Well, my headline may be a tad exaggerated, but I’m pretty sure that the subject of this post is not friendly to Jews (she’s made some remarkably ill informed comments about Palestine). Read on.
Many Democrats have been excited about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for the young Hispanic activist (she’s 28) won the Democratic primary for a House seat in New York, gaining a big upset victory over the incumbent. She’s a Democratic Socialist, but my take on her is that she’s not particularly bright and is espousing views that, while they may win her a seat in the House, won’t advance the Democratic platform. In fact, her election may give Democrats an even worse image.
I say that because Ocasio-Cortez has cozied up to some odious characters. Here she is headlining the Universal Muslim Association of America meeting with our favorite sharia-lover and FOF (Friend of Farrakhan), Linda Sarsour (click on screenshot):
From an interview on a Leftist website (click on screenshot):
AMYGOODMAN: In a moment, we’re going to talk about the travel ban, but Linda Sarsour is with us, director of the first Muslim online organizing platform, MPower Change. You supported Alexandria. This is a remarkable moment.
LINDASARSOUR: I mean, in light of such horrible news yesterday with the travel ban and the Muslim ban, Alexandria is the hope that we’ve been waiting for. She is a young woman of color. She’s Puerto Rican. She’s a Socialist, just like me. We are both card-carrying DSA members. And she’s pro-Palestine, and she’s unapologetic. And the movement right now is elated, because this is what you’re going to see, Amy, in this election season. It’s a new day, a new generation. And Alexandria is what represents us and our values.
. . . [Ocasio-Cortez] was outraised almost 10 to one. And it’s not about money. It’s about the grassroots organizing. It’s about building power on the ground. It’s about getting voters who have been ignored and marginalized to the polls. And that’s exactly what Alexandria did. She’s charismatic. She’s young. And she was also very progressive, unapologetically progressive—tuition-free college, Medicare for all, pro-Palestine, even in the recent Great Return March putting her voice out there while she was campaigning, not afraid of any opposition that was going to come her way. And that’s the new kind of folks that are going to win. So, no Democrat is going to hold their seat for too long. And a lot of Alexandrias are coming this 2018 and 2020.
You can read about the “Great return march” in Wikipedia. It is, in short a call for the “right of return” that would destroy Israel as a state:
On 30 March 2018, a six-week campaign composed of a series of protests was launched at the Gaza Strip, near the Gaza-Israel border. Called by Palestinian organizers the “Great March of Return” (Arabic: “مسیرة العودة الكبري”), the protests demand that Palestinian refugees and their descendants be allowed to return to the land they were displaced from in what is now Israel.
With a friend like Linda Sarsour, and an endorsement from same, Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t need enemies! You know what “Pro-Palestine” is code for, too. But of course it pays, electoral-wise, to be friendlier to Muslims than to Jews, for Democrats, especially those on the extreme Left, see Jews as oppressors and Muslims as the oppressed.
Finally, there’s this, in which Ocasio-Cortez touts Ilhan Omar, a Somali woman in the Minnesota state legislature.
Just keep it up, Democrats—a party once friendly to the Jews, now siding with regressive elements of Islam. You want four more years of Trump in 2020? Just keep cozying up to people like Sarsour and Ilhan Omar.
White women: it is time to do your part! Your white children reinforce the white supremacist society that benefits you. If you claim to be progressive, and yet willingly birth white children by your own choice, you are a hypocrite. White women should be encouraged to abort their white children, and to use their freed-up time and resources to assist women of color who have no other choice but to raise their children. Women of color are in need of financial and humanitarian resources. As this white supremacist society continues to imprison black fathers, women of color are forced to stand alone in their plight to raise the next generation of Americans. White women: instead of devoting your time and energy to white children who will reinforce the struggles of women of color, how about asking women of color in what ways you can assist them in their self-liberation? How about adopting children of color who have lost their parents to the destructive white supremacist society that you have enabled and encouraged?
I suspected that the piece, and the magazine itself, which certainly looked like a genuine Regressive site (motto: “Feminist Revolution Now”), might have been a hoax, for many of its articles were way over the top: more extreme than even Everyday Feminism, which is nearly a parody itself. And several diligent readers sussed out evidence of a hoax, looking up domain names, those who registered them, and other facts. When I concluded it was probably a hoax, but wasn’t sure, one irate reader chewed me out:
The fact that you fell for this obvious hoax reveals that you have been fighting windmills for a long fucking time. Nobody with even minimal knowledge of modern feminism could possibly have been fooled by this trash. You find the article indistinguishable from what far right misogynists have told you that feminists say. Maybe this will be a valuable lesson to be less gullible and better informed.
I responded saying, among other things, “You don’t have the slightest idea what you’re talking about; I’ve posted about real feminism articles (one recently on Everyday Feminism, others about feminist glaciology and the racism of Pilates) that are indistinguishable from these pieces.”
Medusa Magazine is a blog that espouses feminist ideology. We make no apologies for this, and we stand by everything we publish.
That being said, the views expressed in each article belong to the author(s) alone. We would however never have published any of the articles if we didn’t think they had any value to add to intellectual discourse. Even the articles that you describe as “over the top” have started a discussion and debate online about important issues that need to be discussed.
