes: in short, forceful sentences and with constant recourse to wild anecdotes, uproarious jokes and literary quotations bent to his purpose.

Do people in the entertainment industry censor themselves? “They do not walk around saying things that are dangerous to express, no. People whisper out here. They have to. To say, ‘Well maybe Trump did some good things’—you can’t do that. You’d risk your home, your job, your family, your friends.”

Mr. Mamet is convinced that the “woke agenda” (his term) is basically an act, so in some ways it works well in Hollywood. “Nobody really believes it,” he says. “Nobody really believes boys turn into girls and girls turn into boys—no one does. But it’s put into a different category, so that it becomes dangerous to question it. If you question it, you’re out.”

Are the young buying it? My own observation suggests some substantial minority do not. Academics and college students I’ve spoken to since 2017 indicate that social pressure to signal assent to a rotating series of orthodoxies, from public health to race and gender theories, has sparked a quiet revolt. Post a black square on Instagram to show that America is systemically racist, even if you don’t think that’s true; wear a mask even though you know it doesn’t work and you’re 20 and vaccinated; share your pronouns whether you accept or reject gender ideology—a reaction seems almost guaranteed.

“People of that generation,” Mr. Mamet agrees, “a lot of them just aren’t scared anymore.”

Not that he expects anybody among our institutional leaders to admit they were wrong, on Covid or crime or anything else. He mentions Stacy Schiff’s “Witches,” a 2015 history of the Salem trials. “The delusion ran for about 18 months,” Mr. Mamet says, summarizing the book, “and after that, since they couldn’t explain it, they just forgot it. It never happened.” The phenomenon by which authorities and experts make a hash of things and then move on as if nothing happened is one attentive readers will recognize. Mr. Mamet offers some encouragement. “The thing about history,” he says, “is not that people change. People don’t change. But people die. So a new generation comes up and says, ‘Yeah, I get it, that’s stupid, I’m not gonna do that.’ ”

As if to demonstrate noncompliance, one of Mr. Mamet’s poodles, Ruby, jumps on the couch and sniffs my face. “Manners!” he shouts. “Come on, you’re embarrassing me in front of my guest. Sit!” The dog pays little attention. Made at last to submit, Ruby reluctantly goes elsewhere.

On the coffee table between us are several books by and about James Joyce, and an oversized edition of the Torah. “It’s all there,” Mr. Mamet says, pointing to the holy book. “Everything we’ve been living through.” The habit among America’s wealthy, privileged influencers of reviling the country that gave them privilege and influence, Mr. Mamet says, is in various way a re-enactment of biblical events. He refers to the narrative in which God provides manna for the Israelites in the wilderness: “The people are hungry, there’s nothing to eat in the desert, so God says, I’ll give ’em manna. They say, What does manna taste like? Answer: It tastes like whatever your favorite food is. They say, I don’t want whatever my favorite food is. And so they stage another rebellion.”

That is a heavily abridged version of the accounts in Exodus and Numbers, but he is right about the biblical pattern: Prosperity, particularly unearned prosperity, tends to generate folly and vice. “When do violent revolutions happen?” he asks. “They happen when things get too good.” We live in the “most prosperous country in the history of the world, and so what’s our response?” Mr. Mamet waits for me to answer, but I keep silent. “The response is: We don’t need God. We don’t need the Constitution. We don’t need anything. Go study semiotics. Go become an energy therapist, whatever. Someone will take care of you and tell you what to do.”

Mr. Mamet announced a turn to the political right in a 2008 essay for the Village Voice, “Why I Am No Longer a ‘Brain-Dead Liberal,’ ” but he was a black sheep long before then. His 1992 play “Oleanna,” for instance, features a male academic whose life and career are ruined by a calculating female student’s spurious accusation of sexual harassment.

Was there a moment when he decided to break ranks altogether? “I met a guy at my synagogue here maybe 20 years ago,” he says. “He was talking about Milton Friedman and [Friedrich] Hayek and Thomas Sowell. It didn’t make any sense to me, but I was impressed by his attitude. He wasn’t strident or arrogant. It was that guy’s attitude that impressed me.”

