Another legacy of slavery: tipping (or so says HuffPo)

January 18, 2021 • 1:15 pm

Readers here know that, of all media, my bête noire is HuffPost, the wokest and most repugnant of Left-wing and widely-read “news” sites. It’s getting woker, too, and that may be because it was bought by BuzzFeed last November, which of course is in the same ballpark.

I’m not a big one for Schadenfreude, but I would have a big grin on my face if HuffPost went under. Indeed, given the proliferation of ads (often masquerading as “news”) on its site, that may be in the offing.

To keep my equanimity, I no longer check the site very often, but I did today, and my eye was caught by the article below (click on screenshot). “What?” I thought. “I’d never heard of tipping being a legacy of slavery.” So I had to investigate the charges.

The verdict: not guilty. In fact there are only two sentences in the article that could be said to have anything to do with slavery:

Here’s one:

Around 1850, there was a massive strike of waiters who were mostly men, and restaurants replaced them with women. It happened around the time of emancipation, so the feminization of this industry was combined with the entrance of Black people into the labor market … and that combination resulted in a mutation of tipping from being an extra or bonus to becoming the wage itself.

Here’s the other:

The idea that this whole industry gets away with saying, “Customers should pay our workers’ wages for us,” is an anathema and in direct contradiction to what we as a nation decided 150 years ago with the abolition of slavery, when we decided as a nation that employers should be paying for the value of labor.

The first statement makes no direct connection between tipping and slavery, but simply says that black people entered the labor market around the time that the restaurant industry became “feminized”. (Note: 1850 was well before slavery was ended, and the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1862, which of course did not flood the labor market with freed slaves!). There is no mention of slavery here.  But there is a valid point to be made, which is that the increasing number of women as waitpeople might be correlated with the desire to pay lower wages. That’s for a restaurant historian to determine, but if true it has to do with sexism, not slavery.

Other data show that the proportion of whites, blacks, and Hispanics among waitstaff is pretty close to their proportion in the population as a whole, casting doubt on the article’s statement about racial disproportionality: “Today, 70% of these workers are women and they are disproportionately women of color. . . . “. And surely this indicts poverty, not slavery, as Hispanics were not slaves in America.

The second statement analogizes being a waiter/waitress (let’s say “waitperson”) with being a slave. The analogy fails on two counts: first, as far as I know, the abolition of slavery was not directly connected with any decision that “employers should be paying for the value of labor.” The second is that, as I noted above, there’s not a scintilla of evidence that tipping is a legacy of slavery. One might consider it slavery, but I think any number of people might object to that. Although I haven’t seen people yet go after the word “slavery”, when it means “working for little or no recompense” (e.g., the way HuffPost used to treat its writers), an analogy is not a legacy.

Let me add here that I do object to the whole scheme of tipping, which most of the world seems to have rejected. In some places it’s illegal in restaurants, while in others, like France, service is included in the price of the food. You can leave a couple of Euros if you wish, but it’s not required.  I would much prefer to have the food prices raised and the waitstaff paid a living wage. (As the article makes clear, in many states the hourly wage for waitstaff is abysmal: just a few dollars.)

There are other arguments against tipping as well, and you know them. The waitstaff can get penalized for mistakes of the cooks or other people in the “back of the house”, sometimes women get advised, as the article notes, to wear revealing clothes to jack up their take, which is ridiculous, and one never knows how much to tip, especially if the service is bad. My standard tip is now 20%, almost never lower, and can be higher if service is exceptionally good. But I’d prefer not to have to ponder the issue at all, and for other people (not me!) it’s led to ugly scenes when the waitstaff chase down a customer who’s been especially uncharitable.

This whole article could have been written about the shabby treatment of waitstaff in restaurants, and I would have been on board. But the claim that tipping is a “legacy of slavery” and should be “abolished” seems to be an attempt to fold restaurants and waitstaff into the 1619 Project.  And that’s why I despise HuffPost.

HuffPo denies that “cancel culture” exists

July 11, 2020 • 10:45 am

HuffPo, one of the biggest exponents of “cancel culture”, now has published one of its longest articles claiming that such a culture doesn’t exist. The piece is a long and unconvincing response to the letter published last week in Harper’s (and four other international venues). That letter was simply a call for open debate, and “cancel culture” (CC) was defined implicitly in the piece. I’ll reproduce just a small section of that letter, and I’ve put the characteristics of “cancel culture” in bold. Note that the letter calls out these characteristics on both the Right and on the Left, though the signers, mostly Leftists, concentrate on their own end of the political spectrum:

. . . .The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy. But resistance must not be allowed to harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion—which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting. The democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides.

