Reader Ken sent me some timely news. Now I’m not sure i the House recommendations will influence the Department of Justice, which will be making its own decisions, but they can’t hurt. What do you think they’ll do? Will they recommend indicting the Orange Man? I think so. Here’s what Ken wrote:
The final hearing of the Jan. 6th house special committee starts at 1 pm Eastern today. The committee will be delivering the executive summary of its final report and making criminal and ethical referrals as to the key miscreants.
It will be live streamed on PBS; watch below, or watch at C-Span here.
Surely, even if you’re working, you’ll want to have this on in the background.
UPDATE: CNN has just reported on the situation, with students reported being beaten, gassed, shot (with what, though?) and arrested. And why the students were in the parking garage is still unclear. But it does seem that they were driven back into the University by security forces. A quote from one student:
“It started with the students refusing to go to class. And then the (professor) of science came to talk to them because they were chanting stuff… the students were led out by the security forces of the university, and they were then stopped by Sepahs (IRGC forces), wearing normal people’s clothing,” Farid told CNN.
“They told them that ‘if you go near the subway station, we will start shooting, go back to the university.’ And then after half of the students got back into the university, they let the others into the parking lot. And after that, they started shooting them with paint balls and taking them into custody in a very, very savage way,” he added.
It’s true that the “MSM” (mainstream media) has been covering the trouble in Iran, which began when the “morality police” apparently beat 22-year-old Mahsa Amini to death after she was apprehended for having an incorrectly positioned hijab. This has touched off protests throughout the country as repressed anger at the theocracy finally reached the boiling point (I see Amini as the George Floyd of Iran).
But for the latest news you have to go to the overseas Anglophone sources, like the British media, or to Twitter, with the latter sometimes being hard to confirm—as in this case.
What I’m posting about now is a battle between students and government riot police at Sharif University of Technology, a high-class technical school nicknamed “the MIT of Iran” (it was formerly called Aryamehr University of Technology and then Tehran University of Technology.before it was renamed for a Mujahedin). It’s long been a center of protest, which has now erupted into outright battle, as recounted below by the Guardian, the BBC, and Sky News (click on screenshots). I received an email from a correspondent who argues that the University’s President lured the students into a parking garage so that they they could be rounded up by police and arrested—or even shot. (See below).
From their report:
Activist Twitter account 1500tasvir, which has about 160,000 followers, posted several videos showing Sharif University, traditionally a hotbed of dissent, surrounded by dozens of riot police on Sunday.
One of the videos showed security forces firing teargas to drive the students off the campus and the sound of what appeared to be shooting at a distance could be heard.
Another video showed security forces chasing dozens of students trapped in the university’s underground parking. The account said dozens of students had been arrested.
Iranian state media described “reports of clashes” at the university and said the country’s science minister visited the campus to check on the situation.
Reuters could not independently verify the events at the university.
Students had been protesting at numerous universities on Sunday and demonstrations were held in several cities such as Tehran, Yazd, Kermanshah, Sanandaj, Shiraz and Mashhad, with participants chanting “independence, freedom, death to Khamenei,” earlier social media posts
From the BBC Report:
Iranian police have cracked down on students at a prestigious university in Tehran, as anti-government protests continue to sweep the country.
Reports said a large number of students at Sharif University of Technology were trapped in a car park that had been surrounded by security personnel.
One video appeared to show students running away as gunshots ring out.
. . .Sunday was the first day of term for first-year students attending Sharif University of Technology.
The semi-official Mehr news agency reported that about 200 students gathered at the campus on Sunday afternoon and began chanting slogans including “woman, life, freedom” and “students prefer death to humiliation”. As the demonstration continued, the slogans became more radical and directed against the clerical establishment, it said.
The violence erupted in the late afternoon, when security forces arrived at the campus. Mehr reported that security personnel fired tear gas and paintballs, causing some of the students to flee to one of the university’s car parks.
Reports said a number of students were beaten or shot with pullet guns, and that 30 to 40 were arrested.