The man lent Mr. Mamet some books by these authors. “I said to him, ‘Good, I’ll read them. But,’ I said, ‘when my friends come over, I’ll have to hide them.’ He said: ‘I don’t.’ And that changed my life. What was I saying? Did I really think I had to hide books from my friends? How sick was I? It was a Road to Damascus moment.”

(Mr. Mamet, an observant Jew, freely uses Christian imagery, as in this reference to the Apostle Paul’s conversion. In “Recessional” he remarks, apropos of Billy Graham’s oratory, that he “would be thrilled to accept the Christian tradition and Christ as my Savior” but that “I am prohibited from doing so by my own religion.” Here, at least, he conforms.)

He recalls another incident around the same time, not long after he bought his house in Santa Monica. The house was, and still is, surrounded by enormous hedges—you can hardly see the building from the nearby street. He received a letter from the City Council demanding that he cut the hedges down to a certain height or be fined $25,000 for every day the hedges remained too high. He eventually won that wrangle, he recalls, but the episode led him to believe that many government officials simply enjoy forcing law-abiding people into compliance with arbitrary dictates.

“I thought at the time: I’ve seen these people before.” The “hedge commissioners,” as he calls them, were the theater critics he’d known earlier in his career. “They would come in on opening night and strut around and stand with their backs to the stage, looking at the people coming in. People used to say, and maybe they still do, that the critics just liked having the power to shut the play down. And the critics would say, ‘No, ha ha, we don’t have that power.’ But they did have it, and they loved it.”

Like many people who find themselves dissenting from the dominant outlook of their cultivated and post-religious peers, Mr. Mamet felt that modern conceptions of human nature had become hopelessly naive. A rosy view of human proclivities leads easily to groupthink and its invariable accompaniment, scapegoating. Since the existence of evil is undeniable, if it isn’t intrinsic to all of us, it must come from some disfavored person or group.

Which led him back to biblical religion. “The Bible starts with perfidy, and perfidy is everywhere in it. There are very few people in the Bible you want your kids to be like,” he says. We exchange our favorite bits of biblical realism. Mr. Mamet notes that the genealogies of David and other heroes don’t bother skipping over—indeed they seem to go out of their way to mention—adulterers. “What the Bible is telling us is that the human race is unalterably flawed. It’s not a matter of doing away with the ‘haters’ or with this group or that group. We have to deal with our own mind.”

A robust understanding of your own and others’ propensity to bad behavior, he seems to suggest, has a way of inoculating you against groupthink.

Woke signaling, blind compliance with public-health authoritarianism, deference to theater critics and tyrannical city officials—Mr. Mamet doesn’t play along. I’m reminded of the line spoken by Richard Roma, the aggressive and highly successful real-estate salesman in “Glengarry Glen Ross” played by Al Pacino in the 1992 film adaptation. “I subscribe to the law of contrary public opinion,” Roma says. “If everyone thinks one thing, then I say bet the other way.”

Mr. Swaim is a Journal editorial page writer.


How Western elites exploit Ukraine – UnHerd

I don’t really care “who’s side you’re on”. The point of this piece is to have you consider why are the “powers that be” so interested and vested in controlling the narrative. They allow for little or no alternative views. If you didn’t see it in the last two years around COVID-19, then you likely will not see it with respect to the Russian/Ukrainian conflict either. mrossol

UnHerd, 3/3/2022 by Arta Moeini

The war in Ukraine poses a palpable threat to Western democracies, but this has little to do with Russia posing an inherent strategic threat to the United States or its European allies. No — more so than the Russian state, the threat to the West comes from within, a consequence of our congealing perceptions towards the conflict.

Bombs are not raining down on our cities; instead, what we are experiencing is the psychological weaponisation of war — and its exploitation as a tool of indoctrination and statecraft in the hands of the establishment.