The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty. We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters. But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought. More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms. Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes. Whatever the arguments around each particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal. We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement.

In other words, the “cancel culture” represents the cumulative effect of bullying and intimidation that, in the end, makes people who oppose the reigning ideologies afraid to speak. The culture prizes intimidation above discussion, seeing everything, à la critical theory, in terms of power imbalances. The culture is enacted by threatening the reputations and livelihoods of those who say what you don’t like to hear.

The Harper‘s letter deliberately omitted specific examples of CC transgressions, but it’s not hard to think of some. Those opposed to this reasonable letter were peeved that no examples were given, but that would have derailed the discussion into the pros and cons of specific cases—indeed, that’s what HuffPo does in its piece—rather than decrying a climate of increasing censoriousness and, on the Left, the hardening of ideological positions into those for which no dissent is permitted. The punishing of those who dissent from “approved ideology” is what CC is all about. One instantiation, not mentioned in the letter, is the recent tendency to pull down statues, even those of the Founding Fathers, because those founders transgressed modern norms (e.g. Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and even statues, like “Progress” at the Wisconsin state Capitol, that have no connection to ideology at all).

Read and sneer.


Here’s author Hobbes‘s thesis:

On Monday, 153 prominent writers, academics and public figures signed their names to a statement entitled “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate.” According to the signatories, “The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted.”

While the letter itself, published by the magazine Harper’s, doesn’t use the term, the statement represents a bleak apogee in the yearslong, increasingly contentious debate over “cancel culture.” The American left, we are told, is imposing an Orwellian set of restrictions on which views can be expressed in public. Institutions at every level are supposedly gripped by fears of social media mobs and dire professional consequences if their members express so much as a single statement of wrongthink.

This is false. Every statement of fact in the Harper’s letter is either wildly exaggerated or plainly untrue. More broadly, the controversy over “cancel culture” is a straightforward moral panic. While there are indeed real cases of ordinary Americans plucked from obscurity and harassed into unemployment, this rare, isolated phenomenon is being blown up far beyond its importance.

Here are Hobbes’s beefs against the letter. I won’t quote him extensively as you can check my contentions yourself. Any quotes are indented, while my words are flush left.

1.) Cancel culture is a “reactionary backlash” by the “conservative elites” who try to magnify their grievances into a national crisis.

This is of course complete bunk. The signers of the letter were, by and large, on the Left, and decry actions by others on the Left. And, as the letter notes, the Right has long been guilty of restricting ideas itself, although the bulk of CC actions limned in the letter come from the Left.  For an example, go through the last decade of college-speaker deplatformings at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. If there is ever such a thing as a “cancellation”—which HuffPo denies exists)—it is the silencing of speakers by deplatforming them. The majority of deplatformings in recent years have come from the Left, though around a third are from the Right.

2.) The examples of cancellation given in the Harper’s letter are bogus, representing something other than cancellation. First, that letter doesn’t even use the words “cancel culture.” More important, it gave no examples—deliberately. But that doesn’t stop HuffPost from guessing about what the writers were thinking of. One was James Bennet, the op-ed editor of the New York Times, given his walking papers after publishing an editorial (one that the paper initially defended) by Senator Tom Cotton. Cotton endorsed the use of the military to monitor demonstrations and quash violence—a stand that I opposed, but one worth debating.  After enormous social-media pushback from readers, as well as a laughable claim by some NYT staffers that Cotton’s editorial made them feel “unsafe” (this is the trump card of the Perpetually Offended), the paper put in caveats and then fired Bennet.

HuffPo writer Hobbes says this isn’t “cancellation” because the paper admitted (after the pushback!) that it had erred, so Bennet’s firing represented not cancellation of his job, but due diligence by the paper. What a joke!


While the op-ed did inspire widespread criticism, Bennet’s resignation is not a case of social-media censorship. The Times’ itself admitted that the piece “fell short of our standards” and represented a “breakdown” in the paper’s editorial process. Bennet eventually admitted that he hadn’t even read it before publishing it.

Yes—after staffers beefed and the public kvetched. Absent that, Bennet would still have his job.

