We Can No Longer Afford to Be ‘Respectable’

 

“What happened to that guy?” A lot of us have asked this question in the past few years about columnists, pundits, and thinkers we’ve always agreed with, only to see them taking a wildly different tack. Next, we’ll ask, “Did I change or did they?” I know I’ve changed quite a bit, but to see influential conservatives pushing “the conservative case for voting Democrat/Promoting CRT and Queer Theory/censoring Republicans/etc.” remains tough to stomach.

Many blast these (former?) conservatives on social media, but that’s never been my style. I expect people to disagree with me on most issues; a round of insults won’t change their minds anyway. Our discourse is too toxic as it is, so I’d rather promote the good and beautiful (i.e., my own brilliant ideas) than curse the infidel.

Yet, I can’t help but wonder what happened to so many influential commentators. “Trump broke them” is an easy out, yet doesn’t explain the ideological 180s they’ve taken. I’ve begun to settle on another cause, especially among newly woke-ish Christian writers. A recent interview tied a bow on my thoughts.

Author Paul Kingsnorth has made a fascinating journey over the past few years. He rose to prominence as a dedicated environmentalist, calling for an end to the capitalism that was destroying the planet. Raised an atheist, he later sought answers in Buddhism and Wicca.

Then, almost against his will, he entered the Orthodox church. By then, he was living a humble life in rural Ireland with his family and began reconsidering all his beliefs. This week, toward the end of an interview with iconographer Jonathan Pageau, he said the following (1:17:00 timestamp):

We can’t afford to be respectable.

Christ was not respectable. None of his disciples were respectable. You can’t be conformed to the world because this is where the world is going. You have to be prepared to be all the things that Christ told you were going to be, rejected and humiliated and attacked and all the rest of it. Not for the sake of it, just because you’re being a contrarian…

That’s really hard but you have to say, “if I’m going to walk in the direction i need to walk in, i’m going to be metaphorically wearing rags.” Or maybe actually wearing rags.

There’s a lot of renunciation that has to come. That will be different for different people but that’s the hardest bit for those of us who come from comfortable countries.

There’s a renunciation involved, whether it’s reputational or physical or material. And that’s what the interesting people always do. The marginal people who can bring the wisdom back into the center. There’s a need to renounce and to walk away before you can see what the next stage of the path is.

This, of course, applies to Christians, but also to anyone seeking capital-T Truth.

Going against the grain is essential when the grain is heading the wrong way. Disputing the official narrative soon follows. Standing athwart The Current Thing and rolling your eyes comes next.

The resulting mockery will be swift. Why didn’t you post the black square on Instagram? Why aren’t you wearing a mask in your profile pic? Why don’t you have a Ukrainian flag next to your screen name? All the respectable people do that! When you shrug off the feedback, you’ll be labeled a racist, anti-vax Putin fan.

Some get offended by this treatment. The rest of us are bored by it.

Perhaps if you’ve made a lot of money, sold a lot of books, need to curry favor with media moguls, and have grown accustomed to a certain level of material wealth and social influence, these attacks spook you. After all, you have to pay for the house, the cabin, and your kids’ private school.

Or you’re less materialistic yet thrive on the speaking invites, conferences, and Beltway social connections. You think the primary goal of life is to be “nice” and “respectable.” Abandoning that belief horrifies you.

The rest of us no longer care about being respected, especially by people who despise us. We expect the insults, the bad-faith arguments, and attempts at cancellation. When attacked on social media, the only passion I can gin up is clicking the “mute” button.

In the near future, most of us expect the attacks to get worse. I’ve assumed for years I’d be kicked off social media and am surprised it hasn’t happened yet. Who knows, in five years (or five months), we could lose access to our finances. The stuff I write is worse than honking a horn in Ottawa and look what happened to the truckers.

We live in a censorious, conformist age and I remain terrible at following orders. So, I expect the worst and speak my piece anyway. Because when you see the world going to hell, someone has to speak their mind.