Say Hi to your readers from us.
Well, it turns out Medusa was indeed a well-crafted hoax, certainly fooling some of us who were used to over-the-top articles about racist pumpkin lattes, white-privilege Pilates, and similar things. It was too close to reality to know for from the content itself without the further digging done by our readers.
As reader Cindy pointed out, Medusa has now admitted its spoofiness in the article below (click on screenshot):
Before I go on, let me say that I don’t endorse the extreme denigration of feminism associated with “Age of Shitlords”; I think I’ve made my approbation of women’s struggles for equality clear many times on this site. The point of this piece, however, is how close the satire of extreme Third Wave feminism and Regressive Leftism can come to the real thing—something we suspected already from the articles I’ve highlighted in real journals as well as hoaxes like the Sokal Affair.
Why are they shutting down Medusa? Because they published a satire article that was almost indistinguishable from a real one published later— with both pieces about why sexual harassers and abusers on the Left should be given more of a pass than those on the Right. Their explanation:
But back to to the original topic, we are shutting down our rather hilarious project because we can no longer compete with our competition. We have come to realize that our competition is not other satirical websites, but rather the people we are trying to satirize. About a week ago, after a short hiatus from the website and in light of the recent sexual assault allegations currently afflicting Hollywood, we put out another article titled “Why we should believe women who accuse right wingers of rape more than those who accuse liberals”. The article is a total caricature intended to be as ridiculous as possible, basically arguing that because liberals are good people, we should forgive them when they rape women. We thought no one in the world could possibly hold views as ridiculous as that, so we wrote it as satire and published it.
So imagine our surprise when an actual Feminist and self-proclaimed expert on “rape culture” wrote an article for The Washington Post no less, using the same rational [sic] and reasoning as our satirical article that was written just a few days before.
Here’s the Medusa article, published on November 11 (click on screenshot):
An excerpt from that Medusa piece:
Regardless of whether any of these men are guilty of the crimes they have been accused of or not, one thing is for sure – the ones who hold left wing values have earned the right to make at least one mistake in their lives. George Takei has helped millions of LGBT children around the globe come out and be comfortable in their sexually. Harvey Weinstein has donated funds to many Democratic candidates and grass-root movements that have helped us secure political power. Who cares if these men have made one or two mistakes in their lives? What’s important is that they have realized their mistakes and are willing to learn from them, which is more than I can say for Trump and his fellow GOP rapists.
We should sympathize with the victims of these liberal men, but we should not devalue the work and legacies of their rapists. To focus too much on the accusations brings to light these men’s political ideologies, which wrecks [sic] havoc for us. It would be hypocritical of us to keep criticizing Trump and rape culture when so many men among us have been accused of sexual assault. If more liberal personalities get accused of sexual assault between now and 2020, Trump is going to win a second term. I don’t know about you, but I would rather live in a world where liberals hold political power and a few women get raped than one in which conservatives hold power and women still get raped.
And here’s the Post‘s article from November 17 (click on screenshot), written by Kate Harding, a feminist author and co-host of the podcast “Feminasty”
The Medusa hoaxer underlined bits of the Post piece that were similar to what appeared in Medusa:
The Post‘s sentiments were echoed by Matthew Dowd, chief political analyst of ABC News:
Every leader (and each of us) is human and flawed and makes mistakes, but there is a difference between those who are flawed who work for the common good and those who are flawed who could care less about the common good. Huge difference.
Huge difference? Not really. Now granted, the Medusa piece is a bit more hyperbolic and dramatic than the Post piece, and its headline is a bit misleading (it’s more about forgiving than believing), but the points were the same: we are supposed give more of a pass to Left-wing harassers and sexual predators than to those on the Right. Everyone’s calling for Roy Moore to step out of the race, but some, at least, are importuning Franken to stay in office. I’m reserving judgment since accusations against Franken are still appearing, and we can’t yet judge their severity or reality, but principles of justice say that people who do equally bad things should suffer equal punishment and opprobrium. If you call for one to resign, you should call for the other. Criminals in court don’t usually have their sentences conditioned on their politics.
I have to say that I’m far more saddened by Franken’s missteps than Moore’s, as Franken was a good Senator with progressive values, and surely he’d accomplish more good in the Senate than Moore ever would. (And, to be sure, Franken’s transgressions appear, right now, to be less severe.) But should we take politics into account when calling for punishment? If deterrence of others and reformation of the miscreant are part of the goals of punishment, why would the deterrence be less with a Left-wing harasser than one on the Right? And I find it hard to believe that Left-wing sexual predators like Harvey Weinstein are more “reformable” than those on the right.
But I digress. The point is that when blatant caricature becomes indistinguishable from political reality, and hoaxes come to look like the truth, something is off kilter.
Bret Weinstein and his wife Heather Heying, until last year biology faculty at The Evergreen State College—otherwise known as The People’s Democratic College of Evergreen State, or TPDCES—have long departed, hounded out of Olympia, Washington for refusing to comply with black racism, and the school is back to its regressive ways. But, according to a reader who wishes to remain unnamed, there’s a new course in store for the students, one that has the potential to enlighten them. But I’m betting it won’t.