But it gets worse: Hobbes says that Bennet wasn’t canceled because, after all, he’d transgressed before by publishing ideologically unsavory views:

And beyond Bennet’s incompetence, there is the simple question of accountability. Even before the Cotton op-ed, Bennet hired climate change deniers, neglected fact-checking and printed “pro-mercenary” articles by private military contractors. Are the signatories to the Harper’s letter really saying that Times readers and employees should not have expressed their frustration with these obvious breaches of ethics?

No, the signatories aren’t saying at all that people shouldn’t be able to speak up against what they dislike. Remember, the Harper’s letter says this: “We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters. But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought.” Is that not clear enough, Mr. Hobbes? The signatories are saying that people’s jobs and reputations shouldn’t be on the line for bringing up issues that are worthy (to some) of debate.

Hobbes cites other examples, only to knock them down, but his view that this is just robust debate is not supported. Debating someone like Cotton is not the same as firing the person who publishes his words.

3.) Rich people or public figures aren’t subject to cancelation anyway because they get their views expressed.  Hobbes:

Consider the following two examples of “cancel culture” run amok:

  1. David Shor, a polling researcher, is fired from his job for sending a tweet summarizing the findings of an academic study.
  2. Gillian Philip, a children’s book author, is fired by her publisher after adding “I stand with J.K. Rowling” to her Twitter profile.

While they may look similar on the surface, these cases in fact have little in common.

First, the person being “canceled.” It makes no sense to apply the same standard to public figures and random citizens alike. Philip, unlike Shor, is a public figure. She is a bestselling author and is surely aware that her political statements will affect her standing among her target audience and her publisher. Let’s not be coy about this: Declaring support for J.K. Rowling in July of 2020 is a de facto statement that you agree with her controversial, unpopular views on transgender people.

Public figures certainly have a right to express their controversial views. Readers have the right to react accordingly, and publishers have the right to take these views into account when deciding which books to publish. That’s why it’s called, as “cancel culture” critics love to point out, the “marketplace of ideas.”

So far, there is no indication that private citizens are being held to the same standard as bestselling authors.

Of course they are! Do I need to name James Damore, Bret Weinstein, Heather Heying, Peter Tatchell, and many others to show how private citizens are treated when they transgress? Many of the damned expressed views with which I disagree, but firing or demonizing them is not the way debate is supposed to happen. Further, the attacks on both public figures and private ones, with the public figures still remaining rich (e.g., J. K. Rowling), all help create that climate of intimidation so pervasive in the U.S. (especially on campuses) and the U.K. Campus surveys repeatedly show that conservative students are afraid to speak their minds (see here, for instance). Why, if not for cancel culture?

4.) The actions that constitute cancel culture are limited to the Left.  Hobbes is lying here, as a simple reading of the letter shows.

5.) The authors of the Harper’s letter propose no solutions to ending cancel culture. I would have thought that the solutions were clear: stop bullying people on social media or firing people, or, like Vox writer Emily VanEerWerff, trying to resolve disputes by getting your opponent—a colleague in her case—demonized and fired.

In the end, Hobbes admits that he has a chip on his shoulder, for his own attempts to promulgate the “truth” were ignored by the “gatekeepers of the elite media”—a group he characterizes as “overwhelmingly white, male, straight, and cis.” What happened is when the “Ebonics” kerfuffle happened some years ago (“Ebonics” is the name for African-American English, which some schools proposed to teach), Hobbes tried to show that the controversy was overblown. The elite media ignored him, and that left him with a bad taste about a group of editors who confected, says Hobbes, a “moral panic.”

So he’s got a beef. But what that has to do with the signers of the Harper’s letter, who are not editors of elite media, but public figures, eludes me.

Hobbes ends with this rant:

“Cancel culture” is nothing more than the latest repackaging of the argument that the true threat to liberalism resides not in lawmakers or large corporations but in overly sensitive college students and random social media users. It is no more sophisticated than the “war on Christmas” and has the same goal: to imply that those pushing back against injustice are equivalent to the injustice itself.

Some of the signatories of the Harper’s letter know this and some of them don’t. All of them should have known better.

My response is to quote Andrew Sullivan: “We are all on campus now.”


For another far-Left attack on the Harper’s letter, see this piece in In These Times. A quote from author Hamilton Nolan, who shows that he has no understanding of what the letter was trying to say.