What’s needed today are truth-tellers. We can no longer afford to be respectable.

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  1. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:

    We live in a censorious, conformist age and I remain terrible at following orders. So, I expect the worst and speak my piece anyway. Because when you see the world going to hell, someone has to speak their mind.

    What’s needed today are truth-tellers. We can no longer afford to be respectable.

    This. 

    • #1
  2. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: The rest of us no longer care about being respected, especially by people who despise us

    Yes, it is important to step back and ask, “who, exactly, am I trying to impress?”

     

    • #2
  3. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: We can no longer afford to be respectable.

    I was never any good at it anyway.

    • #3
  4. Django Member
    Django
    @Django

    The truth is spoken all the time, but few are willing to hear it. 

    • #4
  5. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    You know who’s really good at being unrespectable and subsequently disrespected? Donald Trump. 

    Most of us didn’t see the value in that during the primaries, but many of us caught on as his presidency progressed. And then there are some who still don’t “get it” — or, at least, won’t admit they were wrong about him. 

    • #5
  6. DonG (CAGW is a Hoax) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a Hoax)
    @DonG

    Offer up the other cheek.  When foes strike you, stand firm and off up the other cheek.  This is what is expected of Christians and it too is a high standard.   As for the turncoats with weak principles, I am convinced they are vainglorious and are desperate for the adulation of those in the D.C. cocktail circuit.  Pride is the greatest of the sins.

    • #6
  7. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    Jon, to use an old conventional expression, are you calling us to speak truth to power?

    • #7
  8. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    You know who’s really good at being unrespectable and subsequently disrespected? Donald Trump.

    Most of us didn’t see the value in that during the primaries, but many of us caught on as his presidency progressed. And then there are some who still don’t “get it” — or, at least, won’t admit they were wrong about him.

    My young-person impression:  “Oh, snap!”

    • #8
  9. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Yet, I can’t help but wonder what happened to so many influential commentators. “Trump broke them” is an easy out, yet doesn’t explain the ideological 180s they’ve taken.

    You don’t think it’s possible that Trump “broke” them to the point that they renounce (supposedly-)previously-cherished beliefs just because Trump appeared to hold them too, and – even worse! (for them) – he may have actually DONE SOMETHING about them, rather than just talk or write about them perhaps for decades?

    It’s probably a longstanding thing that previously escaped my attention, but lately I seem to notice a lot more when someone like a Kevin Williamson or Jonah Goldberg says they’re going to write about some government problem or whatever.

    LOOK OUT, WORLD!  Jonah Goldberg is going to WRITE ABOUT SOMETHING!

    That’ll show ’em!

    • #9
  10. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Trump didn’t break them, the American people did. Because those bumpkins out there are just too damn stupid to recognize their sophisticated and nuanced theories and the genius that lies behind them.

    In one breath the French Davidians lament that Florida’s legislation shows “the right has lost the plot on free speech” and with the next lament the horrors of people mutilated as a result of someone preying on vulnerable children. Let’s wring our hands after the fact but don’t you dare do anything before hand you fascist!

    Screw them. 

    • #10
  11. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Trump didn’t break them, the American people did. Because those bumpkins out there are just too damn stupid to recognize their sophisticated and nuanced theories and the genius that lies behind them.

    In one breath the French Davidians lament that Florida’s legislation shows “the right has lost the plot on free speech” and with the next lament the horrors of people mutilated as a result of someone preying on vulnerable children. Let’s wring our hands after the fact but don’t you dare do anything before hand you fascist!

    Screw them.

    I thought about saying it was actually the Trump voters in particular, who broke them.  but Trump was kinda the symbol or something.  Seemed good enough.  As it’s been said many times, Trump was a symptom, not the cause.

    • #11
  12. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Django (View Comment):

    The truth is spoken all the time, but few are willing to hear it.