You can click on the title above, or simply read the course description below. I’ve bolded the important parts, especially the last sentence!
“The only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject, is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion, and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind” – John Stuart Mill
One purpose of a liberal education is to free or liberate students from narrow perspectives, limited thinking, partisanship, and categorical rhetoric in order to obtain knowledge. Affirmations of absolutes should give way to identification and clarification of ambiguities of complex topics. This can best be achieved in an environment where we are confronted with our preconceived notions of the world and are encouraged to engage in the dialectic: the rational exchange of conflicting ideas in a common pursuit of truth. This demanding work can be challenging in a setting where diverse viewpoints are absent. Lecture, and seminar topics will address the questions of how, when, and why the human mind can be resistant to realities that run counter to strongly held convictions. We will explore how the values that bind us into cohesive groups of like minded people can also blind us to our weaknesses. This interdisciplinary course will draw upon such diverse fields as moral psychology, social science, statistics, and philosophy. We will extensively consult with leading national experts on these topics while using Evergreen as a case study on how colleges and universities might address contentious issues of political diversity, free speech, freedom of thought, and censorship. Students and faculty will begin the quarter by identifying their own personal intuitions on relevant contentious issues. We will then independently examine a controversial question which we feel most certain and passionate about, but from the opposite perspective than we currently possess. In addition, students will individually engage with communities who have identities, values and opinions dissimilar to their own, while reflecting upon these experiences through writing. Through weekly readings, critical thinking skills will be refined through careful quantitative and qualitative examination of evidence while analyzing underlying assumptions and biases. Students will learn to distinguish between conceptual, empirical, and value claims while becoming adept at identifying logical fallacies. As a class we will cultivate virtues of intellectual humility with the primary aim of pursuing knowledge and truth ahead of social and political action. All perspectives on issues are not only welcome, but strongly encouraged. However, students who require “ideological safe spaces” where particular viewpoints are considered offensive may want to seek a different program.
How could such a course get into the curriculum at TPDCES? Who on Earth is teaching it?
Well, the listed professor happens to be none other than Dr. Michael Paros, who teaches biology, just like Weinstein and Heying. And he happens to be, as I noted months ago, the only Evergreen faculty member who issued a statement in support of Bret Weinstein (see more here, though the statement isn’t reproduced). Paros said he expected to be called a bigot for supporting Weinstein, but I haven’t followed up on whether that happened.
If anything is tinder for another conflagration at TPDCES, it’s this course. It’s not a science course, so it will be taken by humanities students—the Regressive types. The last sentence is a direct slap in the faces of Regressives, as is the one about how tribal values can blind one to one’s weaknesses! How can the Cultural Revolutionaries stand it? Will Paros be forced to sit in class wearing a paper cone-hat and with a sign of shame around his neck?
More questions: whom will the students seek out having “identities, values, and opinions dissimilar to their own”? Republicans? Poor people? White people? And who will the “national experts” on these topics be? I can think of some: Greg Lukianoff of FIRE, Jonathan Haidt, Nicholas or Erika Christakis from Yale, Jordan Peterson, Weinstein himself or, Ceiling Cat help us, hard-ass conservatives like Ben Shapiro. (I doubt the students could listen to a whole talk by Shapiro without losing it.)
Yes, this could be a great course and an eye-opener for the students, and Paros is clearly offering it because he’s distressed at the thuggery, regressiveness, and close-mindedness of both the faculty and students at TPDCES. I wish him luck, but I have little hope that the students won’t picket this course or try to shut it down. I fear that Paros’s effort is doomed, but I sure hope not.
If you’re a Saturday Night Live fan, you’ll surely remember the old King Tut routine of Steve Martin. In case you don’t, here it is, about forty years old now:
According to both New Jersey 101.5 and The Atlantic, the video was somehow played in class as a joke at Reed College in Oregon. BIG mistake! The group Reedies against Racism (RAR), which is famous for disrupting the Humanities 101 course, calling it racist and an enabler of white supremacy, took huge offense at the video. As The Atlantic reports (my emphasis):
At Reed College, a small liberal-arts school in Portland, Oregon, a 39-year-old Saturday Night Live skit recently caused an uproar over cultural appropriation. In the classic Steve Martin skit, he performs a goofy song, “King Tut,” meant to satirize a Tutankhamun exhibit touring the U.S. and to criticize the commercialization of Egyptian culture. You could say that his critique is weak; that his humor is lame; that his dance moves are unintentionally offensive or downright racist. All of that, and more, was debated in a humanities course at Reed.
But many students found the video so egregious that they opposed its very presence in class. “That’s like somebody … making a song just littered with the n-word everywhere,” a member of Reedies Against Racism (RAR) told the student newspaper when asked about Martin’s performance. She told me more: The Egyptian garb of the backup dancers and singers—many of whom are African American—“is racist as well. The gold face of the saxophone dancer leaving its tomb is an exhibition of blackface.”
RAR needs to get a grip. If you can get this offended by an innocuous comedy routine, seeing ancient Egyptian clothing as “racist” and the gold face of the saxophone player, clearly meant to represent the gold “death mask” of Tut and other Pharaohs, as “blackface”, you’ve lost the plot. The “activism” of RAR, though of course driven by motivations we all agree with—the elimination of racist bigotry—seems limited to scrutinizing everything in their school for possible offense and then calling it out. Seriously, is equating gold face paint to “blackface” a way to expunge racism from America?