I say this, of course, in the context of today’s letter, published in Harper’s and signed by more than 100 of the worst people in the world of public intellectualism, titled “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate.” The letter is certainly not about any reasonable definition of “Justice,” and is about Open Debate only to the extent that people who make very healthy salaries arguing in public for a living seem to have a bizarre aversion to being argued against. This aversion, I’m afraid, now borders on the pathological. We have entered a brave new world in which those waving the banner of “Free Speech” accuse their opponents of being unable to take criticism while waging a histrionic campaign against anyone who dares to criticize them. Accusing your opponents of doing exactly what you are yourself guilty of is a classic propaganda technique. It works well, unfortunately.


Articles that shouldn’t have been written: whale-esque sobbing about a canceled graduation ceremony

April 7, 2020 • 10:45 am

Here we have a kvetcher of the first water: one Katarina Kovac, who in Huffpost’s “Coronavirus” section beefs about her graduation ceremony being canceled. But of course that’s true for every graduating student in America, and so she has to supplement her beef, producing a double filet of a kvetch. She not only is “heartbroken” about her canceled graduation, but also feels extremely guilty about being heartbroken.” Only an entitled and self-absorbed person could write a piece on this kind of faux angst (look at that smug expression, and why is she in an empty library?), and only HuffPo would find it worth publishing. It details a “grievance experience” broadcast to solicit double pity from the reader.

It has not escaped my notice that Ms. Kovac was an English Language and Literature major at the University of Michigan, and is set to start a job in the fashion industry.

Read and weep (or laugh):

It’s not that she doesn’t have a right to be sad—after all, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had plans wrecked by the pandemic and subsequent quarantines. Single people can’t go out on dates, and where would they go, anyway? People who wanted to get married now must either postpone it or have a virtual wedding.  And Kovac does recognize that other people have it far worse than her: people who have lost friends or loved ones, people who have lost their jobs, and so on. As she recognizes, “my problem is very much a privileged problem.”

Weddings are being postponed, and here I am, sitting on the bathroom floor, crying about my college graduation ceremony being canceled.

But can’t I be sad? Can’t I acknowledge the magnitude of the horror and suffering this crisis has brought to the world while still allowing myself to grieve what I’ve lost?

I’m sad for this time in my life that I had dreamed of since I was a young girl, when I learned what “Go Blue!” meant.

And so she cried about her own loss (apparently forgetting—see the headline—that she will still graduate, just without the ceremony—though I suspect many colleges will hold replacement ceremonies or fold them into next year’s). Her parents are sad too:

I sat on the bathroom floor in my parents’ home and sobbed. Hearing my whale-esque sounds of sorrow, worried family members came to my side and shared my pain. My mother, an immigrant to the U.S., had been looking forward to seeing me graduate from this university since the day I set foot on campus. She was 22 years old when the Yugoslav Wars broke out in Croatia, leaving her with a forever incomplete law degree. My father, a first-generation college graduate who has been steadfast in supporting my academic dreams while paying the interest on my student loans, had yearned for the day that he’d see me sport a commencement gown with honors cords and a University of Michigan stole, much like graduation at his alma mater.

I couldn’t remember the last time I cried like that. This wasn’t just a loss for me. It was a loss for my parents, too.

And of course she manages to throw in the social-justice angle, which would certainly appeal to HuffPost:

I’m sad that I’ll miss the chance to thank, in person, the professors who shaped my worldview so pivotally, who helped me to take a step back from my conservative upbringing and understand things about myself that I hadn’t known.

. . . And finally, I’m just sad to realize that my undergraduate experience overlapped with some of the most tumultuous times in our country: Donald Trump’s presidency, a slew of sexual assault allegations, mass shootings and a global pandemic.

The last (and superfluous) line, of course, has nothing to do with her canceled ceremony; she could be sad about all that even with a ceremony. But of course she wouldn’t be able to say anything new about Trump, sexual assault, and shootings. The pandemic gives her a reason to call attention to her feelings.

Why does this piece irk me so much? After all, we all have our disappointments and discuss them with our friends.  No, it irks me because Kovac couldn’t keep her feelings to herself, but felt compelled to splash them all over HuffPost, and to blow them out of proportion by double-beefing in the national media.

But if she feels guilty about such kvetching, why kvetch in public?  There’s nothing new in this piece except that a young woman shows herself to be self-centered enough to parade her double sadness in public. Social media being what it is, she may be forever typed as the “whale-esque sobbing girl.” 