In one video posted on social media, a group of people are seen trying to escape through a car park while being pursued by security forces on motorbikes.
The fleeing from the car park, the firing of paintballs, and the detained protestor are all shown in the tweets at bottom, as well as in the Sky News video linked below:
I’ll ask you to judge these scenes for yourself, as there’s mass confusion. What’s clear is that the students are running away from something:
As Students of Sharif University in Tehran brave protest this regime, security forces are seen using guns directly aimed at killing them. The world needs to see these scenes. This is how Iranians are endangering their lives for freedom. #مهسا_امینی
Rasool Jalili, Sharif University of Technology, member of the Supreme Council of Cyberspace;
The correspondent continues:
It is believed [Jalili] collaborated with the regime to bring the students on campus under the guise of having a safe place to stay amidst the protests, then unleashing the regime’s forces on them.
Now of course I can’t verify the collaborationist claim adduced here, but Wikipedia says that Rasoul Jalili is the President of Sharif University. and the State Department list does give the names of people whose visas are restricted and “whose property and interests are blocked” by the U.S. because they’re accused of engaging in human rights abuses.
Did Jalili lure the students into the parking garage so they could be rounded up, or even shot? I have no idea, but there’s no evidence to contradict it, either. I suppose we’ll find out eventually. But what’s clear is that the Iranian government is at war with the students at Sharif University, and many have been arrested.
As of three days ago, the countrywise death toll from the Iranian protests was 83, and it’s surely higher now. Does this spell the end of the theocracy? I hope so, but they and not the students are the ones with the guns and the jails. And there have been sporadic protests against the regime, but it’s still here. And that’s a damn shame, for imagine where Iran would be if it had a more democratic government, one not infused with medieval theology.
Jesse Singal is well worth following for both his sensible reporting and his fierce tenacity in investigating like the effects of hormone blockers and, in this case, ridiculous criticisms of the New York Times by congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and lawyer Chase Strangio, Deputy Director for Transgender Justice and staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
We’ve met both of these people before: Tlaib as a member of the “progressive” Squad of congresswomen whose extreme Leftist politics are not only anti-Semitic, but also a source of votes for Republicans. Strangio, who’s in principle engaged in good work (defending the rights of LGBTQ+ people), keeps shooting himself in the foot with ludicrous assertions, like calling for the banning of Abigal Shrier’s book Irreversible Damage. (He claimed the book was transphobic; it is not. I read it, and it’s an analysis of why so many kids are identifying as transgender, some as a way of gathering admiration, and how some are rushed by well-meaning adults into transitions that they may regret.)
Both Strangio and Tlaib tend to be hotheads who shoot from the hip, and that’s what we see in their recent attacks on the New York Times, as chronicled in this Substack post by Jesse Singal. While I’ve criticized the NYT, I actually applauded the two pieces they’re attacking.
Click on the link to read for free, but subscribe if you read Singal often and want to support his writing.
Here’s the skinny. The New York Times recently published two articles on the trans movement and its fallout. One of them “The battle over gender therapy“, was by Emily Bazelon, and was a long and really good analysis of the differences among experts in how to treat young people with gender dysphoria. I wrote about it briefly and then showed a sour tweet by—who else?—Chase Strangio (below).
What I said in a Hili news report:
A couple of days ago NYT staff writer Emily Bazelon produced a really good piece on “The battle over gender therapy,” detailing all the fighting about puberty blockers, “gender affirming therapy”, and so on. Because she didn’t hew absolutely to the trans-activist line, but actually gave arguments from both sides, the activists are ripping her apart (look at the comment below by the odious Chase Strangio, the ACLU’s chief lawyer for gender affairs. I suggest you read Bazelon’s long article for yourself.
The tweet is from Josh Szeps, who works for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
I’m so proud of @emilybazelon & the @nytimes for her compassionate feature on the complexity of youth gender health care.
Because it doesn’t mindlessly recite every catechism of the gender cult, cultists are angry. Good.