    That’s why I like Lucifer.

    • #12
  13. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:

    Perhaps if you’ve made a lot of money, sold a lot of books, need to curry favor with media moguls, and have grown accustomed to a certain level of material wealth and social influence, these attacks spook you.

    Seems to me it’s exactly the opposite. People who have made a lot of money are liberated from material concerns. That’s why it’s called FU money. This is why one sees retired or near-retired scientists challenging climate orthodoxy, e. g. Judith Curry. Likewise, medical professionals such as Robert Malone are able to speak out about Covid. Academic tenure helps but universities have ways of making life miserable. Amy Wax comes to mind. In her case, I was assured that she was prepared to walk away since she was close to retirement. That was a few years ago but last I heard she’s still hanging in. 

    Early-career professionals are the ones who are most vulnerable. Not only does it affect putting food on the table right now, it also has the potential of wrecking a career. 

    • #13
  14. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    drlorentz (View Comment):

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:

    Perhaps if you’ve made a lot of money, sold a lot of books, need to curry favor with media moguls, and have grown accustomed to a certain level of material wealth and social influence, these attacks spook you.

    Seems to me it’s exactly the opposite. People who have made a lot of money are liberated from material concerns. That’s why it’s called FU money. This is why one sees retired or near-retired scientists challenging climate orthodoxy, e. g. Judith Curry. Likewise, medical professionals such as Robert Malone are able to speak out about Covid. Academic tenure helps but universities have ways of making life miserable. Amy Wax comes to mind. In her case, I was assured that she was prepared to walk away since she was close to retirement. That was a few years ago but last I heard she’s still hanging in.

    Early-career professionals are the ones who are most vulnerable. Not only does it affect putting food on the table right now, it also has the potential of wrecking a career.

    I think you have to sell a LOT of books in order to accumulate enough money to live off of perhaps for decades.  Even most successful authors probably end up spending it pretty quickly too.  Which could be why they keep writing, of course.  And that means they probably can’t afford to burn any bridges.  Until they’re maybe old enough that they figure it doesn’t matter any more.

    • #14
  15. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    I’ll stick with being incendiary over at my personal blog.  I never mince words.

    https://rushbabe49.com/2022/02/21/masking-children-is-child-abuse/

    https://rushbabe49.com/2022/02/08/washington-state-health-nazis-to-the-people-abandon-hope/

    • #15
  16. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    kedavis (View Comment):

    I think you have to sell a LOT of books in order to accumulate enough money to live off of perhaps for decades.  Even most successful authors probably end up spending it pretty quickly too.  Which could be why they keep writing, of course.  And that means they probably can’t afford to burn any bridges.  Until they’re maybe old enough that they figure it doesn’t matter any more.

    Don’t know how to break this to you but there are lots of other ways to make money besides selling books. Those people I mentioned didn’t make their money from books, for the most part. Indeed, that is one of the most unlikely ways to do it. FU money generally comes from other places.

    The passage I quoted from the OP mentioned books but spoke to making money in general, books being an example. Take a moment to read it again.

    • #16
  17. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    drlorentz (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    I think you have to sell a LOT of books in order to accumulate enough money to live off of perhaps for decades. Even most successful authors probably end up spending it pretty quickly too. Which could be why they keep writing, of course. And that means they probably can’t afford to burn any bridges. Until they’re maybe old enough that they figure it doesn’t matter any more.

    Don’t know how to break this to you but there are lots of other ways to make money besides selling books. Those people I mentioned didn’t make their money from books, for the most part. Indeed, that is one of the most unlikely ways to do it. FU money generally comes from other places.

    The passage I quoted from the OP mentioned books but spoke to making money in general, books being an example. Take a moment to read it again.

    Whichever.  My main point is that people who can afford to take on the establishment etc, are quite rare.  Relying on them to set the country right isn’t likely to amount to much.