Watch the video (it’s only 3 minutes) and judge for yourself.
Of course there’s still sexism and racism in American society, but this kind of trivial Pecksniffery endangers the legitimate social enterprise of instantiating equal rights and opportunities for all. But who cares when you have a paper to write and a career to make?
So onto this week’s Ridiculous Offense. This one’s not an academic paper, but an article in Hyperallergenic by an academic, Sarah E. Bond, an assistant professor of Classics at the University of Iowa. I don’t often see classicists turning out this kind of piffle, but I don’t read much in that field.
Bond’s title could be interpreted in two ways. The good way is that we need to realize that the ancients appreciated and saw their architecture and sculpture in color. (We’re only now starting to realize this as we find traces of color using various arcane technical methods.) The Parthenon, for instance, which all visitors admire as a white marble temple, actually looked like this originally:
And here’s a Roman relief that still retains some color, reproduced in Bond’s article:
Here’s a color reconstruction of an archer from the West Pediment of the Greek Temple of Aphaia as it looks now, with the color weathered off the white marble, compared to a reconstruction:
Now I happen to like the colorless, weathered sculpture better, as, I think, do most people. There’s something about the monochrome of the white marble that makes me appreciate the artistry more, as it does for the sculpture of Michelangelo, Bernini, and other Renaissance and Baroque artists. The color seems to me both unnecessary and garish, but of course Greek and Roman statues were more than just art in their time: they were objects of veneration, and were meant to tell stories.
Bond’s job, and the second meaning of her title, though, is to tell me that my “aesthetic disgust” at colored ancient sculpture (I’m not disgusted by it, for crying out loud; I just don’t like it!), comes from my white supremacy, and that I’m privileging the white marble because I privilege my white skin. I am not making this up:
Acceptance of polychromy by the public is another matter. A friend peering up at early-20th-century polychrome terra cottas of mythological figures at thePhiladelphia Museum of Art once remarked to me: “There is no way the Greeks were that gauche.” How did color become gauche? Where does this aesthetic disgust come from? To many, the pristine whiteness of marble statues is the expectation and thus the classical ideal. But the equation of white marble with beauty is not an inherent truth of the universe. Where this standard came from and how it continues to influence white supremacist ideas today are often ignored.
Most museums and art history textbooks contain a predominantly neon white display of skin tone when it comes to classical statues and sarcophagi. This has an impact on the way we view the antique world. The assemblage of neon whiteness serves to create a false idea of homogeneity — everyone was very white! — across the Mediterranean region. The Romans, in fact, did not define people as “white”; where, then, did this notion of race come from?
She then goes into a long disquisition on the racism of scholars beginning in the 18th century, and, although the idea of white superiority was indeed ubiquitous among European academics then, she doesn’t connect it in any meaningful way with our aesthetic preference for white marble. She simply asserts that our aesthetics somehow derive from the racism of people like Joachim Winckelmann, Pieter Camper, and others—including biological white supremacists who measured skulls and brains to arrive at their preconceived notions that whites were superior to all other “races.”
And indeed, she’s correct, but trivially true, when she says this:
Too often today, we fail to acknowledge and confront the incredible amount of racism that has shaped the ideas of scholars we cite in the field of ancient history. For example, I recently, came across Tenney Frank’s disturbing article “Race Mixture in the Roman Empire” while looking through an edited volume. First published in The American Historical Review in July 1916, the article sees Frank attempting to count extant inscriptions (mostly epitaphs) in order to gauge whether “race mixing” contributed to the decline of the Roman empire. It was then reprinted without comment in Greek historian Donald Kagan’s1962 collection of articles on the fall of Rome.
But we all know such things now; evolutionary biologists are especially aware of the racism that permeated evolutionary theory right down through the mid-20th century. But, adds Bond, this racism still affects people’s attitudes towards art (and the accessibility of art to people of color):
How can we address the problem of the lily white antiquity that persists in the public imagination? What can classicists learn from the debate over whiteness and ancient sculpture?
First, we must consider why we are such a homogenous field. According to the Society for Classical Studies, the leading association for Classics in the United States, in 2014, just 9% of all undergraduate Classics majors were minorities. This number decreases the higher into academia you go. Just 2% of tenured full-time Classics faculty were minorities, according to the study.
Do we make it easy for people of color who want to study the ancient world? Do they see themselves in the ancient landscape that we present to them? The dearth of people of color in modern media depicting the ancient world is a pivotal issue here. Movies and video games, in particular, perpetuate the notion that the classical world was white. This is an issue when 70% of my students tell me that games such as Ryse: Son of Rome (which uses white statues to decorate the city of Rome and white Roman soldiers as lead characters), as well as films like Gladiator (which has a man from New Zealand playing the Spaniard Maximus) and the 300 (which has xenophobic depictions of Persians) led them to take my courses.
As far as I know, apart from African slaves, the classical world was “white” in the sense of comprising Europeans, who had various skin tones depending on their origin. You can see that variety of skin tones in any recent movie about the Greeks or Romans (see “Gladiator” again). Seriously, are Spaniards not considered “white”? If the classical world mostly comprised races usually lumped as Caucasians, what on earth is she talking about?
