OY VEY! DOUBLE OY VEY! Helen Mirren has been cast as Golda Meir in an upcoming film on the late Israeli Prime Minister, and people are beefing about it. About ten years ago this wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow, but now the Pecksniffs are tut-tutting about the choice because Mirren isn’t Jewish. I vehemently disagree.
Now sometimes there is a need for authenticity—and authenticity without insult. While Mirren required extensive makeup to look like Golda, I would not sanction a white man playing, for example, Martin Luther King, Jr. The history of blackface is too pernicious and racist to allow that.
But can a black woman play Golda Meir? I don’t think so, for it would affect the “suspension of disbelief” essential in watching any such movie. There has to be a degree of versimilitude to make the reader immerse himself in the movie’s reality. Could the Robert Redford of old play Truman Capote in the movie “Capote”? I don’t think so, for we know what Capote looked and acted like. Those images are burned too deeply into our neurons to make a Redford performance credible. Could a black man play Richard III? I’m not opposed to that simply because, although we know the King wasn’t black, we wouldn’t be preoccupied with the trope of “blacface” during the movie.
Can Helen Mirren play Golda Meir, even if she’s not Jewish? OF COURSE! So long as she looks sort of like Meir, and tries to adopt a sort-of Israeli accent, why should we beef? She is, after all, a wonderful actress. Does knowing that Helen Mirren isn’t Jewish (she may be an atheist, for all I know) really detract from the movie? Only to the Pecksniffs. Yet they are here infesting the Guardian: click the screenshot to read:
Here they go:
Maureen Lipman has criticised the casting of Helen Mirren as Golda Meir in a forthcoming film about the former Israeli prime minister, saying that the character’s Jewishness is “integral”.
In comments reported by the Jewish Chronicle, Lipman said she “disagreed” with Mirren’s casting. She added: “I’m sure [Mirren] will be marvellous, but it would never be allowed for Ben Kingsley to play Nelson Mandela. You just couldn’t even go there.”
But there are good reasons not to go there, and it involves external appearance, not internal religious beliefs. Richard Burton, after all, played Thomas Becket in the eponymous 1964 movie, and Burton wasn’t a Catholic or an Anglican, but an atheist. So what? It was a good movie.
Here’s why the Pecksniffs object, but with the inervention of sanity:
In contrast, the playwright and director Patrick Marber was quoted in the Jewish Chronicle article as objecting to the primacy of “lived experienced” in casting decisions, saying: “I fucking hate that expression. Because ‘lived experience’ is sort of a denial of what creativity is and denies the actor the fundamental challenge and right to become someone else to impersonate another human being from another time, from another culture from another religion and another sexuality and other gender.”
Marber added: “I think a Gentile can play a Jew and a Jew can play a Gentile. I don’t like it when someone plays a Jew and gets it wrong. [But] I don’t like quotas.”
How can you “get it wrong” when you play a Jew? There are so many Jews on the world, many of them atheists, that I don’t see how someone can “get it wrong.” But kudos for Marber. His statement about “lived experience” is precisely right.
And Sarah Silverman objects! Seriously? It’s not as if Jews have been underrepresented in the movie industry! And remember, Dame Sarah, both Paul Newman and Sal Mineo, neither of them Jews, both played Jews in the 1960 movie Exodus I remember this scene well:
I’m a secular Jew, and I don’t think that “lived experience” is necessarily for great actors like Mirren. All that’s important is that they convince us they were the character. Here’s Mirren made up as Meir, unrecognizable as the actress.
This really peeved me when it came to my attention, for the man up for cancellation—it’s not fully settled yet—was someone I knew, a a scientific hero of mine, and one of the great evolutionary biologists of the 20th century. I am speaking of Ernst Mayr. Further, there are NO grounds for effacing his name from an award—as proposed by the once-venerable Society of Systematic Biologists (SSB)—save that he was a white man. That’s it. He was not a racist—in fact, he fought for equality for all and repudiated racism (see below). Nor did he, as far as I’m aware, ever say anything “problematic”. His only sin was his pallid skin.
For this (there are dark hints that he said “problematic” things, but these aren’t identified in the SSB’s statement), the Society—partly founded by Mayr—is proposing to eliminate Mayr’s name from the Ernst Mayr Award, given annually to the best student paper presented at the SSB’s annual meeting (by the way, Mayr also endowed that award and left a sum in his will to keep funding it.) This makes it quadruply shameful that the SSB is voting whether to cancel him. The good news is that the members’ vote hasn’t yet been taken, and it requires two-thirds of the membership to take his name off the award. I’m hoping the SSB members are not such sheeple that they will vote for this misbegotten proposal.
Forgive me if I seem excessively steamed—after all, nothing permanent has yet been done—but Mayr was a good man, a superb biologist, and the man whose writings, more than anything else, helped inspire me to go into evolutionary biology and, in particular, the study of speciation. His early books, including Systematics and the Origin of Species (1942) and its large update, Animal Species and Evolution (1963) are classics of the genre, and helped bring to the attention of biologists that the origin of species was not only a problem that Darwin really didn’t solve, but also proposed a way to solve it (the “Biological Species Concept” combined with geographic isolation of populations, or “allopatry”). His work, combined with two charismatic undergraduate teachers at William & Mary (Jack Brooks and Bruce Grant) are what got me started working on speciation and its genetics, summarized in my 2009 book with Allen Orr, Speciation. I knew Mayr at Harvard and spoke with him occasionally, always finding him strongly opinionated (and sometimes wrong) but also polite and courtly. But he was wrong in matters of biology, not morality or ethics.
When Mayr turned 90, the Society for the Study of Evolution, which he also founded, put out a special issue devoted to him, and I was honored to write the chapter assessing his contributions to speciation (free access here or here). And when he died at 100, I wrote his obituary for Science, which you can see here. If you want a short take on how important he was, I’d suggest reading the Science obituary. You can read about his contributions to systematics here; I’m not as familiar with them as with his contributions to evolutionary biology, for I’ve never done systematics. Yet, as I said, he helped found the very society that proposes to erase him and the award that he endowed, also endangered.
The SSB announcement here, which I’ve reproduced below, notes that the Council (governing body) of the SSB voted to put to their members a proposal to eliminate the name of the award for the best student paper at the annual meeting. The proposal, as you’ll see, is to change its name from “The Ernst Mayr Award in Systematic Biology” to “The Outstanding Student Presentation Award in Systematic Biology.” That’s a nameless generic award, and I wonder if the proposers feel any shame at removing from the award the name of the man who funded it, and is still funding it. I consider that unethical as well as dumb.
So, here’s the announcement, and I’ve put my own comments and questions in bold brackets within the text.
