URLs du Jour

2018-10-04

[Amazon Link]

  • If you've been wondering whether ‘Why would accusers lie?’ is the right question, Kevin D. Williamson is here to set you straight: ‘Why Would Accusers Lie?’ Is the Wrong Question.

    ‘Why would she lie about something like that?”

    That, approximately, is the go-to question put forward in defense of women who come under scrutiny after coming forward with questionable allegations of sexual assault or other misconduct, as in the current matter of Brett Kavanaugh. It is the wrong question.

    Or, more precisely: It is the wrong question if what we desire to do is to get as near as we can to the truth of the matter at hand. It is an excellent question if your desire is something else, especially misdirection. “Why would she lie?” is a question that obliges us to engage in mind-reading and redirects us from answerable questions to unanswerable ones. As a rhetorical ploy, it is transparent: Engaging the question puts Kavanaugh’s defenders and would-be defenders in a difficult position, and it puts Kavanaugh’s antagonists in an easier position, from which they may point and shriek that their opponents are victimizing an already victimized woman without any dispositive evidence to support their claim. It’s silly and sophomoric — which, unfortunately, means that it is likely to be effective in our current political environment, which is dominated by hysteria, dishonesty, and stupidity.

    But we know, from recent history, that people do lie about such things. Or (sometimes) come to believe that things happened, that didn't.


  • Wired magazine is celebrating its 25th birthday, and I hope this article by its first editor, Louis Rossetto, isn't paywalled: It's Time for Techies to Embrace Militant Optimism Again.

    I went to a dinner party in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a few years ago thrown by a pioneering academic and her connected wife. The assembled group of brilliant young professors and researchers promised a stimulating evening.

    It was anything but. After the opening small talk devolved into the political, the air was full of complaints about inequality and poverty, racism, sexism, fascist Republicans, and how, in general, everything is going to hell. I stifled myself as long as I could, but finally I piped up—that’s not what’s really going on. Have you actually looked at the numbers? For the past 25 years, the world has only been getting better. People are healthier, wealthier, more educated, and living longer, better lives than humans ever have.

    Silence. All eyes on me. Who threw the skunk in the room?

    Then the shitstorm began. Of course, you’re wrong, things are not better, just look around—and it’s all just going to get worse yadda yadda. Shut me right up.

    I usually don't quote this much, but Louis goes on to note something important:

    [P]olitics—which has now come to infect all aspects of our lives—isn’t a rational response to reality. It’s partially about currying social favor with desired cohorts; but, worse, it’s emotional pathology.

    In The Mass Psychology of Fascism, Wilhelm Reich wrote that politics can be the outward manifestation of personal emotional problems. Instead of working on our own issues, some instead work them out on society at large. (Sound familiar?)

    We’re living through a moment when this phenomenon is vivid. The unease among elites of the first world, the palpable emotional distress of our friends, the media’s daily two minutes of hate, the social media flash mobs, the tribalism, the way every aspect of our lives has become political.

    That might seem to be an odd thing to note on a blog that concentrates on current-event politics. It's easy to apply Louis's observation to others, difficult to apply to oneself. That probably means that it's important to see how it applies to oneself.


  • At City Journal, Henry I. Miller wonders if there's some way that we could tell if our politicians are Fit to Serve?

    Perhaps we should ask candidates (and incumbents), including the president and vice president, to volunteer for periodic testing of intelligence, mental status, and psychopathology. After all, we often demand to know whether a candidate has recovered from open-heart surgery, cancer, or strokes, and many states require elderly drivers to get relicensed. Testing could answer speculations about mental fitness, one way or the other.

    I've noted before that politicians are likely to score more than a couple sigmas off the norm on a number of personality traits. Some of that is inevitable, some of that is probably beneficial, but…


  • Ann Althouse reflects on The cruelest anti-Kavanaugh argument yet. Quoting Time magazine:

    Even if Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, he will carry scars from the brutal process to get him there.... [A]s he limps over the finish line... the question could soon shift from whether he will be confirmed to what kind of justice he will be.

    Will Kavanaugh... dig in on the far right, radicalized by the experience? Will he swing the other way towards the middle, determined to improve his reputation among women? Or will he be able to move past it entirely?...

    Uh huh. As Instapundit summarizes: "After the way we’ve abused him, he can’t possibly be objective or fair to us."


  • The perpetrators behind the fake-paper hoax I found hilarious yesterday take to Areo magazine to explain their purposes and results: Academic Grievance Studies and the Corruption of Scholarship.

    Something has gone wrong in the university—especially in certain fields within the humanities. Scholarship based less upon finding truth and more upon attending to social grievances has become firmly established, if not fully dominant, within these fields, and their scholars increasingly bully students, administrators, and other departments into adhering to their worldview. This worldview is not scientific, and it is not rigorous. For many, this problem has been growing increasingly obvious, but strong evidence has been lacking. For this reason, the three of us just spent a year working inside the scholarship we see as an intrinsic part of this problem.

    We spent that time writing academic papers and publishing them in respected peer-reviewed journals associated with fields of scholarship loosely known as “cultural studies” or “identity studies” (for example, gender studies) or “critical theory” because it is rooted in that postmodern brand of “theory” which arose in the late sixties. As a result of this work, we have come to call these fields “grievance studies” in shorthand because of their common goal of problematizing aspects of culture in minute detail in order to attempt diagnoses of power imbalances and oppression rooted in identity.

    The complete set of ludicrous papers, with their publication results, is provided. Including "Chapter 12 of Volume 1 of Mein Kampf with fashionable buzzwords switched in".

    But equal time for the party-pooping nay-sayers, in this case James Taylor (but not that James Taylor) at Bleeding Heart Libertarians: Why the “Grievance Studies” Hoax Was Not Unethical. (But it’s not very interesting, either.)

    At best, then, the hoax shows that some poor-quality papers sometimes get published in marginal academic journals, and sometimes (but less frequently) get published in mainstream journals. That’s it. But this isn’t very surprising. After all, while peer-review if often held up as the gold standard of academic gate-keeping we have to keep in mind that low-performing academics have peers too. Just like the “Conceptual Penis” hoax that the same hoaxers made much to-do about last year this hoax thus doesn’t tell us anything at all about the overall quality of the academic subfields targeted.

    I link, you decide.


  • And, finally, yet another gem from Remy and ReasonTV: Banana.


Last Modified 2018-10-04 11:51 AM EST