That was the beginning of Strangio’s bizarre attack on the NYT, which he despises, as he despises Abigail Shrier, for writing about both sides of the sex-transition issue.
The other NYT article was by Pamela Paul. You probably remember her July 3 piece, “The Far Right and the Far Left agree on one thing: women don’t count.“, which criticize the erasure of the word “woman”, which she considered emblematic of the erasure of biological women as a class. I praised the article here, though Singal says that Paul overstepped a bit by equating Right and Left when the latter group is at least promoting reproductive rights of women. Nevertheless, Paul’s piece, like Bazelon’s was not transphobic; it just refused to buy into some extreme transphobic claims. Here’s a sentence from Paul’s piece:
Tolerance for one group need not mean intolerance for another. We can respect transgender women without castigating females who point out that biological women still constitute a category of their own — with their own specific needs and prerogatives
Them’s fighting words to someone like Stangio! For people like Stangio, and now Tlaib, don’t want discussion. The minute someone points out problems with their arguments, or distortions of the facts, or data that contradicts their claims they blow up, which doesn’t help their reputations—including that of the ACLU.
What do Bazelon and Paul have to do with this policy? Nothing except that, in court briefs supporting this odious policy in a lawsuit, the state of Texas introduced their NYT articles (and other articles in the paper) as “supporting evidence”, along with other articles that are neutral or innocuous, but may underscore differences in opinion about how to treat kids with gender dysphoria (Singal’s piece shows nine such articles, including the World Professional Association for Transgender Health Standards of Care.)
And so Strangio blew an artery and released the following tweet. The good part is that Strangio and the ACLU are trying to derail the new Texas policy. The bad part is that Strangio blames the New York Times, saying there’s “direct line from multiple NYTs articles to Texas policy”. That’s a false and stupid claim:
I am flying to Texas today. To try to stop Texas from criminalizing parents of trans youth. The state will defend this horrific policy by introducing evidence – which includes multiple NYTs articles. There is a direct line from the discourse to these policies. https://t.co/a9rtkfiMFz
Tlaib also went after the NYT for “providing a platform for transphobic hate and propaganda”, and for “debating whether trans people should even exist” as well as “scapegoating” them. But if you actually read Bazelon’s or Paul’s pieces, you won’t find any discussion of whether trans people should exist. In both cases, trans prople are not denigrated as a class, but some of their supporters’ arguments are debated in Bazelon’s piece and criticized in Paul’s.
This is characteristic of extreme trans advocates. Any suggestion of a debate, any questioning of their claims, automatically labels the questioner as a transphobe who is trying to do away with trans people. This kind of extreme petulant behavior, in a person, would be a sign of borderline personality disorder.
Here’s Tlaib’s tantrum:
During escalating assaults on trans people & trans rights nationwide, the New York Times is featuring writers debating whether trans people should even exist and scapegoating this already-marginalized community. One way to act in solidarity is to sign now: https://t.co/xIeaBGIhlj
At least Strangio’s mission is admirable, and he’s doing some good work to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ people. He just needs to learn to stop accusing debaters and critics of “transphobia” as an ad hominem way to dismiss their claims.
Tlaib has no such excuse, as she’s merely virtue signaling—and using Strangio and the NYT as a way to raise money for her campaign. In the second tweet above, the petition Tlaib gives links to her campaign page, and, as Singal says (here’s the CNN link):
As CNN indicated, I bet anyone who signs her pointless petition (email and zip code required) will get a fundraising appeal and/or have their info shared with other progressive organizations hungry for data.
One more thing. As I said, one of Singal’s admirable characteristics is that he’s a journalistic bloodhound, sniffing out every clue he can. So he asked Strangio to defend his attacks on the NYT:
On Twitter, I pressed Strangio on all this: I pointed out that neither Bazelon’s article’s appearance on the evidence list, nor Cantor’s reference of it in his declaration, constituted evidence she (or the Times) had done anything wrong. I asked for more specific evidence to support the idea that the paper had done anything morally or journalistically questionable enough to warrant all this outrage.
