The Smallest Minority

Independent Thinking in the Age of Mob Politics

[Amazon Link]

Pun Salad value-added: the Cyrillic footnote on page 60, систематическая, translates to "systematic". You're welcome.

If you're used to Kevin D. Williamson's writings at National Review and (occasionally) elsewhere, the first thing you'll notice is that, wow, this book has a lot of profanity. That's OK with me. I do watch Tarantino movies now and then. But unexpected from (specifically) KDW and (generally) the kind of "serious" non-fiction books I usually read.

KDW, semi-famously, was hired away from National Review by the Atlantic magazine. His ostensible gig was to do the kind of reporting he was occasionally known for at NR: a tour of White Working-Class Dysfunctional America, land of alienation, opiates, poverty, and pro-Trump voters.

But after a few days, KDW was fired. The proximate cause being the outrage his almost-coworkers expressed that an opinion writer for a conservative magazine actually had conservative opinions. Specifically, KDW refused to bow to sentimentality about anti-abortion laws; they should target both the (ex-)mother and the doctor. Otherwise, you're not treating the (ex-)mother as a responsible individual with free will.

But the genesis of the book (KDW says) was actually considerably before that, as he observed the public shaming of convenient individuals in social media. Typical example: Justine Sacco, who tweeted out an unfortunate, unfunny "joke" about AIDS as she was going to South Africa, and returned to America to find herself fired, a victim of the Twitter mob. Many examples since then, of course.

KDW is unsparing in his contempt for such mobs and their constituents, comparing them to poo-flinging monkeys. (And when they're not poo-flinging, they're masturbating.) But he takes the discussion in unexpected directions. Although, unlike the profanity, I probably should expected some of those unexpected directions: excursions into literature, sociology, economics, and more.

KDW's insights deserve to be described fully and evaluated carefully. If you expect that from me, ha, sorry. But let me give you a few cheap examples from the index: following the entry for Moby-Dick is … Mojo Burrito. Just before Dante Alighieri is Daniels, Stormy. Between Jefferson and Jesus? Jeong, Sarah. (Who managed to survive an attack of a social media mob.)

So: not what I expected, but still good. I remain a KDW fan, at the highest level, the one with the label: "If he says something I disagree with, I'm probably wrong."

Green Book

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

It won the Oscar for 2018's Best Picture! So what if I liked Black Panther better? This is still pretty good. And the IMDB raters have it at number 123 on their list of best movies of all time.

But approximately 1942 naysayers started their reviews with "It's like Driving Miss Daisy, except that…".

It's also kind of like The Odd Couple.

Viggo Mortensen plays "Tony Lip", maitre'd/bouncer at the Copacabana. While the club is being renovated, he's out of a job. Fortuitously, an offer comes in: famed pianist Don Shirley is going on a tour in the Deep South, and needs a driver/gofer. A deal is struck.

Complicating things: (1) it's the early sixties; (2) Don is an African-American; (3) as it develops, he's also gay; (4) Tony's the kind of guy who'll throw away perfectly good glasses because his wife let a couple of black plumbers drink from them.

It's based on a true story, but I can imagine the script nearly wrote itself. There's gonna be continuing culture/race-based clashes between Tony and Don. Each will Learn Things, Grudging Respect will be earned, eventually Steadfast Friendship will be established. So, no real surprises.

But the acting is first rate. (Viggo Mortenson plays Tony, Mahershala Ali plays Don.) Peter Farrelly co-wrote, co-produced, and directed; that's quite a change for a guy whose previous movie was Dumb and Dumber To.

Bottom line: very watchable.

URLs du Jour

2019-08-16

[Amazon Link]

  • As I type, ElectionBettingOdds has Beto! with a 1.4% chance of winning the Democratic nomination for President. This puts him in a solid tenth place, behind Liz, Wheezy Joe, Kamala, Bernie, Mayor Pete, Yang, Tulsi, Spartacus, and (whoa!) Hillary Clinton.

    (He is, however, ahead of Michelle Obama, Julian Castro, Amy Klobuchar, Andrew Cuomo, Oprah Winfrey, Kirsten Gillibrand, Sherrod Brown, Jay Inslee, and Hickenlooper. There are some actually-running candidates in that list.)

    Apparently his campaign advisors have convinced him that fear-based demagogy on guns is a good way to improve his numbers. The HuffPo reports: Beto O’Rourke Calls For Mandatory Assault Weapon Buyback, Returns To Campaign Trail. Subhed: "'If at this moment we do not wake up to this threat, then we as a country will die in our sleep,' he said."

    Die. In our sleep.

    At the NR Corner, Charles C. W. Cooke disapproves of the euphemism: ‘Mandatory Buy-Back’ Means ‘Confiscation’.

    One more time, with feeling: “Mandatory buy-back” is a cowardly and cynical euphemism, and members of the press should not be using it outside of quotation marks. What O’Rourke is proposing here is gun confiscation, coupled with limited compensation. Every time somebody in the media uses the term “buy-back,” they are laundering O’Rourke’s extremism.

    Even on its own, “buy-back” makes no sense as a term: Were O’Rourke to get his way, the government would not be “buying back” the guns on his list because the government did not own, or sell, any of the guns on his list in the first instance. When coupled with the word “mandatory,” the pretense becomes farcical.

    CCWC goes on to observe that you expect politicians to use weaselly language, but journalists shouldn't.


  • At Reason, Jacob Sullum notes that it's apparently now the Current Wisdom that the Supreme Court should be more politicized: SCOTUS Should Drop This Second Amendment Case, a New York Times Columnist Argues, Because Mass Shootings.

    During the term that begins this fall, the Supreme Court is expected to consider its first potentially important Second Amendment case since 2010. The case involves New York City's tight restrictions on transportation of legally owned guns, which the city modified in the hope of rendering the case moot after the Court agreed to hear a challenge to them. New York Times columnist Linda Greenhouse, who was the paper's Supreme Court reporter for three decades, is hoping the justices will decide not to hear the case after all. Her argument is not legal but political, which is puzzling in light of the Supreme Court's responsibility to enforce constitutional guarantees.

    I think Jacob is being slightly disingenuous about this being "puzzling". Clearly, Greenhouse does not think it's the Court's responsibility to enforce constitutional guarantees, instead it's there to enforce current leftist political dogma when possible, otherwise to do nothing.


  • Mark J. Perry has composed a wicked Venn Diagram:

    Or as Mr. Ramirez would put it:

    [Ball and Chain]

    Orange Man Bad! Alternatives probably worse! We are screwed!


  • At American Consequences, P. J. O'Rourke, apparently no close relation to Beto!, provides something we all need: A Brief History of How Communication Devolved.

    The computer is a handy device. It’s terrific for looking up who played Wally Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver. But the computer is essentially meaningless to wisdom, learning, and sense.

    My laptop may be a great technological improvement on my old IBM Selectric. (Wally was played Tony Dow – I just Googled it.) But there is no historical indication that technological improvements in the way we inscribe our ideas lead to improvement in the wisdom, learning, and sense of the ideas themselves.

    The opposite case can be made. When words had to be carved in stone, we got the Ten Commandments.

    When we needed to make our own ink and chase a goose around the yard to obtain a quill, we got William Shakespeare.

    When the fountain pen was invented, we got Henry James.

    When the typewriter came along, we got Jack Kerouac.

    And with the advent of the smartphone keypad we get… Donald Trump on Twitter.

    Yeah, I see what you mean. Click through for the first word to ever appear on the Internet, which I did not know.