SSB Council Review of the Mayr Award and Award Names
In the summer of 2020, the SSB Council began a discussion about potentially renaming the Ernst Mayr Award in Systematic Biology at the request of society members [How many society members asked? A handful? A lot? Does it take more than one?]. Since then, the SSB leadership have been working in conjunction with the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee to learn more about the origin of named awards and their representation of the diverse membership within the society. Renaming the award is one step toward greater inclusivity within the society, as named awards often lead to feelings of exclusion among those who are members of underrepresented groups whose scientific contributions continue to remain unrecognized. [ This keeps being asserted, but how true is it? Do minority students or women truly feel hurt and excluded at getting an “Ernst Mayr” award, or even by the existence of that award? That sounds unbelievable. If this is the case, though, then they should rename the Nobel Prizes, for Alfred Nobel endowed these most famous science awards in his will, and he was an Old White Man. Further, one must balance the degree of “hurt feelings”, if any, against perpetuating the memory of the name of Mayr and of his legacy. Students are already beginning to forget who he was, even as they labor in fields he started.] At a council meeting following Virtual Evolution 2021, the Council voted to propose to all members an award name change, in conjunction with other actions intended to better recognize SSB’s history and legacy. [I consider that last statement bogus, as how better to recognize the SSB’s legacy than to give an award in its founder’s name?]
The SSB Council proposes to rename the Ernst Mayr Award in Systematic Biology to the Outstanding Student Presentation Award in Systematic Biology. Our scientific community is more diverse than the cohort of early scientists with recognized contributions to systematics and science generally [True: this is part of the history of the field, indeed of society, which has become more inclusive.] Many current members do not see themselves reflected in awards that bear the names of these early scientists and can feel excluded as potential recipients as a result. In a field whose composition still does not reflect global human diversity, having an award named after a particular individual reinforces that members with other identities are outsiders. [Here we see the key to why this is being proposed: members don’t “see themselves reflected in the award”, and what they mean is “in sex and race”. Women, as they imply, are too fragile to bear having an award named after a man, and minorities too fragile to accept an award named after a white person. They won’t say this explicitly, but it’s clear that this is what the proposal means. Are they saying that NO award should be named after any person? For, after all, if an award is named after anyone, it will limit severely the number of people who can “identify” with that person.] By proposing this name change, we hope to address this specific barrier [Is it a barrier? What is the evidence?] to making our society more inclusive and welcoming. [This, to me, is the most ludicrous part of the proposal. It is simply performative wokeness. Does the SSB council think that the award has actually hindered people from going into systematic biology? If so, then they have a low opinion of the ambition of future systematic biologists! Nobody thinks that blacks, women, Hispanics, and so on will come pouring into the SSB once the award is renamed. The proposal is performative wokeness alone, for it will accomplish nothing to promote racial or sexual equality. Rather, it is simply a big virtue signal meant to say, “Look how much we care about the oppressed!”] We, the SSB council, are made up of a diverse group of people who don’t all view Mayr in the same light. [Okay, what is the disagreement, then? I don’t think any two biologists view Mayr in the same light! If there’s controversy about his statements or activities, tell us what it is!] This proposal is not intended to cast judgement on the legacy of Ernst Mayr, who was a prolific and profound scholar of evolutionary biology and a dedicated champion of students, nor are we intending to defend the contents of his writings which some find problematic.[WHICH writings? How are they problematic? Note that they don’t list any, and I believe that whatever is considered “problematic” is at best trivial. Or perhaps it was Mayr’s controversial–and probably erroneous–views on founder-effect speciation?] We are grateful for Mayr’s generous gifts to our society, which created the endowment that allows us to support student research today. [Not grateful enough to keep his name on the prize! And of course this is a statement about the legacy of Ernst Mayr, which is that his mere name makes minority systematic biologists uncomfortable.]
The Council sees preservation of the society’s history and increasing diversity, equity and inclusion as synergistic endeavors toward the improvement of our community. The proposed change continues our history of becoming more inclusive over time: for example, in the 1990s we changed from the Society for Systematic Zoology to the Society of Systematic Biologists (and changed the journal name as well) to welcome members of our community who do not study animals. [Inclusivity of fields is not nearly as invidious as removing someone like Mayr’s name on the grounds of “inclusivity”. The only people who would be convinced by this analogy are those who aren’t thinking very clearly and are blinded by ideology.] Thus, SSB President Laura Kubatko has acted on the recommendation of the DEI Committee to form a new committee, the SSB Legacy Committee, that will be tasked with creating accessible content about our society’s history (e.g., as a section on our website). The formation of this committee is intended as a way to acknowledge the contributions of past members to the existence of the society and to the field broadly. In this way, the legacy of the society may be understood by our membership more comprehensively than is possible through named awards, and we have the opportunity to celebrate the many people of various backgrounds who have made systematic biology what it is today. [Does this mean that no award should bear a name, for that’s the logical conclusion of the argument they make above, or will they rename awards after members of minority groups?]
Because the award is named in our Constitution, the name can only be changed by a formal amendment to the Constitution. Following the procedure outlined in our Constitution, the SSB Council thus voted in August 2021 to propose an Amendment to the Constitution to be submitted to the SSB Membership for a vote. The Constitution specifies that the proposed Amendment will pass if at least 2/3 of the members vote in favor. This issue will be presented to the membership on the Spring 2022 ballot. The proposed amendment is shown below.
Proposed amendment Original text:
1) The Ernst Mayr Award in Systematic Biology given for the outstanding paper presented at the Annual Meeting by a student member of the Society or a member who has received the Ph.D. degree within the last 15 months; New text:
1) The Outstanding Student Presentation Award in Systematic Biology given for the outstanding paper presented at the Annual Meeting by a student member of the Society or a member who has received the Ph.D. degree within the last 15 months.
So, first, if you’re a member of the SSB, you must vote in the Spring 2022 election. If you’re not, lobby your systematist friends to vote.
I’m not even going to be neutral enough to tell you to “vote your conscience”. For unless you want to change science from a way to understand the universe to a misguided and ineffectual way to achieve Social Justice, there is only one rational way to vote: against the defenestration of Mayr. I know that you may be thinking, “Surely more than a third of members will oppose the name change,” but I wouldn’t be so sure about that. After all, more than half the members of the SSB Council voted for this ludicrous proposal.
I end by trying to suss out what statements of Mayr are considered “problematic”. I’ve read a LOT of what he wrote, though I haven’t read his bird work, and I know of nothing that is “problematic.” In cases like this one, “problematic” is a euphemism for “racist”, but Mayr was not a racist, but an egalitarian!
Here’s one example. In 1951 UNESCO issued a statement “The Race Concept: Results of an Inquiry,” which analyzes the biology of race and declared no substantive differences among races that would support racism. The UNESCO document was apparently disseminated to biologists and their reactions are given in the report itself. Here’s the take Ronald Fisher, who already has been cancelled, making pretty racist criticisms of the Report:
. . .Darlington, Fisher, Genna and .Coon are frankly opposed to the Statement.