The Ukraine crisis is undoubtedly a tragedy, but it is merely the latest in a series of geopolitical events stretching back at least 20 years in which the media coverage has been biased, one-sided, and ideological. All of these instances — Iraq, Libya, Syria, and the Afghanistan Withdrawal — were riddled with “structural information traps” that we ignored at our peril.


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With each of these conflicts, the coverage gets worse, and the traps become ever more luring and incendiary. In each case, a narrative is constructed and transposed over the reporting, reinforced by sensationalist imagery that could rationalise an intervention and perhaps military action. But none compares to Ukraine. Here, we have witnessed the media of the Free World disseminating dishonest or otherwise uncritical coverage, fake news, Ukrainian disinformation, and propaganda aimed at conditioning the public to internalise the establishment’s Manichean narrative of a deranged madman’s random war of aggression.

Not only has the Ukraine coverage been highly charged, morally self-righteous, and plainly political, it actively demands a collective suspension of disbelief as it cultivates and redirects a natural reaction of sympathy felt by all into a moral outrage that insists on certain retaliation. Some, such as the former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, have irresponsibly vilified the entire Russian population. Others, such as The Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum, have begun to senselessly demonise prescient realist American academics for daring to shed light on Russia’s basic national security interests and the possibility of a confrontation if they go unrecognised.

So far as the Western legacy media is concerned, we really do live in the post-historical age Francis Fukuyama triumphantly proclaimed in 1989, with liberal internationalism the only acceptable paradigm through which to understand the world. Alternative views are now tantamount to championing tyranny. In each instance, the dictator comes to personify internationally Hegel’s thymotic, if savage, primitive man — the inhumane antithesis of the “last man” —  fighting maniacally against liberal democracy, the march of modernity, and progress itself. Assad, Ghaddafi, the Taliban, and Vladimir Putin all fit this archetype as reactionary actors par excellence necessitating a holy alliance to confront and civilise.

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A Putin puppet government will fail

By Vladislav Davidzon

Such a melioristic framing of international politics justifies and indeed privileges a Manichean narrative of good and evil. In this context, rationality itself is bound to the good, defined as effective conformity with liberal hegemony.

This is how the permanent members of the ruling class view the world. The former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, for instance, has made the enlightening observation that the years-brewing war in Ukraine was a result of Putin simply becoming “unhinged”, suggesting he might be suffering from neurological problems. Not to be outdone, Condoleezza Rice, one of the architects of the Iraq War and the ill-advised 2008 Bucharest declaration (which affirmed Nato’s “open door” towards Ukraine and therefore helped to spark this most recent conflict), bemoaned Putin’s “delusional rendering of history” and “erratic” behaviour.

Perhaps, given the profound crisis of meaning in the West and the gap in solidarity and social cohesion, we should not be surprised. Living under the conditions of rootlessness, spiritual emptiness, and angst, every crisis is an opportunity for mythopoesis. Tragedy is reborn, and we are easily enthralled by the periodic cycles of worship and hero-making. Our faith in the cult of expertise, meanwhile, blinds and lulls us to the potential dangers of such black and white thinking.

As good Straussians, American neoconservatives were among the first to intuit this fact: that owing to disenchantment and the dissolution of our “sacred canopy”, the myth — or the Platonic “noble lie” — can be used to strengthen the Regime. Through their co-option, they would ensure the inherent power of the “noble lie” would be harnessed to regularly generate casus belli for global liberal imperialism. After all, what better unifying force than the “grand American project” of war to energise one’s desire for national greatness and the need for the regimentation of life in a disordered, chaotic Zeitgeist. Led by America, the grand mission of the Anglosphere would therefore have to be “to advance civilisation itself”. Not to mention, heroes also need villains, and it does help that in the Ukrainian archetype, ‘evil’ is not an intangible virus but can be personified onto an ‘other’ — in this case, Vladimir Putin.