    • #17
  18. genferei Member
    genferei
    @genferei

    I wonder if some of those folks also see the abyss into which the country is headed, but make the judgement that it is only the virtues of respectability and the forms of politeness, comity and fairness that are holding us back from the brink. When the progs abandon any form of pretending to play by the rules these folks double down on the rules. That’s why they see any deviation from the traditional forms by their own side as so shocking. From this point of view Donald Trump’s mean tweets really are a threat to democracy, because the only thing standing in the way of tyranny is conservative politeness. 

    Now, there is a strong hint of ‘manage the decline’ pessimism in this – history really does have a direction, and it is firmly left (and down), so the best we can hope is to delay the inevitable. And a touch of snobbery. And it’s awfully convenient if you’re part of – or aspire to be part of – the establishment. But if you truly believe all is lost on the substance, you might truly believe that anything is worth preserving the forms. 

    Needless to say this argument is BS. 

    • #18
  19. Nanocelt TheContrarian Member
    Nanocelt TheContrarian
    @NanoceltTheContrarian

    Solzhenitsyn

    • #19
  20. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Trump earned my respect not because of his personality, but because he got things done.  And where he couldn’t get things done, there were always adversaries in the way – primarily Democrats, but some “respectable” Republicans too . . .

    • #20
  21. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Stad (View Comment):

    Trump earned my respect not because of his personality, but because he got things done. And where he couldn’t get things done, there were always adversaries in the way – primarily Democrats, but some “respectable” Republicans too . . .

    I’ve worked for guys who had interpersonal skills that would make Trump appear to be Miss Manners. If they got you the tools you needed and kept the cookie-pushing suits out of your hair, you got things done.

    • #21
  22. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Percival (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Trump earned my respect not because of his personality, but because he got things done. And where he couldn’t get things done, there were always adversaries in the way – primarily Democrats, but some “respectable” Republicans too . . .

    I’ve worked for guys who had interpersonal skills that would make Trump appear to be Miss Manners. If they got you the tools you needed and kept the cookie-pushing suits out of your hair, you got things done.

    Exactly!  There was this one manager at DOE who was a real a–hole.  However, he was highly techincally competent and worked extremely well with DOE-HQ on issues regarding our project.  All you had to do was find a way to work with him, and most of us did because of his value . . .

    • #22
  23. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Stad (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Trump earned my respect not because of his personality, but because he got things done. And where he couldn’t get things done, there were always adversaries in the way – primarily Democrats, but some “respectable” Republicans too . . .

    I’ve worked for guys who had interpersonal skills that would make Trump appear to be Miss Manners. If they got you the tools you needed and kept the cookie-pushing suits out of your hair, you got things done.

    Exactly! There was this one manager at DOE who was a real a–hole. However, he was highly techincally competent and worked extremely well with DOE-HQ on issues regarding our project. All you had to do was find a way to work with him, and most of us did because of his value . . .

    You know who was really good at “working with what you got” with Trump? Rand Paul. My respect for him at least doubled during Trump’s administration. He probably had more policy wins from Trump than any other Republican and he did it while being respectful and without resorting to sycophancy. Meanwhile, Ben Sasse talked tough against Trump and voted over 90% with his agenda, whether it was a winner or not.

    I believe people who couldn’t work with Trump — “conservatives” — were driven more by their need for status (to be respected) than for the good of the country. So, yeah, I lost respect for them big time. It would take some profound humility, mea culpa and groveling penitence to earn that back. Especially after Brandon destroys the country.

    • #23
  24. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    kedavis (View Comment):

    drlorentz (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    I think you have to sell a LOT of books in order to accumulate enough money to live off of perhaps for decades. Even most successful authors probably end up spending it pretty quickly too. Which could be why they keep writing, of course. And that means they probably can’t afford to burn any bridges. Until they’re maybe old enough that they figure it doesn’t matter any more.