Sir Ronald Fisher has one fundamental objection to the Statement, which, as he himself says, destroys the very spirit of the whole document. He believes that human groups differ profoundly “in their innate capacity for intellectual and emotional development” and concludes from this that the “practical international problem is that of learning to share the resources of this planet amicably with persons of materially different nature, and that this problem is being obscured by entirely well intentioned efforts to minimize the real differences that exist”.
. . . Fisher’s attitude towards the facts stated in this paragraph is the same as Muller’s and Sturtevant’s, but this is how he puts his objections: “As you ask for remarks and suggestions, there is one that occurs to me, unfortunately of a somewhat fundamental nature, namely that the Statement as it stands appears to draw a distinction between the body and mind of men, which must, I think, prove untenable. It appears to me unmistakable that gene differences which influence the growth or physiological development of an organism will ordinarily pari passu influence the congenital inclinations and capacities of the mind. In fact, I should say that, to vary conclusion (2) on page 5, ‘Available scientific knowledge provides a firm basis for believing that the groups of mankind differ in their innate capacity for intellectual and emotional development,’ seeing that such groups do differ undoubtedly in a very large number of their genes.”
In contrast, Mayr approved of the UNESCO report and its conclusions. This is a direct quote from page 18:
Mayr also hopes that “the authoritative Statement prepared by Unesco will help to eliminate the pseudo-scientific race conceptions which have been used as excuses for many injustices and even shocking crimes”. “I applaud and wholeheartedly endorse [it],” he writes, adding: “It cannot be emphasized too strongly that all so-called races are variable populations, and that there is often more difference between extreme individuals of one race than between certain individuals of different races. All human races are mixtures of populations and the term “pure race” is an absurdity. The second important point which needs stressing is that genetics plays a very minor part in the cultural characteristics of different peoples. . . . The third point is that equality of opportunity and equality in law do not depend on physical, intellectual and genetic identity. There are striking differences in physical, intellectual and other genetically founded qualities among individuals of even the most homogeneous human population, even among brothers and sisters. No acknowledged ethical principle exists which would permit denial of equal opportunity for reason of such differences to any member of the human species.”
You can’t get more egalitarian and antiracist than that! And this was Mayr’s view on race. Is this PROBLEMATIC??? Is the SSB willing to die on the mountain of this statement? Why would it not be an honor to get an award named after a man of sound moral views and superb scientific accomplishment?
STEM disciplines are falling all over each other in this genre of performative wokeness. I hope the SSB comes to its senses and does the right thing.
Here’s a rare photo of Mayr in middle age; he’s usually shown as a young man during his New Guinea expedition or as an old man (remember, he lived 100 years).
Sweet Ceiling Cat in a chicken basket! As Greg and I have written several times, the New York Times has in the last couple of years become very soft on spirituality, woo, and the occult, especially on astrology. Well, it’s gone extra far this time by publishing a very long profile in its “Style” section of Carissa Schumacher, a medium/spiritualist/channeler from Los Angeles. That’s big publicity!
Schumacher is a full-blown loon, and yet she’s accumulated a stable of wealthy and famous Hollywood-ites who pay her big bucks for “sessions.” Besides channeling Jesus (she’s got a contract to publish three books containing the words of the Son of God), she’ll channel anybody’s relatives—for a fee, of course.
The thing is, the whole article is basically a worshipful piece on Schumacher and her vocal emissions, and the only pushback consists of two quotes from the admirable Susan Gerbic, a columnist for Skeptical Inquirer, experienced debunker, and head of Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia.
Since there are a gazillion mediums in the world, all of them bogus, I fail to see why the paper is highlighting this one, and, in fact, their publicity will surely bring Schumacher a lot more business.
Click to read and weep.
The piece begins with a gathering at Schumacher’s estate, where a lot of big names show up to hear the medium channel Jesus (she says “Yeshua” because she think it sounds weird to say “I’m channeling Jesus!”). It’s surprising who’s been duped by this woman, but, as we know, the public has an endless appetite for confirmation that there’s life after death. The dead speaking through Schumacher gives them comfort and reassurance. From the paper:
Last Saturday night, a group gathered at the Flamingo Estate in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles to meet the spiritual adviser Carissa Schumacher.
At the front of an open-air room, a seat awaited Ms. Schumacher under a large floral arch. After guests, including the actresses Jennifer Aniston and Uma Thurman, filled the rows of chairs, others moved to the floor. Andie MacDowell reclined on a rug among a heap of pillows. Ms. Schumacher was supposed to appear at 8:30 p.m. A gospel choir sang while everyone sat around and glanced at Ms. Schumacher’s empty chair and at each other.
Since 2010, Ms. Schumacher has worked as a medium, meaning someone who receives messages from people who have died. She doesn’t have a website and is often booked months in advance. Her prices are another obstacle, with sessions priced at $1,111 per hour. (She likes the synchronicity of the number.)
In late 2019, just as the world was on the precipice of a plague of biblical proportions, Ms. Schumacher said she began channeling Yeshua, a.k.a. Jesus Christ. Transcribed recordings of some of those sessions appear in a new book, “The Freedom Transmissions,” out Nov. 30.
. . . The party was for the book, but it was also a chance for her clients, many of whom hadn’t experienced the Yeshua channeling, to see what it was all about. Maybe she would channel him at the party. No one was quite sure.
Well, nobody’s claimed that stars like McDowell, Thurman, and Aniston were the sharpest knives in the drawer, but there are others who pay the “synchronicity fee” as well, including Brad Pitt and Rooney Mara. After a long wait, Clarissa shows up:
Ms. Schumacher finally appeared a little after 9:30 p.m. A petite woman of 39, she walked tentatively toward the front of the room, removed her metallic gold heels, and sat cross-legged beneath the giant floral wreath, which now looked like a halo. The wall behind her was covered in photos of rainbows.
“We love you so much!” someone screamed. She put her hands together in prayer and nodded to a few fans around the room. “For those of you that don’t know me, I’m Carissa,” she said. “I knew my whole life that I would be a channel for Yeshua.”
A photo of the session (sadly, the Son of Man refused to be channeled that night). Schumacher, with her white robe, reminds me of another religious huckster in L.A.: Aimee Semple McPherson:
Now how did Sister Carissa come to be the megaphone for Jesus? The NYT explains:
Her naturopathic doctor suggested she meet Danielle Gibbons, who lives in southern Oregon and says she has been channeling the Virgin Mary since 1994. (She has a YouTube channel.) In 2011, Ms. Schumacher attended Ms. Gibbons’s workshop in Los Angeles, and subsequently booked private sessions with her roughly once a year. Ms. Gibbons told me that she didn’t know Ms. Schumacher was a Yeshua channel until much later, in 2019.