One lesson that life teaches is that it’s not always useful to tell people exactly how we feel, especially when the object is to get sympathy for ourselves. This is one example. If there were some lesson to be learned from Kovac’s whale-esque sobbing, perhaps her piece would have been worth publishing. But there is no such lesson.

Any why on earth did they choose to use a picture of her looking like the cat who swallowed the canary? That smirk is worse than the one supposedly made by MAGA Boy (and that wasn’t a real smirk).

Meanwhile, back at HuffPost. . .

November 5, 2019 • 12:15 pm

One thing I haven’t done on this trip is to look at HuffPost. But, like a dog returning to its vomit, I couldn’t resist a peek this afternoon, as there’s not much doing on the ship.

The site is still pretty much the predictable farrago of Regressive Leftism, but also flaunts an announcement that the site is changing the way it covers the news (click on screenshots to go to stories). Check out the story below that argues that because the world changes, the site must change the way it covers—indeed, “redefines”—the news. (What kind of logic is that?)

What they’re doing:

As always, you’ll find the latest news: what’s happening at the White House and beyond, as well as the big stories that shape our lives. That includes the quiet housing crisis and the struggle for voting rights, and battles over health care, inequality and gender discrimination. And of course, the history-making presidential race.

But you’ll also find a lot more stories about what’s happening at your house: raising good kids, finding a therapist you can afford, managing your student debt. We know the day-to-day challenges of life are serious news too, and we are here to help.

Above all, you’ll find stories about people. Manar Hussein, a Muslim woman who stood up to those who tried to intimidate her for wearing a modest bathing suit, and Jo Etta M. Harris, a Black woman who had the police called on her while nursing her child in her car. Or David Ledbetter, the teenager who had the bright idea to register people to vote while they waited in line for a coveted Popeye’s chicken sandwich. People who, like you, want to make their lives and the world better.

Less real news, more stuff about your own life and about people, especially those from oppressed groups. In other words, HuffPost is tired of doing journalism and is becoming Woke People magazine.

Some pressing stories. First, the euphemism of the month:

Enough of that; we’ll leave Ms. Watson to her self-partnering in the hopes that she and herself don’t become consciously uncoupled.

Then the obligatory holiday joy-killing. First they disposed of Halloween (see below) and then they came for Thanksgiving:

The main tip is to ditch the turkey!

Consider Taking The Turkey Out Of The Turkey Dinner

Meat and meat byproducts (cheese, butter and heavy cream, for example) have a larger environmental footprint than plant-based ingredients. According to research done by Carnegie Mellon University, the carbon footprint of a 16-pound turkey creates a total of 34.2 pounds of CO2 — the same amount produced by turkey gravy, cranberry sauce, roasted Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, rolled biscuits and apple pie combined.

And don’t substitute other meats, either, because they’re worse.

As for Halloween candy, fugeddaboutit: it’s often wrapped in plastic, which is hard to recycle. The implicit answer to the question below is “You betcha!”From the article:

We need to talk about Halloween candy.

Public awareness of our plastic pollution crisis is at a high, plastic straws and bags are getting banned in cities and states across the country, and yet there has been almost no discussion about the massive environmental problem that Halloween candy creates.

When I read that first sentence, my automatic response was, “No we don’t!”

In his superb collection A Mencken Chrestomathy, H. L. Mencken famously defined “Puritanism” as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” That’s what we’re seeing here. Of course I’m worried about the environment, and I recycle scrupulously, but enough is enough. I’d tell HuffPost to get the hell off my lawn, but at the moment all I have is a patch of deck.


Cultural appropriation: can minorities appropriate the culture of other minorities?

October 14, 2019 • 1:15 pm

This is the kind of question that arises when you adopt full-blown intersectionalism. It’s apparently been decided that it’s okay to culturally “appropriate up“, i.e., Chinese people can wear jeans, and Africans suits, but it’s not okay to “appropriate down“, so that white people can’t wear cornrows or play jazz—at least not without explicitly acknowledging the borrowing and, as this article by Bianca Lambert, a freelance beauty writer, maintains, studying all the nuances of that borrowing.

The article at hand is, of course, at PuffHo, and the answer to the question in the title is a clear “yes: it’s appropriation for minorities to adopt black culture.” But it’s apparently not wrong for blacks to adopt Hispanic or Hindu culture. Click on the screenshot to read:


Most of the article is the usual culture-protection and calling-out of appropriators, and not worth commenting on again; but the thesis of the article, why other minorities can’t adopt black styles, is in just two sentences below. First, though, here are some members of minority groups who have been excoriated for wearing cornrows. Indented bits are from PuffHo:

Lilly Singh, host of “A Little Late with Lilly Singh,” has been called out throughout her career for “modern-day blackface,” wearing baggy clothing, cornrows and dashiki on her YouTube channel. The Canadian-born comedian, who embraces her Indian heritage, has dismissed the criticism on Twitter.