But of course Bond’s goal is not to enlighten us about art, but to chastise us for racism, and so we “have to change the narrative”:
If we want to see more diversity in Classics, we have to work harder as public historians to change the narrative — by talking to filmmakers, writing mainstream articles, annotating our academic writing and making it open access, and doing more outreach that emphasizes the vast palette of skin tones in the ancient Mediterranean.
I’m still puzzled about how apprehending the “vast palette of skin tones” among mostly Caucasian people is somehow going to get rid of racism. After all, are dark-skinned Spaniards, Greeks, and southern Italians the object of racism? Not to the scholars that Bond cites, who were all concerned with whites versus blacks. Seeing painted Roman and Greek sculpture won’t dispel that kind of racism.
But what Bond fails to consider is that aesthetic preference for non-painted sculptures—and they’re not just white—may be innate or even derived from cultural norms that have nothing to do with racism. Did Renaissance architects and sculptors use white marble because they were racists? If so, was Shah Jahan, a Mughal, a racist because he built the Taj Mahal in white marble? If so, why did the Mughals also build many forts and palaces in red? Why do we admire the Red Fort, the Red City of Petra, or the originally non-polychromed Sphinx of Giza? Many South Indian temples and sculptures are black, and are much admired by art lovers. When some South Indian Temples are painted, many of us see thm as garish and not as appealing. Here it’s not the white we admire, but the purity of any uniform color, which doesn’t distract us from the artistry of the sculptors. After all, that’s why we appreciate classical bronze sculpture, which is definitely not white. Finally, I have a suspicion that white marble was used because it’s plentiful and easy to work, not because sculptors were looking for any rock.
I suggest, then, that Bond has rejected alternative and better supported hypotheses for our aesthetics in favor of her own Regressive-Left confirmation bias, which is to see racism behind art appreciation. But she has not convinced me that I’m a racist because I prefer my Elgin Marbles sans pigment.
I think I’m gonna lay off PuffHo after this one; I’m tired of reading them, I’m tired of criticizing them as a widely-read but Regressive Leftist organization, and they’re probably already licking their wounds over their latest gaffe.
What was it? They published an article by one “Shelley Garland” called “Could it be time to deny white men the franchise?” That article no longer is available at HuffPo—and that’s part of the story—but you can find it archived here. The author identified herself as a student at the University of Cape Town working on a master’s degree in philosophy, and as an “activist and feminist working on ways to smash the patriarchy.” That last bit should have raised a red flag to at least half mast, but it didn’t. What was worse, though, was the article itself, for it called for white men worldwide to not only be politically disenfranchised, losing the vote for several decades, but also to have their property confiscated and redistributed. Here are a few quotes:
Some of the biggest blows to the progressive cause in the past year have often been due to the votes of white men. If white men were not allowed to vote, it is unlikely that the United Kingdom would be leaving the European Union, it is unlikely that Donald Trump would now be the President of the United States, and it is unlikely that the Democratic Alliance would now be governing four of South Africa’s biggest cities.
If white men no longer had the vote, the progressive cause would be strengthened. It would not be necessary to deny white men indefinitely – the denial of the vote to white men for 20 years (just less than a generation) would go some way to seeing a decline in the influence of reactionary and neo-liberal ideology in the world. The influence of reckless white males were one of the primary reasons that led to the Great Recession which began in 2008. This would also strike a blow against toxic white masculinity, one that is long needed.
At the same time, a denial of the franchise to white men, could see a redistribution of global assets to their rightful owners. After all, white men have used the imposition of Western legal systems around the world to reinforce modern capitalism. A period of twenty years without white men in the world’s parliaments and voting booths will allow legislation to be passed which could see the world’s wealth far more equitably shared. The violence of white male wealth and income inequality will be a thing of the past.
. . . Some may argue that this is unfair. Let’s be clear, it may be unfair, but a moratorium on the franchise for white males for a period of between 20 and 30 years is a small price to pay for the pain inflicted by white males on others, particularly those with black, female-identifying bodies.
Well, that’s strong stuff, and racist and unfair as well, but of course HuffPo (the article originated in HuffPo South Africa) defendedit as consonant with feminism, and even gloated at the hits that odious piece got! Their defense was later removed, but, called “This Blog On White Men Is Going Viral. Here’s Our Response“, it’s been archived. Here’s part of their defense, given after they list some of the pushback on social media against “Shelley Garland”‘s article:
Garland’s underlying analysis about the uneven distribution of wealth and power in the world is pretty standard for feminist theory. It has been espoused in many different ways by feminist writers and theorists for decades now. In that sense, there was nothing in the article that should have shocked or surprised anybody (or so we thought.) It would appear that perhaps much of the outcry derives from a very poor reading of the article — or perhaps none at all. [JAC: Poor reading? It’s pretty clear to me!] Dismantling the patriarchal systems that have brought us to where we are today, a world where power is wielded to dangerous and destructive ends by men, and in particular white men, necessarily means a loss of power to those who hold it. A loss of oppressive power. Those who have held undue power granted to them by patriarchy must lose it for us to be truly equal. This seems blindingly obvious to us.