Strangio didn’t have anything. Instead, he said I should fly to Texas to witness the hearings in person or order transcripts.
Here are a few tweets from the Singal/Strangio exchange:
Singal summarizes the “debate” with Strangio and Tlaib, and I find this precis pretty funny (though true):
Chase Strangio: The Times is partly responsible for Texas’s horrible policy on trans youth!
Rashida Tlaib: As Chase says, the Times is partly responsible for Texas’s horrible policy on trans youth! Sign my petition!
Me: The documents you’re citing don’t seem to justify this claim at all. Do you have any other evidence?
Strangio: It’s not my job to get that for you.
As the kids online say, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
As Singal notes, this is a “ridiculous waste of time” and a “shameless attention- and money-grab” (the latter by Tlaib). And as I noted, Strangio needs to dial back his rhetoric, which only hurts his cause (insulting the NYT doesn’t help either) as well as the ACLU. As for Tlaib, I’m hoping—but not expecting—that she’ll be voted out of Congress.
Driving home last night, I heard on the radio a clip of a Republican congressman at the House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing deriding the proceedings for having no memorable catchphrase. He recalled (inexactly) Republican Senator Howard Baker’s famous question from the Nixon impeachment inquiry, “What did the President know, and when did he know it?”, and from the Clinton impeachment, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”
He wondered what phrase could possibly epitomize the Trump impeachment inquiry, offering some line about there being no impeachable offenses. It’s hard to know what combination of cluelessness, motivated reasoning, and lack of attention could lead him to arrive at this statement, for the catchphrase immediately leapt to mind. For the Trump impeachment, Trump himself has already produced the memorable phrase by which his impeachment will undoubtedly be remembered: “I would like you to do us a favor, though”.
If you’re looking for a quid pro quo, quod erat demonstrandum.
I asked Matthew to keep us up to date on the big political crisis in Britain, where PM Boris Johnson has suspended Parliament—with the Queen’s assent, so much for you royal-lovers—so that Johnson can get the Brexit deal concluded in the absence of the legislature. Here’s Matthew’s report from today, with his words indented:
The Johnson coup – for that is what it is – proceeds apace. Within 12 hours over 1 million people had signed a petition against the prorogation (suspension) of parliament; there were demonstrations in many cities last night and there will be again this weekend; and it is unclear what the next steps will be. The Queen has signed the order proroguing parliament and that is what will happen. After a few days of sitting next week, it will be suspended: both houses, all the committees, everything (this is very different from a normal recess).
The government and their apologists claim that there is nothing new about this, that it is merely a few days extra. This is a lie. This is not a recess, it is a prorogation. Everything stops. Nothing can be discussed. It is the longest suspension of parliament since 1945, at a time when parliament should be questioning government and holding it to account. Johnson —a generic coward and a liar— is evading his basic responsibilities
There is widespread condemnation of this. Here are some comments by those with whom I do not always agree – such as David Allen Green, a constitutional lawyer who voted Leave, a Tory MP, Sam Gimyah, and the Financial Times.
Inevitably, people have also responded satirically, although in this case every word is true:
LONDON, England — Protesters took the streets outside the dilapidated legislature after the unelected Prime Minister requested the head of state — whose son has recently come under fire for alleged links to a criminal sex ring — to shut down the only elected chamber etc.
As to the future, I fear that Johnson will get his way, because the Tories who said they were opposed to such a procedure (a number of whom are now leading members of the government) will cave in because they are unprincipled, and there are a number of pro-Brexit Labour MPs who would abstain in any vote. More significantly, because of the nature of the UK parliament, it is hard to see how this can be stopped by parliament or the courts. The Queen decides when parliament sits, doing what the government (i.e., the PM) says. As far as I can tell, what happened yesterday was entirely legal.