Ms. Schumacher said that she spent the next decade preparing her channel for Yeshua. She meditated daily, cut out sugar and caffeine, and limited her diet to five foods: broccoli, cauliflower, turkey, chicken and watermelon. “If someone’s channel is diluted,” she said, “there’s a kind of film or gunk that the energy gets stuck in and can’t push through.”
That’s actually pretty funny, but the NYT presents it without any sarcasm. Perhaps that was their aim, for somehow I don’t think the purpose of this big article was to show that mediums are frauds. It might well be to highlight her bogus book.
What does Jesus say? It turns out that he produces only bromides (surprise!) and doesn’t give specific details about his life. He also has an accent (my emphasis):
Ms. Aniston left that journey early, and the next day Ms. Schumacher said that Yeshua spoke through her for the first time. Those who’ve witnessed it since then say that Ms. Schumacher’s voice and body change. Yeshua’s voice is deeper, more measured, and has a slight British accent.
LOL! I can hear it now: “My dear chaps, you can arrive at God only through me.” And if she’s really channeling Jesus, why isn’t she speaking Hebrew?
There’s more and it’s pretty funny as well, with a toilet metaphor:
When I asked what it’s like to channel Yeshua, Ms. Schumacher said, “It feels like I’m being flushed down a toilet. I go whoosh! And he comes up. I breathe a lot. My body shakes.” On journeys, someone is tasked with holding down her ankles. Coming back into her body is hard, she said. “It’s a little bit like … womp, womp.”
. . . In the fall of 2020, Ms. Schumacher emailed recordings of Yeshua transmissions to her clients. Among them was Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, who was referred to Ms. Schumacher after leaving her longtime job running the literary department at WME. She thought Yeshua’s teachings could be a book and connected Ms. Schumacher with the publisher of Harper One, which will release “The Freedom Transmissions.”
Though there’s some Christian iconography in it — references to the crucifixion, for instance — the rest is a more neutral smorgasbord of divine power surrender, Buddhism, repairing the fragmented self after trauma, and accessing “the God self,” a reference to Carl Jung.
Ms. Rudolph Walsh said that Yeshua’s teachings changed her entire nervous system. “I don’t react to the weather,” she said. “I don’t report the weather. I am the weather. And the weather is always peace.”
I asked Ms. Rudolph Walsh if she believed that Yeshua was truly speaking through Ms. Schumacher. “To me, it doesn’t matter,” she said. “It matters what is being said. But do I personally believe she’s channeling Yeshua? Yes, I do.”
Now perhaps Schumacher really believes that she’s channeling Jesus and the other dead people she speaks for. Perhaps she’s in a self-induced hallucinatory state, but you’d have to be pretty credulous to think that Jesus (if he really existed, and I’m not convinced) would use you as a mouthpiece.
The only two bits of doubt cast on Schumacher, as I said, came from Susan Gerbic:
Susan Gerbic, the founder of Guerrilla Skeptics, a group that conducts sting operations of people she calls “grief vampires,” told me that the invocation of religion was consistent with a psychic’s desire to feel special. “If you are in conversation with dead biblical figures, then that is really special and holds a lot of power,” she said, adding that it also served as a shield against skeptics. “Who’s going to attack someone who’s playing the religion card?”
And this is a gem, especially the part I’ve put in bold:
. . . Later I asked Ms. Gerbic, the psychic skeptic, if she believed there were any legitimate mediums in the world. “I could give you the long answer about how we don’t know all things yet and science does not know everything, but I think you know my answer: It’s all BS,” she wrote in an email. “And the way I know this isn’t because I’ve been doing this for so long, and know many people who have been doing this for so long. But because it is NOT possible to communicate with dead people. They are dead.”
Indeed. They are dead. If you want to test Schumacher as a medium, get someone like the late James Randi to do it. But of course I doubt she’d be tested.
Anyway, Jesus Christ didn’t make a vocal appearance that evening, so Schumacher channeled another person who sings in the Choir Invisible:
Ms. Schumacher decided ultimately that the vibe at the Flamingo Estate wasn’t conducive to channeling Yeshua. (“I am not a go-go-gadget channel,” she told me.) Instead she channeled Kenneth, a guest’s dead father who she said liked fishing and fixing cars. Kenneth’s son, John, wiped his eyes, as did many others in the room. “I’m sorry,” Ms. Schumacher said.
“Don’t be,” John said. “I loved it.”
And if you want to read what Jesus supposedly said, well, Harper Collins, through its imprint Harper One, is releasing the book below: notice that Jesus is listed as the main author! (Does he get most of the royalties?) I have little doubt it’ll sell like hotcakes. Everybody wants to know what Jesus has to say! And two sequels are in the offing.
But I remain curious: why did the New York Times profile this woman? It’s like profiling any kind of hokum: reiki therapy, coffee enemas, reading auras, dowsing, and so on. I can’t help but think that the NYT really thinks there may be something to this, and wanted to get in on the story on the ground floor. Or do the Woke have some kind of penchant for woo? Not that I’ve noticed, but they do practice a kind of religion.
If you have the dosh, you can contact Carissa here.
I have ivermectin and didn’t get it at an animal feed shop. It’s for human beings, prescribed by a human internist that treats Covid patients (a real living MD). He also prescribes it to ease vaccine side-effects. It helped mine, I had my period for months after the Moderna shot, along with neuropathy in my right arm which prevented me from working for 2 weeks. I did not follow up with a second dose and will not until at least third generation vaccines are available.
You are a dangerous person and I challenge your view, your vaccine indoctrination. There are safe, healthy options for All and instead of promoting health, an MD’s ability to practice and prescribe, you support a billionaire class who wants you hooked into a booster program. You’re the laughable one, the one that should be shamed but you’re so insecure, you point at Bret and Heather
No control in her assertion of “it helped mine”, of course, and if she listened to Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying she wouldn’t have gotten the shot in the first place. If ivermectin is a “safe and healthy option,” why did she get a jab?
I stand by what I said: there is no convincing evidence that Ivermectin is either a palliative, a cure, or a preventive for Covid 19, much less a reliever of symptoms from the vaccination. There are mixed results from some studies of the drug, but those are almost all retrospective analyses, have pathetically small sample sizes, and many lack real controls.
We will have more definitive data in a couple of months. But regardless of that, we know that the shots are powerfully effective in preventing Covid, and, if you get it anyway, you get a milder case. Faced with the assurance of that result contrasted with our ignorance about Ivermectin, which simply cannot have as powerful a result as the vaccines, you’d simply be dumb to forego up the shots (which Weinstein and Heying have been urging; neither is vaccinated) and take a medicine designed for roundworms and head lice.