This doesn’t necessarily mean we agree or endorse everything in Garland’s blog. The point of our Voices section is to invite a wide array of voices and views. [JAC: Don’t make me laugh!]
We hope, as reads continue to rack up on this blog, that those who are tempted to fire off an angry email to us would first engage with the underlying analysis in Garland’s blog. [JAC: they did!]
Here’s a tweet (now deleted) in which HuffPo blogging editor Sipho Hlongwane defended the piece:
And HuffPo South Africa defended the piece as well:
Then suddenly things changed, as the authors, prompted by investigations by people on social media, couldn’t find evidence that Shelley Garland was a real person. She didn’t appear as a UCT student, appears to have joined Twitter just five hours before her article was published, and no other trace of her could be found. Why not? Because, according to HeatStreet (yes, a right-wing site), which appears to have been in communication with the person formerly known as Shelley Garland, the whole piece was a hoax:
A person claiming to be Shelley Garland has since reached out to Cliff Central, with evidence of the original pitch email she had sent to Huffington Post. “Shelley” says she received the website’s content guidelines, which her piece certainly does not adhere to despite the site’s decision to post it.
Further documentation from “Shelley” elaborates on how she conducted the ruse armed with a heavily photoshopped image taken from the Internet and phrases employed by the “less sensible left.” The hoaxster says that her editors at Huffington Post did not correct any of the false claims, factual errors and logical fallacies she purposely embedded in the piece, and accepted it without question.
[Quote from hoaxer]: “A further indictment on the Huffington Post is the fact that its editor, Verashni Pillay, then took it upon herself to defend the total garbage that I had written. Although Ms Pillay claims that her website does not necessarily agree with what I said, it is unlikely that she would publish a piece with the same sentiments but aimed at a different race group written by someone ostensibly from the other side of the political spectrum.
It is highly doubtful that she would publish a piece saying perhaps apartheid wasn’t that bad, or defending Donald Trump’s ban on people of certain nationalities entering the United States, and rightly so. Pieces defending apartheid or the ‘Muslim ban’ would be hurtful claptrap. What we have seen is the South African equivalent of the Sokal Affair, where something will be published, even if it’s ‘liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions’. My article does not meet criteria a, but it certainly meets criteria b.”
In the face of this, and despite their vigorous defense of an uncorroborated piece on the grounds that it got lots of hits, HuffPo had to remove the piece. Schadenfreude! Here’s their “apology”:
White Men And The Vote: Why We Took The Blog Down
Huffington Post SA has removed the blog “Could It Be Time To Deny White Men The Franchise?” published on our site on April 13, 2017.
Huffington Post SA has removed the blog “Could It Be Time To Deny White Men The Franchise?” published on our Voices section on April 13, 2017.
We have done this because the blog submission from an individual who called herself Shelley Garland, who claimed to be an MA student at UCT, cannot be traced and appears not to exist.
We have immediately bolstered and strengthened our blogging procedures that, until now, have operated on the basis of open communication and good faith. From now on, bloggers will have to verify themselves.
We will hold discussions on putting in place even better quality controls.
In addition, we note the commentary on the content of the blog post and will submit it to the South African Press Ombudsman Joe Thloloe for his analysis of the opinion we carried.
Huffington Post SA stands aligned to the Constitutional values of South Africa, particularly the Preamble of our Constitution which states that: “We the people of South Africa believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.”
We further understand that universal enfranchisement followed a long struggle and we fully support this.
In addition, Huffington Post South Africa is a signatory to and supporter of the South Africa Press Code. We support free expression as limited by the following value as set out in that code.
5. Discrimination and Hate Speech
5.1. Except where it is strictly relevant to the matter reported and it is in the public interest to do so, the media shall avoid discriminatory or denigratory references to people’s race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth or other status, nor shall it refer to people’s status in a prejudicial or pejorative context.
5.2. The media has the right and indeed the duty to report and comment on all matters of legitimate public interest. This right and duty must, however, be balanced against the obligation not to publish material that amounts to propaganda for war, incitement of imminent violence, or advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm.
Well, would they have published the piece if they verified that Shelley Garland did indeed exist? That’s what they imply, but at the same time they say her article violated their own speech code and was “hate speech”. Which is it, PuffHo?
What I think happened is that HuffPo South Africa published a piece that resonated with their own ideology, which includes blaming the world’s woes on white men, without thinking too hard about what it means to take the vote away from a whole group of people and redistributing their property. And, had the author not been a hoaxer, the article would be up still, because they’d refused to remove it on the grounds of content alone. What we see is a Sokal-style hoax that exposes PuffHo’s identity politics—an invidious identity politics that is explicitly racist.
Well, I’m done with this venue for the time being. Disenfranchising people isn’t right just because they’re not an “oppressed minority”. What happened to equal rights for everyone, including voting rights?
Twitchy is a Twitter aggregation site with a conservative bent, so it’s no surprise that it put up a couple of article about the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) recent bad behavior, since the SPLC is becoming increasingly allied with the Regressive Left.