    Don’t know how to break this to you but there are lots of other ways to make money besides selling books. Those people I mentioned didn’t make their money from books, for the most part. Indeed, that is one of the most unlikely ways to do it. FU money generally comes from other places.

    The passage I quoted from the OP mentioned books but spoke to making money in general, books being an example. Take a moment to read it again.

    Whichever. My main point is that people who can afford to take on the establishment etc, are quite rare. Relying on them to set the country right isn’t likely to amount to much.

    This is a curious observation to make in the wake of Trump’s rise to power.  Granted, he didn’t “set the country right” but he certainly did “take on the establishment.” If there’s a prominent example of FU money, it Trump — and he didn’t make it by selling books. Another example is Musk, who appears to be interested in shaking things up at Twitter. My main retort to you is that it’s okay if the people in such a position are rare; it only takes a few, maybe only one. History is replete with examples.

    That said, it’s not entirely clear that it’s possible to “set the country right” by any means but that’s part of a different conversation. Staying on topic, the OP implicitly assumes that such change remains possible. I was responding to the thesis of the OP and it’s underlying assumptions.

    Edit: Mr Musk has just made an offer to buy Twitter — all of it. While this likely won’t “set the country right” it does fully qualify as taking on the establishment. You heard it here first, folks.

    https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/0001494730/000110465922045641/tm2212748d1_sc13da.htm

    • #24
  25. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    drlorentz (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    drlorentz (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    I think you have to sell a LOT of books in order to accumulate enough money to live off of perhaps for decades. Even most successful authors probably end up spending it pretty quickly too. Which could be why they keep writing, of course. And that means they probably can’t afford to burn any bridges. Until they’re maybe old enough that they figure it doesn’t matter any more.

    Don’t know how to break this to you but there are lots of other ways to make money besides selling books. Those people I mentioned didn’t make their money from books, for the most part. Indeed, that is one of the most unlikely ways to do it. FU money generally comes from other places.

    The passage I quoted from the OP mentioned books but spoke to making money in general, books being an example. Take a moment to read it again.

    Whichever. My main point is that people who can afford to take on the establishment etc, are quite rare. Relying on them to set the country right isn’t likely to amount to much.

    This is a curious observation to make in the wake of Trump’s rise to power. Granted, he didn’t “set the country right” but he certainly did “take on the establishment.” If there’s a prominent example of FU money, it Trump — and he didn’t make it by selling books. Another example is Musk, who appears to be interested in shaking things up at Twitter. My main retort to you is that it’s okay if the people in such a position are rare; it only takes a few, maybe only one. History is replete with examples.

    That said, it’s not entirely clear that it’s possible to “set the country right” by any means but that’s part of a different conversation. Staying on topic, the OP implicitly assumes that such change remains possible. I was responding to the thesis of the OP and it’s underlying assumptions.

    In my view, the fundamental problem of American Government right now is that we have a Legislative branch that is unable to/refuses to actually legislate.  They haven’t even managed to pass an actual budget since late in the Clinton administration, and it seems that much of the legislation they do pass is essentially a list of “The secretary of <blank> shall issue regulations to do <blank>”.  It’s even to the point where you have members of Congress lobbying the President to issue executive orders since they can’t accomplish anything.

    Fix the problem with Congress, and you’ll fix a lot of other problems too.

    • #25
  26. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    I’m not sure if it’s fair to people like Jonah Goldberg or David French to infer that they are sell-outs.  My own impression is that they view themselves as advocates of the so-called Enlightenment, and tend toward libertarianism.  This puts them on the outskirts of the conservative coalition, and even more so as the conservative coalition has moved toward populism.

    While they did seem to have some personal objections to Trump, I think that they also had serious policy objections.  For example, the Goldberg/French types tend to be pro-immigration, and to oppose government spending. 

    I can’t know what is in their heart of hearts.  I’m skeptical of the suggestion that they are sell-outs, seeking to earn a buck and gain social approval, though they may be.  My own presumption is that they simply see the world differently than I do, which is no surprise, as I think that we start with very different assumptions.