Well, call me stupid, but I thought that Eric Clapton’s musical genius would extend into other areas, too. Thus I was gobsmacked when he became an ardent antivaxer, letting me down three times by opposing antivaccination restrictions, opposing the shot itself (though he got two AstraZeneca jabs), and releasing two anti-vax songs, “This Has Gotta Stop” and “Stand and Deliver,” the latter with Van Morrison.
Now, as Rolling Stone reports (click on screenshot below), Clapton is funding a band, Jam for Freedom. whose sole purpose appears to be to oppose vaccination:
Eric Clapton not only donated more than $1,300 to a GoFundMe posted by a vaccine skeptical music group, but he also lent the “pro-medical choice” band his family’s personal Transporter van to use for touring around the country, Rolling Stone reports. A musician for the group Jam for Freedom, known for songs with lyrics like, “You can stick your poison vaccine up your arse,” told the magazine that when he saw the donation he thought he was being tricked, until he received a text from the 76-year-old singer-songwriter himself. “It was something complimentary, along the lines of, ‘Hey, it’s Eric—great work you’re doing,’” McLaughlin said. Though he declined to say how much, McLaughlin also told the magazine that Clapton gave them more money to buy a new van and said he might play with the group in the future.
Clapton apparently is becoming (or always was, but kept it quiet) a conservative, and maybe even a racist. There were those comments at a concert in 1976, which I didn’t know about until they surfaced recently. The magazine reports those, too:
In the summer of 1976, Dave Wakeling thought he knew Clapton, too. Wakeling, who’d go on to found the English Beat, one of the U.K.’s pioneering ska bands, was 20 that year, and such a big Clapton fan that he’d once hitchhiked from his Birmingham home to London to see Clapton’s band Blind Faith in Hyde Park.
But when he saw Clapton at the Odeon theater in Birmingham in August 1976, Wakeling was gob-smacked. A clearly inebriated Clapton, who unlike most of his rock brethren hadn’t weighed in on topics like the Vietnam War, began grousing about immigration. The concert was neither filmed nor recorded, but based on published accounts at the time (and Wakeling’s recollection), Clapton began making vile, racist comments from the stage. In remarks he has never denied, he talked about how the influx of immigrants in the U.K. would result in the country “being a colony within 10 years.” He also went on an extended jag about how “foreigners” should leave Great Britain: “Get the wogs out . . . get the coons out.” (Wog, shorthand for golliwog, was a slur against dark-skinned nonwhites.)
“As it went on, it was like, ‘Is this a joke?’ ” Wakeling recalls. “And then it became obvious that it wasn’t. . . . It started to form a sort of murmur throughout the crowd. He kept talking, and the murmurings started to get louder: ‘What did he fucking say again?’ . . . We all got into the foyer after the concert, and it was as loud as the concert: ‘What is he fucking doing? What a cunt!’ ”
When Clapton voiced support onstage for the conservative British flamethrower and fascist Enoch Powell, a prominent anti-immigration politician who had given his polarizing “rivers of blood” speech on the topic in Birmingham in 1968, Wakeling was particularly offended. Thanks to white and black workers toiling together in its factories, Wakeling had sensed that Birmingham had become more integrated in recent years.
Make this breaking my heart for the fifth time.
Clapton later tried to explain away those comments, saying they weren’t really racist, but his excuse isn’t very convincing (read the piece).
Finally, Clapton vowed that he would never play in a venue that required vaccination, and is scheduling his tours according to that dictum:
Clapton recently embarked on a U.S. tour booked in red states despite surging transmission numbers and death rates — and at venues that largely don’t require proof of vaccination. In the process, this Sixties icon, who embraced the sex, drugs, and rock & roll lifestyle as much as anyone in his generation, has drawn praise from conservative pundits. In Austin, he posed for backstage photos with Texas’ anti-vax-mandate Gov. Greg Abbott, known for his attacks on abortion and voting rights. The sight of Clapton in backstage photos with the notorious governor amounted to a deal killer for some: “I just deleted all my Clapton songs,” went one comment on Abbott’s Twitter feed, along with, “A Kid Rock type with better guitar skills. Done with him.”
He broke that absurd promise by playing Smoothie King, which, according to its website, is following New Orleans regulations that require all ticketholders 12 and above, as well as staff and participants, to either prove they have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine or provide a negative test taken within 72 hours. Moreover, they must wear a mask while not eating or drinking.
Well, fine, though it does show that he isn’t holding to his convictions.
What happened to Clapton? The Rolling Stone piece above is long and detailed, and advances some ideas that you’ll want to read if you’re a Clapton fan.
Several readers sent me this story from CNN.com about astrology (click on screenshot below). And like me, when they saw it they assumed it was part of the regular CNN news feed, and so were appalled. One reader wrote this:
Woke up this morning to see this story on CNN.com. One of the best examples of astrological nonsense I’ve seen in a while. In a major “news” website, no less. Candles are the cure. Really one long ad for the “cures.” Reads like something in the Onion.
It is in fact a merchandising piece, but that’s not at all obvious, and it is on CNN.com and looks like a feature piece. I therefore pronounce this piece bullpucky and fault CNN for pushing woo, even if the network is doing it as a disguised advertisement.
Click to read and weep.
If you squint, you’ll see this at the top of the piece:
Enlarged: CNN Underscored is your guide to the everyday products and services that help you live a smarter, simpler and more fulfilling life. The content is created by CNN Underscored. CNN News staff is not involved. When you make a purchase, we receive revenue.
So here’s some of the woo it pushes, and at the bottom of the piece they link to products that can supposedly palliate the effects of the retrograde, like soothing crystals, candles, and blankets. This is hokum, of course; they’re using astrology (and presenting it as accurate and curative) to make money. That’s triply immoral. Fie on CNN!
Here you go:
On Sept. 27, Mercury will go retrograde for the third and final time in 2021. During this period of Mercury retrograde, which ends on Oct. 18, you’ll probably hear a number of people carrying on about how everything is going wrong — and it’s all because of Mercury retrograde.
But what exactly is Mercury retrograde, why are people so afraid of it and is there anything that can be done to avoid its wrath?
But when it comes to the astrological significance of Mercury retrograde, Saxena explains, “It’s a different story. According to modern, Western astrological traditions, Mercury is the planet that represents communication of all kinds. When it goes retrograde, the theory is that our communications get thrown out of whack.”
Effects of Mercury retrograde
You’ve probably heard warnings about not buying a new computer during Mercury retrograde, or horror stories about dropping a phone in the toilet; electronics gone haywire are typically associated with Mercury retrograde because they’re items we use to facilitate communication. But it’s not just the electronics themselves to look out for, Saxena says. You may find yourself replying all to an email you meant to forward or sending text messages that don’t go through.