You may remember that the SPLC put both Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz on its list of “Anti-Muslim extremists”. When called to account for this unconscionable slur on Muslim reformers (one of whom is still a Muslim), and on Nawaz in particular, Heidi Beirich, Head of Intelligence (?) at SPLC simply lied, claiming that Nawaz had called for increased surveillance of mosques (see Heather Hastie’s post on the SPLC and the links therein). This was clearly an untruth that Beirich made up: as Nawaz noted, he’s called for decreased surveillance of mosques:
I hope Nawaz forces them to retract their slur, or even sues them for slander, as this is surely a deliberate lie that damages his reputation.
What many people are coming to realize is that the SPLC, once a great organization for protecting civil rights and prosecuting racist offenders, is now transforming into an entitled McCarthyite organization, compiling “hate lists” and defending Islam, even at the cost of slandering reformers. These “hate lists” are not without controversy, and the Center itself has been the focus of credible reports of financial mismanagement (see here).
Like many Regressive Leftists, the Center has taken a position against Muslim reformers. Now, as reported by Twitchy (here, here, and here), the organization tried its best to dissimulate when Juan Thompson, a black man and former writer for The Intercept, was arrested for making 8 threatening phone calls to Jewish community centers in Atlanta. There have been at least 100 such threats against Jewish organizations so far this year—I haven’t mentioned them lest I be accused of defending threatened Jews but not Muslims—and most of these weren’t made by Thompson. They’re probably part of a general xenophobia against immigrants, Jews, and Muslims that, previously under wraps, was unleashed by Trump’s election.
At any rate, Thompson’s threats were “excused” by the SPLC as “not anti-Semitism” since they may have been made as part of his harassment of a former girlfriend (see the New York Times piece and an article in Time Magazine), since they were made in the name of his girlfriend. The SPLCC swung into action, issuing this tweet which has been reproduced below since the SPLC later removed it:
But given that there were a hundred threats, why was the SPLC so eager to exculpate Thompson for 8 of them, denying that he was anti-Semitic? They even issued another tweet (below), saying in effect, “It’s not anti-Semitic because it was a copycat crime. Besides, what about the unsolved threats?”:
In 8 instances, Thompson seems to have been opportunistically copycatting the horrific JCC bomb threats. This doesn’t explain the other 92.
Twitchy suspects, and they might be right, that since the arrested suspect was an African-American, he didn’t fit the SPLC’s narrative of hatred emanating from white supremacy groups, and thus they tried to minimize Thompson’s involvement, as in the tweets below:
Thompson "is not believed to be the main suspect behind the rash of bomb threats, according to law enforcement” https://t.co/Q00OLcu3o4
Thompson was fired from The Intercept for fabricating stories and quotes, and has shown signs of being unhinged since then. And he published some pretty strong anti-Israel tweets before all this went down—statements that should have been noticed by the SPLC’s investigation. Well, Thompson may not be anti-Semitic, but he’s shown clear signs of being anti-white, as the Anti-Defamation League revealed in their own tweets. But of course to the SPLC, that’s not bigotry. I wonder if they’d have defended Thompson against charges of anti-Semitism if he was a white Republican male who was just trying to harass his girlfriend by making threats against Jewish community centers.
It’s amusing—though sad—to see Leftist after Leftist confect arguments why free speech isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. Isn’t the Left supposed to defend freedom of speech? Sadly, much of that side seems to have abandoned the principle—mainly because they want to suppress what they call “hate speech.” That of course is a dangerous argument, for one person’s “hate speech” (say, criticism of abortion, affirmative action, or Islam) is another person’s free speech—and who is to be the arbiter of which is which?
Nevertheless, the Left persists in its attacks, and now we have a new argument by Mike Sturm at Coffeelicious (reprinted at Medium.com, a venue almost as Regressive Leftist as Puffho). Here’s the title; click on the screenshot to go to the piece—an argument that free speech is overrated:
I’ll let Sturm give the argument himself (indented):
So here I am asking two questions:
What value do we see in free speech?
Does the current free speech paradigm serve the value we see in speech?
The Proposed Value of Speech
In the world of liberal democracy, freedom in general is a cornerstone value of any society. People ought to be free to live their lives in the best way they see fit — with as little interference as possible. In the case of speech, I think that the reasons that we value free speech fall into two basic categories:
We value the freedom to express ourselves — how we feel, who we are, and what we want.
We value the freedom to effectively drive change through the things we say. We want our words to matter, and to wield real power — the power of making things happen.
I think that the article of faith, especially in America, for the past 200 years or so has been that both of these aims work together. We have blindly believed that expressing how you feel and what you want end up effectively driving change and giving power to your words, and to you, the speaker. But I see very little reason to believe this.
In fact, I believe that expressing yourself as freely as possible tends to diminish the ability of your words to drive real change.
Now why on earth would expressing yourself freely reduce your effectiveness at creating social change? He claims that the power of speech derives from both the way it’s enforced (as through law of physical force), and through the power of speech “due to its message and its delivery.” Sturm doesn’t say much about power, but is really concerned with “how you deliver the message.” And, he claims, advocates of free speech tend to deliver their message in maladaptive ways.