This raises a more long-term issue, far beyond the feverish excitement of the current moment, or even the prospect of a catastrophic crashing out of Europe with no deal on 31 October. This crisis will undo the very foundations of the United Kingdom – Scotland (massively remain) will become independent (the popular, anti-Johnson leader of the Scottish Tories is about to step down for various reasons), while the impact of a hard border on the island of Ireland (this will be a consequence of No Deal, unless everyone is very smart) will drive Irish reunification. I predict both these will happen with the decade. A situation going back to 1707 (Act of Union with Scotland) and 1922 (creation of Northern Ireland) will have been ripped up by the Brexiteers.
Furthermore, the role of the monarch is now highlighted. This goes back to 1688 and the Glorious Revolution, which ended decades of upheaval and argument, including a civil war and regicide. The monarch is supposedly a figurehead, simply doing the government’s bidding. But note that the armed forces (the ultimate power in any country), swear allegiance to the crown, not parliament… It is often argued that the monarchy will act as a bulwark in the case of an anti-democratic government. We have seen that this is simply not true. The result is that the monarchy acts as a legally-untouchable guarantee of executive power. When people start thinking about this, then the basis of the UK’s unwritten constitution may also be questioned. In my view, these events show how dangerous and anti-democratic the monarchical system is.
There is now no apparent way of holding this government to account. That is a coup, in any language. Protests, demonstrations, marches will be necessary to defend parliament.
Here’s a timeline from the Guardian – it misses out various bits of jiggery pokery that might occur next week, but gives some idea of the amplitude of the crisis.
I watched half an hour—all about healthcare—and I give up. Harris won’t admit that she’s banning employer-sponsored healthcare, nor tell us where the money for her plan comes from. Biden is being overly polite. And Americans care about other stuff, too. It’s dispiriting. Something about an internecine squabble, necessary thought it may be, makes me think that Trump is sitting back, waiting to use some of this stuff when he finally is forced to debate.
Anyway, by all means discuss your impression below. I’m done, and am going to work on my lectures for Antarctica.
Ilhan Omar is considered admirable, or even a Congressional hero, simply because, as a hijabi Muslim, she’s seen as an oppressed person of color. My view is that she’s a provocateur and anti-Semite without any substantive accomplishments in Congress (granted, she’s new). Her main job in Congress seems to be making hotheaded statements, often followed by an apology. But because she’s seen as a “progressive” Democrat, much of the Left seems to idolize her.
Omar’s latest provocation is to blame the U.S. for the turmoil in Venezuela, documented in Real Clear Politics(see also CNN) which has a transcript of her remarks. (Note: I don’t support U.S. military intervention in Venezuela but I do support sanctions so long as Maduro is in power, and the recognition of opposition leader Juan Guaido as President, as most European countries have done.) What there is no question of, unless you’re someone whose hatred of America blinds their reason, is that Maduro’s authoritarian policies, and not the U.S., is what has driven Venezuela to the brink of collapse. He needs to go.
In contrast, Omar says it’s the U.S.’s fault, blaming “neocons and war mongers”, as well as U.S. sanctions. It looks as if she favors continuation of the Maduro regime. Her grilling of Eliott Abrams, a form of virtue signaling, is irrelevant to what’s going on in Venezuela and who’s responsible for the mess there. Listen:
Jeffrey Tayler, writer and contributing editor for the The Atlantic, and someone who’s appeared on this site several times before, watched the above video at my request because of his extensive experience covering Venezuela. (He was there a total of about 4 months in 2009, 2010, 2012 researching a book in on Simon Bolivar and covering the 2012 presidential elections.) He has written on Venezuela for The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and Quillette.”
After watching the video, Jeff said this, and allowed me to quote him:
“I do not know a single Venezuelan who would agree with Ilhan Omar. Venezuelans roundly despise Maduro and blame him for their misery. Maduro and his criminal gang have plundered the country. Maduro has instituted killing gangs that patrol the poor barrios and do away with Chavistas who have come out against Maduro.”
But he’s a socialist, albeit a nasty dictator, and so Omar and other progressive Democrats support him.
The turmoil in Venezuela appears to be splitting the Democratic party, with centrists like Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi calling for Maduro’s ouster while the “progressive” Twitter Democrats either remain silent or, like Omar, blame everything on the U.S. The crickets include Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who refuses to give an opinion because she knows that saying she supports a socialist dictator will cause problems. You can see her reaction below, deflecting the question toward Elliott Abrams and Trump.