Then there’s actor Shay Mitchell, who’s of Filipino and Scottish-Irish descent. She received backlash on Instagram after wearing cornrows multiple times.

Most recently, YouTuber Nikita Dragun, who is Vietnamese and Mexican, made headlines for wearing gray box braids to show her “love and appreciation for all the gorgeous black women in my life and also to those that follow me,” she wrote on Instagram.

Lambert’s verdict?

So is this appropriation? Absolutely.

“The thing that’s interesting about an Indian or Japanese or Mexican person wearing American Blackness is that they’ve had the privilege of continuity in their own cultural traditions,” Day said. “They are playing dress-up in something that we’ve fought to regenerate after having centuries of cultural disruption and suppression.”

Dress-up? I don’t think so. People who wear cornrows or dreadlocks wear them because they think they look good, not because they’re donning part of a black Halloween costume. And what, exactly, is the “privilege of continuity”? The reasons for cultural appropriation, as usually enunciated, are that you are stealing aspects of another (and more oppressed) culture, and not giving them credit for it or being explicit about the sufferings of those from that culture (see below). What continuity has to do with it is obscure.

And continuity seems irrelevant, for you’re also called out for “appropriating” aspects of culture that have been continuous, like the jazz or hip-hop of black America or the kimonos of the Japanese. No, this is just another way to make one culture seem even more oppressed than others by confecting some specious and irrelevant “discontinuity.”

As I’ve said before, theoretically there are forms of cultural appropriation that are harmful to the appropriated groups. The example I often use, and dismiss, is Paul Simon’s use of the music of the South African group Ladysmith Black Mambazo in his “Graceland” album. Had he taken all the credit, given the group a minor credit, and not paid them well, that would have been invidious and unjustifiable cultural appropriation. But Simon didn’t do that: he acknowledged his debt to that group and in fact made them famous and well off. I’m hard pressed to think of any kind of cultural appropriation that is harmful at all, though I’m sure readers can come up with some examples. But in general, I think cultural appropriation is not only a sign of appreciation of another culture, be it “up” or “down”, but also enriches all cultures. It’s just in today’s “I’m offended” climate, it gives people a reason to parade themselves as victims and denigrate others.

And it’s not enough for a cornrow-wearer to simply say, “Yes, I’ve adopted a black hairstyle because I like it.” No, you have to do what they call the “emotional labor”. As Lambert argues, using the words of Keisha Brown, associate professor of history at Tennessee State University

“While acknowledging the origin of the style or influence is a good start, that is just the first step in moving from appropriation to appreciation,” Brown said. “Beyond mere acknowledgment of the influence or inspiration [and one’s privilege and platform], an individual should also strive to understand the origin, impact and function of said cultural practices.”

Sorry, but my response to that is, “You’re asking too much.” If you have to study the origin, impact, and function of cornrows or dreadlocks—which of course were worn in ancient Greece—before you wear them, and need to be quizzed or chastised if you didn’t, then we’ve come to a pretty pass. Imagine if you applied that to all of the many forms of music, food, clothing, and other things that have been adopted by one culture from another!

I maintain that it harms nobody for a Hispanic woman to wear cornrows simply because she likes them. The “damage”, as it is so often in these things, is merely the offense in the Pecksniffian beholder.


The most repugnant headline ever

May 20, 2019 • 5:00 pm

It’s from HuffPo, of course, and I count 4.5 repellent words or phrases in the  two headlines below. If you click on the screenshot, you’ll see another stinker in the second-page headline:

Apparently this is the way HuffPost thinks its readers talk, and perhaps they do.

And of course it’s about a tweet: that’s all that HuffPo reports on these days since its “reporters” are too lazy to do anything but look at Twitter.

HuffPost circling the drain

May 10, 2019 • 1:30 pm

Call me a bad person and shoot me, but what I found today affords me some true Schadenfreude. Here’s the traffic at HuffPost over the last six months as reported by SimilarWeb.