But it’s not just electronic communication that’s impacted by Mercury retrograde — all forms of communication can go sideways during this time. “Perhaps you worded something sloppily and now your friend is mad at you, or you forgot to make a point in a meeting you wish you had, or you just feel generally flustered and misunderstood,” Saxena says. She also warns that Mercury retrograde can influence the way we communicate with ourselves, “so you may have a harder time being in touch with your own feelings and motivations.”
If it sounds like Mercury retrograde can and will make everything that could possibly go wrong actually go wrong, well … yes. “Basically,” Saxena says, “anything that involves you having to communicate, which is unfortunately just about everything, can be affected.”
So what’s to be done about this difficult time? While it may be tempting to go inside and lock the door for the duration, that’s not an especially realistic way to cope with Mercury retrograde’s disruptions — try these ideas instead.
In other words, enrich us by buying the products below. Astrology will help you lead a “smarter and more fulfilling life.”
Why is astrology seemingly making a comeback these days in major media like the NYT? I suppose the religious will say that as religion wanes, we need a substitute, and astrology is one of them.
Since Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying left Evergreen State under trying circumstances, they’ve made a living doing podcasts on YouTube, and have become somewhat notorious for their stand on Covid-19 and the dubious remedy Ivermectin.
The story below, from the Portland, Oregon news site Willamette Week, reports how both Weinstein and Heying not only remain unvaccinated against Covid, as they don’t trust the vaccine, but are also dosing themselves with Ivermectin, a drug used in humans for roundworm, lice, and skin conditions, but which has no effect on the coronavirus. (It’s also famous for de-worming horses.) The FDA has strongly warned humans not to dose themselves with this drug as a treatment or preventive for Covid.
Nevertheless, according to both the story below (click on screenshot) and the section on Weinstein and Covid on Wikipedia, the ex-professors have been relentlessly touting Ivermectin (read the Wikipedia section for documentation) and taking it themselves.
Here’s how two “progressive” biologists (not just one) have completely ignored science for reasons best known to themselves. What they have accomplished, instead, is to ruin their reputations except among the loons and some Trumpies.
From the paper:
Instead, the loudest voice [doubting vaccines] may be that of a Toyota-driving Bernie Bro who lives near Lewis & Clark College, an evolutionary biologist with a Ph.D. who studied and taught at two of the nation’s most liberal universities and participated in Occupy Wall Street.
His name is Bret Weinstein, and he makes his living preaching the dangers of COVID-19 vaccines while extolling ivermectin, the controversial drug often used to deworm horses.
Weinstein, 52, is one of the foremost proponents of ivermectin. He’s appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show to flog the drug. He and his wife, Heather Heying, also a Ph.D. biologist, went on Real Time With Bill Maher in January, an appearance that boosted interest in their DarkHorse Podcast, which has 382,000 subscribers on YouTube alone.
Weinstein’s biggest fan is probably Joe Rogan, host of the most popular podcast in the U.S. Weinstein appeared with Rogan four times, including a June 2020 show that’s gotten almost 8 million views on YouTube. In June 2021, it turned into a lovefest.
. . .“Your podcast is one of my very favorites,” Rogan said. “I listen to it or watch it all the time. It’s an amazing source of rational thinking by educated people who talk about things they understand, which is exactly the opposite of what I do!”
. . . Now, because of people like Weinstein, a drug meant for 1,000-pound animals is flying off the shelves in feed stores not just in red states, but even in Multnomah County, where the vaccination rate is approaching 80%.
. . . But unlike most of their fellow residents in Multnomah County, both say they are not vaccinated. Instead, they protect themselves from COVID by eating whole foods from farmers markets and by taking weekly doses of ivermectin, along with vitamins C and D, and zinc.
. . . Weinstein likes ivermectin, he says, because it has a stellar safety record (it does) and it’s cheap (it is, at about $5 a pill). Vaccines, meantime, are the opposite. They aren’t proven to be safe yet, Weinstein says, and they’re more expensive (for the governments who purchase them).
I won’t go on; you can check for yourself, but I will quote David Gorski, also known as Orac and an oracle on the Science-Based Medicine site:
“Bret Weinstein is one of the foremost purveyors of COVID-19 disinformation out there,” says Dr. David Gorski, a surgical oncologist and professor at Wayne State University who also debunks quack remedies as managing editor at a website called Science-Based Medicine. “Weinstein can be ‘credited’ with playing a large role in popularizing the belief that ivermectin is a miracle cure or preventative for COVID-19, that the vaccines are dangerous, and that the disease itself is not. Why are Rogan and Maher attracted to his messages? Contrarians and conspiracy theorists tend to be attracted to each other.”
I am still baffled why Weinstein and Heying are pushing quackery after careers as biologists—ecologists and evolutionary biologists! I think most of us admired Bret for taking a stand against extremist anti-racism at Evergreen State, a stand for which they eventually had to leave teaching. But then Bret started broaching weird and convoluted theories of evolution, and now this—horse drugs!
All I can guess is that the pair are contrarians to the bone, and are acting it out with horse pills. It can’t really be the science, as all the data say that the vaccines are both effective and safe, while Ivermectin is of NO value in preventing or treating Covid-19. And, of course, it could be dangerous, especially if you buy the veterinary brand, as it’s designed for horses, who have much greater mass than humans, and the animal formula of Ivermectin is different from that used for other human ailments.
Bret and Heather, are you listening? Please stop this dangerous and antiscientific madness, as you could be hurting people rather than helping them.
They won’t listen to their critics, of course, and for that reason their reputation will be permanently marred in the community of rational thinkers.
As I wrote this morning in the Hili dialogue, and as Carl Zimmer describes in the NYT article below (click on screenshot), a team of scientists and entrepreneurs has formed a company called Colossal that aims to “bring back the woolly mammoth.” They raised fifteen million dollars in funding to do this job (cf. P. T. Barnum). The motivating force for this endeavor is well-known Harvard geneticist George Church, who for years has said that a “resurrected” woolly mammoth, constructed using DNA sequence from mammoths frozen in the permafrost, was right around the corner.
Well, the corner hasn’t been turned, and, if I don’t miss my guess, it won’t be. This project is fraught with so many problems that the likelihood of producing a woolly mammoth is close to zero.
In fact it IS zero, because they’re not going to resurrect that extinct creature. What they are doing is making a genetically modified Asian elephant by inserting into its genome a maximum of sixty mammoth genes that they think differentiate the modern species from the extinct one: genes that involve hairiness, cold tolerance, amount of fat, and so on. What they’d get would be a genetic chimera, an almost entirely Asian elephant but one that is hairier, chunkier, and more tolerant of cold. That is NOT a woolly mammoth, nor would it behave like a woolly mammoth, for they’re not inserting behavior genes.