The National Reviewasked her about her stand on Venezuela, and reports this:
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tells NR when asked to comment on the situation. When pressed on whether the Maduro government is legitimate or Guaidó deserves U.S. support, she adds that she’ll “defer to caucus leadership on how we navigate this.”
Since when has she ever deferred to caucus leadership about something like this?
Her weaselly views:
When asked, Democratic Socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez refused to denounce Venezuelan Dictator Nicolás Maduro. pic.twitter.com/CEDpiSRHhn
Right now there are huge clashes in Venezuela between the government and the people after the opposition leader Juan Guaidó, as the NYT reports, “showed up with soldiers at a military base and called for the population to rise up against the president, Nicolás Maduro.”
That’s exactly what they’re doing. Maduro is an autocrat and Chavez successor who’s ruining his country.
The NYT article is below, but I’ve put a livefeed before that so you can watch people go up against a horrible dictator:
And note that although Trump supports the opposition, which we should all be doing, the “progressive” Democrats are either silent or tell us to leave the socialist dictatorship alone. In this case Trump is on the right side, but don’t take that as my endorsement of Trump.
It’s supposedly my day off, though with the weather being Arctic, there’s not much to do outside—or even a reason to go outside. But I’ve read a few things that I’ll recommend if you too are housebound today.
First, a good column—especially the first part—from Andrew Sullivan in New York Magazine (h/t Simon). It’s worth keeping up with him, as he’s becoming a voice of reason in this increasingly demented era of hatred and tribalism. Click on the screenshot:
This is about the Covington Mess and how both social and mainstream media, by going with their confirmation bias, is ruining America. And I agree. I’ll give a couple of good quotes:
Yes, the boys did chant some school riffs; I’m sure some of those joining in the Native American drumming and chanting were doing it partly in mockery, but others may have just been rolling with it. Yes, they should not have been wearing MAGA hats to a pro-life march. They aren’t angels; they’re teenage boys. But they were also subjected for quite a while to a racist, anti-Catholic, homophobic tirade on a loudspeaker, which would be more than most of us urbanites could bear — and they’re adolescents literally off the bus from Kentucky. I heard no slurs back. They stayed there because they were waiting for a bus, not to intimidate anyone.
. . . To put it bluntly: They were 16-year-olds subjected to verbal racist assault by grown men; and then the kids were accused of being bigots. It just beggars belief that the same liberals who fret about “micro-aggressions” for 20-somethings were able to see 16-year-olds absorbing the worst racist garbage from religious bigots … and then express the desire to punch the kids in the face.
. . . Across most of the national media, led by the New York Times and the Washington Post, the narrative had been set. “I’m willing to bet that fifty years from now, a defining image of this political era will be that smug white MAGA teen disrespecting a Native elder and veteran. It just captures so much,” Jessica Valenti tweeted. “And let’s please not forget that this group of teens … were there for the March for Life: There is an inextricable link between control over women’s bodies, white supremacy & young white male entitlement.” This is the orthodoxy of elite media, and it is increasingly the job of journalists to fit the facts to the narrative and to avoid any facts that undermine it.
There’s a reason why, in the crucial battle for the legitimacy of a free press, Trump is still on the offensive. Our mainstream press has been poisoned by tribalism. My own trust in it is eroding. I’m far from the only one.
The other night I was having a drink with a friend who said he believed that the Trump threat was essentially over, as the shutdown took its toll. He noted what might become an inflection point in the polling. He was heartened by the midterms. He might be right. But I think that misses the core point about this presidency. From my perspective, the Trump threat to liberal democracy is deepening, largely because its racial animus and rank tribalism are evoking a response that is increasingly imbued with racial animus and rank tribalism, in an ever-tightening spiral of mutual hostility.