This is the fake, performative, and internationalist nationalism of the American elite class: they use emotional triggers to rally the people behind the flag of the state in the name of lofty humanitarian causes which mask their own self-importance and narcissistic greatness. In fact, the systematic and periodic milking of tragedy to sow mass hysteria and manufacture support for the liberal imperium and its rulers has become the modus operandi in Washington. The consequence is not only further empowerment of the martial state, but also the enabling and even the ennobling of America’s war machine.

But so what? So what if our information ecosystem in the West is substantively flawed and prejudiced? Is this kind of systemic information bias, unbalanced coverage, and outright favouritism not endemic to all culture-complexes, prevalent also across state-run media in China, Iran, and Russia? The answer is certainly yes, but with an important qualification: the latter are not liberal democracies.

Some might say the foreign policy hawks have not learned from their catastrophic regime-change wars in the Middle East. But they have. They learned the importance of narrative control and information warfare targeting domestic audiences: consolidating the media, tightening their hold on information, marginalising the few investigative journalists that remain, and nullifying scepticism as examples of appeasement or Putinism. Undoubtedly, the situation seriously endangers civil liberties and freedom of thought in the Anglosphere, undermining the very foundation of Western democracy.

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This is how despotism ends

By Will Lloyd

But wedded to a disturbing, yet ascendant, neo-McCarthyism, the homogenisation of the Western media environment could ultimately prove more ominous than simple government censorship à la North Korea or Iran. At its core, the phenomenon aims to condition public opinion into “correct” acceptable speech patterns in the service of the “noble lie” — using the good heart of most ordinary citizens and their repulsion at human suffering as bait.

This noxious development, unless fully defanged and neutralised, could yet tear the very fabric of Western society, unleashing the dystopia of internalised totalitarianism, wherein the public-private boundaries disappear and citizens — even informed ones — can hardly distinguish between planted or socially-reinforced information and their own views. In such a world, the only choice is to virtue signal and self-censor.

Gone unchecked, it could amount to mass indoctrination around key national security questions and spell the end of democracy — in spirit if not procedurally. This is the ultimate fog of war.

Despite their litany of failures, the lesson drawn by the foreign policy establishment from their calamitous interventionism under the banner of democracy and freedom (“democratism“) was not to abandon their evangelical crusades for empire and to affirm restraint, moderation, and prudence. It was, instead, a desire not to be caught in the lie, as they were with their patently false claim about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD). To achieve this, the military-industrial-congressional complex and the professional-managerial class that runs it had to dominate a new battlespace: information. Not for foreign audiences, in which Western intelligence has had a long track record, but to domesticate, intellectually sterilise, and effectively neutralise their own citizens.

To guarantee the continuation of its globalist misadventurism, the establishment had to control and limit the political discourse at home. It has done so largely in two ways. The first was to claim monopoly over ‘truth’, and to discredit anyone who might not go along with the endorsed narrative by doubting their patriotism and brandishing them as appeasers, apologists, and/or outright traitors. The second was to ensure a total consolidation of national security narratives — so that even when instances of falsehood and misinformation are discovered, this would not receive much exposure but be shunned to the darkest corners of the internet.

Any war is a tragedy. We should work to de-escalate and see it end in Ukraine. But there are always at least two sides to a conflict: two agendas, not counting the designs of external actors. War does not occur in a vacuum. It often betrays (and is the culmination of) a long history of grievances and distrust.

Having claimed over 14,000 lives since 2014, the conflict in Ukraine is not about Vladimir Putin and his character but realpolitik, national interest, and great power rivalry. Countries have genuine security interests, some of them existential. They have real red lines.

“No Russian leader could stand idly by,” Putin told William Burns, now the director of the CIA, and accept Nato membership for Ukraine, Georgia, or Belarus, or allow Western weapons systems into these countries. As one of American greatest strategists and the architect of “containment” against the Soviet Union, George Kennan’s reaction to the Clinton administration’s insistence on Nato’s enlargement is particularly telling: “I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. This expansion would make the founding fathers of this country turn over in their graves.”