There’s more below:
Further, a lot of other genes differ between a mammoth and an Asian elephant. What guarantee is there that the inserted mammoth genes would be expressed correctly, or even work at all in concert with the Asian elephant developmental system?
But it gets worse. Since you can’t implant a transgenic embryo into an elephant mom (we don’t know how to do that, and we would get just one or two chances), Church had this bright idea:
Initially, Dr. Church envisioned implanting embryos into surrogate female elephants. But he eventually soured on the idea. Even if he could figure out in vitro fertilization for elephants — which no one has done before — building a herd would be impractical, since he would need so many surrogates.
Instead, Dr. Church decided to make an artificial mammoth uterus lined with uterine tissue grown from stem cells. “I’m not making a bold prediction this is going to be easy,” he said. “But everything up to this point has been relatively easy. Every tissue we’ve gone after, we’ve been able to get a recipe for.”
An artificial mammoth uterus? Seriously? If you think that’s gonna work, I have some land in Florida I’d like to sell you. Of course, if you’re going to breed these things, you’d have to make two of them of opposite sexes. Could they even do that?
And beside this, there are all the ethical questions about releasing a large number of chimeric elephants into Siberia. That, itself, is unethical; Lord knows what they’d do to the ecosystem (my view is that, if they even succeeded in creating these things, they’d die off within a generation or so). From the article:
Is it humane to produce an animal whose biology we know so little about? Who gets to decide whether they can be set loose, potentially to change the ecosystems of tundras in profound ways?
“There’s tons of trouble everyone is going to encounter along the way,” said Beth Shapiro, a paleogeneticist at the University of California Santa Cruz and the author of “How to Clone a Mammoth.”
. . . .Heather Browning, a philosopher at the London School of Economics, said that whatever benefits mammoths might have to the tundra will need to be weighed against the possible suffering that they might experience in being brought into existence by scientists.
“You don’t have a mother for a species that — if they are anything like elephants — has extraordinarily strong mother-infant bonds that last for a very long time,” she said. “Once there is a little mammoth or two on the ground, who is making sure that they’re being looked after?”
My opinion of this project is expressed more tersely by geneticist and author Adam Rutherford:
But let’s get the take of a real expert on mammoths, Victoria “Tori” Herridge, a paleontologist and writer at London’s Natural History Museum who’s written extensively about this project. Her opinion is pretty much the same as mine and Rutherford’s. Here’s the first tweet of a long thread in which, while expressing admiration for George Church, she simply takes the project apart. I’d recommend you go through what she says if you have interest in this project.
News has broken that a new biotech company, Colossal, has been founded with the aim of creating an gene-edited Asian elephant that is tolerant to Arctic conditions.
aka "Mammoth de-extinction"
And so, a personal thread of discovery and opinion
Moreover, now, as opposed to the artificial mammoth uterus idea, the company says they will implant the egg (derived perhaps from a stem cell, something that has been done only with mice so far) into an AFRICAN ELEPHANT. Most zoos don’t keep that species because it’s big and dangerous, as well as endangered.
Reader Paul sent me this tweet, which links to an article describing the most pathetic and most hilarious attempt at wokeness I’ve seen yet, and that’s saying a lot.
dr. linda manyguns, an Indigenous Person in Canada, is the associate vice-president of indigenization and decolonization at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Elsewhere she’s described as “a Blackfoot woman, born on the Tsuut’ina Nation and registered at Siksika. She is an Elder for the Buffalo Women’s Society and part of the Beaver Bundle Society.” Before moving to Mount Royal, she was a professor in and chair of the University of Lethbridge’s Department of Indigenous Studies.
She has hit upon a new form of performative wokeness: eliminating the use of all capital letters except when it comes to Indigenous People (and presumably other minorities), for those capital letters are forms of written INEQUITY.
But here’s the tweet, which links to the statement I’ve put below.
dr. linda manyguns joins the lowercase movement to reject the symbols of hierarchy wherever they are found and will not use capital letters except to acknowledge the Indigenous struggle for recognition. read her full statement: https://t.co/4CIjB5bRNppic.twitter.com/tPHDxfb3yq
this is a beginning effort at describing the use of lower case on the website of the office of indigenization and decolonization.
Indigenous people have been actively engaged in a multidimensional struggle for equality, since time immemorial. we strive for historical-cultural recognition and acknowledgment of colonial oppression that persistently devalues the diversity of our unique cultural heritages.
these sites of struggle are generally found at blockades, where demonstrations against racism occur, where racialization and cultural domination, and discrimination leave the mark of imbalance and abuses of power. sometimes these sites generate media interest but interest is generally fickle.
the explicit demonstration and practice of aboriginal culture in everyday life or at places of resistance is called by academics ‘eventing.’
the goal of equity, diversity and inclusion of all people is synonymous with the interests of Indigenous people. we support and expand the goal of equality and inclusion to all forms of life and all people. we join leaders like e. e. cummings, bell hooks, and peter kulchyski, who reject the symbols of hierarchy wherever they are found and do not use capital letters except to acknowledge the Indigenous struggle for recognition.
we resist acknowledging the power structures that oppress and join the movement that does not capitalize.
the office of indigenization and decolonization supports acts that focus on inclusion and support the right of all people to positive inclusion and change.
This is a person who is unbalanced to the point where she sees capital letters as non-inclusive symbols of inequality. They are forms of oppression; presumably the big letters are white and oppress the small LOCs (letters of color). If I were John McWhorter, I’d say that manyguns needs therapy, but I’m not him so I won’t.
The main issue is this: Will abandoning capital letters in nearly all cases help bring equality to oppressed minorities? You already know the answer. And this, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, and comrades, is your Friday Wokeness—a prime candidate for Wokest Act of 2021.
When the “Black Lives Matter” slogan was coopted for other purposes—like the “Blue Lives Matter” slogan lauding police or the “All Lives Matter” slogan meant to denigrate its model—the mimic phrases were rightly condemned as “whataboutery.” By using the original words, the other slogans subtly mocked or even repudiated the slogan—and thus the goal—of Black Lives Matter.
This goes for other forms of ideological and moral statements. When one condemns, for example, attacks on Asians, as happened during and after the Florida Spa massacre (not definitely targeted at Asians) and during the pandemic, you should defend the rights of Asians to live in America without fear, and should condemn attacks on Asians motivated by bigotry. To lump in all other minorities at the same time dilutes the solidarity one expresses with a beleaguered group, and thus what solace the group can take. (If you want to condemn all bigotry, then just say that, but it confers more love to defend a specific group under attack rather than just saying, “Can’t we just love one another?”)