I especially like this bit:
What was so depressing to me about the Covington incident was how so many liberals felt comfortable taking a random teenager and, purely because of his race and gender, projected onto him all their resentments and hatred of “white men” in general. Here is Kara Swisher, a sane and kind person, reacting to the first video: “To all you aggrieved folks who thought this Gillette ad was too much bad-men-shaming, after we just saw it come to life with those awful kids and their fetid smirking harassing that elderly man on the Mall: Go fuck yourselves.” Judging — indeed demonizing — an individual on the basis of the racial or gender group he belongs to is the core element of racism, and yet it is now routine on the left as well as the right. To her great credit, Kara apologized profusely for the outburst. The point here is that tribal hatred can consume even the best of us.
And this is what will inevitably happen once you’ve redefined racism or sexism to mean prejudice plus power. It’s reasonable to note the social context of bigotry and see shades of gray, in which the powerful should indeed be more aware of how their racial or gender prejudice can hurt others, and the powerless given some slack. But if that leads you to ignore or downplay the nastiest adult bigotry imaginable and to focus on a teen boy’s silent face as the real manifestation of evil, you are well on your way to creating a new racism that mirrors aspects of the old.
This is the abyss of hate versus hate, tribe versus tribe. This is a moment when we can look at ourselves in the mirror of social media and see what we have become. Liberal democracy is being dismantled before our eyes — by all of us. This process is greater than one president. It is bottom-up as well as top-down. Tyranny, as Damon Linker reminded us this week, is not just political but psychological, and the tyrannical impulse, ratcheted up by social media, is in all of us. It infects the soul of the entire body politic. It destroys good people. It slowly strangles liberal democracy. This is the ongoing extinction level event.
Andrew writes further about the legalization of marijuana, which has led to “dabbing”, or vaporizing concentrated weed resin. He decries this practice mainly because it leads to somnolence rather than facilitating good conversation, which is what he wants out of the drug. I am on his side, as I tend to become more gregarious when I partake. A few years ago tried dabbing in a state where it was legal to buy and smoke recreationally, and it blitzed me out for about 8 hours, in a way that just made me withdraw and want to sack out rather than chat. Our new governor has vowed to make marijuana legal in Illinois, and we’ll see if that happens. His third segment is about Brexit.
Speaking of Covington, one of the venues that’s tried its hardest to maintain its narrative in the face of changing facts is the Guardian, a site I rarely visit any more. Have a gander at this headline, from a story posted last Wednesday:
The article, and the Guardian as a whole, makes me ill; they’re presenting a caricature of the Left. When Wilson writes something like this, did he ever care about the truth? I don’t think so; he just wanted to maintain that the Covington students were still pariahs while dissing the conservative media that painted them as heroes. Nobody was a hero in that narrative, but neither were the boys nor the Native Americans pariahs. Wilson:
On Tuesday night, Fox News hosts continued to feast on the controversy, which was sparked by a standoff between Covington Catholic high school students and a Native American veteran called Nathan Phillips. Footage show students wearing pro-Trump Maga hats taunting the Omaha tribe elder. The relentlessly repeated talking point – that there was a collective “rush to judgment” on the boys because they were Trump supporters – was used by conservative anchors Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham to attack mainstream media and left leaning social media users.
. . . As of Wednesday, as a result of these well-worn tactics, liberal media has almost completely backed away from their initial, justified take on the story.
When will we ever learn?
Yep, use the kids to go after your favorite targets. And “initial justified take on the story”? I don’t think so!
Speaking of social-media outrage, here’s a good article in The Atlantic by Conor Friedersdorf:
For example: I’m sitting in a coffee shop as I write this. Imagine that a man sitting at a nearby table spilled his coffee, got a phone call just afterward, and simply left, so that staff had to clean up his mess, a scene that culminated in a haggard-looking barista drooping her shoulders in frustration. Was the call a true emergency? We don’t know. But if not, almost everyone would agree that the man behaved badly.