    David French seems a bit unusual in this regard, because like me, he self-identifies as an evangelical Christian.  In my view, he hasn’t seen the inconsistency between that religious position and the principles of the so-called Enlightenment.  He’d probably call me intolerant, and I view him as unwilling to stand in the gap.

    • #26
  27. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Jon, I agree that conforming to status quo expectations is a big part of the problem. I do think that most people refrain from speaking out not because they fear being fired or censored, but because they don’t want to appear to be boorish and offensive to people they actually care about, or within their community.

    Normal people aren’t worried about being canceled on Twitter; normal people aren’t on Twitter, don’t write for a blog, don’t make their livings posting things that will attract the ire of the techno-fascist elite.

    Normal people just don’t want to be the guy who says things like “men and women are different,” or “sorry, I don’t do custom pronouns,” or “climate change isn’t a big deal,” or “COVID is wildly overblown,” or “yeah, the Democrats legally ‘stole’ the 2020 election,” or “racism is racism, whether it’s being spouted by BLM or the KKK,” or “the January 6th bruhaha is political theater.”

    And normal people have to start saying stuff like that, in my opinion. Even when we get some eye-rolling in response.

    I was the only guy with a Let’s Go Brandon cap on at the bar last night. Got several thumbs-up… and some eye-rolling. Screw ’em.

    • #27
  28. DrewInWisconsin, Oik! Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oik!
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio&hellip; (View Comment):

    I’m not sure if it’s fair to people like Jonah Goldberg or David French to infer that they are sell-outs.

    I agree. They can’t be sellouts to a philosophy they never held.

    • #28
  29. DrewInWisconsin, Oik! Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oik!
    @DrewInWisconsin

    And I am pleased to see an endorsement of what I like to call the “DrewInWisconsin Doctrine” on Ricochet. At last!

    • #29
  30. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    drlorentz (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    drlorentz (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    I think you have to sell a LOT of books in order to accumulate enough money to live off of perhaps for decades. Even most successful authors probably end up spending it pretty quickly too. Which could be why they keep writing, of course. And that means they probably can’t afford to burn any bridges. Until they’re maybe old enough that they figure it doesn’t matter any more.

    Don’t know how to break this to you but there are lots of other ways to make money besides selling books. Those people I mentioned didn’t make their money from books, for the most part. Indeed, that is one of the most unlikely ways to do it. FU money generally comes from other places.

    The passage I quoted from the OP mentioned books but spoke to making money in general, books being an example. Take a moment to read it again.

    Whichever. My main point is that people who can afford to take on the establishment etc, are quite rare. Relying on them to set the country right isn’t likely to amount to much.

    This is a curious observation to make in the wake of Trump’s rise to power. Granted, he didn’t “set the country right” but he certainly did “take on the establishment.” If there’s a prominent example of FU money, it Trump — and he didn’t make it by selling books. Another example is Musk, who appears to be interested in shaking things up at Twitter. My main retort to you is that it’s okay if the people in such a position are rare; it only takes a few, maybe only one. History is replete with examples.

    That said, it’s not entirely clear that it’s possible to “set the country right” by any means but that’s part of a different conversation. Staying on topic, the OP implicitly assumes that such change remains possible. I was responding to the thesis of the OP and it’s underlying assumptions.

    In my view, the fundamental problem of American Government right now is that we have a Legislative branch that is unable to/refuses to actually legislate. They haven’t even managed to pass an actual budget since late in the Clinton administration, and it seems that much of the legislation they do pass is essentially a list of “The secretary of <blank> shall issue regulations to do <blank>”. It’s even to the point where you have members of Congress lobbying the President to issue executive orders since they can’t accomplish anything.

    Fix the problem with Congress, and you’ll fix a lot of other problems too.

    Exactly!

    • #30
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