This holds for all beleaguered minorities except one. And you know which one that is: the Jews. Although they’re the most frequent victims of hate crimes in the U.S. on a per capita basis, Jews though a tiny minority, are not considered minorities and are not considered oppressed—despite the data I just gave and the increasing tendency of the American Left to tilt towards anti-Israel sentiments and, indeed, anti-Semitic movements like BDS. Lest you fault me for going off on anti-Semitism again, be aware that this is one of the biggest hypocrisies of the Western Left, right up there with the Left’s failure to defend the rights of gays and women that are regularly abrogated in Arab countries. After all, Arabs are considered people of color and Jews are honorary white people.
So, when you hear someone denigrate anti-Semitic attacks, you’ll often hear, right alongside it, denigration of “Islamophobia”. This whataboutery is, I think, almost unique to Jews. You cannot condemn attacks on Jews without condemning attacks on Muslims at the same time. It’s like saying “Black Lives Matter—and so do Asian ones.” It’s not simply an American attempt to be fair, but expresses the uniquely unhappy position of Jews in this world.
At any rate, the failure to include Muslims when condemning anti-Semitism just cost April Powers her job as the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Editors’ (SCBWI) first “Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer”. All she did was issue a statement condemning anti-Semitism. Her mistake was not only to issue that statement without mentioning “Islamophobia”, but also to defend what she did on Facebook. For that she was fired. The irony is that April Powers is not only Jewish, but black.
This ridiculous situation, so common in Young Adult Fiction—I nominate that field, along with the Knitting Community, as the Wokest area of endeavor in America—is described on Bari Weiss’s site in a nice piece by Kat Rosenfield. You can read it for free by clicking on the screenshot below.
Here’s April Powers, the once Chief Equity and Inclusion officer, hired last year
Below: Rosenfield’s description of the SCBWI. I’ve followed their shenanigans over the years, and they seem to me nothing more than a group of sanctimonious Pecksniffs whose purpose is to ensure that no young adult literature is published that doesn’t conform to their ideological views. They are, pure and simple, a bunch of odious censors.
The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Editors is an organization for established and aspiring professionals in children’s and young adult literature. The publishing industry is famously left-wing, but the world of children’s publishing makes the rest of the industry look like milquetoast moderates. In the past few years, Young Adult authors have rewritten already published work deemed offensive. They have seen the ratings of a not-yet-released book torpedoed by organized takedown campaigns on Goodreads. They have cancelled their own titles after (often flimsy) allegations of racism, or been compelled to reveal private, even traumatic details of their lives in order to “prove” that they have the standing to tell certain kinds of stories. In one particularly notorious case, Kirkus Reviews retracted its starred review of the novel “American Heart” and issued a new one scolding its “problematic” elements after a Twitter outrage.
It was in that context that the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Editors put up a post on Facebook that began: “The SCBWI unequivocally recognizes that the world’s 14.7 million Jewish people (less than 0.018% of the population) have the right to life, safety, and freedom from scapegoating and fear.” The June 10 post went on to condemn antisemitism as “one of the oldest forms of hatred,” and asked readers to “join us in not looking away.”
Here’s that post.
Things rapidly got out of hand when SCBWI member Razan Abdin-Adnani (described as the daughter of Palestinian refugees) asked if the organization “also planned to denounce violence against Palestinians.” Powers responded that the statement reflects “recent surges in hate crimes & violence around the world. If we see a surge against Muslims globally as we have w/other groups, expect us to speak up.”
Engaging like that was a big mistake, and the Facebook fracas got hostile. Then it spread to Twitter, which of course is toxic, and Abdin-Adnani demanded a refund of her membership dues.
Rosenfeld describes the downfall of Powers, accompanied by the usual fulsome apologies, including, sadly, one by Powers herself:
You might imagine that this would have been a good time for the organization to take a principled stand, to condemn this member’s inappropriate behavior, and to make a strong statement in support of its employees, particularly its black, Jewish diversity chief.
Instead, SCBWI stayed silent as the controversy continued to blow up online. Both Powers and the SCBWI account blocked Abdin-Adnani as her tweets got more intemperate, contributing to a narrative that she had been “silenced.” Big accounts on YA Twitter signal boosted her complaints. Prominent authors demanded apologies and vowed boycotts.
Then, two weeks after the original Facebook post, Lin Oliver, the executive director of SCBWI, offered a groveling apology. Not to the Jews, for failing to stand by a simple denunciation of antisemitism, nor to a faithful employee, whom SCBWI had left to twist in the wind, but to “everyone the Palestinian community who felt unrepresented, silenced, or marginalized.” The statement went on to acknowledge “the pain our actions have caused to our Muslim and Palestinian members” — pain brought on, it seems, by daring to oppose violence against Jews. “I also want to offer my apologies to Razan Abdin-Adnani for making her feel unseen and unheard by blocking her. She has been unblocked from our feed,” Oliver wrote. (Oliver and Abdin-Adnani did not respond to requests for comment.)
Although Powers insists that SCBWI did not compel her resignation, SCBWI happily took credit for it. The apology noted: “As a remedy to these events, we have taken some initial steps: 1. Effective immediately, we have accepted the resignation of April, our Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer.”
Toward the end of the organization’s apology was an abject note from Powers herself: “By posting an antisemitism statement, our intention was to stay out of politics. . . . I neglected to address the rise in Islamophobia, and deeply regret that omission. . . While this doesn’t fix the pain and disappointment that you feel by my mishandling of the moment, I hope you will accept my sincerest apologies and resignation from the SCBWI.”
What began as a simple denunciation of antisemitism ended with a letter that reads like a hostage video.
Have a look at SCBWI director Lin Oliver’s apology for neglecting to include Palestinians. Here’s a bit of that:
The words fall into the familiar order, “undrepresented, silenced, or marginalized.” All that’s missing is “violence”, “offense”, and “erasure”.
I’m saddened that Powers felt she had to apologize, too, as she had not the slightest reason to. But she is described as being an accommodating and diplomatic person, and didn’t want to make waves. At least she refuses to apologize for writing the statement about anti-Semitism.
Rosenfield ends eloquently, even adding what I see as an allusion to the movie “Chinatown”:
For the moment, at least, Jews are Schrodinger’s victims; they may or may not be deserving of sympathy, depending on who’s doing the victimizing. When a group of tiki torch-wielding white nationalists chant “Jews will not replace us!,” the condemnation is swift. But replace the tiki torch with a Palestinian flag, and call the Jews “settler colonialists,” and the equivocations roll in: Maybe that guy who threw a firebomb at a group of innocent people on the street in New York was punching up, actually?
April Powers naively believed that American Jews should get the same full-throated defense as any other minority group in the wake of a vicious attack, without ambivalence, caveats and whataboutism. That belief cost her the security of a job.
In the words of that unseen videographer: This is America, guys.
Palestinians and Muslims have cowed the American Left to the extent that no denunciation of anti-Semitic violence is possible without including a mention of “Islamophobia”. Asians, Hispanics, and other minorities don’t have the same power.