Yet almost all of you would react with discomfort or opprobrium if I followed the man back to his office, learned his name, spent half an hour waiting to see his boss, adopted an outraged tone, explained his transgression, felt righteous, then commenced a week-long mission to alert his extended network of friends, family, and professional contacts to his behavior, all the while telling masses of strangers about it, too.
On the other hand, if that man spilled his coffee, leaving that same haggard barista to clean it up, and if I captured the whole thing on my phone camera and posted it to Twitter with a snarky comment about the need to better respect service workers, some nontrivial percentage of the public would help make the clip go viral, join in the shaming, and expend effort to “snitch-tag” various people in the man’s personal life. Some would quietly raise an eyebrow at my role in that public shaming, but I mostly wouldn’t be treated as a transgressor.
One cannot help but wonder whether there are better norms. . .
From Inside Higher Ed, Alan Sokal, author of the Great Hoax, criticizes the persecution of philosopher Peter Boghossian by his employer Portland State University (PSU) after Peter, James Lindsay, and Helen Pluckrose submitted fake articles to humanities journals, exposing the egregiously low standards of those journals—and the disciplines as a whole. PSU found Peter guilty of violating rules about experimentation on human subjects—in this case, the subjects were journal editors and reviewers—without following “human subject research” policy. Found guilty, Peter may be fired. Yet the federal regulations apply only to federally-funded research, which wasn’t behind Boghossian et al.’s work. Portland State just decided as its policy to follow the federal rules. Read on:
Sokal thinks this punishment is dumb, and I agree, but those who think the excesses of the humanities are just fine, thank you, are going for Peter’s throat. Vindictiveness reigns.
And Portland State University, like many other universities, has decided, as a matter of its own internal policy, to apply federal IRB rules to all research carried out by PSU employees or students — though such treatment is legally mandatory only for projects sponsored by the federal government, which Boghossian’s was not.
But common sense suggests that something has gone seriously awry here, when rules initially written to protect subjects in biomedical research from physical harm — and later extended to social-science research, where the harm could be psychological — are applied blindly and literally to an “audit study” aimed at testing the intellectual standards of scholarly journals. As Singal observed, “the potential for harm came in the form of reputational damage and humiliation to journal editors and reviewers.” But so what? The journal editors are professionals undertaking a public responsibility, not people in the street. If they screw up, why shouldn’t this be publicly known? Moreover, the journal editors are not voiceless: if their actions were defensible (as they may well have been), they and their supporters can set forth their reasons, and the rest of us can evaluate the competing arguments with our own brains.
Please note that the issue here is different from the one addressed in two recent articles, where it was proposed that research projects deemed to pose “low risk” might be exempted from IRB review (an issue that is quite delicate, as the comments on these articles show). Here I am not contending that the reputational risk to journal editors caught publishing grossly deficient articles is low. Quite the contrary: this risk can, depending on the circumstances, be severe. What I am contending, rather, is that journal editors do not deserve to be protected from this type of risk.
What we see here is a guy being punished not for violating sensible rules, but for violating senseless ideology.
Finally, The Washington Post calls out Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for telling whoppers, which she does habitually. And it’s a shame, as I like many of her policy recommendations. But she keeps shooting herself in the foot with misstatements and a fulminating love of the limelight (h/t Heather Hastie for the link):
Ocasio-Cortez deserves credit for using her high profile to bring attention to income inequality. However, she undermines her message when she plays fast and loose with statistics. A lot of Americans do not earn enough for a living wage, but we cannot find evidence that it is the majority. Amazon and Walmart pay well above the minimum wage, contrary to her statement, and it is tendentious to claim those companies specifically get some sort of a wealth transfer from the public when such benefits flow to all low-wage workers in many companies. Overall, she earns Three Pinocchios.
The new Representative is awarded three Pinocchios for her misstatements, which, on the Post’s ratings, represent “significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions. This gets into the realm of “mostly false.”
I’m taking a few days to take care of myself before what is sure to be an eventful term.
For working people, immigrants, & the poor, self-care is political – not because we want it to be, but bc of the inevitable shaming of someone doing a face mask while financially stressed./1 https://t.co/EWdWFmPwet