URLs du Jour

2020-06-29

[Amazon Link]

  • Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone, and is a doctrinaire leftist… well, except when he strays off the plantation to notice some leftist intellectual rot. His latest screed at his personal Substack blog concerns our Amazon Product du Jour: On “White Fragility”

    A core principle of the academic movement that shot through elite schools in America since the early nineties was the view that individual rights, humanism, and the democratic process are all just stalking-horses for white supremacy. The concept, as articulated in books like former corporate consultant Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility (Amazon’s #1 seller!) reduces everything, even the smallest and most innocent human interactions, to racial power contests.

    It’s been mind-boggling to watch White Fragility celebrated in recent weeks. When it surged past a Hunger Games book on bestseller lists, USA Today cheered, “American readers are more interested in combatting racism than in literary escapism.” When DiAngelo appeared on The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon gushed, “I know… everyone wants to talk to you right now!” White Fragility has been pitched as an uncontroversial road-map for fighting racism, at a time when after the murder of George Floyd Americans are suddenly (and appropriately) interested in doing just that. Except this isn’t a straightforward book about examining one’s own prejudices. Have the people hyping this impressively crazy book actually read it?

    DiAngelo isn’t the first person to make a buck pushing tricked-up pseudo-intellectual horseshit as corporate wisdom, but she might be the first to do it selling Hitlerian race theory. White Fragility has a simple message: there is no such thing as a universal human experience, and we are defined not by our individual personalities or moral choices, but only by our racial category.

    Well, I'll stop excerpting there, but Taibbi's article rates about a nine on the RTWT meter. Unsurprisingly, DiAngelo's book is prominently featured on the "Racial Justice Resources" list offered by the University Near Here. Someone should hack the website to insert Taibbi's summary: "[M]ay be the dumbest book ever written. It makes The Art of the Deal read like Anna Karenina." It's unlikely that such contrary opinions can pierce the ideological force field around UNH otherwise.

    I can't recommend that you buy the book, but if you do, using the Pun Salad link would be appreciated! (As I type: $9.96 for the paperback, $9.95 for Kindle.)

    I'm irritated—I seem to be irritated a lot these days—by the book's subtitle, "Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism". It's a common rhetorical device, and it always seems to boil down to: "Why It's So Hard to Get White People to Shut Up About Their Own Opinions, Listen to Me, and Repeat What I Say".


  • I mentioned the "rank punditry" section of Jonah Goldberg's latest G-File yesterday, but he also discussed The Maoist Nature of the New War on Wrongthink. Noting, specifically, the "scandal" of past blackface appearances by celebrities:

    There is something vaguely Maoist about the mood out there. During the Cultural Revolution the young firebrands attacked and humiliated older Communist leaders for the sin of not being sufficiently imbued with the spirit of revolution, or something. The “Black Line” theory of artistic interpretation—which led to the deaths and imprisonment of countless artists and intellectuals —basically held that if you once wrote or painted something “wrong” by the current revolutionary standard, you should be forcibly reeducated, even though what you wrote or painted wasn’t wrong when you painted it. Indeed, most of the victims of the Black Line were Communists in good standing who simply got screwed when the revolutionary game of musical chairs changed its tune. 

    I've always avoided Nietzsche, but one of his pet concepts springs to mind: "Will to power." I.e., that nasty little proclivity to push other people around and wreck their lives. Fred might have been onto something there.


  • At National Review (NRPLUS, sorry), David Harsanyi writes on the main event: 2020 vs. Civilization

    The other night, a Black Lives Matter leader named Hawk Newsome went on Fox News and said: “If U.S. doesn’t give us what we want, then we will burn down this system and replace it.” This is a statement of insurgency and violence, not of legitimate protest. If a Tea Party leader had made comparable threats, CNN reporters would have sprinted to track down every GOP House member for a comment.

    Now, I doubt Newsome speaks for most of the Black Lives Matter movement, but virtually every business organization in the country has already bequeathed the cause with a ringing endorsement. We’ve created a situation where some people can take over six blocks of a major city for weeks or vandalize sculptures that offend their sensibilities without repercussions, while other people will lose their jobs if they say “all lives matter.”

    Click through and read on for David's take on a recent Quillette piece by Eric Kaufmann. Kaufmann polled self-described "liberals" on whether they agreed with a list of 16 possible culture-deconstructing "reforms" to America. In (roughly) increasing order of deranged Maoism, here's number 16:

    Begin changing the layout of our cities, towns, and highways, moving away from the grid system to follow the more natural trails originally used by Native people.

    Grids! They're so Cartesian. Who was white!

    Of the people Kaufman polled, 23% of the "liberal" respondents and 37% of the "very liberal" respondents agreed with this.


  • A good article from Walter Olson at Reason on the perils of political line-drawing: Buddymandering. The title refers to the practice of rewarding (or punishing) the politicians who "go along" (or don't) with party leaders with favorable (or unfavorable) new district boundaries.

    When you serve on a redistricting commission, as I have now done in Maryland twice, that's one of the most common questions you get: Why can't we turn the whole thing over to a computer algorithm? At its simplest, this can take the form of proposing that the state simply be divided into districts of equal population (as the courts require) by some brute method. Thus a state might be divided among the proper number of congressional districts by drawing vertical lines dividing it into strips of varying widths.

    To spend a few minutes with such a map is to grasp its flaws. Even in a conveniently rectangular state like Colorado, districts would end up comprising unrelated communities separated from each other by mountains and long distances. Coherent communities would be split, perhaps multiple ways, to no good purpose. Before long, you will have rediscovered some of the basic keys to good districting, namely: compactness, with districts looking more like turtles than snakes or octopuses; practical contiguity, meaning that all sections of a district are accessible by road connections without having to leave the district; and congruence with the boundaries of other political subdivisions, such as counties and cities.

    For fun, please note New Hampshire Executive Council District 2, my very own, where I'm "represented" by Comrade Andru Volinsky. It stretches from the southeast corner of the state, up through Concord, then over to our neck of the woods: Durham, Madbury, Dover, Rollinsford, Somersworth. Eh, why not?

    I'm not sure whether randomly selecting a patchwork of towns would be any more arbitrary. Or maybe just go by alphabetical order?


  • Virginia Postrel makes a lot of sense in her Bloomberg column: Promote Covid-19 Masks Without Mandates or Shaming. Her insight: masks are clothing. And…

    In short, people hate being told what they must or cannot wear. That’s as true for masks as it is for other garments. Mandates were bound to spark resistance. Ramping up enforcement will only intensify the pushback, and local police are wise not to make it a priority. Stopping mask scofflaws is just the sort of petty law enforcement that can lead to racially fraught harassment and abuse. When Joe Biden says he’d make mask wearing compulsory, he isn’t thinking about what that means on the street.

    The good news is that people don’t wear clothes because it’s illegal not to (even though it is). They wear clothes to meet social expectations, express who they are, and add beauty, comfort and style to their everyday lives. To encourage mask-wearing, we need to tap into those instincts.

    Up to now, the primary weapon aside from legal requirements (and fear of Covid-19) has been shame. But, as epidemiologist Julia Marcus writes in the Atlantic, “trying to shame people into wearing condoms didn’t work — and it won’t work for masks either.” Lecturing people about their clothing choices just makes them mad. Instead, Los Angeles Times writer Adam Tschorn suggests humorous public service ads featuring “Darth Vader, Bane from ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and a cadre of Lucha Libre wrestlers playing it tough while urging guys to put on their own masks.”

    Until baseball starts up again, we can always enjoy Virginia knocking one out of the park.