It looks as if views (monthly ones?) have dropped from 120 million to about 12 million, a decrease of about 90%, and the average time spent on the site is a scant 47 seconds. I guess people have gotten tired of their opinions masquerading as news, ads masquerading as news, and their effusive love of Chrissie Teigen, the Royals, Samantha Bee, AOC, and the site’s relentless obsession with identity politics and ideological purity.

Does this mean that Social Justice Warriorism is dead? I doubt it, but maybe people are sick a purely one-sided view of politics. HuffPo, after all, is the Breitbart of the Left.

Read and grin:



Desperate to retain readers and clicks, the site has started a new feature, HuffPost Plus, where you pay good money but get nothing except special newsletters. Nobody’s been fooled by this, judging from the vitriolic reader comments when the “offer” was first made.

Yes, I’m a bad person. As Hitchens said of Jerry Falwell, if you gave them an enema they could be buried in a matchbox.

Is “deadnaming” always an egregious sin?

April 12, 2019 • 11:30 am

“Deadnaming” is the use of the pre-transformation name of someone who has transitioned between genders. So, for example, referring to “Bruce Jenner” in an article about “Caitlyn Jenner” is a case of deadnaming.

My view on this practice is that it’s respectful to use the name a person chooses after they’ve transitioned, but it’s not an egregious sin to use their former name if it’s relevant. In some articles about Caitlyn Jenner it might be, for example when you’re giving biographical details about her. If you’re going to note that Jenner is a trans woman, which is usually fine if it adds information, why is it horrible to say that Jenner was formerly the decathlon champion Bruce Jenner?  In fact, that’s what Wikipedia does. It gives her bio article the title of her present name, but also gives the birth name:

And since being trans is an integral part of the identity of many trans people—something that they themselves mention—I don’t see much wrong with using the former name as an indication of that. What I see as demeaning is referring to the person solely by their former name without any indication that it’s been changed, which denies or mocks their own choice. Yet there are few sins worse than deadnaming in the Authoritarian Left community.

HuffPo (of course), also sees deadnaming as a horrible thing to do under any circumstances, and in this article about Chelsea Manning gives us a little lecture about deadnaming. It doesn’t help that it was Fox News that performed the despiséd act (click on screenshot):

Here’s the sin:

Fox News correspondent Greg Palkot referred to Chelsea Manning twice on Thursday by the name the convicted government leaker and transgender activist used prior to her gender confirmation.

To be fair, the correspondent, referring to Manning in both instances, says “at that time Bradley Manning”, meaning that Chelsea Manning went by another name during the Wikileaks fracas. Indeed, the Wikipedia article on Manning gives her birth name:

It’s not irrelevant to the story that Chelsea Manning was once Bradley Manning, as the news back then used the name, and if you want to find out what Manning did when he identified as male, you have to Google the former name. Also, Manning didn’t announce her gender preference until 2013, several years after she leaked information as an identified-as-male soldier in the U.S. Army. In other words, the crimes for which she was convicted and imprisoned (and now she’s back in jail) were committed when she used another name and served as a male soldier.

HuffPo can’t resist giving us a little lecture at the end of what is supposedly a news piece, mostly about Julian Assange and WikiLeaks:

Deadnaming is problematic because it can feel invalidating and disrespectful to the person it’s being done to, according to Pink News. 

“Essentially, it highlights that they’re not supported in their transition process, whether it’s before, during or after,” says the publication, which stresses that many people don’t realize the “depth of emotion” linked to a trans person’s identity.

Twitter banned deadnaming in 2018.

“We prohibit targeting individuals with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to dehumanize, degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category. This includes targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals,” Twitter said in a revised iteration of its hateful conduct policy.

As Parker Molloy wrote in The New York Times, Twitter’s move “represented a recognition that our identity is an accepted fact and that to suggest otherwise is a slur.”

To make sure you never deadname a trans person, ask the person what they would like to be called, refer to them by their new name even when they’re not nearby, and correct others who deadname.

It seems to me that there shouldn’t be a blanket ban on deadnaming so long as you identify the person’s present name along with the past one, and have a good reason for using the former name. It is not “erasing” somebody, as the New York Times article argues, to say that they have transitioned and once went by another name. It’s not erasing Muhammad Ali to say that he once was known as Cassius Clay.

What constitutes “erasure” is to use a person’s pre-transition name alone, or to use the present one in a mocking fashion. And, I suppose, it’s bad form to use a former name if someone has transitioned and wants to keep it a secret. But that isn’t the case for most transsexual people—as far as I know.