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How Vladimir Putin weaponises refugees

By Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Almost 25 years on, such sober-minded analysis is increasingly rare. And this sidelining of neutral, dispassionate scrutiny in the Russo-Ukrainian War is particularly alarming because this is not America’s war. The North Atlantic has little vital geostrategic interest in Ukraine other than in trying to avoid a refugee or energy crisis. Yet many in Washington, London, or Brussels have goaded and encouraged, and are now revelling in, the conflict — convinced as they are that an extended quagmire there could become the kind of vulnerability for Russia that Afghanistan was for the Soviet Union, a malignant tumour metastasising to the whole of the Russian body politic and instigating regime change.

While diehards may desire a West-East clash packaged under the tired rubric of Democracy versus Autocracy to prove their machismo, the situation in Ukraine is boiling over — and it is still early days. Things are about to get far more dreadful. Ukraine is a small state neighbouring a great power, a historical buffer and bridge between Russia and the West. “To Russia, Ukraine can never be just a foreign country,” wrote Henry Kissinger in 2014. “Russian history began in what was called Kievan-Rus,”. The sooner we heed and accept this fact, the sooner we can sensibly gauge the situation as is and review our commitment critically.

Statesmanship is the art of not letting emotions drive policy. Sentimentality is the enemy of reason, all sense of proportion, and limits: in short, it kills realism and breeds wishful thinking. Such utopianism is senseless and dangerous: it will prolong the conflict and get lots of innocent civilians needlessly killed. Meanwhile, fomenting false hope in the public domain could further fan the flames of war, entangling Europe and the US in a confrontation with nuclear Russia — an Armageddon the tale of which we will likely not live to tell.

War is not sports-betting, where one can feel good about siding with the underdog from the comfort of a couch or a bar. It is geopolitics in its most visceral, existential form: wagers have real costs involving human lives, and they are settled only with power and political will.

The point is that this tragedy was entirely predictable and avoidable. We invited (if not compelled) conflict with our politics of intrigue and meddling in Eastern Europe, our disregard for Moscow’s security interests, and our moral grandstanding over items like Nato’s eastward expansion, Ukrainian neutrality, and demilitarisation. Any seasoned diplomat of the Cold War would be left utterly mystified. This was and remains political and strategic malpractice.

The question now is whether we want to put millions of Ukrainian lives in jeopardy simply to keep it as a Western Bulwark on Russia’s frontier and a dagger at Moscow’s throat. The Russo-Ukrainian War must be condemned and brought to an end using diplomacy, but the West must accept a degree of culpability for leading the Ukrainians “down the primrose path” and egging on their showdown with their giant neighbour to the east. Any attempt to escalate and prolong this conflict by giving false hope to the Ukrainian people with tough rhetoric, moralistic bluster, lethal arms, and economic sanctions, the brunt of which will be felt by civilians on both sides, is irresponsible and callous. It would only ensure more death and suffering.

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Ukraine is winning the online war

By David Patrikarakos

As former US Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor contended in a recent television interview: “I see no reason why we should fight with the Russians over something that they have been talking about for years, [and] we simply chose to ignore… We will not send our forces to fight, but we are urging Ukrainians to die pointlessly in a fight they can’t win. We’re going to create a far greater humanitarian crisis than anything you’ve ever seen if it doesn’t stop.” Only this time, our liberal conceit and messianic delusion could potentially spiral a regional conflict into a global maelstrom that would exterminate humanity in a nuclear apocalypse.

The road to hell, as the wise aphorism has it, is paved with good intentions. Unless we course-correct now, we could soon find ourselves in a Huxleyan Brave New World that exploits the illusion of freedom while normalising the sophistic manipulation of public discourse to manufacture consent around the establishment’s liberal internationalist foreign policy.

When all roads lead to interventionism and war, pause, think, and consider how we got to where we are. Ask yourself who designed this dystopian city of lies and to what purpose — before it is too late.[0]=18743&tl_period_type=3&mc_cid=03efafa652&mc_eid=0ff3e7ea29