What ways are those? They include these (these bullet points are mine):
Asserting during your talk that you have the right to free speech. That, says, Sturm, just turns off the listener: “Whenever your defense of what you say is “I have the right to free speech, I can say this if I please” — you’re closing off 80% of the probability of having a real conversation.” This is a recurrent problem for the article: assuming that a speech itself is a “conversation,” rather than a speech. He completely neglects the possibility that listening to a speech can inspire conversations afterwards. Further, very few speakers lard their talks with “listen to me because I have free speech.” That would just be dumb. Such assertions are made either beforehand, as in the case of the Chancellor of Berkeley’s statement about Milo Yiannopoulos’s appearance, or afterwards, when we’re arguing about freedom of expression itself.
Free speech is only effective insofar as it presents rational arguments and not emotions or desires. As Sturm asserts,
“The more your message is expression — of your feelings, desires, or other emotion, the less likely it will be received by those who have reason to fear it. Just think of how much you have gotten done by yelling and venting your frustration at people, as opposed to sitting them down, and trying to make your point calmly. The more you frame your speech as expression, the less effective it will tend to be at achieving any other goal aside from expressing your feelings.”
But that’s not exactly right. True, when you’re arguing about facts you should deal with the facts and the issues, and avoid “yelling”, but to leave out emotion and feeling from a speech is to emasculate it (was that misogynist?). Think of one of the most powerful and effective speeches in American history: Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech of August 28, 1963. That speech is full of emotions about the moral inequity of segregation. It is by no means calm, but was delivered in the emotional cadences of a Southern preacher. It is the quintessential speech of expression: and it’s not too much to say that it galvanized the nation, leading to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. What Sturm is doing is equating “expression” with “yelling,” when in fact they need not be the same thing at all. It’s arguments like this that make me wonder if Sturm has really thought about the issue. Nobody equates “free expression” with “yelling at one’s opponents,” except perhaps Sturm.
Now Sturm is correct that you can’t convince people to change their minds about issues without giving them reasons to think, and that simply demonizing your opponent as stupid, racist, or misogynist won’t work. But presenting stories, experiences, and an emphasis on moral issues (which don’t count as “reasons” but can resonate with the values of the listener) are valid ways of emoting,
No speech is effective unless it is itself a conversation. I mentioned this above, and it’s just wrong. Conversations can occur after speech, either as verbal discussions or as a silent conversation in one’s mind.
“My take is this: social media has made it easy for us to favor one motivation for speech (expression), while weakening the other (conversing in order to affect real change). Because more people are seen as simply expressing unfiltered emotion, very few on the other aside care to listen.”
“The more everyone continue to do this, the less we listen to each other. We stop talking with each other, and keep talking at each other — yelling, as well. The chances for any kind of progress fade away.”
First, it is the suppression of free speech, as in the cancellation (or interruption) of talks by universities, that inhibit conversation. Does anybody doubt that? And if you think these disinvitations are infrequent, have a look at FIRE’s list of disinvitations on American campuses between 2000 and 2014. Virtually all the speakers have been demonized as being conservatives, which shows that it’s the Left and not the Right that most often goes after free expression.
Further, social media, particularly YouTube and chat sites, have effected tremendous social change, especially in the weakening of religion. It is through such media, for example, that isolated nonbelievers come to learn that they are not alone, and are strengthened in their conviction. It is through social media that we can learn the arguments of our opponents, whether they be pro-lifers or creationists, and thus develop ways to examine, hone, or refine our own beliefs and arguments. Sturm’s false belief that “expression” and “social change” are at odds with one another is what leads him to conclude, in the quote just above, that free speech has slowed social progress.
But with such a conclusion, what does Sturm suggest we should do? One can gather from the context that he favors limits on “free speech,” though, given Sturm’s failure to be explicit, I’m not sure what those limits are. Does he see someone like Yiannopoulos expressing “unfiltered emotion”, thus impeding any rational discourse and social progress? If so, then he should listen to the libertarian Ben Shapiro, who is far more fact-oriented and less emotional than Milo. I disagree with much of what Shapiro has to say, but nobody could accuse him of yelling. And I think Shapiro, disagreeing with him as I do, is nonetheless a very valuable resource for liberals, as he forces us to examine our arguments more closely if we feel he’s wrong. Those who simply yell in response to Shapiro’s claims make the Left look unreflective.
Given that Sturm equates “free speech” with “emotional speech and yelling”, it’s hard to know what he thinks of people like the Berkeley protests who prevented Yiannopoulos from speaking. Were they trying to prevent emotional and non-rational speech that could damage society, and thus doing us a service? Or were they themselves yelling and demonizing their opponents in a way that would turn off those who would otherwise listen to their arguments? I don’t know for sure, but I suspect Sturm has no interest in defending Milo, since he says this:
Milo’s freedom of speech has nothing to do with the subsequent accusations of pedophila that brought him down. Yes, you can say he’s a terrible person, but that’s completely independent of whether, when invited to Berkeley by the College Republicans, he had a right to speak within the limits of the First Amendment.
In the end, Sturm’s piece suffers from a conception of free speech that nobody really holds, from his subsequent conclusion that free speech and positive social change work against each other, and from his failure to be explicit about what he recommends. He winds up sounding like a pablum-fed liberal whose message is simply this: “Why can’t we be nice to each other?”